The Issue of Poverty(AGAIN) PT. I

Been sitting on this one for the past week, been digesting it. Debating whether or not to sound off on it. But there is a burning desire to.

Many of us in the community talking about global poverty, like it’s some issue to tackle on some high level. And while it costs big dollars to mobilize change, it’s really not rocket science. And while it does serve some governments to keep their people poor and uneducated, let’s abandon that notion and just deal with the bottom line… It’s not difficult to understand. The Poor exist and we need to fix it somehow.

Learned that over the past year, (and probably longer), there has been a homeless person living in my backyard in Jamaica. At first, I thought it was just someone “stealing” from me, but then learned that no, a person had been living there at night. Showering, using our water and taking refuge. Got a hefty bill of $30K JMD. Which is like $350CDN. Not much in the grand scheme of things. But enough to make me further comprehend how bad the situation has become in Jamaica. There are people who need a place to live. To shower. To eat. To sleep. To do bodily functions in private.

Those with millions and billions are trying to decide how best to spend their money on solving poverty on a global scale but honestly, in the time it takes to talk about it, there are people who need help right now on the local scale who are suffering and in need right now.

I understand that governments are corrupt, I understand that organizations are corrupt, I understand that some people are corrupt. I understand all of that. I am not attacking those trying to solve the issue, I suppose my anger is towards the Jamaican government AGAIN, for letting it get this bad.

I suppose it’s one more thing to add on my TO DO list…

I have more thoughts on this…
To Be Continued…

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“DUSHI” / CURAÇAO

Just returned from another lovely trip to the Caribbean in beautiful Curaçao. Stayed at the Sunscape Curaçao Resort Spa & Casino. The accommodations were adequate, the food was great. The weather was gorgeous, the sea was amazing. And I was able to see a small portion of the island… and had a fantastic time!

However there were some dark moments, which unfortunately put a cloud over the entire trip. They say you never have a 2nd chance to have a 1st impression. It is sad that such a beautiful experience was marred by the action of a few.

What I experienced was very different and on a whole other level of ridiculous and unacceptable. And my story, along with other Black people, and other shades of Black, Indian – was unique to us. A group of us were systematically and repeatedly racially profiled on the resort, and consistently carded several times a day. In addition, my mother and I were attacked by a local in the casino – whereby the manager of the casino did absolutely nothing, denied any responsibility and took the side of the guy who accused us of stealing his slot machine card. On top of all this, we all felt an overwhelming nagging sense that the staff were too busy to attend to us. Like we did not belong there or something. It was a sad state all around.

And it wasn’t even “White” on “Black” racism, where one could identify it, and protest it. This was BLACK ON BLACK racism. My OWN PEOPLE were doing this to me and us. What for? They actually stopped us on the resort several times a day, asking our names and room numbers at a checkpoint. It was a degrading and tiring experience – as though we were intruding on their turf, or sneaking in without paying. When TRUTH be told, if you examined the bank accounts of the Black people on the resort you would see quite a different tale. Meaning, Blacks have MONEY. Get over it! We have money and we will spend it where ever we choose. But of course we’re not allowed to go anywhere nice.

Nevertheless, I spoke to the management about it and I wasn’t stopped again. And the other people who protested – they were also given a “pass.” But I know that’s just my situation, and our situation. Who knows when they’ll stop the next?

I have experienced the former type of racism in my childhood and youth, believe me, and was probably better equipped to deal with it, because I knew what it was. But even now, almost in my mid-30s, I’m still not equipped to deal with this sense that “I am not/should not be allowed to be somewhere or do something, because I am of colour.” It’s a notion I’ve never been exposed to in my life. I’ve always had opportunities afforded to me, and have never had any type of obstacle professionally or personally, in Canada. So, when I go to the Caribbean, where I feel like this should be my “second home,” and am treated like a 2nd class citizen, my heart breaks and that’s all there is to it.

Oddly I do not / cannot blame the people who did this, and the culture that surrounds them and how they treat people. How can I? They are a product of their environment, of their own history, and of their own slavery.  They are constantly reminded of it, and perhaps can’t escape it. They are a product of their own mental slavery.

Despite this tragic tarnish, I had a FANTASTIC time with my madre 😀 And enjoyed her hilarious antics when she threatened to beat the guy with her cane, and nearly did to the casino manager.  So at least I know I was well-protected! 😉

Onto the next trip!

😀

sunset2 mum & me 2 port dushi fire14 sign2

Punta Cana: Royal Suites Turquesa – NOT SO GOOD

Just returned from my birthday week in Punta Cana. Sadly, this resort was a BUST. I contracted a food poisoning bug on the 2nd day, but recovered somewhat thanks to some natural alcoholic remedies suggested by one of the locals. 😉 HaHaHa. What else can I say? Had a wicked SwimUp pool though?

As far as resorts go – I’ve never been sick in Cuba! And personally, I much prefer the Cuban vibe. The service is kinder, cleaner and the visitors (less, the Americans), are definitely friendlier, more open and warmer. It’s not surprising that Canadians love Cuba, it’s like an extension of the Canadian attitude. This DR resort definitely catered to the Americans, where everything had to be in US funds. I couldn’t even see the doctor without paying $175USD first. Of course I didn’t. But I can’t imagine what it’s like to live under that type of insanity. (So Happy to be Canadian!)

