Pages

Monday, May 31, 2010

Indian Arrival Day...

"Indian Arrival Day is a day for reflection rather than of celebration. It is a day to remember the struggle and sacrifices of our ancestors who had braved the ten thousand odd mile journey across the seas to reach the shores of Trinidad and Tobago. It is also a day to remember and appreciate the tremendous hardships and strife they as well as succeeding generations have undertaken to bring about prosperity and progress in this twin island Republic and furthermore contribute substantially to the development of this pluri-cultural society. Today, the culture and heritage of India is a proud component of Trinidad and Tobago's multi-cultural mosaic. For this, we need to appreciate the tremendous efforts in preserving the ancestral cultures and traditions, which our fore-bearers had brought along from their motherland and which has made T&T a beacon in the region today." 
~Malay Mishra - T&T High Commissioner of India on the occasion of the 165th Anniversary of Indian Arrival Day on 30th May 2010.

T&T's got a holiday today.. as we do when public holidays fall on a Sunday. May 30th commemorates the arrival of the first Indian Indentured labourers from India to Trinidad, in May 1845, on the ship the Fatel Razack. Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians form one of the largest ethnic groups and have contributed much to the development of T&T. Our first female Prime Minister (Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar) is of East Indian descent. Prominent East Indians have included: current President George Maxwell Richards, Winston Dookeran (economist and politician), Dr. Rudranath Capildeo (politician and mathematician), Sir V.S. Naipaul (novelist and nobel prize winner), cricketers: Darren and Sherwin Ganga, Dave Mohammed, Denesh Ramdhin and Ravi Rampaul, musicians: Mungal Patasar, Jit Samaroo and Sundar Popo.  

I'm of mostly Indian descent myself.. and one must of course remember and celebrate what brings one here to this present moment. It makes me wonder though if people take it too far sometimes... if in celebrating we are separating. At the end of the day.. we can't (or shouldn't in my mind) say that we are 'Indian' ... we are 'Trinis'  - Trinbagonians.. with all the drama that brings with it. We are the sum of our parts and our history is not only made up of the original inhabitants of these isles but also Europeans, Africans, Indians, Asians and so many others. 

As T&T's High Commissioner to India says 'it is a day for reflection rather than of celebration'... I wonder what other Trinis think about it... people of my parents' generation.. people of my generation.. I guess it does make me reflective.

Apart from that though... it's a holiday... I'm glad for the time away from work :) 

Sita Ram, Namaskar, Namaste... 

Om Shanti,
Rtr

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Living in the Body...

"To keep the body in good health is a duty – otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." ~ Buddha 

Today I visited my doctor for what I thought would be a regular check-up. I left my doctor with two x-rays of my lower spine, 2 injections (one on each side of my tailbone) and pills to last the week. Ergh. Apparently I've got 'Sacroiliitis' which is inflammation in both my sacroliac joints. :S Just so you know what that is... according to Solonen, K. (1957)  via Wikipedia, "In humans, the sacrum supports the spine and is supported in turn by an ilium on each side. The joint is a strong, weightbearing synovial joint with irregular elevations and depressions that produce interlocking of the two bones". 

I've been having lower back pain for some time (months) but really just thought it's cuz I do a lot of computer work and thus a lot of sitting. It turns out that this really is the reason but it's more serious than I thought. I have this issue where if I'm feeling a little bit unwell I complain (a lot) but if I'm feeling really unwell I tend to brush it off. Obviously this needs to change. I've got to pay more attention to my body and what it's telling me. Cuz I *really* don't want to have any serious medical issues later on.

When I was 13 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in its advanced stages. It is truly a gift ... and a miracle of sorts that 14 years later she's still with us and fairly healthy. She's had recurring bouts of cancer about 4 times.. 5? after treatment (in the early days radiation and chemo - now we're looking at alternative means) she goes into remission. It's been a lot of doctor's visits and hospital visits and interactions with doctors and patients and survivors. The experience has only left me with a healthy dislike for conventional medicine and hospitals. I don't want to have any personal experiences with them.

And so, I need to be more aware and take care of my body. It's the only one I've got in this lifetime after all. I generally think I'm fairly healthy... I'm a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, I have just about the ideal body weight for my height, I exercise (somewhat - much less now that I'm studying).. It's a bit of a shock to know that I can maybe have an issue that could turn into something more challenging. 

So. Healthy thoughts and vibes begin now. Want to join me? Love your body cuz it's the only one you've got. Meditation. Affirmation. Healthy eating. Exercise. I'm gonna work on it. 

peace,
Rtr

Travelling Karma, New York, Election Fever...


