Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Lizz Wright

I saw her perform live a few years ago at the Barbados Jazz Festival- an absolutely brilliant voice! Not to mention, she is quite pretty too :)

I can’t say I have a favourite Lizz Wright song because they are all so good but here are three live performances I came across on YouTube:

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Hablas español?

Immigration is a very sensitive issue in various parts of the world and often time it becomes a political tool at election time. In the US it has been a prominent item on the agenda of politicians, the media, non-governmental organisations and the general public for quite a while. Most of the immigrants into the US are from Latin America and Hispanics now make up a larger part of the population than African-Americans. The effect of this is that Spanish is now basically the second language of the US- much to the chagrin of those who see America as an Anglo/European country.

I came across this feature on the BBC where a team is going to go across the southern USA from San Augustin, Florida to Los Angeles, California with the sole aim of speaking only Spanish throughout the journey. The team will have a daily blog, photos of the trip on Flickr and a group on Facebook and I think it will be interesting to follow their experiences.

The topic of immigration is also very popular in Barbados with many Bajans uncomfortable with the influx of Guyanese. I stumbled upon this article in the Guyana Chronicle which makes some important points about the cyclical nature of the movement of people and the large numbers of Barbadians who previously moved to Guyana in search of jobs. The critical point the article fails to mention is related to size, capacity and sustainability. Barbados is a tiny, overpopulated island with scarce limited physical resources including most importantly water and land. Guyana on the other hand is a vast under populated country with immense physical resources and can fit little Barbados on one of its rivers furthermore its land mass.

The debate over immigration inevitably degenerates into emotional diatribe and fear mongering and race become a central part of the arguments. While this must be resisted, practical realities such as scarce resources and abrupt social and cultural changes must be acknowledged and addressed in a sensible manner. A failure to tackle these concerns of the native population can provide convenient fodder for racists and right wingers and can have serious consequences.

Friday, 27 July 2007

TGIF and Freecycling

My first week back at work and already I am happy to see the weekend! I’m back in the groove and don’t feel as if I was away. I am tired though and it is going to take my foot some time to get used to walking so much, climbing subway stairs, bearing all my weight etc.

I also had my first session of physical therapy for my knee this afternoon. It is a similar routine to when I started therapy for my foot- electrical stimulation, ice pack and ultrasound- except that I am doing exercises right from the beginning instead of after a few sessions. I also have to do the exercise twice a day at home as I had to do for my foot.

One of the links on my sidebar is to freecycle.org, an excellent site that allows people to give away items instead of throwing them into the garbage, thereby reducing waste and saving landfill space. I was able to get an ankle weight from someone who had used it as part of their rehabilitation from a knee injury and so as soon as the physical therapist introduces weights into my routine I will be able to do the same at home.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

70th Anniversary of the 1937 Barbados Riots- What Future for the Island?

July 26th, 1937- today is 70 years since the Barbados riots. Compared to rebellions, riots and revolutions that have played out in various parts of the world throughout history, these riots were negligible in terms of size and scale. They however had a considerable impact on the modern history of Barbados and helped to shape the island as we know it today.

Barbados in 1937 was a country sharply divided along the lines of race, with a small white elite holding economic and political power and a majority black population largely employed in the agricultural sector and suffering from poverty, lack of opportunity, unemployment, dismal labour conditions and general social and economic malaise. The racial structure that permeated the social, economic and political landscape rigidly reinforced these conditions. The economy was dominated by sugar and land ownership policies and patterns that promoted peasant agriculture and made it impossible to address poverty. The same open economy also made it difficult to redress poverty through wages and employment-related benefits. Barbados was a country still dominated by the plantation a hundred years after the abolition of slavery.

In any situation where people are oppressed, courageous men and women speak out and agitate for change and it was no different in Barbados. Men like Clennel Wickham and Charles Duncan O’neal were followed by a Trinidadian of Barbadian parentage, Clement Payne, who stood up for the working people of Barbados and advocated labour reform and the formation of trade unions.

Payne was able to inspire the common man and such was his influence that the Barbadian authorities deported him to Trinidad on July 26th, 1937. Crowds gathered at the news of his deportation and the anger and frustration that had built up erupted into riots that lasted for four days. The immediate result of the riots was 14 dead, 47 wounded, 500 arrests and millions of dollars worth of damage. The long-term consequences were far reaching.

The British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord Moyne was appointed in 1938 to investigate disturbances and unrest in the British West Indies and it recommended in its 1939 report that Britain invest in development and provision of social services.

