Mouthing off over a big hole

“US$25.6 million?  To redo Harrison’s Cave? That money should go to developing projects to ease poverty; like building factory shells to attract investors and bring jobs, unemployment over 10 per cent.”

“Maude, hush, the cave attracts tourists and bring in money to spend on all those things.”

“Tourists, what?   First, you have to spend money encouraging them here. Things tight in the big countries too, so you have to give them discounted holidays. Before we recoup that repair bill, we will have to repair again.”

“Girl, you ain’t no economist or financial analyst, you didn’t even go to college. You think our Prime Minister’s stupid; we’re getting tourist dollars including entry fees to the cave. They buy from souvenirs from the shop that covers the cave’s mouth, too.”

“Spend money? Not these tourists nowadays. I don’t have letters after my name but as a hotel maid, I know what’s going on upfront before the analysts. They look at the picture afterwards as figures; I talk to tourists as people. Visitors ain’t spending, they aren’t even buying a postcard not when it is cheaper to take pictures as souvenirs; they don’t have to buy or develop film no more. Souvenirs? Most of the trinkets at that shop are marked “Made in China.”

“Maude, you’re behaving like an opposition politician, and they aren’t so negative about this.”

“Only Saying, the tourists don’t buy a lot from us … they’re into circulating their own money. We buy food and everything else from their countries so they can get what is familiar when they get here. Tourism is the reason we import 75 per cent of what we use in this country.”

“So if you’re against tourism, why you don’t find another job?”

“I’m speaking facts, I’m not against them. I’m saying a developing country CAN’T AFFORD TO spend thousands for tourists to go down a glorified hole to see the earth’s guts.”

(Postscript: This was written for Trifecta competition which asked bloggers to produce a post including the word ‘mouth’  defined  as:

3: something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as

Related articles:

How Long To Pay Back $51 Million Barbados “Investment” In Harrison’s Cave?

Harrison’s Cave Reopens ( Barbados Government Information Service)

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All hail electronic friendships … down with traditional friendship

English: happy friendship day

Are you in the right group? Are you compatible with the others within your circle?

You may think the answer is ‘yes’ but suddenly you have an awakening that straightens you out. You ask yourself: financially, emotionally and intellectually, am I properly matched.

Examining yourself within that framework can be revealing. In fact, I’ve learnt that such an examination should be guided by what others think since this shapes their attitude towards you. You may consider yourself an equal but they may see you as the group’s football not purposely but because you sit on a low rung of the financial, emotional or intellectual ladder.

That is why I believe that traditional friendships that thrive on physical contact are overrated and are losing importance. An ‘electronic friendship’ is focused on the common areas between persons and the matters that are likely to cause division are downgraded in these modern ‘distant’ relationship.

Social media widens your circle of contacts, expanding areas of interests, places and races from which you can draw friends. Differences in time zones instead of reducing opportunities for relationships are now broadening them. Whether your sleep pattern classifies you as an early bird or an owl, you can tap into the computer and find someone anytime for a chat.

On a recent television programme a group of mental health experts promoted the view that social media and other digital technology tools were causing people to be more distant with each other and was therefore breeding loneliness and leading to an increase in cases of depression.

I strongly disagree.

During my recent awakening I’ve realise that my electronic friends are not interesting in things external to our common areas; and having a variety means all areas of my life are fulfilled. They encourage me and seldom put me down. Traditional friends on the other hand disappeared with negative changes in my fortunes; loss of my job, declining finances and so on.

So off, I go nurturing my electronic friends.

Practice pitch for resolutions

Tell me how someone could make New Year resolutions four months ago? Avram asked, “that is why everyone is talking about New Year resolutions and you can’t unpick your teeth.”

If I didn’t love Avram, I would call her a name but one of my resolutions is to be more appreciative of key people in my life and Avram unlocks the doors to my self (not myself, please). She is ‘top ranking’ in my life. Therefore rather than rename her, I posed a question.

“Before marrying wouldn’t you get to know your partner see how he fits into your life, test your compatibility?” She was nodding her head continuously, like the energiser bunny, as I spoke but, of course, she knows my thoughts before I mouth them.

My argument is, if you are making plans that will redirect your life or provide a road map for your future that exercise is too important not to include some preparatory work. Every August, my birth month, I prepare and I become very introspective.

There are questions, questions. Am I doing what I love or what I think society or my inner circle expects me to do, workwise, on the domestic front, at church, at play? Am I been pulled too far away from my centre by these external forces? Are my friends really friends? Do I treat them like friends? Why do I go to church, why not watch tele-evangelists with a bowl of soup in the comfort of my home on the couch? Questions, questions.

