New Year, New Tings?

Every December to January, we get caught in an avalanche of blogs, vlogs, TV features, and newspaper articles about making the new year the beginning of a new you. With all these implications that you are not good enough, or that you must be dissatisfied with your life, I want to know…

Does a new year really have to bring change? New goals and resolutions? What if you’re happy on your current path? What if your goals are so big they can’t fit in a year? What if you’re basking in the sunshine of reaching a major goal?

Like Drake said, no new friends. That includes silly resolutions you’re not going to keep anyway. They’re not loyal to you, and you’re not loyal to them.

So to 2016, I am looking forward to living my life because it’s golden. I promise to remain grateful for the big moments, and the small ones. I promise to keep getting stamps in my passport. I promise to continue learning this new language. I promise to keep up with the news and the stories behind them. I promise to remain open to new adventures. I promise to remain a seeker. I promise to love.

*Yep, it’s another late post.

There’s Just Something About @Chunchi!

To know her is to love her. That’s the most accurate way to explain Chunchi. There is no other way to explain our friendship or our tolerance of each other. In fact, I don’t think our friendship works in the “natural order of things”. It really doesn’t. Chunchi 2016

I mean really, we have pretty much nothing in common. We don’t listen to the same music, or like the same things, or even have common ground on religion. We are at opposite ends of pretty much every spectrum. So far apart that we aren’t even Ying and Yang.

That’s however, until you get to know her. Chunchi (and Shrek) are like onions, there are layers to them. Mean and gruff, until you pass those dry outer layers and find the sweet, awesome person inside.

To clear up any ambiguity, knowing Chunchi does not happen because you met her, follow her (on any platform), been out with her, are dating her friend, or anything like that. You can only know her when she is ready to let that happen. Until then, you really only know about her.

I love Chunchi, with all the mishmash of her several personalities, I love her. Why? Well, because of who she is.

She is honest and in the moment. If she says it, I guarantee you, it is where she stands at that very moment. No, it’s not a guarantee that she will feel that way an hour from now. She is in the moment, and the past is gone, so don’t try to hold on to it. The truth of right now is what is real.

Chunchi goes hard. All the time. In everything. Seriously. Chunchi is either into it, or she’s not. There is no lukewarm with her, and there isn’t much hiding how she feels either. You cannot coax her into it. That’s not how this works. She does not have the time or energy to cater to your ego. #Stubborn

Protective should have been Chunchi’s middle name. This woman is fierce and is swift with the response. She isn’t protecting just herself, Chunchi will fling a beatdown if you ramp with the wrong person. Nope, she does not care who you think you are, she knows who she is and she will bruck off her nails in your face. Legit, this is not a joke, it is a statement of fact. A warning if you will. Take heed.

Loyalty. Loyalty isn’t a mere concept to Chunchi. She does not entertain you speaking negatively, no scratch that, she will not tolerate anything but positive sentiments about her friends. It’s not a line she allows you to cross. I’ve seen her go toe-to-toe with her supervisor over a casual comment about a friends intellect.

Most of all, I love Chunchi, because despite our disagreements, our polar opposite beliefs, our annoyances with each other, we know we can count on each other. We can reveal the inner workings of our hearts to each other and know we are safe. That, is where true friendship lies, in the inner insides of us and I wouldn’t trade my tyrant for the world.

Happy Birthday Chunchigan!
You are loved, even from 7,707 miles away :)

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 11.19.24 AMYes, I know it’s late – so what!

Repeat that YouTube!

It is no secret, I love YouTube.
No, not in that, yeah I watch videos on YouTube way, more in the I carve out time in my schedule to watch YouTube type of way. Am I some sort of expert on it? Nope! I do enjoy what I enjoy though and so here’s a list of my faves (no Jamaican channels allowed or included).

Here’s my Top 5.
In TV Terms, these are like my Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, & Big Bang Theory. I watch almost everything once it goes up, but I can (and do) binge on their episodes even after seeing them a few times.

