How Nassau is a lot like Game of Thrones

Hello all. I’ve been back in The Bahamas for two months now and I’ve noticed a few things. I’m an avid reader, voraciously so. I am also primarily a fan of fantasy and sci-fi genres. That being said I’ve come to notice a few things about this precious island called New Providence and it’s similarities to feudal Westeros. Let us begin.

1. We have Direwolves, known as the Potcake

Let’s talk about this for a second. The Stark family’s sigil is the Direwolf, now if we were to take New Providence to be one giant family house, our sigil would be the Potcake. Why? They are everywhere, and much like the Direwolves, they’re huge.

2. Like the Kings fighting for the Iron Throne, everyone has a sweetheart

Like King Robert Baratheon, or the leader of any house (Frey, Martell, Greyjoy), someone always had a sweetheart. This is directly analogous to New Providence and The Bahamas at large because like these giant Kings of Westeros, everyone has a sweetheart. They place a lot of stock on marriage but erry’one got them a sweetheart. Men. Women. Alike.

3. Violence everywhere. Westeros has an excuse though (claiming the Iron Throne and all) what excuse do we have?

If you’re a fan of the books or you’ve just watched the series on HBO, I’m sure you’ve noticed a common thread? Yes? Oh yes, it’s the violence. From Day 1 GOT was a violent series. And greets me when I step off the plane and hop into my ride to my new apartment? Violence on the radio. Violence on the newspapers. Westeros had an excuse though, a million Kings all vying for the one true throne. We though, Nassauvians, don’t have much of one. I shouldn’t be afraid to live alone, but I am.

4. Cersei was born into wealth. Daenerys has dragons. What do Bahamian women have to do to get into power?

If you’re a woman in Westeros, chances are your lot sucks. Your opportunities suck. Your life expectancy, also sucks. Now we’re a bit better than them but certain themes do reoccur, in that like Cersei born into power or Daenerys who gained it (through dragons no less!), women have to be born into some semblance of power (coming from a powerful family or have a modicum of wealth or opportunity) or work their butts off doubly hard to get it.

5. Like Sansa, Daenerys, Cersei or Arya, women don’t have a ton of options

We get to the next thing! Women don’t have a ton of options. Sansa, Daenerys, Cersei and Arya are all prized for their marriageability. I’d like to think that as Bahamians we’re beyond this concept, beyond looking at women as alliance makers and breakers, but at the end of the day, what options do Bahamian women have? Things like race and class intersect with this as women born into positions of privilege (class/race) will have relative chances of upward mobility but not everyone though.

Let’s go back to Westeros, the common woman, the farmer’s daughter or fisherman’s wife, unattached to a castle or man with a fancy title, what options did she have? None.

6. Shitty. Roads. Everywhere.

Riding their carts over wobbly terrain, Westeros travelers have it hard, and like our fantasy brothers and sisters, those potholes, dips, dents and bumps don’t make Nassau roads no darn better.

7. High Born. Politicians.

Like the ‘high borns’ or the nobles in Westeros, we have our own set all vying for their own Iron Throne. What are they called? Politicians! What do they want? To win elections!

 

ClaireSig

Obligations To Your Country Rant 2

First of all, there are a few business items I must take care of. To those who don’t know, today is Jessica’s BIRTHDAY! She’s old, so old, she’s got a quarter-life crisis going on. But I’ve come to take care of that, I have a pretty message for her below (from her man Dean):

tumblr_miz5rs3wDb1rstq9ro7_250

tumblr_miz5rs3wDb1rstq9ro4_250

OK, now onto my petty ranting. I recently finished exams (GO ME! I survived comprehensives!) but leading up to it I wasn’t paying any sort of attention to drama back at home in The Bahamas. However, once I’d come up for air and finished I realised that I need to get my big-girl pants on and go job hunting once again. In a previous post I’ve explored my conflicting desire to stay in the UK but feeling an obligation to return home and work.