The years following the riots would witness significant social and political reform in Barbados as black Barbadians emerged to rule a country where they were a majority. Payne, who died in 1941, did not live to see his dreams realised but his bravery in rebelling against the status quo was not in vain as generations of Bajans have benefited from his actions. Payne along with O’Neal are National Heroes of Barbados, an honour many also believe should be accorded to Clennel Wickham.

70 years to the day the riots began, Barbados is at a crossroads, with a widening gap between the rich and poor, extremely high cost of living, dissatisfaction among the population over widespread sale of land to foreigners and the inability of normal Barbadians to afford land and a lack of opportunity for the youth. I often wonder what Barbados will look like in 10-15 years time and I think I have a clear picture. It saddens me. I cannot imagine what it will look like in 70 years!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

This is New York: Wasted Time Reprieve

A man with a noticeable limp and a cane gets onto a train. Not a soul offers him a seat. He stands uncomfortably and holds onto a pole with other people as the train slowly moves off. He then shuffles to the middle of the car to grasp a longer pole which allows him to be a bit steadier. The train progresses slowly along the track and across the bridge into Manhattan; his left foot is getting tired from the weight on it because he is hesitant to put too much weight onto his injured right one. He has to wait until a number of stops later to grab a seat when someone gets up to exit the train. This is New York!

I guess if I want a seat I will have to leave home at 6:30 am! On the television programme House, House makes a comment once about what people allow him to get away with because he walks with a cane. Obviously this doesn’t pertain to New York!

I left work around 7:15 pm and luckily I got a seat on the way home.

A tough day made even worse when I saw her. The lessons one must take from the past two and a half years.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

First Day Back- Déjà Vu

I returned to work and went right into the midst of everything! Barbados is co-chairing some consultations and so there I was at 11 am on my first morning listening to people talk about human rights. Files piled up in my absence and there is so much to catch up on. Luckily I have been in this job just under seven years so I just need to rev the engine once or twice and I will be right on track.

I took a cab to and from work. I had planned to take the train but I managed to find myself running a bit off schedule in the morning and by the time I was ready to leave home, it was already 7:30- the trains would be packed. In the evening I didn’t feel like waiting till after 7 for the crowds to die down a bit so I hopped into a taxi. I obviously can’ be doing this all the time so I have to make sure I leave home at 7 am tomorrow morning.

July 22nd marked 20 years to the day that Naji Al-Ali, the Palestinian artist and creator of the iconic cartoon image Handhala, was shot in London. Ali spent five weeks in a coma before he died on August 30th, 1987. I had planned to write a post on Ali and Handhala but as I mentioned yesterday, I had many ideas but kept procrastinating when it came down to the actual writing and so I will just put my thoughts down sometime between now and August 30th for a post on the anniversary of his death.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Back to Work

I did not get around to writing anything this past week. I kept having ideas for posts but I also kept procrastinating when it came to writing. One of my posts was supposed to be about the WICB, the report of the Cricket Committee and WIPA and I still hope to do it.

I went to the podiatrist today and got the all clear so I go back to work tomorrow- exactly 6 months to the date I went on leave. Six months of inactivity and lack of sun also mean I am about 15-20 pounds heavier and rather pale! I have mixed feelings about going back to work. While I am glad to be able to leave my apartment like normal, I am not enthused about my job or the UN. The Foreign Service can be a demoralising place to work and while to outsiders overseas postings seem glamorous and exciting, the reality is totally opposite.

Monday, 16 July 2007


I had my post-surgical appointment with the orthopaedist today and everything is in order. He showed me the images from inside my knee of the problem and the repair job that was done. Basically the cartilage under the patella or kneecap was damaged- the image showed it looking as if it had been shredded! Chondromalacia is the term usually used to describe damage to the cartilage under the patella and it generally affects young people who engage in physical activity. I have to do physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks which should help me regain full mobility in my knee. At the moment it is quite tight and I cannot bend or stretch it out fully. I also have some pain that varies between mild discomfort and bad and which he said would take time to go away, with some days being bad and some being good! I have had a few rough nights already and I hope that is the worse it gets. He said I could go back to work next Monday, the same day I see the podiatrist and once he gives me the all clear, I will be back to work on July 23rd.

It has been six months now that I have been home! I honestly never thought I would have been away from work for so long when the MRI results in January showed a torn tendon in my foot! I am thankful to Allah that the problems with my foot and knee were diagnosed and that unlike millions of people around the globe, including right here in the richest country in the world, I have been able to receive treatment. The next step is to work on strengthening the different tendons and muscles in and around my foot and knee while avoiding over exertion. It will probably still be a while though before I can go back to the gym and resume my training programme.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Plight of the Environment

Some articles on man and his assault on nature:

Biofuels - 1 and 2.

