Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Minding my own Business?

. . . in one sense, I haven’t been doing enough of this. Actually, later this month I’ll be renewing my ID number with a great line of personal care products because I miss buying them at a heavily discounted price =D

But that’s a network marketing company, which makes it different from what I want to talk about here. I set (and blogged) myself a goal in January 2018 to spend more of my money with small-time, individual or family-owned businesses; black ones in particular. Since I did actually remember to keep notes on my first-time small-business purchases throughout the rest of 2018, I thought I’d give a quick report on that . . . and you may want to go back and peruse that post, because it’s one where I wasn’t quite satisfied with my “resolution” of the topic. I found it really interesting to read again 13 months later.

Anyway! Here are my first-time purchases from small business for the year 2018 (not counting random suppliers on sites like AliExpress).

1. Very soon after that blog I purchased a lovely black mermaid pin set from Oh Plesiosaur, and was extra happy to do so because of what that business and its owners represent (they’re definitely allies). They’ve changed their name to Shoal, but you’ll see the same great items if you want to check out their new site.

2. My dad’s birthday is early in the year, and I decided to incorporate some punny Dad jokes into his gift by carefully perusing the socks available at YoSox, then buying 4 pairs.

3. My boyfriend celebrated a milestone birthday, and I started buying his gifts early – beginning with this dope pin which any hip hop head would love (there are different ones for East Coast and West Coast albums, so everybody wins). I also scooped a birthday present for one of my best friends, and in both cases the giftees absolutely loved them. Good lookin out, Good Dope Supply Co!

4. While in Haïti, I visited the Ogier-Fombrun Museum, formerly a plantation. One of the things that struck me in their gift shop was a selection of locally handmade cards, with designs which were created from banana leaves . . . so naturally I bought a bunch (ha ha).

5. Remember that milestone birthday from #3? I decided we needed some big numeric helium balloons. I received great service from TO Balloons (and their location was perfect for me), so . . . check!

6. I’m pretty sure that non-franchised vintage or thrift stores count as “small businesses,” since they’re essentially ongoing garage sales. This year I discovered Public Butter and I’ll probably take a third trip over there pretty soon, as my first time there I was just a spectator and my second time I only bought a couple of bandannas.

7. Festivals like Afrofest are great places to shop small and local – this year I ended up seeing one of my high school friends and she was selling the most delicious-smelling body butter I have ever encountered, so of course I bought some from her Diva Creations booth. Give their Mango Burst Body Butter a try and see if I’m exaggerating!

8. Speaking of festivals (we’re almost done speaking about butter), my mom helped to organize a music festival in Windsor, so in July I spent some time there and was extremely disciplined, buying only one thing. It was this pretty reversible ring which I can’t describe very well except that due to a clever hinge construction, you can choose which of two stones to showcase each time you wear it. Here’s the thing though . . . I don’t remember their name. So I hope Google is somehow able to help you out if you want one of your own. Sorry!

9. Probably the first purchase on this list that I’ve already repurchased: Curl Quench Hair Butter from EarthTones Naturals. My girlfriend invited me to a demo at her home where Dr Susan Walker came and spoke with us about our hair textures and needs. I bought a tub of the Curl Quench that night and then ordered two big ones on Black Friday weekend. Absolutely love it – still!

10. My hair was a topic of concern for sure, because I noticed it thinning over the summer. Eden Kingdom Essential sells a few products to help with this, and I’ve definitely seen a positive change with consistent use of their Formula D hair regrowth serum and shampoo. (Good thing I typed this up today, because I’m reminded now that I need to re-up on both.)

11. One of my faves! For years now I’ve been wanting to support a particular acquaintance of mine who sells beautiful things – formerly it was clothing which I wasn’t able to justify because it was basically so gorgeous I didn’t have enough places to wear it, and now it’s jewellery with a message. So I prowled the Omi Woods website, saved up and bought myself the Queen of Sheba coin necklace in October, and every time I wear it feels like a special occasion.

12. The One of a Kind Show is another great chance to support local and/or small business owners, and back in 2017 I’d watched my friend buy a glass straw from Glass Sipper, then gone home and thought, Huh. I kinda wished I’d grabbed one for myself. So this year I did =) I admit I don’t use it super-often, but every little bit helps when you’re concerned about the environment.

