5 Things You Never Knew You Never Knew About Barbados

After lots of recent conversations about Barbados with my parents, I thought it might be interesting to write a bit about it. Not stuff you can easily read in tour guide, but something a little more Bajan. My whole family is from Barbados, living in different places and countries, but with one proud Caribbean heritage. It’s a small island that people might not know a lot about so, courtesy of CIA World Factbook, the BBC and my general knowledge, here’s Barbados in a nutshell:
  • Population:  286, 705 (July 2010 est.)
  • Capital: Bridgetown
  • Area: 430 sq km (166 sq miles)
  • Language: English (a Bajan dialect)
  • Major Religion: Christianity
  • Government: Parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
  • Independence: 30 November 1966 (from the UK)
  • Economy: tourism is the biggest source of revenue, an overtake from sugarcane exports

1. Bajans from Bim
For some reason unbeknownst to me, Bajans (pronounced Asian with a “b”), the colloquial term for Barbadians, call Barbados Bim. Bim?!?! This makes no sense to me what so ever.
2. Nicknames
 A good majority of people have nicknames. When I say nickname, I mean an alternate name that everybody calls you. Your name could be Andrew, but for some reason, every single person calls you Hill. Or Pepsi.  And at times, people don’t even know your real name. I heard a story about a funeral and in Barbados, everyone listens to the obituary on the radio. So the family put out an announcement of the death, using the deceased’s real name. People had no idea who that was and some never made it to the funeral because they didn’t recognize the name.  It’s that intense. Sometimes your nickname is another real name, like Jack. So when people discover your real name, it’s quite a shock. This name phenomenon seems to be more predominant with males than females. It’s weird, but kind of endearing at the same time.
3. Free public transportation for students and seniors

This just seems logical to me and I wish it was implemented in more countries, but I assume it is the cost that is preventative. All schools wear uniforms and once a student is wearing their uniform, they can board the bus for free. Seniors have an I.D. card they carry and show when boarding. The cost of riding the bus is relatively cheap as well. Last time I was there about two years ago, it cost $1.50 Bajan every time I took the bus. One Bajan dollar is equal to approximately $0.50 U.S. (and now Canadian because we are more or less on par with the U.S.)

4. The meaning behind the flag
You might be able to find this information in a guide book, (actually probably), but I’m including it anyways. I like the meaning. The two bands of blue represent the sky and the sea, both the Caribbean sea and the Atlantic ocean. The gold symbolizes the sand and the sun. The broken trident in the middle represents the breaking of the colonial reign of the U.K. and independence from Great Britain. What gets me is that the trident makes it seem like there was some sort of revolution. Yet there wasn’t. Barbados has always been very peaceful and ties with the U.K are very good. The revolutionary symbolism amuses me, and I like the fact that it is a unique looking flag. I also like that the meaning is simple. I have no idea what the colours of Canada’s flag mean…

View from the top on a cloudy day

5. You can drive the perimeter of the island in 90 mins

The island is that small. My cousin drove myself and my brother around the island in about that time. We when to a look out point, saw the northern most region, ate in a tourist town, headed south and then back home. Now 90 mins is no way to experience the whole island, but it is an interesting experience. My dad says at night, you can get around in about 50 mins. The roads are a bit crazy, as are the drivers, so I don’t doubt that.

 For more info, check out Barbados’ Wiki page, and the government’s official website 🙂
♥ Turtles
Here’s a song from a prominent Bajan calypso artist, Red Plastic Bag.