The problem with not updating regularly is that so much happens that you then wonder how you'll talk about it all. I've figured it out though.. headings. Headings are the key to this blog post... along with condensed versions of each issue.. lol .. so.. here we go.

Travelling Karma
I've always said that I've got good travelling karma... what does this mean you wonder? Things go well for me when I'm travelling... whether it be short distances (e.g. home to work) or long distances (e.g. T&T to USA) I don't usually have issues with delays... or transportation... or crazy people. There are of course the rare instances when there are no taxis.. or there is flooding or rain or election rallies.. These instances are few and far between though. Usually, I can get a taxi in a relatively short time.. or I'll get a friendly/helpful taxi/bus driver.. customs and immigration and such have never been a problem.. I usually get to where I'm going when I want to get there...

My recent bit of adventuring has made me realise just how much I like travelling. Perhaps this is why I've got good travelling karma in the first place? Perhaps it's the I'll get there when I get there attitude? Or that I like meeting people and/or maccoing people for brief spaces of time? Whatever it is... Travelling = Fun. It's exciting and energising (..until you stop - then you need a few days off to recuperate). I must do more of it. So what if it impacts horribly on my finances? As my mom says .. it's about the experience... not the funds. I'll figure out a way. 


New York
Have you heard the song "Empire State of Mind"? It's by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys so I'm not sure how many of you would have or could have.. The first time I heard it, it brought back such memories of a weekend I spent in NYC with my brother... I think it perfectly captures all that goes on in NY... and the chorus constantly played in my head last weekend as my mom and I were there. 

Chorus (for those who don't know the song):
"In New York, concrete jungles where dreams are made of 
There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new 
Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York
New York, New York"

We took the bus from Great Barrington, MA to Port Authority, NY... almost the same ride though going to MA we went to Stockbridge. Going to MA there was a sense of calm building.. like when you've been away from something for so long and you know you're returning... which in essence is what it was - the feeling of homecoming though? Deeper than I can explain. Going to NY there was a sense of excitement building. From my first visit - way back in 1999 - I've been thrilled to be there. It is such a super-charged place... so different from what I'm accustomed to and yet I find that I can fit in seamlessly... it is a rush.

We took a taxi from Port Authority to our hotel... Yea.. we stayed in a hotel near the airport.. AND we took a taxi to get there.. it's about the experience - not the funds! (I'm trying to keep that in mind now that I've returned and am faced with my credit card bill). Honestly though? Good thing we did. We're not such fabulous travellers that we can take the subway with luggage. Next time I travel all that's going with me is a backpack... and maybe one of those little suitcases that can fit in the overhead compartment of the aeroplane. Seriously. Lol..The hotel... fabulous. It's different staying at a hotel than staying with family or friends or acquaintances.. there's a certain feeling of indulgence that it brings. I strongly advise at some point in your life.. stay at a hotel.. preferably a posh one.. even if it's just for one night - stay at a hotel. 

The next day (Saturday) we went to Manhattan.. via subway and bus (No luggage = Can travel on subway).. We took photos like the tourists we were. We went to B.B. Kings Blues Club and Grill for Strawberry Fields (A Saturday Afternoon With The Music of The BEATLES & A Delicious All-You-Can-Eat Brunch Buffet!!! - took this from their site...). It was an experience.. lol. During the planning stages of our trip, when I realised it was just gonna be mom and I and NY, I looked for something to carry her to... a musical maybe? something on Broadway? I personally was thrilled to see Phantom of the Opera the last time I was in NYC. After much consideration though I decided on the Beatles brunch.. interactive.. it's music.. there'd be food (if you read this regularly you probably know that food's important... I get that from my dad). So..that Saturday found us at the Beatles Brunch... persons visiting NYC that like/love the Beatles? I recommend. Food was good... Band was better.. Costume and wig changes? Awesome.. lol.. After we limed in Manhattan a bit. I got a discount on a key-chain from a Bangladeshi store owner cuz I called mom "ma"... An Asian (Chinese?? idk :S) guy was inspired by my photo-takeouting. We tried not to spend money in a store that was having a Bead Blow-Out Sale! It was a good day... and we figured out how to get back to the hotel. Did we get lost? Nope. Did we take multiple means of transport? Yes. We rule. That's all it is. :)
The next day... ahh Sunday.. return to Trinidad day.. was most glad that the hotel had shuttle service to JFK. Suitcases ready to go? Check. Are we ready to go? Hmm. We left.. got to the airport on-time.. found where we had to be.. soon found ourselves waiting to board. I'd have blogged from there but.. unlike Piarco, JFK has no free wifi. Alas.. and there's a point against you JFK. A girl sat next to us that did not stop talking on her phone from the moment she arrived till the moment we got on the plane. I wonder sometimes about people and their ability to be with themselves. We were quite horrified when we got on-board that she was in the seat directly behind us but luckily there was no one for her to talk to. Apart from some turbulence flight went well and soon (ok .. maybe 5 hours isn't 'soon') we were back in T&T.