5. Shameless Maya
Subscribers*: 649,195
Why: I first watched a curly hair video that she did, and my jealousy of her curls became straight respect when she shaved it all off. However what keeps me watching is all the variety of her videos. She’s not all over the place, she has focus but is definitely a creative who is loving the life she has worked for. She is kind, generous, intelligent, and is definitely someone I could par with.
Watch This:

4. IISuperwomanII
Subscribers:7,577,002
Why: This woman is FUNNY! She is a full fledged YouTuber, this is not a part-time gig for her. Her videos are well thought out, smartly shot, and well edited. Also, it helps that her Toronto-ness shows up in the Jamaican colloquial terms that pops-up from time to time in her verbage. She is just hilarious!
Watch This:

3. RamandaBDaisuki Japan
Subscribers: 2,153
Why: My good friend introduced me to this channel because I asked where are the black J-vloggers. I proceeded to watch every single video on her 3 channels in one week. I should have gotten fired! Either way, Ramanda’s videos aren’t the super-genki kind, but they aren’t Japan is evil kind either. Her videos are simply, I’m here, this is life as I am living it, got a hubby, got a cute baby, sometimes I just want to be in the US, but this is my life. I also could see us being friends – she seems like good peoples.
Watch This:

2. Swoozie
Subscribers: 3,725,119
Why: Swoozie’s videos remind me of my friends. They are stories, even when he’s giving advice, it’s in story format. I probably watch his videos more than I should. I have glimpsed my face watching his videos, and I seem to have this grin when watching. Either way, Swoozies mix of comic / cartoon / vlog is pretty effective. I like it. I watch too often. Below is the first one I watched and the one I send the most.
Watch This:

1. Hillsong United
Subscribers: 685,739
Why: Cause I need to get my worship on.
Watch This:

Honorable Mentions:
I watch these guys quite a bit, but not as consistently. They are my SVU, Friends, & Iron Chef, in that I have no tears if I miss one, but I can still binge out on it all day.
Texan In Tokyo
The Domestic Geek
Brothers Green Eats
PhillyD (and his various channels) oh and website too!
Jesus Culture
Bethel Music
Domics

Who are your faves?

* All subscriber numbers are at time of writing.

P.S. Bun fyah pon VEVO. Legit, I take the time out to find the original channel and dodge Vevo, most annoying thing on YouTube.

 

He Said I’m Strong

You know Shikisha, I’ve always admired how strong and independent you are. You always did things for yourself, no one had to do it for you.
-Uncle Fred

I was so confused when he said this to me. This man, whom I have looked up to for almost all of my life was saying strange things to me. It wasn’t strange that I was getting a compliment, it was strange that he called me strong and independent. I had never before identified with those words. Never.

As a matter of fact, up to that point in my life, I would think of myself as the total opposite. At the very least, I associated myself with other words, emotional, dependent, weak, soft, co-dependent. I saw myself as someone who gets knocked around easily, needs a strong support system (aka ALL my family), gets hurt or emotional for no reason. Then, Uncle Fred spoke to me.

I doubt he knew that our casual conversation would have hit me so deep. His words, casual yet perfectly timed, felt like fire cauterising an emotional wound I didn’t know I had. Like that moment when Mufasa spoke to Simba in the clouds. Like lightening, something happened in an instant. He wasn’t the first to imply that I had inner strength, but it was this moment that concretised it.

I started to see myself differently. I started to see my future with more confidence and less fear. The chances I have taken since then have changed. Even my relationships have changed. Why? Because somehow his words helped me to start seeing myself differently. He gave me a new lens to look at myself with, and I used it.

We all have the chance to give someone a new lens to view themselves through. We all have a chance to tell someone something we appreciate or admire about them. We all can sow good seeds in one another.

Uncle Fred showed me something I had never acknowledged about myself. I hope, that my words help others see the good in themselves too. May you use your own words to do the same for others.

