A Caribbean Girl Rediscovers Her Childhood

Boy Bands.

Although boy bands are making a resurgence thanks to groups like One Direction, The Vamps and Union J (weirdly, all British bands), nothing spells being a 90s baby like knowing the feeling of being in love with a boy band (sometimes the entire band). Yes, we were the age of Boyz II Men, ‘N SYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Blackstreet, 98 Degrees, LFO… and I could continue. Man, I’ve been singing “I’ll Make Love to You” before I realized what making love was. Of all the bands I’ve listed, though, every 90s baby girl (with a 2% margin of error) listened to the Backstreet Boys and ‘N SYNC (sorry 98 Degrees). There were friendships made and broken with the incorrect answer of the question “Which do you like better ‘N SYNC or BSB?”  Of course, this sometimes really boiled down to ‘Are you a Justin Timberlake or a Nick Carter kinda girl?”

I had a preference for the Backstreet Boys. It had nothing to do with musical quality, the rad dance moves that have been left in the 90s, or even the song preference count. My judgment was based on the fact I had a crush on four out of five of the members (Nick, Brian, AJ (was always my favourite) and Kevin) while I was only able to muster two out of five for those ‘N SYNC guys (Justin and JC (who I think was still a better singer than Justin but that’s a rant for another blog).

So, all things considered, while I politely studied for my final exam (having missed their concert at the O2 arena in April), I watched a double decker bus drive by announcing that the Barclaycard British Summertime Festive would feature the Backstreet Boys, I was very excited. For the disclaimer, although I told everyone who would listen to me that I was going to see Backstreet Boys, they were not the headliner of the concert. They were a special guest of McBusted (Okay, at first I was very lost as to who this group was… but now I know it is McFly (I was a fan of McFly) and Busted joining as a  “Supergroup”) and two other bands performed, Scouting for Girls (I never heard of this Indie band before but I’m definitely a fan now – I’m actually listening to them as I write this) and The Vamps (for anyone as into teeny bop pop music as I am, I definitely knew who they were). There was also a dance segment with Diversity (click on the link, they are amazing). What this essentially means is that everything started at 2:45 (and I was early, because… why not?) and the Backstreet Boys didn’t hit the stage until 6:30.

 Before, I get to the rediscovery of my childhood bit, I must talk about how amazingly well Hyde Park was done up for this festival. I’ve not actually been to Hyde Park when something else wasn’t going on. The last time I visited was to attend the Winter Wonderland. Thus, in my head Hyde Park is this lovely, magical place of lights, beer, carnival rides and the erection of lovely building fronts to give it a village-like feel. I might just avoid Hyde Park for the rest of my time here so that that is the feeling which remains. I didn’t take many photos because I actually wanted to see Diversity and arrived very close to the 2:45 start time, but there were many building fronts made to look like the odd pub on the High Street, there were palm trees (the effect of which was great as it was an amazing, sunshiney day (at least it started out that way), a several amusement rides.  I was also impressed by the immense diversity of food stalls, although in retrospect London does street food very well. Though my mouth watered at the thought of paella, burgers, hot dogs, Italian pasta, pizza and jerked food, I restrained myself and grabbed a Heineken from the first “pub” I came across. Heineken is never my first preference for beer but as they were a sponsor of the Festival, they were everywhere. I was very impressed by the plastic bottle (yea, I know… I am very easily impressed).

PlasticT Retain that bottle-in-hand feeling without having to worry about being killed with it. Win / Win.
Plastic! Retain that bottle-in-hand feeling without having to worry about being killed with it. Win / Win.

As it were, as soon as I reached the stage area, I realised very quickly that there would be a major generational thing happening. There were too many fourteen and unders there to even know who the Backstreet Boys were much less come prepared to belt out each song with no regard for possible hoarseness. This is where, I guess, The Vamps came in. There were just as many parents who seemed to want to be anywhere else (one woman sat on the grass the entire time. How she didn’t get kicked in the head, I don’t know.) and many fathers who came just to be the shoulders upon which their daughters sat in order glimpse their favourite band. I wanted to get as close to the stage as possible, so as overwhelmed as I was by the sheer amount of teeny boppers, I silently hoped that they’d all clear out by the time The Vamps were done. It turned out, it was not that easy. I had to push my way through (yes, I’m not proud of it) to get as close as I got. I still didn’t get as close to the stage as I wanted to and my heart broke a bit when three girls standing in front of me didn’t even know one word to ‘I Want It That Way’.

I was worried about having to stand for over four hours before the BSB came on but I mostly had fun waiting.

As I mentioned before, Scouting for Girls were really good and they had great stage presence. Before I knew it I was screaming, “Posh girls got good manners, but they go like the clappers. Because they never got to hang around BOYS AT SCHOOL” with everyone else. To date, I still have no real clue what it means to ‘go like the clappers‘. I must admit, it doesn’t really seem like a good thing.

The Vamps were also okay. They did provide a very good contrast when the Backstreet Boys came on. It showed just how much the boy band scene has changed. I give lots of credit to their lead singer, Brad Simpson – he knew how to work a stage. I was quite impressed when they covered both The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside‘ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Trumpets‘. I hope they fare better than The Wanted.

Despite enjoying the bands’ performances, I found myself constantly checking to see how much time had passed and how much time remained before the band I really came to see graced the stage. I hadn’t been that excited since the last book of the Vampire Academy series was released and I set my alarm to wake up at midnight (when it was meant to be delivered to my Kindle) only to find out that Amazon operated on a different time zone.

Eventually despite the aching legs and back, the pushing, the smokers who seriously figured it was good to light up in such a tight space with no regard for how packed we were and that some people (me) could be asthmatic, the time arrived.

