Tag Archives: fun

IMG_8417

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.

IMG_8422

IMG_8423

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.

FullSizeRender

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.)

IMG_8505

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.

IMG_8401

So we did.

IMG_8507

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.

FullSizeRender 8

FullSizeRender 19

FullSizeRender 20

FullSizeRender 11

FullSizeRender 2

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.

IMG_8409

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.

IMG_8419

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.

IMG_8417

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.)

IMG_8960

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.

IMG_8420

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

IMG_9011

Ayiti cherie!

IMG_8419

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?

Isla Caine - Viva Italia 03

Introducing . . . Isla Caine (Chattrisse does burlesque!)

Last fall, I saw a dear friend of mine (Cassidy) perform in a fabulous burlesque show created by another friend of mine (Knox). Many people think of burlesque as just a bunch of hot women taking their clothes off in front of a sleazy crowd and not much else, right? Not on Knox’s watch — this was a full-scale production with a plot, period costumes and props, music, interesting characters, incredible dancing and choreography and singing, and both women and men of diverse appearances — including body types — performing burlesque for a warm and responsive audience. I stood around afterward, talking to one or two dancers who’d performed for Knox before, and said that I was going to try out for one of her shows in 2018.

Necessary background info:

(1) I am a lifelong singer; I’ve been singing at home since forever and in public since I was six years old, although

(2) I still battle with shyness, and feel that none of my public performances have ever been as good as what I manage to pull off vocally when I’m alone at home

(3) For almost as long as I’ve been singing in public, I’ve been very self-conscious about my body, and this has been exacerbated by the fact that

(4) For nearly two full years, I’ve been recovering from a shoulder injury (really, two of them) and this has led to a deepening of my disappointment in, and disdain toward, my own body

(5) In addition to a slump in my dancing, it’s been quite awhile since I was onstage singing. Except for a guest spot in a Chris Birkett show last October, it honestly may be over a year now — I literally don’t remember.

And finally, (6) I am a born-again Christian who still many questions about reconciling God’s love, my gratitude for innumerable miracles including our own bodies, and the shame that many Western people, particularly women, are programmed to experience when we discuss or display our sexuality.

Where am I going with all this? Well, even though I had plenty of reasons to simply disregard my stated goal of auditioning for a burlesque show, I decided that they all boiled down to one: fear. I pulled that fear out of my head and held it in my hand, where I could get a good look at it and remind myself how much bigger than it I am and always will be. I weighed all six of the points listed above, and decided to go through with the audition. With Knox’s help, I created a new act starring a new character: Isla Caine.

“Isla” can be either “EESS-lah” (Spanish pronunciation) or “EYE-lah” (English pronunciation), depending on where she is and who she’s talking to . . . because if you know me personally, you know that my most-used skills throughout life have probably been reading, writing, speaking, and code-switching. “Caine” is mostly a nod to sugar cane, since I’m Caribbean and I can be very sweet. Isla Caine emphasizes some of the realest parts of Chattrisse. She has a soothing voice. You see her commanding personality when it comes to getting things done. She’s willing to appreciate her curves even if they aren’t all in the places where she’d like them to be yet. And in terms of fashion, the vibe she gives you is made up of Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal ensemble, and a deep appreciation for jewel tones.

So I did it! On April 12th, I took the stage at Revival in a white suit over a black blouse, with smouldering eye makeup and a bright red lip. My hair was coiled into a bun and I wore my real-life oversized glasses. Before an audience of friends and cousins (but mostly strangers), I sang Diana Krall’s version of “Peel Me a Grape” while removing my blazer, blouse, pants, and elbow gloves. By the time I sashayed off the stage in my stilettos with my hair swinging back and forth across my shoulder blades, I was wearing only my matching aubergine bra and panties. And for once, no doubt because I was singing into a beautifully restored antique microphone, my voice sounded far better floating through the venue than it did it any of my at-home rehearsals.

Even before I was hugged by my people in the audience, or checked my phone to see a congratulatory message from a friend in Vancouver which contained a video clip of me onstage mere minutes earlier, or saw any of the pics or footage, I felt so good. I was so proud of myself for facing off against my nerves and fear and insecurities, and the feeling kept growing as I proudly watched Gin Kelly, another first-timer who I know from the world of acting, wow the crowd. Cassidy, who’s a pro at this, absolutely killed her set too. From what I was able to see, every woman and man who took the stage did themselves proud, and it felt incredible to be in the ring with them instead of watching from the sidelines.