Now that I am faced with that dilemma I’m taking a really passive-aggressive stance to it, I’m applying to jobs in the UK and in The Bahamas and will ultimately follow the money (I’ve got loans y’all, and RBC don’t play with people that don’t pay their loans back). In this job search though, some people have felt the need to lecture me about my being a bad “Bahamian” for not immediately jumping on the go-home bandwagon.

I am not a fan of including .gifs into posts, but this one is applicable. To all those that lecture me on brain drain and why I’m a ‘bad’ Bahamian.

I’ve got a few things to say to all of those people bringing on the hate:

Panic! Brain drain being both a concern and an insult:

So the first order of ranting begins with the notion of brain drain. I believe in it, I’ve seen it happen. A lot of my friends who left to go to school abroad never went back home or if they do, it’s not to work but just to visit family. I get it, it’s a big concern! How can a country function if all of it’s educated people choose to leave to seek better jobs elsewhere (let’s pay attention to that term ok: better jobs elsewhere). However, I don’t think it should be lorded over people who choose to stay abroad. People have reasons OK! Be it lifestyle (you can’t exactly call The Bahamas terribly accepting of difference), or better opportunities. If you want to stopbrain drain you have to create diverse opportunities for people (note: DIVERSE).

Another thing that pisses me off about this is it is also completely insulting for the people who have either chosen to stay in The Bahamas or have no choicebut to stay in the country. It isn’t easy to leave (money and visas, oye  vey, that’s another rant) and it’s insulting to say that the best and the brightest are gone. This inherently implies that only the not-best and not-brightest are left within the country. Which isn’t fair on the people who live and work and breathe an existence into The Bahamas! The best and brightest are at home and they’re also abroad! Stop focusing on brain drain as a best vs. not best debate. I’d feel more comfortable if the debate was framed as people are leaving because of lack of jobs in general. Don’t blame the people who are leaving, blame the structure man.

Diversity and education:

Another rant in this brain drain debate is tied to education I believe. I study anthropology. To make matters worse, I specialise in a particularly small and obscure branch of anthropology. So obscure there are three programs in the world that offer degrees in it. I left The Bahamas because COB didn’t offer anthropology and it sure as heck wasn’t going to offer anything as obscure as my specialty. So the government and all the higher ups are worried about people leaving? How about you give them an incentive to stay and I don’t know… offer a diversity of fields? I understand that COB is a small school but if you want to get it up to university status they’re going to have to offer a greater range of subjects. I mean broadening the social science department, arts, languages, natural sciences, etc. I love that COB offers a range of technical fields or professional degrees, but we need a greater diversity.

I shouldn’t have to leave my country because I’m not willing to compromise on what I want to study. I want to study what I love and I should be given an opportunity to do so here.

Ummm… are there any jobs?

We’re more than just accountants or lawyers or nurses or doctors. Sometimes, a Bahamian goes into a super obscure field and even if they wanted to return home, where the hell are the jobs (in general)? There certainly won’t be a job for that super obscure field.  So don’t come to me and yell about how is The Bahamas supposed to get better if all the good people leave. I know. I am aware. I am very aware but if no one gives me the opportunity to get a job that will meet my personal and professional goals, what is my motivation to return? The country needs jobs. And not just more of the same old jobs.

And, to my last point (which I’m a bit ashamed of even saying but I have to survive yo) can the company pay me what I deserve to be paid? A company in the UK can pay what a person with an MSc deserves to get paid, and honestly, not a lot of placed in The Bahamas can do that. This isn’t fair on The Bahamas or me, but I am willing to take a pay reduction to return home for the sake of adverting brain drain, but not such a huge pay cut that I’m being paid what someone without a degree is being paid. I worked hard for this MSc and I want to reap its benefits.

Transnationalism and supporting from abroad:

This is the last rant in a too-long post. My hand hurts, so I know y’all eyes are hurting (and if you made it this far, HURRAH! You’re a super reader and I commend you for putting up with my whining!). OK this point really sticks it to me: you can support your country transnationally. GASP! Say it ain’t so! Yes. You can. In all seriousness, I know The Bahamas needs bodies to improve but there are other ways of assisting the country from outside of its borders.

