Tag Archives: recap

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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.

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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.

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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 ;-)

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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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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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. ;-)

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

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.
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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.
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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.
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Cite Soleil from above.

Cite Soleil from above.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Mesi anpil =)
Chattrisse-online-E

10 REASONS 2014 ROCKED

Sometimes, quotes that go viral are bang on. Like this one:

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So, full disclosure, spoiler alert, be warned! For this, my final Top Ten Tuesday (maybe ever . . . maybe just for the year 2014), I am choosing to focus only on my highlight reel. I encourage you to do the same as you reflect on that year that’s ending and the new one coming up. Here are 10 of my favourite memories from 2014 . . . they started out in chronological order but you’ll see why that didn’t last long. Enjoy!

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1.   DUBAI, AKA THE FIRST 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR

This is not a copout, you guys. If I tried to count and categorize my favourite individual moments from my stay in Jebel Ali, I would never ever ever finish writing this. I mean, really, which was more memorable: fly boarding, or ascending the Burj Khalifa? Swimming in salt water, or strutting in heels? Organizing photoshoots, or creating videos? Shopping for new clothes or chopping new men?

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10am in Toronto, and 6pm in Dubai

flyboard10 IMG_0110Suffice it to say that my entire trip there, especially from January 1st until early June when I came back home, will ever be forgotten.

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2.   FAM JAMS

And when I did come back? Family reunions galore! A roti picnic on my mom’s birthday, my cousin Derek’s wedding in Ottawa, a Thanksgiving feast in London, ON (with STUFFING!!!  WHY was that so hard to find in Dubai???), reunions with cousins I rarely see even when I am home.

IMG_2319 IMG_2322I gave and received many bone-crushing hugs, and I loved every squeeze.

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3.   MEETING 5 NEW BABY COUSINS

Reunions are one thing; meeting and holding a new baby for the first time is, like, next-level awesome. And I was blessed with 5 (yep, 5) new baby cousins this year. In birth order: Carter, Amaya, Quinton, Iyla, Adalia.

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Baby bliss!!!

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4.   GETTING BACK INTO AUDITIONING

And not just because I booked one or two roles! But the whole process, which used to feel really stressful to me, is getting more and more fun.

Pre-audition selfie ... last chance to check my eyeshadow ;-)

Pre-audition selfie … last chance to check my eyeshadow ;-)

Shoutouts to the people booking the roles I didn’t =)

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5.   FRIEND-LY REUNIONS

Every coffee date or breakfast date or jerk chicken date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and months was a heartbeat for me. I’m especially grateful for the CAMO Cruise, my reintroduction to Toronto’s fête society, where I cruised across Lake Ontario with good people and good music and good drinks (and okay food, lol) and thought to myself, “Man, do I love this city.” (Thanks, Nish!!!)

Nish, Dija and me!

Nish, Dija and me!

Likewise, the day after the Caribana parade, some friends and I went to a day party that gave me so much life I’ve run out of words for it. Amazing music (shoutouts to hometown hero DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville, from Dubai, who I finally met here in Toronto!), pretty venue, awesome people, new and old friends, randomly running into my cousin Kari . . . vibes. Loved it. (Thanks, Lincoln!)

Clockwise from the gorgeous blond-tipped curly fro, lol: Tiff, Shana, me, Nish. DJ Dany Neville is at work in the corner

Clockwise from the gorgeous blond-tipped curly fro, lol: Tiff, Shana, me, Menisha. DJ Dany Neville is at work in the corner

And let me not forget the wedding of my homegirl Allison, who I’ve known since tenth grade, to the ultra-cool Derwyn . . . I’ll just leave this picture here because with words, I literally can’t.

IMG_2203Love y’al!

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6.   CREATING MY OWN ROUTINE

Overseas, my routine was determined by my work hours and the times that the buffet was open. Here at home, it took me awhile to settle back in, and there are still some days that get crazy, but at least I have control over the first hour or so after I wake up and the last few minutes before I go to bed. Carving out time every day to read and write and express gratitude, and even to YouTube sermons, has made a huge difference. photoIt might be the least exciting thing on this list, but it’s for sure going to be one of the most beneficial, long-term.