On a very real level, if you aren’t learning you aren’t growing. One of my guiding principles (especially for this transition period I seem to still be in) is to keep learning, no matter what; otherwise I’ll have gone through an entire new season and have no growth to show for it. Creating and debuting Isla Caine has certainly taught and tested me, and while I haven’t decided yet how soon (or whether) I’ll bring her back out again, I’m truly glad to meet her and get to know myself a little better at the same time.

Thanks to Knox, Cassidy and all of the other Viva Italia performers, my family and friends who came, the sound guy whose name I forget right now but he’s super-cool, and to Hollywood Jade whose years of Urbanesque dance classes have helped me more than he knows.

Thanks also to photographer Ruth Gillson for the wonderful images! Speakeasy at Revival is a monthly event at 783 College St here in Toronto and if you’re looking for a fear to conquer, you may want to get in touch and ask to audition. Either way, check out one of their shows; I think you’ll be glad you did!

Isla Caine - Viva Italia 02

xo

FullSizeRender 3

What’s this season called?

I’m in a transition phase in my life … which is starting to sound kind of funny to me since I’ve been saying that for more than six months now. First it was time to leave my full-time day job, then I switched into a part-time evening one, then I had an audition drought (which was pretty annoying, since the job change had been prompted in part by my desire to have my daytimes free for auditions), then I used those daytime hours to write my first feature-length screenplay and apply for funding to help get it made, then I reinvigorated my training as an actor and got new headshots, then I had a few auditions followed by two more audition-barren weeks, and now I’m in training at a new new day/evening job and the auditions have started to pick up again.

In the meantime, I’ve taken a vacation (a concept which is nearly as foreign to me as the idea of celebrating a romantic anniversary, which I’ve also recently done), said goodbye to my cat (a beloved faithful companion of 14 years), dealt with a health issue or two (nothing awful, don’t worry), and had numerous extended family members pass away. So in many ways it feels like a turbulent time in my life.

When I expressed this recently to a friend, she said “Try and have patience. You’re likely coming through the other end now,” and “Longer transitions mean a greater impact when you land … I’d like to think.”

So would I.

I received another helpful insight from a social worker, who has suggested that I try being more compassionate with myself. I live my life by a set of unwavering standards, and I’ve always been able to fall back on my adherence to them even when those around me fall short. This has mostly served me well – except that I’m starting to wonder whether one of the lessons I’m meant to learn now is to let up on myself every now and then. To have a non-productive day without feeling bad about it. To treat myself with gifts once in awhile, the way I love to treat others. To congratulate myself for tries as well as actual wins. Because when I stop and think of all the reasons (excuses) I could’ve come up with to not write, not seek medical advice, not pay for classes and new headshots, not travel, and not go back into the Job Hunt Vortex … twice … all of those tries begin to look more and more like wins to me.

This is where I’m supposed to deliver an elegant finish; I don’t really have one. I guess I’ll just thank you for reading, and for sharing any of your own recent tries and wins that you’d like to let the world know about; and give thanks, of course, to my friends and fam who love me undoubtedly.

And thank you, Self. I’m proud of you.

xo

 

 

PS: For real, what are you reaching for right now? I’d love to know!

image

Recap: The Big Birthday

Now that it’s May, I can look back at my most recent birthday, which was in early March.

Allow me to explain.

My birthday is on the 3rd, which means my champagne birthday happened when I was 3 and barely knew what “birthday” meant. Womp. Other significant birthdays ranged from very good (Sweet 16) to verrrry stressful (Quarter-Century), and overall the birthday to beat was March 3rd, 2014 (spent living it up in Dubai, shopping and fly boarding and going up the tallest building in the world). For my reverse champagne birthday (someone else can think of a cool name for it) I decided to go all out, celebrating 3 decades of life in 3 different countries over a span of 3 months.

IMG_0110

I already had my ticket for Trinidad Carnival, so I kicked off the celebrations there and you can read all about it in my last post.  I came back home and danced the night away at a fete with a few of my girlfriends, then released the trailer for my new webseries-to-be and released a radio single. I celebrated my actual birthday by leaving work early to go to 2 auditions before taking myself shopping.

Almost showtime!

Almost showtime!

