Friday, January 17, 2014

20 Caribbean Proverbs

“Don’t reinvent the wheel!” There’s an old adage if I’ve ever heard one, but it is old for a reason. It’s very true and it has stood the test of time. Our elders and ancestors left us with excellent wisdom passed down through the ages in these idioms and sayings. I’m sure every person reading this blog has one or two from their own backgrounds and families that they’ve heard countless times (please share them in the comments if you have them). I, therefor, thought it would be interesting to share 20 prominent proverbs form the Caribbean diaspora. Their interpretations (in plain English) are included in italics right after the sayings. Enjoy.

1.           When you ain’t got horse, ride cow. Work with what you have.
2.           Talk does make talk. Trouble breeds more trouble; fighting leads to more fighting.
3.           “If I had know” does come too late. Hindsight and regret aren’t useful after the deed is done.
4.           One eye man king in blind man country. Know your talent and use it to your best advantage.
5.           Dog with money does buy fleas. Excess leads to more excess and waste.
6.           A crab never forget he hole. There’s no place like home.
7.           A eyeful ain’t a bellyful. What you see isn’t what you get and usually never enough.
8.           All fish does bite but shark does get the blame. Your reputation speaks louder than your actions.
9.           Breeze blow pelican same place him want go. Go with the flow and adjust to where life leads you.
10.      Dirty water will out fire. Everything has a use.
11.      One and one coco full basket. Hard work and determination will get the job done.
12.      Two poor cow does make good dung. Combining resources will lead to better results.
13.      You shake him hand but not him heart.  Appearances can be deceiving and hide one’s true intentions.
14.      Dog get four foot but could only go one way. You may have many options but can only choose one path.
15.      Shake with one hand, wipe your rass (ass) with the next. Know who’s a friend and who’s an enemy.
16.      Same knife kill sheep kill shepherd. What you do to others can be done to you as well.
17.      You want half a bread beg for it, you want a whole one, buy it. Work for what you desire.
18.      Fry the big fish first. Know your priorities and plan accordingly.
19.      Jumbi know who to frighten. Your enemies know to strike when you’re at your weakest.
20.      Pepper hot but good for curry. Sometimes we need the harsh, honest truth and adversity to succeed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nature Explorers' Club: Environmental Alliance Conference/Campout

I promised my friends a long time ago that I would give them an update on how the big youth environmental conference and campout event went with the kids in our territory-wide Nature Explorers’ Club: Environmental Alliance. The event was titled “1st Annual Environmental Stewardship Youth Conference/Campout” and took place on August 9 & 10, 2013 at Cramer’s Park on the East End of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Youths, instructors, and volunteers from five different alliance member organizations in both St. Croix and St. Thomas came together to acknowledge the environmental stewardship activities of the youths to the community and to vote on the public service announcements (PSAs) developed by the youths. Here are some photos along with captions of the event:
Sea turtle nest monitoring with The Nature Conservancy.
Our marine ecosystem.
Tent assembly "Where does this thingy go?"
We got one tent up! (as well as 3 others, but 1 fell down)
Lunch in our "Taino-style" tie-dyed shirts.
Volunteer and instructor. Our elders connecting with our youth.
On the boat to Buck Island.

The view from Buck Island.

You can't go to Buck Island and not swim.
Guest speaker at the conference and voting on the PSAs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Magical Realism... What's That?

I’ve, essentially, always been a fantasy writer, but for a long time I used to say that I didn’t write fantasy. I would write about the reality I knew, and for most folks, that reality is fantasy. Admittedly, I’ve taken some forays into the more typical styles of escapist fantasy, but that old statement is still very much the cornerstone of my writing. I’ve also found it to be an adequate description for the Magical Realism sub-genre.

I’ve found that magical realism has become a literary term that for some has either faded into obscurity either by lack of use or overuse, and for others it’s just a head-scratcher. So, I’d like to provide some clarification, at least on my part, on what magical realism is.

  • Not Escapist: I think this is probably the most universal theme prevalent in all magical realism. It is not meant to take readers away to a land of world building and mystic creations. Everything in magical realism exists or has existed to some degree. While the backdrops may contain fantastic creatures and beings, they are typically as real to the writer as the reader’s household cat or dog. An escapist fantasy writer knows the dragon in his or story isn’t real. I know the chupacabra in my story is real. 
  •  Non-objective: Yes, I know it’s not the best or nicest term in the world but it does come close enough to conveying that magical realism is outside of what is typically considered normal or mainstream. It reveals cultures, traditions, and social themes that aren’t normally seen by the typical fantasy-reader.
  • Earthbound: I stress this in that the settings for magical realism are very much this world we live in. They may be slightly askew or require the inventing of a place that doesn’t exist, but even these fake places are just stand-ins for real ones. My invented metropolis of Glass City is really just a stand-in for a mix of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Nantucket. 
  • Social Commentary: I found this one was truer for the more classical examples of magical realism, but I still think every approach to it, including modern ones that are brushing closer and closer to escapist fantasy, still do this. I agree that magical realism has to have a duty that takes precedence above the entertainment value of the piece (not to say that entertainment isn’t important as well). The story has to first reveal an important secret or truth about the society featured in the piece, and then it has to do this in an interesting and entertaining way, otherwise who would want to bother to read it. If all I wanted was the social commentary, I’d go to a guest lecture on the topic. 
  • Culture and Tradition: those elements that, for most of the readers, are fantasy elements are deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of the people in the story. In fact, I believe that culture has to be so omnipresent in the tale that not only is it like a character, but it becomes the main character. It’s not just another element in the development of the narrative, but the driving force behind every element of the piece. The magic system, the setting, the plot and character development, name selection, the underlying social themes, the “B” story between the girl and her mother, the humor and the melodrama… culture must be deeply embedded in all of these decisions and factors.

In the end, each of these factors are typically major goals I try to achieve in my writing endeavors. I even hope this blog article fits into this spectrum somehow. And while I know that when most readers finish one of my stories, they aren’t accepting the realism of the fantastic elements I included. That’s okay. I’m not asking them to take that leap with me, just to come along for the ride, hope they enjoy the sights, and that maybe they learn something and grow a tiny bit as people by the time they are finished.