In spite of the food bug madness, I still managed to enjoy myself! Met some beautiful and kind people who helped me through it. A family from Kentucky, a couple from Detroit, New York and Berlin. It all comes down to the people surrounding you. Sadly the couple from New York and Berlin also suffered from the same food bug. What a shocker! We laughed and commiserated over the horror. The German man kept telling me stories about every aspect of his trip that were, “Not So Good,” and at that point I realized it wasn’t just me. Oh well…

By now, I realize that these resorts are a complete gamble… most times it will be a decent time, and you’ll meet amazing people, and other times, aspects will fail and you just have to make do somehow. I definitely made do.. I slept, and slept, and slept… on the beach of course… but I could totally do with another vacation right about now. 😀

But on this Thanksgiving weekend, just thankful for the ability and opportunity to travel, see the world, experience it with my madre, and be enlightened. That’s exactly what travel does, enlightens you to the realities, and makes you appreciate what you have in your life. Truly blessed!

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cabana

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sunset

hangin out

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Jamaica: Small Shifts, Small Planes

What more can I say about Jamaica…

I have just returned from a 6 week stay in Spanish Town, Jamaica (end of July to beginning of September). Not much has changed, and by the same token, a lot has gotten worse. It absolutely kills me to see my second home in the state that it’s in. Sad and angry. The same sentiment as last year… And when I speak to native Jamaicans, some don’t feel the same way I do, because they’re so used to the madness and insanity, they don’t know anything else – and they wouldn’t even know how to go about improving it. However, Ex-pats who have lived abroad who return home to retire, share my views and don’t know how it got to that state. Other Jamaicans, share my views – and just give up hope. Which is usually the case.

If the Jamaican Government, doesn’t make some significant policy changes, the problem will just continue to escalate and the suffering will continue. I think it’s past the point of fixing. Already it’s getting to the point where there is systematic legalized child sex-abuse, legalized violence against women, and the general violence is out of control. Their policies are absolutely ridiculous, with a lack of regard for humanitarian needs, a general misconstrued idea of priority (putting tablets ahead of food and education), and furthermore…a general lack of education among the people, to know what they’ve been conditioned to believe untruths. The propaganda the Government feeds them is out of this world. I often wonder if people are able to think for themselves…

And for myself trying to understand the situation, I can only comment on what I see. I do not live there full-time, so I cannot even attempt to make suggestions, based on flawed policies. So I find myself locked in a vicious cycle. Trying to help even on a local and personal level, becomes more and more difficult, because everyone still needs to adhere to a higher system that they’ve been dragged into. So when I suggest a different method, which might work in a modern and mechanized “Canadian” world, doesn’t work there, because the system does not work. Even when I suggest something as simple as, “read more,” it is a problem. The Jamaican system is broken. But it works broken. And trying to fix the broken wheel, will not make the entire ‘bike’ run any smoother, so to speak.

If you want to get a picture of how the country really is, go to Hellshire Beach and talk to Vernon, my Dreadlock friend. He will tell you everything you need to know, and then some. Talking to the people who are on the pulse is the best way to get a sense of the undercurrent of a country. Every story has a similar thread: inflation, no work, higher prices for education, fees for everything, long waits for everything, theft, violence, .. it’s the same story over, and over, and over again.

I always visit during their Independence Day, August 6th, and every year I just shake my head. What did they gain independence for? To be an impoverished, non-improving state? I don’t know what will become of Jamaica. All I can do is pray that a positive wave interjects soon, and at least attempts to shift the pendulum the other way.

I wanted to encourage a shift in thought on a small level, and have a greater effect on more people, but any change would need longer than 6weeks. I need to go for 6 months and see what I can achieve. And I just don’t have that time right now. I might have achieved a shift on a very small plane, and I’m really happy about that… but any large shift in the paradigm will have to come over a longer people of time I suspect. I’m still thinking on it…

Regardless of the political and/or my humanitarian efforts… I still had a blast. The sun, air, great food, great people… make enduring the chaos all worth it. It’s paradise, despite the insanity one has to live through. Of course if you’re on a resort(unlike me), it’s a much different vibe, but I like my set-up. It works for me. I would go just for the food!

And as always… onto the next trip! Punta Cana, you best get ready for Ms.Stef. 😉
shopping sky 4 Hellshire 3

Movie on the Marina

And so our circumnavigating the Caribbean saw us again in Cuba… it’s becoming my 3rd home. And while each trip has its indelible moments, this particular trip seemed to bring the most joy and comfort. I went to visit a friend who works in Cuba, and chose Marina Veradero because it was closest to his home, and because it was a newly built resort.

The resort itself, was fantastic, clean and spacious, friendly staff… but the details are what makes the experience. And while I am satisfied with bare bones accommodations, I think certain improvements and higher standards would have made it an exceptional experience. If you raise the bar – you’ll get higher! 😉

It’s apparent that there is a forward-thinking strategy occurring with the building of this type of resort. Anticipating perhaps a new clientele in the future… from a very close, yet distant neighbour? It’s very ambitious. But they’d need to increase the wow-quality if they want to ‘keep’ them. The resort had three distinct vibes, the pool vibe, the beach vibe, and the marina vibe.. which resembles the St.Maarten boardwalk scene – with supermarkets, small shops, cafes, and places to lounge around.

