Friday, November 30, 2007

Where were you during yesterday's earthquake?

Yesterday I was at my friend Dion's house and we were editing when the earthquake struck. I was just going into my e-mail to check a list of names for the credits and I heard him say: "Is that an earthquake?" I stopped what I was doing and felt the house rocking gently. Very gradually it started to get stronger...

With my eyes growing increasingly larger, I rolled my chair over to his and and gripped onto his shoulder. I remained locked in that position for the duration of the quake, my fingers tightening as the rocking intensified. Good thing for him I don't have long fingernails.

With my free hand I dialed furtively on my cellular phone while Dion did the same on his Blackberry - calling his wife and mother. But by that time the quake was done and circuits were jammed. We were unable to get through to anyone for quite a while. Dion says it's best to call during the earthquake because no-one else will be using their phone.

Even though I sat there frozen, I was not petrified. Had walls started to crack and things fly off of shelves, yes (!) ... but rather, I was frozen into a surreal state of fascination and unknowing ... thinking that if earthquakes weren't potentially dangerous, it would be a wonderful experience to just sit there and feel the earth rocking us, enjoying the motion like babies in a cot, safe in the knowledge that nothing would fall on our heads, the earth wouldn't crack open and swallow us or there would be no tsunmis triggered.

As much as I don't like hurricanes, I prefer them in the sense that at least we can be warned that they are coming. Earthquakes just happen out of the blue ... and you never know when they will come, how long they will last or how strong they will become. This one felt long and intense ... but I guess it depends on where you are at the time. I would hate to be in a tall building with glass walls (like Nicholas Towers) ... or worse yet in crowded Christmas Mall with tons of crazy shoppers scampering for cover!

All the more reason to avoid malls for your Christmas shopping and invest in the I SPY Christmas gift special. Quite a few orders have been made already. Don't miss your chance to get yours before my current stock is sold out!
NOTE: I will not be updating the blog this weekend because I will be at a yoga workshop from today until Sunday.

So, my weekend:

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hooray for Facebook!

After about a year of ignoring invitations from friends to 'join Facebook' and people asking me aghast: "You're NOT on Facebook?!!" ... I decided to sign up about a week or so ago. Just to see why everyone was so obsessed with and addicted to it.

I couldn't understand it. My first impression was: "What?! This should be Maco-book, not Facebook!!" (See description of maco in this Trini online dictionary).

At first I wondered (and still wonder) why people would want to be pelting sheep at each other, having food-fights or killing and zapping each other. I also thought: "If someone really wants to be in touch with me they will e-mail me. Why do they need Facebook?" A friend of mine who is on it (who isn't?) and was trying to convince me of its merit said: "But here on Facebook everyone is right there! You don't have to remember them! They're right there!"

My point exactly, I told him. I prefer to know that someone remembered me because they remembered me naturally. Not because they saw me on Facebook. And if they want to be in touch, it wouldn't be via a quick 'poke' or short 'message', but through an e-mail or handwritten letter sent because they genuinely thought about me and wanted to be in touch naturally. But ... maybe that's an old fashioned way of thinking now. Like my incredulous ex-schoolmate told me when I went to fix my old cellular phone: "Get with it, Elspeth! Move with the times!" Maybe people aren't into long e-mails or, worse yet, snail mail letters ... things I still love to do and receive.

Anyway ... Etc etc etc etc etc.

"So, this is Facebook ..." I thought in initial bewilderment, fumbling around, adding and deleting applications and trying to figure out what was what.

I was going to delete the account after two days, but people were appearing out of the woodwork with friend requests and I decided to give it a chance, thinking that it must be useful in some way. A week passed ... and one day I thought: "Who can I look up on Facebook?"

After a bit of thinking, my friend H from South Africa popped into my mind. We were Newhall girls who had lived together in Beaufort House when we were postgrads at Cambridge. We had become great friends and ended our time together by traveling to Paris ("our nemesis") on an adventure, just a while before I reluctantly returned to TT.

It was H who taught me the only phrases I know in Afrikaans: I want a cigarette (in those days I smoked), I want a beer (in those days I drank), I am looking at TV (I didn't look at TV, but the phrase was easy to remember), I am looking at the girl (also easy to remember).

After a while we lost touch. A few years ago we somehow found each other again, then lost touch again.

Anyway, back to Facebook. I typed in her name ... and there she was!!! Her hair is cropped short and sandy, she has aged beautifully and still looks just like good old H! The best of all is that when I contacted her, she wrote me back immediately and told me that she had just found "H" (I'll call her H2 ... another friend who lived across the field from us and was from Zambia) ... and that H2 is coming to visit her in Capetown for December! That is fantastic. For years I wondered where H2 was ... to the extent that I even wondered if she was still alive. No-one seemed to know here whereabouts. Not even New Hall, whenever I wrote to Administration to inquire. She always appeared as "missing" in their updates and the magazines we get every quarter. Even Facebook didn't have her when I checked.

