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Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Jason Fung is diabetes and obesity expert from Toronto.  His work is transforming people’s  lives; making them healthier and happier.  Dr. Fung is a proponent of intermittent fasting (IF).  I changed my lifestyle and began intermittent fasting the day I watched this video of Dr. Fung explaining his research.

I knew this was what I had been looking for.

I’m fascinated by intermittent fasting and Google it, regularly.  Weight loss is the most obvious, desirous, and prominent result of IF, but temporary caloric abstinence helps everything; body, mind, and soul.

There is a growing body of research discovering how and why IF performs miracles, such as anti-aging and cancer curing.  CNN asks if fasting is the fountain of youth.

The concept is simple: fast for, at least, 16 hours, each day.  Eat.  Stop eating.  Simple.  While your body is in fast mode, great things happen.  When I started IF, weight loss began, immediately.  It was freaky.  I sleep better, breathe better, feel better, and, most importantly, look better.

Inflammation issues have been resolved, as well.  I recently asked my family, “When was the last time I complained about my arthritic hips?”  No one could remember.  There’s plenty to complain about, but my hips have been cured.

In this podcast, George St Pierre, one of Canada’s finest athletes, explains to Joe Rogan, how meeting Dr. Fung and beginning intermittent fasting has changed his life.

As St. Pierre explains, his diabetes and colitis are better, his muscle density has gone up and his body fat is down.  He feels ¨better, sharper, lighter…¨  Like George, I wish I’d known about intermittent fasting, years ago.

Fasting slows the mind and leads to contentment.  It is not just food consumption, being re-evaluated.  Thanks to IF, I have more time, more energy, I’m more productive, and I spend less money.  I feel empty; less bloated and bogged down.  ¨Oh, God, I´m hungry,¨ is now, ¨Oh, good, I´m hungry.¨

I like fasting because it is free.  Almost, anyone can fast.  Fasting is simple.  There is no need to see an expert, buy supplements, record, count, restrict, exclude, follow a plan…. just stop consuming calories, for 16 hours.  Unlike a diet or weight loss plan, the end of a fast is never far away.  Each day, when I break fast, there is a sense of accomplishment; a sense of pride.

Food tastes better and is more satisfying, after a fast.  For years, everything I ate or drink came with a sliver of guilt.  Now, whatever is consumed feels earned and I enjoy eating and drinking, more than ever.  As well, since I only have one or two meals a day, I prepare them better and eat healthier.

The eight hours of consumption is to each his or her own.   I’ve read you shouldn’t eat before bed, but my feeding window is 4 pm to midnight, because I enjoy social time with friends, in the evening.

My new routine is get up, shower, and go to work.  Not having to prepare and eat breakfast, then make a lunch, streamlines mornings and I leave earlier.  I work or exercise during lunch break.  A little water during the day is all I need.  When I get home, in the evening, I enjoy a meal.

My 21 year old daughter, like many people, fasts from 7pm to 11am the next day.  She doesn’t snack after dinner and skips breakfast.  She feels better, has lost weight, and is, especially, happy her skin has cleared up.

Fasting is gaining in popularity, but it can’t be dismissed as a trend, fad, or craze, because it has been part of many cultures and religions for centuries.  According to the infallible Internet, the Buddha said, ¨I, monks, do not eat a meal in the evening.  Not eating a meal in the evening I, monks, am aware of good health and of being without illness and of buoyancy and strength and living in comfort.  Come, do you too, monks, not eat a meal in the evening.  Not eating a meal in the evening you too, monks, will be aware of good health and….. living in comfort.¨

Fasting is simple and effective, but it is not easy.  A friend, who has been trying to lose weight for years, has started IF several times, but can’t see it through.  By his own admission, he lacks the will power.  Curiously, fasting, for all it offers, can’t cure that.

 

Top 5 most beautiful places

It isn’t easy coming up with a list of the most beautiful places in the world that I’ve personally seen. I live in a city surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, and I often miss what mother nature has to offer. So my top 5 places visited are pretty remote, but well worth seeing.

  1. The first beautiful location I would recommend is Blue Lagoon, in Iceland.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

It is full of man-made ponds fed by waters rich in minerals, that many believe can cure certain diseases. In the winter, the hot steam coming from the pond is surrounded by snow and ice, creating a tense atmosphere.

2. The next beautiful spot would have to be Haleakala National Park,  on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Sunrise Haleakala summit

Haleakala attracts 1.5 million visitors every year and with a summit at 10,023 feet attracts “skywatchers” from around the world.  The name Haleakala comes from the Hawaiian language, meaning house of the sun. According to legend, the demi-god of Maui would have kept the sun there to extend the time.