Again, I met amazing people on this trip, from Toronto, England, Germany, Switzerland, and of course meeting the Cubans. The highlight of meeting new friends is what makes the experience fulfilling. I love the Caribbean vibe the most, because it’s more community-oriented, sharing and giving. We went around, bummed on the beach, and another  purpose of the trip was my health recovery, so I attempted to do that.

I am a great supporter of traveling, I feel it’s the best form of education you can achieve. You learn about other people and their cultures, gain breadth in your thinking and mindset, hopefully become open and available to new possibilities for yourself and for others, and again hopefully recognize what you have and become thankful for everything even more when you get home. I think if more people traveled, they’d be more enlightened, more appreciative, more accepting of others, and less judgmental. Or perhaps each has their own journey to have and lessons to learn, and either way.. traveling just enhances that experience.

I think of trips as mini-movies, where you can lose yourself for a moment, become that lead protagonist and have that star-quality moment and shine. I always feel more confident when I return from a trip, always ready for the next one. 😉

Are you ready for the next trip? I’m packing! 😀
condo view

the marina3

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on the beach

 

Holguin is Paradise, Paradisus Rio De Oro was NOT!!

Just spent a week in Holguin at the Paradisus Rio De Oro, part of the Melia group of hotels – had a CRAPPY time! I’m surprised at the accommodations and level of service for a so-called 5-star resort. I’ve stayed at 4.5-star resorts in Santa Maria that were a million times better than this.

THE ROOM – INFESTED with ants and insects, in the bed no less! We spent 3 days moving, packing and unpacking. The room was dirty. The service was non-existent, days waiting for anything you requested – for simple things like bottles of water.

CLEANLINESS – DURRRTYYYY! One of the dinner servers was seen playing with her hair and picking her nose and then setting the table. Unclean. The food was often reserved – making some people sick. I mean, I’d rather just have a smaller selection of food, than reheated and stale left-overs!

The UPSIDE (if you can call it that) – Because of this universal lack of service – we actually commiserated with one another to lessen the agony. But in doing so, met some amazing people! Pearl from Toronto – my new Yoga buddy, Serge from Montreal – my gym buddy, and a couple of British couples who’ve invited me to London for a visit!

I’ve been to Holguin before – it’s a gorgeous location. It’s unfortunate that this has marred my experience of it. Sadly, I’m reminded that our experiences are all relative – and some people actually loved this resort, because they had only experienced worse!! So this was an upgrade for them?! I shudder to think where they’ve been staying!! *wince*

I’ve already written a scathing letter and sent it to the Melia Head Office. Received a note that they’re “reviewing my query” – let’s see what happens with this… Not expecting anything. Just going to stick with Santa Maria, where my heart belongs…

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Jamaica, A Duality

Preamble: This trip was not an intended vacation.

It’s difficult to discuss such a beautiful island such as Jamaica without discussing the country’s economic, political and social situations. Everyone associates Jamaica with relaxing, fun and exciting because of its gorgeous beaches, amazing food, crazy parties and festivals, and other ‘indulgences.’ But the reality for its people and mine that I adopt while there, is quite a different scenario.

The truth is that Jamaica is quite a duality. And I realize that every developing nation has its flaws and weaknesses, and even developed nations have their fair share of corruption and debauchery. But when a country and its people have abandoned a sense of hope, and a vision for the future – that’s a different story altogether.

Jamaica IS a beautiful country with an abundance of talent, and obvious potential – but also has a very sad, dark side. The poverty, corruption, extortion, desperation, violence, and the imbalanced distribution of wealth, is just the tip of the iceberg. This insane ‘way of life,’ systematically suppresses its people and the reason why most seek a brighter future elsewhere.

I know it takes time for a country to develop – but exactly how long? How long do those at the top get, to steal every last dollar and leave their people behind? I’ve gone back numerous times in my life, and it’s quite sad to see such a lovely country with a wealth of creativity and beauty, be in the state it is today.

To put it simply, by my eloquent mother: “Coming here just brings on vexation & heartache.” And it’s true. The entire situation first leaves you angry, and it leaves you sad and helpless.

However, despite the obvious struggles, angst and anxiety that one has to endure while there, I managed to have some good moments with my chosen family. That is, I made sure that despite the insanity – I injected my own version of ‘normalcy’ into the mix. And that’s the only way to survive – is to create your own world within the madness. So I kept a low profile, had my fish & festival by the sea, did my own thing with my friends and family, and came home with a new sense of purpose and hope.

And so because I don’t think one can talk about a country with such candor, without offering a way out – I’m going to attempt to provide one. Out of this experience, I’ve resigned myself to a new Philanthropic project, which is a Foundation, that I hope will benefit those who are creative and want to do better for themselves, who have the talent and see themselves rising above it, and for those who like me, do see a brighter future.

looking out