I know many academics who, though working abroad, feature The Bahamas exclusively in their writing nad teaching. What is this doing? Raising awareness of Bahamian art and culture. I’m writing my MSc thesis on The Bahamas,. I plan to do my PhD on The Bahamas. I was even thinking of starting some kind of consultancy business to help students interested in studying something “different” (and by different I mean outside of the medical-law-tourism trinity we seem to tout) figure out how to do so (anyone interested?) I know these don’t bring large quantities of dollar bills into the country but it’s a form of mental support. Plus, money flows internationally, money leaves and enters the country and it’s people from the Bahamian diaspora, to disregard their financial contributions to the nation is ignorant. Money flows and as long as people have love for The Bahamas, it will always go into it.

OK I’m tired. I know this is a ramble, but I hope it’s a ramble that makes sense. I’m just annoyed that people would try to make me feel guilty for trying to support myself and my family.

ClaireSig

Gullywash

I really don’t have an opinion based piece today, I’m a bit too boring for that I guess. However, I want to talk about something else, about material culture, specifically. Now, for those that know me, they know that I’m a huge geek for material culture studies. Material culture basically looks at the stuff that people and cultures find significant (or even those that are important, but don’t register as important!). Why study stuff? Well, it doesn’t make much sense in my head, but I think if we understand the stuff we find important to us as a people and as a culture, maybe that can help reveal a few things about our values. This concept of the Culture Series will look at an object or food from Bahamian culture that I find interesting and honestly, can find information on from somewhere on the internet.

Gullywash Vs. Sky Juice

Today I want to talk about Gullywash, that coconutty, sweet, divine, alcoholic goodness. I love Gullywash. Like, love, love it. I also, find it terribly interesting that when I moved to Nassau to work, I couldn’t find the stuff anywhere because everyone was calling it Sky Juice. Now, Nassauvians, can someone explain that to me? What is the history of the term Sky Juice? I’ve searched for both Gullywash and Sky Juice in academic journals, books, regular literature and so on and it’s pretty hard to find in the public domain. So why is something, that I think is a pretty significant Bahamian alcoholic beverage, so darn hard to find about?

Also, why gin? A lot of Bahamian drinks have rum in it, so what is so significant about the gin? I’ve had Gullywash that actually had equal parts gin and coconut rum in it (so good!) but as you can imagine, it was quite strong.

This is my typical recipe below:

1 smallish bottle of gin.
Lots of coconut water.
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk.
A dash of cinnamon.
Lots of coconut chunks.

So the complete nonsensicalness of this recipe is reflective of how we sometimes make things in The Bahamas I think, there is no recipe, either grammy or mummy taught you how to make it and you just throw things into the pot.

I want to make this post an interactive one, where people’s opinions and comments will become part of the post, so if you write a comment, tweet us or say something on Facebook, I’ll update this article to include your opinions about the drink.

ClaireSig

 

From Oreos to Coconuts

I’m not hungry, I swear, I’m not writing about food in this post and didn’t mean to get anyone hungry for any of the chocolate cookie goodness that is the Oreo, or the nutty flavour of the Coconut. Rather I want to talk about something that has confounded me for some time.

So- right, get ready for a story- I was in a casual group setting once and a few individuals in the group were complaining about someone who wasn’t there. They commented on their lack of ‘Bahamian accent’ (don’t get me started on this, please don’t), the way they dressed, the music they listened too. Everything was up for grabs in their haterade, and then someone uttered the ultimate insult (lulling the group into a quiet semi-horror), ‘He’s such a damn coconut!’ So, being from the ‘bush’ (as I was often told, because somehow to this particular Nassauvian, Freeport is the bush? Being the second largest city in The Bahamas and all, that totally makes Freeport The Big Bad Bush), I was a bit confused as to why everyone was quiet and a bit squeamish, and I walked myself into a trap, I asked ‘What’s a coconut?’ I was given a very detailed 5 minute lecture as to the term coconut and it all boiled down to this, it was the same as calling someone an Oreo and it’s essentially someone who was black on the outside and white on the inside.

