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The arts industry in Barbados



I’ve always believed that artists hold a special role in society. Their desire to make the world just a little more beautiful has a way of inspiring those around them. I’ve become fascinated by the role that artists play in rejuvenating communities and creating societies that are open to new ideas and embracing change.

I grew up in the core of a small city in Canada. It was the late 70s and many city centres were suffering because big box stores and sprawling suburbs had pulled people out of the city core. In our city, most of the old homes were boarded up and the tree-lined streets had seen much better days. Our local government was desperate to find a way to rejuvenate the city and had thrown all their funds behind an arts centre. It was the best decision they could have made.

The art centre acted like a beacon, drawing people in from the sprawling suburbs. It attracted all ages with programs in painting, ceramics, weaving etc. The classes were the normal arts offerings you might expect, but what we didn’t expect was the way the centre worked to ignite creativity within the community.  Over just a few years the boarded up homes started to be fixed up, people moved back in from the suburbs. The video arcades and discount stores that had taken over the main street were replaced by restaurants and high-end boutique shops. The families that moved into our neighbourhood were entrepreneurial and creative.

There is a lot of research on the impact the arts have on cities, but what caught my attention were the articles on struggling communities that improved significantly simply because a non-profit, or a social enterprise, created an art centre for creative learning.

Like the small town in Canada where I grew up, many communities around the world have felt the positive economic impact that creative education stirs up. Take for example Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. Ballinglen Arts Foundation was founded by an Amercian couple who wanted to “boost local confidence and economic security by bringing international art practitioners to stay and work in the area.” They offered residency programs attracting artists from all over the world. Over the years hundreds came, people moved into the area and the local economy grew. There are hundreds of stories of small towns that have created learning opportunities in the arts, that have invested in culture, and have become stronger and more sustainable because of their investment.  

A study done by the University of Pennsylvania found that  “In lower-income neighborhoods, cultural resources are “significantly” linked to better health, schooling, and security.” Studies in education have shown a direct connection between success in academic subjects and the participation in arts programs.

There is something very powerful that happens when people learn the arts. The process of learning creativity opens people to new ideas, to new ways of thinking, and questioning the world around them.

The arts and culture industry also enhance support for environmental initiatives. When a community is open to ideas, and working collaboratively, they become a cleaner and greener community.

There are many places that still cling to old colonial views of the arts as a charitable endeavor rather than a strong economic industry. And these communities all seem to suffer under the belief that their children must become doctors or lawyers or they will be failures. It is no wonder they also lack entrepreneurs and the creative thinking that contributes to a strong economy.

Now that we are living in Barbados I find there is a feelingof hope that seems to be igniting change, not just at the government level but within the community. I have visited Barbados for over 3 decades, and never has the drive for change been as strong as it is now. Where the arts were once viewed as an endeavor needing charitable support, the industry is just starting to be recognised for the economic value it produces.

My family and I moved to the island last year to explore the possibility of creating an environment centre, but what we found was that the need for an arts centre to feed the community desire for creativity was a much more pressing issue. With the government struggling to carry the massive debt burdening the island, there is little funding available to sustain an arts centre.

Research on changes in the tourism industry has found that both culture and environment experiences are big draws for travellers. So we decided to combine them at a centre where  travellers and the community will come together. By building a centre that offers environmental programming  and arts workshops, we can attract local participants and affluent travellers and by combining this with a boutique hotel we can sustain the centre.

I have spent the past year meeting with community organizations, artists, and business leaders and the support, advice and encouragement they have given is overwhelming.

We have formed Canvas and Cave as a social enterprise with a mission to ignite creative education in the community, inspire entrepreneurs, and build the foundations Barbados needs to become self-sustaining. I know that we won’t succeed without support and direction from the community. When I look at the future, I believe that the process of creative learning will unlock ideas within the community, build collaboration, and inspire entrepreneurs to address the larger challenges facing Barbados.

Forward. Together.

