Why Grenada is warmer than Dubai

 

I visited Grenada and Dubai last year. I knew that they are both hot countries and I knew that the latter was warmer by about 10°C than the former.

I visited Dubai end of June as it entered one of the hottest months of the year, with temperatures reaching a whopping 40°C plus. Even at night, the temperature was about 29 degrees. There was no rainfall, it was humid and it was extremely hot.
The average temperature in Grenada hovered around 28°C and there was a day where I had to pull out my warm jumper from my suitcase because of the torrential and relentless rain.

The desire to keep cool in Dubai means that it is colder if you stay indoors than Grenada. I went from one air-conditioned area to another – mall, home, taxi etc. And after spending a couple of hours in an air-conditioned ice box, also known as a cinema, it was freezing. It was so cold I would stand outside to warm up. I was the only person who was doing this the others were smokers.

My favourite British soul songs

Soul music from the UK was essentially ignored by many parts of the mainstream in the 80s and 90s. As I always say, ‘things were differpent in the olden days’, as the music industry had the power to make or break careers and ultimately decide who got mainstream airplay. There were many tunes from those days that had lots of traction as well as influence and when listen to new music I can hear the rippling effect of those heavy vibes. Here are ten of my favourite tracks, in no particular order, from the good ole days.

  1. Sinclair – I Want You Back
  2. D’Influence – Good Lover
  3. Junior – Mama Used to Say
  4. Lynden David Hall – Do I Qualify
  5. Omar – There’s Nothing Like This
  6. Mary Rose – Love & Devotion
  7. Jill Francis – Make Love to Me
  8. Mica Paris & Omar – I Should Have Known Better
  9. Princess – Say I’m Your Number One
  10. Soul II Soul – Fair Play

Have I missed any out? Please comment below.

The first time I tasted chocolate

 

I don’t remember my first experience of consuming chocolate. It was probably some milky drink my mother loving prepared like Milo or Ovaltine. Milk chocolate – from one of the multi-national mega manufacturers like Nestle, Rowntree or Cadbury – has been so ingrained in my life that it makes the memory of eating cacao bean for the first time even more intense.

On an intensely hot day last year, I made my way to the Diamond Factory in Victoria in Grenada. They are the producers of the amazingly rich tropical tasting Jouvay chocolate. As I walked towards the factory, the sweet and spicy smell of chocolate tingled my nose like music hitting my ears on Jouvay morning.

Cacao pods are produced near the factory. The tour guide opened up a cacao pod for me and the dark bean was encased with a white pulp. It had a similar texture to a lychee. I was told to suck the bean. But as I disobeyed orders and munched down what I experienced was a deeply intense bitter flavour and a hard rough texture of the bean. It wasn’t sweet at all.

The sugar is added later, as I saw as I was shown around the factory, and no milk or oil was added to chocolate which makes the taste truly intense.

Jouvay signals the beginning of carnival, and also means daybreak or morning in French, and the Grenadian party that went on my in my mouth which brought along with its accents of nutmeg, mango, ginger, papaya etc. It created a delightfully happy and enjoyable experience.

I could taste Grenada every time I put a piece of chocolate into my mouth. I can see why the spice isle is considered the capital of Caribbean chocolate.

Happiness: The goal off my New Year’s resolution list

At the beginning of every year for many years I wrote a list stating what positive changes I wanted to make to my life. My New Year’s resolution list is a tradition I have kept up for many years. Over the years I have read a lot about to how to make positive changes and one tip is to look at your most important goal or goals every day and make smaller consistent actions to enable them to be fulfilled.

Yesterday, I was looking at my list of resolutions that I wanted to achieve in 2018. In fact, I looked at my list twice and the second time I noticed that a resolution that was consistently on my list for many years was no longer there.

It was the desire to be happy and to become my name, Joy.

I wondered why this goal wasn’t on my list. I realised that it didn’t feature because I had worked hard to deal with the root cause of the pain in my life and remove, change and transform it.

I still have struggles, worries and problems and periods of unhappiness and feeling low. But what has changed is that I am on active life long journey to discovering joy in every sense of the word.

Making America Great: What I learnt from reading the Gosho

I am still in the process of reading the first volume of the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, from cover to cover. One of the lessons I have learnt is about how the American Dream and Making America Great is a provisional teaching. Nichiren Daishonin refutes and discusses provisional teachings a lot. The priest is consistently refuting provisional teachings in most of the writings I have read so far. There was no electricity in the thirteenth century so the main light sources were the sun, moon and stars. He often compares the Lotus Sutra to the sun and moon – the brightest light sources at the time. While provisional or transient teachings, like Nembutsu, True Word, Zen, Precepts, are like stars, bright but cannot guide you to safety like the moon or sun. Even though most people today are not influenced by the teachings followed in Japan during Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime. Many people are influenced by other provisional teachings like consumerism, advertising, film, popular culture and the videos they see on YouTube. An example of a provisional teaching that did not stand the test of time is the American Dream. This ethos espoused that for white Americans at least “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” For many white Americans, this dream has become a nightmarethis dream has become a nightmare. There is more job insecurity, lower incomes, increasing debt and an opioid addiction epidemic. This has created resentment among this demographic and political commentators believe this led to the election of Donald Trump who promised another provisional teaching to ‘Make America great again’. But Nam Myoho Renge Kyo remains like the sun and the moon. In Good Fortune in This Life (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Volume I, pages 654-655) states: “The sun is brilliant, and the moon, clear. The words of the Lotus Sutra are brilliant and clear, clear and brilliant, like the reflection of a face in a bright mirror, or the image of the moon on clear water.” The Lotus Sutra differs from other provisional teachings because it states without exception the infinite potential and dignity inherent in the life of each human being.

