Saturday, December 3, 2016

Is it time to get a life coach?

I'm considering getting life coaching for 2017. Partly because I'm curious to see how that works first-hand, and partly because I think I would really benefit from it. I'm already driven and determined and pretty disciplined ... but the mantra for 2017 is DOUBLE EVERYTHING, so I need to double my energy, effort and impact. Life coaching can probably help with that.

What made me start to consider life coaching as more than just a fleeting fantasy was the fact that I met a phenomenal friend online. (Yes. I do that. I have met great people online: awesome movers and shakers who are also wellsprings of wisdom and knowledge about a variety of things that matter to me in life.) I find like-minded and like-spirited people wherever they are. And I embrace them and the roles they play for however long in my journey. Sometimes the meeting is fleeting - an ephemeral connection. And sometimes ... sometimes the connections stick and those strangers become friends. Long-distance friends, yes. But still, friends.

This one woman has been dropping emails in my inbox for years now, freely sharing about her life and her journey. I usually drop her a one-liner or so in response. But some time earlier this year, I made the decision to actively engage the people to whom I feel a genuine attraction/connection. (I should do a post about how that one decision, consistently applied to every new relationship, has transformed almost every single aspect of my life. It has resulted in a love explosion. My friendships, family life, work life, volunteerism ... game-changing decision, I tell you).

So I've always been able to relate to this lady's posts. They are usually of the bare-your-heart variety. Her writing is direct, yet open and vulnerable, and I have a really big appreciation for the principles she usually lands on by the end of her emails. They resonate with me in a big way, and one day, I wrote a somewhat lengthy email telling her so. She responded. I responded. And we've been dialoguing ever since.

Here's why I call it a friendship: there is an honesty in the conversations that allow us both to be frank and pull from and learn from each other. I have grown from those dialogues. So much so that I am now considering trying a life coach for 2017. Imagine: we didn't make a commitment to connect or help each other, or anything. We just talked freely, and it has transformed me. I have gained so much insight and applicable solutions to various problems ... That's the power of connection.

It makes me wonder how much more growing and learning I could do if I had one person who was devoted to that cause alone: helping me see my blind spots and triggers, teaching me the best and most effective ways to deal with certain things ... it might accelerate the growth process significantly. It could change the game -again- in magnificent ways. It might be the missing ingredient to make 2017 a real double-up year. Who knows? I just might do it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

I've learnt to love people

Aren't you happy that life doesn't leave you in default mode? And that it sends you what you need to discover your best self? I'm happy, because life has taught me to let go, live and love; and I think I've finally caught on and found a flow that has more of that in it than anything else ... and it is golden.

I've learnt to love people. I know that may sound weird, or sappy, but it's so true. If you're reading this and you're one of the people in my life, chances are, I'm talking about you. I've learnt to love you. And let you lean on me. And be honest with you. And let you into my very full life. I've learnt to see you as gifted and beautiful and precious and flawed and human, and I LOVE you!

Before this, I think I was more an anthropologist than an active participant in your life. I was there because I was there by default and I was more interested in what was going on in my head than in yours. Sorry.

I wasn't aware that this wasn't a natural or beneficial state of affairs. Timeless truth: you don't know what you don't know until you find out. But 2016 has been a game changer year for me. I don't know when or how. I could pinpoint many moments. There has been a progression into acceptance that has been ... for want of a better word ... beautiful. My life has become part of a flow, and this flow is ... almost magic it's so good.

I think it comes from truly appreciating people for who they are, and from intentionally becoming a person who allows others to relax because they know that you represent a judgement-free, supportive, genuinely caring zone, although sporadically crazy space where they can just be ... . And I like when I find that in others too. I love when I meet someone who is just chevere. Peace really does come like a river.  And it really does reside in your soul.

I don't know if this is a season. I hope it's a permanent state of being ... but I love it. I love the me I am. And I love the you you are. Truly. I've learned to let you be and just love you ...


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

To be, or not to be ... my #Bitmoji?

I might be jealous of my #Bitmoji. She has more swag than I do. And the way she changes outfits - in the click of a button? Oh how I wish it were that simple! My Bitmoji has clothing choices from Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Bergdorf Goodman, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs ... She can go from casual to formal in a heartbeat. She has the perfect outfits for her body size, and accessories come with them all! SMH. Lucky, lucky girl.

She doesn't have to worry about social awkwardness and angst. She's been programmed for expression perfection. No matter the situation, she has a quip, a line, a look, or something that will usually provoke the right reaction ... especially from MY closest friends and family. And she comes with a built-in disclaimer: if something she does or says doesn't go over well with her audience, they don't blame her, they blame ME! She gets away with expressing herself HOWEVER she wishes - anger, sadness, annoyance, boredom, joy ... she says it all and doesn't care. I'm the one who has to be paying attention and ensuring that what she says is appropriate and inoffensive.

I love her fearlessness. She's not afraid to say 'I'm sorry', or 'I love you', 'I miss' you', and 'wish you were here' - and even 'you stink!' She has no qualms about telling it like it is, and even if she is afraid, she expresses that fear with fierce boldness - she's not afraid to be afraid. Or vulnerable. Or wrong and foolish and quirky.

My Bitmoji is also enviably adventurous - flying off ropes, swinging on trellises, popping out of cars, cakes and boxes, throwing on all sorts of disguises, quoting flicks like a real movie buff, celebrating every holiday on the planet  ... she's everybody's favourite funny girl.

It makes me think about the reservations we often carry with us through life. It can be so easy to start to live on 20-25% of your personality, to somehow just morph yourself into the mundane patterns necessary to get through the days, and to forget, as a result, to claim, express or develop the other  75-80% of who we are ... or could be. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all unafraid and crazily expressive like our Bitmoji selves? (Although, truth is, some of us are!) What would our relationships look like if we were that honest with each other? If we said what we meant and felt: I'm sorry; I love you; I miss you; I'm proud of you ... ?

Maybe Bitmojis and emoticons are our way of 'safely' expressing the part of us that wants to connect  with people and be vulnerable and open without actually being all of that often uncomfortable stuff ... maybe they enable us to express the things that would otherwise be difficult to say. Or maybe they give us a cop-out, feeding our tendency to avoid genuineness and authenticity, and helping us hide behind funny faces and quick quips that ultimately mean nothing at all.

Food for thought.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here comes the new ... JOB!

It's amazing how, when you have a little free time, sometimes you don't appreciate it. One month and one blog post ago, I must have had free time. I know I had free time because I was able to sit down and write whiny little blog posts about how I 'wasted' a day and waah waah waah ... . Now? Not so, little grasshopper. I don't have time to whine and pontificate. That season is done and over with. Goodbye, au revoir, and sayanora.