Adulthood

I miss the ideology of my childhood.
The beautiful picture of adulthood I painted in my mind,
Filled with a family of my own,
4 boys, 2 girls, 6 grandparents,
3 homes, one on the beach, a farm, and a city house.

Days of relaxation with my family,
Enjoying the life we built,
Contributing to the GDP & travelling,
Teaching my children principles,
Taking care of my parents.

This is not the life I dreamed of,
Why do I have to pay bills?
Who created these things called work?
What are these taxes?
Where is my intended adulthood?

This is not the life I planned,
It’s the life I have.
Filled with friends and family,
Sadness and celebration,
Laughter and joy.

This isn’t the life I planned,
But somehow,
I’m happy it’s the one I have.

Missing Christmas Already

I thought about what this Christmas is going to be like and a tear or two escaped my eye. Yeah, the left one that’s always the most rebellious.

I thought about how we do Christmas mornings. How we have evolved from a loud house of seven children just happy to see our Dad before he jets off to somewhere on a Reggae mission to deep discussions at breakfast.

It grew into just us, sharing our hearts with each other in the quiet of the morning. Reflecting on the year that has gone, the joys, the sorrows, the lessons, and most importantly, the blessings. Speaking about our hopes for the next year, the plans we have, how they feed into our personal visions, how they feed into building Jamaica, and how we see God using it for His Glory.

The breakfast, made up of pretty much whatever is there, almost always is 100% Jamaican. Coffee, Kidney / Liver, Boiled Yam & Banana, Fried Breadfruit, Fresh Juice, Stew Chicken, Sorrel, Callaloo… Except the wine, which somehow is always Australian :)

I love this Ministry-Business-Catch Up-hug up-support group styled meeting. I love that it starts and ends with Prayer, that Daddy shares the Word with us, that we sing a worship song with sleep still in our eyes, that we share not just our hearts but our lives, first thing in the morning before the world comes barging in. It’s the raw honesty of our love.

This year, I won’t be able to share these moments with the people who matter the most. As a matter of fact, I will likely be at work just praying that I won’t freeze to death. No big family dinners to go to, no special parties to attend, no phone calls with the besties, just work and sleep.

I will miss Christmas Morning, but unlike today, I will not let a tear escape, I will think of the $1500US I am saving by not going home. I will pretend that the money really matters.

Jamaica’s Beauty Queen Issue

Over the past few weeks I have been spending time preparing my “self-introduction” presentation. It is meant to introduce my students to me, however I have designed it to focus more on Jamaica.

One of the purposeful things I am introducing into their subconscious is diversity. All my teachers can now explain our motto, “Out of Many, One People”. As a matter of fact, so can the head of the Education Department, the Mayor and all authority figures. The first example of diversity I show is the side about my family – well because we are truly a rainbow of people in this tribe. We range from Anglo, to African, to Asian, and everything in between.

So imagine how excited I was to include our beauty queens to show how complex and amazingly diverse beauty can be. The variety we can show, especially compared to the controversy of them having their very first mixed queen this year. I knew this was going to be a killer part of my presentation, I just knew it.

I started out with the Queens who had won titles, easy enough, Carole Joan Crawford, Cindy Breakspeare, and of course, Lisa Hanna. I then started on my palate of national queens for each “group”; dark-skinned, light-skinned, coolie, white, chiney. Yes, purposefully looked for each, in that order, most difficult to easiest. Or so I thought.

It was as easy finding a dark-skinned winner (or that was dark-skinned at the time), as it was finding a light-skinned one. Finding blatantly Indian and White (enough) ones were admittedly not that hard either. However, when it got to a Chinese one, let’s just say, I’m still looking for the all elusive photo of Sandra Kong during her reign.

Sandra Foster, Sandra Cunningham, but no Sandra Kong. This wouldn’t have been so big an issue, if a Jamaican of clear Chinese decent had won more than twice. Sounds like a shocker? Twitter has you believing differently? Well, me too.