First published in Visual Arts Barbados April 2019 Edition

Moments of Beauty

I can hear the wind rustling the palm trees above me. The frogs whistle to each other and for a brief moment I understand the language of the palm trees and the frogs. The outline of the palm trees are dark in contrast to the moonlit sky. I feel as if everything is suddenly connected and right, and I understand the language of the wind. The world is perfectly in line – with what, I don’t know – and then the moment ends, vanishing as quickly as it came. I try to remember what the wind in the trees and frogs were saying, but their conversation is lost to me once more.

Is this what meditation is all about? I’ve had these sorts of moments before, but not often. Some people describe them as religious experiences, but to me they seem to come when I get outside myself, away from my thoughts, my reason, and let my instincts connect with the natural world around me. 

I feel lucky to have had a few of these beautiful moments in my life, and I realize that it takes a little bit of luck and my own determination to let go, be still, listen, and soak in everything.

I remember my first meeting with beauty. I was quite young, and skating with my family at night on an ice rink we had made earlier that day. A sudden drop in temperature over the evening had frozen the rink quickly, making it perfectly smooth, and the cold seemed to cast a stillness over the fields around us.

The night sky was filled with stars and I could hear a farm dog barking far off in the distance. I glided over the surface and for a brief moment I felt as if there was nothing below me, and I was suspended with the stars, held in the beauty of the moment. I was overwhelmed by a universal understanding, and then it was gone. No matter how many times I skated around and around that rink I couldn’t get back to that beautiful spot.

Beauty touched me again in my early 20s, just after seeing a concert. I had spent an hour or so listening to a string quartet play while watching the afternoon sun filter through the trees outside the stained-glass window of the concert hall, making patterns on the floor that seemed to dance to the music.

As I walked home on that warm fall afternoon, I could hear leaves rustling in the breeze, and honking geese flying far overhead. Suddenly the world aligned. It all made sense – the music spoke the same language as the geese and the wind rustling the leaves. My mind knew everything for one brief moment. But when I tried to hold on, it slipped through my fingers like water.

The moon leaves long shadows across the landscape. A dog bark echos over Speightstown another in the distance answers him.

I’ll lie here a little longer but my mind is already filling with other things – the meeting next week, the emails I need to write. The moment of beauty floats further out of reach. Like an old friend I hope it will visit again.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?

I never forgot my childhood crush.  Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.

The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking.  After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.

But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group.  It was perfect for a Facebook post.

Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.

I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.

The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.

It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own.  He was doing well.

We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.

One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible.  Was he up for it?

Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen.  But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square.  It was confirmed.

I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.

Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.

I stared. You did? I asked.

He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.

I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of.  More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.

We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.

That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook.  His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.

I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

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What to make of us

Our oldest daughter is about to turn 22; the younger will be 20, soon.  Time flies, certainly, but the rapidity with which my babies became girls, then women, staggers me.

When I was young, I didn’t want children.  I assumed the relationship would be strained, so bringing antagonists into my life made no sense.  However, my older brother had two children and I saw, firsthand, the delight they brought him.

I asked him how he did it.  A man of few words, he said, “Be nice.”  Parenting made simple.

Indeed, life made simple.

Susan, my wife, is a calm, patient, kind person, who wanted children.  I knew she’d be a good mother.  We’re the same age, and got married, when we were 31.  We had Erin a year later, in March, 1997.  Bang.  We were parents.

Claire came along 23 months, later.  Bang.  We were a family.  Susan was a mother.  I was a father.  Bang, indeed.

Having children changed, everything.  For the first time, I felt love; deep, profound compassion, concern, and care for something.  I loved my family, my wife, pets, friends, hockey, travelling, Beer, writing…. but the feelings stirred by my girls were unlike anything.

My only priority was, and is, their well being.  To this day, if they are happy, I am.  However, if one is sad, I’m crushed and agonize how to fix it.  A friend, rightly, said, “You are only as happy as your saddest child.”

