Sunday, November 20, 2016

What’s Going On?

flickr.com/photos/sunlightrunes/15356398933
I’ve wanted to write about how Trump being elected has made me feel for quite some time now, but  there’s so much that it’s hard to figure out what to say and every day we see a next example of his hideousness.

I even spent some time searching to see if I could find enough explanations of things he has done, may do, is doing, that would give me pause and help me believe it’s not as bad as I feel it is. No luck so far.

So, I took a break and tried to step back from my frustration, disappointment and anger with those who put Trump in power. I know a few of you personally. I don’t know you as hateful people. I know you as people who believe you are caring, fair, just and I have heard your concerns, your personal struggles, your fears and I understand them even when I don’t agree with them on principle, or when I know I am able to see a bigger picture perhaps, than you. So I can see that it would seem you just don’t realise that you’re not in that bad a position, and a lot of the elements of your American Dream actually require YOU to make things happen for yourself. It may just be that your attitude and entitlement are what's holding you back, and now you’re following the age old habit of laying blame at the feet of those who have historically been exploited and denied the rights you relatively comfortably enjoy.

Yeah, I hear some of you crying, “No! That’s not me!” – I voted against the corrupt/non-functioning/whatever-adjective system of government, the cronyism, the Fed…ok. Fair enough. You chose to replace ‘bad and urgently in need of a serious reworking’ with lawless. Very Wild West. Actually, very  North Korea, very ISIS, very Marcos, Saddam, very Great Turkmenbashi – and please don’t say  the ‘Communist’ elements make him totally different – no, they do not, Stalin, Putin, Kim family, Trump family – there’s a lot more in common than you realise. Not so much with Fidel though, who was much more a man of the peoples and led his country to great levels of social and scientific achievements, or with many of your county’s other old Central and South American 'enemies' who’s legitimate governments, yours has long fought to depose through covert wars and replace with corrupt dictators who work to fill your corrupt power-mongers' pockets.
flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/25673640690/
I’m, of course, not an American, I don’t live there and I doubt I ever will. But I live in America’s back yard, in the small island states that number among the neighbours that America has historically enjoyed fucking with. So I have a genuine, valid, real, reason to have a say. I think the whole world does anyway since America anointed itself ‘Leader of the Free World’ – you don’t get rights without responsibility and if you pretend to being the greatest democracy in the world, then hey, we are voters. Those in America, who don’t see this, are just some of the (way too big), insular band of fools who need to go back to school, preferably in a country where they can learn about how the rest of humanity lives and little things like international relations, trade, world cultures…

I feel you getting indignant now. Good. Join the club. In your indignancy, please invest some time in getting to know your countrymen and women whose labour and effort made the life you enjoy possible. Of course if you are an out-and-out racist, then you believe slavery and Chinese labour were God-given rights to you - well I just hope you get a knock on the head that saves you from yourself. For the rest of you good people – please work on developing a bit more of a less arrogant  less self-entitled, and more of a ‘judge not, lest thou be judged’ ethos. You are not the only ones who matter. Get out, educate yourself and get to know and understand a few more of the many countries out there in the world that do a much better job of democracy than you do, that have granted, not perfect, but certainly functioning social welfare systems that require high taxes and yet somehow, wow, must be magical, don’t stifle business or people living wealthy, good, happy lives.

You, Trump voters, God help you. You have done a huge injustice to America, her neighbours, the world. You better hope this has the effect of waking up the rest of us and galvanising us into action to set things to right, because, yes, we are also at fault. We were asleep at the wheel it would seem – we let our ‘surrounding ourselves with light’ and our (rightful) pride in the progress we did make, to ironically, cause us to become a bit more like you; blind. We allowed ourselves to believe the tide was turning in favour of humanity and good. Well, you showed us didn’t you!

I, for one, am awake with eyes wide open.

flickr.com/photos/59152532@N05/14733314158

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

WWI Centenary - Poetry Competition



British
High Commission
PRESS RELEASE
WW1 Centenary – Poetry Competition

The British High Commission in collaboration with the French Embassy and Alliance Française have been running a programme of activities since 11 November 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. As part of this year’s activities we are organising a poetry competition with the theme being War under the patronage of the Hon Sir Derek Walcott.

This competition is open to persons from the islands of St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica between the ages of 16-35. Poems can be in either English or French and there will be a prize of an Acer Tablet in each language category in each island. Entries should be submitted to communication@afslu.org by 31 October 2016. Rules for the competition are available at www.afslu.com. The winners of the competition will be announced at a special ceremony on Armistice Day 11 November 2016.

