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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.

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Stop Trying to be a Blogger

Though I haven’t had this blog “The Girl on the Tamarind Hill” for much time, I have been blogging for some years now. What I’ve learnt throughout the process is that self-expression through writing, fashion and photography is important to me. Blogging eases my mood and I am incredibly satisfied after I upload a new post. 

If you are new to the blogosphere, follow these tips if you want to become a true Blogger:

1. Compare yourself and your blog to other blogs and bloggers (especially the blogs which have loads  of followers and comments).
2. Spend oodles of money (kill your savings account) on products and clothing that you can review. This way, you will feel like you are fitting in with the other beauty and fashion bloggers although they don’t buy all of the products that they review.
3. Ask yourself these questions before you write or upload a post. “Will anyone read my post?” “Will this post make me famous?” “Would Blogger X, Y and Z write something like this?” 
4. Feature every brand that sends you a request via email. Don’t worry if their email was static, if they didn’t try so spell your blog’s name correctly or if their products have nothing to do with your blog. 
5. Stamp loads of ads on your blog and place countless referral links in your blog posts.
6. Try to be everyone but yourself. 

This of course, is satire.

These tips are actually the best way for someone to lose interest in their blog and quit completely. Trust me. 

Honestly, I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop for what feels like an eternity. My goal? To write a blog post that will capture readers and have them coming back for more. I found myself reflecting on all the thought provoking posts that I read over the past week. I remembered the amazing high quality images of reviews, blogger journeys and personal style posts. I wanted to upload something just as marvellous. Naturally, I couldn’t think of a damn thing. I convinced myself that I was not capable of writing something as amazing as what those other bloggers wrote. In an attempt to fix my mood, I had to give myself a hard mental slap then repeated the following “Blog and stop trying to be a Blogger!” 

Though I may not know the full details of their stories, I am aware that some bloggers blog as a profession while others are hobbyists who were lucky enough to build a large readership and successful band through their unique voice. I use the word unique because we are all different in our own way and that should inevitably reflect on our blogs. This was all made clear to me just last year. It was then that I realized that my approach to blogging was based on what I had seen on the surface. I was trying to be a Blogger as oppose to just blogging for my enjoyment. This was the main reason why I had lost interest in my previous blog and blogging in general. 

Unfortunately, at this very moment, my pay cheque doesn’t allow me to set a large budget for blogging so instead of putting my hat where my hand can’t reach, I’ll write reviews and personal style posts when I am able to. Instead of forcing myself to upload whatever comes to mind daily, join Pinterest and drop my posts on Stumbleupon, as suggested by those “How to Blog” online articles, I’ll take my time and use methods that are convenient for me because no two horse run the same. This is my space and of course I’m not writing for an empty stage but I’d rather acquire readers who visit this blog because they have an interest in what I have to say not what someone else would have said on their blog.

A blog is more valuable when readers realize that the blogger knows that their voice is valuable. 
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The Anti-Social on Whit Weekend

This year, I spent Whit Weekend a little different than usual. I went to the beach (that’s nothing new) with a large social group (that was definitely new). It was a grand beach party on the day before an official holiday. The group was inclusive of my boyfriend’s friends and although I have been in their company a few times before, I was still quite the anti-social “gal”.

I cannot recall the number of times that I was asked “Are you Okay?” while I sat on my beach towel with my camera in hand. Personally, it was frustrating because I thought that I had grown out of that little problem of mine a long time ago and yet still, I couldn’t get myself to be more involved. There were a few times when I managed to get in the middle of one of the many small groups that formed throughout the day and I was grateful for those times mostly because I felt somewhat guilty for making my boyfriend worry. He was rather concerned about my quiet mood and I didn’t want to “let him down” or make him regret inviting me. Who wants to spend most of their time at a party worrying about their guest instead of having fun? The obvious answer is NO ONE!

Though it might have appeared as if I would rather be in bed, I actually enjoyed my time with this group of colourful people. Each person had a distinct personality and were not afraid to express it. I photographed as many of their jovial ways as I could until it was time to wrap things up.