Susan and I took delight watching them grow up.  Toddler Claire, obsessively picking the fuzz from between her toes, during “gymnastics,” remains a highlight.  I dislike phones and think distracted parents are as negligent, self-indulgent, and irresponsible as absent ones.  “Look at me, Daddy,” has had to be amended to, “Put down that idiotic rectangle, Daddy, and look at me or I’ll grow up angry and resentful, due to a terrible role model.”   EriKa Christakis writes in The Atlantic “the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality, even ersatz.”

My girls have given me purpose and inspiration.  Each got a Fifty; a poem of 50 words.  Knowing how cruel the world can be, they’re shaped to the tip of a mighty pen, or the mightier sword.

—-

Dear Erin

Be the best you can be

Smell the flowers; hug a tree

Look beyond what you can see

Gaze at the sky; splash in the sea

Remember, the truth will set you free

If necessary: go for an eye, nuts, or knee

I love the girl that you call me

Dear Claire

Be nice; sit-up straight

Go outside; play until late

Don’t be afraid of love or of hate

Turn off the lights; lockup the gate

Shoot real straight and pull your weight

Celebrate, create, date, debate, fascinate, skate…

You, my girl, are amazingly great

It doesn’t take psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, scientists, experts, to know children develop into healthy, happy adults, when they are loved and nurtured, ideally, by both parents, and others.  Male role models, fathers, especially, are critical.

I taught my girlie girls to be rough and tumble, to throw and catch, to get up and hit back.  Where my wife would have indulged, I’d say, “Do it yourself.”   Then, watch, teach, help, and cheer.

I have never held back, or changed, around my girls.  I carry on, whether they are with me, or not.  Over the years, many have felt sufficiently entitled to admonish.  “You shouldn’t do that in front of your kids.”  “You shouldn’t say that in front of your kids.”  “You shouldn’t let your kids call you Kevin.”  (My kids call me Kevin.)

I have, and always have had, a great relationship with my girls.

You shouldn’t tell other people what to do.

Throughout evolution, it took a village to raise a child.  Villages, however, have disappeared.  The onus for raising children, then, falls, squarely, on Mom and Dad.  The number of parents, men, especially, who forsake and abdicate the opportunity and obligation to raise their children is as well documented as the tragic outcome.

Children face another, less discussed, obstacle. There are a growing number of parents, who regret having children. This is a quote from an article in Macleans, “The reality of motherhood is incontinence, boredom, weight gain, saggy breasts, depression, the end of romance, lack of sleep, dumbing down, career downturn, loss of sex drive, poverty, exhaustion and lack of fulfillment.”

My wife said, “She doesn’t speak for me.”  We agree, nothing could have been more rewarding, fascinating, satisfying, and life affirming, than our girls.

Take my “career,” my house, my money, my stuff… take it all and burn it to the ground.  I don’t care.  If Erin and Claire are fine, I’d still have everything I’ve ever loved.

The western world is richer than ever; abundance abounds.  I don’t know what to make of a privileged society, which neglects, regrets, and resents its own children.

I, really, don’t.

A British girl moves to Barbados

In 2009, I took the bold step to move to Barbados after dreaming about it for years, and driving my friend’s crazy with my procrastination and excuses for not going.

You may ask what made me decide upon such a bold step; after all a holiday is one thing, but to live! My decision was made due to the cold. I wish it was something more romantic, but that’s for another time. Truth be told, I didn’t want to experience feeling SAD (season affective disorder) each winter and coming home from work when it was dark and damp. It made me depressed and it was getting worse. So, procrastination over, I made a plan, as it wasn’t a case (pardon the pun) of packing a suitcase, saying bye to my job and buying a one-way ticket to paradise. I’m adventurous, but a plan gives direction.

So, what did I do?