10538603_10154389385425393_1131777678039005752_n

10517988_10154389394390393_4102281865813854324_n 10530942_10154389392400393_3883972701810864085_n 10488244_10154389397420393_1600440564702679072_n 10440668_10154389395165393_3878351812378654317_n 10430369_10154389389485393_3923796004711324951_n 10402943_10154389398210393_6017315884104293142_n 10356328_10154389387690393_4006600725694035322_n

I’m not ashamed to admit I screamed the way I should scream at horror flicks when they cut quickly from ‘Everybody‘ (the song I thought they would start with) into ‘The Call‘ which holds the title of my favourite BSB song of all time. I swear, the entire cost of the ticket was worth it just for that number. And the trip down memory lane kept coming, ‘Drowning‘, ‘Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely’, ‘I Want it That Way‘, ‘Everybody’ and it goes on. They also did a couple songs from their new album ‘In a World Like This‘ which made me happy. Yes, they are still around.  Even though the day started off with the promise of permanent sunshine it started to rain. It didn’t drizzle lightly or even rain lightly – nope, it poured and it was freezing. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to care. I danced in the rain. I continued singing a long. And, I continued screaming. At the end of their set about an hour and a half later, I was able to say that I now have a crush on all five of those Backstreet Boys (or should I say men?)…  Howie aged so well, I heard lots of whispers that went along the lines of ‘was he an original member?’. At this point I was tired (or so I thought) and decided to not stick around for McBusted but I wanted to hit up the food stalls before I left.

However, as I waited in the line for a burger, I heard something. The words ‘Carnival’ and the strains of proper, proper Caribbean soca. I made the quickest beeline out of the queue and headed to the stage where there were some DJ’s playing Soca and Dancehall music. For another forty five minutes I danced in the rain (including, Palancing [seriously watch the video]). Hell, I almost Palanced my way to an asthma attack. Those forty five minutes hit all the right spots and soothed away the antsy homesickness I’ve begun to feel as of late. There, in the middle of Hyde Park and in the London rain, I danced like Caribbean girl. The kicker of the entire event was when the DJ abruptly playing music and asked the crowd if we believed in love. Before anyone could really answer, the handed the microphone to a man who’d danced with his girlfriend near the front for the entire night. And, yes… he went down on one knee (figured it would be up on Youtube by now and I was right. For anyone wondering, I was behind that big ass speaker :D). She cried and said yes. The entire crowed ‘awwed’. Then, the DJ played Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ while they got to have their ‘first engagement dance’ as the crowd sang along… and it was a large crowd. I shudder to think of how it would feel if she’d said no.

As I ate my lovely, extremely, spicy burger I mused that after all that happened, the day would be pretty hard to top. That was until I walked, in the rain, to my bus stop and saw a rainbow. I love rainbows. They fill me with enchantment and hope. So, I took out my phone and risked taking a picture despite the rain. It was definitely an amazing end to the type of day you wrap up and stuff in your pocket to remember during bad days.

Do you believe in Magick? (and, yes, the K is deliberate).
Do you believe in Magick? (and, yes, the K is deliberate).

Tschuss.

Rilzy

A Caribbean Girl does… Paris! … alone: Day Three (Pont du L’Archeveche)

The story of how lovers came to place a padlock on bridges before throwing away the key, often into rivers below, is an awfully sad one.

It is said that a young woman and a solider fell in love. They promised themselves to each other and he went off to war. Instead of coming back, he fell in love with another woman and married her. His former lover died of a broken heart. Other lovers from their town started padlocking their and their lover’s name on the bridge our ill-fated lovers used to meet in an attempt to ward off having the same thing happen to them.

The practice is now a wide spread one. Lovers have been known to place padlocks on bridges in Italy, Germany, France and probably a bunch of other places I could find if I were not too lazy to research. In fact, it has become so popular that a section of another bridge in Paris, (Pont des Arts) collapsed under the weight of the locks recently (and by recently I mean, less than two weeks ago). I’m sure this calls for a practical discussion as to whether this practice should be allowed to continue but this particular blog post isn’t meant to be a practical one.

Lovers' Locks bridge with Notre Dame in the background.
Lovers’ Locks bridge with Notre Dame in the background.

 

This was less than an eighth of the locks.
This was less than an eighth of the locks.

Paris is known for its romance and padlocking your love seems to be another one of those boxes to check off. Romantic lunch or dinner cruise along the Seine (check), kissing atop, or under, or beside, or in the general vicinity of the Eiffel Tower (check), padlock one’s love to the Archbishop’s Bridge and throw the key into the Seine never to be recovered (double check).

I happened upon the bridge (after seeing if from my Seine cruise) quite accidentally when I was finished viewing Notre Dame. I couldn’t resist the urge to spend some time (turned out to be an hour) looking at the locks up close. Let’s face it, this is a potential goldmine for a romance writer… or really, any romantic at heart. There is something immensely touching (in my view anyway) about the symbolism (depressing history and all) and I found it hard not to root for the couples. I also couldn’t help but wonder about the couples whose padlocks seemed to be there for a while – rusted and faded. Were they still going strong like the padlocks? Or, did they find that no matter how far to the bottom of the Seine their key sunk – symbolism isn’t enough to keep love going. Looking at the rusty and faded padlocks, I saw another strand of symbolism or maybe, rather, a teachable moment. These padlocks are out in the open, exposed to the elements: rain, snow, wind, dust and sunshine. They are also exposed to the hands of thousands of people who, as  did, held them, twisted and pulled at them in order to get a better view (I saw one man trying to OPEN one). These locks have withstood other couples placing their locks beside them, above them and sometimes on them so as to make space for their own. But they survived. They were scratched up, rusty and faded but still there … still holding on. Love too is meant to battle through meddling people and weather the tough times. At the end of it, it might not be sparkly or as smooth as it was  during the first months but it will survive, still be kicking and that’s what really matters.