I am very moody, pissed off and happy at various points in this period.  Avram, on the other hand is even-tempered and predictable because this throws her into her briar patch playing her favourite role, Devil’s Advocate.

She laughs at me regularly calling me a grumpy old woman and in contrast quotes Shakespeare in reference to herself: “Age cannot wither (me), nor custom stale (my) infinite variety …” Despite her rudeness, without Avram, I cannot do my self-assessment nor plot my way forward. Her role is pivotal and she knows it.

Photo of the first page of Antony and Cleopatr...I usually spend the days leading up to December 31, trying out my new path; tweaking the ‘projects’. For example, I have recognised this year the need to do a public speaking course in order to achieve one of my more important goals.

The “pipe dreams” are divided into realistic and manageable projects and along the way I check my progress, evaluate and make adjustments. On the first day of the year, I am therefore ready with plans that have a high chance of success; that fit my growing skin, yet have not lost their excitement or cause me to lose my sense of adventure.

Arvam laughs and says I intellectualise too many things. In any case, she thinks that New Year resolutions are about planning and that sucks the life out of spontaneity. It prevents me from living life to the fullest, she says. Now she is tempting me to read Antony and Cleopatra rather than spend the next half an hour reading French, as I have resolved to do.

“Come on live life to the fullest; learn from Cleopatra, if you want a man for the New Year,” she goads me and recites:

“Other women cloy 

the appetites they feed,

but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies,

for vilest things

Become themselves in her,

that the holy priests

Bless her when she is riggish.”

Enobarbus in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

“How can you live life to the fullest, if you are not spontaneous, Marva?” Avram asks.

To me, the two are not mutually exclusive, what do you think? Please tell me in the comment section below.

Babysit my child… Not me!

I have never babysat my children and I never WILL!” my friend was ranting, so I was quiet allowing him to defuse his emotional bomb.
What could I say? I was unsure where the outburst came from and more importantly what it meant. So like John Keats’ naughty little boy, I stood in my shoes and I wondered.
He was livid which was unusual. ‘Tom’ is a peaceful, mild-manner soul who up until then I thought was impossible to provoke, but I had done so; I hit his emotional anger main. So I flipped through the mental pages of our conversation looking for the point in the script that led to this outburst, which I was now fighting hard to crowd out.
A few moments ago, I was talking to him about the rewarding learning experience I had as part of a small supportive group that attended my friend’s defence of her doctoral thesis. She had researched love-power and its effect on gender roles in contemporary middle class relationship. My female bias was evident as I emphasised that society had slotted certain domestic chores under the female category and even top middle-class ranking career women in the Caribbean were still following this categorisation. So, why was he getting so upset?
“Women are just as responsible. In fact, you are the chief offenders, I hear it every time one of you says it and it grates me!” he said.
Yes, that is it! In a small footnote during our conversation, I mentioned that people, men and women used words that keep the culture going but I had not gone into detail rather I had ploughed into other evidence.

“My children are mine as much as they are hers; I cannot physical carry them before birth, but I do afterwards. I am not a hired hand!”

I knew he was calming down because he was zeroing in on substantive bits of his argument. He was logical.  I was pleased because he confirmed that I never referring to him performing his fatherly role as baby-sitting. Perhaps I never did because babysitting isn’t part of my culture. In my lower-class rural Barbadian upbringing of extended families, when parents, usually a single mother, were going out, children remained at a home with an older sibling or went to a relative or a neighbour –whose relationship with the family was so close that you did not know that you were not blood relatives. The script used was “You gine by Aunty X or Momma G, she keeping you till I get back.” Keeping by practice meant caring and loving as if you belonged to that family unit. Babysitting is therefore not in the forefront of my vocabulary; it is one of those words popularised with cultural penetration through movies and books. It conjures up in my mind teenagers earning pocket-money.
Some of us therefore in Caribbean, particularly Barbados, use words that reinforce these stereotypes. Without deep thought, we choose words to suggest that men help us in the kitchen or in the laundry room for example, as if it is exclusively our duty.
Watch your speech and see how actions will follow suit and stereotypes changed.

Do you use words that encourage role stereotyping? What are they? Do you think women and men should have society prescribed roles?

Go to France!

My desire to speak French at a comfortable level is overwhelming. I don’t dream about speaking French only, it is constantly in my thoughts, though at different ranges on the scale.

theatre

Cinémathèque Française

At the high end are the many occasions when thoughts of chatting, sipping wine and eating in a French restaurant after enjoying a French play or the offerings at Cinémathèque Française are as upfront and vivid as reality.