13. Also at the OOAK Show, I met Lana of Lana Betty Geometric Contemporary Jewellery and she did a fantastic job making me a birthstone ring. I wanted to go back and visit her booth again before the show closed – maybe I’ll be able to reconnect with her at the spring 2019 edition =D

14. I attended the Black-Owned Holiday Market in December, and while my first purchase there doesn’t count (I bought a necklace from a vendor who is both black and Afrocentric, but it’s not my first time purchasing from her), this tignon I bought from My Tignon sure does! It was cool that they even sat me down and showed me a couple of different ways to wrap it.

Is there a Small Business Challenge that could be woven into this? Will I hit 20 in 2019, even with my caveat that they have to be people/business I haven’t purchased from before? Guess we’ll have to stay tuned to find out . . .

. . . but the answer is probably No, because we’re halfway through February and I haven’t been keeping track the way I did last year. Lol, sorry!

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Keep Ya Head Up

Possibly my favourite Tupac song, but more importantly, I’m sure someone out there needs encouragement today … and if I’m being honest, I’ve needed some over the last few days so it only makes sense to put some out into the world.

Nothing super-awful has happened to me; it’s just been a period of trying to do well in different areas of my life (even when they’re in direct competition with one another) and then feeling like a 360-degree-failure if the results are less than stellar (even though they’re in direct competition with one another). In any case, I figure it couldn’t hurt to share some of my strategies for dealing with a bad mood, bad day or bad week. And if you have any you’d like to share, please do! They’ll be gladly read and considered, and you might even help someone.

1. Take a bath or a shower . . . hot water can be so soothing that it’s usually worth the uncomfortable cold which those of us in a Canadian winter typically have to deal with immediately upon removing ourselves from the bath or shower. Plus steam is good for your skin, so this could help you look better than you feel ;-)

2. Take a nap . . . this helped me today. And definitely would have helped me on Friday. There are honestly very few times in my life that going to sleep hasn’t made me feel better in some measure.

3. Pray . . . but please make sure that your praying doesn’t turn into brooding. It can be hard as a mere human (who is vulnerable because you’re already feeling bad) to control the tendency toward wallowing in misery under the pretense of talking about it to someone who is more powerful than we are. Hint: if you feel worse after your prayer than you did before, you might need to change your praying technique (some other time, when you’re in a more productive state of mind).

4. Gift yourself . . . carefully. Listen here – don’t you go racking up crazy credit charges and then coming back to my blog to blame me for it! Sometimes a certain treat or accessory or even a major purchase can indeed brighten your mood and outlook (at the moment I’m honestly considering becoming a pet owner again), but the threat of making an unwise spending decision is a serious one. Can you maybe gift yourself with a Me Date to rewatch one of your fave movies instead? Or have a cup of a tea you really like? Or look upon that nap or that bath as a gift?

5. Talk to a loved one about why you feel bad . . . self-explanatory, to a certain point. All I’ll say on this is that I come away from these conversations feeling better 90% of the time, and 9% of the time if I don’t feel better I’m at least reminded that I’m loved. (As for the other 1%? Hey – sometimes the person you go to for help needs it worse than you do. At least this is a reminder that you’re in good company.) And on a similar note . . .

6. Talk to a loved one about why they feel bad . . . because perspective helps, and because knowing that you’ve helped someone else carry their load can make you feel much better about yours.

 

Here’s hoping we all feel better soon. <3

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Look. Forward.

You know that cliché about how you should do something that scares you once a day? Well, I’m counting on the fact that not many people read my blog to make this less scary for me. =)

Goals are important, and they’re (sometimes) more powerful if written down and/or shared with others, and I recently laid out nine career goals for myself to accomplish in 2019. I’m not sharing all of them here because being brave and being flighty are two different things . . . one or two of these goals would be unprofessional of me to talk about on social media, and a couple others are the types of things I’d rather play close to the chest . . . but hey, I’ll give you three!

1) In 2019 I will book (at least) 3 gigs requiring me to sing.

Last April I sang in a burlesque show and was all excited to be returning to the stage as a singer . . . yet I haven’t done it since then. I’m grateful for some other things have come up which I didn’t know about back in springtime, but I was a singer long before I was an actor and it’s time to stop ignoring that. (I began writing this on December 30th, which is the 5th day of Kwanzaa, and its principle is Nia which means purpose . . . noted.)