3. I am drawn to warm destinations and the next beautiful location would be St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

The Pitons

The Piton mountains are breathtakingly beautiful with so little built up around them they have a natural majestic  beauty that is well worth seeing.  We rented this beautiful home with a perfect view near Soufrière, Saint Lucia

4. Another beautiful place to visit is the Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, USA.

Native Americans witnessed its formation 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. It has a remarkable purity: fed by rain and snow, and it is the deepest lake in the USA …and perhaps the most pristine on eart

5. Number 5 on my list is Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is located in Turkey with unique rock formations called “the despair of fairytale chimneys.” Cappadocia is formed by geology and volcanic activity, including weather and erosion, which took place in Islam about 60 million years ago. In 2000, Christians built the first church in one of the unique rocks of the region. And not to be missed is a balloon ride to capture the beautiful views the area offers.

 

 

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.

Whistler Cornucopia – celebration of food and drink

The hour and a half drive from Vancouver to Whistler was indeed a scenic one. I enjoyed looking at the breathtaking mountain and ocean views along the Sea to Sky Highway route. For the adventure seeker, one can stop in Squamish and take a 10 minute ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola. Once you reach the top there are hiking and walking trails for all levels of abilities.
It was still sunny skies when I arrived in Whistler, a place to participate in many activities from mountain biking and hiking in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
My stay at the Fairmont Chateau was a pampering experience because of its luxury amenities with an upscale fitness and health club. There was plenty of workout equipment to choose from to participate in a free yoga class. I choose to relax in one of the three outdoor pools while soaking up the mountain view. I attended the 22nd annual Cornucopia: Whistler’s Celebration of Food and Drink this past November.  Every year, the event draws foodies, wine and whiskey experts. It is a two-week event, and a chance to rub shoulders with some of the top chefs from around the globe and learn about fine wine and whiskey. Even though I’m not a wine expert, I felt a warm welcome from everyone. And the events offered were extremely informative.
The first event I went to was called NOURISH: Plant-Based Deliciousness. This workshop offered multi-course tastings. Renowned chef and ultra marathoner Wolfgang Sterr served up a tasty lentil dish. And taught my group  about food presentation. By adding colour to your dish, it looked more appetizing. The lentil dish was not only delicious but colourful.
Lentils
The next stop was the Washington Wine Trade Seminar. DJ Kearney, the Director of Wine talked about the perfect mixing with the old and new world of wines. She was referring to the old world wines in European countries and the new world wines that are produced in countries such as the United States. I enjoyed tasting some of the wines such as the Benchmark Washington State Syrah. Then, there was the Spanish Wines seminar where I learned that Spanish wineries age the wine in barrels or bottles. At Turning Over a New Leaf: Oregon Weird and Wild Wines I was introduced to wines made with unusual grapes. The wine seminars were not only a great opportunity to sample wine but the small intimate groups attending the seminars made it easy for everyone to ask questions.
But by far the highlight was going to the Signature Event: Crush Grand Tasting. The gala was the place to sample some of the best wines in the world, as well as some Whiskeys. I enjoyed being introduced to some of food and wine pairings and it was a terrific cultural learning experience for me.
I had a fun and educational day attending this year’s Cornucopia. I watched and learned how some healthy dishes were made by world-renowned chefs.  I recommend this event for those who want to learn about healthy eating tips, and as well as some fine wines. For more information https://whistlercornucopia.com/.

Is the United States military prepared for war?

The United States is not prepared for war against either Russia or China. This is according to Senator Jon Kyl. The senator opined that the military superiority of the United States is not where it once was and this has left the existing troops unprepared for international threats.

In his report to congress, the senator attributed the unpreparedness to underfunding and budget instability. “The Pentagon needs more funding and more budget stability than it currently receives from Washington,” remarked the senator. He went on to further add, “The congressionally mandated reported by the National Defense Strategy Commission is a sobering analysis that puts the military at its lowest ebb since the end of the cold war.”

The United States defense has never been as fragile as it is at the moment. This puts the American citizens and the American economy at risk and has greatly reduced its global influence. Rival states are challenging America’s position as a global superpower questioning the states ability to defend its interests as well as that of its allies and partners.

Mixed reactions from the President

President Donald Trump has not been doing much to aid the situation. If anything, he continues to send mixed signals in matters state security. In August 2018, the President signed into law a national defense spending plan that would see American troops receive a 2.6 percent pay raise. The spending plan also included provisions for other purchases such as F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Later in October, President Trump proposed the defense budget cuts in a cabinet meeting.

