Sundays in Nassau

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

This morning I drove to church with my windows down. The temperatures are cooler here now, and today is on the windy side, so it was altogether a lovely ride. Church is on one of my favourite roads – an avenue lined with poinciana trees. You can see it in this post actually. As I neared the end of my drive I passed through the archway of trees and came to a stop at a light. The breeze blew balmily through my car windows and pigeons cooed soothingly. Normally a busy street on a weekday, there were only a few other cars at the light with me. The air was so peaceful. All of the thoughts rushing around in my mind came to a pause as I sat and was quieted by the atmosphere. I wasn’t on a beach and didn’t have a drink anywhere near my side, but I imagine I had the kind of feeling people dream of having when they see those ads for island vacations.

I was thankful to be warm, thankful for the quiet. This might sound strange, but it felt a little like being in love. You know, those easy days when you’re not working too hard and you’re confident in and buoyed by the knowledge that you are loved. When you feel sweet, and relaxed, and maybe a little drowsy.

Life comes almost to a halt here on Sundays. With the exception of the food store, all shops are closed; the food stores close by mid-afternoon. Most everyone is taking it easy: at home, on the beach, out for a drive. It’s like the island is showing us it loves us by prompting us all to slow down and drink it in. At that light, the very best parts of a Sunday in Nassau were crystallised, there for me to bask in, to marvel at, to hold.

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Introducing the Tines that Bind

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Hello! How are you this fine Sunday? It’s fine in The Bahamas anyway. And I have a little extra pep in my step thanks to the time change. You too? This extra hour will soon be lost in the whole ‘shorter day’ thing, but right now it’s making a world of difference.

Remember those times when I mentioned having a new project, and telling you about it eventually? That time is now haha. I’ve started a food blog! It’s called the Tines that Bind, and it explores the way food shapes place and relationships. You can imagine that the first part of my inspiration came because I love food. The second part came from loving this (Bahamian) landscape, this community, and wanting to make it real to non-Bahamians.

The Bahamas isn’t just a tourist destination. People – I – live the mundane and the frustrating and the joyful here too. I hope that in sharing recipes and talking about the everyday things that becomes clearer to readers around the world. Moreover, I consume a lot of food media and have often wondered where ‘my’ voice was in the conversation, why people weren’t talking about the food that I see around me and grew up eating. Initially I figured someone more qualified would get to it at some point, but then I realised since I was the one wondering I could also be the one writing!

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I went to an exhibition opening at our national art gallery over the summer. During the artists’ talk one of them said that there’s something about our (Bahamian/Caribbean) landscape that erases us as people in the psyche of everyone else in the world. That’s the poetic version of what I’m talking about. I felt people around me nodding in agreement, and I know at least one other person wrote his statement down. We want to feel seen, and taken seriously, and not just because we have lovely places for you to stay or have your destination wedding.

As I travel I plan to include food stories from the places I visit as well. The word tines refers to the prongs on a fork (or animals’ antlers) and in the bigger picture I’m thinking about how food is one of the great equalisers. We all have to eat! Whether we live in a powerful city or dreamy paradise. We all have different customs around preparing and eating food. I’m excited to learn some of these traditions and then share them on my blog.

So there you have it! The project I’ve been working on for the last few months. I hope you’ll go and check it out, and maybe become a follower! I still plan to write here, although I’m not sure what that’s going to look like in the long term. I do know that I love how easy and relaxing it is. On an ideal day, I wake up on a Sunday morning excited to write something, and then after an hour or so I’m done. I look for a photo from my gallery or on the web and then come back a few hours later to reread and post. Voila! TiB (Tines that Bind) isn’t nearly as simple. In fact, for any professional and/or veteran bloggers who may be reading, I’d appreciate any tips you have!

Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week. I hope to see you on the TiB side of things! ūüôā

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Here and There: Pictures from My Days

I carry my (uncle’s) camera everywhere with me now. It lives on the floor of the passenger seat of my car, on hand for whenever I see something picture-worthy. Here are some of the snaps I’ve taken lately:

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There are butterflies are everywhere these days – these orange ones in particular – way more than there used to be when I was younger. I asked friends about this and they confirmed – more butterflies! No one has any ideas why though. If you do let me know in the comments! In any event, it’s lovely seeing them flying around. ¬†They’re not ¬†skittish either, like other animals that run away when you get close. When I took this shot I might as well have been invisible for all the attention the butterflies paid me.