The birthday fell on a Thursday; that weekend I got to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre perform with the added bonus of watching it with my little cousin. This was our first show together! And she’s the same age I was when our Grandma took me to my first concert, which I think is awesome. There was a family dinner after that, and then I went to my curlfriend Nicole Stamp’s place to learn how to work natural hair magic like she does. I’ve been in love with my hair ever since. I got to show off my curls the next day at a delicious and hilarious brunch with a bunch of friends and cousins.

IMG_8574

Harlem Underground

Harlem Underground

The next weekend I was reshooting sections of my Digital Dossier, and then I had new headshots taken by Denise Grant. It did rain that day, which ruined my plans for my hair, but MUA Christine Cho waved her magic wand and the pictures look pretty damn good in my opinion ;-)

CD202

I almost ran out of time to squeeze in my third country, but in April I went to New York City (where I hadn’t been since 2012, and where I definitely need to be more often). Just looking at Manhattan, or walking up and down the streets there, feels like celebrating to me. Even better that I got to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. And I got some good buys in on the way home, tee-hee!

Haven't "seen" her since she was in her mom's belly!

Haven’t “seen” her since she was in her mom’s belly!

So I did it: celebrated in 3 countries, between the beginning of February and the end of April, and the good times keep rolling. Other things have added to my birthday celebrations over the 3-month time period: I left my day job, auditions have picked up, I’ve booked a play in Peterborough and one in Toronto for this summer, and I’m leaving for Haiti in a week!

Happy Birthday to me, and Dirty Thirty is looking exquisite so far . . .

IMG_7223

Looking back at my first Carnival . . . (Trinidad 2016)

First things first: I don’t publish new blog posts here as often as I should. And this one probably should have been finished and shared sooner, but I was of two minds about whether to blog about the whole trip or just certain parts of it . . . and if only certain parts, which ones to leave out . . . and what was a reasonable amount of pictures to share . . . until finally I decided. Here’s one big chunky post about my 20 days in paradise, and (as always) you can read all, skip some, and/or visit my Instagram page for a super-quick photo recap if you’re short on time.

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clive (i.e. the best hosts EVER), and fellow first-time Carnival visitor Wyvolyn, from Jamaica

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clive (i.e. the best hosts EVER), and fellow first-time Carnival visitor Wyvolyn, from Jamaica

As some of you know, my father is Trinidadian by birth. This was actually only my second trip to the twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago, and although I’m an avid Caribana girl, this was my first Trinidad Carnival. I’ve spent years hearing about how T&T does it much better than we do here in Toronto, and of course I was excited to see for myself what it was like, stuff myself with delicious food, bake myself in the sun, and spend lots of time with family members I don’t see very often. I worked out a plan to budget for this escapade starting around the time of my last birthday (early March). This trip wasn’t cheap! It would’ve been easier if the Canadian dollar weren’t so dismal, or if this year’s Carnival season wasn’t so short (note: for 2017 it’s at the end of February instead of the beginning), and many friends and relatives who were originally planning to come decided not to, but I went for it anyway.

IMG_7086

I basically spent my first few days sleeping in, sunning myself and eating my aunt’s delicious food, and my first nights being taken out by one or another of my local friends. Sidebar: I wish upon every person in the world a host as gracious and generous as my aunt and uncle, who gave me a room of my own, copied a set of keys for me, were always ready with advice and answers to my questions, and basically let me do as I please as long as I came back to the house to eat once in awhile. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

O2 Stadium, where Tuesday on the Rocks was held

O2 Stadium, where Tuesday on the Rocks was held

My first big outing was Tuesday on the Rocks. I adore Kes the Band so I was determined to get to this show, even though it was far away and I had no for-sure way to get there or back and I was going alone. After many frustrating interactions with would-be drivers and would-be companions, I can look back and say it was one of the best nights I had in Trinidad. KTB and their many musical guests put on a great show, I made a friend or two, and I was able to eat some legit Montreal poutine too!

With the homie Raff at Scorch DDI

With the homie Raff at Scorch DDI

Next up was a boat ride. Getting to the Harbour Master by myself from Arouca was a bit of a challenge (the second maxi taxi ride was challenging), but the Scorch DDI boat ride was worth it. Found an old friend, made some new ones, jammed to some sweet music while sailing “down de islands” on a big-ass boat, wearing a bikini in early February . . . it was a good time even though we left and returned to the dock late, which almost messed up my family’s plans for the night. My aunt and uncle and their friend (who was visiting from Jamaica to take in her first Carnival too) and I went to see traditional mas, where masqueraders portray certain historical characters, competing for their titles before a panel of judges, and often incorporating some form of social commentary into their performances.

