Going Off the Grid

No WifiGood News: We found a great house in a really wonderful neighborhood.

Frustrating News: Because many services do tend to run on the infamous island time, the struggle is real. We have no idea when our cable and Internet service will be installed. Although I have an iPhone with a hotspot, I need to have my phone unlocked and a SIM card installed in order to gain cell service.

So, be not alarmed. I’m fine. Just a bit technologically disconnected.

Thanks!

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Rainy Days, Mondays, and Birthdays

Birthday Portrait
Happy birthday to me!

Monday was my 31st birthday. As grateful as I should have been to spend that day on a tropical island paradise, I found myself sinking deeper into depression with every passing moment.

For the past several years – maybe since about the age of 10 – I have both dreaded birthdays and awaited them with excitement and anticipation. Prior to my 10th birthday, my parents always went all out with pool parties, clowns, and cake. They invited all of my classmates. It was always great fun! The dread began on my golden birthday when I realized that parents would no longer force their children to attend my birthday parties. The only two people I could invite to our apartment for cake and ice-cream were in two entirely different social groups at school and barely tolerated each other.

My 16th birthday was nice, as it was my first since starting at a new school in Georgia. I invited some of my lunchtime gals over and we took a limo to the Cheesecake Factory. We met an Indiana Pacer (no one from the starting line-up, so I couldn’t tell you his name). I gave away Victoria’s Secret gift bags. We ate a Costco cake with my portrait on it. I wore a fabulous red dress from Nordstrom. It was great, but I didn’t know these girls very well and I am only in limited touch with two of the 4 guests.

The teen birthdays that would follow returned to an annually disappointing affair as attendees left early to go to other, cooler parties. If they showed up at all. For my 17th, I broke down in tears shortly after a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”


College proved to be a different experience. Beginning my sophomore year, my wonderful friends began throwing me annual surprise parties. My birthday typically fell right before move-in day for students, so after a long day of movie boxes and bins in the desperate heat and humidity of South Georgia, everyone was pretty excited about reuniting with friends they’ve not seen all summer.

For some people, it may have been more of a back-to-school get-together disguised as my birthday party. But I didn’t care. A roomful of people – the majority of whom seem to genuinely like me – were gathered together because they wanted to spend time with me. And nobody’s parents made them do it!

I look back on those college days with fondness. As an adult, my experience has proved to be a stressful one. While friends celebrate their birthdays by going on trips to exotic locales or hitting up the VIP lounge at the hottest club in town, I spend a lot of time making and cancelling plans. Fearful that no itinerary for my birthday would be awesome enough to entice people to write it down in pen for their Saturday night plans.

Now, I live on an island in the Caribbean. I should be blissfully happy and joyous, and yet, the great cloud of depression still looms. Another year older, another disappointing birthday.

Perhaps I figured I would have made a few friends in the three weeks I’ve been on the island. Maybe I expected people’s Facebook well-wishes would be more personal and that a male who is not gay, not married, or not a relative would have showed me a little birthday love. Or it could be that chemical imbalance is a real thing but medication is not consistently effective from day to day.

Whatever the case, I made the unfortunate mistake of allowing the rain cloud steadily forming above my head to dampen my spirit. I let the things that people said (or didn’t say) affect enthusiasm with which I chose to celebrate my special day.

I am deeply disappointed in myself considering Barbados was supposed to be my new start. I had hoped to embrace this move as an opportunity to grow and develop beyond the pains and limitations of my past, into the joy and strength of my future. While I have not entirely abandoned this hope, the fact that I have not gotten off to the best start is upsetting.

Thankfully, every day is a new day and since my birthday, my week has been a fairly pleasant one. Here’s to new mornings every day!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

Creating Positive Triggers

Great example of coping mechanisms and cognitive behavioral therapy 🙂

BY LAUREN HAYLEY

Creating positive triggers is a new concept to me, but it’s something I’m definitely willing to try.

Those of us with anxiety have negative triggers all around us. We associate bad things with ordinary objects or locations, because in the past, being around their object or in that location has made us panic.

I have many of these negative triggers: trains, buses, elevators, multi-storey buildings, pedestrian crossings, automatic doors – shall we go on? And usually, they prevent me from doing the things I want to do. I’m restricted to certain places, and I take random detours to avoid my triggers.

But what if we can turn a bad trigger into a good one?

What if we can condition ourselves to not think of something bad when we look at what scares us, but instead think of something good?

Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

I recently met a woman who puts this…

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Service Trips and Other Ways to Give Back

The opportunities are there. The tasks are simple. You can help change the world…

University 101

I looked out the window as my 14 hour flight was coming to a close when I saw it—the sunrise.

This was no ordinary sunrise, it was an African sunrise, something I had never before seen and hope to see again one day.

