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After the Storms: Hoping for Something Greater

I think it would be appropriate to say that September, 2017 was hell. The repeated threats of tropical storms, hurricanes and super-storms made us uneasy. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria disrupted our peace and pleasures. The new school year was postponed, businesses were locked and residents barred their buildings and stored food for what was to come. Time and time again the power was removed and there was complete darkness. Our world stood still. We silently screamed “WHAT NEXT?” in unison as we sat in wait for the next possible tragedy. When the light returned, we faced the damage.

Our sister island of Barbuda felt a wicked blow from Hurricane Irma – a super-storm. Many houses and possessions were lost but worst of all, a life was taken. We silently cried “ARE WE NEXT?” in unison as we sat in wait for the next possible tragedy. The barbarous storms passed from island to island. Increased crimes, deaths, homelessness, hunger and the fear of the unknown become a daily norm to the people whose islands were devastated. Regionally, we were also awakened to the heartlessness of many men who live in bigger territories. Instead of being sympathetic, they made vile and misinformed remarks regarding our way of life and our building codes (which in fact were created to withstand the strengths of hurricane force winds).

Through it all, we stood together and screamed aloud and in unison, “WE WILL HELP!” We gathered tools, supplies, clothing, man-power, money and made plans for a better future. Although each island in the Caribbean Sea boasts of their individual heritage in their native tongue, we speak one language in the face of turmoil.

I think it would be appropriate to say September, 2017 prompted change towards a more desirable way of life. Even an ounce of hope can be garnered from the most periling situations.

I love our little islands in the sea. May we drink to the songs of prosperity.
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The Underrated Good of Social Media

Social media has a way of conveniently spreading doubt, fear, and other forms of negativity with ease. Although I believe that their various appraisal methods are addictive and has disrupted our ability to interact (face-to-face) with normality, I do believe that it plays a great role in providing ease of mind, educating the masses and improving a trader's skill. I shied away from Instagram and Facebook for many years due to a self-conscious mindset but as time went on, I saw the benefits that they bestowed upon me since I decided to "post a little more".

Lately, every aspect of my life has been in utter shambles. It feels like I'm acting out a never-ending saga of unfortunate events from the time I wake to the time I rest. The story does not feel like it will have a Twilight type of happy ending and the start and middle are not entertaining at all...just depressing. It is hard to be optimistic and honestly, I cannot recall the last time that I have had a laugh so good that it left me gasping for air. I cannot recall the last time that I genuinely kept my hopes up without any regret.

However, the dim mood has been my biggest push to improve in the areas that I value the most. Nowadays, my greatest pleasures come from spending time in my own space after working hours and on the weekends. I take photographs upon photographs and practice using photo editing software. I'm able to construct ideas with my personal ideals without seeking acceptance from a lover or permission from a supervisor. There's so much freedom. Then, I eagerly decorate an online page with these works. I have no knowledge of how onlookers may perceive them or if they would care to take a second look but I love knowing that no one company or person will fall apart if they decide to drop a like or keep scrolling. The entire process is the most perfect distraction from the revolving chaos.

What has been my latest motivator towards perfecting my craft? The answer is nothing more than a thumbs up or emoji, a basic passerby comment, an informative critique and a casual follow. You see, social media websites are man-made tools that can be used to reap many benefits depending on how the user decides to manipulate them.

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Cause Ah Beach Me Lib

The wide brim hat that has gotten me through the hottest beach days blocked my peripheral vision and lowered my sense of awareness yesterday as I trailed the path leading to and from the Pillars of Hercules. As a result, I hit my head on some rocks and branches and lived to feel the stinging pains. Of course, I had to remove my mobile shade before I knocked myself unconscious then rolled into the mouth of a giant whale. But, God knows I live for those adventurous days.

It’s summer in the year 2017, I’m broke as hell, my main sources of transportation are on the fritz and…well…nothing is going as I expected but, my closest friends have returned from their studies and I no longer feel like I need to be a millionaire to enjoy myself. We have spent quality, personal time away from major crowds and our budget so far has been $30.00 E.C. yet, I am fond of the memories I have made and captured in the last few weeks.

I know, I sound pretty old but I believe that there is a time for fast paced new aged living and a time when stepping back into black and white is the only way to avoid going crazy because forcing yourself to fit into the current fancies of life isn’t a task that lacks consequences.

follow me on instagram @hi_jho 

Boss the wondering beach dog
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What Should you do when they Laugh at your Goals?

It's a shame. Growing up, we have been taught to be established slaves with corporate identities - dependent on another man's profits to buy our daily bread.

"Get good grades so that a major company will hire you dear."
"I will mother dearest."

20 years later, you're binge watching some show you found on Netflix at 2:00 p.m. because you have a Masters Degree and refuse to move until you get a "real" job that suits your educational achievements. Unfortunately for you, the banks and hospitals are overstaffed. The unemployed await the day that the government falls into money and create employment opportunities. Meanwhile, the government pushes its people to be more proactive while they boast about their plans to create seasonal jobs that require their workers to bend over backwards for a tip.