At the lower end are the oddest of occasions when randomly and unasked the few French phrases I know hop out of my head and into my mouth. Then there are the in-between moments when I have flashes that remind me that French is lurking in my sub-conscious.

I love the cadence of language but now the needed inflexions are afraid to emerge in my voice for fear of being hacked to death by my uncultured tongue. I would therefore jump at an occasion to study there. Immersion in the home of my dream foreign language is what I desire and at my matured age it is the best way forward.

Learning a language; sniffing the French culture, indulging in the delights of that romantic city called Paris, who could ask for more. Not me.

CIMG0554But I don’t want to be stationed in Paris; Ferney-Voltaire is where I want to call home for the year. The country-side setting with the cows ringing their bells in the distance as I walk to the hypermarket will provide enough of the town-country mix that would ensure that I, a rural dweller from 21 by 16 mile Barbados don’t feel homesick.

Statue of Voltaire, Ferney-Voltaire, France.

Statue of Voltaire, Ferney-Voltaire, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ferney-Voltaire puts me on the border with Switzerland. From there I can commute to the cosmopolitan city of Geneva with its snow-capped Alps; learn about French cuisine or complete my studies in international trade and yet have access to cities where fashion, food, art are the hallmark. Get me that year of study, please.

Posing in Old Geneva

Posing in Old Geneva

Acting out “War on the earth” for Xmas … Peace on earth, why?

bellxmas

Christmas reaps havoc on the earth “Peace on earth, goodwill to men?   Stupse!!

As we mad-scramble through shops grabbing the latest gadgets to wrap as gifts; decorations to Yuletide-enhanced our homes or as we  rush through supermarkets with carts overloaded with food, do we remember, Peace on earth or goodwill to men?
Hold the  ‘Peace-on-earth’ part in your mind while visualising the increase in garbage that Christmas behaviour brings.  Don’t counting the garbage that comes from the cleaning up of surroundings that people do at this time of the year. I am speaking about the packaging that engulfs the items we buy; the plastic Christmas trees, the live trees cut down and later burnt and so on.
In other words, I am speaking about the long list of environmentally unfriendly things that we have to dispose of as a result of our Christmas celebrations.  Our Christmas behaviour does a lot of damage to the environment; it is a big problem in our small Caribbean countries where we are battling with landfill and other sanitation related challenges. So my advice to the environment is beware, instead of “peace on earth,” it is “war on the earth” season.

If you add the “goodwill to men” phrase to the peace on earth, what is the result?  Our Christmas behaviour is incongruent to the message of Christmas.

A1Capture

Check out the aggressive behaviour of shoppers, snatching shopping carts and later ‘must-have’ toys from each other; shoving through shops aisles in a race to reach the cashier, first. Then they burst out of the doors and drop a few dollars penitently in the Salvation Army kettle. Is that for absolution or is it the biblical pieces of silver?
The answer lies in their action on the way home; blaring horns at drivers that tarry a second at the change to a green traffic light and cussing pedestrians, including the elderly and children that walk ‘too slowly’ on the zebra crossing.  In the Caribbean, it is “why the F&@K you can’t stand home?” or “ why de R&@S H$%$ you din left home dem children?   Enough say!!

Is  peace on earth a ‘no no’… in this world of unceasing war ? 75px-PeaceOnEarthFilmWe have war zones like the Middle East and here in our Caribbean, there have been so many homicides that a United Nation’s official labelled the region as one of the most world’s most violent; high level of domestic violence in our homes, too depressing!  In history lessons we read about cease fires at Christmas during war with soldiers playing friendly football against each other; that IS history.

I am leaving you to think about Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man”, this Christmas. That it is in the Bible and you are not Christian is insignificant; if you are celebrating Christmas, don’t you think you  should understand its message? Sorry, you may be celebrating Xmas or following the crowd, but consider giving yourself the think gift.

Conkies or stew dumplings- take your pick

Many, many years, ago when I was at secondary school, I heard a group of children talking about conkies. They were not just any children; they were the trend setters, the popular set. They came to school daily by car; travelled overseas almost every school vacation and had the latest brand of bags, shoes you name it.

As I heard them describing the feasts which their cooks laid out for them on Independence Day, I conjured up images of conkies as an exotic main course served at big mahogany tables dressed with white linen and all the necessary cutlery and crockery.

A few weeks later, I got a big surprise. Conkies were on the list of items to be sold at the school’s fundraising cake sale. I was not financially able to buy one but was fortunate enough to get a smell and a mouth-watering glimpse as one of my peers ate hers.