Election Fever
We arrived in time to vote. Our politics and what's been happening with our government and such is another post to come but know that we arrived in time to vote. It was a big worry for my mom. - would they have elections before we got home? would we get home in time?? Personally, I'm pretty glad to have missed all the rallies and the constant talk about who to vote for-what are they saying-who's doing what-what's happened now? I think any person living here should have already known who they would vote for and why. Can campaign promises sway me? nope.. and I don't understand how it can sway persons either. It was pretty black and white for me. No shades of gray in this issue. Time for a change cuz what is .. what was .. just was not working. And so there's the choice. Stay with what you know that's not working... or go for what you don't know and hope it works. 

Trinidad and Tobago now has a female Prime Minister - Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar.  Historic event? Yes.. it's our first female PM. As of today.. yesterday really as it's now early a.m. we've got a whole new Cabinet. It looks good so far. Fingers crossed that they will do what the populace hopes for. We all strive to be the best we can be. Here's hoping that they do the same. 

peace,
Rtr

Friday, May 21, 2010

Still adventuring...

"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I think perhaps I may have lived in the Berkshires in a past life. How else can I explain the sense of homecoming I feel on my return here? Yes, one can say that I've been here before (last year - Kripalu experience) but even at that time there was an unexplainable sense of ..belonging. My heart is fuller.. my lungs breathe deeper. There is  a strange sort of peace. 

Since my last postings I have visited two Botanical Gardens.. laid my head down in completely different types of lodgings and immersed myself in the artsy spirituality that is this area of the world.

The first Garden to be visited was in NJ on Sunday... mom & I encouraged my brother to take us... Skylands - the New Jersey Botanical Gardens is simply gorgeous. It brings to mind weddings and garden parties and large family gatherings. Perhaps it is the Taurean in me that is pleased with all the green space, flowering plants and moving water. Taurus is an earth sign - we're supposed to be known for our green thumbs... I don't know why but my thumbs (or any other digits) totally missed that astrological influence. Plants die when I try to take care of them. Plants stay healthy (safe) if I let them be. I love looking at them though... and just being in such a space can be incredibly uplifting and energizing. 

The next day my mom and I were on our way to Massachusetts. Due to some unforeseen circumstances we arrived later than scheduled and thus booked the night at the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA. I think my mom has karma with this Inn that maybe she's worked out now. Last year when I was a volunteer at Kripalu and mom came by me she got off at the wrong bus stop which incidentally was the one at the Red Lion Inn. Since then she's always talked about how nice they were and such. When we found ourselves needing a place to stay urgently it seemed that the best idea would be to stay at the Red Lion (the bus stops there after all). The Red Lion Inn has major history as it dates back almost two centuries. It's New England charm at its best. We travelled to the 2nd floor via an old-fashioned cage elevator... We counted teapots in the dining room... We were generally charmed by the entire place... 

The Red Lion Inn is in Stockbridge, MA. Totally worth visiting. We did a walking tour... stuffed our suitcases into the rental car and wandered around like the tourists we were. Feasted our eyes at the Schantz Gallery: contemporary glass sculptures at its best. Contemplated going to the Library but knew we'd end up spending the day there...
Got into our rental car and headed to our main place of abode during our mini-week in the Berkshires... the GPS couldn't find it. Luckily we (female Trinis) have a semi-developed sense of direction.. we're in the midst of the state forest..


Day after... designated Kripalu day... much love to you people who I did see and who I didn't... it was great being back... soaking in the atmosphere... so different yet so much the same. Energy flow and grow... A piece of my heart resides there... Questions: how long am I back for? Will I come again? What am I doing now? Am I using what I learnt? Am I? Hmm... Still in processing ... hold on all the questions. One truth: I want to travel to places such as this. Keeping an eye out for the road to Mexico. Cloud coverage over MA... Heaviness in the atmosphere. 


