Tag Archives: Reflection

Reading is such a great window to the world

Who else enjoys curling up with a good book while delving into other times and cultures? I do a whole lot of this now more than ever because weekends are for resting and resetting to navigate these pandemic times. This is one form of self-care for me.

I am an avid reader of all kinds of genres and have been since I was a young child. This is all thanks to modelling my mother.

I also get to explore a range of books with my students at my leisure and also contribute to those in the library at my school. Books are really great resources to learn more about different cultures, people, places and a range of topics. I also have a pile of books from the library at school to lose myself in and my Kindle is always near, for the times when I want something outside of my stack to enjoy.

Here are a few of the books that I have read this year that have allowed me to learn more about different topics and expand my knowledge:

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi caused tears to spring to my eyes again and again at the happenings in early Ghana where the transatlantic slave trade is concerned.
  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid is one that has been on my list forever; it is filled with rich visual and emotional imagery in its setting of Antigua.
  • Hostage by Guy Delisle is a very captivating comic that shares quite a serious story that is so inspiring and reminds us to never give up hope.
  • Chasing Moonlight by Raven St. Pierre is such a captivating read and oh so realistic.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is really very well written and filled with subplots in its rich historical contexts spanning past India and Pakistan.
  • So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo is a book for these times I tell ya.
  • The Mama B series by Michelle Stimpson is just a feel good series and I like that is is about a couple in love who are over 60.
  • From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison is a wonderful memoir about family and legacy in postcolonial Jamaica.
  • Redemption Ground by Lorna Goodison is a nice collection that showcases Goodison’s craft as a poet and storyteller.
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyam is a rich literary piece that reminds us of God’s grace.
  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje reminded me of some of the sights and sounds of Sri Lanka when I visited.
  • The Hawaiian Archipelago by Isabella Bird is a great vintage travel log about a solo female traveller way back when. I admire her nerves of steel and sense of adventure.

Reading is such a calming activity for me, so it is nice to be able to do this on weekends when I stay home. I am excited to get to the next three books in my stack this weekend: Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah, Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

2020 is reminding me to take pleasure in the simple things

It’s summer break for me now and it was a long time in coming. The usual month of summer break was whittled down to two weeks. This was so we could make up time at school, for all the online classes we had at the start of the school year because other schools who were less organised, didn’t have classes for two months. Suffice it to say I was ready.

As the responsible homebody that I am, who is a big fan of self isolating, my plan is to spend many hours stretched out on my couch reading. My little heart is oh so excited. I have no less than 8 books lined up from our library at school and my kindle at the ready, if I needed, to up that number. I just love escaping into the world of a book and learning all kinds of things. The time flies with a page turner I tell you, though the emotional roller coaster some of these books take you on is no joke.

Today a read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a rich text that sheds light on a perspective of slavery that is often not addressed. This is the fact that Africans were sold into slavery after being taken as captives by warring tribes. Her style is flawless and she grips your attention and makes you feel the characters, the setting and takes you from time period to time period through generations. It was really lovely, to delve into this masterful piece for a few hours and pass day one of summer break, self isolating all by myself, in my own space. It was truly therapeutic.

I am also loving being able to make all my meals at home. I enjoy cooking, sometimes twice a day, to get in some nice whole foods. Today I made a lovely veggie stew with boiled potatoes on the side. Adding balsamic vinegar to stews just takes them up a notch. Try it if you haven’t done so yet. It’s quite easy to eat and eat all day at home so, I bought healthy snacks to keep myself in check: watermelon, apples, kiwi and bananas. YUM!

It’s also nice to have time on a weekday to catch up with friends and family in different times zones. I mean everything from texting to having epic calls for hours. I love it. There is no time to feel lonely, though I live alone.

I see my apartment as my safe space that helps me to keep mentally well in these uncertain times. Like I do for weekends, I went shopping to get a range of things I wanted to have, so I wouldn’t be tempted to run to the supermarket nearby at the drop of a hat. This is actually a habit I have mastered over several years now. I like doing one big grocery shop on a Thursday of Friday for the week. I plan out my menu for the week so I know what to buy.