First, I built my savings as the cost of living in Barbados isn’t cheap and I had no idea of how soon I would secure work. I also told my family living in Barbados what I’d decided. Their reaction wasn’t what I’d hope. “Gail are you crazy? Barbados is a small island for a city girl like you. Wait a few more years (like when you’re about to retire) and then come.” However, no amount of dissuasion could deter me. Once they realized I was serious, my grandparents said I could stay with them, which meant I’d be able to save on rent until I got myself established with work.

With savings accumulated, I 

took flight. Upon arrival in Barbados, the first thing to hit me was the heat, had it always been this hot? I mean it was hotter than a volcano. In the past I’d always come as a tourist and loved the heat as a welcome change from the dreaded cold. Now I had to acclimatize.

I was fortunate to secure temporary work at a secondary school as secretary to the principal, and as my mother is Barbadian born, I was able to gain my citizenship through being a descendent, (thanks mom).

Eventually, I got used to the way of life with its slower pace, and less stress. Plus, the beaches were of course a bonus. I thought making friends would be hard, but it was actually quite easy. This was in part due to my philosophy of “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” I adapted and made myself fit in with the culture.

Today, the UK is just eight hours away and I fly back when I can. I’ve met some great Brits and we reminisce over a rum and coke (Barbados is famous for its rum), about how we miss fish & chips and pie and mash.

Barbados is truly the “Gem of the Caribbean” and I haven’t regretted my decision to live here.

My advice to anyone contemplating living abroad even for a short time is:

  • Plan and save.
  • Before the big move, visit the place and imagine it as home.
  • Allow time for a period of adjustment.
  • Don’t be a tourist. Immerse yourself in the culture.
  • Do it. Life is too short to live with regrets.

Barbados Journal Nov 2018

I now have a rooster. Our gardener brought him to us to protect our hens. But he doesn’t give the normal cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun rises, instead he crows at 3am and it sounds more like err-accck-er- errr.  Although scrawny, he is a proud and ambitious rooster. He is scared of just about everything in the yard, but chases the young hens incessantly and pecks at them if they get too close to his food. I’ve tried to tell him to be gentle with them, but he is consumed with the arrogance and vigour of his youth.

The hens are maturing nicely, no longer cute little chicks they are growing feathers and their own personalities. There is a natural leader I’ve named Delilah, she is always first out of the hen-house in the morning. For fun she chases the mourning doves around the yard, and when the rooster (I’ve named Doug) gets too aggressive with the other hens, she will come to their rescue and get a few good pecks in at him.  The others hens tolerate Delilah because they need a leader, but her exuberance for life upsets their conventionalism.

I bought my first car with a right-hand side steering wheel.  It’s a pea-green Kia Soul and there are only a handful on the island. We discovered that one belongs to the math teacher at our kids school .   We call him Captain Holt because he reminds us of the character on the t.v. show Brooklyn99. He likes things just so and always parks his car perfectly between the lines on the tarmac. For some reason my husband and I have had the same desire to park our car directly beside his whenever we come into the school parking lot. They look so cute together and I’m trying to think of ways to amp it up a bit. Thinking of getting them matching outfits, maybe a bow for one and tie for the other. I’m a bit worried I’ll run out of ideas, but the kids are a great help. 

Barbados is filled with so many stories and so much beauty. When you turn a corner you never know what you might find. To date we’ve come across: a huge pit in the middle of the road that was later filled with a mound of rocks; a goat; a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, a drunken man wielding a machete getting slapped in the head by an old man who took away the large knife and sent him on his way, oh and some adorable puppies.  In the parking lot of the grocery store I stood in awe while watching  the magnificent frigate birds soar and diving into the ocean. 

 

The beauty of the morning sun on a field glistening with dew can take your breath away. And the sunsets that stretch over the sky, painting it shades of red and orange that move over the clouds has become our evening television.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from Toronto politics. The pecking order there reminds me of the hens in my yard – those who challenge the status quo are natural leaders in turbulent times, and they withdraw when times are calm. But there are always predators who circle in the shadows feeding off the droppings. Going 2000 miles away has put things into perspective, from a distance Toronto is much smaller.