Last full day in the Berkshires: weather: sunny - hardly a cloud in the sky. Plan to be out early... end up staying in till the afternoon. I love you my mama.. and I worry. Visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum... did you know he spent the last 25 years of his life in Stockbridge?  Have new found appreciation for both his art and his life. 

Visit to the second Garden: the Berkshire Botanical Gardens... beauty.. form.. nature. They've got a Hogwarts garden! Inspired by Harry Potter and filled with plants and herbs for the witch and wizard... lol... Yes, I do like some fantasy mixed in with my reality.. Thank you. 


Feel a bit lost ... am I really leaving tomorrow? Yes. Sneak into Kripalu and pay a last visit to the Labyrinth... Contemplation. Where am I now... what do I need to be doing... what's holding me back... 


We drive through Undermountain... my mom no longer holds on to the seat though the road is narrower... who needs a GPS? I don't. Forest. Mountain. Beauty. There is a bit of me that aches when I think about leaving. Living in the moment... still hard to do... will it one day be easier? Breathe. 


Late night and I'm closing here. We take a bus to NY today/tomorrow/early morning and that signals the return leg of this journey. It's my brother's birthday today. Time moves but is there really time? Questions and answers and I'm in a strange mood tonight...


May we find what we seek... guidance on our path... 


peace,
Rtr

Monday, May 17, 2010

Family Dynamics...

"The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to."  ~Dodie Smith

My family... words cannot express how much they mean to me... or how much I love them... or how much they can (individually and combined) drive me crazy.

There are some that say that we don't choose our families... then there are those that say that we do  - that as souls we choose that group of souls where we'd learn whatever lessons we need to before our return to the source... those souls that would help us along in our path. In my heart, I believe in the second view... there are no other persons that can perhaps understand me as much as my family or who can push my buttons as much as they can. 

This time spent together for my brother's graduation has brought this home. I love them, I do. There is to me no stronger bond than blood though perhaps this may change (deepen? expand...) when I find someone I'm willing to share my life with. There is nothing that can get me as worked up as a threat (perceived or real) to any of my close family members... What do you do though when it's those same members fighting (whether they realise it or not) amongst themselves? 

What do you do when you understand where each one is coming from but you  can't make them understand each other? How do you explain your own feelings on the matter without it coming up as emotional word vomit? That's how I get... if it's something close to my heart then there's no way I can be dispassionate. Detachment - something we all must learn... I'm finding it hard where family is concerned. 

We're all spiritual beings having a human experience... all at different stages of our growth... entering young adulthood, entering adulthood, full adults... From this weekend alone I can sense that there's going to be family drama in the future. Adjustments to be made... lessons to be learned... 

Dear Universe, strength needed for times ahead...


peace,
Rtr

Adventure... Graduation... Travels

Note: I started writing this post on Saturday 15th May, 2010... it's only now being posted though...

"We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake." ~Marie B. Ray

I write this post whilst sitting up in bed in our room at the Doubletree Hotel in Mahwah, NJ... fabulousness on all levels... I find it somewhat amazing? exhilarating? just really great - that one day I can be in Trinidad doing everyday work ... life... being... and the next day be with my family (all ah we) in Mahwah... having champagne and dessert and celebrating my brother's graduation.