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7. RELAUNCHING MY SIDE HUSTLE ;-)

Spending the first chunk of the year overseas, in some ways it was like an extended vacation. But to be honest, there were times when it felt a bit like exile. This was especially true when it came to my beauty/health/wellness business, and it was a relief to jump back in with my colleagues and my appointment lists, and some sweet new products, when I got back.

IMG_1325IMG_2444Onward, to ENVP!

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8.   REALIZING THE POWER OF VISION BOARDS

me and Missy.002You can read all about it here, but from here on out I will be even more mindful of how powerful these things are, as material declarations. I mean, really. Wow.

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9.   SHOOTING THE AALIYAH BIOPIC

What an experience!  Everything about this for me, from the audition process to the backlash, was important and I’m grateful for every second. But what makes it onto this list, for me, is actually being on set for this project.

#90s

#90s. The first scene

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Set life. L to R: James Shipp, Izaak Smith, Alexandra Shipp, AJ Saudin, me

The environment and the goal and the people, especially the people, had me really really wishing that somehow I could have stayed on set longer. As in, I would have gone on set every day just to watch and be a part of it from behind the scenes (I did, actually, on one day). Thanks to everyone involved; much love!

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10.  UNSCENE

Ah, my baby. For those of you who don’t know, I’m developing a new TV show called unSCENE and this year it grew from just a pilot episode to a pilot, the finale, plus several other episodes written, numerous meetings and pitch sessions, and now (shhh, this is insider info) possibly a casting change that will turn everything I’ve already written on its head.

L to R: Sagine Semajuste, Kelsey Willmott, Jazz Testolini, Kerron Schullere, Chattrisse Dolabaille, JaNae Armogan

Queens Quay.  L to R: Sagine Semajuste, Kelsey Willmott, Jazz Testolini, Kerron Schullere, me, JaNae Armogan

Frustrating as it’s been sometimes to take care of this finicky, fussy, slow-growing project, I love it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more of you.

And that . . . is a wrap. I have this policy where every year should be better than the year that just passed, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do in advance of 2015! ;-)

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ABOUT A YEAR AGO

It’s the evening of November 27th, 2014. I am reading a library book, editing a blog entry, messing around with lyrics for a new song, playing soca in my head, wondering why my back hurts on one side, and contemplating going to the kitchen to get a snack . . . all pretty much at the same time.

I was doing a lot of things at this time on last November 27th, too. I was at the Lester B Pearson International Airport and I was wondering what I had forgotten to pack, helping carry bags and musical instruments, joking around to keep myself from feeling nervous, celebrating the fact that the wind and snow outside had lost their power over me, taking pictures, saying goodbye to my parents, and forbidding myself to cry. I was about to leave home for my first overseas gig, to spend six months singing in Dubai.

It’s times like this that I realize, all over again, what a difference a year makes.

Here are some current-me updates, in case me-from-a-year-ago is interested. Since last November 27th, I have:

 

– completed the Dubai gig (153 shows done, and 52 songs written during downtime, but who’s counting?)

– met some great new and hopefully lifelong friends

– gained and lost weight

– gained and lost and gained hair length

– gained and lost a glorious Arabian tan

– developed and recovered (?) from crushes on numerous men from the UK

– tried fly boarding

– landed my first role in a feature film, gaining insight about myself and other people as I learned what it feels like to be the subject of criticism in the big wide world of social media

– been blessed by the arrivals of 5 (!) new baby cousins and joined several of my friends in welcoming their new babies too

– married off one of my dearest friends; this time a year ago she and her husband weren’t even engaged yet

– made lots of progress in the creation and development of a new TV series

– paid off a significant amount of my personal debt

– successfully relaunched my online beauty/health/wellness business, and found some new outlets for my skills as a writer/blogger and editor while continuing to create and go to auditions

 

That list looks pretty good to me! Heading into this American Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded again of how much I have to give thanks for in just the last year alone. Now, let’s see what other tricks 2014 has up its sleeve . . . =)

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10 WINS FROM MY STAY IN DUBAI

 

June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .

 

1.  So much writing.

Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.

IMG_0726So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.

 

2.  So much sun.

What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.

Feb 5 2014.027It’s not like I was out there every day, but I definitely took advantage of my winter and spring in the desert — and I’ve got the tan to prove it!

 

3.  So much singing.

Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.

DSC08154Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!

 

4.  Friends from every corner of the globe.

Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.

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IMG_0110Of course I look forward to welcoming any of my new friends if and when they find themselves in Toronto, too!

 

5.  Fly boarding.

Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.

flyboard10You can watch the video here (in fact, go do it right now) and I really hope I get the opportunity to do this again one day . . . Does anyone offer it in southwestern Ontario yet?

 

6.  Loving on nature.

At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos.  In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.

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10am in Toronto, and 6pm in Dubai

 

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There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.

 

7.  Opportunities.

I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.

Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old "Rpince Pavel," a future world tennis champion from Poland

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old “Prince Pavel,” a future world tennis champion from Poland

This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.

 

8.  Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.

It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.

 

9.  Exploring.

I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.

 

10. Discovering and developing new talents.

I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.

collages.056Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!

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So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?

Nah, too predictable.

See you next time ;-)

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MY DUBAI DESERT SAFARI

Some of you remember my Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring ten things I wanted to get done during the last couple months of my stay here in Dubai. Many of those things will remain unchecked on my list, but one of them that I made sure to get done was the desert safari experience.

Full disclosure: several of the activities presented as part of the safari package are things I had already done, so for that and other reasons (keep reading) it wasn’t the most thrilling few hours of my life. But I got a great deal on it, and some really nice pics, and all in all it was worth it …

So here is Chattrisse’s Guide to a Dubai Desert Safari!

First things first: book carefully. Booking a desert safari here is like trying to find a hot dog vendor in downtown Toronto: lots of options for the same stuff. If you’re a tourist, your hotel probably has a link, but it’s worth looking elsewhere as hotel prices are usually not bargains. Check Groupon, or Kobonaty, or just use the internet from within the UAE and wait for the ads along the side of your screen to start showing white Land Rovers on red sand dunes. I promise it’ll happen soon enough.

IMG_0517Also before you go, know what you want to do the most. I don’t imagine anyone could get through all of the activities on offer in a single shot. I recommend bringing a buddy so you both have lots of pictures of the day without wasting time canvassing strangers to take them.

The company I went with offers door-to-door pickup and dropoff, which was a huge bonus for me. Unfortunately I got picked up more than an hour late (I was told this was because other guests were late, but those guests said they’d been told the same thing after we finally picked them up) and it would have been nice to have that extra hour or so to get more things done.

In any case, once your driver gets you out of the city your first safari activity is dune bashing. He’ll let the air out of the tires and go careening up and down the sand dunes. This was fun, even though I was in the back seat and my knees got a bit beat up; it wasn’t my first time dune bashing, and apparently it takes more than two tries to really get the hang of capturing good video footage. I’ve got a pretty strong stomach in most cases, but the heat (close to 40 degrees a few hours before the trip) combined with all that motion and the confined space did make me a bit queasy.

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It was a relief to get out and breathe some fresh air, and the driver chose a nice deserted-looking area (no other vehicles or people anywhere in sight) to let everyone take some pictures. Part of the reason I’m blogging about this almost a month after the fact is that I was hoping a nice woman in my group would send me the nice pics of me she took with her nice camera. C’est la vie.

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Next, the driver takes you to the main area, parks and gives you a super-quick tour of where everything is. Because of our late start, we were informed that we had about an hour before it would be time to go. So I made the most of it, and if you were with me here are some of the things we could have done:

Shisha smoking – this is included in the ticket price, but I’ve heard and read too much about how shisha isn’t any better for your voice than cigarettes, so I passed. I get plenty of it secondhand when we perform on the beach, lol!

