Sunday, February 8, 2009

nomadic wanderings.

so going barefoot isn't exactly appropriate in nome, alaksa.

and i didn't want to change this grenadian blog name.

so a new blog has been established.

as these feet have wandered on to a new place.

so as this interconnected journey continues,

you can follow my new reflections at:

thank you.

most kindly.

Friday, December 5, 2008


rhonda keeps singing leaving on a jet plane.

one week from now i will be floating amidst the clouds. somewhere in between grenada and north carolina. somewhere in between homes. grenada has been my home for over fifteen months. my life. my reality. and now i'm leaving. and i don't know when i'll be back again.

don't know when i'll get to wash in the river. don't know when i'll get to twirl in the caribbean sea. don't know when i'll get to eat fresh mangoes and fried jacks and oil down. don't know when i'll get to sit in the moonlight on paulita's steps. don't know when i'll get a next hair plait. don't know when i'll feel the mt plaisir breeze. don't know when i'll get to listen to mayfirst's wisdom. don't know when i'll have fourteen kids coloring and playing marbles and doing homework and cutting snowflakes at my house. snowflakes. recently i showed a couple of kids how to fold paper and make snowflakes. and the trend has caught on. and now my kitchen wall is decorated with them.

snowflakes. and my mind wanders to snowflakes. melting on my tongue. decorating my eyelashes. falling softly and quietly. showers of blessings. blanketing the earth. welcoming snow angels. and sledding. and snow ball skirmishes. each one a unique creation. merging together to make something beautiful. snowflakes. a challenge to conceive in the caribbean. yet they will be my reality soon. as i leave behind the paper ones for the real thing.

and my mind wanders to what i will leave behind besides the paper snowflakes. these people. these beautiful people. that are a part of me now. and i can't believe this is all ending. but maybe it isn't really. just changing. because i can't forget. all of this is too meaningful. too beautiful. and the memories i've gathered, the lessons i've learned will go with me. wherever my feet go next. my feet. my barefeet. soon to be covered by layers of thick socks and boots. as i embark on new adventures.

which means i'll have to change the name of my blog. or maybe start a new one. either way there will be a link from this one to the next. as these experiences are interconnected. as extreme as this shift will be. i believe there are connections. one place leading us to the next. a continual journey.

we can't done learning. mayfirst reminds me continually. life is a school house, he says. so we live with openness and humility. giving thanks for the wisdom that life is speaking. and listening carefully so that our hearts might hear.

and i hope that my soul might learn all it needs to understand in these last few days. and that it might embrace all the new discoveries to be made. guide my feet. whether bare or covered. as you remind me that all ground, whether sandy or frozen, is holy.

and thank you for where i've been. and where i am. and where i'm going. its all too wonderful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

island hopping.

"i have seen many things in my travels, and i understand more than i can express. "
ecclesiasticus 34:12

so thankful for the opportunity to travel. to see new places. new people. my wise friend back in boone, mrs. mitchell, used to say that "travel is broadening, in more was than one" with her jubilant laugh. she has lived a well traveled life. and naturally acquired much wisdom along the way.

and i look at maps and wonder where else i might end up in life. where else my feet might journey.

recently my feet ventured to dominica. the nature island of the caribbean. to experience a different island. traveled during their creole festival. so the trip offered an abundance of nature and culture.

methodists are known for their connections. and through caribbean-methodist connections, i found a host family. romo, my host mom, was amazingly hospitable. welcomed me with tremendous love. like one of her own children. even though i had never met her before. i stayed for the week with romo and her husband steve and their daughter gisselle. other folks passing by for the festival from antigua and grenada also enjoyed the hyacinth hospitality.

i've learned that the way to travel is to have local folks to stay with. it means so much to be a part of a family. and gives so much insight into everyday life. my goal is to make friends all over the world with couches or at least floor space to stay on. there's so much more world to see...

