September 30, 2014

Tying up history

I think I’d better get down on paper, the memory of my vacation in New York. Even though I’ve been back only some three weeks, things are already beginning to get hazy. With my lecturers insisting they really have to drone on for hours at a stretch, and days on end, I guess there’s only so much the old grey cells can retain!

One thing that struck me in New York City was the sight of so many Chinese tourists. They were everywhere – even upstate New York!!! And it wasn’t by chance. The New York tourism folks are sending all kinds of teams to China to snag a share of their US$100+ billion tourist market.

As one newspaper pointed out, the middle class in China is larger than the ENTIRE population of the US…and they have as many billionaires. That’s a lot off dough rolling around!!

Having ploughed through seven years of various courses in high school that bemoaned our (Caribbean) declining tourist trade because of the decline of the West, I wondered why we also haven’t gone after this alternative tourist market. Jeez!! If the Americans can try to lure Chinese tourists to New York – why can’t we?? Even the flyers handed out by the touts on 8th Ave hawking NYC Bus Tours and the Empire State Building, had Chinese calligraphy.

With so many relatives in New York, I had the opportunity to check out their secondary migration. One aunt lives in Poughkeepsie, up the Hudson Valley. Even though I hadn’t visited for nine years, I still remembered the hills and forested areas of that part of the state very fondly.

The streets of Jamaica, Queens can get a bit too much sometimes!! The visit didn’t disappoint. From the famous vaulted ceiling over the great hall of Grand Central Station (where that scene from Madagascar was filmed and from where we took the train up) to visiting the palatial homes of the Vanderbilts and Rooseveldts outside of Poughkeepsie, a different New York presented itself.

I’m not sure many New Yorkers realised that their State was once owned by the Dutch, and in fact only became British after the treaty of Breda back in the 17th Century when it was exchanged for Suriname!! (Who snickered why I had to write WI History? Ha! )

But if one took time to notice, there were signs of the Dutch presence everywhere in upstate New York – from the stone fences, to the houses, to the artefacts – not to mention the names of towns and places. Having coffee and cake in the picturesque European-like village of Rhinebeck was a highlight of the trip.

We also spent a night over in the town of Schenectady, near the state capital of Albany. This also brought back scenes from my books. This was the landscape that Fenimore Cooper described in (often painstaking) detail in Last of the Mohicans. This was the land of the Mohican Tribe. But today Schenectady can be seen as a snapshot of 21st Century America: its once great factories closed; its products “outsourced” to China; and its cities plunging into ruin.

The population of Schenectady has declined by a third from its heyday when General Electric (GE) produced turbines and generators that lit up the world. My cousin Devi drove me past the gargantuan GE factory – that once employed 40,000 but is now one tenth of that.

The abandoned houses in the city attracted thousands of Guyanese from New York City – and they have done a wonderful job of gentrifying large swathes of what were slums.

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Winging it

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve just had to wing it. You know…just doing something without any preparation or planning. On the fly. Sometimes we even put ourselves into those situations – we might’ve decided to procrastinate and leave everything to the last minute and bluff our way through a test or a presentation.

As students we do that a lot, usually patting ourselves on the back for pulling another fast one over our teachers. I don’t think we ever really got away with those slapdash attempts though, somehow I think our teachers knew. Maybe because our presentations were full of gems such as “Umm… well…umm…and then….like….yes well”. Faultless elocution, that.

Of course, sometimes we could find ourselves in a situation where, despite planning ahead, things still go awry and we have to just improvise our way out of the problem. In those instances, we have to try to be a bit more flexible, to be willing to accept things for being what they are, instead of how we want them to be.

And once we don’t spend time panicking about things not being exactly as we wanted them to be, and instead think up a new plan of action, we might be surprised that the end result might be better than expected.

Unexpected things will always come up and maybe in our preparations, we should start preparing ourselves to have to think on the spot or make quick decisions, instead of just preparing for a single event. It’s not the end of the world if you’re missing some ingredients from whatever you planned on cooking, just alter the dish and create something new.