2) In 2019 I will book (at least) 2 gigs requiring me to act.

Does that seem low? To be perfect honest with you, I’m alright with that. As hinted above, I need to push myself back toward music more, and I’ve got a team and system set up for Chattrisse the actor which Chattrisse the singer doesn’t really have at the moment – so lowballing this one doesn’t bother me. (Besides, I said “at least” . . . so yeah.)

3) In 2019 I will book (at least) 1 gig requiring me to dance.

I haven’t had what I consider to be the full use of my body for two and a half years now, due to some lingering shoulder issues. At one memorable dance audition, I made these shoulder issues worse, and I’ve been very very timid about dancing since then. By now, I’m happy to report that my shoulder is really really close to being back to normal – it’s fine for almost every regular daily task – so it’s time for me to stop using that excuse.

There can be some overlap between these goals – I hope there is! Let’s just say I were to book a musical theatre job, like Memphis or Hamilton or The Lion King – I would be acting and singing and dancing, and that counts for all three categories. There might also be overlap between those three and . . .

4) In 2019 I will acquire (at least) 6 new credits as a writer.

Having shared that one with you, I’m actually feeling nervous, which is next door to scared. And to be clear, I’m including the word “credits” because I write stuff all the time, but I’m now talking about things I write which are actually seen/heard/experienced in some sort of public performance or exhibition. Although I don’t know whether something I’ve written in 2018 which is finished and released in 2019 will count for my 2019 total, I do know that I want to write more successful projects: films, songs, web, maybe TV or a published book, I want to write it all. I’ve actually – don’t laugh – started writing my memoirs, because I figure it’s a timesaver (and I’ll remember things better now than when I’m 97 anyway).

And since I’ve gone and spilled the beans on that one, I’ll throw in another bonus shared goal.

5) In 2019 I will write (at least) one spec script.

I’m terrified of having to do this – the idea of writing a script for a make-believe episode of a show which already exists and having to remain consistent with the tone of that show and the voices of its characters really freaks me out. But I’ve been avoiding it for years and it’s time to put on my big-girl-writer hat and get it done.

Okay, enough! Those of you who wish me well, please cheer me on as I go after these goals and others; those of you who I wish well, you know I’m already sending you I-believe-in-you-now-go-get-em thoughts and looking forward to seeing you rise and shine. Those of you who don’t wish me well, how nice of you to stick around! I hope you have a nice day anyway =)

Thanks for reading, everyone . . . and Happy New Year!

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Giving Thanks, Specifically

Canadian Thanksgiving was nearly two months ago and American Thanksgiving, immediately followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, is now behind us too. And although I’d started writing something about the downward spiral of offering apparent deals as part of a yearly tradition (maybe some other time), I’m still so happy from the great night I just had that I decided to let that spill over into this post instead.

Every night before going to bed I make myself list 16 things that were good about that day. Right now, since I can feel the upward swing of positive momentum (especially in contrast to a few bad weeks I had earlier this fall), I’m going to list and give thanks for 10 things that were great about just this past month. Not in order, they are . . .

1. Last night’s “Working the Scene in Colour” event was really wonderful, and I’d feel that way even if I didn’t get great feedback from several people on the short script of mine that was read aloud.

2. My next short film, a project which I wrote and am co-producing and co-starring in, is humming along right on schedule to be shot in December, and I just recently found a way to save us a chunk of money. Both good feelings, lol!

3. Yesterday I was able to snag some great finds and support local vendors at the One Of A Kind Show, and that segues nicely into the fact that . . .

4. I’m almost done Christmas and Kwanzaa shopping for others (and myself, let’s be honest)!

5. Last Thursday, a short film I was able to participate in aired on CBC, and you can still watch it here if your IP address is Canadian.

6. A commercial that I shot back in April is apparently still being aired somewhere, because this month I got another cheque. (The dream, lol…)

7. I’m back in acting class, and it feels great. Next year is going to show some lovely blooms because of work that’s been done throughout 2017.

8. This is related to #7 – I’m finding myself in the privileged situation of being able to encourage others and connect them to people, places, ideas, etc. which will help them achieve their dreams.