to get to dominica, i landed in st. vincent. changed planes in antigua. landed in guadalupe. and finally arrived in waitukubuli. that's the name the kaliningo/carib indians gave to this breathtaking land. their name meant "tall is her body." describing the overwhelming mountains. and supposedly the depths of the sea around the island are just as vast as her heights. waitukubuli. land of boundless height and depth and beauty. and flying over her was amazing. she's different from the other islands i flew over. so much unspoiled, mountainous forest. much more sparsely populated. and just flying in i was anticipating falling in love.

the ride from the airport was long but inexpressibly scenic. enjoyed the commentary from delwyn the taxi guy. about dominican culture. and carnival. and creole festival. and food. and all sorts of things. romo greeted me warmly when i arrived. she was in the midst of cooking sunday lunch. and she let me hang out with her while she cooked. those are some of my most favourite moments. talking with women while cooking. women like mom. and glenda. and maureen. and amanda. and now romo. she prepared a ridiculous amount of food. but it was leftovers for the balance of the busy week. baked chicken. baked fish. stuffed fish. stewed pork. mixed vegetables. macaroni pie. mashed breadfruit. avacado balls. guava juice. cherry juice. and as she cooked, she wouldn't really let me help, we chatted and began getting to know each other. she's quite the host. thrives on entertaining people. so it seemed i had arrived at the right place. the methodist minister and his family enjoyed us to share in the meal. and we ate there in the living room as the pre-independence day festivities played on the tv. and it felt good to be a part of a family sunday lunch. to be taken care of.

eventually went to a harvest service at church and then a fashion show with romo and gisselle. not exactly my thing. but i went along with it.

monday morning, found my tea and breakfast on the table. as i would every morning. romo rising earlier than everyone else to take care of her family. we took gisselle to school in town. and then romo helped me get a ride down south to grand bay. the cultural centre of dominica. i was to meet tamara, romo's niece who is a secondary math teacher. tagged along with tamara to her classes. she even had me teach her youngest group, form one, word problems. it was neat to see tamara's camaraderie with the other staff. a sense of fellowship and friendship. and nice to get to chat with her throughout the day.

monday afternoon was traveling back to town with tamara to collect her five year old son zheim. the three of us ventured to creole in the park. sampling creole food and listening to live music. i tried sanconche, a broth made with codfish and coconut milk and provision. discovered that creole food means a lot of codfish. we eventually met up with some of tamara's teacher friends. and then found romo for the ride home.

tuesday woke up without a plan. everyone was working. and romo in her protective motherly way wasn't crazy about me navigating public transport. so she encouraged me to find some sort of tour or hire a taxi to take me around or something. the most reasonable adventure i found was to take a tour to the indian river and the beach. it sounded fun. before the tour, i walked around roseau with a brochure about historical sights. then met up with my fellow traveling companions for the day. a family from france living in martinique. who spoke some english. but elvis, our tour guide, spoke bilingually the entire day. i laughed on the inside at my random company. but appreciated the chance to explore. elvis expressed his extensive knowledge of plants and animals and all things dominican along the way. stopping to pick lemon grass. and ferns that made tattoos. and watch the iguanas. we eventually made it to portsmouth where we caught a boat up the indian river. a quiet, peaceful chance to be amidst creation. we saw a view from fort shirley. and bathed at the purple turtle beach. and caught the sunset there. a random day. but i was thankful for it.

wednesday, elvis invited me to go on a hiking excursion. he does botanical research and had to set up some weather stations anyways. so i tagged along on his adventure. met him in laudat, his village, and we journeyed to freshwater lake, titou gorge, and middlehem falls. amidst utter beauty. and the conversation was highly interesting. as elvis continued to share his insights about nature and politics and history and life. it was probably one of my favourite days. just felt happy. we met meryl, the lady from new zealand/england hiking near the falls. so i had another traveling companion back to roseau. and the liquid sunshine fell in abundance. but we didn't mind. it cooled things off. and we even caught a little creole in the park when we got back to town. and i awkwardly enjoyed some callilou and crab soup.