By now I should know the pattern. Life comes in seasons, and they alternate in extremities. So I've glided out of got-time-to-Netflix-binge (which I thought was a pretty hectic time for me) into get-to-work-get-to-work-get-to-work. I have so many things to finish, a big side load of things to throw myself into, and a host of future things to think through and plan properly. This is for real, real, real. But you know what? I LOVE IT!!! I am never so pumped as when I have a lot of things to do and my brain is just ticking, ticking, ticking with ideas and tasks and stuff ... it makes me come ALIVE!! I am so HIGH right now, marijuana can't touch me! I came home, sat down, and thought: so this is what it feels like to come home after a day doing work you love ... hmmm ... I could get used to it.

I'm just saying ... I've got a new job, I already love it, and I am SUPEREXCITED about it!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How I wasted a day OR redefining wasted time

I feel like a terrible person.

Wanna know why? I blew a day. A whole day. I did no [real] work today. I woke, made breakfast, and then I sat down and binge-watched How I Met Your Mother. Netflix has the entire series. And I am a Netflix fan. My main sources of entertainment are real life, books and the Internet. I try to Netflix with moderation. But sometimes I end up doing things like binge-watching an entire series in the time that I should have been doing ... you know ... productive stuff.

Like writing. I'm a big believer in the am-writing hashtag world on Twitter, et al. I draw real encouragement from those 140 or less characters detailing other people's struggles and successes with the writing process all across the Twittersphere. I join in the write-at-whatever-hour groups when I can. I join the late-night writers and try to use my after-work hours to polish my future bestsellers. I try to give my writing as much time as I give to my nine-to-five, because I read somewhere that it's ridiculous to give so much time, effort and discipline to another person's dream, and then pretend indiscipline when it comes to your own. I agree with that sentiment. If I can be great at working to build another man's empire, I should be AWESOME at building my own. And I shouldn't need a slavemaster to motivate me to put in the work required to build my own dream.

So I try. I defy sleep sometimes. (Other times, sleep defies me). I forego preparing a proper meal and just settle for quick cereal (I love cereal though). I read. I delve into the worlds of other writers and find out how they're doing, what they're working on, etc. I occasionally go out to get some semblance of a proper meal and socialisation.

But. There are still days like today when no matter how many times I pick up the writing project and say, I'm going to do this .... I end the day thinking, well, I blew it ... again. I didn't do the things I set out to do at all. I had an awesome day of unparallelled productivity planned, and all I ended up doing was sleep ... watch something in between sleep ... some mild housecleaning ... wash clothes, cook something ... sleep some more. That was all the awesomeness my tired brain could manage today.

Failure days?
I hate these kinds of days! They feel like failure days. I hate days when the tired is so much, and the will is so weak ... I just let Netflix take over the thinking for me. Or whatever. It makes me feel guilty. And weak. And miserable inside. And I feel worse for being able to write about how I'm feeling in a blog post, but not do the important writing for the important  projects. *Sigh*. I posted this tweet tonight:
State of mind: SOON. for REDEMPTION. but TRYING. . Somehow, in my head, it's already.
This truly is my state of mind.
1. I need a change soon. If not, monotony will be the death of me.
2. I AM writing! It's my constant in life. No matter what is going on around me, my ability to write coherently has never left me. And my writing usually somehow goes directly to/from my heart. I value that and see it as a redemptive quality.
3. I'm tired, but I'm trying. These days, this should be my motto. It's not just that I've been fighting flu and sinus issues for the last month ... there's a weariness these days that is so overwhelming ... I ward it off most days, but sometimes, like today, it just hits me full force and it's all I can do to raise my head and look over the edge of the bed. I am realising that burnout is real, because I'm now walking through serious physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. I was on fire for the first seven months of this year, and now? Oh gosh man! I feel like tiredness has set into my bones. I need to rest ... or something, but ... there is so much to do, and so little time to do it in! You don't make an impact by playing it safe. You don't get to do great things by working just a regular job with regular hours. Achievers push. I believe that you don't grow if you don't push yourself past your own limits, so I try to push myself forward, because how else do you expand your horizons? It takes a toll sometimes, but most years, I can look back and honestly say going out of my comfort zone and taking on new responsibility was worth it. If I don't drown under this new workload, 2016 will be one of my best years yet. I'm working for it.
4. I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in any of the spooky stuff either. But I have this great feeling about November. I don't know why, and I can't sensibly explain it, but it's going to be an exceptional month. And in my head, I keep thinking I'm in November already. My brain just keeps skipping past September. Dunno why. Go figure.

Nothing is wasted
Part two of this rant is that I may have to redefine what I call wasted time. Is the time really wasted if I spent it getting some well-needed R&R? At what point did I accept the notion that any time spent doing anything outside of my (perhaps foolishly narrow) definition of productivity is wasted? And why do I feel guilty for giving myself a break for a day? Funny; if I had spent the day reading a novel, I wouldn't feel as terrible. Because it's somehow more sophisticated to say I spent the day reading a literal, physical book, than it is to surf the net (even if most of it is reading long-form opinion in the Guardian and NY Times), or binge-watch anything on Netflix or YouTube. Isn't that just pretentious? Where did I pick up that notion? And is it correct?

And on another level, is anything ever truly 'wasted'? There's a song by Elevation Worship that says 'nothing is wasted'. I'm starting to think maybe they're right, and I should learn to relax and just let life be.

If I did that, today would not be seen as a wasted day. And I wouldn't feel worthless for it. I would realise that after a month of fighting off the flu and not taking any real rest, and on the tail-end of juggling four major side projects in addition to my mainstay job, maybe a day like today is my brain and body's way of reminding me that I am not a robot, and I must occasionally pause and relax.

I want to reach a place where I master the pace of life ... where I'm always building and making progress, but doing it in such a healthy way, my brain and body don't feel the need to just shut down on me. I'm working towards that, too. Maybe I'll get it by November. Or maybe I'll figure that out by the time I'm 60.

Either way, what I'm clear on is that I'm making progress in some sort of way. And even though right now, I still have days like this - where I feel less accomplished than I'd like, in the end, when I look back on the big picture, there's something happening. And that something is good, beneficial, and very, very promising.

Friday, September 2, 2016

I woke this morning with a clear head ... and Nora Ephron came to mind

I woke this morning with a clear head. After walking around for the last three days trying to balance what felt like a swollen, oversized, inflamed bowling ball on my neck and shoulders. The pain has waned, the mucus has subsided, and I woke this morning with a clear, normal-sized head.