My fave song from 2009 – In the middle of the road

________ History Month?

Although February has long past, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the month. Not on February itself, but more so on black history month and my thoughts surrounding it. I understand the reasoning behind the month but I  think it is a bit outdated and perhaps irrelevant. I thought about this after a conversation with my dad. He was reading the newspaper and saw that a prominent Jamaican Canadian had died. He asked me if I had ever heard of him and I said no. What a shame that many people will not remember him or recognize the work he had done for the city, said my father.
His statement made me think about black history month; about how the focus is on history, and mainly American history at that. I think that it is extremely important to remember the past and those who sacrificed and fought for the lives we have now. Understanding the past helps us live in the present and plan for the future. But I also think that people seem to over look the present, not to mention the local. Not enough emphasis is being placed on people who are currently making a difference: the current black community. Those are the people who will serve as role models in the future, but are not getting the recognition they deserve now.
As a child, I always wondered why there was a black history month and not a Chinese, Filipino, Chilean or Irish one.  I never understood, but I think I do now. I think it was created out of need for recognition of the black community’s place in modern society, especially after the events of the civil rights movements and such. There must have been great force behind it. But that place has been established.  If the history is so important that it warrants a whole month, maybe this is an indication that it should be placed somewhere more permanent. In a curriculum perhaps, which talks about civil rights movements, on both sides of the border. A curriculum that not only includes the black community, but one that is more inclusive of other nations.
Canada has a strong European past, mainly French and English, and the history we learn is centered around that. Although in my opinion, there is not enough emphasis on other cultures, considering how multicultural and diverse we claim to be. Not only that, but it would also be nice to learn a bit about the history of the city you live in, how it came to be, the different groups that shaped it into what it is today. I know some cultures played a greater role than others, but that doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.
What I am trying to say is that black history month is not needed, but should rather be turned into an opportunity to learn about past contributions of various communities, as well as those who are still trying to improve the world today. All of  this is unlikely to happen, because there is only so much you can teach and people are stubborn, but one can only dream.
♥ Turtles
P.S. Here’s a little life lesson for ya: “If a man is coming at you with a sword, run. Kung Fu doesn’t always work.”  – Bruce Lee

Kina Grannis in Concert (+ zombie ninjas)

Stairwells 2011

Last night, the awesome singer-songwriter Kina Grannis came to Toronto. I went with a my friend Amanda for her birthday – Happy Birthday!!! (It’s today). Anyway, Kina was FANTASTIC!! Honestly, she is soooo good live. For those who don’t know, Kina started singing covers and putting original material on YouTube in 2007, (although she has been singing for longer), and has been growing ever since. She is a brilliant singer with such an honest voice. She recently released her newest album, a remastered version of her 2010 album “Stairwells”. We bought the deluxe edition which has covers and extra material as well as music videos.

Imaginary Friend (sorry for bad pic quality)

The show started about 40 mins late, probably because people took so long to get in. It was sold out and held at the Great Hall, in Toronto, the third stop on her tour. The late start was really only frustrating because Amanda and I were terribly hungry due to the fact that we didn’t have the sense to eat before we left. Her opening act, Imaginary Friend, was great. Just a man with a guitar and a soothing voice. You can see him on facebook, myspace or Twitter, with the name “imaginarytweets” (hehehe).

Then Kina came on, to a much adoring crowd. We Torontonians love her 🙂 She opened with “The World in Front of Me”, the name of her tour. Her set consisted of new songs, like “In Your Arms“, old favourites, such as “Valentine” and “Message From Your Heart” and some requests shouted out by the crowd. She was very laid back and fun and awesome to see live. You can actually listen to the regular version of the CD on AOL New Releases. Amanda had only heard Valentine before going to the concert and she loved it 🙂