At this point, I’m not sure if I will ever overcome my limited ability to actively be a part of an unfamiliar crowd but I won’t sit alone in a corner in fear.

How did you spend your weekend? Are you the life of the party or the anti-social friend?

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Memories from Halcyon Cove Hotel by Rex Resorts, Antigua

Passing showers of rain poured out heavily that morning and I was convinced that he believed that his birthday would be tragic as per usual. My hopes were high regardless of the current weather because we would be spending the day from 9am to 6pm at the Halcyon Cove Hotel.

The breakfast buffet was ready and waiting after we checked in. The dining room was cosy with an outdoors feeling because it was situated above ground level and there were no windows to obstruct the view of the nearby beach. For breakfast, I had omelettes, French toast, seared fish, pumpkin fritters. pumpkin bread, a Danish then washed it down with hot chocolate and orange juice. My boyfriend had an omelette, ham sausage, pancakes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin bread, muffin, a Danish, tea and orange juice. I loved that the omelettes were prepared right in front of us. The menu also included, sliced ham, cheese, a cereal station, a juice station, a bread station, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, and a variety of jams and jellies.

After we had our fill at breakfast, the rain clouds disappeared so we headed to the shore where we spent our day. Some hotel guests were doing their coordinated morning exercises in the pool, while others lay on beach chairs or swam. One thing led to another and we found ourselves playing a game with some of the other guests for a chance to win a bottle of wine or Champaign. We actually won a bottle.

The shoreline situated directly in front of the hotel was rather quiet and peaceful but when we decided to take a stroll further along the beach, we saw huts with hats, jewellery and trinkets and a number of individuals offering motorized and non-motorized water activities. There were also signs set up to advertise massages but I could not pinpoint the location of a masseuse. It wasn’t long before we signed up for jet-skiing. After a brief lesson on how to operate the vehicle, my boyfriend took control while I held on to him for dear life. The splashes of water coupled with the gusts of breeze which passed over our bodies as we zoomed back and forth across the water was exhilarating. We must have been doing that nonstop for 30 to 40 minutes while we talked and laughed out of bliss.
Lunch was served at the food station by the beach and drinks were available at the bar. Burgers, rice, hotdogs, salads and chicken were offered that day. We both had fries and hotdogs with our choice of drinks then rested on the shore once more.

It was time for a swim in the beach. While we were soaking in the cool water, a group of men made their way alongside us. Judging from their accents, we believed they may have been a Trinidadian cricket team because cricket matches were being held a few days prior. After they left the beach they did exercises in the pool. This further led us to believe that our assumption was true.
High tea was served at 4pm at a restaurant upon the sea. It had a long ramp which connected it to the beach. It was always a fascinating building to behold and I have always wished to eat there. The restaurant was lovely and the view was stunning. I could only imagine how astonishing the atmosphere might have been at sunset. Cookies, sandwiches and cups of tea were displayed for our delight.

He felt very welcomed during our time at the Halcyon Hotel. The staff and guests often wrapped us in conversations and encouraged us to join in the fun activities that were available. Most of all, my boyfriend was given many birthday greetings. I would have liked if there was a larger variety of food available that day but overall, we both enjoyed our visit to the Halcyon Hotel.  
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Target in Sight

sight-seeing at Shirley's Heights, Antigua

It has been a while since I’ve felt this positive about the future. Up until now, I’ve felt as hopeless as a man chasing the wind with a fisherman’s boat and net. I’m finally moving forward…in my own way…with a little creep here and a crawl there. I’ve been accepted to an institute within my district that will grant me a degree after what seems to be a lifetime. It wasn’t among my top 10 places to study after high-school in fact, none of my recent accomplishments were a part of my original plan but I’m grateful for them. I’m now aware that I won’t get where I want to be in haste. I won’t be able to take the narrow route to the end. Instead, I will have to go around a few houses and trees and make a few minor stops along the way. It’s okay because I’ll learn more, gather souvenirs and leave my mark as I move along.

How have you been lately?

 sight-seeing at Devils Bridge