9. My day job has been much more satisfying lately, and (I’m including this as a November thing to be glad about even though it’s not 100% official yet) and sorta-promotion that I got earlier this year is a really-though promotion now =)

10. Someone who’s been in my life as a friendly acquaintance for the better part of a decade is becoming a dear friend of mine. One of the things that disappoints us all about growing up, having people get married and/or raise kids and have to shift their priorities, is that is feels as though we “lose” friends . . . but if you know where to look, you find them too.

 

That’s all for now – talk soon!!

 

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Birthday Musing

Hmmmm.

See, mine is about four months away, and – even for me – four months to plan a birthday celebration is a bit too long, except for big huge showy ones (like mine in 2016).

It’s definitely on my mind, though, for a bunch of reasons. #1, I had sincerely wanted to spend this upcoming birthday at Trinidad Carnival, both because #2, having an early March birthday means it rarely coincides with the period right before Lent and #3, I missed Trinidad Carnival last year. Plus, #4, this is a big-deal birthday for me. The age I’ll be turning (#4a) features my favourite number, and (#4b) is biblically significant, AND (#4c) in a point related to #4a, I’ve begun thinking of this as my double-champagne birthday.

We’re right around the time of year where, if I were going to Trini Carnival, I’d be paying my airfare and starting to shell out to play mas. So I’ve 99% accepted that those things won’t be happening this time around. (Sidebar: parts of Trinidad are still submerged due to severe flooding this past weekend; if you’re able, you can donate to relief efforts via Habitat for Humanity.) Which has me wondering … what on earth am I going to do instead?

In theory, this should be easy to answer. I’m an imaginative person who keeps a bucket list and lives in a city where the possibilities for fun experiences are endless. But my bucket list items are usually either too big (two weeks in the Maldives with my boyfriend) or too small (try a Kizomba class) or not made for winter weather.

I hope it will involve some form of travel outside the province, like a weekend in New York or a family visit in Florida. I’m assuming it will involve delicious food, because, y’know, food. A photoshoot sounds like a great idea, as does a performance, as does some particularly special outfit; maybe a mini spa getaway could either start or finish the festivities. I hope it doesn’t cost too much, but I know it might (lol), and I can be pretty sure that I’ll feel good about it, which is perhaps why I’m not being super-picky about what “it” entails this far in advance.

In the meantime, though, I’m open to suggestions, so Hey, Internet! How do you think I should celebrate my birthday?

;-)

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What’s My “What’s My Line?”?

How’s that for an awkward-looking title?

Over the years, I’ve become very familiar with a group of folks who, although certainly famous in their day, probably aren’t well-known to anyone in my age group. Their banter was charming and laden with humour from the 1950s and 1960s – and while there are, naturally, many cringeworthy moments (which you could easily anticipate, as a socially conscious twenty-first-century viewer digging in the mid-twentieth-century crates), I love that they were quick to laugh at their own on-air mistakes, and some of my favourite moments to watch them in were thoroughly unscripted. Their names are Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennet Cerf, and John Daly – they were the primary panellists and the host, respectively, of the show “What’s My Line?” which Wikipedia tells me is the longest-running US primetime network television game show.

Here’s the thing: even though I’ve probably watched (or at least heard) hundreds of episodes, if it weren’t for the obligatory introductions at the beginning of each one I wouldn’t know much about the occupations of these four people, outside the show. Most of them, probably, first arrived on set seeing this show as either a new thing they hoped would go well, or a fun side gig, or maybe both; but I only know them as participants in this specific project.

I doubt any of them could have told you at the beginning that this would be the thing they were best known for forever after.

And that’s naturally got me thinking … what’s my personal version of this show? Is there something I’m involved in (or will be later) which will eventually overshadow everything else I’ve done, or will do? I’m very well aware that this is a case where knowing the answer would negate or ruin the question, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder just the same.

Although I see myself as a writer first and foremost; I doubt the rest of the world agrees with me so far, since so much of my career has been spent performing. Maybe, in a hundred years when I’m not physically here, I’ll be better known for something else entirely aside from arts and entertainment. Maybe the beginning of the 2118-version-of-Wikipedia entry about me will talk about my humanitarian work, or the awesome people I’ve helped to raise, or my abduction by and eventual return from a group of alien nomads who needed a human guinea pig. I don’t know at this point, and I shouldn’t know. And neither should any of us.