Nora Ephron (1941-2012)
Author, journalist, essayist, playwright,
screenwriter, novelist, director, producer,
blogger ... and one of my biggest
inspirations :)
I was going to read my Bible. I took up the laptop to find Matthew 5 and ended up on Pinterest reading Nora Ephron quotes – a turn of events for which I'm sure she would have had several witty remarks. She would probably have worked it into a plot for a famous romantic comedy,  adorning it with brilliant lines that would have made the movie a quotable hit.

Ah, Nora! How she lived! I think of her, and the word fabulous comes to mind. I enjoy her books, movies and essays. So delightfully humorous, and relatable. I loved 'You've Got Mail', 'Sleepless In Seattle' and 'When Harry Met Sally' long before I knew who had written them. In fact, I loved Nora precisely because she wrote these movies. Then I read 'I Remember Nothing' and 'I Feel Bad About My Neck', and I just loved her wit and blunt honesty. It's always refreshing to hear truth without the side serving of bitterness or hate. Some people tell you the truth, but it is so tainted by sadness, it just sounds and looks ugly. Then others tell you the same truths, and there is such a beautiful acceptance - a coming to terms with it - that makes the impartation gentler, more meaningful and ... wholesome.

Nora Ephron had that vibe. She said things that were true, but cushioned them in humour, or with a simple grace that made them more like gentle advisories than rude slaps. And she laughed a lot - at herself and others. Everybody who knew her said so. She mastered the art of taking life just seriously enough to get the lessons without allowing them to permanently harden you. I think I would have liked her if I'd gotten to meet her in the flesh. But I am happy that I got to meet her, to some degree, through her work, and her words.

There's a fundamental presumptuousness which accompanies writing about people we've never met as if we knew them. But there is also something wonderful about getting to meet a person through their work and words. It gives you insight you probably would have missed if you knew them in the flesh, because writing often reveals the depths of a woman/man.

That's why I love the literary arts. It introduces you – intimately – to perfect strangers, and seduces you into connections with people and places unknown. Through their words, you get glimpses of their minds ... and sometimes, what you see is so wonderful – so powerful and dynamic and brilliant – that you fall irrevocably in love. I honestly don't know how anyone goes through life without succumbing to the charm and magic of reading ... and writing.

I like the way Nora Ephron puts it:
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
How true! How very, very true.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Life is not a straight line

One of my friends has decided to come out. As a writer, that is. She's made some bold steps in her life recently: quit the nine-to-five, (stable) job; set up her own website; started her own literary movement online; decided to earn a living on an entirely freelance basis ... . She has decided to waste no more time building another man's empire, and is now concentrating her efforts on building her own legacy. I admire the courage it takes to walk away from the traditional model of security that we were brainwashed into, and pursue a heartfelt - though as yet unrealised - passion. I haven't as yet surrendered to the need I frequently feel for a similarly great disruption in my life.

Earlier this year, a young man with whom I am acquainted just got up and left his nine-to-five, and flew to New York to basically camp out in a studio to produce the album that was burning a hole into his heart - and head. He came back to Jamaica remarkably thinner - and yet somehow infused with a freshness of purpose and depth of character that left me feeling a need to re-meet him on these new terms. The energy he exuded was so altered - so transformed by his experience of tuning in to and pursuing the thing he felt he was born to accomplish - that I realised I would have to discard some of my previous beliefs about him and learn him all over again.

I ran into him on the street after his return, and we just stood there talking about how his brief experience with less-than-ideal circumstances had shifted his perspective, cemented his conviction and determination, and birthed a solidness in his personality that I had not previously perceived. I marveled at it, and wondered if it was because action - small though it may seem - had replaced what was once just a whole lot of raw desire, angst and ennui. I mused that when people start to take actions based on their personal convictions, and from an attempt to be as true to their authentic selves as possible, instead of just following the dictates of tradition, they tend to have a certain je ne sais quoi - a certain something - a resolute stolidness - about them that is often missing from those who never make the bold move or strike out on the road less traveled.

Widened experience widens horizons and perspectives. It grows people up and teaches them patience, discipline, maturity and persistence. I keep meeting it in friends from high school and college. The ones who were full of longing and have done something in the direction of those dreams are now full of a certain wiseness ... the best ones exude a calm understanding of placement, timing, persistence, and the unpredictability of life. You talk to them, and beneath the sentences runs a current of sagacity. Life has taught them something, and they have been gracious in accepting the lessons.

Then there are the ones who are clearly disappointed and disoriented. And have allowed it to hollow out their hearts (and faces), and chisel their cheekbones into hardened bitterness. Their eyes are shifty. They laugh and self-deprecate. While they are talking, they glance at you to see how you are responding, and if you are reading the emptiness or uncertainty behind their words - you can sense their fear that you will detect the facade and call them out on it. Or worse, call someone else's attention to it.

I'm not judging. I think on any given day, I can be a mix of the two. There are days when the courage and the calm comes and floods my soul with an ethereal peace. Then there are days when my eyes would rather remain transfixed to the pavement, instead of telling old friends harsh truths. On those days, escape, abandonment and bridge-burning seem desirable. It can be so easy to flee ...

... which makes me wonder at the courage it sometimes takes to stay. It must take strength, I think, to remain in a place that reeks stagnation, depression and death. For whatever reason, there are persons who will never take any radical step in any direction. They will never launch out into the deep. They will learn to tiptoe through life, live with their discomfort - sometimes a sacrifice for others - and  train themselves to draw on a reserve of ... something ... to get through redundantly unfulfilling days.

I think it shows courage in a different way. Doesn't it probably take more out of a person to remain discomfitted? It takes a certain gigantic cowardice, yes, but that actually requires enormous amounts of energy, time, and life.

What I've realised is, most of us never listen to our guts beyond hunger pangs. We tend to hold back, stay in the stream of conventional normalcy, and float with everybody else to that place of mediocre malcontent that most nine-to-fivers hit by the time they greet the big 4-0. And then they grieve the life they did not live because they never worked up the courage to kick the habit of mundane comforts. The gargantuan price we pay for sameness only seems deceptively small.

That's why these friends who have decided to step away from the path mapped out for them by society have earned my admiration, and given me much to ponder. They have decided to live driven lives. Is that much different from my somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico earlier this year? What was I looking for in Mexico that I couldn't find in Jamaica? What did I acquire in Mexico that has left me feeling like my days in Jamaica are fast approaching an expiry date? Food for personal thought.