But ... to cut a long story short ... it's fantabulous to know that she is alive and well ... and that we are all in touch again, thanks to that which I had avoided for so long ... Facebook!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One-of-a-kind Christmas gift special! (with video clip)

This Christmas you don't have to sit in traffic for hours ... embark upon futile hunts for parking spaces in jam-packed malls ... lug heavy bags and parcels back to your car ... or wrack your brains for innovative or appropriate gift ideas for children, adults and families.

Happy Hippy Productions is pleased to offer you the ideal gift alternative ... the I SPY environmental series on DVD ... at the extra special Christmas price of $60 per DVD!*

Front of the I SPY DVD
This gift is:
(a) Interesting, educational, enjoyable and different
(b) Affordable
(c) Environmentally conscious-raising
(d) Suitable for all ages (young to old ... i.e. the whole family)
(e) Easy to order
The I SPY Environmental DVD contains four entertaining and educational environmental documentaries filmed by diverse groups of children aged 7 - 10: I SPY Wildlife, I SPY Things in My Garden, I SPY Recycling, I SPY Trees. Each documentary is approximately 13 minutes long. Just under an hour of total viewing time for the whole family.

Inside of DVD
Back of DVD
Order now
at the
$60TT each
* (Special offer valid until December 31 2007)
To place your order and arrange for collection:
Call Elspeth at 786-2539
or e-mail

Orders placed after buy-out of current stock may have a ten day waiting period.

Opening sequence of one of the episodes:
I SPY Things in My Garden
(episode filmed by the Gunsam and Joseph children, Santa Cruz)
Youtube upload quality does not reflect quality of actual video.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Launch of Heartbeat

(Still here) ...

Check it out. Tonight on Bravo Canada, Ledaserene Films launches Episode 1 of their Heartbeat series. Episode 1 features Master Drummer Muhtadi. It's the episode I helped work on when I was in TO earlier this year.

Congrats to the company and wishing a successful run of the series.

It was the Muhtadi experience that inspired me to purchase Dandelion when I was in TO ... and that in itself opened up so many wonderful worlds and experiences - meeting new friends, busking downtown to raise money for the Asian elephants, drum circles, classes, etc.

And even back here in TT, Dandelion exposed me to drum classes, stickfighters, tassa drummers and more.

Ironically, just this morning, I looked at her sitting in the corner of my room and thought: "I haven't drummed in ages!"

Time to bring Dandie out again.

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Change of scene

Took a spontaneous jaunt today to Rituals with Makeda who is here from NY gracing us once again with her presence for a few months. We of course brought our laptops, Satya and June ... and are here drinking lattes, eating muffins, doing work and using the free wifi.

Demain, mon examens finale de français. Je dois étudier!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Finally ...

Invisible illustration by Liu
The HIV 'piece' (Invisible) is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. By Tuesday it should be done (at least an edit that can be viewed by a focus group). Many challenges arose and twists and turns occurred as it meandered its way into existence. It is a mere ten minutes long ... a sniff of a teaser when one considers the depth and breadth of the world these children live in.

The production is simple. The small budget just about bought Karishma, my new camera and left some extra for 'miscellaneous'. I had also met a visiting woman/teacher/artist from Canada (Joanna) who wanted to help and kindly donated a small sum of money towards the project. Her contribution bought us mini dv tapes, paid for gas and food on the long drives to Point Fortin and wherever else, bought snacks and drinks for children ... and other little necessary odds and ends. A little went a long way.

I think in the case of Invisible, a little (i.e. ten minutes) will also go a long way. With a larger budget something 'more' or 'longer' could have been done ... but I wonder if something longer and more elaborate would have achieved more at this stage. I feel Invisible is meant to be just what it is right now - a small key opening a door to who knows what or where.

Invisible does not give answers. Sometimes the questions that are raised can give more insight, be more of a catalyst and have more of an effect than conclusions.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

My forlorn feline

Something is up with poor J. He has been very quiet for the past two days or so, spending most of his time on my bed, sleeping a lot, losing weight, shedding hair and feeling listless. Not his usual self. It is clear that something is up when (a) he does not run from my nephew (b) he doesn't try to attack Pandy, the other cat (c) he doesn't try to wrestle with my hand (d) he doesn't bring me gifts.

He is eating though, so it's probably not something internal.

I have seen him like this before (sometimes) when he has been attacked by any strange cat. When he loses the fight, he becomes very quiet and sticks on to me until he gets over the assault. But I don't think it's that.

I think this is to do with his bad leg - the one which was x-rayed and nothing showed up. Tonight he is a bit more spritely, but still not himself. He was at least up and about, limping, then hopping, then holding the bad leg up and running on the three remaining legs.

I explained his symptoms over the phone to a vet friend who told me that it could be arthritis, as he is nine years old. She told me to try out some things. Liquid baby Panadol for two days to so to see if there is any change in his behaviour. If so, then it's pain ... and probably arthritic. For this, there is glucosamine. And, as much as he hates being transported, I'll either take him to the vet tomorrow or call Crystal to do a house call.

Another friend (a cat-lover who once babysat Jasper as a kitten when I was working in New York for 2 weeks years ago) on Friday night told me: "Elspeth, I've gone through this before with my cats. You may have to get ready to say goodbye to an old friend ..."