It may have occurred when I acquired my first job or perhaps it happened before, when I was a student intern. But, ever since then, I have been obsessed with the thought of owning my own business. For years, I've gone to sleep fueled with the hopes that one day I would be able to express myself through a service that will benefit others and the nation that I call my home. One day, I changed my Whatsapp status to "Busy building an empire." Later, I received a message from one of my contacts. It read, "What empire?" followed by the laughing emoji.

That incident was as disheartening as the day that I was laughed at (by someone who I considered to be a friend) because I said that I wanted to purchase a used Toyota RAV 4. According to them, the idea was laughable because it was impossible for me to afford one with my current salary.

If you had ever been in such a situation, you would understand just how much words can damage someone's outlook on life. For a moment, it was as if my goals were a child's foolish fantasy.

I've written a lot above and thought that by now, I would have figured out what I should do when others laugh at my plans but I am playing with my pen while I gaze at a half empty bowl of food. Wait...why did I think the bowl was half empty instead of half full? That is the problem and the answer. When they laugh, I can do nothing more than continue my efforts towards accomplishing my goals.

Do not work to prove them wrong. Be positive and work to prove yourself right for having a dream in the first place. 
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Speak your Mind and Paint your Soul: Let's Paint Antigua


Speak up. They may hate your boldness but you’ll hate yourself if you stay quiet. 

Due to shyness, I’ve intentionally been a mute for most of my life. I’d be the one with the answers in class but I’d also be the one who never had a word to say. After years of traditional schooling with hardcore principals, wannabe authoritative teachers and loyal cliques, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my own space. The time alone has taught me many things about myself and I’ve developed a voice. There’s the voice that I share online which encapsulates my thoughts in words and imagery and I have found confidence vocally offline. “Jho Jho not mute anymore.”

What have I learned?

1. Some people live to contradict you. They will never be on the same page as you and you will probably become frustrated. However, you must learn to agree to disagree. Hold your ground until you have a valid reason to change your stance and learn to accept that we all interpret things differently. Five people can witness the same incident at the same time but they will have different tales to tell.

2. Your opinion may offend even if you did not intend to do so. 

3. Someone is applauding you for saying the things that they wish they had the courage to say but they may never verbally thank you. Remember, although there are people who do not see things your way, there will be others who share your thoughts. 

4. You may not always get the response that you expected or desired. Do not let this deter you from speaking freely in the future. Your opinions will always matter. 

5. Unspoken words are loads that your body cannot bear. No matter how hard you try, your thoughts will find a way to let themselves out. Do yourself a favour and say what you need to say before you reach a boiling point. Your entire body will appreciate it. 

Our instructor's painting

Speaking of expressing yourself…I had the delight of sipping a glass of beverage and munching on a helping of finger food while painting on a canvas. The air was cool, love music was playing in the background from a wedding party that was taking place nearby and the people who sat beside me 'min jus lub nonsense.' Who would have thought that stroking a brush back and forth, according to the guidelines of an instructor, would be so relaxing. If I was told to paint my soul, I would probably paint a pineapple or a chicken wing…definitely not a lighthouse.

As a group, we arranged a fun day with the painting instructors from Let’s Paint Antigua. We chose a theme, a meeting spot and confirmed a day and a time. Not one of us knew a thing about painting techniques but at the end of it all, we all posed for a picture with our works of art even though we felt they looked far from the original example. 
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Striving for Mediocrity

Some years ago, a major change in the educational system erupted after an assessment of the island’s secondary school placement test was conducted. Before the change was implemented, Primary school students were required to take a placement test, after seven years, to determine whether they are capable of continuing onto higher education. The students who obtained the highest scores were placed in the top high schools on the island, the students who fell below that bracket were asked to attend schools within their district while the ones who scored below average either repeated grade six or attended a school which did not accept students based solely on the scores of the island’s inter-school exam. The overseers of the educational sector noticed a drop in the scores for vital subjects such as Math and English and decided the reduce the pass park so that less students would fail. Instead to seeking to find and correct the fundamental issues which caused the drop in passes, we were expected to accept mediocrity and hope that they will improve later in life. At such a young age, students were no longer pushed to strive to reach and go above the pass mark.

Globally, manufacturers of commercial products strive to supply the growing masses and make a profit from items that once upon a time served its purpose for what felt like a lifetime. Now, we aren’t surprised if a pricey refrigerator begins to moan like a truck after two years of use. Our phones are sleeker, incredibly advanced and triple the price of a phone from 5 years ago. However, we must guard them with our lives or a finger nail scratch to a new touch screen may cause it to blank out. If that happens, we’d better find another $1200.00 for a replacement.