The tourists have started to come to the island. The main beach highway is now busy and the grocery store is filled with people wearing bathing suits and flip flops. They seem so incongruous in a country where sleeveless blouses aren’t allowed in government buildings. The radio ads that promote the tourism industry repeatedly telling people that roads, water and yes even the air we breath “is tourism” have, thankfully, stopped. I was hoping the grocery stores might get a bit more consistent in what they offer, one week you can buy lettuce but then it’s gone for the next two.  I haven’t found green beans in 2 weeks but did find some President’s Choice salsa this week. Although with Tostito’s scoops priced at $23.95 a bag, it’ll have to stay in the jar until the local nachos appear on the shelves again.   I’m hoping there might be real cranberry juice instead of the sugar filled juice blends – but I know that might be a stretch.

The art-eco centre boutique hotel project I’m working on is being met with so much support and positive feedback that I was a bit surprised. One large plantation owner offered to give his 400-acre plantation as an investment in the project – but alas it has not ocean views!   I have found that the people here are well educated and want to build their community. Like Canada there is a mix of many cultures and the local Bajans embrace them all. Although people recognize the economic importance of tourism there is a desire to push Barbados beyond being completely dependent on it. 

I’m learning what it is like to be an “expat.” You become part of a community of people all adjusting to a way of life that is quite unique and different than what many are accustomed to. Everything here is slower, and some people let that frustrate them. The rural lifestyle blends into the urban areas – so that you can drive down the main highway  and see a cow feeding in the ditch between the warehouse and the road. Or walk along a busy street among people – and chickens.  Expats choose to be here, and unlike living where you were born that choice inspires more commitment. I’ve also found that expats are in the most part friendly, positive and adventurous people.

Every Tuesday there is a party at the local rum shop just down the hill from us. We sit by the pool listening to the crickets and whistling frogs, and can hear the music wafting up to us. They play old 70s songs, Rupert Holmes – If you like Pina Colodas, and now John Denver – Take me Home Country Roads. The words make me think about all the roads I have travelled and I realize that home isn’t one place, it is the space that Greg and I create with our family and friends.

Trust Loans programme to increase entrepreneurial activity

Entrepreneurship plays a huge part in the growing economy of many countries across the world, and the island paradise known as Barbados is no different. The island while preparing to celebrate its 52nd year of Independence on November 30th, is also giving more financial opportunities to local start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs, through the recently launched ‘Trust Loans’.

Recently, Government launched a $10 million trust loan programme, under which starting on Monday, Barbadians can begin to apply for collateral loans to further their business visions.

“We recognize that people need a start; if you recognize, this Government has started a Trust Loan Fund for small businesses . . . . Most persons are finding it difficult to obtain loans from the commercial banks. So, we have set the policy framework so that small businesses can come and start $5,000 trust loans and that gives you a start,” said Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Commerce Dwight Sutherland.

Under this new and progressive programme, entrepreneurs can access loans of up to $5,000 at a minimal interest rate of 1.5 to 2%. Clients will be able to also borrow this amount once they have successfully repaid their initial loan.

Acting Prime Minister George Payne Minister of Small Business,  as he explained how the ‘Trust Loans’ programme would proceed, said that Government was seeking to provide ‘comprehensive entrepreneurial framework for small business development’.

He also announced that there would be a number of support mechanisms which included an alternative and user friendly website, a financial literacy bureau to assist entrepreneurs in becoming more financially savvy and a mobile phone app that help entrepreneurs complete loan applications and make payments among other features.

The ‘Trust Loans’ programme is set to provide in total $10 million dollars per year for the next five years that it will take to  seed a Trust Loans Fund.

“The revolving nature of these loans encourages successful recipients to abide by the repayment requirements, which in turn will continually permit the fund to be replenished so other entrepreneurs can benefit and prudent borrowers can reapply for additional financing,” said Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde, as he spoke during the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2018.