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I’m not sure what kind of flowers these are, but the butterflies were flying around them, so they ended up in my shoot too.

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This is my grandmother! I love her I love her. We went out for her birthday a few weeks ago, first to a studio to take pictures together, then for lunch. This is the back patio of the restaurant, where I wanted to take more pictures of her. She stood for only a few shots before insisting that she take pictures of me. She’d never used a DSLR before this moment, and what’s missing here is our conversation about the viewfinder and me reminding her where to find the shutter button. She posed me just how she liked, and I was surprised at how nicely the pictures came out. I probably shouldn’t have been though, when she was younger she used to model for a photographer so she’s had plenty of practice! I couldn’t resist taking a picture of her with my phone, which prompted her to ask, “Are you taking pictures or am I?” Haha.

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This is Collins Avenue, an historic street in one of the busier parts of the island. In the last century there was a 10 foot high wall on one side of the street, running for two miles around the boundary of millionaire Collins’ property. The wall physically divided wealthy white Bahamians from poor black ones, and it caused injuries when those poorer people climbed the wall to get to work rather than walking all the way round. The saddest and most famous of these stories is that of a pregnant woman who lost her baby in her climb.

Now as you see the wall is gone (for the most part) and this is simply a beautiful street lined with poinciana trees. At the height of summer, when the trees were all in flower, it was a gorgeous riot of red. I took pictures of it then, but now that summer has ended – though we don’t really have an autumn – I think it’s just as beautiful with the leafy green branches. I don’t know who planted these trees, but I’m thankful for their vision! Driving down this avenue is a real treat.

 

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Fighting Fear, Being Generous

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Roseau, Dominica – AP Photo/Carlisle Jno Baptiste

Just after Hurricane Irma bullied its way through, Hurricane Maria ravaged Dominica, our neighbour to the south. The death toll is 27, with many more missing. Most of the buildings are destroyed, and the natural landscape is brown and broken, nothing like the lush green paradise that inspired the nickname Nature Isle. At the beginning of the summer I made a friend from Dominica who lives in Jamaica. He took an arduous 3 day journey to get back to his island – the last leg by boat from St. Lucia – and told me about the “total devastation” he found there. Busy with affairs on the ground, and working around spotty communication services, I didn’t get much more than that and an “it’s terrible”. I can hardly imagine how he must feel.

Dominica is very much in the thoughts and prayers of many Bahamians, not least because when we were struggling after Hurricane Matthew they gave us US$100,000. We have offered assistance from our Defence Force, and our Prime Minister has also pledged that we will accommodate Dominican students in our public and private schools.

On this point, too many Bahamians are struggling. They are crying poor mouth and criticising the government for wanting to assist foreigners when we don’t have our own house in order. They ask: What about our students, in overcrowded, under-resourced classrooms? What about our Family Island residents who need jobs and whose islands are recovering from Hurricanes Irma, Matthew and Joaquin? What about ‘choose another problem’?

On the surface, these are valid concerns, and I understand the practicality behind them.¬†People would like to know the details of how we will accommodate the students and possibly their parents. At their root though, these questions are based in fear. Fear that we don’t have enough for ourselves to commit to sharing, fear of being uncomfortable as we extend our hands to others.¬†We want to be certain the timing is right, but if we waited for timing before we helped anybody we would be sitting on our hands for eternity.

The Bahamas is more than four times the size of Dominica, population-wise. Economists use GDP to discuss the financial health of different nations, and if you compare our two, The Bahamas’ USD9 billion is 18 times Dominica’s USD500 million. Scaling figures to the per capita level paints a more helpful picture, and here we see our per capita GDP is $23,124 vs Dominica’s $7,144. Yet Dominicans managed to reach into their pockets and give us $100,000 – that I’m sure wasn’t just lying around on the table – and at the same time donate the same amount to Haiti. If we were to give them the same percentage of our GDP we would be sending them a cheque for $180 million.