I also enjoy doing some dancing here and there throughout the day to get some exercise. I squat, do lounges, standing abs and random stuff to move throughout the day when I go to the bathroom. I don’t want to just be a couch potato.

So yeah, for a normal summer break I would be off somewhere exploring our beautiful world but this year I have to be still. I am not miserable and I am being intentional about enjoy this time. I am relaxing, resting and keeping my mind fresh and active. This is self-care and I am here for this. Thanks 2020 for forcing me to remember to enjoy the some of the simple things in life.

What am I Learning in these Uncertain Times?

Life teaches us lessons, it is good when we learn these lessons and use them to improve ourselves in some ways.

I am pausing to think about what I am learning and jotting them down, so I can come back and dwell on these at a later time.

Rest, Cultivate Peace and Live in the Now

I am as busy as ever working online from home. It is a pretty hectic time and my days fly by. I am finding that keeping to a schedule each day is helping me to get enough sleep and order my days. In addition, I dress for work in comfortable clothes, don different earrings each day and put myself together. After all, I do interface with my students and other members of staff throughout the days.

I have also taken to being offline for much of the time on Saturdays and Sundays. It is quite nice to curl up on my couch with a good book, getting lost in something I enjoy. I also reserve certain chores for the weekend, that I would do in the same way when I went out for work.

I am enjoying living in the now and being ok with this. I am not planning crazily for a few weeks or months down the line because things aren’t clear. Notwithstanding this, I still have my dreams and I am keeping hope alive.

Stay on a Budget and Build the Emergency Fund

It is quite tempting to be shopping online and using this to pass the time. For me, it is just so easy to shop on Amazon or iherb and get the stuff I like and others that draw me in. Nope, I am not doing that. I am still living on my budget for each month and focusing on saving what I can to go into my emergency fund. We live in uncertain times and I fully expect some hard times ahead. Even us with jobs may face a pay cut at some point in the near future. It is best to save what we can now to prepare.

I chuckle at the fact that over the last 8 weeks I have worn the same two pairs of shoes: my sneakers to go out and exercise and my chucks to go to the grocery store (the latter because there are no laces to tie). Do I really need a bunch of shoes? Mmmm…

Embrace Change and take more Chances

I don’t like change, though I know it’s necessary for growth and provides many benefits. I do give into changes but not as enthusiastically as I would like. This is something I am working on improving in order to be a better me. The ability to embrace change actually helps with having a healthy mental state. I have to roll with the changes happening, adjust and thrive. I can’t control everything, so as a lifelong learner, it is in my best interest to change my mindset in this regard. I am working on this.

Enjoy ‘the Great Outdoors’

Thankfully, here in Japan we never had a tight lockdown, so I could go out each day for walks to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Of course, I was doing this while observing physical distance. There is just something about seeing the trees transition from blossoms to delicate green leaves, that remind you that you are alive. There is hope. Nature is doing its natural cycle even in the midst of the world grounding to a halt. I am always humbled and amazed.

I now go for long walks after dinner, all over the neighbourhood, to exercise, enjoy being out and about and take advantage of the freedom to move around in a way I had taken for granted. Also, sometimes I just stand on my balcony in the mornings and let the sun beam on my face. This is a simple pleasure.

Make Thankfulness a Daily Habit

I am thankful for all the precious people in my life, the moments we share, especially the everyday moments that shine brightest now. It’s nice to stop and write down things that I am thankful for each day. This gives me joy. This also helps me not to complain too much.

I am learning much more than the above but I am tired of typing, so I am going to run off to the supermarket to get my shopping for the week done. I am thankful to be able to do this oh so mundane task at this time. I am really thankful for all the people who work in the supply chains and the supermarket staff who show up to serve us in oh so many ways…

Laughter is Always Good Medicine

Laugh a lot.

Laugh often and out loud, those nice belly laughs.

Find things that make you laugh and brings mirth in what feels like a mirthless time.

I enjoy scrolling on Twitter and seeing memes and just comments where people bring humour to all kinda things. I pause to laugh and let it feed my soul because it feels good and it’s important.

There are also some good videos going around on Facebook with parents lamenting about how hard it is to teach their kids and be with them all day. LOL! They are hilarious! I am glad that people can take their frustrating experiences and provide laughter for themselves and others.