The Everglades and Drought in Florida - 1.

Borneo, Palm Oil and the Penan People - 1 and 2.

Live Earth - 1.

Scepticism about Corporate America’s “Embrace” of Environmentalism - 1.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Barbados’ First World Champion Athlete

* Photo from IAAF website

Barbados is the island of cricket, producing more cricketing greats and test players than any other country based on its size. However, when it comes to atheletics, we have never produced a world champion; the closest we have come being James Wedderburn’s bronze in the 4 x 400 metres relay as part of the British West Indies team at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Obadele Thompson’s bronze in the 100 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Ryan Brathwaite’s silver medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the 2005 World Youth Championships in Marrakech.

Well all that changed yesterday when 17- year old Shane Brathwaite won the octathlon at the Fifth IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The St. James Secondary School student who comes from Spooner’s Hill, St. Michael registered a new personal best record along the way and made his country proud. Congratulations to the young man.

The Barbados Nation and the IAAF have articles on Brathwaite's triumph.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


The surgery went well yesterday morning. One minute I was on the operating table and the next I was in the recovery room! The lead up to the surgery was the nerve racking part. I got to the hospital around 6:15 am, checked in and waited to be summoned inside. There were quite a few people in the waiting room at that early hour, some scheduled for surgery and some accompanying them. After I was summoned to a little room, I was visited by a number of people: a physician’s attendant who asked me a number of questions about my medical history and lifestyle, a nurse who give me my hospital clothes and explained to me how I had to wear everything, another nurse who took my vitals and asked me questions about medical history, a nurses aide who shaved my knee, the orthopaedist who went over what was going to happen and what I should do after the surgery until I saw him on Monday, the anaesthesiologist who also asked me questions about my medical history and lifestyle and discussed the anaesthetic options and finally one of the nurses who was going to be in the operating room who asked me a few questions and signed some forms. Most of the others also had me sign various consent forms and in between I was asked to change into the hospital outfit. After that I was led to the operating room nearby where I climbed up onto the table, got the intravenous drip inserted and asked the anaesthesiologist how long it would take before I went to sleep; when I woke up I was in the recovery room with an oxygen mask on my face!

The anaesthetic options were either regional where I would be numb from the waist down or general where I would be asleep. While I contemplated the regional so I could view the procedure on the monitor, the anaesthesiologist said that there was only one monitor in the room I would be in and so I would not be able to see and that recovery from the spinal anaesthesia was longer than from general. We therefore decided on general.

I woke up with some pain in my knee and the nurse reluctantly gave me some morphine. I was groggy so I can’t recall if she give me more when I complained again about the pain but I do remember her saying that they didn’t want to give me too much morphine because it would make me sleepy and I was already woozy and they wanted me to be able to leave shortly! The orthopaedist came around to see me while I was still a bit dazed so I am not too clear about what he told me. Subject to correction he said something about shattered pieces of cartilage which he had to remove. When he passed back he said he would discuss it with me on Monday. Overall the service and care was excellent and very professional. After some crackers and juice and a trip to the bathroom- they have to make sure everything is functioning before release- I was able to leave with my friend who came up to meet me.

So that was my surgery. The orthopaedist prescribed some Percoset but warned me not to take any unless it was absolutely necessary since the drug is addictive and has narcotic properties. I was given me this contraption like a cooler which is filled with ice and water and via a hose circulates cold water through a cooling pad on my knee. It has to be worn for three hours, followed by a one hour rest and then worn again for three hours and so on. I have to remove the bandage on Saturday and take a shower.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Surgery Early in the Morning!

My knee arthroscopy is tomorrow. I have not really been thinking about it much and actually just wanted it to be over and done with as the pain in my knee has just been increasingly getting worse. However when the hospital called me around 5 pm today to give me the time of the surgery and the time I have to get there etc it hit me that I was going to be on an operating table in less than twenty-four hours! The procedure is scheduled at 8:30 am and I have to report to the hospital at 6:30. Thankfully the driver from work will take me. I should be ready to go home around 12:30/ 1 pm so a friend will come to the hospital around that time and will call the driver when I am released to take us back home. I have to stop thinking about it before I get too nervous! I am a bit of a loner and prefer my own company but it is at times like this that you miss your family!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Truth and Reconciliation, Sporting Victories and Cooking

I had a great weekend. As I am more mobile and can walk further distances now, I was able to go to Prospect Park to see a show on Friday night. It was a collaboration based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “REwind: A Cantata For Voice, Tape & Testimony”. The Celebrate Brooklyn website describes it perfectly:

“Cape Town composer Philip Miller's extraordinary international collaboration is based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings that led South Africa from apartheid to democracy. Opera superstar Sibongile Khumalo joins other South African soloists, a string octet, and a 100-voice chorus composed of Brooklyn's Total Praise Choir of Emanuel Baptist Church, the Williams College Choir, and a South African ex-patriot choir led by Lion King choirmaster Ron Kunene. The music blends seamlessly with samples of recorded TRC testimony and stunning projected images. "The Cantata brought together the cry of our country—our pain and fears, our hopes and especially our triumphs and joys in the way we as South Africans can best express these emotions—in music and song. It was a deeply moving, most powerful and uplifting experience." (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).”