Moko jumbies =)

Moko jumbies =)

It was important for me to get a taste of the culture behind Carnival, instead of just back-to-back-to-back parties. This may be stating the obvious, but I also went to the beach (ahhhh Maracas, one of my favourite places in the world) and spent hours lounging in the sun and reading.

IMG_7234

IMG_7242

IMG_7669

Plus I did some other random things, like trying a couple of hot yoga classes and visiting and ashram and the Temple in the Sea, going into the city for one of the Kiddie Carnival parades, and getting up before 4am to go see the street theatre re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay Riots. (No pictures, because even though we got there around 5:15am, all the seats with views were already gone!)

First yoga class!

First yoga class!

Baby moko jumbies!

Baby moko jumbies!

But don’t worry, I partied plenty! My favourite event was Bess Lime, which I was so glad to have my Toronto friends Kerron and Tiffany come to with me.

Tiff, Kerron and me!

Tiff, Kerron and me!

Before the boat sailed...

Before the boat sailed…

This was a Sunday cooler fete on the water where 3 boats were filled, sailed separately down the islands a bit, then dropped anchor and linked up so you could switch boats with the DJ’s music synched.  The sun went down, the vibe was wicked, there was a fireworks display before we sailed back to the dock separately — and for only $300 TT (about $63 Canadian, and this party included food plus chasers and ice) the value was amazing.

IMG_7687

I did get a few hours of sleep after finally getting home from Bess Lime, and then it was J’ouvert. Tiff and Kerron and I got picked up at something like 2am (budget extra time because of all the roadblocks) and met up with our Yellow Devilz crew at 4am, then partied through the darkened streets of the city dashing paint and water around until 8 or 9am.

IMG_7391

IMG_7364

IMG_7386

My awesome aunt Giselle brought me to her place to shower and change, then dropped me off so I could meet up with my band and do Monday mas.

My Monday wear

My Monday wear

Full disclosure – I found Monday mas kind of boring and disorganized.

IMG_7378

It felt kind of like a practice run for Tuesday, except most people weren’t in costume, which made it basically a huge mobile street party . . . which is cool, I guess, but I was pretty unimpressed by the time I got home that evening.

Drivahhhh! Doh stop atall . . .

Drivahhhh! Doh stop atall . . .

"Get in yuh section!"

“Get in yuh section!”

But of course the excitement came back when I got up before 4 on Tuesday morning to put on my glorious costume, get picked up at 5:30 (my driver is the bomb, you guys) so I could be on time to meet my band (actually early, since I had such an interesting time finding them the day before when I arrived late). Tuesday mas was everything I’d hoped for.

IMG_7423

Good morning, Machel =)

Good morning, Machel =)

Frontline. Can I get a corporate sponsor next year?

Frontline. Can I get a corporate sponsor next year?

There may be fewer men, but don't count them out!!

There may be fewer men, but don’t count them out!!

This would be a good time to compare a few notes. You can believe the hype: Trinidad Carnival is, in most ways, superior to Toronto’s Caribana. You pay WAY more in Trinidad (even taking into account that you have two parade days instead of one) but far more is included *if* you’re with one of the well-organized bands (not just a gorgeous costume and great DJs and unlimited alcohol, but nuff staff and nuff security and 3 meals over the 2 days and shaded rest areas in the Savannah at lunchtime). You can play with a monstrously large band in Trinidad, if that’s your thing (like, 15,000 masqueraders), whereas in Toronto I think we tap out at about 3,000 masqueraders in a large band. Both have celebrity guests, life-giving music, DJs who tend to talk too damn much over the microphone, a super-high ratio of women to men, locals, tourists, first-timers, veterans, well-meaning stormers, and the feeling that you’re living it up in this very moment so every other moment is inconsequential. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who feels like that when I’m playing mas; that’s why we’re called “revellers!” A lie?!)