Let this mull over. Yes.

I left the group, not having said anything after my question, annoyed as hell. Why? Because I’ve been called an Oreo my entire life and I was annoyed that the phrase and concept was still permeating throughout Bahamian culture. Coming from a biracial family with one Black mother and White father, I never developed a concept of what a ‘Black’ person versus a ‘White’ individual should act like. Does liking rock music make someone who is Black, actually White? Does dressing like a prep and greeting someone without a bey every few seconds nullify the cultural-Blackness of their skin? I know I’m writing this like an ignorant bullshit, but these aren’t really questions but a round-about point, what exactly makes someone Black? And I’m not talking about the melanin in their skin, I mean culturally, what makes someone culturally Black and deserving of being called a Coconut or an Oreo?

Personally, I think the entire concept is ridiculous and people should let people be. I don’t think anyone should ever be called a traitor to their ‘skin color’ and called someone else. To me, being called an Oreo or Coconut is such a loathing term and concept. It implies that someone isn’t ‘enough’ for the what their skin color dictates them to be, and it’s like the term implies that the individual secretly harbours self-loathing aspects, desiring to be someone else, someone they’re not. It implies that they’re a traitor. A traitor to their culture group, to their ethnic kin. It’s loaded and it’s ugly.

It’s so ugly, that I tend to get really angry hearing it because, I do think in The Bahamas we get caught up in our categorization of people that we forget to just let people live. However, such modern day conflicts are the children of our complicated, entangled and discriminatory history. Terms like these don’t come out of nowhere, they’re born and I’m just wondering, when, if it ever, will it die?

ClaireSig

Obligations To Your Country

In this post I will speak about a very specific set of obligations one has to their home country. I don’t mean things like paying your taxes (VAT? Customs? Who knows what’s going on!) or being a decent human being to your fellow countrypersons (you know, thou shalt not kill, don’t hassle women who have no interest in you anyway, that sort of thing), I’m talking about something like Brain Drain and the conundrum a student faces when they finish school abroad or have gone ‘foreign’ for any extensive set of time. What I mean is, what obligation do we, as Bahamians, have to return home after being away for so long?

After finishing my BA, I took this sense of obligation seriously. I took it seriously in that I believed, as a student of the social sciences, as an educated woman, and a lover of all things Bahamian, I had a duty to return to my country and give back a bit of what it gave to me. I felt this duty was important. So I returned home at 22 after completing a degree in Anthropology and Museum Studies. I was fortunate, as many are not lucky, in that I was returning home with a job. I successfully applied for a position and had secured a contract for 2 years. Boom. I was fulfilling my obligation. I was giving back to The Bahamas and Bahamians, injecting my hard earned dollars into the economy (by buying local) and working hard to contribute to Bahamian cultural growth. I don’t regret this time at home, I loved it. It was a great eye-opening experience (or experiences, really). It molded me and helped me focus my academic, personal and intellectual goals and interests. So I went off, again, to complete an MSc (which I’m still trying not to fail at and leave academia with all of my mental faculties unharmed) and now that my program is drawing to a close (exams in 2 months! Ahh!) I face the same dilemma at 25 as I did at 22: Should I return home, or not?

Part of me says yes, that I can contribute more to my country and myself if I return home for a few years before I can move onto my PhD (yes, I’ve got that on my To-Do list). But part of me doesn’t. I have so many concerns and questions: Can I find a job at home (in something so specific as Anthropology or Museum Studies, this is kind of hard, though the unemployment rate in The Bahamas is ridiculously high)? Will I be happy if I go back? Can I get used to the increasing violence of Nassau? DO I even want to go back to Nassau (I’m from FPO)? If I can find a job in the UK, why not stay? I plan to do my PhD in the UK anyway. Yet, every time I come to this conclusion, I feel that nagging sensation: But shouldn’t I go home? Don’t I owe it to the people, businesses, communities, organisations that supported me? What do I owe, and to whom?