And every day we’re thrust into new and unexpected situations. We could show up at a meeting, expecting other people to take charge, but for whatever reason, they just can’t. We could be the ones who step up to the plate. We can adapt to the new role of leader and sometimes, we’ll find that it’s a position we thrive in.

But improvisation can be difficult if you’re set in your ways or if you completely spazz out if things aren’t going completely to plan. It’s good to plan ahead, don’t get me wrong – I love planning and making nice organiSed, colour-coded timetables – but it’s when you put more importance on following the exact letter of the plan than doing the actual task that things become problematic. You have to be able to think on your feet and adapt quickly to changes around you or be able to tailor your approach to your particular situation.

And of course there are the little improvisations we make every day. Singing a song and can’t remember all of the lyrics? Most of us just make up new ones. Do the new lyrics always make perfect sense? Nope, but that’s fine since half of the pop lyrics out there don’t make sense anyway – and they were written by professionals!

All of the above, of course, has been prompted by my rather detailed, colour-coded plans for getting back into a school-mindset after that looooong holiday (mine started in May). That vacation! But then they do say, “Travel broadens the mind”, right? What was it that Robert Burns said?? “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/Gang aft agley (awry)”.

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Man Up

By Anu Dev

There’s always been so much talk about “peer pressure,’’ usually in a lecture at school warning you to stay away from drugs, sex and wild partying – the trifecta of doom, we’ve been warned. But there has not been enough discussion about all the other pressures we’re faced with – pressure from our elders, our teachers, and society in general.

Of course, it’s important to remind everyone–especially adolescents with their young, impressionable minds–that peer pressure is very, very real. I mean, you spend so much time with your friends and lots of kids prefer to fit in instead of being the odd duck out. So naturally your peers can exert an enormous amount of influence over you. And that influence can be either positive or negative, depending on who you choose to hang out with.

But I want to speak a little about the pressure society puts on us all. Though we live in a world that supposedly hails individualism and free thinking, there’re always retorts like “man up!” and “you hit like a girl” thrown around all the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of the time those words are thrown around in light fun, without malicious intent, so I’m not about to pull out my soapbox and bullhorn and start denouncing the next person to tell a guy to “man up”. But still, words can have a lasting impact.

Everyone’s wired differently. A guy shouldn’t be any less of a man if he’s not into stereotypically “manly’’ things. And a woman shouldn’t be less of a woman if she’s not into all of those stereotypically “womanly’’ things.

Men are still pressured to be the main breadwinners of the household, to shoulder the responsibilities of the family. We’ve come a long way from when women were confined to the household; women have successful careers and are earning the big bucks.

But I wonder if most people will be as accepting of a “househusband’’ as they are of a “housewife.’’ I don’t see why they should have a problem though – men are just as capable of cooking, cleaning and taking care of children.

But even at the school level, there’s this pressure on boys to be cool and “manly.’’ Maybe that’s one of the reasons girls keep out-performing boys in school? While the boys have to find time for cricket and other sports and keeping up the façade of being “too cool to study,’’ it’s fine for girls to prop open a textbook, sit in a corner to study and get all wound up over wanting to do well for exams.

Boys seem to have to use that time to keep up with the latest video games and generally do other “boy things.’’

But boys and all of us have to take the time to think about the type of person we want to be today, five years from now, and even 10 years from now. Is it worth spending so much time to “fit in’’ if you become someone that even you can’t recognise?

Take a quiet moment to think about whether the things you do, or the things you want to do are things that you truly want or whether it’s what everybody else is doing. Don’t be afraid to flow against the tide, to be your own person, to captain your own destiny.

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Growing pains

When my own CSEC results came out in 2011, I’d been vacationing with my family in Suriname. I learnt about it, in what is now the old fashioned way — via the newspapers. This year, the Eduction Minister broke new ground – she personally streamed the results of the top 52 performers who’d secured 11 or more passes with Grade Ones.

My family were avid viewers over in New York, where we were now vacationing: my brother Abhimanyu had written 17 subjects at the age of 14 and “anxious” was not the word for us!!. Maybe me more than my kid brother! Abhi had always been special – and precocious. You know the saying, “You have to creep before you walk”? Well, he just dragged along on his (pampered) rump for a while and then blithely stood up and walked one day.