The Armistice Day ceremony will also feature a special screening of an Imperial War Museum restored film 'The Battle of the Somme', originally produced and shown in 1916. The first day of the Battle of the Somme was probably one of the most striking moments of the First World War (WWI) as that day alone resulted in nearly 20,000 British deaths and 60,000 British casualties, still the worst day on record for the British Army.  But the battle was not just one day; it lasted until 18 November 1916 and involved not just Britain and Germany but took place on French soil and French troops held part of the line. It has also been estimated that there were representatives of between 30-60 nations, including the Caribbean, at the Somme.


An exhibition “L’industrie du rhum et la Grande Guerre” will also be launched at the ceremony. This exhibition will highlight the importance of the rum industry during WW1 and will run through the month of November.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Winds of change...

7 days from today I will be segueing back, or is it forward, into a life of freelancing. My contract at the Cultural Development Foundation is coming to a close September 30th and I have a few weeks vacation due, so that makes September 9th my last work day here.

road less traveled
Lots of mixed feelings...but mostly excitement because there are a few major reasons why I am choosing not to renew my contract - and thank goodness one is not that they said "Meh Fifi, we not taking you back" ;) 

Reason number 1) I came across an opportunity to take a 1-year's Masters Diploma in World Heritage and Cultural Projects for Development - it's part distance and part on-site in Turin Italy. Run by the ITC-ILO through the University of Turin...and it came with the possibility of a partial scholarship through the OAS...I got accepted and got the schol...so that begins very conveniently, on October 17th (Viv la Margewit!) 

Short story of perseverance with the application process...now, keep in mind I did my Degree in Crafts 24 years ago...and the college - Crewe & Alsager, has been subsumed into Manchester Metropolitan University via Manchester Metropolitan Polytechnic and my course no longer exists...and I never got a transcript...and Italy requires, I mean REALLY requires a bunch of legalized, translated, Declaration of valued documents or you may as well sit counting grains of sand while you wait to be accepted cos it just ain't gonna happen...

No matter that the online application crashed on the last page the Sunday afternoon I was completing it, (yes, of course it was the last day!!! sheesh...you know I procrastinate!) No matter the links to the explanation of what a 'declaration of value' was wouldn't work...no matter Google kept this secret from me despite my best searches...not sure why, but a twist of fate and test of my perseverance maybe? .... the thing is I decided if I wanted it, I would just have to persevere and make it happen...so I did and so, it did!

Do not give up. Do not sit back and will the universe to make it happen for you or pray for it - by all means do those things, but they do not work without you taking all and every action you can to forge your path!!! 

Reason number 2)
I miss the freedom of freelance...lord knows I have really appreciated the time I have spent at CDF - regular salary every month, staff camaraderie, comfortable air-conditioning ;) a chance to make a difference in the perceived value of arts and culture in Saint Lucia...and the unexpected hiatus from my creative work has actually given me the space to look at what I really enjoy, what really matters...that has been priceless. But I have long since used up my 'working double-time capacity' and so I've found I didn't have time, or energy really, to do my creative work...and I miss it profoundly...it is a very big part of who I am. I also miss being a trainer - yes, I've done some while here, but I miss being in the field and doing training and development work...I just do.

So there it is - I am hoping I can work out continuing some projects with CDF, but I am also moving back (and forward) to my creative work. It will be different from before: much more focus on the environment and recycling and reflecting my thoughts and feelings on life, hope, inspiration, enlightenment, peace, challenge and all that stuff.

And for those wondering if to leave the 9-5....well, you have to know what you want and make a reasonable path forward - it is not easy. I have been self-employed/freelance/micro-business for 25 years and so I can say, when you leave a job, you are leaving security, that's for sure. So know what you plan to do and work out how you will pay the bills and what you are prepared to trade off...it has been a real challenge to review what matters, what I am prepared to let go, not let go...don't under-estimate the rigours such a move to 'freedom' entails - not in the pre-planning, nor in the execution!

So, back to what I'll be doing - I will also be writing more - not just blogging, I will certainly be doing more of this - writing about my journey and travels and more, but also working on actual books - how-to guides, insights on life and overcoming challenges. 

I'll write soon about what I believe I can offer and what I would like to have you hire me to do, also...but don't let that stop you getting in touch if you think you have something I could work on with you - I'd love to hear! 


Sunday, July 17, 2016

What’s the Buzz about?



under the Flambouyant Tree at Buzz Restaurant

The Courtyard at Buzz
Last night my friends and I went along to support the soft opening of the ‘New’ Buzz Restaurant in Rodney Bay. Buzz has been a standard on the list of restaurants in Saint Lucia for many years now, serving up South African-inspired cuisine in a beautiful open setting that spilled into the garden under a big beautiful flambouyant tree – my parents were friends with the owner Pat Bowden and had gone to her restaurants many times over the years. I admit, I had not gone to Buzz much…it was a bit pricy for my pocket at the time….so what’s changed?

