Monthly Archives: December 2008

One more memory

This is a fantastic mash up of last year’s best pop tunes. Enjoy.

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2008. Some final observations.

Grisham cannot leave CSI. Not after Warrick.  It is like Dr. Green leaving ER. Another show bites the dust. 


Time off work is a blessing but only if you know it is a temporary and fiscally appropriate break.  Time off spent looking for work is not time off. It is painful and watching a loved one go through it is hard.


I have a fun new game. I watch TV ads to see signs of recession. My new favorite sign that things have gone awry are the McNugget ads. Served on an elegant banana leaf, McNuggets are the new pre dinner canape!

 

I recently watched the pilot of House and noticed that Cameron has black hair. By season 5 she is a blond. What does this mean?


My favorite new drink is a Ciroc and Portugal Martini. They will forever remind me of December in Trinidad. (A Portugal is like an orange but better, Freshly squeezed it is divine).


I have come to the conclusion that the definition of Cool is self confidence. Not giving a damn about anyone else or their opinions. Being Cool is being an individual and being proud of it.


I have learnt that living with less it very freeing. Sort of like a severe bikini wax. We just don’t need all that extra stuff.


You can learn a lot from a dog. They get that “finding a $20 note in your pocket” feeling every time they sniff on the beach. The world is a big candy shop to them. It is to us too. You just need to open your eyes. 


Never underestimate the power of kindness. It is like Christmas all year round.


I have learnt an extraordinary amount about the oil industry since moving here. I cannot believe that it can take 6 years from the moment a helicopter spots the zone and gas is finally extracted. Only 1 in 5 areas are actually successful extraction zones and millions of dollars are spent just looking for oil and gas. It is, in my opinion just as remarkable as going to the Moon. Drilling 7 miles beneath the crust of the earth is mind boggling. 


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the best book I read this year. The film inspired by the book is my best film of the year. Art is always the best defense.


Obama changed America’s self esteem. The US finally has hope and it is infectious. I am trying hard not be be smug and hate Republicans. It’s hard.


Children and students really only want one thing. To be listened to. Pay attention and self esteem will grow. It is what I want more than anything for my daughters.


I think we all love House because we live in hope that he is really not that mean. We want to believe that the right woman will change him and make him smile. But. Maybe he really is that mean. 


I have always feared getting older but I actually like my self more than I did a few years ago. Not so keen on the external aging factors. Vanity is alive and well.


I have started to love Trinidad. It is a complicated mixture of decadence and violence and I will never really understand it. I like being perplexed by this beautiful island.


My wish for 2009 is prosperity. Artistic, spiritual and financial. I have no idea where we’ll be in 7 months but I have decided to be optimistic. Attitude is everything.


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Trini Christmas #2

 

 

In Trinidad the main objective in life is to have fun.

 

Christmas here is one big celebration. 

 

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Christmas is the start of a long season of fun that starts after Halloween ( which is relatively small ) continues through Christmas, and ends after Carnival. 

 

Some Trini Christmas highlights:

 

  • Traditional parang music is largely performed around Christmas time, when singers and players ( known as the parrandero) travel from house to house in the community, often joined by friends and neighbours using whatever instruments are at hand. In exchange for the entertainment, parranderos are traditionally given food and drink: pastelle, sorrel, rum and ponche crema (a form of alcoholic eggnog).

While traditional house-to-house caroling tradition is still practised by small groups and larger organized groups, modern parang music has also developed a season of staged performances called parang fiestas, held from October through to January each year, ending in a big parang competition.

  • Trinidadians spend Christmas eve house hopping between friends and family to spread cheer. celebrate and eat and drink.
  • They eat Pastelles which are meat and corn wrapped in a banana leaf. The making of the Pastelles is in itself a a lovely occasion for people to get together.
  • Music is very important. After all how can you dance with no tunes?
  • Ole years is a great celebration here and there are huge parties set up. For a small cost people can go to an all inclusive fete. This means that all food, drinks and DJ entertainment are included and a good time is guaranteed for all. Normally in the West if we pay to go to an event ( normally called a “Ball”) we would settle for nothing less than ball gowns and black tie. Here shorts and a cooler of beer is all that is required.
  • Once Ole years is done Carnival season officially kicks off. A series of fetes, sometimes more than one in a week, begins in early January. Let me just say that there is one week at school that not a lot of learning nor teaching happens. More on Carnival season to come later.
  • When the excesses of Christmas is over and all the rum and pork digested people start their Carnival shape up. This is when tons of people, (women) take to wearing lycra and walking really fast.

Those Carnival costumes are tiny.

 

From Trinidad to where ever you are, Merry Christmas! Have a warm and wonderful day.

 

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Building a nest in my shell

Why is it that some people can leave a party at midnight and go on to a club, dance ‘till dawn and finally go home to watch the sun rise, while others just go home?