Falcon flirting – okay, I’d already taken pictures with Maktoum the falcon back at the resort, but this was a different one! =) And she did tricks; Maktoum doesn’t. This did cost a small fee of 10 dirhams, but I enjoyed it.

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ATV riding – I would have liked to get this done. Too many people and too little time.

Sand boarding – this was on the top of my list! Picture snowboarding, except on sandy dunes instead of snowy hills. But there didn’t seem to be anyone around offering instruction; I was handed the board by another tourist, so I dragged it up to the top of a dune, looked down at my sandals and shrugged. I ended up taking some more pictures instead.

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Camel riding – thank goodness this wasn’t on my list (again, I had done it at the resort), because there were hordes of people waiting to ride the camel.

Authentic dress – another area where it would have been nice to see staff of some sort. Putting on the abaya is a no-brainer, but wrapping the sheila definitely takes practice and/or help! I met a nice woman from Cambodia who was in the same boat, so we did the best we could, but if the organizers had asked for my feedback … um, why didn’t they? … I for sure would have asked about this.

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Tanoura dancer – once the sun goes down, the scheduled entertainment starts. I found the male dancer kind of boring but I’m sure I’d have been more interested if I knew more of the history behind Tanoura, an Egyptian folk dance where the performer’s costume lights up.

Henna – yeah! I haven’t had henna done since the turn of the century, so I was excited for this. It was included in the ticket price too, but I chose to tip the Indian woman who applied it. I left mine on for a little over two hours because I wanted it to get as dark as possible. Shoutouts to the guys from the States who were in line in front of me getting scorpions and other designs: “real men get henna tattoos!”

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Dinner – the words “international buffet” sound more glamourous than what you get; luckily I was warned about this ahead of time. If you don’t expect much, you’ll be fine – salad, meat, rice, and a few other items, plus water and pop (and I think tea and coffee) are all included in your ticket price, and you line up to get it cafeteria/all-you-can-eat-buffet-style before chowing down at the table reserved for your group. The tables are low to the ground, decorated in keeping with the Bedouin theme, and you sit on low benches surrounding the stage so everyone has a good view of the entertainment.

Belly dancer – I was excited for this as well. She danced to a handful of songs with different props, including canes and a silver cape and of course the jingling hipscarf. During her last number she got a few of the audience members up and dancing with her; some of the men could really shake it!

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Bathroom – don’t expect to make it through the whole safari without needing to relieve yourself, especially if it’s hot out because you will be drinking. And don’t expect much from the bathrooms either. Although there were separate toilet areas for men and women, a guy didn’t see the sign so a few of us ladies ended up having to wait (lol) to use the rather shabby facilities.  (You’ll notice if you scroll back up that I packed hand sanitizer … yeah. That’s all.)

I skipped the souvenir shopping, and we all piled back into the car to get driven through the dark desert, then the brightly lit city, and back home.

My ticket (thanks to Groupon and Cooper Tourism) cost me 109 dirhams, or $33.59 Canadian; plus I gave the falcon’s handler and the henna artist 10 dirhams each, which is roughly another $6 Canadian. Under 40 bucks = totally worth it. And I would be really annoyed with myself if I’d somehow made it through six months here without doing the desert safari, so voila!

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Til next time …

 

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Dubai recap – two months left!

Well hi!

130 days in Dubai … has everyone back home forgotten about me yet?  Haha!