Well, Pat has decided it’s time for her long, long stay in Saint Lucia to come to an end and she’s handed over to the charming Marisa Groenwald who has been her Manager for the past few years.

Marisa Groenwald, Buzz Restaurant
So Marisa has kept the hint of South Africa alive, but has given the place a pick-me-up of modern style and remixed the menu with some really delicious local flavours – most notable of the new appetizers we tasted last night were the Jerk Fish Breadfruit Tacos (gluten-free) – so good, they were gone before I could get a photo of them! And the Tamarind Spicy Chicken Wings – my choice. They were both definite winners – ones to go back for again! And from the more traditional Bar Bites Menu we were treated to the Famous Cheesy ‘Crack’ Break (one bite is all it takes!) and the Classic Bruschetta – both of which I could easily have feasted on all night too!

Tamarind Spicy Chicken Wings
The Menus
All in all, it was a lovely evening! Last night there was an eclectic mix of people enjoying the atmosphere – visitors to the island, local expats and embassy people and of course real, bona-fide locals and all sorts of Caribbean people who have made Saint Lucia home – I think this kind of atmosphere is what you can expect any evening you may visit: Friendly, relaxed, stylish, decent prices and mouth-watering flavours.

Buzz Restaurant walls showcase Saint Lucian Art: Shay Cozier















Oh! I almost forgot – Marisa has decided to decorate her lovely peaceful grey palate walls with featured artists – for the launch, Saint Lucian artist Shay Cozier’s work adorns the walls – each and every one is for sale. and the paintings are provided courtesy of Island Mix Café & Shop (near the Antillia Craft Brewery) in Rodney Bay, where you can find more authentic local arts, gifts, fashion and crafts along with a beautiful patio with a view of the marina and an ever-cooling breeze. 


www.facebook.com/Buzz-Restaurant-133670557065904                (758) 458-0450



Inside Island Mix
Inside Island Mix

What’s the Buzz about?



under the Flambouyant Tree at Buzz Restaurant
The Courtyard at Buzz















Last night my friends and I went along to support the soft opening of the ‘New’ Buzz Restaurant in Rodney Bay. Buzz has been a standard on the list of restaurants in Saint Lucia for many years now, serving up South African-inspired cuisine in a beautiful open setting that spilled into the garden under a big beautiful flambouyant tree – my parents were friends with the owner Pat Bowden and had gone to her restaurants many times over the years. I admit, I had not gone to Buzz much…it was a bit pricy for my pocket at the time….so what’s changed?

Marisa Groenwald, Buzz Restaurant
Well, Pat has decided it’s time for her long, long stay in Saint Lucia to come to an end and she’s handed over to the charming Marisa Groenwald who has been her Manager for the past few years. 

So Marisa has kept the hint of South Africa alive but has given the place a pick-me-up of modern style and remixed the menu with some really delicious local flavours – most notable of the new appetizers we tasted last night were the Jerk Fish Breadfruit Tacos (gluten-free) – so good, they were gone before I could get a photo of them! And the Tamarind Spicy Chicken Wings – my choice. They both definite winners – ones to go back for again! And from the more traditional Bar Bites Menu we were treated to the Famous Cheesy ‘Crack’ Break (one bite is all it takes!) and the Classic Bruschetta – both of which I could easily have feasted on all night too!

Tamarind Spicy Chicken Wings
The Menus
All in all, it was a lovely evening – last night there was an eclectic mix of people enjoying the evening – visitors to the island, local expats and embassy people and of course real, bona-fide locals and all sorts of Caribbean people who have made Saint Lucia home – I think this kind of atmosphere is what you can expect any evening you may visit: Friendly, relaxed, stylish, decent prices and mouth-watering flavours.

Buzz Restaurant walls showcase Saint Lucian Art: Shay Cozier















Oh! I almost forgot – Marisa has decided to decorate her lovely peaceful grey palate walls with featured artists – for the launch, Saint Lucian artist Shay Cozier’s work adorns the walls – each and every one is for sale provided courtesy of Island Mix Café & Shop (near the Antillia Craft Brewery) in Rodney Bay, where you can find more authentic local arts, gifts, fashion and crafts can be found along with a beautiful patio with a view of the marina and an ever-cooling breeze. 


Inside Island Mix
Inside Island Mix



www.facebook.com/Buzz-Restaurant-133670557065904                (758) 458-0450

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the right to vote enough to make a democracy?