What I am sure of is that being aware of this question takes a huge amount of pressure off of me, and maybe you’ll feel the same way. All we can do right now is work on what we’re already working on, begin work on what we want to begin, and stay open to opportunities.

So I’ll continue to get more comfortable with having no idea what my “What’s My Line?” is, or is going to be. And with that … if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more writing to get back to. Because even if my writing does happen to be forgotten one day, that’s no excuse to slack off now ;-)

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Chattrisse does London, England!

You know that feeling when you’ve woken up before 6am because your body is still five hours ahead, so you decide to make yourself useful and write a blog post?

Yeah.

So! I’ve just returned from my first ever trip to London (England), which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, particularly because my mom grew up in London (Ontario). It was a short visit, with lots of goodies packed in =)

First up, we got on the tube and paid a visit to Buckingham Palace (regrettably, the Queen was not in), and saw Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street (shopping stop #1).

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We snuck in Shopping Trip #2 the next day … and then the famous English rain made our visit to the London Eye, which was one of my must-sees, somewhat less enjoyable than it could have been, but here are a couple of photos to prove I was there, lol!

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My first English high tea was another favourite memory from the trip … I really should have asked them for their scones recipe. So good!

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Now, since it was London jump-up time, we also went to a couple of fetes, and to Panorama, and to Notting Hill Carnival. Not a whole lot of pics taken by me, but enough so that you get the idea …

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Usually you get to sleep in the morning after jumping up, right? … Yeah, no. Because our overriding reason for this trip was to attend a wedding at Addington Palace, at 11am the morning after Carnival! (Here’s a tip: if you wear a fascinator, it will distract people from how tired your eyes look. #carnivallifehack)

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In the midst of all these activities were a couple of jogs, a couple of church services, geeking out as I stood in front of the theatre where Hamilton is playing in London, and several head-scratching moments at train stations. And the very next morning, I was back at the airport where I squeezed in Shopping Trip #3 before flying home.

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Whew! Hectic, tiring, and so very very worth it. London has definitely left me wanting more, and I’m looking forward to my return trip! Til next time …

xo

On set for a Divine Brown video shoot ... the first time I was ever paid to dance ;-)

Five-Year Flashback …

… Dancer Chattrisse is still a baby compared to the other Chattrisse listed in this old post, which you should absolutely go back and read so you know what on earth I’m talking about. (That pic represents the first time I was considered a professional [read: paid] dancer … ah, memories.)

That post was the first thing I ever blogged here, and this Wednesday it will be five years old — that’s crazy! Thanks, internet, for hanging in there with me while I learned to blog, and did it regularly, and stopped doing it, and got back on the wagon again.

Huh. Kind of like dance, interestingly … as some of you know, I injured my shoulder in spring 2016 and due to a condition that developed during the healing process, it’s still not back to 100%, and due to this, I’ve been doing significantly less dancing since 2016 than I would like. (One of the many reasons I love this video is that it was filmed mere days before the original shoulder injury; I still don’t have my full range of motion back, but at least I can admire what I looked like when I’d never considered losing it!)

So I’m taking a moment to look back and congratulate myself. For being transparent and for finding a new way of sharing my thoughts five years ago, for learning to be patient with my body during the last two years, and for how much better I will be two and five years from now.

Just for fun, what were you doing five years ago? And how does it relate to what you’re doing today?

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Haïti 2018 with TWA

As promised!

Last month I took my sixth trip to Haïti with an incredible group called Third World Awareness. It was a short trip – only one week – and yet it was filled with some of my favourite memories from these six visits, along with some positive changes. (Quick note: my first time visiting was in 2011, more than a year after the huge devastating earthquake, so I don’t have any firsthand info on how things now compare to pre-quake conditions. Before this year’s trip, I hadn’t been back since 2016.)