Unlike the U.S., rival countries such as Russian and China are investing heavily in National defense. This gives them a defensive edge when it comes to dealing with International threats. It is not clear as to why the President proposed budget cuts in National defense even in the face of increasing international threats from better prepared rivals.

According to the report by Senator Kyl, China and Russia were singled out as possible threats. The report also noted that the focus on counter terrorism did not give the nation a competitive edge in areas such as cyber operations, missile defense and anti-submarine warfare.

The senator’s report rightly concluded that there is a need for investment in National defense. America cannot afford to take risks with its defense especially not in the wake of increasing international threats.

Postcards to my grandmother

I love writing.  Besides having two daughters, nothing has impacted my life more.  I write all the time.  I think-write. While doing everything else, my stream of consciousness writes.  Occasionally, when stars align and time allows, I put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, shoulder to grindstone, and there is rapture.

Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl, a musical comedy, I wrote, enjoyed success in Hamilton, our hometown, recently.  In his review, Julian Nicholson, a well-regarded theatre veteran said, “There’s not much else I can say about this farrago except that it is the most inventive and enjoyable musical I’ve seen since Spamalot.”   

My writing farrago started with postcards to my grandmother, three decades ago, on a magical journey.  From postcards, to a musical comedy, writing has taken me on another magical journey.  

After finishing university, in 1986, I worked for a while, then hit the road.  With a working-holiday visa, backpack, and $1200, I flew to London, England.  I didn’t have a credit card or clue, and no one had cell phone, back then.  I wasn’t sure how long I’d be gone, or where, or what I’d do, but made one commitment: to write my grandmother, who was housebound.

“A few months in Europe” became a six and a half year global odyssey.  Adventures included working in London, hitchhiking through Europe and Southeast Asia, working in Australia, sailing a homemade, cement boat to New Zealand and Tonga, working in Hawaii, sailing a small fishing boat to Alaska, working on a tugboat, staying with a friend in Victoria, living by the beach in Newport, California, teaching English in Japan, and riding a bike from Victoria, B.C., to Hamilton.

Each time I called, or got a letter from home, I was implored to keep writing Granny.  She loved the missives, I was told, and kept them in a box beside her.  She read them, repeatedly, and made guests enjoy /endure the communication, as well.

My grandmother was from Glasgow, originally.  She had a terrific accent and a great sense of humour, despite a hard life.  Janet Lindsey left a Glasgow slum at 17, sailed across the Atlantic, then travelled on trains, for just as long, to meet her older husband, on a dirt poor homestead, in the middle of Saskatchewan.  They had seven kids.  When my father, the second youngest, was seven, their father died. Then, things got bad.

All seven children grew to be honest, hard working, productive citizens.   

I tried to keep the postcards to my grandmother worthy of the high regard in which I held her.  After picking the perfect card, I’d plot for days before committing ink.  When I realized how quickly I’d forget “unforgettable” ideas, I started jotting them down and still do.  Writing, or getting lost in the thought of it, enhanced experiences and assuaged loneliness.  Like most travellers, I loved reading. Reading was one thing; writing another.

The lessons learned writing postcards to my Grandmother still apply: respect your audience; love your audience, be interesting; don’t be vulgar;  rhyme sometime; brevity is wit; levity’s a hit; don’t quit; have fun, son.  Go, girl.

My grandmother died, while I was on the road, and I stopped writing, temporarily.  I didn’t come back to Canada for the funeral, but, the next time I was home, I was given the box of postcards.  

In 1992, I was living in Nagoya, Japan, with a friend, talking about books, when he said, “You should write.”

There were two of us in the room.  I said, “Me?”  (Some people thought I was illiterate.)

“Yes,” he said.  “You see the world in an interesting way and have a funny way of expressing it.”  His comment changed my life.  A switch was turned on and hasn’t gone off, since. I thought of Granny’s postcards and the accompanying bliss.  

A week after my friend’s suggestion, I was cruising, on my beach cruiser, through a narrow Nagoya alley-street, when I said to myself, “I’m going to write a book,” and stood up, on my pedals, to accommodate the epiphany.

I knew one thing about writing: it required a pen and paper, which I bought, at a lush Japanese department store.  That was easy.  The next requirement was an idea, which couldn’t be purchased in the consumer economy.

“Write what you know” is a sound principal.  I was reading spy novels, at the time, but couldn’t write one.  All I knew was growing up, a caucasian male, in the suburbs of Ottawa: a blueprint for dull.