This post shall highlight the day before and the day of  my brother's graduation... my brother's graduated! From college! So many emotions to sit with just because of this event... Pride - cuz is mih brother and he's super-awesome. Magna cum laude ... Honours (spelt Honors here in America) with Distinctions... Happiness cuz is mih brother... and all of us (immediate family unit) was here to celebrate... witness... be a part of the event. Sadness... time passes... who knows what the future holds... Excitement... for that same reason... There's always the good side and the shadow side to every eventuality. In the past few days I've been super-happy and super-frustrated and it's all ok... it's the little moments and the big smiles that remain in memory. 

~~~~*~~~**~~~*~~~~

Day before Graduation 2010 (Thursday 13th May 2010)
Mom and I arrived at JFK sometime in the early hours of the morning... 6 am? maybe.. we were both sleepy cuz neither one of us sleeps well on planes. Customs and immigration and whatnot was a breeze - maybe we don't look threatening? We got through pretty quickly and then waited for dad to arrive. He came... along with taxi driver Michael Ng... who then took us all the way to New Jersey... much blessings to you taxi driver... for graciously dealing with semi-sleepy-hungry-directionally challenged Trinis... :) 

Met up with mih brother on campus... Hugs... ole talk... some quarrel... food & drink... walked around campus... Observed that they'd already set up tents and seating for Commencement / Graduation the following day... Got to visit the Honours Lounge... cuz my brother is an Honours student... am both inspired and mildly jealous...lol



Back at room... Tried to figure out how to put on his gown and hood and cords and whatnot (A trial run - who wants to figure that out the morning of the graduation?)... My brother and I came up with the theory that the original person to design these graduation outfits probably had something against graduates... How else can you explain the tassels and strange hoods? Later I found out that the outfits are based on what monks and such wore... oh well.. lol.. 

Took a nap. Sleep is important... especially as we had to go to a formal dinner that evening and a Graduation ceremony the next day. What I've noticed about these events? Trinis like to dress up more.. lol.. We'd only been told a few days before that we'd be attending this dinner and when I asked my brother what the dress code was... well. "formal", he said, "dresses? I don't know what women wear!" *sigh* It didn't matter that much anyway as we were covered up.. Have I mentioned that it's cold? Uncomfortably so for a warmth-loving girl from the islands... And being told that it's a mild spring day really doesn't create any kinda warmth.

Went to the formal dinner... "Champagne at Sunset"... Yes, we had champagne... there was dinner... there was a toast to the graduates. We were fairly pleased with our table as we got served in the first group of people... Random seating? The Universe was obviously on our side. Desserts galore and time spent together... yay! Lots of photos taken .. by dad, by myself... some by mih brother and mih mom... we've got pics to last a lifetime.. lol...


~~~~*~~~**~~~*~~~~
Day of Graduation 2010 (Friday 14th May 2010)
Parents wake up at a totally unreasonable hour (ok.. maybe it wasn't - I've got a policy though - when one does not have to wake up early one should be allowed to sleep late..). They'll say that they didn't wake us up but when there are people talking loudly in the next room and moving around and wondering about lord-knows-what then I don't find it easy to stay asleep or in bed. There were squabbles... typical family thing where parents say we not telling them what going on... brother says he done say all he have to say and is we who come up to see him graduate... I get stuck as peacekeeper a lot of times... I'm not quite sure I'm suited to it or if they realise that's the mode I fall into [am forced into].. peacekeeper and ruffled-feathers-smoother extraordinaire... I should put that on a business card. 


Eventually.. brother is with rest of graduates - we get told that his hood and gown looks pretty good (a.k.a. d way it supposed to look) - of course this means we rule! lol ... and of course amongst all the squabbling I've forgotten the camera... Can I just say that walking distances in hilly areas in high heels is not fun? Luckily for me (my feet!) - as I'm walking back to get the camera I find parents & brother's friend William on their way to be seated and yes... my dad's got the camera. Race back to my brother (still in heels) to take pics before the processional... hang out with him a bit and macco (eavesdrop) on other graduates-to-be and their conversations. Feel overwhelmingly... OLD. Snatches of conversations about parties and school and who's gonna do what now? *sigh* Hug brother and tell him I'll see him after he's graduated. 

Escape from throngs of graduates-to-be and head over to where parents are (18th row from the back according to my dad's text)... As I make my way across the lawn... raindrops. Umbrellas sprout up all around me and I reach my parents in time to magically whip my umbrella out of my bag and hold it over my mom. Not only is it cold ... it's now rainy as well. This was expected though and graduates-to-be were provided with two complimentary tickets for indoor seating where the ceremony could still be viewed. Where were the tickets? My dad's left them on the table. In the dorm. Who is the one able to move quickly and who actually knows the direction to go? Once again, I race off towards the dorm... in heels... uphill... and without my umbrella. 


First thing I do on entering the room - kick off heels.. my feet were revolting by then. Am lucky they were still functioning... Flip flops on feet... tickets in bag... I get my mom and she and I make our way to the indoor seating. Guys can fend for themselves. There's a huge screen where the ceremony is being projected and so we're able to see all that's happening on stage. Ceremony is beautiful... my brother is amongst the last groups of people to be called up on stage... my brother has graduated! And, we smuggled in (ok... I asked nicely) my dad and my brother's friend William so we all saw the graduation bit from warm, dry seating. 


After, it's all about food... for me anyway... for everyone else it was photo-ops and meet and greets and introductions to friends/professors/police guards.. Finally, we got away from the hordes of people and settle down to lunch. I must say thanks to William... Billy. Friend of my brother who came and spent the day with us, who helped my parents find where they had to be whilst I was with my brother, who carried us to the train station and our hotel later and who did not go crazy (at least there was no outward show) from being stuck with a bunch of Trinis.