The power of story – a journalist’s tale

lima

I really wanted to go the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre. Not being organised enough to get a ticket in advance meant I had to get up early and pray – I really did – that I got one.

There were many tickets at the door, fortunately for me, so I was able to attend the event. One of the first sessions in the main area was a panel of women reviewing the world from a women’s perspective.

As the women spoke on the panel I noticed two women huddled together closely – one tearful woman holding up a woman the other. I was surprised when Columbian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima came to the stage to speak, she was holding up and clearly encouraging her sobbing interpreter.
I wondered why.

And then I heard her story.

Lima is a journalist who was kidnapped, tortured and gang-raped because of her job by paramilitaries in her home country. I don’t remember the details of every word that she said. But her powerful story touched my soul. She completely owned her experience. The audience was touched by her personal perspective of the effects of sexual violence in conflict.
Her story was also powerful because she gave a voice to the voiceless – sexually abused women – who are often maligned, shamed and traumatised by their experiences.

Can I live an unconnected life?

20171014_160832.jpg
I sometimes feel like I am always being monitored by something – the internet, my mobile phone, CCTV, shops – to name but a few. This annoys me slightly. However, this has become even more annoying since the software on my phone has been updated. I keep on getting notifications asking about my route to work and I am constantly being asked my opinions about restaurants I have walked past but never entered.

As much as I love Uncle Google I like him on my own terms – getting directions when I am lost, finding out info and searching for useful stuff. I do find his constant checking up on me annoying. I feel like I am living George Orwell’s novel 1984 where I am being monitored and the information is collected and used so that I can consume more or help others to buy more.

This has led me to constantly ask myself do I need a mobile phone. But one of the first things I do in the morning is switch off the alarm on my mobile then check email, Facebook and Whatsapp. I also love being connected with my family and friends for free who live abroad. I voluntarily give up my data every time I connect with technology.
The constant connection began to irritate me so as a compromise, to get slightly off-grid, I decided to give up home broadband. But not having broadband at home also annoys me as I have to seek internet elsewhere.

If you want to remain connected on your own terms you can’t win!

 

This year I embraced my bikini body

20171014_062758-COLLAGE.jpg

I do not have a perfect body.
I most definitely didn’t have the stick thin model body which was considered a beauty standard when I was growing up.

In my teenage years, I used to wear long sleeved jumpers in the summer in a vain attempt to hide my body. It didn’t help that back in those days people would tell me that I was fat and many of the clothes that I wore didn’t suit my chubby adolescent frame and I didn’t have a coveted thigh gap.

The many negative comments that were made about my body, from friends’ and strangers, didn’t help the way I felt about it.

That is why I never wore a bikini.

I always ‘hid’ in my black tankini with a red stripe if I went to the beach or swimming pool. This is because I didn’t want to be judged for having large voluminous thighs, a bulging stomach and bingo wings.

I decided not to wear a bikini.

It was a self-imposed limitation even though I yearned to wear a bikini for many years. I admired girls who were chubbier than me who wore their swimwear with confidence and pride. So with my holidays booked earlier this year, I finally decided it was time to wear one.

So I bought a hot pink fuschia bikini!

And do you know what? Nothing happened.

No one cared about my bikini body and I had a great time frolicking in the ocean and on the beach.

What I learnt from reading the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

 

20171126_192009.jpg

Earlier this year, I decided to read the first volume of the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, from cover to cover.
The book, which is commonly referred to as the Gosho was written by Nichiren Daishonin (1222–1282), a thirteenth century Japanese priest who believed that all people have the potential Buddhahood.

This was a radical idea for a man who lived in a feudal patriarchal society. And many ways this concept still is a radical idea which makes the Gosho, a collection essays and letters of encouragement to the first followers of Nichiren Daishonin, more poignant.

And even though they are written by a persecuted bloke who lived in thirteenth century Japan many of the principles he talked about can be applied in modern society.
Some lessons that I have learnt so far from reading the Gosho:

  • Nichiren Daishonin is a poet and like many poets, he has the power to change hearts and souls.
  •  The sun and moon are often used to describe the power, significance, and importance of the Lotus Sutra.
  •  Nichiren Daishonin says the same things over and over in his letter of encouragement to his disciples. For example: “Bodhisattvas, have no fear of mad elephants. What you should fear are evil friends!”
  •  I don’t understand every single word – but my life does.

 

Falling in love with Carriacou

Despite being born in Grenada my dad has never been to Carriacou – a Caribbean island belonging to the country. He told me he always wanted to go but never got around to it. I think his desire to go is because he is from Sauteurs, the north of the mainland, where on a clear day you can see the tiny intriguing island.

So when I went to Grenada earlier this year I decided that I would go.

Not many people have heard of this place, which is part of the Grenadine group of islands and located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. It features some of the most unspoiled coral reefs in the region – hence why the indigenous Carib settlers called the isle Kayryouacou, or Carriacou, which means the land of reefs.

And after a 20 mile gut- wrenching trip I didn’t expect much from a place which is home to around 8000 people. Many people on the mainland questioned and wondered why I would go to such a place.

But unlike most places I have been in the world it has sunshine, many unspoilt beaches and beautiful bays.

I didn’t explore the wooded mountainous terrain nor did I visit one of the countless outlying uninhabited islands like Sandy Beach. But I stuck
to a small radius which consisted of Tyrell Bay, Paradise Beach and the capital Hillsborough. These spots made me feel like I was in a special place. I loved drinking Carib and Stag in rum shops while listening to sweet music and playing dominos – even though
I kept on losing the game.

There were things about the island that I didn’t like – but they are not worth mentioning.

I loved and fell in love Carriacou because it was the antithesis of everything I am used to. It was peaceful, calm, quiet. Most of all it was
magical.