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Volunteering on vacation in St Maarten

I love volunteering. It is a simple and amazing way to give back to your community and to help others, especially those in need.

Volunteering is giving your time and effort towards good causes. It doesn’t have to take all of your day, it could be a few hours in the weekend, and that goes such a long way.

My favourite events that I volunteer to help with, are those held for children. I have always enjoyed working with children and this even led me to become a teacher. I especially love working with children with special needs.  While you’re helping others, you’re also learning something new,  utilizing your skill-set, talking to people and working as part of a team towards a common goal.

While vacationing in St. Maarten, in March this year, I noticed an organization called SXM DOET advertising a weekend of island wide events to give back to the community and a call for volunteers. Naturally I contacted them and just like that- I had an opportunity to volunteer with senior citizens. The weekend event was packed with fun activities.

On the first day, I accompanied the seniors on an island tour, which allowed me to also learn and experience the island in a way I hadn’t before!

I had a great time in wonderful company, as I listened to their stories about how the island was in their youthful days.

The next day, there was a Fun Day Barbecue at a local picnic spot. I brought my teenage sister with me to help and it was her first time volunteering. My volunteer team set up seating and food service areas, decorated, served food and started games for the seniors and their families to play. It was an amazing day!

After all the dancing and games, I somehow ended up giving foot massages to two of the old ladies and we relaxed together and chatted. I met some amazing people that weekend, and I will make sure to look them up the next time I am on the island.

They really do appreciate this because as people age, their joints can become more stiff and painful, and a simple massage would help ease that discomfort. The simple truth is that many older folks are really in need of some good company and the visits give them something to look forward to.

Volunteering can be great quality time away from work and a busy life, because the focus shifts from you and onto making someone’s life better and more fulfilling, which is even more necessary if they are less fortunate.

It has been my experience that volunteer work also allows you to enhance your own self-development in ways you may never have thought of.  You can gain confidence and self esteem by working with your team of volunteers to help others. It gives you a chance to meet new friends, be more outspoken and learn more about your community

Helping others always feels good. You don’t have to give money. Giving your time and energy is usually even more appreciated!

 

Island time does not exist in Germany

From my experience as an island girl from Barbados living in Germany, I had a bit of a culture shock, when it came to punctuality.

When Germans invite you out, they expect you to be there at least fifteen minutes early, or exactly at the time you are supposed to meet. A meeting time of eight o’clock is not eight-thirty. They will be upset if you’re late, and it’s seen as a rude gesture towards them, so don’t be fashionably late.

You are also expected to arrive for official appointments at least fifteen minutes early and wait your turn. If you are not there for your time slot, you have missed your chance, and someone who was there early will be allowed to go next.

I’ve even noticed my friends starting a timer for steeping tea, or cooking rice/ pasta and shockingly the teabags are taken out of the teapot exactly when the 5 or 7 minutes are up.

I have never done this.

When it rains heavily in the Caribbean, things move even more slowly, the traffic piles up and somehow there are missing buses. However, rain and weather in general is not an excuse for tardiness or not showing up for an appointment in Germany, or in the U.S.

In fact I once went to class in a Boston snowstorm in the dead of winter with a temperature of minus twenty degrees.

Coming from Barbados, where the locals all run on what we call ‘Island time’ which can be described as the relaxed and unhurried pace that life moves at, when on an island, I had to acclimate quickly to this new ‘prompt’ culture in Germany.

Took some time to get used to the prompt transportation system

After barely making it to my engagements on time, arriving five to ten minutes late and seeing everyone else there early, I made sure to plan my route beforehand using transportation apps and get ready earlier so that if there is a transportation mishap like missing a bus or train, I still have enough time to get to my destination on time (early!)

Public transportation in the Caribbean can be sporadic, very different from the strict and punctual services I have pleasantly observed across North America and Europe. I was in awe when I saw how timely buses and trains ran and how easy it was to get around, no matter the time of day (or night).

When the LED display counts down the five minutes until your bus/train will arrive….and it actually arrives, that made me so happy. I have spent hours waiting for buses in the Caribbean, with just a general idea of when it was supposed to come, not knowing when the bus would really appear and because of this lack of punctuality, being late for work or school as a result of a no-show or late bus adds validity to the “my bus was late” excuse.

Island time can be frustrating to people who are culturally influenced to be on time and some people can become upset when it is evident that the locals are not ruled by the same sense of time pressure because they are so used to prompt service and being attended to quickly.

Island time is all about being chill and relaxed

Islanders really mean no harm by their seemingly happy go lucky attitude, it is simply socialization.  Even Rihanna is notoriously late to perform at her concerts. It’s just something that islanders are used to. After all, when in paradise, you are in the chill zone.