*unrelated stuff ahead*

Amanda and I didn’t stay for the meet and greet with Kina because we were just so hungry and she had class all day the next day. So we headed back to my place but decided to stop for pizza up the street. We went to Pizza Pizza, and got a large pepperoni because there was a deal. It was almost midnight, there was a music video about zombie ninjas playing, so naturally our conversation shifted to a lovely discussion on whether or not ninjas could be zombies and zombies ninjas. While we were waiting for our gooey deliciousness to arrive, some guy, named Adam apparently, comes in and asks to sit down at our table. The restaurant was empty with lots of free space, but we said yes (cuz we’re polite). Then he joined out conversation, explaining the origins of ninjas and samurais. He continued to talk about random stuff, got our pizza for us and talked while we ate and listened. He told some unrelated story about an 18 year old in a bar (19’s the drinking age in Ontario) and was like 18!! Ohh those high schoolers. Then he asks us, so you’re in university right? We answer yes (it’s true) so he continues to talk for a bit. When he gets up to get us napkins, he asks, you guys are 21 right? Nope. 19 (one more month still for me). He says ohh, sort of finishes what he was talking about, gets his jacket and leaves, like he’s about to be caught doing something wrong. Really? Honestly? I’ve had plenty of conversations with random strangers (of all ages – old people especially). I mean, he seemed like a perfectly normal guy who just liked talking to people at midnight on a Wednesday, but that 19 thing just threw us off. Did he expect something to happen? If he tried anything, we would have gone all zombie ninja on his ass.

Thoughts on Zombie Ninjas or got some Kina Love? Leave in the comments 🙂

♥ Turtles
p.s. Two music videos:
My fave Kina song that she did not sing unfortunately.
I found the Zombie Ninja music video

A Minor Political Rant

Mr. Stephen Harper

I don’t know how many of you know, but in just over a month’s time, Canada is having a federal election. AGAIN. This is the 4th one in 7 years. Ridiculous, I know. But what gets me is that I am relatively sure the whole country knows who is going to win. Just like in the last election. It will be Stephen Harper, our current prime minister. He and his Conservative party (like a more liberal version (a lot more) of the American’s republicans and a bit more to the right than Obama’s democrats), have been ruling this country with a minority government since 2006. And after the election on May 2nd, it will be the same. Some seats might have shifted here and there and it might be a larger minority, but still not a majority.

Why, you may ask, are we having another election? Because recently, a House of Commons committee has found the Harper Government (he actually changed the name on official documents from “Government of Canada” to “Harper Government”) in contempt of parliament, because they had withheld documents on various subjects such budget spending and taxes.  This is the first time that any one in the British Commonwealth (which we are apart of) has been found guilty of such a thing. And that triggered an election.

Liberal Leader Iggy

My frustration stems from the fact that I feel like we just went through the same old stuff. The Conservatives has been airing attack ads on television for months, before there was even any official talk of an election. Their target has been the Liberal party (see below) leader, Michael Ignatieff. Their amo? He spent the last 10 or so years in the States, being an academic and teaching at Harvard, apparently only coming back to be prime minister. It actually makes for execellent ads, with the tagline, “He didn’t come back for you!” While Iggy was popular upon his return to Canada, he soon fell out of favour. Which really leaves Harper as the only one to run the country because he’s done it before and he’s the only one we can picture on a world scale.

This election is going to be the last for many. Iggy will probably get replaced, and Harper might not run next time. The leader of the NDP (more info below), is really sick and the Quebec leader has been head of his party since 1997 and will probably stay there for awhile. So while this election may bring issues such as healthcare and education to much needed debate and attention, we all know what the outcome will be because there really aren’t that many options. Hopefully next time there will be some fresh new faces and ideas that will really get the country excited. 

I know some of you may not be well versed in Canadian politics, so here’s just a bit of basic info:

Ridings in Greater Toronto Area, for example
  • We are a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen (the British one), being our head of state.
  • The Prime Minister is our head of government and the Governor General is the Queen’s representative
  • We are divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories 
  • Our electoral system is nothing like in the States (I still don’t understand it and I’ve read both constitutions). The country is divided into ridings, like little sectors, and within each riding there are parties with candidates running for office. The ridings are the same both provincially and federally.
  • The size of the riding is based upon population
  • The party with most seats is the “ruling” party, if you will, and their leader becomes the Prime Minister. The party with the second highest number becomes the opposition. A majority means they have the majority of seats. A minority means they have more seats than the other parties, but the combined seats of the opposition and other parties is greater than the ruling party.
On the federal level, we have five major parties (in order of current popularity nationally): 
The Conservative Party, 
 The Liberal Party (like the Democrats, but more liberal),
 The Bloc Quebecois (a Quebec nationalist/separatist party), 
 The New  Democratic Party ( far left), 
 The Green Party (environmental party).

