Swimming Through a Sea of Roses

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I’m back from NYC now, and one of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the New York Botanical Garden. I’d been wanting to go for a while, but it’s all the way in the Bronx and travel time has always been a deterrent. When I found out that there was a Chihuly exhibit up I decided I finally would make the trip, and though I only ended up seeing a few of his pieces the visit overall was well worth it.

After walking past the closed-early conservatory (boo!) and wandering a little aimlessly across the grounds, I was happy to find myself at Thain Family Forest, full of centuries old trees and pieces of rock reminding us of the age when this part of New York was covered in glaciers. When I came out the other side I was at the Cherry Grove, and although the time for cherries has passed it was still a very pleasant experience, with the cute little trees lining the walkway and dotting the grassy slopes. It made me wish I could go climbing into their branches, and afterward enjoy a picnic with a blanket and a basket; picturesque, like the storybook picnics described in books from my childhood.

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Then the grove ended and I came to the lilac collection, which was also unfortunately not in bloom. I did read a little about how supposedly easy they are to grow and make into hybrids. Apparently they’re one of the most popular flowers in the US, which was news to me, but I don’t know much about plants or gardening really so no surprise there.

Finally, I came to the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, which was in bloom with thousands of stunning roses. Oh my goodness. The whole effect was exquisite, and there were so many different varieties, it was astounding. I took a few pictures and just kind of stood in awe of creation and the amazing God responsible for everything I was seeing. Then I made my way slowly back to the entrance of the Garden, past more beautiful flowers and greenery. Despite the disappointments about my visit, it was still wonderful and restorative, and I’m glad I made the effort to go.

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When a Subway Encounter Transforms You Into a Lactating Alien

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How often are our first impressions of people correct? Or, how closely does a person’s behaviour when we meet them match the way they truly – or normally – are? I had a baffling interaction yesterday that’s left me wondering these things.

I was on the subway, in between a catch-up with a professor and some thrift store shopping, sipping on a delicious golden latte. (Did you get into the golden milk craze? Turmeric was the ‘it’ spice of 2016.) The latte was so good, and I almost didn’t buy it, so I was feeling really pleased and ready to get to shopping. I was standing near the door of the car, and opposite me was a man reading the Bible. He was short, and brown, with shiny black hair that wasn’t quite brushed but not messy either. He looked like he could’ve been from the southern Caribbean. Was he a Christian too? Why was he reading? A little excited, I tried to decipher the chapter title upside down. He felt my eyes on the book, looked up, and thrust his face into my own, eyes flashing. It was a “CanIhelpyou/Getthef*outtamyface” kind of moment, and I was startled. I looked away, took a sip of my near-empty latte to help me recover, and spilled it on my blouse. Ugh.

Do you know how deeply turmeric stains? I was dismayed – this was my first time wearing this blouse! – and I wasn’t really able to treat the stain. Turmeric isn’t water soluble, but I tipped my water bottle onto a napkin anyway and blotted at my chest. Another reason to be frustrated. The latte spilled onto my right boob, so now it looked like I was lactating, except instead of milk it was some radioactive yellow alien-type fluid.

I was confused too, because ok, yes, it’s annoying for people to read over your shoulder, but come on, people check out what others are reading all the time on the subway. Moreover, this guy’s reaction was way over the top; certainly not what I would describe as Christian, so I guess that answered my first question.

About 15 seconds after the face-thrust the guy caught my attention and told me he was sorry. “Ok”, I responded, not sure if it really was, and went back to figuring out what, if anything, could be done for my shirt. Then, feeling a little sorry myself, I tried to explain my motivations to the guy. We had a brief conversation – he told me he read the Bible before for a class in college and was going over it again – and I learned his name was Alex. A little train harmony was restored, and I looked around for my phone to tell my friends what had happened and whine about my shirt.

Then! A few minutes later, Alex called my name and looking at me earnestly asked, “Do you want to be friends?” I laughed. Now it was his turn to be startled, and I realised that I might have seemed harsh. In reality I was shocked. This same man who two stops before shot daggers into my face wanted to be my friend? So he had apologised and now we knew a little about one another, but friends? That seemed like a leap. At least from his perspective. But I agreed anyway – why not? Worst case scenario I ignore him because he turns out to be annoying.