Two of my favourite Fantasy sections this year: Dolce Vita (the ladies on either side of me) and my section, Ashwiyaa

Two of my favourite Fantasy sections this year: Dolce Vita (the ladies on either side of me) and my section, Ashwiyaa

Spotted . . . right after crossing the stage

Spotted . . . right after crossing the stage

#allahwe

#allahwe

There are things I prefer about Caribana though. I prefer to run into tons of people I know in addition to meeting lots of new sexy friends. I like knowing exactly what the parade route is, and knowing exactly what the order of the bands is. I like not having any bands who are so unmanageably huge that they go off somewhere else so as not to interfere with the other bands. I like having only one stage, at the beginning of the parade route (Toronto, can we please go back to that???), and I like being asked by tourists and press people and amateur photographers for photos all day long . . . it seemed like there was a lot less of that for Carnival since they all had exponentially more people to photograph than they would’ve at Caribana. (I like living within walking distance from the parade too, but that’s not Trinidad’s fault!)

IMG_7484

IMG_7485

Anyway, my heart was full by the time night fell and a new friend helped me through the mobs of people along the Avenue to meet up with my driver and Kerron and Tiff. The two of them had invited me on a hike excursion the following morning but I’d opted out, since I figured my feet would hurt or I’d be tired. On Ash Wednesday I actually woke up fresh as a daisy, but too late to join them, so after aborted plans to go to the beach and a pool party I napped and then stuffed myself at a dinner party my aunt and uncle and their friend were hosting. While everyone else was flying back home and/or getting back into their work routine, I spent a lot of time with family, including a chartered boat ride to Nelson Island for a great lunch event put on by the African Women’s Association.

Josiah thought he could get away without taking me for a ride on his bike . . . silly cousin!

Josiah thought he could get away without taking me for a ride on his bike . . . silly cousin!

Me and my Aunt Gigi!!

Me and my Aunt Gigi!!

Rock Island, from Nelson Island

Rock Island, from Nelson Island

Nelson Island. Which maybe should be called Rock Island.

Nelson Island. Which maybe should be called Rock Island.

with Uncle Wayne and Aunty Yvette

with Uncle Wayne and Aunty Yvette

Cousin Dominic!

Cousin Dominic!

Tristan and Anya <3

Tristan and Anya <3

Even after almost 3 weeks, I wasn’t ready to come home. Even after a week back at home, I’m picturing myself in Trinidad and planning to bring a bunch of friends with me next time.

IMG_7223

Under 2000 words? Not bad . . . because I could literally fill books with my memories from this trip. But I hope you got a taste of it here on my little blog, and if you want to join me for pretty much any Carnival anywhere in the world (I’m now itching not only to do Trinidad Carnival regularly but to check out Notting Hill Carnival, Brazil Carnival, Bermuda Carnival, Jamaica Carnival, Hollywood Carnival . . . ), drop me a line!

IMG_7611

xoxoxo

TIFF2015redcarpet

10 Goals, 12 Months – My Year-End Blog

So I’m back to the blog – and before I write anything else, let me alert you that this here post will make more sense if you’ve seen that there one first.

July seems like a crazy long time ago! But if you know me, you know I had to check back in on the aforementioned goals before closing out the year.

Remember, 2 out of my 10 goals for 2015 had already been completed by July 2nd: returning to Haïti with Third World Awareness for their 2015 trip, and being a model in the Carnival Nationz band launch.

1 out of the remaining 8 goals was already a Nope, since I did not make it to Las Vegas in May.

Now, what about the remaining 7?

I said I would book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’d done a handful by July 2nd, but 1 of them was unpaid; by now I’ve done 6 paid engagements.

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Out of the 4 acting gigs I decided to book and complete this year, 1 was completed by the midway point . . . and although I’ve had auditions and callbacks since then, I haven’t actually booked any others. (Yet.)

How about those lofty financial goals? Will I celebrate my birthday by having zero remaining debt and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival? HELL YEAH!!! I’m officially debt-free, having eliminated more than $21,000 worth of debt in just under 3 years; I’ve already bought my plane ticket and I’m playing mas too! Stay tuned to my Instagram account for nufffff pictures…

Salamander, one of my early faves

Salamander, one of my early faves

My trip to New York? My friends bailed on me and I didn’t go.

My road trip? I didn’t organize anything in time; but there’s always next year.

My reintroduction into the world of dating? Well yeah, actually, that did happen. Next question =)

#datenight

#datenight

Re-qualifying for the first promotion of my network marketing business? Nope, I didn’t hit that goal. Keep nudging me for 2016, okay?

 

The final tally? 5 out of 10 of my 2015 goals were completed in 2015.

50%.