Laughter is always good medicine.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself because that is needed sometimes.

Plug into some of these memes, GIFS and things of that sort that create a light atmosphere where you can laugh. Balance out the doom and gloom with some of this to keep your mind healthy.

Kids are pretty funny, so if you have them around I am sure you are laughing a lot and doing do often.

This is my PSA. Remember to laugh sometimes through the seemingly endless , heavy and uncertain times of 2020…so far.

Visas, Travel Privilege and Expenses

Sometimes you want to visit a particular country so much but alas you don’t qualify for a visa. When you are from a developing country with a weak passport this happens and does so quite often for some people. The burden of proving, that you are a person of moral character, who will not become an illegal migrant, is virtually nigh on impossible for some people applying for visas in some countries.

If visa applications were free or even refunded in part this would not be so bad. Imagine spending over a US$150 to apply for a visa, paying for pictures and transport to an embassy to hear that you don’t qualify. On what basis you may ask? Well, this particular individual doesn’t qualify because she is single and works in a job that is not seen as professional. The one making this decision doesn’t even open the individual’s passport to see that she has visited other developed countries and returned home.

Many decisions for a visa seem to be made in an arbitrary manner. There are people who are unemployed, unmarried, not in school and have no so called ‘ties’ to their country who are granted visas. Then you have professionals who have served in their respective fields for over a decade, earn good salaries, have cars and houses and refused visas multiple times. These are not made up stories. These are people I know well. It is a frustrating experience I am sure.

Visas cost time and money. None of the money for the application fee is refunded. You often can’t appeal a decision. No plausible explanation is given in many cases. For many people from developing countries, applying for a visa to visit a developed country is like buying the lottery. They don’t have the freedom to go and come as they please. You may ask why not travel to other countries? Fun fact: many people need to transit through a developed country to get from destination Y TO Z in some cases. For example, if friends or relatives in Jamaica want to visit me in Japan they may need to get a transit visa for one of a few developed countries to do so. The most affordable routes are via these countries. There is the option to go through Mexico, which is visa free for us but you may be looking at an additional 500 dollars or more for airfare. How ironic, that those of us from developing countries pay more to see the world.

Is a transit visa not easy to get you may ask? The process for getting a transit visa is the same as getting a non-immigrant visa. For some countries the fee might be a little less but all the documents are the same. I have dedicated my share of time researching, planning and applying for visa for a lot of places. Don’t believe that living in a developed country, makes me a shoo in to get visas for other developed countries all the time. In some cases, even other developing countries can be a pain.

What is Involved in Applying for a Visa to the Average Developed Country

Money – Visas can range from $US50 to over $150. This is why some developing countries charge visitors from developed countries for visas as well. Visa free reciprocity is a beautiful thing and I take advantage of it as much as I can. As a Jamaican I have gone to quite a few countries in Asia, Africa and South America visa free. It really makes planning a trip so much easier. You also need pictures, so that’s money. You also may need to travel to the embassy. You also may need to have flights and hotels booked (this is no guarantee to getting the visa). Also, you often need to show a bank account with a healthy balance and a bank statement that reflects the status of your account for six months or so. Bank statements aren’t free.

Time – If you need to visit an embassy for a face to face interview, you need to take time off work. You need to take time to read the application form well and prepare all the necessary documents. Things like the size of pictures, how clear they are and how recently they were taken is very important. I have had to go to a studio to get it done to meet certain specifications. You may also have to get a job letter and that may take time as well.

Angst – It is hard to make firm plans before you get a visa. This means you may not be able to take advantage of flight deals and the like. Also, even when you get a visa it may be for a limited period, so it’s hard t plan in a concrete way. Oh yeah, having a visa is never a guarantee that you will be allowed into a country. Many visitors take this for granted. I guess this applies to all travellers.

For those who have experienced this let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Travelling to Visa Free Countries is Best but

the developed countries make themselves so attractive, how do many of us not have a desire to see all the natural and manmade wonders?