Granted, with the rate of divorces and breakups, it is entirely plausible (and that is my way of saying it is a fact without coming across like an asshole) that many of the thousands of couples that have placed locks on the bridge have gone their separate ways. I am also willing to bet that there are some people with several padlocks on the bridge. However, that doesn’t take away from the poignancy of the symbolism.

I spent a good chunk of time looking through the locks. It is these sort of simple activities that can hold my interests for hours on end. I maintain it is the writer in me – for as I went through each lock I tried to think up faces to put to the names – stories to put to their love.

There were three locks that made almost cry although I must admit that almost making me cry isn’t exactly the hardest feat in the world.

The first had nothing to do with romance but seemed to be a tribute to a person who had died four years ago from her family members. It was such a sweet, enduring gesture of love that simultaneously proved that romantic love does not sit atop the love totem but all types of love are precious.

20140616_142739

The second, almost tear jerker, was witnessing a newlywed couple locking their own padlock. It was hard not getting swept up in the love, happiness and laughter between them or the tears that the new wife couldn’t hold back when the deed was done. I’m sure quite a few people place these padlocks blithely as it is the en vogue thing to do when in Paris. However, this couple didn’t do it blithely and it made me smile and tear up at the same time.

20140616_142634

Finally, the lock that packed the biggest punch: a simple lock with no initials attached but engraved with the words, ‘One Day’. And, somehow that was the most poignant and touching of them all. I stood there and tried to imagine the feelings coursing through the person who placed that padlock. Was (s)he optimistic or was this a last ditch effort with defeat weighing heavily on their shoulders? There is a story somewhere in that one lock and I’m going to spend a couple weeks finding it.

20140616_142354

People didn’t confine themselves to locks either. There were various carvings into the bridge itself and writings on the pavement.

20140616_141828

20140616_143513

"Love you to till the moon and back."
“Love you to till the moon and back.”

Instead of attempting to find any more monuments, being dead tired at that time, I wandered across to a small park near Notre Dame and the bridge where I watched yet another couple take wedding photos. I think I might have photo-bombed about four bridal parties in my three days in Paris. No wonder when you search for ‘city of love’ in Google, it’s Paris that pops up.

I ended my last day in Paris with a quick bite at Subway. I know, not very creative but I’ve not had Subway for about two years (honestly, not sure how I pulled that off).

This is a good point to ask if it is a thing in France to have to pay to use the restroom in a restaurant where you have bought something. I mean, I understand that this Subway was primely located for tourists to wander in and use the restroom and back out. The Costa coffee shop near my flat in London has a similar problem so it basically requires a code to enter the restroom which can only be found on a receipt – fancy huh? But, this Parisian subway restaurant required a small donation of .50 Euros.  I sat with a retired couple from Texas (I think) who were just as shocked as I was. Several things like… health and safety kept running through my mind (and, yes I guess I have been in the UK too long). To make what could be a very long story short, I eventually found an English speaking worker and casually threw around the words legally, law, health and safety, paying customers. She rewarded me with a coin which allowed me to access the restroom without paying the money. I didn’t actually need to restroom so I handed it over to the woman I sat with. I promptly had to leave the restaurant as she, thereafter, kept telling people who were about to pay to get into the bathroom that all they had to do was ask the cashier and they’d get a token. I did not want to be held accountable for any anarchy that might have resulted.

Five hours after the subway incident, I found myself flagging down a 214 outside St Pancras International still on that high you only get after a good break but at the same time happy to be back at my [temporary] home.

But before I go… let me leave you with my favourite lock of them all.

20140616_160316

It says, “Neil + Jenny 2014. 10 years together and we are falling in love again.” Because, at the end of the day… that’s what love is all about.

Tschuss,

Rilzy

A Caribbean Girl does… Paris! … alone: Day One

Last weekend I visited Paris (read: Paree)! 🙂

Let’s admit it. We’ve all had dreams of sailing along the Seine, stealing kisses atop the Eiffel Tower (okay, this might just be me… and it might or might not be on my bucket list) or getting cultured at the Louvre Museum.

I still remember Humphrey Bogart’s whisper to his soon to be departed lover in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.” I remember it so well that I’d planned to hug my friend tightly at the end of our three day trip and say these words as seriously as I could, despite knowing that we’d dissolve into fits of laughter.

Well, then, life happened. Circumstances beyond our control resulted in me standing in the Eurostar line at St Pancras International headed to City of Lights alone, and with two of everything. Was I nervous? Nope, not at all. I hope you haven’t seen through that bald faced lie. Considering how directionally challenged I am and how much French I don’t speak, I was worried that this trip was a disaster waiting to happen. It didn’t help that there were rumours flying around internet chat boards that the French were notoriously unhelpful and rude to tourists. Despite this, and my mother’s increasing reservations about me going off into the big bad world alone, I clutched at my overnight bag with Drake lamenting about never being satisfied in my ear as I waited to pick up my tickets.

I ended up in conversation with the young woman standing next to me as we waited in the line. She was escaping London for the day to tour Paris with the company through which my friend had booked the weekend escape. Taking a group tour seemed like an infinitely smarter way to travel to an unknown country, even to someone as fond of their own company as I am. I made a mental check to consider this for the next solo trip I intended to take.

One brief hold up at immigration later courtesy of the immigration officer not understanding why I’d show up without a visa in my passport (Antiguans and Barbudans do not need one for the Schengen countries), I found myself sitting in the train with the empty seat, meant to be my friend’s, next to me. It was bittersweet but I was terribly excited. I’ve been knocking off those Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen destination movies one country at a time! 🙂

And we're off.
And we’re off.