It's mango season

In popular culture, the latest trend is to refuse to enunciate and disregard the rules of language. I am not praising “Grammar Nazi’s” and I am definitely not going to “throw shade” at instant messaging or short hand writing. Heck, who has time to edit their Whatsapp messages in the same likeness that an editor proofreads a novel? However, the instant in instant messaging has become so stretched that you can form complete sentences with acronyms. Sometimes, it is difficult to get the true meaning of social media statuses, memes and quotes because it is evident that the author “writes the same way that they speak”. They include slang and unnecessary filler words that they use in casual oral conversations in their written pieces. If you are not familiar with their particular connotations, you’ll probably lose the essence of what they were trying to project. In music, things like “Mumble Rap” has become a “thing”. Music artists are encouraged to slur their words to a point where their lyrics sound like mumbling gibberish.

On a whole, we are expected to accept the downgraded goods that we receive. In fact, objections to these norms are likely faced with ridicule. We are told to stop focusing on what was and embrace what is. It is true that we cannot go back in the past but do we really have to settle for the basic that is in the now? Does replacing a system that wasn’t broken mean we are advancing?

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We all have to encounter many obstacles throughout our lifetimes, especially women. As women, we are constantly in search of the perfect balance for every area of life. Woman must study diligently but find time to socialize, find love before it’s too late but show restraint or be called a slut. She must work fervently to gain respect but she ought not be too intimidating or she will be seen as a bitch. Woman must be confident and independent but not too independent or she will bruise someone’s ego. Most importantly, Woman must take care of her household. In the background, she is left to endure criticism based on her religion and ethnicity most of which are heavily critiqued by those who should be apart of her group. All of this negativity is enough to convince someone to give up the ghost. Then I ask myself  "How is it that there are so many sane people on earth?"

A while ago, a billboard caught my attention during a day time drive with a friend. It featured a beauty advertisement which displayed beautiful black women. I enthusiastically blurted out my delight in what I had seen. Finally, people of colour were being displayed in advertisements used to target members of our society. It may seem like a silly thing to get worked up over but growing up in a predominantly black society, I can’t remember seeing such as a youth. Everything from beauty to diaper ads featured persons of another ethnicity and every little girl (including me) wanted a white Barbie doll. But now, things have changed and I was grateful. However, my excitement took a backseat after I was asked to pay attention to the kind of black women who were in the forefront. They were all fair in completion and had long curly hair. I hadn’t paid any mind to it before…I didn’t think there was a need to. Suddenly I felt as though it was my duty as a black woman to stop being joyful and be mad. The pressure I had felt was ridiculous.

Recently, I encountered a rant while I was pacing through my Facebook news feed. A black woman was furious that light skinned black women with long curly hair were at the forefront of the natural hair movement. According to her, only “true” black women with kinky hair should be featured because they encountered more hardship growing up. I immediately thought back to the time that I had seen that beauty ad on a billboard. However, although my friend was expressing his displeasure with the media, this lady was expressing more anger towards the models themselves. Their parents were most likely from different races so they needed to be placed in a category of their own. At least, that was the impression I had gotten after reading her rant in its entirety.

The “light skinned” vs “dark skinned” battle rages along with the “nice hair” vs “bad hair” battle. On one instance, you are teased for being too black but in another, you can’t sit with us because you’re not dark enough. It is all rubbish to me.

In a world where we see so much damage caused by greed and hate, we still find time to create racial subgroups because of genetics. When will we learn and accept that we cannot control our genes or that of another?

Be mad at the media for trying to tell us what’s beautiful and what’s not but I pray that we do not misplace our rage on someone’s innocent child.

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I thought I was doing myself an injustice by being angry and alloying my disappointment to hinder me from making further contact with the ones who caused my pain. The ones who hurt me the worst were the ones who appeared to care the most. That contradiction was just that, a massive contradiction. My longing for companionship did nothing but cloud my judgement. Because of this desire, I tried to ignore all the wrong, that I encountered for my sake, and focused on the pleasantries. The good times we shared were utter bliss but for every joyous experience was a plaque of unread messages, missed calls, broken promises and insincere apologies.  On the bright side, I was getting better at vocally and verbally expressing my disapproval of their actions and I spent less time dwelling in that negative mood. It was becoming the norm. What I failed to realize then was, if the fear of getting hurt is so strong that you have to rehearse your proposal then, you are sending your invitation to someone who is unworthy of your company.

Lust always seemed to be their primary motivator. Not once did it seem as if friendship and love was ever a predominant factor in our budding relationship for I was the persistent one - the one who was always willing to dedicate time, money, affection and attention in the pursuit of maintaining a bond. My reward was a feeling of irrelevance.  It was clear that I was the one who was never “too busy”, “too tired”, or “too uninterested” to talk, watch a movie, go to the beach or remember previous plans.
I was certain that I was as pleasant as possible whenever I was in their presence so why did they display such a low level of admiration towards me? I thought that something must have been wrong with me.

For years, I encouraged a toxic psychological lifestyle because I was tired of being alone. I tortured myself in the company of those who pretended to have my best interests at heart.

No one person should allow another to continuously break their spirit and confidence. The greatest let-down came from someone who I didn’t think, could, would or was able to leave me broken. At that point, I decided to put an end to this unhealthy cycle. That was when I found true love. This was the type of love that I needed - the love of self. I wasn’t able to find it before because I was hell-bent on getting it from someone else.