He started to read at the age of two and when he entered primary school at the age of six – he had to be placed in Grade Three. As his classmate Saskia Khalil recently reminisced on his Facebook wall after the CSEC results were announced, Abhi was already writing his notes in cursive at that time!

For him to enter school and skip Grades One and Two, he had to be evaluated by several officials in the Education Ministry. When he later placed 4th in the NGSA at the age of nine, the Chief Education Officer Genevieve Whyte-Nedd confessed that she’d opposed his entry – she hadn’t thought he’d be able to compete.

So Abhi, went on to Queens, and against the advice of his teachers and our parents, he decided to write 17 subjects. It’s possible he wanted to top me – who’d done 15. I’ve heard about these “sibling impulses”!!

Like me, he didn’t do any lessons, except for Spanish. But unlike me, he absolutely refused to seek assistance from our father – who I still lean from even now I’m in medical school. Forget about ME helping!! That was, and is, Abhi – fiercely independent and marching to his own drummer.

So Minister Manickchand announced the 11-plus achievers– and Abhi wasn’t on the list. We could see he was bitterly disappointed. When he was finally able to access his grades– he’d gotten 9 ones and 8 twos. Now I personally think this result was incredible – not only in absolute terms – (any 14-year-old securing 17 subjects has to be special), but because I knew Abhi didn’t really study. For sure not like how I did, three years ago.

And this is really what I want to talk about today. We hear a lot about boys not performing as well as girls and this year’s results prove that in aces – at least at Queens where the top 100 NGSA performers end up.

Among the 20 Queens students who secured 11 or more Grade Ones – not a single one of them was a boy!!! While I only have access to the Fifth Form friends who shared their Grades on Abhi’s Facebook page, it appears that he was the top performing boy this year at Queens. What is going on??

I can only report from what I saw with Abhi and his friends. Even though all of the friends went to lessons – the latter was seen as mostly a place to hang out. Then there were the other extracurricular activities – cricket, computer games – and in Abhi’s case, reading every book under the sun (and then some), but his schoolbooks. Whether it is a case of our method of imparting education is geared more towards girls (who are socialised to be more passive), or because we mature earlier – I wouldn’t be able to say definitively.

But I do know that Abhi finally buckled down during the three months his exams lasted. And I say – congratulations for doing what he did in that time!! Imagine what he and the rest of the boys could do if they hit the books like we girls did!

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Vacation

“In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!

“What I did for my August vacation” – come September, the composition title that pretty much every school-child will expect to be asked to write on. It’s a wonder we don’t write one during the holidays preemptively so we can just lay back and relax when that assignment is given. On second thought, I know why. How many children ever actually do school-work while on vacation? There’s a reason that there’s a collective chortle at the Headteacher exhortation in her end-of-year speech to “crack open” our books during the summer.

I’ve never really seen the point of those essays though. They’re basically mostly just you listing off the things you did during the summer. “This vacation I visited the ______________ with my __________ and ______. It was very ____________. But the most fun was when we [insert thrilling anecdote]. I also ____________ and learnt how to swim.”

And so it goes as primary school children try to build up their essays to the required length – 250 words, I think? There’re only so many ways you can creatively list off all of your summer escapades. Besides, most of us are just so sorry the vacation’s over, we’re only fuzzily focusing on our work anyway. We’re mostly hankering back to those lazy “summer” days.

I mean sure, you usually fill your friends in on what you’ve been up to, but it’s not in perfect grammar and stilted English – it’s usually a loud babble of voices all speaking at once. I’ve always wished that one of my teachers could come up with a more creative topic to kick off the school year. Or a more creative way. There’s something called “Digital Humanities” that just hit the English Graduate Programmes in the US – it utilises all the new media and electronic techniques available now to create narratives. Maybe it’ll percolate back into the Caribbean soon??