Less than two and a half hours and one breakfast sandwich not worth the cost later, we arrived at Gare du Nord. During the trip I’d made a rough sketch of how I planned to tackle my three days. I planned to get a unlimited three day Metro pass to help me shuffle around and then to go wherever the wind took me. I won’t lie, I was a bit anxious about my decision to tackle the Paris Metro system unaided. Feel free to refer to my insane talent of getting lost (above), even in countries where I speak the language!  Nevertheless, once I make up my mind about something I’m pretty stubborn even if I end up regretting it in the end. So after taking my bags to the hotel and having them set aside as it wasn’t check in time yet, I headed back to Gare du Nord to purchase my Metro pass. Here, I committed my first rookie, shame-on-my-legal-education mistake and didn’t collect a receipt. Because what could go wrong, right? Five paragraphs down if you wish to skip to that. But in the mean time, lovely and blissfully unaware of the chaos to follow, I had Paris in the palm of my hand and I just needed to decide where I wanted to go. It was an easy decision for me. The Eiffel Tour.

Where I was trying to get!
Get here or die trying!

The choice was easy to make. Getting there, not so much. I hopped on the wrong train (predictable, although I was sure I had it figured out) but a really nice young woman helped me to find the right train even though it took her out of her way. I was meant to take the B (blue line) and then the C (yellow line). Once on the C train I was able to take in the differences between the Paris system and the London underground. Paris seemed a bit more reminiscent of the New York Subway. Well, until the train pulled up. The trains reminded me of London double-decker buses [the train version], though admittedly a lot less swanky (and that says something). I sat in the upper section and was also very surprised to see that they housed a restroom. I couldn’t imagine it being very clean but I can’t say for sure as I didn’t check. However, like every true cell-phone-razzi, I took a photo.

In case you cannot ignore the call of nature.
In case you cannot ignore the call of nature.

In about fifteen minutes we arrived at Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel and excitement bubbled inside me though I tried to be nonchalant about it. I took the steps two at a time until I was above ground. After a little bit of a walk, I saw it. It’s weird seeing  something in the flesh (or, in this case, the metal) after seeing so many images of it for years.  After a couple seconds of gazing, the first pit fall of solo travelling became clear. Who was going to take the photos? This was the era of the selfie but selfies were not going to cut it with the Eiffel tower. I tried several times to make sure that the perfect selfie wasn’t attainable and once I was certain that it was not, I did the only thing a tourist intent on proper documentation could do. I started asking people to take photos of me. I found a few persons alone and we were able to make photo swaps. Mission accomplished!

 

My first glimpse.
My first glimpse.
Selfie fail. :)
Selfie fail. 🙂
Rescued by the Italian tourists!
Rescued by the Italian tourists!

After wandering around for a bit, I bought myself a coconut sorbet, sat and ate it while gazing off at the tower and the tons and tons of tourists wandering around in the distance. There was also a toddler having a birthday party in the small park nearby, three friends sitting next to me trying to take a “three-fie” and a couple doing extensive dental work off to the right. All in all, I decided that the Eiffel Tower was a good first choice to delve into Paris although I didn’t actually climb the tower. My justification is that when I do climb the Eiffel tower, I will have that kiss which may or may not be on my bucket list! If I were to be very honest, I would admit that I was lazy and too impatient to wait in the line for the elevator. However, let’s stick with the romantic option.

Taking in my surroundings.
Taking in my surroundings.

When I got my fill of the Eiffel Tower, I spent several hours just milling around directionless (which is my best part about travelling – well so as long as you can eventually find your way back). I poked into grocers, coffee shops and restaurants. Here, far away from the hordes of tourists I was able to explore in more detail the rhythm of Paris. I liked what I saw.

I love churches.
I love churches.

20140614_120057

20140614_120142

Fell in love with the architecture.
Fell in love with the architecture.

Having walked until my feet were sore, I made my way back to the tube station. And that, my friends, is where the trouble started. My metro pass wouldn’t work. Later I was told that I put it next to my phone and that affected it. This is something I wouldn’t have thought about because, let’s face it, you can put your Oyster card anywhere. Hell, my Oyster card lives with my phone. I fought the increasing annoyance (read: panic) when the machine refused to read my card and decided to look for the station worker who had to be present to explain my quandary. I realised quite swiftly that I wasn’t in London anymore. Not only was there no worker milling around the turnstile to help with situations just like this one – all the ticket offices were closed. It was about three-o-clock on a Saturday, I was very confused. So, I had a non-working pass and no way to buy a ticket. I did the only thing a girl in my position could do… I jumped the turnstile (sorry mummy) and was promptly caught by security. He spoke little English. I spoke no French. However, between us I managed to explain what happened and he assured me that once I got to Gare du Nord, I could find an open ticket office and they would fix it. Except, they didn’t. Well… the surly, bald, goblin-like ticket officer refused to even speak English to me although it was very apparent that he could speak English. This was not just noticed by me but the helpful French woman who tried to get him to see reason. In that instance, the indignation weighed so heavy on my soul I had one of two options. I was either going to scream at him or cry. I chose the tears. They were dignified tears I might add. But they were enough to get the attention of other persons in the line, a couple American tourists and a security guard who (quite annoyed at the ticketing officer) took it on himself to ensure that my metro pass was replaced. Thank you kind security guard. They say all is well that ends well but I was still an annoyed mess as I made my way to the hotel. I retrieved my bag and started to check in when I was told there were no reservations in my name or my friend’s. It took ten minutes of me learning the lengths of my patience before another worker pointed out to the the woman attempting to check me in that I was meant to be at another hotel further up the road. This was not purely a result of me being dumb – the hotel was switched by the company (which I knew full well they could do). Thus, the hotel on my itinerary was not the same one I was directed to in my welcome letter (yes, I know another shame-on-my-legal-education mistake). I awaited another twist in my very own Comedy of Errors as I made my way to the new hotel but there was none (in fact, I think it might have been a better hotel).

In less than fifteen minutes I was sprawled out in my comfy hotel room watching Pride and Prejudice (the BBC mini-series – my favourite!) in French and understanding every single thing that was taking place because I’ve watched the mini-series and read the books so many times.