The show was excellent and the company made it even better.

Saturday saw the West Indies beat England to win the one day series 2-1 and Venus Williams win Wimbledon. I didn’t get to watch the West Indian innings live but I saw England being bowled out and that was good enough. I watched highlights of West Indies batting later in the evening. While I prefer Serena of the two sisters, once one of them wins I am happy. When I read the nasty, negative comments (many bordering on racist and from envious people and those who can’t bear to see two black women dominating a traditionally white sport) that are made in public fora about the William’s sisters, it makes their victories even more satisfying!

Sunday I cooked dinner for some friends. The theme was Indian and the menu consisted of green pea fritters with tamarind and coriander/mint chutney as a starter and pumpkin curry, coconut chicken curry, sweet peppers stuffed with minced meat, basmati rice and raita (condiment made with cucumber, yoghurt and a few spices) for the main meal. Good food, good company, good conversation and an enjoyable evening!

Saturday, 7 July 2007

“Take a Rest”

*Photos from www.cricinfo.com

A calypso by the band Tradewinds telling the WICB to “Take a Rest” has made for popular listening in the past week around the region and after the West Indies win today to secure a 2-1 series victory in the one day internationals, it is even more apt for the Board to take the advice and leave our cricket be! Ken Gordon may be resigning but nothing will change when his replacement comes into the job. The old boys network will continue as normal and life will go on.

Blunder after blunder characterised the WICB’s approach to the tour of England and ironically one of them- the row between the parasites and Gayle- served to unify and motivate the team in the one days and helped salvage some West Indian pride. Obviously nothing can take away from the inspired performances of Chanderpaul who continued to bat on a separate level from everyone else, Edwards who bowled with pace and much better control in the past, Powell who again looked like the bowler we saw in the World Cup, Rampaul who bowled with heart and commitment and the cameos of Samuels, Bravo and Morton on different occasions. While I didn’t think that Gayle should have been awarded the captaincy based on his poor performances in recent times, I admit that he did a good job in leading the team and hopefully this bit of responsibility will also translate into his batting. Once again the attitude of the team was encouraging and it warmed my heart to see the enthusiastic fielding, chatter and celebrations when English wickets fell.

Tony Cozier wrote an article earlier this week about the drastic transformation of the team when it came to the shorter form of the game while Will Luke in a cricinfo.com article says that the West Indies deserve to celebrate.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Arthroscopy and Indigenous Sacrifices

I went to the orthopaedist on Tuesday. I saw a different one who came to the same conclusion as the first- the ongoing and worsening pain and the laxity in my knee was a cause for concern and an arthroscopy would shed some light about the cause and also allow for proper treatment. I am therefore scheduled to have the procedure done on July 11th. I am due to go back to work on the 9th but I also have to see the podiatrist the same day so he can give me the all clear. Obviously I will not be going back to work until later in July now that I am having surgery on my knee!

In February I had written a post about environmental dilemmas and I came across an article today that markedly highlights this predicament. The Madidi National Park in Bolivia is rich in biological diversity and indigenous culture. It is also rich in natural resources and is therefore being viewed as a source to drive economic development for the entire country. While the notion of the collective good and economic prosperity for all is lofty, the issue of irreversible damage to the environment and native culture is just as critical. For centuries, indigenous people have had to pay the price for the desire of other people to enrich themselves and the cycle shows no sign of stopping.

My Apartment Just Doesn’t Feel the Same

My sister and her family left early this morning at 6 am. My apartment is eerily quiet and doesn’t feel right after the past few days of activity. The two little ones are a handful but they brought lots of joy to my place for a few days and I am going to miss them.

They will now have to readjust back to life in Barbados after spending almost two years in a totally different environment in Athens, Ohio. My sister will go back to her old job teaching Sociology, my brother in law will have to look for a job and my nephew will have to go to school. He is going to have a shock because his idea of school is what his mother did in Athens! My niece is still too young to go to primary school so she may get to stay home another year if they decide not to send her to pre-school.