But maybe in time I’ll grow nostalgic about those essays, as I’m already preemptively growing nostalgic about “August vacations”. I’ve been informed that adults don’t get three-month holidays just like that, to lounge about. (My Dad – and certainly not my Mom – never had a “nine to five” job…until last year!!!) Even though I know it’s not practical to have the entire world just vacationing about for three months, it would be kind of nice, wouldn’t it? Every one needs a vacation (and then a vacation from your vacation). Vacations are important. They’re the light at the end of the tunnel during an extra hard sustained period of school or work.

Vacations don’t have to be jet-setting to far-off countries – you could just relax and unwind at home. Like after our gruelling exams, all my friends and I had on our minds for after the exams was to sleep – no extravagant plans, just sleep. But then instead of sleeping, we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning catching up on all the shows and movies we’d missed out on, so I’m not sure if this is the best example of using your vacation to relax.

But anyway, the nice thing about vacations is that you can spend them how you want, you’re not chained to a desk working anymore – the shackles are off. Sleep or don’t sleep. Save up your money and then spend it on travelling, if that’s your thing. Catch up on that new book that you’ve been trying to read or binge-watch all the seasons of that TV show you’ve been dying to watch. Meet new people, meet old people, visit your friends and family. Do whatever’s your cup of tea. Drink tea even, if you’re into that.

So for everyone still on holiday, “Happy vacationing!” and for those of you whose vacations are already over, I hope you had a pleasant holiday.

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August Holidays!

It’s summer! The endless sun-filled holidays, that glorious time of the year when lazy days are the norm, you gorge yourself on junk-food and bathing is optional (Kidding! Or am I? No, I really am kidding. We love lolling in our bathtubs).

The holidays have always held that special allure. I guess because they’re like weekends, all stacked together, back-to-back for two whole months. It’s like TGIF times infinity.

And yes, the holidays are that time when you can run, jump, play cricket, climb trees. That time when you get to release all of that pent-up exuberance that you had to keep in while you slaved away at your Summerdesk during school.

But that doesn’t mean that as kids you should take ridiculous, life-threatening risks. There can be accidents, you know. Have fun in safer ways. You don’t have to swim in the deepest water to still have fun.

And for goodness sake, the Kerb Drill wasn’t taught to you in Primary School as just some cute rhyme. You need to observe it. Too often, during the holidays, I would see kids just darting across the road without even looking to see whether there’s any oncoming traffic.

When I started driving I noticed the carelessness of pedestrians even more, I guess because I have to be constantly alert to make sure I don’t knock over one of them casually drifting across the road. “Constant vigilance!” as Mad-Eye Moody would say.

But maybe their parents are giving them free rein to do as they please, to get their kids out of their hair for a few minutes. Maybe the parents are thinking about their childhood when they could freely play in the streets or climb trees relatively frequently. But times have changed; there are so many vehicles now that within minutes of you setting up the wickets, you have to clear them off the street for some car to pass.

It’s a bit more dangerous on the roads than in the ‘good old days’, so parents, give your kids freedom to have fun, but within reason.

You should seize the moment, don’t wait for tomorrow, do it today. Live in the moment. And no, I don’t mean you should go out partying wildly and getting wasted and emulating those people who justify it all by shouting ‘YOLO’.

What I mean is, kids, don’t waste your entire holiday sitting at the computer glued to Reddit or 9GAG- there’s a whole world out there.

And when you decide to venture outside, don’t go out with your ears plugged up with earphones as you walk down the street, trapped in your own music-bubble, bobbing your head to whatever tune you’re listening to. I know I’m guilty of having my ears plugged up on the bus, in the car, wherever and never bothering to unplug, even when someone is trying to speak to me- I just usually smile and nod to whatever they’re saying. And that’s not something that I’m proud of.

Basically what I’m saying is to form or intensify your relationships – with family, friends or neighbours – by doing things together.

And besides, when the holiday is over and it’s time to return to school in September, you’ll probably wish you had done something fun during the holiday. Plus, you’ll need something interesting to write about for those ‘How I spent my Summer Holidays’ essays you’re bound to be given by some incredibly imaginative teacher as soon as school re-opens.

And parents, your children will be home for the next two months, take time off from work and take them out on holiday somewhere. The holiday doesn’t have to be the South of France, it could be around Guyana- just spend time as a family. How many of you guys have seen the interior of Guyana, or Kaieteur Falls, or scaled a Guyanese mountain? As I’ve written before, Guyana is a wonderful place to tour- you just need to give it a chance.

