What I’ve Been Up To…

I’m back! It’s been about a month and a half but with 80(ish) followers it’s hardly likely anyone noticed my absence from the blogosphere. Anyway, aside from having a bit of writer’s block and not really knowing what I want to write about, I’ve had a busy few weeks where I was on vacation and there was also a part of me that just wasn’t feeling it.

Since I don’t really have a focus for the blog, every now and then I feel as though I want to write about too many things, and then I worry that none of them are interesting to anyone but me. Whenever that happens I usually need to take some time, step away from it all and remind myself why I blog and then decide if that reason is still applicable. And as long as my reason still stands, I suspect I’ll always come back to blogging.

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Morning Beach in Ft. Lauderdale

So, what have I been up to while I was gone? Well, I had two weddings, back to back, that I revolved my vacation around. My cousin got married in Montego Bay, Jamaica at Rose Hall Great House and one of my best friends since birth got married in Atlanta. Which meant going to Montego Bay on Saturday for the first, and then flying to Atlanta on Sunday for the second. After Atlanta I went and visited family for a few days in Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, which was the perfect reset and just what I needed before coming back to Jamaica.

I’ve also started reading again! I had quite a slump after Diane Setterfield and it took some time for me to find a book to get into, but thanks to Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce I am back in action. And of course, no trip to the US is complete without a visit to Barnes & Noble. I didn’t overdo it, but I definitely had to buy a few books to come back with.

Between an extended break from dancing, ballet finishing for the term and my trip I haven’t been dancing as much, which means I haven’t been exercising as much. If you know me, when I’m not exercising regularly I’m far more miserable (even if I pretend otherwise), but now that we’re in June and Plie for the Arts is coming up in August I have started dancing again. I also decided to try Crossfit and started walking at the dam again.

So there’s been a lot going on and a lot more to come, and with that said, I’m pretty excited about what’s ahead (that rhymed :)).

thanks for reading2

 

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Carnival is my Culture

Now that carnival is done and gone the self-righteous people can crawl back into the woodwork and stop judging everyone based on a few days/weeks of fun. I said it on Twitter and I think it needs to be said everywhere until people finally get it…SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT THE BE ALL AND END ALL OF PEOPLE. WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO SHARE THERE IS MERELY A FRAGMENT OF THEIR LIVES. This doesn’t mean it’s right to spew hate and bully others but it does mean that you cannot know someone simply because you “know” them on social media.

Someone told me they were asked if I do any “real work” because my social media is all beach and bikinis. I live on a gorgeous island with year round sunshine and easy access to beaches, I have two degrees in a field I love, a job I enjoy going to every day, a hobby (dancing) I couldn’t live without and a season (carnival) that I am not ashamed to participate in. I treat work as confidential and professional, which means I will keep it separate (where possible) from my personal life. So no, I’m not going to share aspects of my work on social media, this is my choice based on the work I do and the field I’m in.

People complain that this isn’t our culture and of course there’s the constant debate about how soca gets support but dancehall doesn’t. And I understand where people are coming from with their arguments, but like it or not, carnival is now a part of our culture and I don’t really care who wants to argue differently. Thousands of people will be participating, both locals and international visitors, those in traditional and non-traditional jobs. Corporate Jamaica is bankrolling much of this and many who work there will also be on the road. The nature of the world now is that everything will be captured and shared, so rather than judging people for the snippet of their life that’s visible online, wish them a happy and safe carnival and if it’s just not your thing then mind your own business 🙂

Culture

I’m almost 30 and I have not existed in a Jamaica that doesn’t have carnival so to tell me it’s not part of our culture references a Jamaica I never knew. The carnival after I was born, my parents left me with a friend so that they could participate in the mas. Apparently I cried the whole time I was there, now I tell Putus (my mother) it’s because they didn’t carry me to the road march with them.

Like many other things we now consider Jamaican, carnival is something that was brought here and has been cultured (in the biological sense) and molded into what it is today. It’s not the same as Trinidad, it’s not the same as Crop Over, it’s not the same as any other carnival out there…but that also doesn’t make it any less legitimate.