I think anyone who has been away for a long time feels some gamut of emotions when deciding to return/ not to return to The Bahamas. Part of me says Yes, Return, do not contribute to brain drain! Contribute to the development (in all facets) of your nation! The country that nurtured you!

And then, part of you will say: Just don’t do it.

Alas, at the end of the say it’s a hustle to survive so I’ll go where the money takes me, which is partially sad because more often than not, the money is taking you somewhere far from The Bahamas (this is a whole different issue of employment, lack of job growth, lack of growth in diverse sectors, and I’m not talking tourism here, *cough* museums/culture *cough*).
ClaireSig

Against An ‘Ingrained’ Notion of Motherhood Desire

In the past, I recall a particular scenario that has repeated itself over and over again, in different places and spaces, with different people, different genders, ethnicities and nationalities (though predominately Bahamian, most particularly so). Indeed, it has occurred so many times that it is almost etched into my very psyche.

I avoid this topic, this conversation with every being in me because it makes me so uncomfortable, so angry that frustration and flustering are immediate. What am I talking about exactly? Well let me first recount a typical scenario.

Upon talking to a few colleagues, in my old place of work, we were talking about children. Many gushed that they couldn’t wait to settle down and pop a few out. One wanted 6 children. Another 2, because 6 was too many. Another wanted 1, but wouldn’t the child be lonely? What about 3? Do you want girls? Boys? Should you have a mix? Too many boys are bad. But too many girls are a problem. And on, and on it went till it was my turn. And unto them I answered: I don’t want any children. There was a quite moment when a man smiled and said, oh, but you’re so young (I was 23), wait till you’re older, you’ll change your mind. My colleagues were around my age, so let’s say we had a pool of 20 to 30 and 2 who were over 50. Two men to 5 women.

Every single one of them said the exact same thing, that of course, I am mistaken, I must surely want children, that my hormones are just temporarily frozen, and I shall feel that urge to procreate upon maturity.

Insulting My Faculties

Let me first say, that the above scenario is inherently insulting. It is condescending and overly personal. And to make it all worse, I’ve heard it so many damn times I just roll my eyes and keep on going. Let me ground you a bit. I’ve always felt detached from children, even so as a child I didn’t connect with my peers. This solidified as I entered my teens and 20s. I do not want children. I have no desire to have children. I will never, biologically, birth my own children.

So to imply, that my desire to not procreate is:

  1. A lack of maturity is immensely insulting. I know many mature young 20s that have childrenand it’s great! I know a few older individuals who have children that are clearly unprepared, not ready and indeed almost emotionally neglectful towards their kids. So what does this men? That age ain’t nuttin but a number. Desire to have children is evident in the very young to the very old. Now the ability to have children, is, yes, a bit limited by age but I submit that age or maturity has nothing to do with the sheer desire (or lack thereof) to have children. My faculties aren’t broken, if I do not want to have children that is an irrevocably personal decision to do with being 24.
  2. A symptom of not being female-enough, is also incredibly insulting. I do not believe that there is a biological gene that requires I desire children. I can physically, birth a few kids, but there is no darn gene for this desire. I am against a biological notion of motherhood, to do so isolates so many women that are deemed less than for not having children for personal or physical children! My great-aunt could not physically birth children and growing up in the 60s, this was hard for her. She was isolated. Deemed as a broken thing. And for this to continue today? My femaleness is intact, my femininity (or perceived lack thereof) is not a cause or system of something that is wrong. Desire is not biological, it is personal.

I Am More Than My Ovaries

This is backed up by (or used as an excuse when persons choose to cross personal and emotional boundaries by demanding to have some reason, some physical reason as to my brazenness) the fact that physically, I have a serious hormone problem that makes it near physically impossible to do so. But of course, the doctor broke this to me very tenderly, like I was a fragile doll, and upon my complete lack of interest in this news, referred me to see a psychiatrist because surely, a woman who does not want to have children is utterly broken).