thursday, caught a ride to town with romo without much of a plan again. ended up catching a bus up to the carib territory. i find it fascinating that people of carib ancestory still live in dominica. there aren't any people of carib descent still living in grenada. and it was a pretty touristy thing to do. but it was something that interested me. so i saw a cultural performance. and toured the model carib homes. and saw amazing views of the atlantic ocean. and most of my favourite moments were riding the public transport. amidst everyday folks. diverse folks. and everyday conversations. taking in the scenery. i seemed to see more obvious poverty out in that part of the country than the town side.

also ventured to champagne beach to check out the hot spring bubbling sea. and passed by the last evening of creole in the park. found my way to the wob dwiyet pageant. in which romo was one of the main organizers. a contest of young women from each parish that involved traditional wear and talent performances with other interspersed cultural performances. it was interesting to see. and neat that there is such effort toward continuing traditions.

thursday evening helped me to understand friday's events. went to school again with tamara for creole day. everyone dressed in their plaid madras. including me in my creole skirt i found in a hole in the wall fabric shop in town. and there was a mini-wob dwiyet pageant at the school with singing and dancing and acting by the students. so much creativity and culture. much of the program was spoken in patois/creole. a language of broken french that evolved during slavery and is still used in dominica today. so i had little clue about what was being spoken, but the student beside me translated. patios has nearly died out in grenada. only a few elderly still know it. it was used more of a secret language among adults and failed to be passed on to many children. so the fact that it has survived and is still used today, especially among the young is fascinating to me. and of course, they had the traditional creole foods at school. smoked herring and breadfruit. callilou and crab. bakes and codfish.

friday afternoon was hurried souvineer shopping at the old market in roseau with tamara. and then getting ready for the creole festival that night. went with romo and gisselle and her cousin and romo's friend brenda to the festivities. lots of bands, local and regional, that played reggae and calypso and soca and creole music until the wee hours of the morning. enjoyed the chance to dance without inhibition. everyone just doing their own thing. however, i was quite exhausted by the end. i'm a music festival kind of girl. but a daytime music festival kind of girl.

saturday was lovely. slept very little. but met up with tamara to go see the trafalgar waterfalls and sulfur springs near where zheim's grandmother lives. enjoyed the moments with her. in conversation. in silence. and of course enjoyed the natural beauty all around.

relaxed back at tamara's in goodwill. and got ready for another night of creole music. like the night before, ended up sleeping with most of the crowd in the truck before it was over. i guess i'm not as hard core as the typical world creole festival goer. but i tried.

returning home was packing and catching the taxi back to melville hall. spending more time than preferred in the antiguan airport. but i was able to catch up on journaling and post card writing and things. and of course people watch. as airports are perfect for.

and there's always much more to say. so much more than words or pictures can convey. but dominica is a part of me now. and i will never forget her beauty. the sign at the airport said "thanks for visiting our nature isle. please come again."or something like that. and i wondered if i would see her again. but i was entirely thankful for our encounter at least this once. and i know if i ever find a way again, romo would gladly offer me a place to stay.

and something that struck me as i returned to grenada. especially to my community of grand roy. that i was happy to see people again. familiar people. people who know me. people who welcomed me back. people who had missed me. and my dominican adventure was lovely. but was just a taste. here in grenada, i've become a part of things. and for these adventures on the isle of spice, i am also immensely thankful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

as i went down by the river to pray...

my soul seems to be drawn to the river quite often these days. because of its beauty. because of its simplicity. because there is solitude. because there is community. and nature. and everyday life. it's where people wash. and bathe. and clean fish. and splash. and play. and live.

saturday was a washing day. so i gathered my clothes and bucket and headed down to the river. don't anticipate river washing wherever i end up next. so trying to cherish these occasions. stephon was there washing a two piece of clothes. soon deandra and her two little brothers arrived. deandra helped her mother wash. and the boys joyfully played for what must have been hours. i admired thier innocense. and imagination. soon paulita joined us. my washing companion. she settled down in her usual place in the shade. and we smiled at the boys playing. and i offered thanks for the simple moments alongside her. kedra came. and we chatted a bit. but there were also times of silence. times to listen to the music of the river. times to watch the raindrops dance as clouds passed by.