So what happen to my people? I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said, but we love to talk about being a Christian nation and this response is anything but. Who hasn’t heard some message about how God spared us from this or blessed us with that? That same good God commands us to give, expects us to give and blesses us when we give. The Macedonians famously gave out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). But you don’t need to be a Christian to see generosity as a virtue, or to believe in reaping rewards for loving behaviour. What kind of reputation do we want to have, regionally and beyond? Do we want to earn another mark in the column labelled stuck-up and unCaribbean?

These are the moments that allow us to determine the kind of nation we want to be, where we can do more than make pretty speeches and have earnest conversations. The choices we make set precedents, will be recorded in history books for our great-grandchildren to study. I am thankful for the compassion of our Prime Minister, and support the decision that he made on my behalf. I want our Bahamas to be known for kindness, helpfulness and openhandedness, and this is a step in the right direction.

Rushin’ to Bacchanal – My Podcast Episode!

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Photo by Torrell Glinton

I made a podcast! Well, I made an episode of a podcast. Last December I pitched three story ideas to the show Afropop Closeups. I don’t have a background in radio but I love podcasts and have long dreamed of making one, so when I learned they were accepting pitches I hopped to it! I was over the moon when they got in touch to say they wanted me to produce one of the ideas, and got straight to work in January.

The story is based on work I did for my master’s degree, but I still needed to do interviews, update my research, source music and write a script. Having the background knowledge was a helpful foundation, but there was still a ton of work to do. For six months I laboured, right up until a week before my studio date in the middle of June. Then I got together with the season’s executive producer and Afropop’s sound engineer to record the narration and mix all the audio together. After a marathon studio day, we were finished! Then I had to cool my heels till the season launched.

Developing the episode was a long, sometimes arduous process, particularly when it came to script writing. I had hours of great interview tape, but only 20 minutes of episode time to work with. Editing everything down into a comprehensive, enjoyable script was often overwhelming. By the last couple of weeks, when I had wrangled the content into a manageable document, I began to feel really proud. When it came time to go to New York, when I was actually in the studio with the executive and the engineer, I was thrilled!

We had a lot of fun working together, and it was amazing seeing and hearing the script being animated into one seamless experience. All the notes I’d written, all the sound cues I’d flagged, were surrounding me and coming together the way I heard it in my head! When we said goodbye that evening I wanted to run and play the episode for everyone. If I had my druthers, I would have broadcast it then and there, but I had to wait till the season was complete and the show was ready to release each episode on a schedule. I’ve been very patient all summer.

So what’s the story about? There’s this centuries old Bahamian parade called Junkanoo. We live and die for this event, and it’s been denigrated, celebrated, advertised and hidden at various times in its history. Bahamians love Junkanoo. Trinidadians have their own masquerade festival, Carnival. It is just as old and serves a similar purpose in Trinidad as Junkanoo does in The Bahamas.

A couple years ago the Bahamian government decided to introduce a new festival, a Bahamas Carnival, to attract tourists to our shores. As the name implies, they modelled this event on Trinidad’s Carnival, rather than our own Junkanoo. My episode explores the controversy that ensued. I hope you’ll give it a listen, and let me know what you think!

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At the Beach

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I went swimming yesterday for the first time since early July. It’s amazing, I live in The Bahamas, it’s summer time – surely I’d be at the beach every weekend! But no. You know how life is, it gets in the way.

There were a couple of weekends of bad weather too, like the one where my mum and I planned a beach date but it rained all day, and last weekend, when Hurricane Irma was moving through. The ocean is still churning after her visit. I was surprised when I got to the water at how high the tide was, how fierce the waves. More than that, I was disappointed: this meant I wouldn’t be able to do much swimming.

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I did have my camera with me though, so I walked up the shore taking pictures of the waves, trying to capture their aggression. There’s so much for me to learn about photography, I’m still getting a handle on the basics. ISO, aperture and shutter speed work in tandem, and as one shifts so do the others. Balancing the three is one skill, mastering it for different scenarios is another. Then there’s the matter of the shifting light, and manually focusing – so much to think about! I lost track of time as I practiced and the next thing I knew it was 40 minutes later. Time to meet the waves head on, without the buffer of a camera lens, so I finally went into the water.