From my laugh onward I felt the dynamic of our relationship change dramatically. I didn’t see Alex as a hostile, territorial man anymore. He just seemed like a small, socially awkward guy – which could explain his initial aggression and subsequent offer of friendship. He fumbled nervously on his phone as he tried to take my number and suggested we could also connect on Facebook. I asked him if he used WhatsApp since I didn’t have a US number, and he said no, but he could download it. That seemed unnecessary, but at he was already saving my number. He said he’d message me once he was off the train and had service, and I repeated that texting me would be futile, so he made a note of my name to look me up on Facebook. Then he wished me a good day and sat down, returning to his reading. My stop was next, so I got off and made my way to the thrift store.

I haven’t heard from Alex, and at this point I don’t think I will, but that was definitely a memorable encounter. I experienced a gamut of emotions and had an accelerated relationship with a stranger on the subway. I wonder what further conversations with Alex might reveal. In any event, my shirt is on its second soak in a bowl of vinegar. If for no other reason, that turmeric stain ensures he won’t long be forgotten.

3 Things I Love about NYC

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Brooklyn Bridge, by Elora Williams

I’m in NYC! I came partly to visit and partly to finish up a podcast episode that I’ve been working on, and will be here for a couple weeks. I have been looking forward to this trip for months, and was so excited the night before my departure that I couldn’t sleep. Then that morning, as I was getting ready to go to the airport, I was too excited to eat! That is some crazy level of enthusiasm. I can’t remember the last time I was that excited, but it was such a good feeling to have again.

So what is it that I love so much about this city? First of all I think the fact that it is a city. I’ve never met one that I didn’t like, and so I think I’m just a city kind of gal. Pittsburgh, DC, London – give me plenty of people bustling and hustling and my eyes will open wide to take in the energy of it all. Aside from that, here are a few things I really appreciate about New York and have missed since being at home:

  1. The parks. Central Park is obviously the New York park, and it is a truly wonderful place. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times already this trip, and still haven’t had enough. But there are other great parks here too, like Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill. I used to live right next to them and went on many a morning run and evening walk through their paths. I’m staying in Washington Heights and have happily been able to pick up this routine again. It might seem strange that the first thing I talk about is parks after all the characteristically urban points of city living, but I do love being able to escape to green spaces and marvel at the natural glories of the earth.
  2. The bakeries. Um hello! I cannot get enough. I love cooking and food in general, but even before I was responsible for feeding myself baking was my thing. I haven’t met a loaf or pastry at Amy’s Bread that I haven’t liked, Levain has spectacular, ginormous cookies that I’ve described in detail to all my friends, and Empire Cake makes the best dairy free hot chocolate. In addition to hitting these places I’m heading to Chinatown to carry on my new affair with steamed buns and puzzle over the delightful texture of particularly spongy cakes.
  3. Walking. New York is way more pedestrian friendly than Nassau. You could walk all of Manhattan in an almost completely linear fashion if you wanted, cross bridges to the other boroughs and walk through those just the same (though I know less about the Bronx and Queens). It’s so easy to just get up and go, whether or not you want to use public trans – which is so far ahead of what we’re dealing with in The Bahamas I’ll get upset if I think anymore about it. I spent a semester in Ghana my sophomore year in college, and that was something I loved about being there too. People walked everywhere. I walked everywhere. I have flat feet, so they end up being pretty sore after a while, and sometimes for days afterward, but that just means I ought to get better shoes. 😉 Also! You end up real close to people and pass more slowly than you would in car, allowing me frequent “YAS GIRL! Strut your stuff!” and “swoon that is such a well dressed man” moments that are thrilling little bonuses throughout my day.

There are so many other great things about this city, it would be fun to sit down with you and gab about them all. Have you been to New York? What are your favourite things about it?

A Stranger Calls… 12 Times

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8.23: “Now’s probably a good time to call that number I saw on the sign. Not too late, but likely after dinner.”
8.24: ~mindless redial~
8.25: “Seriously? How have they not picked up. People are glued to their phones.”
8.26: “Ok, maybe you’re in the bathroom but I know you carried your phone in there.”
8.27: “Hello! Pants should be on now!”
8.32: “The noise from flushing lasts about 10 seconds. And who washes their hands if all they’ve done is pee?”
8.35: “All this waitin’s got me snackish. Am I feelin’ sweet or salty? – Wait why is this even a question. Ice cream.
8.39: “Ooh yea neapolitan. Let me just get this quick call in before I kick back.”
8.40: ~redial while grabbing spoon~
8.51: “Guess I’ll give it another shot. It’s been freaking long enough, what with that ice cream break.”
8.52: “Um hello? Does anyone live at this number?”
9.07: “Pick up the phooone dammit!”