I'm reposting below, something I wrote last elections - my feelings about people focusing on how important it is to vote have not changed at all in the last 5 years - we are told it is exercising our franchise, but really, it is not that at all. If we are to exercise our franchise, the systems have to allow us ongoing input into governance (thanks Dawn French for that word). And we the people, need to find it in us to change ourselves so that we can contribute something valuable to ourselves as communities and a nation...vote or don't vote - I understand some people not wanting to give any credence to a system they see benefiting only the politicians, but either way, whether you vote or not, do what you can to make what you do in society matter in-between.
I say that, but at the same moment I am asking myself, how and what? How broken is our system and can we fix it? What can we do to provide people a safe and open space to listen, speak and effect change? These are genuine questions - so if you have an idea, please share!

Voting Is The Least Important Thing You Need To Do


I started writing this as Saint Lucia and a few other countries across the world were going to the vote. I wasn’t at home, so didn’t vote – and for a while, I was saying that I’m glad I’m not home because for the first time, I really would not know who to choose – I am disappointed and do not trust either of our main parties to really govern – it’s that plain and simple – they both did some good things during their stints in power, and they both did a lot of crap – a lot of questionable things – things that seemed downright not in the interests of the people, but rather, in the interests of those who could get away with it or could pay for it.
And now we have an interesting number of alternatives to the historical two parties– but none with enough candidates to form  a new government…we have a Facebook Page “People’s National Movement for Change” – a page set up to encourage non-partisan discussion of the REAL issues…I like that page, though in the weeks leading up to the actual elections the posts have degenerated too often into empty party slogans and colour-bound blind party loyalties…never mind, the fact that people have found it possible to discuss openly is imho, a great start. (EDIT from 2016 - we have a bunch of pages ostensibly for non-partisan nation-building purposes now - some are party initiatives, some not - sometimes they contain useful discussion, sometimes not, but at least it is one more possibility for people to take part in ongoing debate)
And though, in the end, yes, I would have liked to have put my ‘tikwa’ next to a choice out of the 4 that are running in my neighbourhood…I know that it is just not the most important thing to do…whoever wins, not much will change …unless…WE THE PEOPLE CHANGE.
And since I started writing this, the importance of each and every vote has come into fine, fine focus as the elections happened and days of recounts followed; as one incumbent candidate’s 68 vote initial lead turned into a 2 vote defeat, and another’s slim defeat of about 19 votes turned into an even slimmer one of 7…but my belief voting is the least important thing you do, remains pretty much undisturbed…
What I believe is far, far, far more important than the vote – for Saint Lucia and perhaps many other places – is what the people do with their government in-between. In Saint Lucia for sure, we need to complain constructively – with suggestions for solutions (and be prepared to set aside personal  for the greater good), we need to stop being part of the ‘bobol’ (corruption) system, we need to become colour blind – this ‘en rouge’ nonsense (and ‘en jaune’ if there is that one too), and become symbolically challenged – not know a flambeau except for at a beach party, not know a star except for the night sky. We need to clean out our ears and re-learn to hear, relearn a language that does not rely on empty slogans and catcalls, learn to speak our minds and LISTEN to what others are saying and make INFORMED decisions and plans that are based on content not colour, that contain substance not kick-backs…I don’t know, but I’d figure by now people would have started to realize the biggest kickback we all end up with is one in our head to knock us down.
So yes, voting is important, but getting away from the old blind party loyalty system is much more important because unless we do, even the new alternatives will find it more difficult not to repeat history in all its less than glorious moments.  And to do this, we also need to make it difficult, if not impossible for the reins of power to be attached to a golden carriage over which we have no control whatsoever, and which sooner or later flies mud in our faces and breaks our toes as we stand by and let it ride on up  at our expense.
And yes, I did mean it when I said I think each previous government has done some good things as well – so we need to be able to acknowledge those things – without it being a party thing – acknowledge good things with good critique and by ensuring that the good things are available for all to benefit, not just those of one fixation or another.
Does not all this colour branded party fixation not strike you as so ‘Victorian’, ‘Colonial’ ‘divide and rule?’ I know I am not the first to say it. It’s powerful propaganda – playing up people’s insecurities and fears to divert attention away from the things that really matter. It’s a tried and tested (and I think, should be outlawed), method. It does not benefit any of us, the people, truly, in the long run – it benefits just a few – and at a cost we should not be prepared to pay.
So, you have voted…or perhaps you have not…for me, it does not matter anyway near as much as what you do now, what you say now and for the next five, ten, fifteen and forever years– some people have been making these steps, taking up substantive discussions on issues beyond, under, across party lines -so why not more of us? Let’s choose our words and actions as best we can – even each small effort, each small step towards a government of and by the people is a movement for positive change.
What do YOU think?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Access Consciousness and the Artist's Way at Work