How come some people go out three times a week, party all the time, are super-sonic party animals, always raise their hand and say “I’m in!” at any suggestion of a “lime”?

I missed 6 parties this week. Back in Montreal I always bemoaned the Christmas season ‘cause I felt like I wasn’t invited to enough parties. Here I am refusing more in one week than I ever attended in a season. Is there something wrong with me? Why did I prefer a warm tea, a great episode of House and some chocolate over a night out chatting with co workers or meeting new people? I’m a people person! I just seem to have fallen off the people wagon recently. I am preferring my little uni-cycle over all those busy buses.

Maybe the uncertainty of our lives just got me down. Maybe I just became temporarily unsociable. I prefer the company of my students to most of the people I work with.

At a birthday party a few weeks back, one that involved some semi nude swimming, a group of people headed off to a club in lieu of bed. I couldn’t imagine anything worse! I love my bed. I love my home. Am I getting old?

My home is my nest. I love and need my cocoon and I always have but I seem to be more and more selective about who I let in. This may very well be a by product of knowing we’ll be leaving at the end of the year. I think I have a protective shell and it is mighty cosy in here. Just me, House, my dog and occasionally a child or two.

Tonight I am going out.

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A Trini Christmas #1

The scene in the Mall today was 100% Christmas spirit. No one was stressed or frantic or running or looking at lists or impatient. This Mall was full of Trini Christmas spirit. People dressed up, babies and children suitably polished, everything decorated, music, happy, happy people. Christmas is huge here. People paint their homes, buy new furniture, go to Parang Fetes where they can hear music specially composed and played for the season and generally have a ball. Everyone loves Christmas. Perhaps this is because everyone celebrates it. There are no cynical bah humbugs to be found.

 

And for those of you who are surprised by all this Christmas spirit in the heat..(yes, I too have always associated Christmas with the snow, or very cold)…let me quote a famous parang song:

“Trini Christmas is de best!”

 

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Lessons from Mr. Charlie Brown

Perhaps mean grownups were once just mean children.

Why is it so hard? It should be so simple. The answer is this. Just be nice.  This works for everything. The smile at a colleague, the have a good day, the can I help you? The lending a student some money, the bringing a toy in for the toy drive, the throwing the best birthday party for your kids, the surprise dinner party, the little thoughtful acts that make the world go round. It does not include the crabby guy on the phone who doesn’t give a damn, the people who cut off the old people’s heating in the dead cold of winter, the nasty immigration officers who make you feel like you are doing them a favour coming into their country, the lazy rip off artists who run a scam, the lawyers who watch the bottom line and miss the humanity, the guys with guns that storm hotels, the police that hit teenagers, the fanatics that bomb houses of prayer, the parents who never talk to their kids, the teachers who put down kids and ruin a dream, the kids who write on walls and ruin a life.

Last night I watched a Charlie Brown Christmas. I had forgotten what a gem this cartoon was. First of all they feature the voices of real children rather than adults trying to sound like children. The writing cleverly reflects the real way that people speak, particularly children who are often painfully honest with each other. They have not yet installed the “filter” that enables them to edit out the brutally honest and often rude comments. It is a fact; if you want to know the truth about how you look in that dress, ask a child.

In the Charlie Brown Christmas the kids all are mean to Charlie Brown, berating him for never doing anything right. Of course they ultimately learn that it pays to be nice to one another. When his little tree becomes beautiful the children realize they were wrong yet there is no fast moral where Charlie “rubs it in.” They just begin to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas once they begin to sing together. Each character is charming in their own way because we can see ourselves in at least one of them.  Each one is eminently human.  They are not particularly kind to each other because they have not yet learnt how important it is. We have our filters. We should know better. We are grown ups and it is a simple as just being kind. When we watch Lucy taunting Charlie Brown we cringe and laugh because we know it is wrong.


Who are you?

                        

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Charlie Brown.  Worried, intense, means well, acts on his instincts, hates materialism, wants a friend but refuses to compromise his beliefs or actions to please people. Thoughtful, confused, questioning and ultimately right. The lovable loser, symbol of hope and determination.

 

 

lucyLucy. Brilliant, intelligent, bossy, cross, loves to talk, loves money, thinks she is always right. She is a fighter, cuts to the chase, often mean but hard not to love.

 

 

 

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 Linus. In his own world. Needs comfort but is a great friend, highly knowledgeable, brilliantly clever, worried, creative, somewhat of a mess. Very loyal to Charlie Brown.

 

 

 

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Snoopy. A great show off. The definition of cool.  Spoilt, extravagant, in love, a good friend, eccentric and a performer.