In Jamaica, we’ve perfected the art of partying and we’ve fused our own dancehall/reggae with soca to create an absolutely unique carnival experience.

Carnival 2019

Carnival Week is Here!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Clearly, I don’t mean Christmas…it’s Carnival!

While the Jamaican carnival season pretty much runs from Ash Wednesday (ie. once Trinidad Carnival is done) until Carnival Sunday (some might even argue the Monday after carnival since we do have at least one event happening that day) the pinnacle of it all is really from the Easter Weekend until the Road March.

These days, I’m not a big party person, not even when it comes to soca, but this season has seen me actually leaving my house, being sociable and attending (and enjoying) a few events. It’s definitely been a March into April to remember with events like Cocoa Jouvert and Madhouse Cooler Fete and then Bacchanal Road, Tailgate and whatever else I get talked into still to come before the final Road March.

Carnival 2017

Carnival 2017

Usually on the road I’m pretty low key, I don’t do hair and nails and all that jazz, but this year I feel like going all out (by my standards) which means that this last week is packed with preparation plans for jump up day. So what’s on my list of things to do before Sunday?

  • Daily weather forecast checks – I loathe carnival rain but if I must endure then I need to know in advance
  • Determine my essential on the road items (and make sure they can fit in my fanny pack)
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise to try build up some last minute stamina
  • Schedule the week so I know what needs to get done and when
  • Lean to sew so I can do any necessary adjustments – this was absolutely crucial for 2016 and 2018 carnivals
  • Airport pick ups

I won’t bore you with the sub-tasks for all of the above, but suffice it to say, I have a busy week ahead and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Carnival 2016

Carnival 2016

My Month of Vegan (pt 2) – Did I lose weight? Is my skin glowing? Do I have boundless reserves of energy?

After a month of being vegan, at a time when it seems like so many things are happening in that world, I definitely had too many thoughts to do just one post encompassing everything. Aside from my own academic/scientific vegan readings, Burger King (in the US) just announced that they’re testing a meatless Whopper and popular vegan influencer, Rawvana, recently got caught eating fish. Here are the rest of things I’ve been thinking since March 1.

Did I lose weight? Is my skin glowing? Do I have boundless reserves of energy?

I didn’t go into this trying to lose weight or for any real health benefits so I didn’t do any physical self-assessment. Prior to this, I’d last weighed in early February and I was about 125lbs, I then had a month of dancing preparing for a show in early March. I haven’t exercised very much for March, and then I weighed March 30 and I was about 121lbs. Would I attribute it to being vegan? I don’t think so.

When it comes to skin care, fortunately, I have have pretty low maintenance skin and thus a pretty low maintenance routine. Wash it, witch hazel it, moisturise it and then an occasional mask. That seems to work and I haven’t noticed any difference since changing my diet. As for energy levels, I’d say I feel more or less the same as I did before going into this. Things like this I think will differ from person to person though, so I wouldn’t use someone else’s experience and assume that I’ll have the same outcome.

What will I miss?

I think I’ll miss trying new things. If I visit somewhere new and there’s a dish that’s made with animal products, I think I would miss not being able to try that because I think food is such a big part of experiencing the culture of a place. I think I’ll also miss the texture of meat, I love meat (once it’s cooked) and I don’t know if I’ll be able to find anything vegan that will rival the texture of a really good piece of mutton or steak for example.

Also, apparently, Vitamin B12. It comes from animals and it’s one of those things that your body just needs in order to do things like make red blood cells, nerves and DNA among other thing. To be honest, I probably wasn’t getting very much B12 before because when I looked at some top sources of B12 none were foods I ate frequently. And while I was planning to just do one month of vegan I didn’t really think too much into this, but now that it looks like this could be an overall lifestyle overhaul I’ve started on B12 supplements to ensure I get what I need.

The “why I’m not vegan anymore” trend

People get so tied up in veganism becoming an integral part of their identity that it becomes hard to separate if you have to go back to eating animal products for health reasons or because you just don’t want to be vegan anymore. It’s not that serious…it never is. However, all of the ex-vegan for health reasons I’ve heard were from those on an extreme vegan diets (like doing a 25-day water fast). Vegan or non-vegan, if you don’t give your body what it needs, it’s not going to work.