Every year, when friends, cousins, school-mates, friends children, etc… enter and lose either Miss Jamaica World or Miss Universe Jamaica, a huge outcry of racism and colourism becomes the topic of conversation. How disadvantaged black women are in the competitions. How only uptown, light-skinned, brownings, with affluence and connections have a chance. Every year, I brush my own feelings aside and avoid the conversation, it becomes too emotional and personal.

Instead, each year when I see the photos of the entrants/finalists, the first people I write off as having no chance whatsoever are white. Why? Because no matter how good they are, it’s too controversial to let them go past the top ten. Crystal never had a chance, and yes, they do try to appease the audience. Then I start looking at the rest, I look at their smiles, the length of their legs, their bikini ready (or not ready) bodies. I compare them, I pick my winner as well as the one most likely to win. I’ve been doing this since childhood. I am rarely wrong on the winner.

The problem is, we forget what this is really about. This is a beauty contest. One that feeds into another one. We get caught up in the effort and expectation of our *person* in the contest. We argue and fuss, about whether or not they are a “real Jamaican” – even when they are born and raised here, sharing no other nationality. Forcing people to justify their Jamaicaness, in the way that Obama is forced to justify his American-ness.

Jamaica, displays this wide range of everything. In most variations of food we call something “Chiney”. We have Chiney Bannana, plum, jimblyn and guinep, but in this day and age, we have no Chiney Miss Jamaica. Not since 1977, when Sandra Kong withdrew from Miss World in protest of South Africa’s participation and its system of apartheid.

We ignore that when we became Jamaica, independent nation, Chinese people had been here for over a hundred years already. That Jamaicans of Chinese decent have been a part of our industrial development since landing on our shores, despite laws being put in place to restrict them. That for those Chinese to even come here, they had to prove literacy in a minimum of THREE languages, plus pay a sort of visa fee. So go ahead, eat a patty, drink a bag juice, and give your kids a Kisko, but don’t forget all of those came from a Jamaican-Chineyman.

The slide ended up like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 1.15.34 PM

The only difficulty I had in finalising this was selecting which of our darker queens to show these children. Of course I picked Sara, because I wanted to also show diversity in their lives too. Two current title holders (at time of presentation), a doctor, a politician, a TV host, a model, a business owner and a wife. My students got the picture, despite the obvious deficit, that Jamaicans all look different and do different things in life.

It burns me inside to always be faced with a Jamaica that is so vastly different from the inclusive one I grew up in. We are no longer one people, with the hopes of making the world better for all people. We have become a nation of “Us versus Them”, always pushing for exclusivity of an identity that none of us have a greater right over than the other. We are all Jamaican, and if our bodies are hot enough, and “tree nah grow outta wi farrid”, we too have an equal right to be a Miss Jamaica.

 

If I Were Brave…

When I was a child, I had this purple-blue lump on my stomach. It was right below the my rib-cage, slightly left of center. I played with it often, much in the same way I will rub scar tissue, or elbow skin today. They called it my blueberry, and I loved it.

Legend (also my doc) says that when I was born, I was so small that my veins didn’t have enough space to spread out, so some of them bundled up together in that spot. This was the explanation given to the single digit me. They added on that it would not go away unless I stopped playing with it, almost like a threat, but I liked it, it was mine.

I don’t recall who it was, but, one day someone pointed out this strange thing on my body that was wrong. It possibly was some parent of a friend at a pool or something. What I do recall is suddenly wanting it to “melt away”, so I stopped playing with it. It took a couple years, but it did fade away almost completely.

Now, I’m left with what can only be described as a slight shadow in that spot. If you look closely, which you won’t be able to do, you can see random bits of veins on my stomach. I can see them, I know that they’re there. The bits of my blueberry spread out like little spots of dirt pounded into a carpet. Now I wonder, if I begin to play with it again, will it come back?

NOT MY STOMACH

Why share this? Well, because if I were brave, I would have submitted this to Nas for #ProjectBrave and let her photograph me. The moment she first posted for submissions, I knew her project was a great idea. So much so, that I refused to consider it for the possibility that it would one day become a book. Something for coffee tables, bathroom reads, library shelves, and research papers. My fear of exposure betrayed me whenever I thought of it.