***

Is it just me or is this unbelievable? Someone – a stranger – called me 11 times in 29 minutes. There’s no way I would ever have imagined anyone would call me this often. I’m trying to get an apartment building rented, so frequent phone calls are expected, but this person took the cake. And! They called in the middle of a dinner party I was hosting.

Thankfully my phone was on silent and I was busy frying potstickers, steaming rice and coordinating table set-up, so it wasn’t until my phone lit up from the last call that I knew someone was trying to reach me. When I realised they had in fact tried 10 times before, in such a short amount of time, I had absolutely no intention of answering if they called again. Clearly they were rude and inconsiderate, and who would want a tenant like that?

As it happened, when they did call the final time – a whole 15 minutes later – my friends and I were seated at the table and one of them said I should answer in case it was urgent. I was pretty sure it was not, and thought the number looked familiar, but since I had only glanced at my phone the time before I couldn’t be sure. My friend succeeded in convincing me, and to my dismay I found my instinct was right. The person on the other end was inquiring about an apartment, and after I hung up and reviewed my call log I confirmed that it was the same pest from before. I was disgusted.

Well, I’m over it now and thought it might be fun to imagine the caller’s inner dialogue. There had to have been one, right? Who can be that obnoxious without rationalising their actions? Thankfully I never had to deal with them again because, wouldn’t you know it, the apartments didn’t suit their needs.

How Many Women Does it Take to Read a Wedding Invitation?

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My childhood best friend got married yesterday; her wedding was a sweet celebration and high energy dance party. I’m so glad I got to be part of it, though there was a bit of a comedy of errors for my mum, sister and I to get there in the beginning.

We started off on the wrong foot because of a combination of: dressing in two different places but riding together – my sister went to a friend’s house to get her makeup done – the current going off in the middle of us dressing, and having to make an unexpected stop on the way to help out my uncle.

After the hustling, hurrying and slightly exasperated sighs we were finally on our way to the church. My sister asked: Where is it, why is it there? My mum and I answered: Kemp Road, friend’s Grammy and mother worship there. We pull up to the entrance, ready to turn in, and my sister says: The parking lot is empty I don’t think it’s here. We all agree. So where could it be?! Thankfully Mummy had us bring the invitation with us, super cute in the style of a passport because half the new family is American, and we look at it closely. We’re very much in the wrong place.

My sister whips out her phone to create a snap video of our mistake, and proclaims that she knew it was in the other place – Atlantis – all along. My mum and I agree that we too knew it was at Atlantis. So how we all managed to drive in the completely opposite direction – south – when we needed to be going north, is a mystery.

We laugh and pray that my friend’s is a typical Bahamian style wedding – starting at least 30 minutes late – and turn quickly towards Atlantis. It’s a resort on an island almost all to itself, so where exactly the ballroom is that we need to be going to is a bit of a mystery. We decide to confirm with the person at the tollbooth which building we need to go to… and she sends us to the wrong one! We pull up, I hop out of the car and run over to the valet parking desks, shouting at Mummy and my sister to follow, asking why they’re taking so long. I never found out what the hold up was, but luckily it enabled another staff person near them to let them know we were at the wrong tower.

My sister frantically waves me over, I hop back into the car and we speed off – this time with her behind the wheel – to the other side of the island. How could the person at the toll not know that there are absolutely zero ballrooms in the place she sent us? We all wonder, but our spirits are still up. My sister quips that she’s actually right on time, since she’s habitually 30 minutes late to everything. We laugh, repeat prayers for a late start, and keep it moving. Once at the right tower, parking is a problem. No garage. No valet. Do we all hunt together? Mummy tells us to go inside. She takes the last hit for the team and drives off to find a spot and meet us later.

My sister and I slip quietly into the ceremony room and watch my friend’s mum and grandmother give her away, listen to the heartfelt vows she and her husband wrote for one another, and chuckle at the pastor’s advice tucked into jokes. Mummy doesn’t get to sit with us, but we reunite after the ceremony and enjoy punch together before splitting up to talk with other friends. It was a wonderful day all around, despite the hiccups in the morning, and though I initially thought Mummy’s instruction to bring the invitation with us was overkill – we’d all read it! we had the details in our calendars and mental notes! – it’s a habit I just may adopt from now on.