Rain Maybe? Or is it sun breaking through (photo finola jennings clark, rights reserved)

Why are bad habits so much easier to get into than good habits? I mean really, usually good stuff is easy to love, right? We don’t have problems accepting affection, enjoying good food, taking an afternoon nap on the sofa…they’re all good things and they’re easy habits to integrate into the daily routine. Why not the same with exercise, writing, painting? It’s not like they’re chores that I don’t enjoy…it’s something almost intangible but very, very real, the reluctance to ‘just do it’. Is it really ingrained lack of confidence from years so long gone by?

The Artist’s Way

I was listening to The Artist’s Way at Work this morning which though I find somewhat less than captivating to listen to because of the narration, has some excellent insights into the creative, productive and non-productive nature we all have within us. I easily recognized other people who’ve been and are in my life and I recognized myself too...happily in some cases it was me seeing my reflection in the good habits, but not in every case! I could see myself in so many descriptions that were about habits that keep us back.

Yes, I would like to say I try to ‘do my best’ at my work but I know that’s not true and as for being really proactive and creative? Am I really or do I allow myself sometimes still to believe ‘my hands are tied’ by other’s bad habits, limited resources, urgent important tasks? How many of us actually really are prepared to step out of our comfortable box with walls papered with excuses and blame – aka – ‘reasons why I can’t’? How many of us consistently find ourselves saying ‘Oh I can’t because so-and-so isn’t/hasn’t/won’t/didn’t …”? But the bigger question is, what did WE do to overcome the challenges the other person’s bad habits create for us? Did we just let ourselves off the hook, comfortable in having a scapegoat to enable our failure? Or did we just dive into the wave and trust that where there’s a will, there’s a way?

Access Consciousness

Recently a bubbly young woman, Christine Caruso, came back to visit Saint Lucia and I decided to let her ‘run my bars’. I was, to say the least, astounded at the effect it had on me – I am pretty sure part of that was that I am in a space where I’m open to any kind of positive vibe – and prior to going, I had no idea about what ‘access consciousness’ was about…I just got a really positive vibe off Christine and decided to go. And it was amazing. The verbal takeaway, conceptual really, was ‘what else is possible’: when we find ourselves butting up, as we so often do, against our tired old assumptions of how things are, or when we find ourselves desperately seeking answers or trying to bend life to our wishes… just stop and ask ‘What else is possible?’ Open yourself up to allow other options to float on in to your life instead of blocking the way with old assumptions that are most often negative.

The physical takeaway for me was also amazing – during the session I didn’t experience much other than becoming very, very relaxed and gradually seeing a rainbow of colour behind my eyes and eventually just lighter and brighter white light. When I got up, I felt physically taller. Really. I really felt taller. I could not wipe the glowing smile off my face either – I felt so much lighter and a deeper peaceful, joyous openness. My friends could not believe what they saw…yes, it was the ‘old me’ but to them I also appeared as I felt.

So, I went back a couple weeks later – and this is after researching what ‘the Bars’ are and realizing it is another of ‘those franchises’ that in principle I SO don’t like (I have a build-up of negative assumptions about them!). But I also realized, whatever the tool, how good it is relies almost entirely on how open we are to letting it work. And then of course, where therapy is going on, it relies also on how genuine the ‘therapist’ is – and with Christine, it was easy to place your trust in her because she just poured out good energy. Not the fake kind of hippy-happy all is light and good kind – genuine good energy – the kind that can exist even in dark places. These two combined, I think, are of fundamental importance for a positive result.

My second experience was completely different, having very physical effects during the session and no light shows this time J It was equally, but very differently, good.
Both the Access Consciousness Bars exercises and the Artist’s Way at Work I realized, work when we are really prepared to let go of our past that is so full of all the stored experiences of failure and denial and can’ts and won’ts and don’ts, should, must, mustn’ts etc and open up and really ask ourselves ‘What else is possible?’ and then, key, key point here…do it and keep on doing it until we have picked down each and every brick of our personal walls and built ourselves a nice sturdy set of steps, climbing as we go. 

What they, and any other system are not, is magic fixes that remove the need for us to take action, so my advice for the road…Open up and step up and keep remembering to actively seek to let go of the millions of assumptions we allow to cloud our good judgement. If you want a better life then you will, at some point has to embrace asking, from the core of your being, ‘What else is possible?’

Skip Monday, Saint Lucian Band - these guys love what they do and it shows! (photo Finola Jennings Clark, rights reserved)