The point I wanted to make though, was that this friend who has decided to hone and offer to the world her writing voice, did a blog post in which she said she was, once again, starting over. I shook my head at that. Because life is NOT a straight line. And the impression I got was that she kept starting over with hopes of somehow one day achieving a straight-line history. She wants to look back and see a perfect trajectory from one direction. I used to think like that too. I used to announce every blog post after prolonged absences with a new determination to 'begin again' and 'get it right this time'. Then one day I realised I never got it wrong. Who defines what my blogging experience ought to be? Where did I - did we - pick up the notion that we had to live our lives in a straight line - in this perfect trajectory from Point A to Point B to Point C? What sold us that lie? And why did we buy it so easily? Why are we only now just realising the need to challenge this? These questions sometimes rob me of sleep.

Life is a crooked line. Pun intended. It's not even a line sometimes. There are gaps, and stops and so many curves. My friend keeps starting over, instead of building on what she did before ... because she thinks that not carrying through what she had started in a particular way somehow invalidates the effort. I grieve for that belief, and for the societal institutions that popularise and propagandise it. I realise that by not starting a new blog everytime I had a hiccup in my writing frequency, I established a body of writings that bear testament to my continuous efforts to get my thoughts out in some coherent verbal form. It gives me eight years of work to look back over. And to build on. It proves that my hiccups were conquered, and gives me a base to work from ... a history that is not a cute black point extended in one direction over large stretches of time. It's a mess of writings and words that tell a very human, mixed up story that gives glimpses into the growth of a mind.

I salute my friends for taking their leaps of faith. But I want to tell them to forget the straight-line approach. It never worked for Bell. That's why he stuck with the curve. I want to tell them to do him one better and go for squiggles and mushes and messes. I want to tell them to celebrate the crookedness of their paths, and I want them to realise that all of that mess of scrawling and bawling behind them led them here - to the moment when they stepped into their very own with new-found self-respect, self-reliance and self-determination.

And I want them to tell others who they meet along the way to not torture themselves for the absence of a straight line behind them ... and to make their path forward as uniquely artistic and authentic as possible - hiccups, ennui, angst and all.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

I won something ...

On Tuesday, July 26, I attended the awards ceremony for the Jamaica Creative Writing Competition, hosted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). I was expecting to get one medal for one poem. I walked away with three medals and the award for best overall writer.

It was a very pleasant surprise, and while I did not tarry long to revel in the moment, when I got home after a very long night spent elsewhere, I had to step back, look at my loot ... and laugh.

The win represented a moment of classic irony. Of all the competitions I had entered this year, the JCDC writing competition was one of the ones I had the least expectations of. I had invested much higher hopes into other things - all of which proved disappointing.

Added to that, I honestly had not expected my poems to do so well. I had expected the short story to medal (it didn't), but I hadn't given much thought to my poems doing particularly well ... . So I stood there laughing and shaking my head at my obvious miscalculations. I stood there looking at and learning from the blessing of the unexpected.

It felt like a reminder from life to just cast your bread and sow your seed ... and leave them there, because you really don't know which one is going to prosper, or if they will all do equally well.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, The Bible
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
True words. Very true words. My prayer that night was one of simple gratitude. I gave thanks for encouragement at the best of times, from the most unexpected places.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The heat is on!

When I was in Mexico experiencing teeth-chattering cold, I made a vow never to complain about the heat in Jamaica again.

Know what? This heat deserves a complaint. It's so hot in the nights! Hot days don't bother me. The sun  comes out and does its thing in the days. That's expected. What I do not expect is for the nights to be so humid and miserable.

It's not cool at all. Pun intended. I'm downing glasses of water like a camel in the Sahara. I might soon be sleeping on a bed of ice. And these headaches. This pounding in the side of my head .... a result of the heat, I'm told. Not cool either.

One day, I'll be so well-monied and travelled that I will spend my summers in cooler climates and winters in warm places. This heat is motivation to work toward that dream with renewed urgency. I am NOT about this hellish nightmarish heat.

I always tell people I prefer to be too cold than too hot. In cold, you can always add another layer to get warm, but when it's unbearably hot, the only thing left to take off is your skin! It's truly miserable.

Anyway, I'm not complaining. Not really. Just a candid observation of sorts. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Some Tuesday motivation

#GoGetIt #LiveYourDeam #NeverGiveUp #LiveUp #LookUp
This is the thing I remind myself (well, one of many things I try to remind myself) when life gets a little rough. There are days when I forget. There are days when I forget to be positive and think positive and act positive. Sometimes I forget that this moment is really just a moment and that it does not and will not define all the other moments to come ... . So here's a reminder for those of us who forget: treat a moment like nothing more and nothing less than a moment. And if you forget ... ah well, tomorrow, we try again ... :)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I miss #Mexico ...

Hello, Jamaica. Hasta luego, Mexico!

It's been two weeks since I've been back, and I'll tell you what: the magic hasn't worn off yet. I think of Mexico and smile. It's a happy smile, but it's a secret smile. It's a secret smile full of special things only people who went to my Mexico, and met my Mexico people, and did Mexico things with my Mexico people would understand. It's an inside joke only the ones who shared this experience with me would know. You had to be there to get that it was fun, and different, and special, and definitely worth smiling about.

It's an accomplished smile, too. It's a 'yes! I did it!' smile. It's a smile that reminds me of the friends I made, the people I met, the experiences I had, the ways I changed ... . It feels good to be home, but it feels good precisely because I was away. Going away makes coming home better in some ways; worse in others; different in every way. I can't wait to go away again! :)

Ah, Mexico. Mexico made 'foreign' feel like home. My experiences there make me feel 'foreign' now, at home! I'm still regaining my bearings. I still feel a little jetlagged - but in soul, not in body.

I have internal jetlag. Physically, I'm fine. But in my mind? In my emotions? In the depths of me? I'm still travelling. It's weird. But it's true. I don't even know if this is the kind of thing I want to be blogging about yet, because I'm still figuring out exactly what it means and how I feel about it. But maybe this writing exercise will help.

I've always heard people say that travel does things to you: widens your horizons, broadens your perspective, facilitates self-knowledge, self-reliance, strength, etc., etc. Know what? It's true. Travel does all of the above. And it's awesome.

But somebody should have warned me that once you've been to the mountaintop, anything less will forever seem ... pedestrian. Once you've lived even a little of your dream in a truly fullsome way, that taste - that way of being - becomes addictive. Nothing else compares. Nothing else matters. So, forget the cold, the food woes, the bumpy bus-rides. My mind has graced them with amnesia. Now, all I remember is being at the airport, boarding the plane, going ... being gone. Being there. Meeting that person. Living in that place. Trying that new dish ... the feeling of being in a foreign place ... that feeling of living in the beauty of the moment ... and completely loving it.

It's ALL I remember. That feeling. That way of being. And I'm grateful, and hopeful, a little sad, a lot lost, but mostly ... grateful. Hasta luego, Mexico. I'll see you again. Hopefully soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

There are no do-overs ... live it UP!