When Your Vote Precipitates a Near-Quarter Life Crisis

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My right thumbnail is stained a reddish brown. The colour is in patchy striations, in harmony with the grain of my nail,  darker in some areas than others. It reminds me of modern art, and if I could somehow lift the pattern onto a canvas it would be interesting, if not beautiful, and belong in one of those hard-to-understand museums.

There is colour underneath my nail too, like a line of dirt. It’s stubborn; it bothers me. I rake my left thumbnail over this line time and again in an attempt to get it off, but it doesn’t lift. It will stay there until it is good and ready to leave.

The entire stain will be there until it is good and ready to leave. Or rather, until my nail grows out and away. On the top I can see the line where it used to meet my skin, a neat, faint U, and beyond that the ordinary purple-pink of my nail bed. The rebirth has already started.

How did I get this stain in the first place? I voted. In The Bahamas we dip our right thumbs into bottles of deep purple ink to indicate that we have cast our ballot. A purple thumb is a mark of pride and participation. People take pictures of them at all angles; they flood our social media feeds after elections. And this purple is tenacious. Some take to bleach to remove it. I am one of the ones who is waiting for it to fade away, though I didn’t think it would take this long. It’s been 11 days since the election.

As long as this colour is on my nail I can’t easily forget that day. This makes me think of the way other things in our lives remain long after we have encountered them. Exchanges and conflicts in relationships, and the sometimes-big sometimes-small choices we make throughout our days, have effects lasting as long and far longer than this ink on my nail, though many times they are much easier to forget. When I think about how each decision I make dominoes into others, how many relationships leave deep, lasting grooves in my life, I get a little overwhelmed.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s good to be shaken from sleepwalking through the everyday, or from having my nose so deep in the task in front of me that I forget to look up for perspective. This life matters, and so do each of the blocks I use to put it together. I pray that I will make the most of my days, with wise choices leading to positive stains.

When Your Vote Slays the Prime Minister

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                          Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff, 12 May 2017

The Bahamas held its General Elections last Wednesday, and the incumbent party was slaughtered by its primary opponent. I mean, there were 39 seats available, and the incumbents, who previously held 30 (of the then 38), kept only 4 of them.

The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy politically divided into constituencies, each with a representative who advocates on their behalf in Parliament. The dominant parties are the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement, though there are always others vying for prominence, as well as a handful of independent candidates. The party with the most seats in Parliament wins governance over the country, and its leader becomes our Prime Minister. A consequence of this system is that people tend to vote for a party or party leader over their constituency candidate.

In some constituencies this past election the challengers won by a large margin, and in others the race was a little closer. Nowhere was as dramatic as the former Prime Minister’s constituency, one he held for 40 years. Literally. He lost to his challenger by only four votes. The night of the count, there were a few numbers flying around – did he lose by seven? twenty-five? could it possibly be four? The challenger was declared the winner, and the PM asked for a recount. The next day we found out that indeed, he received 1,905 votes, while the victor won 1,909. You could even say he lost by three, since there was one protest ballot.

Whether you count it as three or four, seven or even twenty-five, that’s a stunning loss. And a humiliating blow for the former Prime Minister. There’s plenty to be said about this, and people are having a field day with it all. One lesson that sticks out to me is how important it is to vote, and how every single person who shows up to the polls matters. We hear this all the time, but it’s hard not to feel like being one in 300,000 or one in 300,000,000 makes your vote irrelevant. But think about the four people who didn’t show up on Wednesday. Were they inclined to vote for the then-Prime Minister, but figured they needn’t waste their time since he was pretty much guaranteed a win?

A friend of mine lives in his constituency and posted this on Facebook:

Five years ago, before the last general election, I was told by my MP that my vote didn’t matter because he was going to win either way. He won by a landslide, despite my vote. This past Wednesday, I cast my vote again, not thinking that it would really make a difference, but playing my part anyway. And he lost by FOUR votes! Never let anyone tell you your voice or vote doesn’t count!

What if she hadn’t gone out, because when she voted last time her MP was proven right? Our democracy has a ways to go, but in cases like this one I feel its strength and the power of my one voice. Of yours too. We can pull down giants and lift up the small man. We can say enough is enough and throw a government out on its hip, or demonstrate our willingness to give them a second – or forty-first – chance, with the mark of our pencilled X. If you live in The Bahamas – vote! If you live in any democratic country, vote.