And most importantly for this holiday, JUST.HAVE.FUN!!!

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Emancipation!

“Slavery is a weed that grows on every soil.” -Edmund Burke

This Friday, August 1 is Emancipation Day! Slavery was abolished 180 years ago. 180 years! That’s literally 10 times the amount of years that I’ve been alive! But yet oftentimes I wonder what has happened to the promise of that seminal event.

In Caribbean History, we spent a lot of time learning about conditions on the sugar plantations during slavery and after Emancipation. It was a descent into horror. We learnt about plantation society, about sugar manufacturing and we even had to build models of a typical plantation.

Most horrifyingly, we learnt about the slave trade, and about the terror of the Middle Passage which, when contra-posed against the societies from which the slaves were snatched, becomes an object lesson of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

I loved reading about the societies and cultures that were already established in West Africa, about the Kingdoms like Dahomey and Ashanti and about the Oyo Empire. There was so much rich culture, religion and art. I got lost in the stories and legends of the Akan religion.

When the Africans were brought to the Caribbean, they weren’t allowed to practise anything of their own culture. They weren’t even allowed to have families. They were forced into Christianity – after they were freed and it was conceded they MIGHT be human – and had to give up their own religions.

They were forced into a European social structure, where they would always be inferior striving to be what they could never be – white men and women. Never mind that they already had their own well-organised social structures for hundreds of years. I really can’t imagine what it would’ve been like living like that, being treated as being less than human. As chattel – someone’s property.

One of my favourite heroes in WI history was Toussaint L’Ouverture. To have a man – born a slave – take on the full might of one of the greatest European powers of the day, for the right to be free, was awe inspiring. He was indeed an “Opening”: the eventual independence of Haiti showed the path that every other colony had to walk. But yet we heard ad nauseum about the American and French Revolutions, but never about the Haitian Revolution.

I mean lots of people have the notion that you have to move on from your past completely in order to have a future. But that idea completely disregards the point we are our past: we are, in a word, our consummated past. And this is not just the past of our own short lives, but the past that has been transmitted to us.

History shows how families, countries, laws and institutions are formed, how they evolved and why certain ones have survived while others ‘bit the dust’. If a nation is just defined by its present- how shallow is that?

Look at how much our country and our people have survived and suffered through and yet we’re still afloat. We need to be aware of our past. We need to be aware of our heroes, of the adversities we overcame. We need to remember our heroes such as Cuffy and Quamina.

Think about how those who came before you struggled and fought for their freedom and how lucky we all are now, to be living free. We’re not enslaved, we’re not indentured: we’re living free, so it’s inexcusable if we don’t work hard to give ourselves the future we want- the shackles are off.

As our own prophet Bob Marley sang, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Happy Emancipation Day!

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Thriller in Providence!!

“The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money.” – Ernie Banks

 

Guyana Amazon Warriors v The Red Steel - CPL 2014Heading to the Guyana VS Trinidad (can we still call them that?) game on Thursday, we were all hoping for an exciting game. The previous games, elsewhere, seemed to be missing that special oomph! that we’ve come to expect from T20 cricket. Especially Limacol CPL cricket!

Well, we clearly got much more than we bargained for that Thursday night. The game had us all out of our seats, falling on our knees praying, jumping into the air, biting our nails and screaming ourselves hoarse. And I really do mean hoarse: several cups of hot tea later at home, a few Strepsils and my throat still hasn’t recovered.

During the innings break there was an expectant, almost celebratory atmosphere – there was a nice parade with dancers and Tassa players and everyone was just milling about stretching from sitting down throughout Trinidad’s innings. We were sitting pretty – our bowlers dominated Trinidad’s batting and limited Trinidad to a paltry 118. The asking rate was under six runs per over! What could go wrong? Funny you asked. The answer was “plenty!”

Our wickets started tumbling like ninepins as soon as we went in – with each wicket like a sucker punch sending fans reeling into new depths of despair. When Simmons got out in the 10th over, it seemed like it might all be over. Six wickets down and 62 runs left to make? It seemed an almost impossible ask for Barnwell, and our bowlers. After all, at that point only one of our recognised batsmen had scored over 30!