Have a Caribbean inspired Christmas in Toronto

What’s Christmas like in your home country ? I recently started thinking about the way people hold different Christmas traditions close to their heart. Some people dream of snow on Christmas and look forward to icy winters and warm hot chocolate. Christmas for me, however, has been different, growing up in a tropical country. If you can’t physically go to the Caribbean and experience the holiday season for yourself, here are some ways to have an island-inspired Christmas.

Caribbean Foods

Everyone loves good food — it’s one of the driving factors at every holiday celebration, no matter the culture. One of the more popular Christmas dishes you can expect to find in mostly all the islands is Christmas rum cake. This is a sponge cake with various dried fruits that has been soaked in rum, after baking. Splash more rum on the cake to add delicious flavour as well as preserve the cake for almost up to a year. Just don’t go too heavy on the rum or you’ll  become intoxicated from eating to much cake. Also, try Caribbean classics like sorrel punch and ginger beer.

Caribbean Decor

When you think of the islands, you think of warm sunshine and lots of palm trees! Palm trees are an amazing way to add a tropical touch to any room. Certain design ideas include making a Christmas wreath out of palm leaves or the funniest one that’s been circulating  on social media is a Christmas pineapple. For people that don’t want, or have time for a tree, a pineapple can easily be decorated to invoke that Christmas island feel. For the record, I have never done this and I don’t believe this is a Caribbean tradition, but its certainly festive and island-like.

Caribbean Music

Just like for any other season of the year, the creative geniuses and musical talents originating from Trinidad and Tobago know how to make Christmas in the Caribbean lively. There is a special genre of music called Parang that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad. The music revolves around an island christmas. Soca-Parang is a mixture of Soca beats and traditional Christmas songs. Similar to carolling , in some places in Trinidad people go home to home singing parang music in exchange for treats of sorrel drink or rum punch.

Caribbean Christmas Pop-up

If you’re considering what it would be like to experience a Caribbean island Christmas, there is a special Christmas pop up market coming to Toronto on Dec 16. The pop-up market is presented by Jamaican Eats Magazine and inspires  the taste, shop and style of the Caribbean. The event will be held at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Queen Street East. Expect to find more rum cake, a special treasure hunt and Caribbean inspired greeting cards.

Recipe: delicious island trio

What’s the best part of summer? In my opinion, it’s taking advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies that are in season for these precious months. Bringing summer into your kitchen is certainly a way to delight and embrace the sunshine.

When I think of sunshine, I often end up thinking of the tropics, that’s why Women’s Post is going to inspire you with a simple and delicious trio of quick and easy Caribbean recipes.

Island Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced ripe mangoes
  • 1 cup diced watermelon (seedless)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup passionfruit juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the diced mango, watermelon, and red onion in a large bowl
  2. Add passion fruit juice, lime juice and thyme
  3. Sprinkle with salt, toss lightly and serve refrigerated

This island inspired salad is refreshing, crisp, and offers the right amount of zesty sweetness.

 

Island Jerk Wings

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken wings
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1tsp thyme leaves
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp jerk sauce (wet mix from supermarket eg: Grace Jerk seasoning)
  • ¼ cup green onion
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Preset oven to 425 degrees.

  1. In one large bowl, toss the chicken wings in the garlic, thyme, salt, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, and all spice.
  2. Add tsp of jerk sauce (more can be added depending on your spice preference)
  3. Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce
  4. Line a baking tray with foil and place chicken wings, lightly drizzle with olive oil (optional)
  5. Place on the top rack of your oven and bake for 45 minutes, rotate wings halfway through.
  6. Wings should be crispy and ready to serve.

This recipe is fun and easy to prepare. It adds a burst of flavour and summer heat to your palette.

 

Frozen Island Tea Pops

*Can be prepared the night before to enjoy the next day.

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups Iced Tea (black tea)
  • 2 cups canned pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a large pitcher mix the iced tea with pineapple juice
  2. Add lime juice and stir well
  3. Pour mixture into popsicle moulds of your choice
  4. Freeze for 6 hours

Hopefully this collection of Caribbean inspired treats adds a little bit of sunshine to your home! Enjoy and feel free to let us know how your recipes turned out. Leave a comment below.

NEW SUMMER TUNE: We love the new Jennifer Lopez/Pitbull summer song

We’re ready for summer, and what better way to say “hello sunshine” than to crank a new beach tune from Ms. Lopez and Pitbull. Throw in producer RedOne (you know, the guy who is responsible for every great Gaga hook) and you’ve got #LIVEITUP, an easily-to-hashtag summer dance party anthem we can certainly get into.

Be warned, there are a couple swears in the song.

If you need me I’ll be at the beach with my good friend JLo.