That said, everyone is different. If you’ve spent years being vegan it’s unlikely that you’re going to go back to a full-on carnivorous diet. If you have meat a couple times a week, it’s still better for the environment than if you’re having it daily with every meal. Do what’s best for you.

Being a practical vegan

What does vegan mean for me? It means avoiding animal products whenever I can, but if there just isn’t a vegan option available then I’ll go for vegetarian and remove whatever non-vegan add-ons I can from it. It means not throwing out my gummy vitamins because there’s gelatin in them, but also trying to find a vegan alternative for when those are done. It means being more conscious about my purchases in Jamaica, but not ordering things from the US every two seconds just because it’s not available here. It means keeping the leather products I own that may last the rest of my life, but not purchasing new ones.

I can be something of a commitment-phobe, so even the decision to call myself a vegan is one I’m not quite making yet. Instead I’ve found myself saying “I’m being vegan”, kind of an indefinite present participle of veganism. I don’t really believe in absolutes (see what I did there?) so I’m not going to say I’m committing to this for the rest of my life, but for now this will be my path.

TGI Black Bean Burger

Being practical…I went to TGI Fridays with a friend and opted for the Sedona Black Bean Burger, no cheese or mayo. While I won’t swear that the burger is vegan (it may or may not be), I did the best I could with what was available to me.

My Month of Vegan – Overall Thoughts (pt 1)

It’s April 1, and I’ve been vegan for one whole month. No this isn’t an April Fool’s Day prank…I actually did it. And since I was able to do the month with relative ease, I’m going to keep going for lent (which was really the plan all along, I just didn’t think I could handle it) and possibly the indefinite future after that.

Instead of going into a lot of detail about what I ate and how I coped over the month, I’m going to use this post and another later this week to air some thoughts I had about the whole experiment.

Why I went vegan?

I’ve never liked handling raw products, namely meat and eggs, but I just accepted that they were a necessary part of preparing food and I really enjoy cooking and baking. Eggs were easier for me to tolerate so I gravitated more towards baking. Then in 2018 I decided that once and for all I wanted to learn to cook real food…this meant getting over my issues with raw meat.

I made chili, I made roast pork belly, I made cheesey chicken fritters and a bunch of other things and at no point did handling meat get any less repulsive. At the start of 2019 I decided to forget about preparing meat and began looking up vegetarian, and then vegan recipes, and trying them out. Surprisingly, these were really good. I would then add things like cheese and mayo and un-veganise them, but it got me thinking about trying to go straight vegan and so I decided that March would be “My Month of Vegan”.

Why I may stay vegan?

When I commit to something I really commit so having decided to go vegan for a month I got really into doing all the research on why people go vegan, what the health implications are, what the environmental implications are, and so on. One of the most popular tips I came across for new vegans was to find out your “why”. Why are you doing what you’re doing?

For a lot of people it’s about the animals, say no to animal cruelty (which also includes industries like dairy, eggs  and honey, even though the animals aren’t killed) and whatnot. I’m not an animal person at all…in fact the only time I like animals is when they’re cooked (which isn’t a very vegan thing to say, I know) but what I realised is that the animal agriculture industry is actually really bad for the planet. The amount of resources that go into raising animals for food is way more than anything I could conserve by trying to cut back on my daily water and electricity usage.

The best part for me though is that I finally feel like I can cook. I don’t have to get squeamish about touching and seasoning raw meat and wondering if it’s been cooked through properly. Now I can look at the ingredients I have, think about how they complement each other and I just try making something. So far everything’s been delicious!

Yesterday I went for dinner with a friend and he asked me what difference does it make if I don’t eat meat, they’re going to kill, cook and serve the cow anyway? He wasn’t being a jerk, he’s been very supportive of my decision, and it was a genuine question. So I likened it to littering, just because so many others do it, doesn’t mean that I feel right doing it myself. I think you should do what is right because it’s right, not because it’s easy…and this is what feels right for me right now.

My Month of Vegan - Overall Thoughts Pt 1 - 02

Chive’s Vegetarian Flatbread (yes it’s also vegan)