 

 

 

 

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A cosmopolitan life

You know you are in trouble when you order a Cosmo and 10 minutes later you see your waiter carrying cranberry juice from the bar next door. A few more minutes pass and there he is again this time carrying martini glasses. We sat there giggling wondering what else he would need to fetch from next door.  Perhaps we should save him the trouble and actually move to the next bar.  25 minutes after ordering our drinks our waiter sheepishly approaches and quietly says

“I am so sorry but our martini glasses have a dysfunction.”

“Really?” we say, suppressing laughter. “What shall we do?”

“Well, can I suggest that I bring them in wine glasses?”

We sighed with apparent despair. “Ohhh. Alright then. But the glasses are the best bit!”

He didn’t quite grasp the concept of a group of girls ordering drinks because they liked the glasses. He apparently had no idea that most of the fun of a Cosmo was the martini glass.

A Martini glass holds within its shape a whisper of promise. Of nights full of romance and sophistication; of nights when we can imagine ourselves wearing white, heels sharp and hair all a gloss. It is not just a glass. It is the moment when we can forget for a moment the drudgery of the morning, crawling under the table on all floors to scrape scrambled eggs off the carpet. It is a sharp contrast to the tumbler of water or juice we chug down between carpools and a far cry from the warm tea we drink at night all cozy in pajamas. No, the Martini glass represents another life where we can pretend just for one night that we are someone different. That is why we love the Martini glass, with the drink carefully prepared, shaken, not stirred.

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When he finally delivered the drinks he told us that “no one will even know! People will just think you are drinking pink wine!” He seemed very proud of his reasoning.

But that was the exact reason we wanted the glasses. Who drinks bright pink wine?

Anyway the Cosmos were delicious.

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Balandra come again

 

Woke up the other morning and had a battle between 3 bananas and a bunch of ants. Of course I ranted and stomped and slammed cupboards and got very cross about the ants and the bananas left out until they seeped rotten banana juice. Am I the only person who can spot an ant invasion about to happen?

 

Just because the very handsome man I live with doesn’t eat bananas is no reason to fail to notice the leaky fruit. I could tell I was beginning to lose it. I needed to escape.

 

There is nothing like a weekend away to stop the stress, slow down the stomping and generally ease us into the last two weeks of school.

 

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Balandra. The name trips off the tongue. Musical. like a warm song. It is a beautiful place. A home, simple, easy and beautiful with a private beach .The last time we were there I got a lesson in Trini Beach Liming so this time we were all prepared. 

 

 

 

Despite Trinidad being a small island it takes ages to go anywhere because the traffic is painful. We drove only 82 km but it was a long trip.

After sitting in Typical Trini traffic for 4 hours we arrived in the dark and longed for the sea. We would not see it until 11 am the next day after the torrential rains had slowed. The weather here is passionate. In one minute hotter than comfortable and in the next, rain so loud and hard it could wash away sins. 

 

We spent 2 days with no television, computer, internet, phone, radio or shops. It was a true escape. We also spent a good part of that 2 days staring at the horizon, something that is a tonic for any soul. 4 girls who normally squabble and find it near impossible to agree on an activity spent 2 days running naked on a beach or exploring the fruit trees on the land. It was a back to basics weekend and a reminder of how rarely we sit back and pause.

 

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Before heading back to Port of Spain we made a short detour to visit the Toco lighthouse. This the point of Trinidad where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. There is a crease as the two giants seas swell and rekindle. Standing on the cliff, windblown and exhilarated, it felt like we were on the edge of the world.  Normally confined by four walls and a cup full of chaos, it was a rare and special feeling.

 

 

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We stopped to buy some homemade ice cream made from Soursop ( a type of honey apple) and it was divine. A warm and smiling face watched us enjoy the ice cream she had made herself. 

 

We drove home. Full of senses.

 

 

Time. Time to run my fingers through the fine rocks hunting for shells and smooth flint. Time to linger over a meal, a drink, a photograph, a conversation, a page of a book.

 

Eyes. Eyes that watched a storm coming in, carefully calculating the time left before we had to run. Eyes that were watching the beautiful bodies of 4 girls. Eyes that studied for the first time how a coconut becomes a palm.

 

Touch. Touch of the rain, warm on skin. Touch of soft blond curls running through my fingers. Touch of rough sand, soft stone. Touch of a wave pushing me over onto the beach.

 

Smell. Smell of the sea, the rain, the wind bringing to my bed the freshness of petals, the dark scent of mud. Smell of red wine, lingering all night, sharing space with burning coals and a beach fire.

 

Taste.  The taste of salt on skin. The taste of a cold apple, so green, in the shade. Taste of a meal eaten under the stars.

 

Hear. Laughter of girls playing in the mud, running through the waves, laughing in the rain. Sound of rain on tin roof, sound of waves crashing on rock. Sound of silence.

 

Balandra. 

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