and i thought of the rivers in my life. the new river at elk shoals. the river along the trail at price park. the yadkin river by the greenway. as well as countless streams and tributaries along the way. and i gave thanks for the rivers i've been able to sit beside. and i wondered what rivers my soul will encounter in journeys to come. and in all my wandering thoughts, i sought mindfulness of the river flowing right before me.

somewhere i read that you can't stand in the same river twice. water continuously moving. changing. time moving. changing. right before our eyes. without us even realizing it.

so i washed and rinsed. and i softly sung, "as i went down by the river to pray..." and i finished just as showers of blessings began to fall in abundance. and i spread my clothes on the line when the sunshine returned.

then sunday morning, as i got back from church, a group of folks were gathered in the river down near mr. black's shop. clearing bush. picking up garbage. covered in mud. "good morning abby. we're here cleaning the river. go change your clothes and come back and help." they were half kidding. but i didn't have any pressing plans, so i took them up on the offer. and barefoot, i journeyed up the river with miss gloria, miss clessie, and mr. james and kenrick and kobe and a host of others.

and i picked up trash where i could. and cleaned the river of the bush being cut down. piece by piece. helping in the ways i knew how. and i was overjoyed to be actively caring for creation alongside people in my community. and i was excited to be a part of something positive. and i was glad to see people taking initiative and putting words into action. it was all quite refreshing.

we made it up to where i usually go in the river. there behind daisy's house. the plan is to continue from there next week sunday. so i cleaned up my muddy self in the river. and made my way up the hill near miss gloria's. they cooked a big pot of oil down to share among those who worked. and the food took its sweet time. so we waited. amidst hair plaiting. and chatting. and liming. and finally they shared out the food. breadfruit and callilou and carrots and meat and dumplings and coconut milk and saffron all mixed together. and kenrick said that the dumplings were a little dry. but i didn't mind. i was simply thankful for the shared experience. for community. for something to be a part of. especially something that involved the river.

there's something unique and ordinary about the grand roy river. and i pray that i might embrace it. that i might be a part of its beauty. and listen to its wisdom. as it sings sweet songs of melodies pure and true.

during all our river adventures, miss gloria said multiple times with a chuckle: "abby, you could write a book when you go back." maybe i will, miss gloria. maybe i will. after all, there are so many stories to tell.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ordinary beauty.

i tend to be a continually reflective person. but i've felt even more reflective lately.

last friday, 29th august, marked a year since my arrival in grenada. so i've found myself pondering what life was like a year ago. and what life is like now. and i've been escaping to waterfalls. and sitting by the sea. as i've read old journal entries. and entered new ones.

i discovered these words written on the plane ride. somewhere between jamaica and barbados...

"i think how ridiculous this all is. i just left everything i've ever known to go to some random place. with a vague job description. having communicated with only one person. primarily through email. and i'm staying for sixteen months. no one's going to look like me. talk like me. what the hell am i getting myself into? some might say i'm going on faith. i've got more courage than most. i think i'm naieve and foolish myself. but for some reason, or set of reasons, this is how life is working out. on my own, i'm bound to screw this up. it is you, God, that can make this beautiful. take all that i am - broken, awkward, anxious, unsure. and make me into an instrument of your peace. an instrument of your love. overcome my imperfection. not my self-ambitious will. but your pure and good will be done. on earth as it is in heaven. make me one with your spirit. as you guide my feet. might i joyfully follow you. right now i feel pretty alone. and i long for some sort of community to be a part of. to live alongside people. serve alongside people. pray and worship alongside people. where there is suffering. where there is poverty. where there is injustice. and not that i can overcome these things by any means on my own. restoration comes from you. it is my prayer that i might be a part of what you're doing. that through you, i might do 'small things with great love.'"