“Increased entrepreneurial activity will go a long way in building more entrepreneurial citizens and excite our young people about getting involved in business, a borderless world where the technology opens new opportunities that were unavailable to previous generations,” he said.

Not only is it possible that the ‘Trust Loans’ will yield increased entrepreneurial activity, but the Minister also assured that there would be initiatives geared towards the encouragement of an entrepreneur in every Barbadian household, in an effort to maximize income earning potential, stimulate economic activity and increase the focus and spotlight of the Barbadian brand in both the Caribbean and International markets.

Two such initiatives are the Prime Minister’s Innovation Award worth $250,000 and the Youth Innovation Award worth $150,000 of prize money which are intended to spark new ideas, innovations and new business, leading to the generation of new wealth, jobs and bringing foreign exchange into the economy.

Exploring the island gem that is Barbados

When you live in a tropical island paradise that is only 166 square miles, you would think that you would have exhausted most places to go visit and explore, but if you’re me, then that sadly is just not the case.

Contrary to many beliefs I sadly do not get to go to the beach nearly as often as I would like to and I have yet to truly travel around and explore all that Barbados has to offer, in its natural beauty and island charm.

To remedy this, a bunch of friends and myself, one day decided to just hit the road and let the winding roads of the island take us on an adventure. Normally, I get lost in the island easily because I have not traveled around the place enough, only frequenting the same familiar places over and over again.

However, as I learnt on that weekend trip, there are a lot of places around this island that still needs to be discovered, to be explored and the very best way to do it is to do it with friends.

So on that sunny and warm Saturday morning, four of us piled ourselves into a Japanese speaking car and set off for adventure. First place chosen was to St Philip, because there was a famous bar close to a light house that promised amazing food and drinks.

The view was nothing short of breathtaking. The lighthouse itself was a towering round structure and showed signs of its very old age, however, by unanimous decision, were admired only from the outside. None of the crew game enough to try to go inside the ancient contraption.

The views on the cliff were amazing, the sea rollicking bringing forth harsh waves that crashed mightily on the rocks on the very long drop below. It was a freeing experience, being there in the open with the salty sea spray shooting up on the rocks before receding for another attack.

I could actually feel my mind clear and relax, but it brought with it, a real appetite and soon the squad found the restaurant, which was such an out of the way ranch looking place, doused in music with a fired up grill.

I had the best time there with my friends and was even happier with a huge plate of BBQ ribs.

The journey continued with the gang travelling through dirt a road, coming up to what was decided had to be a haunted house.

While the decision was taken to stick to the South of the island, it was so much fun to really take a moment and appreciate the beauty of the island. Sometimes I forget that I’m in an island paradise as the pressures of work and family increase, however, I have to advise anyone, to take a day, no matter where you are and travel around the town or country that you’re in. there is nothing like the feel of the open road, an unhurried atmosphere and good friends to make the whole experience awesome.

 

Blockchain provides opportunities for Barbados

The world is moving further and further into the digital age and of course with that definitive move, there will be a need for financial transactions to be faster, safer as well as easily processed by different countries. That is where Blockchain comes into play.

Blockchain is being touted as the technology to revolutionize how financial transactions are done and is already becoming very significant to how banks will carry out international settlements, transfers and trade finance to name a few.

Blockchain is able to simplify complex processes and acts as a turning point for cross-border transactions with its verification and record keeping.

So it is easy to see why many financial markets will no doubt be looking to embrace blockchain as early as they can, and according to reports coming out of Barbados the island is ready to explore blockchain opportunities, as they push for more fintech companies.

Speaking to the media at the launch of the International Business Week Julia Hope, President of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) explained that Barbados was looking to embrace financial technology ‘fintech’ push more fully.

As the association currently works towards meeting the deadlines imposed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting programme (BEPS), Hope assured that the sector officials would continue to examine new markets and opportunities for attracting diversified product offerings as well as the jurisdiction needed for those products and services to be marketed.