Now I know Canadian politics may not be your thing, but I hope you learned a little something something about it 🙂

♥ Turtles

P.S. Rick Mercer = the best political ranter in Canada. check it out! (his skits and show are awesome as well)

A longing to create

I wrote this poem as part of my poem challenge. That challenge, which was to write a poem every day for as long as I can, has ended. About 3 days ago. I admit, I had missed a few days, but that was mostly because a poem was unfinished and I was thinking it over. This poem is called “A longing to create”. I really like to sew, cut and paste, make crafty things, and just generally create new stuff. But I’ve been kind of uninspired lately so that is where the inspiration came from. In my head, it is more like spoken word, so imagine someone reading it like that…

A longing to create
There is a longing to create
flowing through my veins 
from my heart to my brain
just giving me pain
and it’s a strain
to contain
wills and desires
a glittery lust
settling dust
of ashes burnt
from a muse’s flame
who inspires 
who retains
thoughts and ideas
and imagination
in a world littered
with diamonds and pearls
lost pieces of hope
sailing the river of soul
from my brain to my heart
flowing veins of art
suppressed in part
by time and chance
forever obstructing
the natural flow
eternally fueling
my longing to create.

Written March 21st 2011

♥ Turtles

A February Night

As I sit on a park bench, I can feel the subway rumbling underneath my feet. My fingers are slightly numb, because I forgot, or rather, decided not to, bring my mittens, nor my hat, with me today. It has been unreasonably warm (6 degrees) and I am no longer in a winter mood, though I seem to have neglected the fact that as the sun goes down, the world becomes colder. But my feet feel no change. For I am wearing my signature dull, black rainboots, which protect me from the slush that covers the park grounds.

The park itself is just one round circle, in the middle of downtown. It is surrounded by university campus buildings and a few museums. Traffic is routed in all directions, so the circle serves its purpose as a giant roundabout. It shares its name, Queen’s Park, with that of the provincial legislature building, which is found nestled between various buildings of higher learning. 

It is on a long, green, wooden bench, the first of three, that I sit; the Queen’s people passing me as multiple paths converge and then disperse again. I am joined only by a lone man on horseback, whose sole purpose is to guard those he sees, and remind us of an era that has long passed.

I feel the subway once more, reminding me that my time of accompanied solitude must soon come to an end. My brother might be wondering where I am, seeing as it is about 40 minutes after the time I normally arrive home. I know I must go, move from my solid position of legs crossed, head down, pen in hand. I must rejoin those who pass, those with a destination. A destination is what I seek, and although  this park in the heart of the city is where I find comfort, it is not where I need to be. So I untangle my feet, raise my head, and commence my journey home. 

♥ Turtles
Written February 17th, 2011

Canadians are awesome

Last night were the Junos, a Canadian music award show, kind of like the Grammy’s. I never intended to watch it, but since both The Celebrity Apprentice and The Amazing Race were not showing, I ended up watching it. And it was actually pretty good. One of our more popular exports, Drake, hosted it and he was fantastic! Probably the best host I’ve ever seen and I generally don’t like them. But he was extremely funny and messed up only once. His Old Money sketch is hilarious.

Anyway, while Shania Twain was accepting her life time achievement award, I got to thinking about how awesome Canadians are, and being a Canadian is. Honestly! It’s one of the best countries on the planet, in my humble opinion. We’re peaceful, pretty well off, compared to a lot of countries, our health care and education is excellent and we’re generally nice people. Stereotypes about hockey, the weather, and our beloved Tim Hortons, are generally based in truth, but if that’s what people think of us, that’s great.