With two more months til hometime, here are a few updates for the curious …

 

IMG_0144Our shows continue to go well, especially on Friday nights when we get to perform outside on the beach.  Here’s a clip from two Fridays ago – hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you soon!

instatrisseI now have an Instagram account, and I post new pics and/or videos every day, so you can peek in on the highs and lows of my #Dubailife =) Just follow @chattrisse

jan 30 2014Coming up next, I have my sights set on the Caribbean!  There is an incredible opportunity to spend July and August on the beautiful island of Tobago, and now that my video and bio are in, I need your help to get me there.  I’d be so grateful if you could take the time to “Like” the 60 Days in Paradise Facebook page and leave a comment about why Chattrisse Dolabaille should be the first-ever Island Connoisseur, and/or do the same thing on Twitter by mentioning @60daysparadise and @chattrisse and using the hashtag #60days … the Top Ten finalists will be announced on April 21st, and if I’m one of them I’ll need all the votes I can get to land the gig!

flyboard10Some of the experiences I’ve enjoyed here so far are camel riding, fly boarding (now that was a thrill), some shopping, lots of tanning, and even more peacock-watching.  Last week I posted ten more things that are on my to-do list … so far I’ve completed #9, booked #4 and #6, picked a tentative date for #2 and #5, and I hope to get #7 done this month as well …  stay tuned!

DSC07672And last but not least, I set a personal goal to write 50 new songs during this Dubai sojourn of mine; as of yesterday, I’m up to 37, planning to blow that goal out of the water.  Will I end up with 55?  60?  Time will tell …

 

All in all, I’m excited to go home, but I’m glad it isn’t time to go just yet.  Til next time!

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Dubai recap – 2 months in and still going strong …

Before this stint in the Middle East, the longest I had ever been away from home was about 7 weeks, when I interned in Washington, DC.  (Shoutout to everyone from BET’s main campus!) So one thing I was excited to experience was being away from home for a long time. Anything over 3 or 4 months, with no visits back home, is long to me.

Now it’s been 2 months since I left Toronto (flew out on November 27th), and I can honestly say the time is going by faster than I thought it would. Working 6 nights a week is probably one of the reasons why. In Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple one of the characters says “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly” and that is so true – sometimes I’m in the middle of a set thinking “How is it that only 16 minutes of this set have passed and there are still THREE MORE SETS to go before bedtime?!?”

And yet, when I look back through my photos and videos, I’m reminded that I’ve been making good use of the time here. So let’s get you caught up a bit …

DSC07297Ah, the lovely White Orchid Lounge! This has been our show venue since we arrived and in less than a week we will be moving to a different stage here on the resort. I wish we could take all the White Orchid staff with us because they’re so fantastic … fingers crossed, we might get to bring one or two of them … and although I know I’ll miss the children who come dance to our music and the view from the balcony overlooking the pool, I’m looking forward to our new venue too. For one thing, my “commute” will be much shorter … instead of a 3-minute walk, it’ll be a 30-second elevator ride. #likeaboss

 

January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014

I’ve been getting off the resort and into the city a bit more, which is both nice and necessary.  Almost once a week I find myself at the famous Dubai Mall … it’s humongous and one of my fave shopping centres so I have no complaints on that score! We’re currently in the midst of the Dubai Shopping Festival (yep, that’s a real thing – check the pic below) so between that, looking around in souks like the one where I got the pink wallet/clutch pictured above for less than ten dollars, and a visit to the Dubai Outlet Mall (now that’s a heavenly word combination), I’ve been snagging some great deals.

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And I have to say, I feel like I’m settling in pretty well! Eating three times a day is awesome. The weather has had its ups and downs, but it looks like it’s starting to heat back up slowly but surely. Being 9 hours ahead of home makes it tricky to stay in touch as much as I’d like to, but Facebook has become my lifeline and I’m very grateful for Skype as well. I’ve met some awesome people, I’ve written 6 new songs in just over 8 weeks, I’m finding a balance between work and play, and I’m already very excited about the rest of 2014 and into 2015. Oh, and I’m slowly tanning. =)

Stay tuned for more updates and another Top Ten list coming your way!  (The first Tuesday of every month.)  Check out my YouTube channel for videos of the Dubai Marina, the dancing fountains at the Dubai Mall, a baby peacock, clips of our White Orchid performances, and – soon – my first completed video project since I got here.  Much love …