Wind down at the end of the day and there is packing, planning, photo-take-outing...So much to do .. so little time to write about it..  so much to experience... so much time to just be. A different phase... shift... change. Where will we go now? How will we become?

My brother has graduated!


peace,
Ren

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding space...

No time for appropriate quotes nor can I think of any...

I board the plane for NY in minutes... How fast can I type?

Questions.. So many.. Headache.. Due to lack of sleep? Arranging  travel arrangements? Cold airport flooring on bare feet? Arguments.. Discussions.. Plans.. 3 states 11 days.. 3 assignments 13000 words..

Maybe I'll find a moment to rest on the plane?

Have you ever wondered why there are spaces between the doors and the doorjambs of public restrooms? Why? Are public-restroom builders encouraging exhibitionism?

Leaving the country in election-fever.. He says.. She says.. Time for a change.. do you really not know who you're voting for?

Airhostesses passing in sky-high heels.. Almost time to board.. I'm in need of a vacation.. Here's hoping this time away will be..

Peace,
Rtr

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Reality of Hummingbirds

"It is not peace we seek but meaning." ~Lawrence Durrell 

Today I looked out my dining room window and saw a hummingbird perched on our wire fence. I'd always thought that hummingbirds couldn't sit still cuz they'd die or something dramatic like that but there it was... casually resting on our fence... I went for the camera but distance and the fact that although it was sitting it's head was constantly twisting and turning meant that pics taken were pretty blurry. It makes me wonder though... if there are other things I believe to be truths that aren't really truths - what are they? Will they reveal themselves to me in time?  

Am not sure where I got the idea that hummingbirds couldn't sit still but it was a shock to see it there. As am sure anything that you think to be true or real - and then you find out it isn't - would be a shock to you

Hmm...

peace,
Rtr

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!!!

"Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved." ~Erich Fromm 

I find it mildly frustrating that I can write about all sorts of things at any point in time except when I'm faced with a greeting card. I never know what to write in cards... the words escape me... and this is after I spend a while looking for said cards cuz I like to give cards... lol... ah well... mystery of the universe... 

Happy Mother's Day to all us females - we're all mothers at some point. Hope this day was filled with much love and happiness...

To my own Mum, 
I love you. We've had good times and bad times and will likely continue to have both... Just want you to know I'm grateful for you - for the time and thoughts and love you share... Thank you. 

love,
Rtr



Friday, May 7, 2010

Rice & Dhal & ...

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices:  take it or leave it."  ~Buddy Hackett

~this post dedicated to one birthday guy and two adventurous ladies~ 

When I was younger I absolutely did not like dhal... which was unfortunate as we had rice and dhal and something for lunch just about every Saturday. My dad is a dhal-lover... in fact most (I can't say all as I don't know for sure though I think it may be all) of his siblings are dhal-lovers as well. I've found though that sometime over the past couple years I've developed a liking to dhal. Ok... more than a liking. Sometimes I crave some good rice & dhal & ... lol. Perhaps it is not absence but repeated exposure that makes the heart grow fonder? Or maybe my dad's family's dhal-loving genes are kicking in? Am not sure what it is but now dhal is no longer my enemy... but quite often a very welcome guest to my table. 

And so I thought I'd try a food post... Last September I spent a wonderful Saturday with three friends before we all transitioned out of a shared community and into new adventures... one of the things that came up was that they'd like to know what sorta food Trinis eat... and I kinda said I'd send pics and such - which I didn't although I did take out pics to send (that does count for something right?). Today is the birthday of one of those friends though and as I remember him and times spent together it feels like a good time to try this out...

So... pls keep in mind that everything given here is subject to the tastes of d persons cooking/eating them... e.g. I don't cook with pepper... am a poor example of a Trini cuz I doh like pepper (though strangely enough I can handle American pepper sauce... hmm)... each dish can be - and most likely is  - cooked in varying ways in households throughout T&T so what I write here is just ... my version. 

And so ... Dhal. I think by now everyone who has had some kinda interaction with Indian food has had dhal of some sort... Trinis use yellow split peas...