The Junos honour Canadian musicians and throughout the program, I heard names of people I’ve never heard of before. But it just made me proud that there are so many great musicians out there representing Canada making all types of music. I guess I’m just in a proud mood 🙂

Here’s some awesome Canadian music for you guys. 

Oh Canada – Classified, a good old Maritime Rapper. Very good song.

The Anthem – Kardinal Offishall, a Toronto rapper
Loving You Is Easy – Sarah Mclachlan ( the one that brought you in the arrrmmss of an anggelll…)
Here are some other songs you might like:
Hope you enjoy them ♥ Turtles 

p.s. What stereotypes do people have about Canada and Canadians? I’m curious to know what people outside of Canada actually think of us. Leave a comment 🙂

50 Book Challenge (#2)

Read/Listened to:
Born Red by Gao Yuan (*****)
Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (audio book) (****)
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (****)
Rosaura a las diez by Marco Denevi (in my Spanish Lit class – very good book) (****)
Paper Towns by John Green (actually went out and bought it after I read it) (**** 1/2)
The Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert L. Short (***1/2)
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (ebook) (***)
Looking For Alaska by John Green (****)
The Associate by John Grisham (***)
Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy by Ira Sukrungruang (***)
Reading/Listening to:
The Bible: A Bibliography (a Books that Shook the World book) by Karen Armstrong
Theories for Everything by John Langone, Bruce Stutz, Andrea Gianopoulos (a Nat Geo book)
Through the Eyes of the Condor by Robert B. Haas ( a Nat Geo book)
To Read (in no particular order):
Next by Michael Crichton
Balance of Power by Tom Clancy
Avant de te dire adieu by Mary Higgins Clark (a French translation)
The Great Gatsby  by Francis Scott Fitzgerald (ebook)
Twilights of the Superheroes by Deborah  Eisenberg
Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell
North of Beautiful By Justina Chen Headley
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
Freakin’ Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally be better than everyone else by Clinton Kelly (really excited for this one :P)
As of March 25th 2011
This is my last week of school, with two exams this week and another two at random dates in April, so hopefully I’ll get lots of reading done after that! Any suggestions or questions on ones I’ve read? Leave in the comments 🙂
♥ Turtles

I Won?

Remember that Spanish poem I entered into my school’s Spanish writing contest? (Here if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Well I won first place in the poetry category. Yeah. I’m kinda shocked and thoroughly excited. It’s the first thing I’ve ever really won. They had a ceremony on Monday night but I didn’t go, for various lame reasons (now that I think about it). The only two participants who didn’t attend were myself and a guy in my Spanish class who wrote a short story. My Spanish teacher was disappointed 😦 I wish I had gone but alas, too late now.

I found out I had won something from a girl in my french class yesterday, who herself had won in the speech writing category. Today I went to the Department of Hispanic Studies to collect my prize: a pen, a mug and $40 to the university bookstore. Yea!! Now I can by some mints and sweater.

♥ Turtles

Public Expressions

About a month ago, my friend introduced me to the website StumbleUpon, and since then, I have been “stumbling” onto various websites, images and videos that are interesting, informative and imaginative. One of these is the website of Candy Chang. She is a “a public installation artist, designer, and urban planner” in New Orleans who creates many really awesome things. She seems to concentrate on things that improve neighbourhood communication and address social problems. Her work is very cool, visual, and thought provoking at the same time.

The first project I saw is called “Before I Die…“, where she sprayed painted a giant stencil onto the side of an abandoned house. There is a blank space and some chalk, so that the people of the community can express themselves and share their values.

I think one reason I felt like posting this is because I love public art and art installations. There is something about art in a public place, where everyone can enjoy it, interact with it and hold their own views and opinions that I love. It always makes a place feel more connected somehow. I admire artists and designers who do things like that.

Candy Chang’s website is here, linked to her projects page. I hope you check it out 🙂

♥ Turtles