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
This is not for you.
This is for me.
For all of the wonderful things I will be.
For all of the places and people I’ll see.
want to be ready.
This is for me.

Have you ever felt like you’ve been dreaming for so long, you’ve forgotten what real life felt like? Like you’ve forgotten how to breathe and feel and be in present tense? There have been days when all I lived on was future. “Will be” became the propeller for my life: a seemingly endless reach into a vast unknown, a permanent stretch into next. That was me. That was my life. I lived looking for consecutive exits, skipping rapidly through chapters, like a screen director on a boring set, always screaming “Next!"
Then I did a somewhat crazy thing. I planned a trip, by myself, and left my country for a strange land for five weeks. Next time, it WILL be for longer - much longer ... hehehe.

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
This is what I'm thinking with roughly three days left in Mexico. I'm three days away from returning to my beloved Jamaica. I kinda don't wanna leave my beloved Mexico. I feel like I have stuff to say to Mexico, and Mexico has stuff to say to me that we haven't said yet. I feel like the conversation is incomplete. Like I ought to stay longer and hear - in its fullness - what Mexico has to say to me.

Does that even make sense? I don't know. But I feel like going home is a break in transmission that I'm not fully ready for. I could stay here a little longer. Just a little. Just to listen. Just to hear Mexico talking to me.

What's done is done, though - and that return trip is booked! That's life. There are no do-overs. I did my Mexico trip the way I did it, and that's that.

Would I have done anything differently? Not by much. I mean, I would have travelled with seasoning to spice up some dishes; I would have let the bank know I was going to be in a foreign country for over a month, and spared myself a day on the phone trying to verify that I'm really me. But that's small stuff. The big stuff - the really consequential things - I wouldn't change any of that. It was a great trip. I liked it the way it was. And I want to remember it like that.

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
Photos mine.
I'm getting nostalgic and I haven't even left here yet. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm kinda a sap. I like to think in philosophies. With some depth. (At least, I think so, lol). What I'm saying is: You only get this moment once. So breathe in, take it all in, and forget to feel afraid. Forget your reservations. They can wait till tomorrow. Or never. Don't let them in. Live! Live it UP!

All you have is now. So live. Live it UP! In Mexico, I definitely lived UP! And I liked it. That's the thing I'll take back with me to Jamaica - that ability to move past difficulties and differences and look up, and live UP. All you have is now, friends. And until you die, NOTHING can kill you. So LIVE! Live UP!

Scenes from the #Guachimontones in Mexico.
If I'd let fear reign, I would have never seen this first-hand.
Photos mine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Random thoughts in #Mexico

1. So the days are winding down quickly. And I'm starting to get a little homesick. Or home-food-sick. Seriously. What I'd give for some curried goat. Or manish water. What I'd spend to get some stew chicken with yam and banana and fried dumplings ... *sigh*. And ackee and saltfish? Or a beef patty? I miss Jamaican food with a vengeance. This might sound bad, but it's the thing I miss the most: the look, smell and taste of food from Yard. I miss it. I want it. I need it. Bad bad bad.

I didn't even know Jamaican cuisine was so essential to my makeup. But listen, it's in my DNA. I need Jamaican food. I just need to at least SMELL some Jamaican food flavours really soon. Lest I die. Serious. The craving is real. FedEx me some flour dumplings, please. I'd be eternally grateful.

2. I have passed the test of a true Yardie: I have said 'yeah man' and didn't realise I was saying it. It's funny. You don't realise how much you say things like that till you have a chorus of foreign echoes repeating every cliché Jamaican thing you say. Then you realise how many of those clichés are true. It's funny.

I never even realised I had a strong Jamaican accent until I was teaching someone to say a word, and they said the word with a Jamaican accent. I cracked up, because, well, one, it was just hilarious to hear them trying a Jamaican accent, and two, I was like: oh my goodness! That's what I sound like to you? Shocking.

3. I have fallen in love with this little family I'm staying with. I really admire their work ethic, and how close they are as a family. They have a routine that works, and a structure that pulls them together. Family is a seriously super-big deal in Mexico. Watching them interact on a daily basis: how the boys genuinely love their mom and dad, and show that? How they play together, and work together? It's nice to see, and it's great to be allowed to be part of that - even for a little bit.

4. Speaking of family, I will NEVER forget the chaps I spent the last five weeks with. They are just too awesome. Fun times, you guys! Like when Mark and I taught y'all to willy bounce and bogle and butterfly and sweep ... . Or when we went to La Coltrane cafe and then went to Riu to learn how to dance la Barchada? Or the karaoke bar? Or the informal lymes in the apartments? Fun times. Unforgettables all ... :)

5. I've found the perfect return-home travel song. It's Cold Play's 'Fix You'. I've loved this song for a long time. But for this trip, the song somehow reminds me of my mother:

When you try your best and you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse ...

When tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone and it goes to waste
Cold it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
I will try ... to fix you.

No matter how broken I am, she is always willing to try to fix me ... .
I love you, mommy.
See you in a little bit.
Hope I didn't do too much damage.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Touristitude: what kind of tourist am I?

Touristitude = TOURIST + ATTITUDE
There was precious little to appetise me here ...
So we went to a Mexican Chinese restaurant. Know what? I prefer Jamaican Chinese food by LEAPS and BOUNDS and GALAXIES and UNIVERSES. Yep. It was that bad. I didn't express the extent of my dislike while we were at the restaurant. That wouldn't have helped anything. I was polite, and explained that I like my cold food COLD and my hot food HOT - and that maybe because everything was room temperature and pretty much tepid, I wasn't feeling very 'appetised'. Plus, I added, I wasn't that hungry anyway (lies!!). I ate what I could stomach, and made polite conversation while my host had his meal. He noticed that I didn't touch half of the food on my plate, but was polite enough to 'understand'.

That's what you get for trying CHINESE food in MEXICO. (But Chinese food in Jamaica is so tasty though ... I thought it was like that everywhere.)

One plate of Chinese food that
pretty much remained untouched ...
Another time, we (not the same host, a different we) went to a restaurant where I ordered a soup called posole blanco. Truth? It tasted like chicken boiled in water with large grains of hominy corn. No seasoning. Not even salt. Now, all Jamaicans know that soup is not soup without some Maggi Soup-It-Up. Plus some thyme and scallion and all them herbs for flavour. So this new dish sans seasoning wasn't going down too well at all. Even with the addition of chopped onions and radish and a little chili pepper.

Know what I did? Same as above: I didn't express the extent of my dislike while we were at the restaurant. I was polite, and sipped my soup, ate my corn grains, truly enjoyed the chicken, and nodded vague approval, masking the sorrow my tastebuds were undergoing.