However, I use it primarily as an excuse to avoid overly personal, boundary crossing questions. That is my being complacent, I know, because instead of educating I seek a shortcut out. I will also state that before my hormones decided to go a bit wonky, I did not want children. I didn’t want them then, I don’t want one now, and I can pretty much surmise that I will not want them when I am in my 40s, 50s, or 60s.

I will not regret this decision, I am not doomed to eternal loneliness, a life filled with emptiness because I didn’t produce a few genetically similar beings. I am not sick. I should not be fixed, so please, please, do stop trying.

Cultural Phenomenon

This whole thing frustrates me, and I wonder if it is cultural? Being Bahamian, I have seen the righteous indignation upon my statement of a childless-future most predominately amongst Bahamians, both equally between men and women.

Women are confused, why would I not want children? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do (again, I submit, I am not some breeding chattel, I am a human and far above my breeding purposes)? I do not ridicule women who want to or have had children. I admire them, it is hard to give birth, and it is hard to nurture. I admire these women and think that having children is just another facet of life, and that the women who chose not to have children are also to be admired. Having or not having children means nothing about the woman’s choices or personhood. She is still a human being. Funny enough, the really personal, heartbreaking insults tend to be from fellow women. Sad.

Men are just horrified. Why wouldn’t I want to fulfill my womanly obligations to society? I get a few bible quotes every now and then, and I just ignore them. Some men seem to think that the biological argument is more reasonable, surely, I should want to have children? (On a side note, why do some men think it’s attractive to come onto a woman saying he wants to have babies with her? Did I miss a biological memo?).

Why do we as Bahamian (or world citizens at large, I would love to hear from everyone) seem to think that women should want to have children (or raise them, because I also don’t want to adopt. No. Children. Regardless from where they come from). Is it religion? Is it tradition? Is it Darwinian feedback?

ClaireSig

Why Do We or Don’t We Read?

Well this is my first post of the year, I go by Claire.

We really don’t read enough do we? I used to work at the Sir Jack Hayward Library in Freeport and we had a lot of patrons. But they were the same people, every week coming. Kids would come in, teens would also venture in and sometimes they’d pick up a book, but I think it was the free AC and computer use that drew a lot of people. Which is fine, but I wish they’d also left with a book. I’ve also met people who have proudly told me that they don’t like reading or have read a book since high school.

Below is an interesting infographic on reading and it’s plight.

I’m no writing this into guilt tripping anyone into reading something, but I want to encourage someone, anyone, to read anything if they can. I know there is sometimes ‘cultural’ or personal embarrassment to be seen reading something that is ‘below’ your age group (what that means anyway, I sure don’t know because you should read what you want to read regardless of the ‘recommended age group’ sticker) but to the naysayers, I say: screw it. Also who get’s to determine if reading is cool? I never understood that.

We have a lot of distractions out there, I know I don’t want to read sometimes when I can watch TV or chill with friends. But what about those moments when you’re not, those precious seconds of alone time? Would you pick up a book then? What stops you from reading the most? Lack of interest? Time?

There are a number of sites on the web that help with finding something to read. Goodreads is a good website and sometimes browsing Amazon helps as well! You might not be the book kind of person, so short story’s might be fun or even interesting articles on the internet (like this blog for instance!). What I’m trying to say is reading doesn’t have to take a stereotypical route, it can be on your phone or tablet, computer or in physical format. It can be a book, graphic novel, blog, newspaper or online article. I know our public libraries in The Bahamas aren’t the prettiest, or have the latest stock in best sellers but they are an underused resource, so also check them out!

What about me? Well in 2013 I read 100 books or short stories. I had a lot of fun doing it. Some were serious non-fiction, but most of the time I prefer the fantasy or young adult genre. No shame in being 24 and reading teenage stuff, it helps me pass the time. Two of my favourite books were The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I am also a huge lover of Nancy Drew and Malcolm Gladwell‘s books on human behaviour and society.

So what do you say, is this something that you think you can change? Make a bit more effort to do? What stops you from reading the most?

ClaireSig