But then Barnwell and Narine buckled down, taking singles and hitting the occasional boundary when opportunities presented themselves. And then hope (which I’m told, “beats eternal”) started to flutter. We started to believe we could WIN this thing. They were bringing us so close! And then we got to the 19th over- 16 off 12! And every fan in the stadium started chanting in unison: “War-ri-ors!” “War-ri-ors”!!

We took things down to the last man, the last over, the last ball and we scampered towards a Super Over. The moment Beaton and Permaul crossed their creases to make the two runs the crowd erupted. It was absolutely insane!

But then when we gave Narine just 11 runs to defend, worries started to creep in again – will it be enough? After all, Trinidad just had to defend 11 in that fateful last over as well!

But then the first ball Narine bowled was a dot ball! And the crowd exploded! And we kept cheering after Narine kept bowling perfect deliveries and the over ended up being a wicket maiden. It was absolute pandemonium after that final ball was bowled. Everyone was on their feet screaming, laughing, hugging and jumping up and down.

Strangers were embracing. Flags were being waved like crazy. Boys were thumping their chests proclaiming that Narine was their hero. Expectant mothers were screaming that they’ll name their firstborn “Sunil”. And people were demanding that the entire Guyana team be knighted. And I may be exaggerating – just a little bit.

But really, in that moment it felt as if we had just won a war, it was incredible.

As I write this, we’re about to head out to the Guyana VS St. Lucia game, so I have no idea yet what that game will bring. I remember the crushing sense of disappointment when St. Lucia beat us at home last year. I remember all too well the surge of enmity I felt towards Sammy and his Zouks.

Even now, as I write this, I’m frowning and fighting the urge to pummel something. So I’ll be going to this match hoping that we crush the Zouks into oblivion- maybe something like when Germany beat Brazil 7-1? I’d like that. I think looking at the FIFA World Cup this year has been a bad influence on me – I kept hoping for someone to tackle Badree to take him out of the game – I mean, his bowling figures were just too good.

I hope our top order gets their act together; so far our bowlers have been phenomenal as all-rounders ,but it’s time for our batmen to do their part.

Go Warriors!

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Cricket! Go Amazon Warriors!

“Rally, rally round the Amazon Warriors. Never say never. Pretty soon the runs are going to flow like water” – Adapted from David Rudder, “Rally Round the West Indies”

Cricket’s always been one of the things that has brought us together as Caribbean people – never mind that it’s the source of some of the fiercest arguments you can imagine. Now the Limacol CPL is back – and we’re all rallying around our Warriors to raise the Trophy this year. They’ve already won their first game, a game that had us all perched on the edges of our seats, cheering on our tail-enders to do the job our batsmen couldn’t.

One of the many things that I really like about this tournament is that some of our young, local cricketers are getting a chance to play. This opportunity will both give them a chance to experience what it’s like playing against International players and also a chance to shine and be recognised. With the other tournaments like the IPL, CLT20, and Australia’s Big Bash, there are so many new players that impress us who eventually make it onto the national team. Hopefully, the same will happen for the West Indies – we’ll discover some new talent to revive the current team.

With the Limacol CPL we’re rooting for our country – GUYANA! The Guyana Amazon Warriors are OUR TEAM!!! It’s Guyana versus Trinidad, or Guyana vs Barbados – not West Indies against the rest of the world. It’s a powerful thing, this nationalistic feeling – I’m getting chills just sitting down writing about it, remembering what it was like when our Warriors kept winning last year. It’s a whole new adrenaline rush when it’s your country’s team that wins. It’s your country’s flag that you’re waving; your country’s colours that the players are wearing; it’s you, the Guyanese people who are being represented. All within the Caribbean family of course!