The ocean was rough. It felt almost like I was getting beat up: as soon as one wave crashed over my head, another was building right behind it. I tried floating on my back but the waves crashed over my face, pushing water into my mouth and nose, causing me to sputter. The delightful bobbing and underwater somersaults I’ve written about before weren’t possible. The most comfortable position was floating on my stomach. But the water was warm, and I was in it, and I was still happy.

Maybe 10 minutes later I couldn’t take the beatings anymore. I was beginning to have a headache and was afraid I’d soon become nauseous – seasick without being in a boat! It’s happened before, swimming in rough water.

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I packed up my things and slowly made my way back home, grateful for the reprieve. Hopefully it won’t be so long before my next beach visit.

 

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On Hurricanes

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Bahamians spent most of the last week talking about and preparing for Hurricane Irma. We were getting ready for an apocalyptic-level storm, and (most) everyone was taking it very seriously. Our government evacuated people in the southern islands, who were forecast to be the worst hit. Schools and businesses on New Providence, in the northwest and home to the capital, closed as early as Wednesday evening, though they weren’t meant to start feeling the hurricane until Friday. Hurricane prep takes time, and no one had an excuse not to be ready.

Thankfully, the events over the weekend have felt more like a hiccup, and we were spared the devastation experienced by islands like St. Martin and Barbuda. This was the first time I was home for a hurricane in a few years, and it got me thinking about my more dramatic storm experiences.

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My earliest (storm) memory is of Hurricane Floyd. I was 9, and my family still lived in a condo complex, next door to my best friend. My youngest brother wasn’t born yet. I remember our condo was very dark because of all the shutters up, and that for hours all we could do was imagine what was going on outside, with the wind whistling, rain falling and mysterious things crashing. After the storm passed, my siblings and I walked through our complex with our dad, in awe of the flooding, the sand, the downed trees. I can still see my sister (or brother)’s red rain boots, splashing through the dirty water.

Michelle
Michelle came not too long after Floyd, and she was a doozy as well. By this time though we lived in a house and had much more space to play during the hurricane. Again, most of our house was in darkness because of shutters, but upstairs our two bedrooms were a little brighter since their windows, at the front of the house, were uncovered. My siblings and I ran back and forth between our bedrooms, watching the wind batter the trees from the second-storey windows. The family before us left behind a yellow box in the front yard, covering some small machine or appliance. The wind picked it up and tossed it all across the lawn; it ended up in pieces. Some trees blew over too, and there was generally debris everywhere, much like Floyd. I remember being thankful that we had a generator because of how long the power was off, and playing plenty of board games.

Frances and Jeanne
I don’t remember going through these storms, but I do know they were bad for The Bahamas. I think they both pummeled Grand Bahama, an island in the north, and possibly did major damage elsewhere too. They must have been kinder, if you can say that, to my island though, which is why I don’t remember them.

On top of these four, there was a hurricane somewhere around the end of high school, or in college, where all my cousins and siblings spent the weekend together at one of our homes (or maybe it was Frances or Jeanne?). We kept one another entertained, and afterward my uncle put us all to work cleaning up the many downed trees, tons of leaves and other debris from the yard. We filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, dove to retrieve foreign objects from the bottom of the pool, swept water and wiped windows. It was a lot of work, even though there were at least 10 of us.

After this was what I believe was Hurricane Sandy, since I spent this one almost alone at my parents’ house, and am assuming my cousins and siblings were back at school. I whiled away much of the time on the phone with the guy I was dating. I stayed in my darkened room, reading and texting him, reading and calling him. Every now and again I’d head down to the kitchen for a snack. The storm itself wasn’t very exciting, but I did enjoy having that guy to talk to and to keep me company.

This weekend, for Irma, I spent the time marking essays, getting ahead with other work and tidying my room. Yesterday my family and I watched the US Open women’s final. The weather was windy and grey, but Irma ended up passing us by and we were spared her terrible force. To every reader in a hurricane zone, I pray that we can all get through the rest of this season in an equally quiet fashion. I pray too that everyone whose lives have been dramatically altered by Harvey and Irma can return to a semblance of normalcy soon.