Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Living and surviving in today's Caribbean

By Julie Charles

Gone are the lazy days of summer where you were experiencing the pleasures of a Caribbean childhood. Eating mangoes till you had a serious bellyache and Grandma decided you needed a proper clean out; riding on the village donkey until the animal had enough of you and decided to kick you off; being sent up the road to catch water to be used for cooking and other sanitary purposes; playing childhood games such as Mississippi, ladder, hide and seek, or just plain out hunting lizards with your catapult just for the fun of it.

Julie Charles holds a bachelor of business administration degree in consumer behaviour and marketing research from Bernard Baruch College in New York and is the marketing and human resource manager of the St Kitts Co-operative Credit Union. In her spare time, she gives presentations to parents and children about teen sexuality, as well as HIV/AIDS and woman empowerment. She works closely with the Ministry of Gender Affairs assisting the Teen Mother Program.You waited patiently for Grandma to finish baking her famous coconut pie from the stone oven; or for her to take her soup off the coal pot and share it out in your enamel bowl. Helping to raise the goats, pigs, chickens, and any other animal that would help to feed the household was a chore that taught you to care for and love the animals that were around you.

Those were the days where we had no care in the world. It did not matter what fashion it was in or the clothes we wore, although the dread of having your hair ironed was definitely not a thing to look forward to, but it was either that or the endless hours of plaiting our kinky hair. All our needs and supplies were taken care of as far as we were concerned.

We did not see the struggles of our parents to put food on the table; the concern in their faces as to how they would pay the bills; or how they wondered and worried if their children would grow up to well-adjusted and contributing citizens of our islands. We were free to think, feel, play, and relax our little minds and fully believe that we would be anything we wanted to be.

Now those days are gone and we are now in our parents’ shoes but this is a different Caribbean. We are all now having to face the trials and tribulations of this modern world. Politics, economics, and social issues are all intertwined in our decisions. Everything is different and difficult and we wonder what happen to the carefree days of our childhood.

Politicians offer the Promised Land but all we receive are hardships as we are working three times as hard for the exact same pay from three years ago; crime is everywhere for it does not discriminate and worry sets in as you wonder if the things that you worked so hard for would disappear in the wink of an eye.

As for the social issues, they hit us like bricks, as we step over one another but it appears there seems to be no solutions readily available. Relationships, which should assist with these adversities, become strained, difficult, and unsupportive; friendships no longer appear to be real and churches, whose duty it is to provide ease and spiritual comfort, now appear to only want what the bill collectors want and that is money.

Where is the relief for us in this modern Caribbean? Our foundation has always been a spiritual one but in the face of such misfortune, are we doomed to be consumed by our problems? No, we are not, as we are a strong people, a resilient people; a people who understand that where there is a valley there must be a mountain.

We will continue to strive, push, and crawl if we must but we will survive and eventually succeed. It is innate in us, as Caribbean people to always thrive no manner the obstacles that are placed before us. We may wallow, complain, and stress ourselves until we see grey hairs begin to appear but deep down in us is always the will to persist. It is not in us to give up on our problems but instead we are always driven to find solutions. We are now realising that we cannot win every battle but we also know that given our faith and belief systems anything is possible.

So to my Caribbean people facing these difficult times understand the following:

• Know thyself and if you know thyself then you will know what you deserve and work towards it

• Understand that problems will come as they are a part of life and do not allow your vision to be clouded by those problems, for if all you see is problems then you will never see the solutions

• Always remember your spiritual foundation, as in times of extreme difficulty it will teach you to persevere and survive

• Nothing is ever as bad as it appears. Life is a balance where there is sunshine; it must be followed by rain. Rain is not a bad element. It may prevent us from doing certain things but its true purpose is to cleanse the earth and nurture our food

• No matter your trial or tribulations, always seek the positive. It is a change of thinking that changes our path.

Life in this modern Caribbean is definitely more difficult than what our ancestors may have experienced, but luckily for us we have been given the tools to navigate these turbulent waters. Therefore, we will shape the present and assist our children in their future by passing down the tools of survival.

February 29, 2012