My team had three tasks to complete during our short-term service trip in Lesotho, Africa: assist with the day-to-day routine with the children at the orphanage we volunteered at, paint two buildings on the orphanage grounds, and immerse ourselves in the Lesotho culture, soaking up as many interesting facts as possible to bring back to the States.

According to College USA Today, the spirit of philanthropy and activism is on the rise amongst college students. This generation is setting an example to younger and older generations in the values of making a positive impact on their local communities and communities abroad.

Twins Kelsey and Kaitlyn Lamb…

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All Ah We

It is 8 o’clock on a Monday morning and instead of watching Good Morning America as usual, I am tuned into CBC-8, awaiting the start of Grand Kadooment!

Grand Kadooment Revelers
Grand Kadooment Revelers

I watched eagerly as each band of revelers gathered at Kensington Oval to go before the judges who would award points based on costume, theme, presentation. Every group came forth around the track and jumped up donning their carnival best. Xhosa, Walk Holy, Baje, Blue Box Cart, Zulu International

They all wined their way around the track and onto Spring Garden Highway. Once we saw that the bands were nearing our condo, we slithered down a side street and made our way to the parade route and Bridgetown Market. We stood about with onlookers from all over the world. I even ran into a fellow Georgia Southern University alum!

Georgia Southern University - True Blue!
Georgia Southern University – True Blue!

Amidst all the colorful feathers and boisterous fanfare, my favorite observation was perhaps the love and respect festival-goers paid to my mother.

Friendly carnival-goer from the States stopped to dance with my mom - wheelchair style!
Friendly carnival-goer from the States stopped to dance with my mom – wheelchair style!

Young Barbadian sailors helped lift my mom over the curb to gain a prime seat out of the rain and everyone we saw waved at her and made sure to include her in their fun. While this is a reaction I would occasionally see in the United States, there seemed to be a conscious effort for inclusion and togetherness. Men told her she was beautiful (despite my father’s very strong presence). Needless to say, I am very pleased with the spirit of Barbados thus far.

If Life Is A Stage

…then we are stars in the cast.”
– Adrian Greene, Spoken Word Artist, Barbados
(as inspired by William Shakespeare)

Crop Over Banner
Crop Over 2015

This weekend marked two grand historical and cultural celebrations for the Nation of Barbados! Emancipation Day and Grand Kadooment all wrapped up the flavorful and colorful tradition that is Crop Over. A federal holiday and a three-day weekend – we enjoyed every moment of it!

The major partying began in the wee hours of Saturday morning with Foreday Morning Jam. This late night parade brings out revelers covered in mud and body paint. They “jump up,” or dance along the highway, grooving to the sounds of soca artists like Peter Ram. Something that makes this event unique is the fact that the activity began at 2 A.M. Thankfully, we were warned of the goings-on prior to the start of the jam, because we were awakened by strange sounds and beats coming from the street above. Although it was slightly disorienting at first, by the 5th loop or so, the music simply began to weave itself into my dreams, impressing upon me the fact that I truly was in a new world.

The next afternoon, we arose and prepared for the day. A little sleep deprived and very excited, we did not quite know what to expect when we ventured down the street and around the corner to the Bridgetown Market. Although the market is within walking distance from our current temporary residence, we spoke to the awesome police and Sargent Giddons kindly granted us permission to drive down to one of the vendor parking lots so that we would not have to push my mother’s wheelchair quite so far.

Once we arrived on location, our senses were assaulted by the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels of Crop Over. Loud speakers all tuned to the same radio station all tuned into the same station lined the streets every 100 yards or so. Between the rhythmic coverage of the festivities, formal vendors and local farmers hawked everything from bubble machines to ackee fruit.

We strolled along Spring Garden Highway, soaking up the spirit and essence of the people of Barbados, when our walk was abruptly interrupted by a group of drummers followed by persons draped in stunning West African garb. They looked to be having a great time, so we followed them!

Left: Adrian Green, Spoken Word Artist
Middle: National Cultural Foundation Right: Soul Lion, Music Artist

The drummers lead us to a stage where artistic interpretations educated, entertained, and empowered us! The masters of ceremony shared the oral history of how Barbadian slaves revolted against British slave owners and revitalized their West African culture, incorporating West Indian and British traditions to create something anew!

After the playing of the Barbados National Anthem, the corporate recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, thorough education on how Barbados came to be, we listened to spoken word artist Adrian Green graced us with poetic justice. Then, Lion Soul roared in pain over the current state of racial, social, and economic affairs the world over.

Chattel House Artifacts
Upper Left: Doll. Upper Right: Beauty supplies. Lower Right: Singer sowing machine. Lower Left: Tools.

While listening to the piercing voices of Mr. Green and Lion Soul, I toured a chattle house, and felt a surprising connection to Barbados as I recognized the artifacts on display from my own American history. Turn of last century beauty supplies, tools, and toys helped me understand the strong historical ties to the United States through the narrative of slavery. This display helped me realize, I’m not so different from native Barbadians after all.