Couronne with a splash of Barbancourt ;-)

Couronne with a splash of Barbancourt ;-)

Almost immediately – like, leaving the airport – I noticed that the roads were in much better repair than I remembered. Traffic, I would realize within a couple of days (I landed on a Saturday), was arguably worse, but the surfaces of most roads I travelled on were smoother and had fewer potholes, apparently due to the government having spent a good chunk of change on infrastructure repairs. There is better access to electricity now, neighbourhoods with power lines which didn’t have them during my other trips there, more streetlights and traffic lights. There are also – bizarrely – numerous electricity towers which have been built in such a way that they partially obstruct traffic, forcing the roadways to become more narrow (possibly because to put them further back from the road would mean that houses had to be demolished?), and this increased traffic noticeably, as did the number of intersections which were being controlled by police officers instead of by the aforementioned traffic lights.

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There did seem to be an increased police presence; twice during my stay I was in (or on) a vehicle that got pulled over for seemingly random police checks. The first was at a roadblock but there wasn’t much to be nervous about as I was in a van mostly full of Canadians; the second time, when I was en route to the airport and riding a motorcycle with the driver I’d just met and a friend of mine, was jusssst a bit more unnerving.

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In addition to better roads and more cops, I noticed that the air quality was vastly improved. It took me awhile to pick up on this … after all, how often do we really think about the air we breathe except when there’s something wrong with it? It must have been five days in that a truck or van went by belching black smoke which hung around in the air for a bit, and I had a sudden flashback of wearing a bandanna around the lower half of my face because that thick lingering haze used to be how the air seemed to feel all the time. Not out in the country, of course, but in the city and its suburbs, where we spend most of our time, it was a problem. I’d constantly feel grit in my eyes, making contact lenses even more irritating; I’d blow my nose and what came out would be grey. So this was another welcome improvement, although it may be due to the weather: on most of my trips, the air has been hot and heavy, and this time there was always a breeze blowing. So. Very. Grateful.

So what were some of my specific memories? I’ve got a few pictures to help me out. (One thing I should probably point out, though, is that my photos decrease in number every time I go. Photography/videography isn’t allowed in most of the areas where we do our volunteer hours, isn’t polite or appropriate in many of the other places we go to, and the novelty started to wear off after my third visit.)

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This. On my first full day there, we visited a resort with this beautiful – rocky, but beautiful – beach. Little boats like this one took turns anchoring nearby, playing music, hoping to entice guests to go for a ride up and down the coast.

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So we did.

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On the same day, we visited the Ogier-Fombrun Museum in Arcahaie, birthplace of the Haïtian flag. This museum is wonderful – it’s a restored sugar plantation with many original artifacts and even though I’d been there before, this was the first time I was able to take in most of its displays.

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For whatever reason, although I knew a good deal of Haïti’s history even before my first visit, I was really struck this year by how ludicrous it is that the first country to throw off chattel slavery is still imprisoned in so many ways. I zeroed in on the hatchet (centre, in the above photo), which was used to amputate slaves (I forget now whether the example given was as punishment for slaves who weren’t working fast enough, or as a potentially life-saving measure for slaves whose hands got caught in the machinery; both occurred in different places throughout history). There was – and is – this deep, brooding reminder about how unjust it all was – and is – and a sort of helpless feeling that I’ll never be able to make any difference at all. It’s such a monstrous wrong, I don’t know how it could ever be made right.

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I guess it’s as part of an effort to right this wrong that I and many others do humanitarian work. I’m keenly aware that had my grandparents not emigrated to Canada, I could be on the receiving end of this work. (That’s not an exaggeration. Frankly, most of us living in “the first world” are just one disaster or personal crisis away from being on the receiving end of similar work, but that’s a topic for another day.) So pictured just above is the first school that Third World Awareness built in Haïti, in a part of a “slum” called Cité Soleil, on the edge of the water. Upon visiting the school this time around I noticed that even in CS, the roads looked better than I remembered; they were certainly cleaner than what I was used to seeing here. (Don’t get too excited, though; near the end of this blog you’ll see the sitee of some cleanup work we hope to do next.)

Most of the places where we do work forbid photography, but photos are always welcome at this school. The smiles of these children never fails to warm me up, no matter what’s going on.