Nevertheless, that’s what my book is about.  It took me 14 years and hundreds of rewrites before I published it.   The first few versions were scrawled, with pens, into notebooks.  At various stages in its development, I’d send out waves of submissions and have received over 200 rejection letters.  

The Internet changed everything, and, in 2006, I self-published I’m Gretzky, You’re Gretzky, which some friends and family like.  Some love.

One of the publishing houses, which rejected my manuscript, was Insomniac Press.  Mike O’Connor, the proprietor, included a nice, personal note, so I called him and asked for advice.  He said, “Get published in newspapers and magazines to establish your name and credibility.”

Later, when the first edition of The Hamilton Examiner arrived at our door, I felt divine intervention.  It was January 1998 and the periodical was monthly.  Terrified, I vowed to write a submission, nevertheless.  In February, of that year, Team Canada was eliminated from the Nagano Olympics, in Japan, and Wayne Gretzky watched the final shootout, from the bench.  

I was crushed.  Such is my reverence for the man, I wanted to call my daughters Wayne and Gretzky.  My wife said, “No,” so I called my book, my other baby, Gretzky.  

After the Nagano loss, I wrote a piece called “Chasing The Dragon No More,” articulating my need to stop having Canadian hockey players determine the quality of my life.  I would find my own happiness, I wrote, through lottery tickets.  I printed the article and hand delivered it to Sarah Thomson (nee Whatmough,) the publisher of The Hamilton Examiner and later the Women’t Post. Sarah liked the submission and published it, which was the start of a long, wonderful relationship.  

Once a month, for the next 12 years, I’d write a 1000 word piece for Sarah.  I wrote about my kids, pets, gardening, traveling, writing…  It was perfect.  I worked hard to produce a piece decent enough to be published. I stumbled and fell, a lot, but there was always a hand to help up.  I started finding a voice and confidence.  

After five years, in 2003, Sarah asked me to write about art; once a month, 1000 words, which was another life changer.  The request came from nowhere: I knew little about art.  For three years, I would immerse myself in millions of words, hundreds of pictures, hours of thought, and countless rewrites to distill an article, worthy of the subject.  It was a surreal education, which honed writing skills, sharpened focus, and taught me about art, artists, fraud, and fraudsters.

Dr. Barry Allen, a guide on my artisan safari, said it best, “Art is an accomplishment.”

I interviewed Fred Eaglesmith, also in 2003, for The Women’s Post and ended up making two fan magazines for him.  Fred had an idea for movie, and he asked if I’d write the screenplay.  I never say, “No,” and tried to put Fred’s vision into a manuscript.  The script, Billy Rocker, about a aging, failing, murderous rockabilly star was well-received, but quickly buried.

The exercise was far from futile, because I discovered a love of writing dialogue, so acute, I wrote a play, Unethical.  When it was finished, I shared Unethical with a friend, who encouraged me to send it “somewhere.”  (Thank you, Pascale.)

I didn’t know what to do with a play, so mailed a copy to Luke Brown, at Theatre Aquarius, in Hamilton.  Expecting another letter for the rejection file, I was, joyously, surprised, when I got an email from Luke, wanting to meet.  Life changer.

In 2012, Luke invited me into the Theatre Aquarius Playwright’s Unit, which has been another surreal education.  The world of theatre is a howling, joyous one.  In 2013, I wrote a comedy, Jack And Jill Beiber Fever, and brought it to the Playwright’s Unit.  It was dissected and vetted beautifully, by Luke and the other playwrights.  

Ryan Sero, a member of the unit, brought the play to The Hamilton Fringe Festival.  Ryan, who directed and starred, assembled a great cast and they put on a terrific show.  Watching was delightful and instructive.  There is a quantum leap from page to stage and seeing actors take words from my script and make them dance and sing, was exhilarating.  

Playwriting is a gas.

In 2005, a friend suggested I write for a Hamilton blog, Raise The Hammer, a website dedicated to making Hamilton a better place.  Free, easy, and limitless, I fell in love with writing on the Internet and have been publishing articles, reviews, poems, short stories… on RTH, since. 

My earliest memory is my mother reading me Dr. Seuss.  I love rhyme and poetry.  In 1996, my oldest daughter was born and I started writing poems, all of which rhyme. 

Along the way, I started a series called 50, which are poems of exactly fifty words.  A play, poem, or article take forever, so when there’s a need to finish something, a 50 is ideal.

Life Write Life

Family, job, pets… sleep, read, write…

And hope that life, somehow, works out

If life didn’t get in the way so such

There’d be much more time to write, no doubt

But, if not for life and all its business

There’d be nothing much to write about

Right, Life?