“We have some good companies in Barbados already operating – the likes of Polymath and AION, to name a couple,” she said.

“They are here; they are operating and this isn’t just digital currency, this is blockchain. We need to get the regulatory framework in place to enable these companies and others to thrive here, but we could very much become the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean and that is something to aspire to.”

In a joint statement issued by the Central Bank of Barbados with the Financial Services Commission (FSC), both institutions have recognized that fintech innovation could play a critical role in safely lowering the costs of financial transactions, while offering more efficient services to consumers without undermining the financial system.

To that end they have established a framework for a regulatory sandbox, which could last between eight to 12 weeks, to give the regulators an idea of how it will work as well as provide the clarity necessary for businesses offering innovative fintech services, solutions and products.

“One outcome is that having tested it, we don’t like what we see and there are too many risks for consumers, we regulate those activities. We regulate them in such a way that either the likelihood of loss is less or we regulate who can access it,” explained Economist and Chairman of the FSC, Avinash Persaud.

He said it could also attract new investors “that may want to try out a new product in Barbados and if it is successful they might want to try it out elsewhere,”  adding that within a year or so, the country would be in a position to go a joint sandbox with a regular in another country for firms who may be doing cross-border transaction.

First time travelling to the Big Apple

I live in beautiful Barbados, literally the land of white pristine sandy beaches, turquoise waters, tropical fruit trees and lots of coconut trees. I live in a country where it is impossible to never see greenery, with hills and pastures stretching for seeming miles, all lush with thick flora, so imagine my shock when I first traveled to New York City for a two week vacation and could not see anything but concrete and insane squirrels.

Green monkey in a tree in Barbados
Green monkey in a tree in Barbados

It was a culture shock for sure, but I was ready for the adventure!

Hopped up on the amazing stories from the TV shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, I was beyond excited to get this vacation going. I had plans on shopping and a lot of eating. Now I’m not a ‘travelholic’ and this trip to the Big Apple was something that I had dreamt of, but had not actually considered doing.

While I was excited to go over there and I had of course air marked few places I wanted to go to because I was all about that sales shopping life and had dreamt of running around in huge malls, I also had to make sure I took care of a couple of things.

First time on the train was such an experience!

Now not many of you may have to ever worry whether the bank you use is accessible in another country, or that your credit card may not work, but as it turned out, these were things I had to make sure of and have a plan of attack finances wise.

Sorted all of it and before I knew it I was in the air on my way to the concrete jungle and thus began my sojourn into the world of USA.

I rode my very first train and was freaking out because, it was more or less punctual and people were so casual about the fact that they were on a train going underground, but for me, I was legit in a whole new world. I fell in love with the graffiti, with the characters on every train and the total ease of movement. I became lost in the Museum of Natural History, geeking out about dinosaurs and the cosmos and then could not for the life of me figure out how to leave the building.

And let’s talk food. My first deep dish pizza, my first time at an IHOP and saw the massive amount of pancakes they offered. The drinks that I was incapable of finishing!

It was like going to a new world!

I went out a lot. I don’t think I even spent one day in my hotel room. One of my friends made sure that i experienced authentic Chinese food and Japanese food. I took a bus for the longest bus ride of my life- a whole two hours and ended up in a mall that as you can imagine I also for one heart stopping moment was sure I was stuck in because I could not find my way back to the ground floor. It seemed to go on forever!

I was able to see my friends going about their daily lives and explore different parts of New York, all culminating for me in Brooklyn, where I went to an art party and ended up ‘palancing’ ( a Trinidadian dance) with over a hundred people on the main floor of the art museum.

My time in the Big Apple was exactly what I thought it would be: awesome, inspiring and eye-opening.

I came back to Barbados full of ideas, but also with a very real appreciation for how calm and slow paced life really is on the island and how much I also enjoy that.