Flowers in Jamaica

Hey there! As I said last week, I’m in Jamaica right now, visiting family and making new friends. Yesterday I went to the University of the West Indies campus to meet up with a friend who’s a prof there. He’s a botanist, so I got to see his lab, greenhouse and farm; he also gave me a crash course in all things cannabis, which is the focus of his research right now. Although I didn’t snap any photos of that controversial plant, I do have a few others from the gardens that I’d like to share with you. You can click on the diptychs to enlarge them, fyi.

Pink Rose

This is a rose. You know that.

This is an alamanda. Not sure you knew that though!

Champagne Butterfly

What I’m calling a champagne butterfly. ^_^

Butterfly Leaving

Caught this one as it was leaving my frame.

Hibiscus. 🙂 When I was little I used to pluck hibiscus flowers and suck the nectar from the base of their stems. Have you ever done anything similar?

It’s a rainy Sunday here, and I’m off now to find some lunch and hopefully still meet up with my cousins. Have a good one!

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The King is Coming

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Photo by Artem Pochepetsky on Unsplash

Jamaica is a beautiful country. I’m in love with its hills and gullies, its lush landscape and jawdropping mountain views. As much as I rep The Bahamas, I’m proud of the Jamaican in me as well, and I’m always excited to come and visit.

I’m here now for a few weeks and it’s been great so far; the right mix of low key and stimulating. I’ve driven around Kingston, gone out to dinner and to church, and stayed home catching up on reading. My conversations have been about their national ID card controversy, the instability of the Jamaican dollar, the popularity of Juici versus Tastee patties and Jamaican versus Bahamian ways of speaking. Already I’ve eaten saltfish, curry and Devon House rum raisin ice cream. If you ever come to visit, go to Devon House. Or somewhere that serves their ice cream. It’s uhmazing, and they give you plenty plenty so depending on how you’re feeling you might want to share a single scoop.

While I’m here I plan to do this-year-assessing, next-year-planning work, to cook and write down family recipes, and to read read read. Also, um, it’s December! Which means Christmas is coming and I’m super excited. I’m following this advent devotional from Desiring God, and bustin’ out all the music. Last year I listened to Christy Nockel’s Thrill of Hope album on repeat, and the prelude has been playing more frequently in my head recently:

The whole album is lovely and heart-swelling, on the mellow side of Christmas tunes.

In addition to the devotional from Desiring God, I found a scripture writing plan for the names of God that I’m using in my quiet times. I’ve never done a writing plan like this before, but I’m so thankful that I’ve found it because it couldn’t be more appropriate for advent.

What do you have planned to finish out the year? I’d love to hear about your favourite Christmas  music!

 

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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The Time I Wanted to Be a Fisherman

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I told you all about my trip to Abaco last month, to visit my friend Kelly. Part of my stay included a tour of Cherokee Sound, a tiny settlement established in 1783. It’s home to only a couple hundred people, and the ‘streets’ are more like sidewalks – cement pathways running beside the homes and around the circumference of the settlement. Cherokee is one of Kelly’s favourite places, so of course she had to show it to me.

The day was crazy hot, and we didn’t do ourselves any favours by starting out at 1 o’clock. We parked on the beach and walked down to the Long Dock – the only way people and supplies could move to and from Cherokee until the late 1990s – and hailed the people floating in the very shallow water.

Then we headed back, in the direction of the settlement, and met two boys fishing for bait in the creek.

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They told us their names were Walker and Sebastian, and they didn’t talk much, not to us or to each other. They concentrated on finding fish in the clear water, using their net and rods to catch them. I was mesmerised by their easy, expert movements.

I didn’t do any fishing as a girl. Not much anyway. There were a couple times I went out with different uncles on their boats, but I get seasick easily and the whole sitting, rocking and waiting thing is not for my stomach. I don’t remember doing any dock fishing either. If I did, it wouldn’t have been for long enough to catch anything – I don’t have the patience.

But these boys made me want to be a fisherman, even for a day. Part of it was from admiration – I wish I could throw a net like that! – and part of it was the charm in the moment. The boys on the bridge, the blue blue sky and sun so bright your eyes almost hurt, the rods whipping through the air – it was like a scene from a painting, the kind of feeling directors try to capture in movies. Even the boys’ names, Walker and Sebastian, were just right.

They were friendly enough – answering my questions, bringing up a puffer fish for us to see – but focused. Kelly and I hung around for a little, I took pictures (with their permission) and then we left. I think fondly on that snippet from our day: how cool it was to watch those boys and how they were at once the picture of island life and more than that same picture.

Isn’t it strange how that happens? All of the media we consume set up these expectations based on ideals and stereotypes, but also truths; then those seemingly-perfect, but entirely ordinary, moments come and we experience them both in their reality and measuring them against all the pictures of reality we’ve seen and read.

Anyway, I doubt I’ll ever see Walker and Sebastian again, but I’m glad that I met them, that I got to learn a little about them, and that they let Kelly and me share a part of their Saturday.

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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?