Credit: Hndrsn Marshall, mNm Photography & Video

“Wait!” I said to myself after spotting the bright yellow conkie that was revealed when my classmate pulled back the steamed banana leaf that covered it. The conkie was like the stew dumpling, my grandmother cooked in a large saucepan over a big wood fire in the backyard. It was smaller though; in fact, about half the size of a stew dumpling; and contained red and dark brown bits.

As my friend licked her lips, she picked out one of the red bits, threw it in the bin and said; “I don’t eat cherries.” It was then that I got it and immediately screamed with delight at my discovery.

Conkies are stew dumplings but ‘poor great’ people add cherries and raisins to the recipe so they wouldn’t be eating poor people food,” I concluded. That knowledge made me laugh so hard, I rolled on the ground with tears flooding my cheeks. The mental image of people eating enhanced stew dumplings with knife and fork at a large table pulled hard at my funny bones. For me, formality and stew dumplings don’t mix.

Stew dumplings have been part of Barbados’ culture, for many years, especially during November.  Neighbours brought them to your house; you took those made at your house to theirs.  It was a sharing, tasting, mouth-smacking time when people would remark without ridicule, good-naturedly as a matter of fact, on whose stew dumplings were best that year.

I remember the days of stew dumpling making at my house. My grandmother would get up early to pick, clean and singe banana leaves; peel and grate coconut, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.  Long neck pumpkin (garden pumpkin) was her choice for this task. She swore that its texture, taste and bright colour made it a must have if you wanted to make the perfect stew dumpling.

A pinch of salt, vanilla essence, some sugar and spices – nutmeg, stick spice, cinnamon – were added to the grated mixture and, of course, the main ingredient, Indian corn (maize) plus a dust of flour. When this was well mixed and tasty, she would wrap portions into singed pieces of banana leaf, fold them securely and place them into a large sauce pan containing some water and a snip of cinnamon to boil. No boiling was done on the stove to waste the kerosene oil or later gas, they were cooked outside the house over a bright blazing wood fire.

We, the grandchildren, would gather dry branches mainly clammy cherry sticks for the fire. Pine wood was not allowed, no matter how much we could get from people who were discarding bits after house repairs. My grandmother was strict about this. “Pine gives off a strong scent dat stick to the stew dumplings and spoil their taste,” she would say every time we set off to gather wood.

Afterwards, we would sit listening intently to the pot boilinWrapped conkieg, scarcely able to wait for the stew dumplings to cook furthermore cool afterwards. My mouth would water for a taste. I would pray that one or two would burst because Darkey would take these out of the pot and before the real sharing time, she gave them to us as an early reward. We were the helpers, weren’t we? The remainder would be placed in a container to cool before they were distributed to family members (including us), neighbours and friends.

A few decades earlier, stew dumpling were a must on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5. The older folk said the village would come together from dust to prepare for the celebrations. Tires to be burnt would be stacked up and children would gather around waiting excitedly for the adults to start the ‘fete’.

My grandfather, Jack, was in his element then, for of all the men in the district who came to the ‘do’ armed with their homemade fireworks, he was king. His bombs were the best. They never ‘fibbed’ but exploded the loudest. Older children and adults would applaud loudly and call for more but younger children would scream and jump into their mothers’ arms.

Everyone would be merry, though, setting off fireworks; washing down stew dumplings with mauby, ginger beer, lemonade; singing songs, telling jokes and playing games like ‘hiddy-biddy shut up yuh lap lap tight tight’. That game involved someone searching around in the other players’ laps looking for treasure. The older folk admit that such a game would raise suspicion today but warned that people didn’t have their minds in the gutter then, and that I was great fun.

Like that game, Guy Fawkes Day is no longer on Barbados’  entertainment agenda. The Day was banned by government and fireworks are now on a restricted list and not generally available to the public. But November is a big celebration time, here. Our country’s Independence is on the thirtieth and stew dumplings and their first cousins, conkies are on most menus.

No, they are cousins, not fraternal twin snacks as some people suggest. Many differences exist between the two; not the rich-poor scenario, I painted in my salad years, but ingredients-wise and method-wise. Folk-lore commentator Mark Williams sided with my theory that adding fruits (imported cherries and raisins) to stew dumplings results in conkies. In addition, you can also cook conkies in foil and greased-proof paper but stew dumplings can only be cooked in banana leaves if not the true flavour is off and they can’t wear the label.

Flag of Barbados See also: List of Barbados flags

So this Independence Day, take your pick, conkies or stew dumplings, but for me it will be stew dumplings; they are 100 per cent Bajan (Barbadian).

Related page:

http://bizzz.com/caribbeanrecipes/barbados-conkies-2/