Anyway, once one passes that stage then you come to realise, if you are like me, that you can enjoy many great places in the world visa free on a Jamaican passport: Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and quite a number of other countries and territories. Thus, I have made it my business to focus on travelling to visa free countries and saving myself the angst of all I mentioned above. It is quite liberating. My advice to others from places with passports that require visas for certain countries, think about doing this too. Try visiting some visa free places and enjoying travelling this way. Alas sometimes you may need a visa to get to them but some transit visas are easily procured by airlines in certain regions.

Don’t let visa refusals from certain developed countries dampen your spirit of adventure. It can be a blessing to push you to enjoy and discover other less popular places.

The Grass isn’t Greener, Everywhere has its Quirks

How many of us choose to focus on an opportunity that seems oh so attractive, so that it clouds our view of the good things we have going right where we are now.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side though. This cliche is sometimes true.

When we focus on something negative for too long, it could just be one negative thing, it grows and grows and causes a whole world of discontentment. It can be quite overwhelming to the point where we run off to supposed greener pastures and then discover that we left something good.

Spend some time reflecting and noting the positives against the negatives of a situation before making a decision to change path. This is applicable to a whole range of situations. It should also not be done hastily or when we are feeling low.

I am learning that everywhere has its quirks and sometimes it is worth pushing through some stormy seasons. I am learning to persevere and enjoy the positives as I learn, work on myself and grow amidst the negatives. A permanent decision ought not to be taken to address a temporary situation. Everything in life will not be fine all the time. Trials and struggles really do make us strong if we look at them as learning opportunities.

Now, if we are in a situation, whatever it is and know it is toxic and ruining our minds, then it’s good to walk away. Nothing is worth us compromising our mental health. This is far from simple but the effort to do so is worth it.

I have been blessed to be able to walk away from a toxic work environment before. I remember feeling uneasy about it even though it was the right thing to do. I am happy I took the plunge at the time and it was well worth it. I was able to do this with some confidence because I had saved up some money, to allow me to take what I thought, was a job with a lower salary. In time even that was sorted.

Moving from one job to another, for example, includes dedicated research and networking in some cases. It is always good to keep an eye on what is going on in different sectors of interest and also polishing our CVs from time to time. It’s nice to be content in a job but it is also good to be aware of what is happening in the industry. This means than, we can more accurately weigh an opportunity, to see if it is greener than where we are at. Regardless of this, it is good to remember everywhere has its quirks. When the novelty wears off there will always be something that may cause us some discomfort. I think its best to learn from this, grow and keep going. It often happens that not focusing on this lessens its impact. Choose to focus on the positives and remind yourself of them often.

The grass is sometimes greener indeed but how devastating is it when we jump without proper preparation. We may find that the new grass is filled with even more weeds than where we ran from. Everywhere has it quirks, expect these and resolve to be content despite them but know when to move on to other opportunities.

Flowers from Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town

This is a beautiful place with exquisite flora and fauna. As we close this decade, I pray and hope that we all will have many days filled with beauty like these flowers.

This is a lovely place to enjoy a day in Cape Town. There is something about being in nature and seeing all the sea of kaleidoscopic hues going on and on because the garden is so vast and huge. Wear comfy shoes to walk and take it all in. It is one of the stops on the City Sightseeing Tour bus, so hop off and explore.

Life, like these picturesque flowers is delicate and fade away so fast. I always try to remember this and it is something I am reflecting on as I anticipate a new year. I am grateful for a good 2019, for family, friends, good health and financial freedom among other things.

What makes your life beautiful? Continue to nurture and water those things.

How do you make the lives of others beautiful? Be intentional about this.

Let’s remember to stop and smell the proverbial roses, count our blessings and be thankful for all we have. Also, let us remember to share with those who are in need.

Balance this because, of course ‘we can’t pour from an empty cup.’

Enjoy the beauty in the simple things and wonderful people around.

Life, is indeed what we make of it. Focus on being proactive and not reactive.

Try to expect any and everything in life, good and bad.

Even with its ups and downs, we can enjoy life and find beauty in many simple things around us. I am always in awe of the beautiful colours in nature, they often lift my mood.

This garden is one that reminded me of the beauty of nature and when I think back on it I feel a sense of peace.