You measure it out... rinse it out and then put it up to boil. While that's boiling... you prep the rest of stuff going in the pot..
As I've said above... what is put in the pot typically depends on who's cooking... I like more garlic... not everyone uses carrot but I do every now and then (I try to sneak in carrot in everything I cook - carrots.. blergh). All stuff is cut up and added to boiling pot of split peas. And if you want measurements: 
  • about 1/2 lb of yellow split peas (yields 4 - 6 servings)
  • enough water for it to boil in
  • about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp saffron
  • about 2 tsps salt? (season to taste)
  • 3 - 4 - how-much-u-want cloves of garlic
  • about 1/4 - 1/2 onion
  • a lil bit (tsp?) geera and methi goes in dhal while boiling..
  • carrot (if u want to try ah ting)
  • bandhania leaf (optional but adds extra yum)
Leave dhal to boil down... make sure all water does not boil out... if it does but you see it in time before it sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns - add more water... if it does and you don't see it in time - remove pot to airy area - start all over with new pot. 
While the dhal is boiling you can make whatever other dishes you want to go with it... usually you'll find some kinda chokha (chk out this site for more on what is a chokha) or some kinda meat or something so... The day I took pics I made tomatoes chokha...
Wash and roast tomatoes... you can do this on any grill I guess... then peel skins off tomatoes and mash... how much you do this depends on how chunky you want it... cut up onion & garlic & etc... add to dish... or you can chunkay (sorta like sauté) your onion/garlic/etc and then add to dish...



By this time... check on your dhal... I've found that if I just leave it to boil a while it boils down really smooth without help of a swizzle stick or any other instrument... I like my dhal smooth-ish... some ppl like it with split peas grains still fairly visible... my dad likes dhal more on the watery-side... my mom prefers it more on the thick-side... we've had *lots* of dhal discussions over the years...When dhal is nearly at consistency you'd like it... chunkay some garlic and geera ... maybe some ground geera too ... and then add to dhal... then you have... Deliciousness...


And voilà one now has rice and dhal and tomatoes chokha... where's the rice? In the rice cooker... come on... you all must know how to cook rice ... with or without a rice cooker..
One other thing I made that day: five fingers chow... Some of you reading may already be lost... so...

These are five fingers...aka carambola... aka ? starfruit? am not sure what else it may be called... it's a fruit with a citrus-ish taste...

And then chow... chow is - just about anything cut up with salt and pepper and garlic and bandhania... again it's basically seasoned to taste... and just about anything can be made into a chow... what's in season for example... mango? yay! mango chow! plum? plum chow! pineapple? pommecythere? pomerac? only have cucumber available? cucumber chow! :D Chow is a major thing in T&T... everybody can make a chow... it's usually available at most limes... actually any time is a good time for chow... and so I made...five fingers chow:

And that's one menu for today.


Yum.

lol... and now I feeling for dhal... ah well... hope you all have a great weekend... be inspired... get in the kitchen.. :)

peace,
Rtr
 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lunch Room Conversation...

"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop." ~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This quote makes me wonder whether Lewis Carroll had any Trini blood in him. It sorta sounds just like the directions that a Trini would give... :)

So we're sitting in the lunch room today (some of us having lunch... some of us avoiding going back to work) and talk comes up about the wonder that is Google Maps... You can find Trinidad and Tobago on Google Maps... You can find lots of stuff on Google Maps... including my house. I have a friend who spends time on Google Maps correcting the labels they have for roads and spaces and I know of persons who've started taking photos to map to places in T&T...


View Larger Map

And while all of that is exciting and maybe you're now thinking you can go label some places on Google Maps... that's not my story. Today's post is on our lunchtime conversation and just how confusing it can be for persons to find places in Trinidad and Tobago. Apart from our vague (yet strangely accurate) direction-providing skills, today's lunchtime convos emphasised that our road names can be a bit.. confusing.

Take, for example, the old Southern Main road which runs from north to south Trinidad. This road was used before the main highways and is still used today as it links all the villages and towns together. This road turns into Main Roads when it passes through towns... What do I mean? If you're travelling south along the Southern Main road from Chaguanas to Point Lisas you drive down the Southern Main road until Isaac Junction where you turn right... then... although you're still continuing on the same road - it's called the Couva Main Road... then after you pass through Couva you turn left and - the road name changes back to the Southern Main road.


View Larger Map

This is one of many places in which it does this. Talk in the lunchroom is that the road we all know as the North Coast road (Maracas anyone?) becomes the Paria Main Road after Maracas Beach till Las Cuevas where it is again called the North Coast road for a little while before turning back into the Paria Main Road to get to Blanchisseuse... lol

When you consider the naming issue and the fact that we tend to have place names repeated... e.g. Palmiste in Central... Palmiste in South... it's pretty amazing that people don't get lost. As one of my workmates say though... "is ah good ting T&T small cuz if yuh get loss yuh just hadda make 2 turns before yuh find yuh way..."