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Two moments really stood out for me on this day. One was an event that half the school, it seemed, celebrated together: during games of soccer with the students in their schoolyard, there was intense jockeying for a position near whichever adult was handing out pinneys ahead of each round. In a sea of waving hands, pressing bodies and yells, a teacher looked down and picked out a small boy to get the last blue pinney. He scored the last goal of the game – the smallest kid on the field – and the whole place went crazy. They mobbed him, cheered, applauded, lifted him up in the air; it felt like something out of a movie! I was too caught up to get a photo before everything died down, but I did capture this shot of him still beaming, and I had a moment of intense gratitude for every teacher or leader everywhere who has ever given the underdog a chance. It was so wonderful.

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On a more personal note, I came to the school bringing a particular set of gifts – prints of photos that I had taken in the same place in 2016 and 2015.

Cite Soleil schoolyard smiles

That’s one of my fave pictures that I’ve ever been in, period; and since there are 16 students in it with me, I brought 16 prints back with me and gave them all out. (Not all of them are still students here since that photo was taken three years ago, but it made sense to prepare for the best-case scenario.)

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There’s more of a story behind this one.

In 2016, I was able to teach dance classes to the students at this school and it was a high point in my adult life. I was keenly aware, however, that I wasn’t able to share the joy of that dance class with every child nearby. These two boys from the area, who weren’t in school (I presume because their families weren’t able to afford it, or perhaps the school was just too full), climbed up to the second floor to see what was going on, and even though I knew it was dangerous for them to be there,  I snapped this photo of them before they were chased away. (Terrible role model over here.)

I printed two nice black-and-white copies of this photo too, hoping against hope that I could find these kids in 2018 … or at least someone who knew them and could pass on the prints. And as I sat at the back of the school watching one of the aforementioned soccer games, I realized that one of the students looked very familiar. Turns out the boy in the red shirt – Nelson – is now a student at our school, and I was thrilled to have his teacher call him away from the game so he could get the photos. Although I didn’t see the other boy on either of the days I visited, Nelson says he knows where to find him. I’m not quite clear on whether he still lives in Cité Soleil; a lot can change in a couple of years, and his family may have settled somewhere else. Wherever he is, I hope he’s safe and healthy and cared for. I want that for all of these kids, and it’s heartbreaking to know that many of them … maybe most of them … are not, despite the best efforts of the school and of many other people who care about them.

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Maybe next time I go, they’ll both be in uniform.

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Ayiti cherie!

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On Lists and Gratitude

Sooner than later I’ll be sharing a recap of the trip to Haïti I took earlier this month.

In the meantime, while that recap post brews and stews in my mind and my WordPress account, I felt like sharing a nightly habit of mine. It’s something I’ve been doing for at least five years, and only very recently spoken about with two people – my cousin and my boyfriend – outside the group of people who encouraged me to do it in the first place. It’s a very simple thing, and yet it can be a real game-changer as far as your mindset is concerned.

Every night, before I say my prayers and after I’ve otherwise finished getting ready for bed, I look at myself in a mirror, and begin to speak aloud, enumerating my “Sweet Sixteen.” Sixteen things I’m grateful for, and all sixteen must have occurred between my waking up that morning and the moment I get around to this ritual.

One of the (many) things I love about visiting Haïti is how easy it is to rattle off my Sweet Sixteen list every night (“I’m grateful for today’s sunshine, those adorable children in school uniforms,  my ride in a tap-tap, an evening visit from a tiny lizard, the electric fan by my bed, the delicious dinner we ate…”), and that this easiness lasts for quite awhile after I come home (“I’m grateful for the streetcar coming right when I needed it to, for reliable wi-fi, the bewildering variety of items on these store shelves, the chat I had in the laundry room with my neighbour, my tanned skin, this morning’s hot shower…”). On one trip I found myself being particularly grateful to feel a breeze blowing on a sunny day, and that level of appreciation is a place I want to learn to live in … while continuing to “build for better” (as my pastor would say), because if I spent all my time just being grateful for what I have I would find it hard to motivate myself to work, or work out, or write, or right any of the wrongs I see in our society, or ask for things I still want or need. In short, if I got too wrapped up in gratitude for what I’m able to enjoy, I wouldn’t ever go back to Haïti. Maybe I wouldn’t ever go anywhere.

And that doesn’t sound like me.

Taking one minute each night to deliver a big long “thank you,” that sounds exactly like me, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same. In fact, if you had to stop right now and list your own Sweet Sixteen for today’s date, what would it include?