Half.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . . if I got a 50% grade on any course I took I’d be furious about it . . . but then again, the point of personal goal-setting is to go big or go home. Right?

 

Anyway, time to take a look at the year ahead and figure out what I’ll be getting up to next. ;-)

IMG_4726

… unless I manage to complete another one in the next 5 days … hey, anything’s possible!

IMG_4726

Midway Blog – 2015

July 2nd marks the midway point of a 365-day year.

I always have multiple achievements in progress, both long-term and short-term, in multiple areas of my life. This year I selected 10 specific ones to reach by year’s end and 10 more to achieve within the next 10 years, and since we’re halfway done 2015 I figured it was time for a quick check-in…

.
2 of my Goals for 2015 have been successfully completed.

I returned to Haïti with Third World Awareness; and I modelled in the Carnival Nationz band launch for 2015.

Ayiti cherie!

Ayiti cherie!

Finally!

#finally

 

 7 of my Goals for 2015 are Works In Process. Specifically . . .

.

3 Goals are In Process – Stage 3 (the work has started, but isn’t complete yet):

I said I was going to book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’ve done 5.

Many of my performances so far this year have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

Many of those performances have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

I said I was going to book and complete at least 4 acting gigs; I’ve done 1.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

I said I’m going to celebrate my next birthday by being debt-free and playing mas in T&T Carnival 2016; in terms of saving up money and securing accommodations, I’m on track and on schedule.

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

.
3 Goals are In Process – Stage 2 (the planning is underway):

I said I was going to take at least 1 trip to New York . . . it looks like it’ll happen in August.

I said I was going to take at least 1 road trip (probably to New York, if I’m being honest) . . . so if New York in August happens and I don’t fly there, that’ll be two goals crossed off with one stroke of the pen.

I said I was going to start dating again *gasp!* I decided it was time to reboot my non-platonic social life, and since I don’t want to jinx anything, let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a fun summer =)

.
1 Goal is In Process – Stage 1 (I need to get on it):
I said I was going to promote to the first level of management with my network marketing business . . .I’ll be re-qualifying this month!

.
Finally, there is one goal I set for this year that I know I’ve missed: an event in Las Vegas in April which I wanted to attend and ultimately chose not to, in keeping with the achievement of my next-birthday-related goal listed above.

.
And as for my next-ten-years list? More than half are already works in progress.  :)

Cheers!

Cheers!

Commuting home from "work" one day.

Ayiti 2015 =)

Some of you know that I’ve recently returned from a trip to Haïti where I do humanitarian work with Toronto-based charity Third World Awareness. I’ve posted some of my favourite pictures from the trip already, but I thought I’d also write up a little something to answer questions some of you may have about the country itself, or this specific trip, or how you can get involved with similar work.
 .
This year's group of volunteers.

This year’s group of volunteers.

First, the basics: TWA takes a group of volunteers to Haïti every May for a 12-day stay. It’s a pretty awesome story: John Callaghan (the one in orange, hiding his face), a high school teacher, started taking his students on trips to poor areas of Kingston, Jamaica to show them how differently some people live in different parts of the world. (My future children will absolutely receive similar privilege checks before they’re out of school.) When he retired from teaching he didn’t plan on continuing the trips; but by then some of his former students, who were college-aged or older, joined with Callaghan to form a registered charity and keep the tradition going. TWA has now travelled to Haïti 14 times. Check out their site to donate or learn more about them. Or, you know, keep reading.

Where We Go
We stay in Pétion-ville and work mostly in Port-au-Prince. On a weekend we might travel for a bit, like to a beach in Montroui like we did this year.
 IMG_4244.
What We Do
Volunteers have a choice of working at a malnutrition clinic for children (my usual spot), a healthcare facility for adults, or a school TWA has funded, which is almost complete, in a very poor section of Port-au-Prince called Cité Soleil.
 .
Cite Soleil from above.

Cite Soleil from above.

.
How We’re Funded
Any money donated to TWA goes directly to projects on the ground in Haïti and to the people who will benefit from them. This organization pays no salaries to its board of directors, and volunteers raise our own funds to cover things like airfare, accommodations, food, medical expenses, etc.
.
A night out.

A night out.

High Point of 2015 in Haïti
I’m so predictable. I always fall in love with the kids. We aren’t permitted to take pictures at the malnutrition clinic; here’s one from the first day I visited Cité Soleil this year.
.
Love.