Right

Combining a love of poetry and playwriting lends itself to musicals, so I wrote one.  I’ve blessed to collaborate with Becky Jackson, who writes beautiful music to accompany the lyrics.  

Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl takes the idea of stage parents, who live vicariously through their children, and blows it up.  Eli, who’s been pushed since conception, has lost touch with reality and sees life as a big musical.  Eli sings and dances all the time. Similarly, Pearl lives as if she’s in a Shakespearean drama, and always speaks the Bard’s tongue.  

It was fun to write, but more enjoyable watching the talented cast bring the loveable nuts to life.  Now, I’m writing a children’s musical comedy, Singerella.  It’s Cinderella meets American Idol and it is a pleasure to write.  Becky is writing great music, again.  

Someday, I hope, a large cast of children light it up and Singerella is a smash hit. If it is or isn’t, I’ll keep writing.  I hope to die with a pen in my hand.

The greatest joy I get from writing is sharing the love.  I’ve run a Writers’ Club for children, aged 8 – 13, for the last dozen years.  When we perform, I tell the audience they’re about to see a magic show, because students, using only pens and paper, make art, where there was none and everyone has fun.  My (writer) friend, Peter Gruner, wrote of his experience, watching children craft killer, rhyming poems, on the spot.

 Writing is a wonderful hobby: it’s free, fun, liberating, empowering, fun, therapeutic, fun, challenging, rewarding, disappointing, and fun.  You can do it, anywhere, anytime; think about it.  If you’ve, ever, considered picking up a pen or pecking away on a keyboard, I can’t recommend it enough.  

 

Like a Dr. Seuss character setting off with a backpack and a one-way ticket, you never know the places you’ll go.  If you’re not sure where to begin your writing journey, start with something small, like a postcard to your grandmother.  She’ll love it.  You’ll love it, too, Writer.

Write on.

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.

Havana-na-na-na

In 2017, I spent 5 days in Cuba on a whirlwind vacation with my older brother. The trip was the perfect mix of adventure and culture as I left the United States and ventured to a country far less traveled than popular, warm European destinations.

Arriving in Cuba was part of the adventurous vibe I love in my travel experiences. My flight departed at sunrise from Washington, D.C. with a short layover in Atlanta before moving on to Havana. In Atlanta, I purchased a visa, or “tourist card,” under the “Education: People to People” category at the departure gate and excitedly sat on the airplane waiting for the short flight that I had been told would practically take me back in time. I was ready for the place I had read about—one that is “frozen in time” with the 1950s cars, no internet access, no ATMs or credit cards, and a commercial-free atmosphere.

The first day consisted of a series of trials that I encountered primarily because I have never traveled in an age without cell phones or the internet. After going through customs in the Havana airport, I had the pleasure of my first bartering experience with an airport cab driver. He spoke only enough English to cover for my poor Spanish, but I managed to negotiate a ride to the area of my “casa.” Locals open up their homes and sell bedrooms to tourists looking for an inexpensive place to stay. I found a suitable “casa” on AirBnB but soon found it was nearly impossible to locate with the address provided and the internet connection in Cuba was too poor to message the host.

For the next 7 hours, while waiting for AirBnB’s assistance, I spent time in Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, exploring the sites. Plaza de San Francisco, El Capitolio, and Plaza Vieja were some of my favorites to check out. They were perfect places to see Cuban architecture, as well as people watch, to get a vibe for the city. During dinner, AirBnB managed to connect me with my host, and I was able to make my way to my casa for the evening. The cool air-conditioned room in the back of Maykel’s home was incredible after the warm July weather I had experienced all day.

The next day was an early wake-up call to catch a shared taxi to Trinidad. I spent just a day in the beautiful town located in central Cuba. There’s a ton to do with easy access to the beach, or “la playa,” incredible foliage, and beautiful natural waterfalls. In addition to a cute town with live jazz music, I spent time with a local guide horseback riding to and from the natural waterfall and grabbing beers, or cervezas, on rooftops.

When I headed back to Havana for my last few days, I had a few things still left on my list: take a ride in a 1950s car, drink mojitos at La Floridita, listen to jazz at a local spot, and eat traditional Cuban food. I managed to check everything off the list before hopping back on the plane to D.C.

Cuba isn’t a traditional destination, but if you’re looking for something unique, consider it for your next adventure! The experiential nature of this vacation was unparalleled. I learned more about flexibility in travel during my time in Cuba than I ever have before. Being disconnected from the internet and technology provides real opportunity to seek out a connection with locals and the culture and lives they have built.

 

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.