20140614_142433

The French didn't phase me!
Why, hello Mr. Darcy. Or should I say Bonjour Monsieur?

Somewhere in the middle of it, knackered, I fell asleep thinking that despite the eventful start that it might be an amazing weekend after all. And, it was.

Tschuss,

Rilzy

 

A Caribbean Girl Does Barbados (again!)

On Tuesday (after a lot of mishaps and delays) I finally received my last bit of correspondence from the body that awarded my scholarship!! This meant two things:

1. I could finally apply for my student visa; and
2. The DHL delivery guy was very nearly scarred by my happy dance.

Never been so happy to see a package yet!
Never been so happy to see a package yet!

A UK Student Visa takes about 15 working days to be processed and time was off the essence. I already knew I wouldn’t make it to London on my desired date but I didn’t need to be eons off. So, I wanted to get to Barbados (where the British High Commission servicing my island is located) as soon as possible to put in my application.

The initial plan was to take the first flight down and the last flight back, booking my appointment for 9:00 AM. I had a change of heart (read: an attack of panic) knowing that only one airline operated from Antigua to Barbados on a Wednesday (well actually, any day which was not a Sunday). The airline is called LIAT which is an acronym for Leeward Islands Air Transport. However, around the region it is also known as Leave Island Any Time, Luggage In Any Terminal and (this one is mine) Late Inept and Terrible). You might be able to tell from the nicknames that this airline isn’t the most reliable of airlines which is ironic because it is THE only airline to fly between some territories. Also, because of operational changes LIAT has been even worse this summer than usual and so my sense of self-preservation said it was best I spent a night and book my appointment the next day.

This pretty much sums it all up.
This pretty much sums it all up.

I hadn’t even been checked in yet before this decision proved to be the right one. The attendant had barely handed me back my passport when a coworker said to her that the 5:30 flight was delayed until 8:30. I asked if there was any way for me to get into Barbados before 9:00 AM (this wasn’t because I needed to get there early at this point but because I didn’t fancy being sat at the airport for three hours) and she was able to book me on a flight leaving at 6:15 which would get to Barbados at 8:20. Basically, had I booked my appointment for 9:00 I’d have missed it. LIAT didn’t see it fit to announce to a waiting departure lounge that my original flight was delayed until what should’ve been fifteen minutes before take off. Long story short my rebooked flight was delayed by half an hour so even after all that, I got into Barbados after 9:00 very thankful that I hadn’t gone with the 9:00 AM appointment.

We took one stop in Dominica, the nature isle of the Caribbean (land of 365 rivers) and let me tell you something – you haven’t lived on the edge until you have landed at Dominica’s airport. There is always a split second when you think ‘I hope this pilot knows what he’s doing else we’ll crash into a mountain’. I didn’t get any photos of the descent because I was too busy hoping the pilot had a good nights sleep. However, lots of cups of coffee, writing and window gazing later we finally landed at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados.

LIAT's new ATR
LIAT’s new ATR
Anyone think that these electronic items look terribly like an iPad and a MacBook?
Anyone think that these electronic items look terribly like an iPad and a MacBook?
Gorgeous view just after take off.
Gorgeous view just after take off.
Dominica.
Dominica.

It was interesting returning to Barbados. There was an equal mix of familiarity and newness and it all managed to feel homey yet touristy at the same time. Case in point? There is a new $20 BBDs bill!

Can't go wrong with purple.
Can’t go wrong with purple.

I decided that I’d be better off taking public transport from the airport to Bridgetown (the capital city) before making my way on to UWI’s Campus. This is where the familiarity and no luggage came in handy. For $4 BBDS ($2 USD) I was able to use public transport to get to campus. Had I used a taxi it’d have been $53 ($ 26.5 USD). I was able to buy me a blouse with the money I saved. And that was only the money saved on one way of the trip!

Bad photo of me but excellent photo of the blouse (that's what counts right?)
Bad photo of me but excellent photo of the blouse (that’s what counts right?)

I managed to wisely actually put the money I saved on the return trip into back into my account. Somewhere down the line I am going to sink it into coffee or sushi but it feels good to know that I’ve managed to be frugal (possibly for once in my life).

Fare chart!
Fare chart! I would’ve been charged at the ‘Prospect / Cave Hill’ rate.
Bus with a view!
Bus with a view!

As I walked through Bridgetown I appreciated the things which were the same and the changes.
Cave Shepherd Mall remained the same. I spent many hours in the place lamenting the fact that my student budget meant I couldn’t afford anything I ever wanted to pick up in there. Also, the Barbadian Parliament building remained the same. I also loved that building.

Cave Shepherd Mall.
Cave Shepherd Mall.
Barbadian Parliament Building. I've always loved the rustic charm.
Barbadian Parliament Building. I’ve always loved the rustic charm.

And, yes, as I mentioned some things changed. I saw a sign for a branch of Burger King being opened close to the main bus terminal. There was a subway branch in Bridgetown that wasn’t there when I left. Then, as I walked down Bridgetown minding my own business, I saw this …

Payless Shoe Source. I saw I think four branches before I left.
Payless Shoe Source.

Yes, the Payless was definitely new. I saw two more branches before I left and I even popped into the one in Hastings, to see if like Jamaica it was more of a ‘Pay More’ rather than a Payless. The prices seemed reasonable.

I popped into KFC for breakfast (don’t judge) and was pleasantly reminded that I didn’t have to pay for extra packets of ketchup like I do in Jamaica. I avoid KFC in Antigua all together because the only thing I like is the Popcorn chicken which isn’t served here (Franchise people! Get with the times!)

Some things are bound to remain the same.
Some things are bound to remain the same.