Lol... I ♥ T&T...

peace,
Rtr


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kripalu...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain 

Today is May 4th... I've been feeling out-of-sorts all day with part of myself remembering the past, part of myself trying to stay focused on the present and part of myself wandering off into the future. What's important about May 4th you ask? 

I started on an adventure. In actuality the complete adventuring process started months before with planning and filling out of forms and talking to people (family, friends, work). The date that I realised I was adventuring though was - May 4th 2009. On that day I became a volunteer at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

I know that there were a lot of people (family, friends, work.. lol) wondering what the xyz I was doing. I admit... I myself was wondering the same thing... On May 4th 2009 however, I found myself in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts after having taken a flight to NYC and then a bus to Lenox, Massachusetts. These trips did not happen consecutively so there was some time to wonder what I was getting myself into. 

There aren't many people I know that would take a period of no-pay leave to go off to another country and be a volunteer for four months at a Yoga Center. That's what I did... and why did I do it? For me. Cuz I was feeling lost and claustrophobic and wondering if there was nothing more to life than the ordinary. There are many stories about how persons get to Kripalu... or go on any kind of spiritual quest really. In my case it was a longing to experience .. something .. that you know is out there but just haven't had yet. I'd known about the place for .. years. And I knew that I'd get there eventually though I didn't think it would have been as a volunteer. Towards the end of 2008 however I found myself wanting to scream. It felt like I'd been giving and giving of myself with nothing being renewed... and it was then I knew I had to do something or I'd turn into a crazy loon (ok.. maybe a crazy b*tch).  And so, I applied... and I was interviewed... and I was accepted. I don't think I ever told all you who supported me and helped convince me and said of course that's what I should do thanks... so. Thanks. Much love and blessings to you.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting the art and science of yoga to produce thriving and health in individuals and society. Their volunteer program seeks to cultivate the practice of work as an avenue of self-discovery. It isn't all sunshine and bliss. The volunteers make up a major part of the workforce of the Center - you'll find volunteers working in just about every aspect of the daily running of the Center. It's hard work but at the same time... it's work approached from a different angle. There's a lot of talk about self-inquiry and development. Energy awareness and how is this sitting with you now? Stretch, Breathe, Flow, Release. 

Each person's experience is unique and rightly so as each individual is unique and travelling on their own path. A year from when I began I'm still processing the experience. BRFWA - breathe, relax, feel, watch and allow... How am I feeling in this moment? Thankful... for the experience. Happy... that I went through with it and didn't allow doubts of what am I doing.. where am I going.. why am I here.. to cloud my focus. Grateful... for the community that I was a part of... the friends I made... the people I interacted with. Grown up-Mature in a way that I can't explain. Wistful... cuz it was a whole world apart from the regular world and in some ways is an example of how I'd like the world to be. Calm... what will be will be... que será será.

And so to close this post I leave you with a lil bit ah memories that aren't in any particular order. If you were there... I know you can picture it... If you weren't and you want to see pics - I've got them.. but really... I advise a visit... it doesn't have to be a four-month-as-a-volunteer visit but Kripalu... it's a place you'd want to check out. 
Bus ride. Spilled coffee. Traveller on the Appalachian trail. Lenox. Shuttle rides. Volunteer badges. Hill House. Work schedule. Program choices. Yoga. Breakfast, lunch and dinner oh my! Raw granola. Avocados. Volunteer table. Dance. Blindfold dance. Taking-over-the-Tavern dance. YogaDance. Off-the-Mat. Smudging. Creating. Writing. Om. Walks to Hill House... to Shadowbrook... to Lenox. Baby blue bicycle. Shut down week. Tanglewood. Jacob's Pillow. Coffee. Workroom. True Blood. Elevator convos. Late night convos. Talk talk talk. Feel. Break down. BRFWA. Movie night. Writing workshop. Kombucha. Shiva Rea. Dinabandhu. Birthdays. Cards. Birthday cards. Parties. Kundalini Yoga - I never got there .. oy. Full Moon Fire Ceremony. Monks and nuns. Music. Stretch. Move. Magic Show. YTT. Strawberries. Laughter. Cuddle puddles.

Thanks Universe for guiding me where I need to go. Look out Kripalu - I'll be visiting in two weeks or so. 

love,
Rtr

Edited to add some perspective: I'm linking to posts from two of my fellow volunteers about their experiences at Kripalu. I remember when I was researching it how excited I was to find the blog of someone who had been volunteering there as well... so... if you like this post... check out these as well:
peace,
Rtr