and following these words, on fresh pages of a new journal, i began to record this grenadian life. and i'm amazed at the newness in my voice. the idealism. the wide open eyes. and i give thanks for those first experiences. learning to wash in the river. learning to cook grenadian food. sitting by the road with glenda. walking around barefoot. playing in the sea with kids. hiking to waterfalls. visiting st. george's. figuring things out. missing home. discovering home.

and i really didn't know what i was getting myself into. but i prayed for a community to be a part of. and i found it.

and i feel like the newness has certainly worn off. and life has become ordinary. but there is beauty in the ordinary. as i still wash in the river. these days beside paulita. as i bathe in the sea. and admire the sunset. as i take in the cool evening breeze with bloatie. and wait for the bread van with daisy. as i make a morning stroll through a neighborhood where everyone knows my name.

and my perspective is certainly different than those first days. beyond ways i can express in words. because of all i've seen. and heard. and lived. and these days, it is my prayer that i might continue to live with openness. to everyday life here. to be mindful of the gift that all this is. to seek guidance from the holiness dwelling in me. to honor the holiness in others. and all around me. to give thanks for where i've come from. to appreciate where i am. to trust in where i'm going.

so thank you to all. who have offered your love and support and prayers on this ridiculous journey i've found myself on. may God guide our feet on these paths. as we seek to do small things. with great love. wherever we are. amidst whatever ordinary beauty we find ourselves.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the carnival experience.

sometimes in life you just have to give yourself permission to be ridiculous. that's what was swimming around in my head during much of last weeks carnival. as i danced throughout the streets of gouyave. as i danced. and danced. and danced some more.

there's much excitement leading up to carnival. but the official holiday was celebrated last monday and tuesday. the 11th and 12th of august. i attended a few weekend events before the festivities.

at panorama our little steel pan band performed after months of practice. we came in last again in the competition. but only lost to the top band by 23ish points. i didn't mind so much. i was in it more for the experience and the experience was quite fun. playing a challenging song up on stage in front of so many people. amidst balloons and fellow pan players i've come to really appreciate.

sunday evening i got the opportunity to go to dimanche gras. in which some of the elaborate queen and king costumes were paraded. and then the calypso finals were held. i've developed so much admiration for the art form of calypso. its a musical genre that is centered around social and political commentary. an avenue for artists to speak out about local and global issues. a beautiful means of expression. each artist shared two songs. about such subjects as political division and corruption. poverty. youth violence. child abuse. environmentalism. hiv-aids. embracing heritage. revitalizing calypso. etc. etc. although the concert was rather lengthy, it was quite insightful and refreshing to hear music used as an instrument of social change. the voices of the people being freely expressed. being heard.

dimanche gras spilled over into monday morning j'ouvert. pronounced joo-vay. its a french term meaning day open. street festivities beginning in the wee hours of the morning. i decided to try j'ouvert in gouyave as most people i knew that were going would be there. met up with glenda's daughters and caught a bus with them. people had already been fetting for quite some time by our arrival. folks were dancing up and down the road behind dj's playing the season's popular carnival songs. many people were already covered with black oil or different colors of paint. which is tradition known as jab jab. monday morning i mostly observed from the side. taking in the crazy participants. i danced a little. and in the amount of time i danced down the street i did manage to get a little oil smeared on me. no worries. i had worn old clothes and put baby oil on my skin. i had been forewarned. one of my favorite parts was recognizing people from grand roy and gouyave amidst the crowds. carnival seems to be one of those things that brings out a different side of people. a ridiculous side. but a side that's in them, waiting for the right occasion to emerge.

bathed in the sea to wash off the oil with some dishwashing liquid that ednora gave me when i reached back to grand roy. which has become tradition for the jab jabbers. and then headed home for a much needed nap. that afternoon, we played a little steel pan there by the junction in grand roy. and then i got ready for monday night mas.

monday night mas was back in gouyave. similar street dancing. but none of the paint or oil from the morning. more organized as people gathered in specific bands. i had purchased a red jersey to "play mas" with a band of folks. the streets were glowing with light up swords and resounding with whistles and carnival music. it was freeing to dance up and down the street. to laugh. and allow myself to just be silly.