I had many plans for Bridgetown but in the end I got lazy and headed for the bus to take me to Campus. I was getting twitchy from the lack of internet access because I had to turn off my data plan for roaming. Yes, sad I know.

Remember I said you haven’t lived on the edge until you’ve landed in Dominica? Well, you haven’t lived wildly until you’ve taken a private mini bus in Barbados (distinct thank God from the public bus I took from the airport). These buses are called ZRs (because of the letters on the licence plate). ZRs are a trip both literally and figuratively. It first starts off with the fact they manage to fit at least 24 people in a bus that’s supposed to seat 15  persons. When you add that to the break neck speeds they somehow manage to drive and the music blasting so loud you wonder how the drivers hear when the bus stop button is pressed – you are in for a nerve biting ride. When I went to school there the ZRs got annoying really quickly but for a short visit it was one of those familiar things that made me smile.

Typical ZR. Photo Credit: www.barbadosphotoblog.com
Typical ZR.
Photo Credit: http://www.barbadosphotoblog.com
Barbados Public Bus (I'd have take one of these from the airport) Photo Credit: www.momentville.com
Barbados Public Bus (I’d have take one of these from the airport)
Photo Credit: http://www.momentville.com

Once on campus I got some visa things sorted out at the Admin building followed by a very brief walk around.

UWI Cave Hill's Admin Building, also called the 'seat / stooll' because well it is shaped like one.
UWI Cave Hill’s Admin Building, also called the ‘seat / stooll’ because well it is shaped like one.
Good message on the walls of the Admin Building.
Good message on the walls of the Admin Building.
The old Admin building which now comprises a part of the Medical Faculty.
The old Admin building which now comprises a part of the Medical Faculty.
Nifty machine I stumbled across.
Nifty machine I stumbled across.
I probably should've charged my phone as I ran out of battery. Ah well...
I probably should’ve charged my phone as I ran out of battery. Ah well…

After I was done with admin stuff I went looking for one of the lecturers I really liked. I found this posted on his office door and laughed so hard. If you haven’t studied law you mightn’t find it funny but god knows I almost stopped breathing.

Photo on my former Tort Lecturer's door. I laughed for a good five minutes.
Photo on my former Tort Lecturer’s door. I laughed for a good five minutes.

I also ran into several of my past students from Jamaica (which was amazing!). I am really excited for this new part of their journey and I realized that I miss teaching… I kinda wish I had tutorials to look forward to this year but I guess I can be overly excited about my Thesis. Then, I was able to have a hot dog from the Campus Mart (which was my breakfast almost every day in my first year: topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, a line of hot sauce, relish and parmesan cheese). The owner remembered me mostly because he spent a lot of time questioning my eating habits during the three years I lived there and also whenever my mother visited she’d take me on epic food shopping jaunts that were probably better suited for a full sized supermarket. These shopping jaunts were so memorable that the very next thing he said to me after ‘Nice to see you again’ was “How’s your mother?”

After buying the hot dog I visited my old Halls of Residence and checked up on our Hall’s dog. That was a major treat for me as it was then I realized that I really had an excellent three years. My classes were just the beginning (or the end – depending on how you looked at it).

Frank Worrell Hall, named after a legendary Barbadian Cricketer
Frank Worrell Hall, named after a legendary Barbadian Cricketer
Frank Worrell Hall
Frank Worrell Hall
20130904_152232
Gato, the hall’s dog. She’s being as lazy as usual. Yes ‘she’. I realize that her name is masculine but her name also means cat. I think the person who named her was trying to be smart ass.
20130904_170603
This is the room I spent THREE years in! Yes, my entire degree!
20130904_170644
View from the Living Room
20130904_171101
Another view from the Living Room Area
20130904_170834
My Block Number. The Hall comprised of 10 Blocks. I was a Lady of Tanzanite!

Nearing the end of the day I was able to meet up with one of my lovely friends that I met while living on hall. I can’t put into words just how amazingly happy I was to see her. With her sister we wandered around the mall and headed home for dinner and conversation. My time at Barbados may have come to an end but it was plain as day to say that some of the links I made there would continue.

Too soon I had to bid my friends goodbye. The visa application was very, very short and by 9:30 I was on a bus headed to Hastings, Christchurch. While I lived in Barbados I loved hanging out in Hastings because of the beaches and places to eat. I felt like I owed it to myself to check in on my favourite places one more time. So… I got breakfast at KFC (no judging). I loved this KFC… not because of the food but because of the free wifi and the location. I’ll just show you the photos and you’ll easily see what I mean.

KFC, Hastings Branch
KFC, Hastings Branch

IMG_20130905_103907

20130905_124952

Clear blue.
Clear blue.
Writing with a view.
Writing with a view.
Have to eat the popcorn chicken while I can get it!
Have to eat the popcorn chicken while I can get it!

After eating, I managed to get some writing in and some all round ‘being lazy’ in before I wandered off to Haagen-Dazs for dessert. For dessert I had coffee with ice-cream. It was my second cup of coffee for the day and I must say the ice-cream narrowly beat the oodles of whip cream in the first.

Morning Coffee! Cuppa #1
Morning Coffee! Cuppa #1
Ice Cream Coffee at Haagen-Dazs. Chocolate Ice-cream + Coffee = Bliss
Ice Cream Coffee at Haagen-Dazs. Chocolate Ice-cream + Coffee = Bliss

I had my meals in a weird order because after dessert I headed for lunch. I decided on Mama Mia’s Café because while in Barbados I kept promising myself I’d check it out but I never did. I am happy I made that decision because it was a lovely place to have a Salmon Salad and a couple glasses of wine. I was able to listen to Mariah Carey promise some guy that she’d give her all to have one more night with him while I people watched and burned a bit of time before I needed to head to the airport. If I’m ever back in Barbados I want to try dinner there… possibly on a Monday as apparently they have this unique thing going on:

Salad and Wine. Had to go light after the KFC :)
Salad and Wine. Had to go light after the KFC 🙂
Would you try this?
Would you try this?