Only weeks later, after I'd tasted the red counterpart to that white wonder, called posole rojo, did I let slip how terrible I'd found that soup. We laughed about it, probably because I really LOVE posole rojo, and was chowing down with genuine gusto. It was like chalk to cheese. Posole rojo? Win. Posole blanco? Never again.

But I realised something about myself: I'm a polite tourist. You know those people who are perpetually nice and always find a way to 'make do'? I might be one of those.

It got me thinking, and I started paying closer attention to my reactions to things - as a tourist. Imagine my surprise when I realised I'm squealish. Not squeamish. Squealish. Like a person who creates a lot of excitement over every little thing. So I go somewhere, and they say, "This is Mexican dirt." My response will be (in a squeal), "Oooh. How lovely. Mexican dirt!" Only long afterward will it occur to me that it's not particularly exciting to see dirt. But such is the nature of my touristitude. I make excitement for dirt.

I'm also screamish. I scream. Loud. Lots. Especially when excited. One night, we went to a karaoke bar. One of my friends went up and sang. It was sooo good - dude can sing! So I screamed. Loudly. Alot. One of the Mexican girls came over to me and said: "I buy you beer. You scream. How you do that?"

It took me a while to understand. But she was basically offering to buy me a beer, hoping I kept up the hysterics all night, and asking me how I made that shrill sound. I declined the beer. I explained that she was welcome to hang with us (we were the loud ones that night), but she didn't need to buy me anything. It's funny when I think about it because I don't really scream on demand. It just happens if and when I get excitable.

Turns out I screamed a lot more that night. This one girl went up and put on a real Pink performance - rockerchick moves and all. I screamed for that. Another of our brave friends went up and sang Sean Kingston's 'Beautiful Girl'. It was a fun (and funny) rendition. I screamed for that. But when a Mexican mama hit the stage and said, "First I was afraid, I was petrified", I got off my stool and screamed the house down! Then we all belted out that time-honoured karaoke masterpiece and danced to high heaven. Was fun.

So, I learnt that I'm a screamish tourist. Not even just a tourist. I'm a screamish person. I make loud sounds when I'm happy - screams, peals of laughter, cackles, shouts ... you get the gist. I guess I can sum it up by saying I have a polite, make-do, screamish, squealish touristitude.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Too young to dance ...

On Sunday, I was loaned a grandmother and grandfather for a day. They picked me up at the home I'm staying at and drove me to a beautiful seaside restaurant all the way in Chapala, Mexico. We walked along a seafront pavement overlooking a very murky lagoon; we saw many shops with artesanías selling some of the most exquisite pieces of hand-crafted work I've ever seen; we walked through the town and saw some truly ancient places. These pueblas have cobblestone roads - cobblestone roads!! And red brick houses. Like something out of a movie. And they have the cars to complement the era - Tatas, Volvos ...

I had a fish dinner, with fillet (pescado con mantequilla) and white rice and vegetable salad. Not too unusual. It was tranquil and all very kosher. Until the music began.

And I noticed the dais at the centre of the restaurant. And the couple moving in rhythm at the front of the room. Then another couple got up and went to the dais. Then another. And another. And pretty soon, that little space was crammed with dancing couplets, and a few singlets, stepping in time to the Spanish beat - some wielding their waists like weapons of warfare.

It was mainly elderly couples on the dance floor. You wanted to see those old men get down - dancing and prancing around their señoras with enthusiasm, if not youthfulness. I laughed so hard at some of the antics they carried on with: hunched shoulders, eyes wide, arms flailing. It was a blast from the past.

My personal favourite was la cumbia. Oh my word! It's a lively, uptempo jive that the musicians false-ended three times before finally completing the song with a trumpet and a flourish. So every time we thought the song was done and people started to leave the dance floor, they started again. And the fiesta would carry on ... . At some points, I could swear I saw people doing something very similar to the dinki mini.

I sat watching these people indulging their rhthymical senses on a spectrum that ranged from the very tranquil to the downright frenetic - and I had to just laugh. I declined my first invitation to join them, but the more I watched, the more I wanted to join in. So when the next uptempo song came around and my hosts extended their hands to me, they didn't have to ask twice. I got out there and stepped and shook and shimmied.

I swallowed pride, fear and all inhibitions and had me some fun. Know what? I really enjoyed it. Right up until my thighs started to feel like I had been treading water for more than an hour. I looked around me and saw jubilation and enthusiasm in faces that had forgotten more than I could remember and bodies that had seen age like I hadn't. I had to will my young legs to keep time, and keep up! After all, I was the young one there!

I wanted to take pictures, but my brand new Nikon CoolPics S2800 stopped charging after a whopping three hours of use. So I have to bring it back to the store and get that resolved. So I had no camera with me. Hence no pictures. But use your imagination. Think of old people - couples very much in love. The elderly gentlemen leading their ladies onto the dance floor, assuming the ready stance, then swaying to the music. Think of very young toddling granddaughters jumping with their prancing grandpas. Think of daughters and fathers dancing together at a respectable distance. Think of lovers throwing respectability out the window and getting as close as skin permitted. It was a wonderful mix of the old and the new, sharing in a moment of tranquil synchronicity. I really liked it. And, apparently, they do this every Sunday!

Would I go back? You bet!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Did I buy crack today?

The 'biscuits' in question.
I'm not sure what I bought from the lady on the road today. I want to think it was biscuits. Or cookies, at the very least. But the more excitable parts of my brain want it to be something more ... exciting. Anyway. Let me explain.

It's La Semana Santa, or holy week. So pretty much everybody is on holiday or observing the religious season (Mexico is a heavily Roman Catholic country). When I have no set plans, I've taken to walking as far as my legs will carry me in one direction, finding a food place in the vicinity, having a good lunch, then walking back home. That way, I get to see the sights at a leisurely pace, take pictures if I want to, and also try completely new, unplanned foods.

This time my walk took me west, and I was on my way back from a rather uneventful stretch of residential streets when a woman with a covered basket approached me. She said something in Spanish and I understood enough to make out that she was selling galletas (biscuits or cookies) for eight pesos. I was feeling peckish, so I said why not, and took out my purse to pay her. I had no change. Just four pesos. She smiled, said OK, took the money, and gave me the biscuits.

"Para te aprobarles," she said. (Translated: For you to try them). There were two kinds in the basket: some dusted with a white powder, some without. I wanted the ones without, but she insisted that I try the ones with. "Son mejores," she told me. They're better. I smiled and nodded OK, took the biscuits, and carried on.

Well, I pulled the package and tried the first one. It was sweet. It tasted like ... well, like biscuit. So I had another. And that was when something went wrong. My head felt light. I was walking up the ascent toward an overhead bridge, and I honestly had to stop and just hold on to the railing for a minute. My head felt so very light. And everything felt so very very surreal.