Love.

Worst Part of the Trip(s)
I’m a pretty good traveller, and I’ve been to Haïti 4 times now, but I’m still prone to a bit of stomach trouble and mosquitoes love me. The other physical discomforts (dust in the air, heat, occasional torrential downpours) are pretty minor.
 .
Post-Earthquake Progress
Having never been there before the massive earthquake of 2010, I’m a bit hard-pressed to say whether the changes I see are the results of specific post-quake reconstruction or just general progress. I do know that there are hardly any quake ruins left in the areas I saw, and that there continues to be lots of construction and increased/improved amenities, which from what I can tell are benefitting everyone and not just certain groups of people or neighbourhoods.
.
One of our volunteers and one of our guides with some future students of a school we're helping to build in Cana'an.

One of our volunteers and one of our guides with some future students of a school we’re helping to build in Cana’an.

What about Language?
Fortunately I speak French, and a bit of Kreyol; but every time I go to Haïti I’m resolved to get better at both these languages. You don’t need to know either to get along in the country, but it doesn’t hurt to learn a few key words.
.
Why?
Because I love travelling and it doesn’t always need to be under glamorous circumstances. Because I love reuniting with my friends there, including my “big brother” Serge, and meeting new friends too. Because there are far too many people who “wish they could” or “always wanted to” and I want to be one of those who is glad and grateful that I’m doing it. Because going to a country loaded down with luggage and coming back with little more than the clothes on your back is great for your soul and your closet as well. Because Caribbean sun. Because Haïtian food. Because we can.
.
IMG_4206
Mesi anpil =)
take 2.001

29 THINGS TO TELL MY 10-YEARS-AGO SELF

I’m in the last year of my twenties, which means I think I’m a lot wiser than I really am. Recently … thanks mostly to Throwback Thursdays, the Crash Course educational series on YouTube, and the work of playwright Jose Rivera … I started wondering what my current, past and future selves might say to one another if they all met somehow, and I compiled this list of things I would love to go back in time and say to myself at the end of my teens. I wouldn’t answer any of her obvious questions (No, you really shouldn’t get back together with him; Yes, you’ll be able to pay your way through school, so relax) because, hey, there are some lessons she needs to learn the hard way. Also, to keep things interesting, I would purposely not divulge which parent will move overseas, when and where and why I get tattooed, or how much (or is it how little?) I weigh in spring 2015.

Here are 29 pieces of advice for the 2005 edition of myself, delivered with lots of love and a steupse or two.

 

1. Look for “flaws” in your character, not your appearance.

2. What you do when no one is watching matters even more than you already know.

3. The sooner you acknowledge the power of your words, the better things will be.

4. It is possible to create great art from a happy place.

5. You have the best dad ever too.

6. Practice being quicker to get over disappointments and slower to roll your eyes.

7. I love that you take so many pictures, but you don’t need to have double copies of all of them. (Also, since we’re on the subject: in one of the pictures up top, if not both, you are actually 18. You took so many that year there weren’t many to pick from the year after. But it’s all good, because your looks haven’t changed much since you were 2.)

8. Figure out how to control your emotions, and your imagination, or else they will control you.

9. When it comes to money, pay more attention to the direction than the amount.

10. Also, go out of your way to learn more about finances than what you’re being told.

11. Asking for help does get easier.

12. Saying goodbye gets easier too.

13. Letting go after saying goodbye will probably get easier. One day. I hope.

14. Soon you’ll come across this thing called Facebook, and I applaud your decision to hold out for awhile. But get on the Instagram bandwagon quickly.

15. Never stop dancing.

16. Singing will take you further than you think. Feel free to interpret that literally.

17. Don’t worry that you’re too old to get back into acting.

18. Don’t worry that you’re too old for anything.

19. Don’t worry. At all.

20. Take your own eighth-grade advice: Travel, travel, travel! (You remember why you said that, right? Good.)

21. Being single can be sexy. And “sexy” has a greater and better meaning than you realize right now.

22. Go clubbing a lot over the next little while; you’ll get tired of it pretty soon.

23. Experiences > possessions.

24. Classics > hits.

25. American men will always be a thing.

26. Take your time figuring out where you stand on religion and spirituality.It is nobody’s business but your own.

27. The only difference between a valley and a hill is your perspective.

28. I am extremely proud of you.

29. You are going to love what comes next.