As I made my way to the bus stop I ran into a friend who’d just moved to Barbados from California after exchanging at UWI a couple years ago. It was one of those perfectly timed things as if I was a second earlier or later I’d have missed her.

It put me in a good mood on the way to the airport. I was able to buy two meals for Chefette (a popular Bajan fast food chain) for my mum and step dad.

20130905_154947

In retrospect, the good mood was needed because, well, LIAT struck again. I was scheduled to be home at 8:00 and I didn’t get home until 11:30. I was scheduled to be on a straight flight but my flight stopped in Dominica and Guadeloupe. But that’s a blog for another day….

Tchuss,

Rilzy

Summer’ing it Like a Caribbean Girl

In six weeks I’m going to be trading in my Caribbean sunshine for rainy London.  So, right now I’m on a mission to have the most sunshine-y summer of my life. I have a feeling I might need to look back at photos of blue beaches and blue skies soon enough.

I figured I would share some snaps of what a Caribbean summer life is like.

1. The warmth means there is always time for an ice-cream cool down or possibly frozen fruit!

There’s an ice cream parlour in the heart of Saint John’s named ‘Australian Homemade’ which serves what I think is the most amazing ice-cream ever (yes, I am biased and yes, I don’t care). Sorry, Häagen-Dazs. There’s nothing more refreshing than sitting down with sorbet or ice-cream and watching the world go by.

Forest Fruit Sorbet from Australian Homemade.
Forest Fruit Sorbet from Australian Homemade.
Just about my favourite ice-cream combination... ever.
Just about my favourite ice-cream combination… ever.

 

I’ve also discovered that slicing mangoes and freezing them provides a really nice, cold snack. But, then I’ve realized that you can do just about anything to mangoes. De.li.cious!

Frozen Mangoes!!! Need I say more?
Frozen Mangoes!!! Need I say more?

 

 

2. Driving may become distracting because you want to stop for photos of amazing scenery. There are a couple people whizzing around Antigua annoyed at my random pulling off to the side of the road because I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Nothing like puffy white clouds and blue seas.
Nothing like puffy white clouds and blue seas.

 

So many shades of blues, so little time!
So many shades of blues, so little time!

 

 

3. Opening the sunroof is never optional!

What’s better than driving past amazing scenery, listening to reggae music (I love Protoje – check him out here) while on your way for an ice-cream cool down? Glancing up while waiting at stop lights to see blue skies and sunshine of course!

See the sunshine, feel the sunshine!
See the sunshine, feel the sunshine!

 

 

4. Drinks are always better in the sunshine or warm evening breezes. This needs no further explanation!

 

Couldn't figure if wanted to drink the cocktail or the scenery.
Couldn’t figure if wanted to drink the cocktail or the scenery.
IMG_20130807_171903
I feel like this Corona was right where it belonged!

 

10 Stars for the Pineapple Starfish Garnish, I couldn't even eat it ... too pretty.
10 Stars for the Pineapple Starfish Garnish, I couldn’t even eat it … too pretty.

 

5. There’s no party like a Cricket Party! Cricket is an important part of Caribbean life. Many of us grew up playing cricket in our backyard, on the beaches on the school playground. It’s just that most of us hated watching Test Matches because they were so long. Introduce the 20/20 format and the amazing time you can have on the stands and our generation is becoming interested in cricket again. A cricket match is an amazing way to spend a summer evening and you’ll probably be hoarse come morning.

Match Time.
Match Time.
Light it up!

 

Cheerleaders: Caribbean Style
Cheerleaders: Caribbean Style

 

Wave your flags!
Antigua v Barbados. Wave your flags!

 

It was a fun night. My Stepfather is Bajan and it was hilarious watching him wave the sole Barbadian flag during the match. Especially because, well, they lost!

 

6. Did I mention the views? Nothing like the views you get when hitting up some of my favourite lookout spots as well as the beaches.

 

Shirley's Heights, Antigua Photo Credit: www.visitantiguaandbarbuda.com
Shirley’s Heights, Antigua
Photo Credit: http://www.visitantiguaandbarbuda.com
Block House, Antigua.
Block House, Antigua.
Traditional English Phone Box inside the Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Traditional English Phone Box inside the Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua
Chilling from my beach chair at Long Bay, Antigua
Chilling from my beach chair at Long Bay, Antigua
Devil's Bridge, Antigua
Devil’s Bridge, Antigua

 

And so concludes a small photo tour of what a summer in the life of any Caribbean girl probably looks like (although this could be pretty much any day of the year). On second thoughts, I mightn’t actually want to look at these photos during the London winter. I might burst into tears.

 

Tschuss

Rilzy

Home Is Where The Heart Is, The Mind Wanders and What The Soul Longs For

Antigua is, in Antiguan dialect, where my ‘navel string bury’ meaning where my umbilical cord was cut and where I’ve taken my first breath. No matter how far or close I roam, I will always crave the familiarity that only comes with being home.

I love Jamaica. With the exception of school getting in the way  and thrusting the cool level far below what it is meant to be. However, there are always those moments when I long for home. Antigua has made an indelible mark on my soul – growing up there has played a role in all that I am now and what I will eventually become. Sometimes I lie in bed and recall my childhood when I’m homesick. The childhood which was filled with double-dog-daring cousins to climb coconut trees and falling out of mango trees myself … early morning sunrises at the beach and playing cricket in my backyard. Sometimes I’m too homesick for replaying happy memories like a slideshow. That’s when I’m happy for the photos that can put me right into the middle of our City and can force me to close my eyes to remember the sounds, the hums, the rhythm of a day in the life at home. It is the closest I will come to home for the next seven months… so I’ll like to share with you a few photos taken by one of my friends which definitely sum up a stroll through St. Johns.

Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne AirallI long for the colourful streets.
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
I long for the colourful streets.
Photo Credit: Zayne AirallVendors' Mall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Vendors’ Mall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall

Photo Credit: Zayne AirallBig Banana Restaurant ... they don't sell bananas but definitely the best pizza in the world (but I just might be biased)

Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Big Banana Restaurant … they don’t sell bananas but definitely the best pizza in the world (but I just might be biased)

Photo Credit: Zayne Airall

Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne AirallLocal Antiguan Black Pineapples... yumm
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Local Antiguan Black Pineapples… yumm
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall

603249_10152103274621953_1759719679_n

Photo Credit: Zayne AirallI've attended so many food fairs on the lawns of this Methodist Church .... always anxious to buy used books at a discounted price.
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
I’ve attended so many food fairs on the lawns of this Methodist Church …. always anxious to buy used books at a discounted price.
Photo Credit: Zayne AirallSculpture of our first Prime Minister, the Hon Vere Cornwall Bird Snr.
Photo Credit: Zayne Airall
Sculpture of our first Prime Minister, the Hon Vere Cornwall Bird Snr.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual trip as much as I did.

Tschuss.

Rilzy

It’s A Wonderful World

If ‘have my backed massaged by the raging waters of a waterfall’ is not on your bucket list … you need an immediate amendment, seriously.

One of the most iconic associations with Jamaica is its Dunn’s River Falls. There must be billions of vacation pictures floating around vacation albums with persons grinning when they’ve got to the top.

Here’s some background. Every year my school sponsors a trip for the non-Jamaicans to a popular tourist site. It is an attempt, I guess, to show us the touristy side of Jamaica. It is done very early up in the school year because law school escalates very quickly.

Needless to say although I’ve done my own first year trip I was quite excited to crash this one. After deciding I would go, I went through some problems very common to a Caribbean girl… mainly, “which bikini should I wear?” and the necessary follow up question: does this bikini make me look fat?

On the day before the trip disaster struck. My body rebelled against me and I was struck down with a migraine. This was not a mild migraine (if there is even such a thing). It was the ‘puking, pull out my hair, I will bash my head against the wall’ and ‘why in heaven’s name was sunlight invented’ sort of migraine. I  was trying (and failing) to console myself about missing the trip with the obvious lie that I’d get around to doing it during the term when something inside me said, “Rilzy pop those painkillers, get your sunshades and pray for the best’. So at the very last moment, I called a friend and had her hold the bus for me. I’ll tell you this, I should listen to my inside voices more often. I admit that it could have ended badly. After all, being on a coach filled with loud, excited people is akin to being in the tenth circle of hell for someone with a migraine. Luckily for me (unluckily for him) there was another person on the trip who shared my dilemma and between sharing mentholated spirits for settling our tummies and painkillers, we made it.

Two hours into the drive the pain eased up to the point that I could take in the scenery. I wish I had photos of the drive from Kingston to Ochi Rios but I guess maybe I should try to find my way back there so I can blog this right. The rolling greens, blue skies and the constant rivers we had to pass on our way probably would have made the trip all worth it. Jamaica is gorgeous, no denying it.  But you shouldn’t take my word on it… you should come see for yourself ;).

On entering the Falls I received a brief history lesson. Apparently, very near to the falls a final battle was fought between the English and the Spanish in the 17th Century. The English were victorious but it makes me wonder if it is just that the scenery kept distracting the Spanish. I know I would be too preoccupied with ‘ooohing and ahhhing’ to get anything right :).

I'd be quite distracted by the view if I were a soldier!
I’d be quite distracted by the view if I were a soldier!

The Falls runs into the ocean where it was possible to do water sports. I entertained the idea of taking out a jet ski but in the end I was too afraid of crashing into an invisible wall to try. At any rate it looked quite fun for the people who whizzed by me while I came to terms with just how much of a wuss I am.

Water Sports - check!Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Water Sports – check!
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Next time, I won't be a scardey-cat... I will jet ski!Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Next time, I won’t be a scardey-cat… I will jet ski!
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher

The first thing I must tell you about the Falls is that it is cold. And no, when I say cold I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I think the word ‘cold’ is very underwhelming when I try to describe how my blood was turned to slush when I stepped my toe into it. With some help from some friends (read: they kept splashing icy water about my body), I was able to get over the iciness of the water and off we went. It is possible to hire a tour guide to help you through the path. It seemed quite interesting from what we were able to see… let’s just the say the tour guided group behind us sang a lot of reggae songs on their way up. We didn’t get a tour guide. There were enough people in our group who’d climbed the falls before so that we didn’t think it necessary (or financial prudent [broke College students remember? 🙂 ] ) to hire one.

We made a human chain and everyone assumed the responsibility of ensuring that no one else went falling and hitting their heads on rocks. The rocks were at times a bit slippery despite the water slippers we rented and I (quite embarrassingly) almost went down several times. In the end it was completely worth it. There is something about standing with waters rushing around you, blue skies above you and trees dancing merrily. In those moments you are awestruck by the beauty in this world. All the ugliness that human beings bring always fades away when you are struck with the majesty of nature. Those moments, those realizations were even more rewarding than completing the trek up the waterfall and taking my photo in front of the ‘Congratulations’ sign.

Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher.
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher.
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher
Photo Courtesy: Brandon Usher

In about an hour and half (flew by way too fast) we were back on the beach. We played around, chatted and chilled for a while before we continued along our day trip. As I walked away from the falls and I bid the murals goodbye… I realized that it just might have been one of the most blissful days of my life. It was a well deserved adventure for this Caribbean Girl ;).

Had too much fun staring at this as we walked by and saying goodbye as we left.
Had too much fun staring at this as we walked by and saying goodbye as we left.

Tschuss,

Rilys