In Guyana, we don’t have trouble ensuring sold-out matches with a jam-packed stadium, we’re always starved for more cricket. I’ll bet my bottom dollar this set of matches in the Limacol CPL will be the same. So it’s a wonder we got only three games this year and Grenada got three games as well – they don’t even have a Limacol CPL team!! As the camera panned around the Grenadian National Stadium during that first match, the number of empty seats was simply astounding. I couldn’t believe they chose to kick off the Limacol CPL in a country where the ‘fans’ didn’t even bother to show up. An empty stadium surely can’t be encouraging to the players.

But we Guyanese know that the Limacol CPL is a wonderful opportunity for families or friends to hang out together, to enjoy a sport that’s brought together so many generations of sports enthusiasts. And we’ll show up to cheer on our boys.

There’s this indescribable feeling of pride you get when you’re looking at your home team play. Never mind all of the players on the team aren’t Guyanese: they’re wearing our uniform, our colours, we feel that same sense of them being a part of our team, of being ours.

Another nice thing I have noticed about the LCPL, is that there are so many of the older West Indian players from the “golden age” of West Indian cricket getting involved, whether in coaching capacities or giving their inputs in other ways. It’s like three sets of West Indian players being brought together- the past, current and future.

So let’s wave our flags, let’s raise our glasses, and let’s lift our voices and shout, “Go Amazon Warriors!”

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Happy CARICOM Day 2014!

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” –  J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Tomorrow is the first Monday of July, the day we’ve set aside to celebrate Caribbean Unity! Last year I admitted to having some mixed feelings about what exactly it is that I should be dancing in the streets about, given that at the time Caribbean Airlines had been appointed our National Flag Carrier and yet was milking the Guyanese public for all we had (not exactly a step forward toward improving Caribbean unity, that).

But this year, our skies are positively chock- full of planes – and the law of supply and demand are pushing those fares so low, Guyana might be emptied this “summer”.

And then again, having spent a year on the Joyce Gibson Inniss Hall

of Residence among students from most of our Caribbean neighbours, I got a better perspective of how and why a unified Caribbean could be possible. And necessary.The thing is, we have so much in common, us and them.

There’s so much overlap with the food we cook, the music we listen to and the slangs we use. It was incredible to see that all of the kids from the different islands had a version of curry that they cooked- I must’ve seen at least five different ways of cooking curries. Naturally, the Guyanese way is the best way, but hey, I just might be just a tad biased.

It was interesting to find out the different names that different countries have for the same thing. For example, what we call “golden-apple”, Trinidadians call ‘pommecythere’ and “bora” becomes “bodi”. There was definitely some detailed descriptions and gesturing going on as we sought to get across some concept without being able to use the name that we normally referred to it as. But not too much.

Much of our first week was about getting to know the person as an individual and also getting to know about them culturally – literally “where they’re coming from”. Knowing a little more about their way of doing things and their outlook on things really went a far way in understanding them. For example, for someone who didn’t take the time to understand Bahamian culture, they might be surprised at their bluntness. But in truth, they just believe in telling things as they are- something I’ve very much come to respect. Really, I’d prefer for my friends to tell me directly if I have something stuck in my teeth or if whatever I’m saying isn’t making sense, rather than allowing me to look silly!

We had to get used to each other’s accents and ways of pronouncing words. It took me forever to realise that I need to mentally add in the letter ‘R’ to whatever words Trinidadians are saying since “Barney” becomes “Ba’ney” and “corner” becomes “co’nah”. I’ve become much more adept at doing that…I think. I’ve managed to significantly cut down on the time I spend looking at the other person with a dumbfounded expression on my face ,trying to process and interpret exactly what was said to me.

We all learnt so much about each other’s culture and I began to really understand the whole concept of Caribbean unity on not just an intellectual level, but on an emotional level. I mean, I always used to get emotional supporting our West Indian cricket team, alternating between weeping tears of joy and tears of anguish, but this past year I’ve managed to make personal connections with persons from the different Caribbean countries.

So even if our leaders can’t get it together to work with each other to build a better Caribbean, at least us, the common person can put aside everything to work together even in a competitive environment such as Med School. Last year was such a wonderful experience. I met so many diverse, interesting, kind and genuine persons. If I had the last year to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing (okay, maybe I would try harder to track down the Bravo brothers, but that’s about it).

Happy CARICOM Day!

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