As I continued to slowly make my way to the other side of the overhead bridge, a thought hit me: what if the biscuit induced the lightheadedness? What if the white powder wasn't sugar, as I had supposed? What if that was why she had the basket covered with a towel? And wait, my lovely brain started to tell me, wasn't she glancing around a little suspiciously when she was selling me the 'biscuits'? I had to stop and laugh at myself.

It was probably dehydration, my common sense told me. I had been walking in the sun from morning without ingesting any kind of liquids. I shook my head and continued walking. But I glanced behind me a couple of times, just to see if I could spot the woman ... just to see if anyone was following me ... just in case ... .

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tengo hambre!

Now that I've been in Mexico for a little over two weeks, my initial peckishness has departed, and a serious bout of HUNGRY has set in. That's how I know I'm definitely starting to feel at home here: my yaad appetite has returned. I regularly feel famished and meal intake frequency has increased.

Friends and coworkers know that 'hungry' is not a word I take lightly. They also know that my declarations of hunger have nothing to do with the insufficiency of food provided at my last meal. My body just has a very high metabolic turnover. So fifteen to twenty minutes after the last meal, I'm hungry again. Jamaicans would call it 'long-belly' or 'wanga gut'.

My housemate chalks it up to a lack of water. She says I haven't been drinking much water. She's right. I hadn't noticed, but my water intake has decreased significantly since my arrival here. I think it may have been a subconscious reaction to the cold. You know how that goes. In cold weather, water in, water out. Like a straight pipe.

Don't get me wrong, though. I am enjoying the delectable culinary offerings of this beautiful country. Oh yes I am. I have become fast friends with dishes such as mole, molletes, quesadillas, posole rojo (lip-licking goodness right there!), moros versus cristianos ... hey, even the Mexican KFC a gwaan wid more tings than the KFCs I have tried in other countries.

But be warned, serving sizes are not like the Jamaican bellyful. The meals are not as starch-heavy as ours. We thrive on loads of rice and peas, yam, cocoa, dasheen, pumpkin and banana, generously slathered in gravy, accompanied by large hunks of meat. And everyday, we eat these large and heavy meals that sit on our hips, waists, thighs, butts and bellies and contribute to the obesity/hypertension/diabetes problem most Caribbean countries face. In Mexico, trim is in. And they have the serving sizes to prove it.

They have a light breakfast, heavy lunch, and then a light supper afterwards. Quite healthy.  Admirable, really.

Some of my favourite indulgences are lonches - basically medium-sized subs made with mollete bread. They are tasty, filling, and most importantly, dirt-cheap. I was telling someone here the other day that if I were in Jamaica, I would be paying a good $800 for a sub the size of a lonche. And I probably wouldn't get as many condiment options. Here, it's only 17 pesos total for a lonche with cooked ham, tomatoes, onions, pepper, ketchup, mayo, mustard, and relish when it's available. Seventeen pesos is the equivalent of one US dollar, which equals about 120 Jamaican dollars. See the difference? It's major.

So of course I'm enjoying it here. Cheap meals mean that even if I'm hungry, I can afford to eat well - and often. I highly recommend a visit if and when you can. Mexico is definitely a country worth getting to know.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Spanish fly?

There's a fly in my room. It's as big as a bee. I don't know how it got in, but I need it to leave.
Funny enough, not two days ago, I was telling someone here that I was impressed at the absence of flies and mosquitoes in Mexico. And now here comes this annoying critter to try to ruin it.

It sounds like an entire hive of bees. And I feel this mad urge to just toss things at it until it gets squashed. But I've watched the cartoons
. I know how those things work out. You toss one book, one shoe, a chair, and crash! There goes the people's expensive mirror. Or the light bulb. Or an antique vase. Or the million-dollar chandelier. And the fly would be no worse for wear. I'll spare myself that drama, thankyouverymuch.

In the meantime, there's this fly in my room. Making a most irritating sound; shooting hither and thither as if it owned the place. I know it can't stay here forever. Eventually, it will leave. Or get tired. Or fall asleep. Or something. So I type. Try to ignore it. And carry on with life.

I mean, big deal. This could have happened in Jamaica. But, I wonder, if I were to try to shoo it, would I have to speak in Spanish?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

'Bus'-ing the truth

Yep, that's a Mexican bus!
Jamaica has some large, yellow buses that are used for public transportation. These vehicles always sound like they're either hawking, coughing, sneezing or spitting. The journey can sometimes be an exercise in religious conversion: you start off expecting a peaceful ride to your destination, but by halfway, you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that leaves you with an urgent need to get right with your Maker ... just in case.

Mexican buses are like the smaller cousins to that. Riding in one of them is like taking a roller coaster. Especially when there's a sharp stop. You jolt forwards and then rapidly backwards. You could get whiplash (a neck sprain). Don't get me wrong, sometimes the ride is quiet, sedate, peaceful. But there have been days when I was forced to remember that turbulence doesn't happen only in the skies.

I remember for one busride home, two toddlers got on with their parents. They all sat on the back seat. For the entire journey, their squeals of delight echoed through the bus as they laughed and shrieked every time the bus made a stop or a jolt. It was great fun for them, and I couldn't help smiling as I reflected on the innocence of children, and how something that was an inconvenience to most adults was wildly amusing to them. When they finally got off the bus, giggling and shouting in Spanish to their parents, the bus felt sadly quiet somehow. Even the jolts didn't seem as pronounced without the little squeals to punctuate every occurrence.

In moments like those, I realise the universality of humanity. That is something that could have easily happened in Jamaica, or, I imagine, the United States, or Australia, or China. That could have happened anywhere in the world because kids are kids, no matter where they're from. They're precious, innocent, amusing, affectionate and honest – before we teach them otherwise.

And, by extension, people are just people. No matter where you go in the world, you will meet comedians, jokers, tricksters, lovers, worriers, warriors, discriminators ... they're everywhere. And that's why I think I'm not too caught up in how I'm received when I go to new places. I understand that people are people the world over. And even if I'm meeting one particular sort in one place, I know other sorts exist there.

Since I've been here, I've met many wonderful people. I've met people who like my sense of style; I've met people who are crazy about Jamaica (I'm just starting to understand how truly significant that is); I've met people who are just generally nice to everyone, so it really doesn't matter to them where I'm from. And I've met people who are not any of those things – not crazy about Jamaica. Not crazy about black people. Not crazy about me. Maybe just crazy :).

The point is, the longer I'm here, the more similarities I see between my culture and here. And the more I appreciate that this is a universal truth: we are all more alike than we are different.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Some pictures of Mexico so far ...