She has published two installments of the series so far. I think you should read it, see the beauty of the photographs, the bravery of the individuals, and be inspired by their bravery. Then, when it sits on your soul and drenches you with all the pointless why’s and why not’s of your own shame, write her and volunteer to be brave too.

Hurt & Hope

Dear Chris Tufton,

I cried that night you lost the vote. My heart broke, not just for you, but for my country. A little piece of my faith in Jamaica died that night. It hurt, and it hurt beyond that night, for weeks it felt like an open wound, and even now, four years later, it feels like a scar that’s still there.

See, before that night, though I felt unsure about most seats I was certain yours was sure, solid like a corner-stone. Why? Because I could see you working, I saw your commitment to the agricultural sector, your vision to help it develop and to bring younger people into the industry to ensure longevity and our survival as a country. I saw your love for South Western St. Elizabeth, and your concern for the members of the constituency, you were not half-hearted in this either.

What I saw in you was a man who understood and loved his ministry, but could stand and negotiate and deal with those that don’t – the bankers, the buyers, the bullies. Yes, I said bullies. You are a good blend of what I think an MP should be, you were doing what you were elected to do. You are an example of how leaders should carry themselves, you have a calm confidence that seems missing in the days we are living in. You seem to be a decisive contemplator, not that you have not made mistakes, but you clearly think before you speak and act. You are not easily thrown off-balance, and you do not jump up and carry on because of sensationalism.

I can’t vote for you, wrong constituency, but I do hope that you have learned what older and jaded politicians know – how to win elections. You are the new politician that my generation hungers for and wants, however, we tend not to vote. This means pandering to those who do, and no one does it better than the ones we wish would “just resign already”. Find out the legal and ethical side of their secret and WORK IT!

Dr. Tufton, shortly after the election, I saw you at a party, I wanted to just hug you and lament with you on the loss that I could see you were trying to not dwell on. I did not. I thought it would be a little weird, having never met you and it being a party and all. Also, you are still human and need the space to not be on show, to drink some rum / scotch, and breathe.

I hope you do not let go of the hopes you have for our island and your role in helping us get there. I hope you inspire others to get involved in the service of our fellow citizen, so that we can play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

With Hope,
S. C. C.

I Honour You

Growing up with a father like mine was good, bad, adventurous, chill, and all sorts of things in one. As a child, I thought my father lit up the night sky and pulled the sun out of its slumber every morning. As a teenager, I loved him but resented his work. In my early 20’s, all I wanted was his approval and respect. Now, I adore him and appreciate who he is, where he’s been and most of all, the relationship we have.

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I honor him not because he is my Daddy, but because of the man he is. The man I grew up with. The man I respect. The man who mentors me.

When I was very little, my dad always had money for the many persons who reached out to him for help. Even when we ourselves were stuck with tin mackerel for dinner, he somehow was able to always help others make ends meet.

I recall one night that he had a homeless man come to the house to bathe and get some new clothes. It wasn’t the only time it happened, but I remembered wondering why does he always do this. More importantly, why couldn’t he let them use the outside bathroom, why let them use ours? When I was a little older, he told me the man was the same as us, he just had a different struggle.

His kindness and care for others was never a matter of pity though, it was just a part of community, a genuine caring for others. It was not always the grand gesture of helping to pay university fees, but it was also in things like buying a breadfruit or a pear (avocado) for his friend just because. Why? Because that is who he is.

The struggle of being my father’s child is shared by the children of any passionate person. When you grow up with someone who is excited to go to work, who can’t wait to pursue their vision, it’s hard to settle for anything less. It is difficult to imagine a life more ordinary, because you have seen and experienced a life less ordinary. There is no return from that.

I appreciate you, my wonderful blessing of a father. I honour the love, the joy, the peace, the passion, the amazing, the principled man you are, because you have taught me about the person I only can hope to be.

 

(Originally written December 14, 2013)