by tuesday morning i was feeling quite tired. but i saw lornette. the wild murray daughter from across the street as she was leaving for a next morning of j'ouvert. she encouraged me to join her. so i decided to try to soak in another j'ouvert morning. and did i soak it in. literally as i was covered with oil and paint early on in the festivities. it was an exercise in letting go. and accepting my own ridiculousness. and having fun with it.

lornette and i and her friends bathed our oil off in the sea and the river after all the excitement. my apologies to mama earth. it was probably not a friendly gesture. but carnival seems to be one of those things where grace is sought afterwards anyways.

tuesday evening there were parades with different colorful costumes through gouyave. had i ventured to st. george's more, i would have seen more costumes probably. but i'm thankful to experienced things from the gouyave side. after the parades, there was more pan playing. as people pushed us up and down the road on our chassie and we developed a small band of followers. it always brings me joy to see the pan music bringing someone else joy. to know you contributed just a little bit to the inspiration of their dance or smile or head bobbing.

"you well enjoyed your carnival, abby." i hear that a lot these days. and i did enjoy it. it wasn't my most meaningful set of moments in grenada. but there's a time and season for everything. even for dancing through the streets dressed in oil and clothed in ridiculousness.

Monday, June 30, 2008

blessed are the peacemakers. for they shall be called children of God.

somehow in life, i end up being surrounded by children. whether i chose it or not. whether i avoid it or not. and there are moments of joy. and moments of frustration. and moments of beauty. and moments of chaos. but lately the moments have been good.

last thursday, i ventured on a "bus party" with a bunch of kids from grand roy government school. the school i've been helping out with after school and common entrance class. the school where most kids from my neighborhood attend. and there were certainly "party" moments. as we cruised around the island with caribbean music blaring and kids singing all the words. the kids expressed such excitement at all the sights along the way. with a certain innocence. with childlike joy. and we visited leaper's hill and saw sulfur springs. learned about cocoa processing and chatted with rainbow the parrot. enjoyed lunch at bathway beach and shivered in the wind at grand etang lake. and i don't know about the other "adults," but i actually had fun. hanging out with kids i knew. getting to know some i hadn't spent much time with. it was a tiring day though. for everybody. as evidenced by little antonio falling asleep on my shoulder on the way home.

friday, i journeyed to hartford village on the eastern side. for a closing ceremony with the peace and art programme i've been helping with. back in january, i randomly met my canadian-hippy-artist- social activist-friend maureen at a sailing festival where i was playing pan and she was selling art. she had done youth empowerment sessions with kids in her village, but was hoping to do something more organized and interconnected. after emailing and chatting over tea on her veranda, we created a series of sessions on peace and art to do with the kids. we partnered with older youth from the village that took great initiative in facilitating the sessions. once a week for six weeks, the kids assembled to make art and make peace. they wrote peace poems. made peace boxes. created puppets. did creative drama. made a peace mural. sang songs. created dances. and the programme wasn't perfect. there were a lot of times when we questioned what concepts were being learned. what good was really being accomplished. but we saw kids play together from different parts of the village that usually don't interact. we saw children shine in small groups that tend to be withdrawn. we saw youth take pride in their creations.

and it was a beautiful thing to see parents and other youth come out as the kids showed off their work at the closing ceremony. the songs and dances and drama and poems and art displays. it was all a joy to be a part of. maureen's holidaying back in canada for a few months starting tomorrow. so, i'm not sure how involved i'll be in the village for a while. but good things have started. it seems as if a dance troupe could evolve. as the older youth have discovered an empowerment to lead.

since i've been here, i've been realizing that with kids, and big people too, i'm at my best in small groups or one on one. when i can fully focus on honoring people. on honoring the holiness that dwells within them. so i cherish those moments. with kids: cleaning fish with aj. listening to nicka. cooking with azaria. chatting on our way to the pan house with kaydell. so thankful for opportunities to love. always praying for those opportunities. with open eyes. with a receptive heart. that my spirit might be guided by that which is Divine. on these journeys. and on those to follow.