I need to buy a good **hopefully cheap** camera so I can properly document the remainder of my stay here. But here's what I have so far. I took these with an Alcatel phone while in the aeroplane on my way here. Make out what you can :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I'm so cold, I'm so cold, I'm so cold ...

Did I tell you that Mexico is experiencing a cold front? Maybe I did, but you need to hear what that means.

It means that the wind here is bypassing my jeans, my leggings, my blouse, my overcoat, my sweater - and going straight through my skin. When I say chilled to the bones, I mean CHILLED to the BONES! I'm. So. Cold!

It's so cold here, if I want iced water, I can just put a glass out on the windowsill and leave it for five minutes.

It's so cold, when I sit anywhere for too long without moving, my feet cramp up.

It's so cold, when I talk, mist forms. And when we were younger, my siblings and I used to think this was the coolest, most fascinating thing. When we went to country (Carron Hall, St Mary, or Mandeville, Manchester), we would wake up early and go outside just to talk and make mist with our mouths. Now? I don't want to make no mist with my mouth! I just want warmth.

And this is what I've discovered: the cold has settled into everything: my lotion, my hair oil, my perfume, my toothpaste ... everything is cold! So the torture just goes on. I poured mouthwash into my mouth to gargle and it was so cold, I had to just spit it back out.

I was trying to apply lotion to my arm and had to stop and prepare mentally for the impact of very cold cream on skin. When applying my body mist, I call on Jesus. Because one squirt to the neck and I'm just freezing.

It's really cold.

My friend from Canada sent me some pictures this week and had a good laugh at my expense.
You think you're cold? she asked. I had to take pause and acknowledge that yes, Canada is generally colder than Mexico. But still. My tropical, warm-blooded body is screaming bloody murder in this cold.

I was standing at the bus stop and put my hand on the metal railing. Big mistake. It felt like touching the blade of a very sharp knife. I had to look to verify that I had not cut myself. My housemate wears socks on her hands to keep them warm. I might do the same.

I was trying to explain to my friends here: in Jamaica, we bask in the glory of the sun. I will never complain about the heat again. I will never behave like unending sun is a curse again. I will never again talk badly about the beautiful warmth that that golden orb bestows majestically on our people. I will be grateful. And blow kisses at the sun. And spread the gospel of the goodness of sunshine ... .

In the meantime, thoughts of home and warmth - and even heat - plague my mind. What am I doing here??!! I'm so cold, I'm so cold, I'm so cold ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I'm shedding ...

Photo from
This is the skin with the melanin!
This is the body with melatonin!
This is the girl with the endorphins!
Guess what? She's shedding! 

My skin is suffering. There is no other way to say it. My skin is suffering.

I have beautiful black skin which, moisturised once daily, usually yields favourable results. No need for reinforcements. No need to check to ensure that I'm not walking around with arms and legs looking like lizard scales. Usually.

What my skin is doing in Mexico is not usual at all. I have to be moisturising thrice daily. When that doesn't work, I have to wear leggings so that people don't mistake my legs for a crocodile's hide. The cocoa butter cream I brought with me seems piddlingly pitiful when pitted against the task it must now accomplish. My arms and legs look like dry leather. My face is losing moisture faster than a tank in the Sahara. And if something itches, and I happen to scratch, there goes a layer of skin!

I know it sounds gross, and it probably is (in a small way), but I am truly surprised at what my skin is doing over here. I feel like I have become a reptile. I'm moulting. I mean, I expected that higher altitudes would mean different levels of humidity, etc., so I brought reinforcements with me. I bought some of the best and strongest stuff I could find. But, alas, my skin continues to shed.

To be fair, there's a cold front passing over the country, so temperatures are abnormally low. But can you imagine my shock when I scratched my head and half my scalp fell out? (I'm going to stop with the gross references now).

I did a little research online, and what I found was surprisingly symbolic. One site says that shedding is nature's way of preparing animals for seasonal changes, and moulting prepares the animal for a new stage of growth. I read it and thought, 'hmm ... that's kinda true here.'

I'm exploring a foreign country by myself. I've never done anything like this before. It's thrilling and different, and my world view may be changing more than I care to admit ... . My life is literally being stretched. As is my capacity. New growth is taking place. And in the process, it's only natural that I am also shedding. I'm letting go of some old things. For good. Forever. I'm giving up on some stuff. For now. I'm releasing my grip on a lifetime of ... (let's not go there).

Why not shed? It's actually a healthy practice. It makes sense. And what better place to do it than in an environment where you are completely outside of all the familiar influences and truly on your own?

So this is the skin with the melanin!
This is the body with melatonin!
This is the girl with the endorphins!
Guess what she's shedding ... :) 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A beer beer!

If beer levels the vibes in Jamaica, it is the vibe in Mexico. One of the first Spanish words resurrected upon my arrival here? Cerveza.

I've come to realise that it is an important part of Mexican culture. The young and the old drink beer. It's like drinking soda or orange juice and fruit punch in Jamaica. Everybody has at some point. Every party host will offer it. And especially during holidays or when there is a guest, a bottle (or bottles, or cans) will be in the refrigerator. If you plan on going out at all in Mexico, you can bet on what your primary beverage option will be. It's all about the beer.

My first realisation of this was when a group of us 'foreigners' went out for a night. Silly me. I thought we were going to a nice, sit-down restaurant to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine. In my mind's eye, I thought we'd be in this semi-upscale place with maybe a little jazz music, or Mexican souls or Mariachi oozing out of a sound system overhead, or from a live band. And we would talk and laugh and sample strange new dishes.

Instead, we ended up at a restaurant of sorts - of sorts, except that it wasn't a restaurant at all. It was really more like a bar. We got a table in a far corner overlooking the streets below. The view was nice. I should have taken pictures. Our hosts ordered a bucket of beer; then came time to take the non-alcoholic orders. They had nothing else except lemonade. No water. No soft drinks. It was either beer or lemonade. That was it.

I thought to myself, it must be a full night; they've run out of everything except beer. And that might have been the case. But still, it is assumed that most guests will want beer, which is most definitely a mainstay on the Mexican menu.

The beer options are manifold: Corona seems to be the most popular, but there's Victoria, Sol, Minerva, Modelo, Bohemia, Tijuana, Leon ... so many.

I was trying to explain this to a relative in Jamaica. We were speaking in Jamaican patois. I exclaimed: "A beer beer deh yah!" (loosely translated "there is nothing but beer here!"). I laughed afterward about the duplication of sound: "A 'beer' (the Jamaican patois word, functioning as an adjective, translated 'solely' or 'only') beer (the beverage, noun)."

A 'beer beer'. Funny :)