I don't think it's that time yet! But I do wish I could speak meow and really understand what's going on with the boy.

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Out of nothing

Out of nothing
I pulled something:



Saturday, November 24, 2007

In transit

The way has a life of its own.
Mysterious roads appeared.
We took them, walking.
Not knowing.
They were the right roads.
After a while, no questioning.
An interesting journey.


Friday, November 23, 2007

French blogging today with translation

Je vais a ecrire en francais pour quelques jour pour practicer. Nous avons nos examens finales, mercredi - la semaine prochaine, puis lundi apres-semaine. Je dois apprendre mon vocabulaire, les verbes, etc.

Aujourdhui je vais au Point Fortin avec K. Nous allons visiter a "Veronica" et nous allons voir le medecin qui elle doit donner a sa fille, qui a quatre ans. Cette petite fille, elle est HIV+ comme sa mere. C'est terrible, l'histoire de la discriminacion!

(There may be some wrong spelling, etc. Saying it is one thing, spelling is another!)

I am going to write in French for some days, to practice. We have our final exams on Wednesday (next week), then Monday the week after. I must learn my vocabulary, verbs, etc.

Today I am going to Point Fortin with K. We're going to visit "Veronica" and going to see the medicine which she must give to her daughter who is four years old. This little girl is HIV positive like her mother. The stories of discrimination are terrible.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Le Réunion

Hier soir apres de la classe, j'ai reuni avec quelques des femmes dans la classe et nous avons decidé que nous allons faire pour la fete de Noel. (Yesterday evening after the class I met with some women in the class and we decided what we are going to do for the Christmas party) ... i.e. our 'performance'. In less than five minutes we came up with a great idea. It is quick, easy and doesn't involve any elaborate French or scripting. In fact its strength will be in its impromptu nature. We just have to remember our vocabulary for body parts.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It still stands

Last night someone contacted me for permission to post this video on their page. Ironic that they should ask, since yesterday morning this very video came to my mind. I thought about how, even though I had created it in early 2005, all that is in it still stands two years later. Same Government, same issues, same national frustration ...

Music, camera, edit - Elspeth Duncan
Location: Trinidad & Tobago
Year: 2005

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Long time since I've written in French. I think my mind was thinking more français in the beginning (au debut) and has started to get a little rusty as of late. J'ai besoin de practicer beaucoup!

Final written exams next Wednesday. Final aural exams the Monday after.

Christmas party on 8th December and we are supposed to do something as a class. One woman has offered to show slides and talk about her trip to Tunisi (in French). I was supposed to meet an hour early yesterday with two women from the class, to discuss what we could do ... but they never turned up. Quel domage. It would be great if the class could do something, but I don't think anyone is really keen.

Last night was thinking I could do a (very) short film in French ... or a French video-poem ... but didn't want to mention it in case expectations are raised and then I end up not having time to do it.

If I have time I will.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Healing Haniel

This morning I took my keyboard to Mr. Dixon in Diego Martin who will diagnose and treat accordingly. Doesn't seem to be the battery causing the problem. Perhaps it is a fixable issue, perhaps not. I don't feel attached to the outcome. I am grateful for the years of music Haniel (name of my keyboard) has given me (and by extension others) ... but if it's time to move on, so be it.


New levels of horror = new levels of numbness

Every morning I go for a walk, buy papers and read them as I walk back home. I've mastered the art of doing this and not bumping into lamp posts, cars, people and potholes full of water (although I did squelch into a fresh dog deposit the other morning). Sometimes I wonder why I bother to read the papers, though. It's like looking at the worst horror movie (worst because it's 'real')... blocking your eyes yet still peeping through your fingers to see the scariest parts.

The other morning as I read the gory description of the 20-year old woman's head being chopped in two and her mouth practically being hacked off by her 'man'/father of her child (for whom she was trying to get a restraining order), I stopped in my tracks, gasped out loud and my face twisted into a horrible grimace. I could not look any further. He brutally hacked her in front of her 3 year old daughter.

This gruesome murder followed a day or two after another woman's 'estranged' man attempted to chop her to death (she escaped) ... and murdered her 23-year old lover. He chopped the man to death, chopped off his penis, scalped his head, gouged out his eyes and dumped his body in a deserted pond in Santa Cruz. He gave himself in about two days after and there was a photo of him smiling in the papers.

These horror crimes by 'estranged' male lovers give new meaning to the term 'jealousy kills'.

This morning the front page of the papers featured another gruesome killing of two men. One paper gives a glimpse of one decomposed body being removed from the trunk of a car ... while the frozen-in-shock faces of female relatives look on.

There was a time when seeing the photo of a dead body on the street inspired shock and horror. Then, sadly, we 'get used to it' as a nation ... Then the nature of the murders will climb to new, more gruesome levels and we will grimace and cry out in horror once again ... until we get further numbed out as we continue hearing or reading about people being scalped and chopped to death in front of 3 year olds.

I have lost count of the amount of murders (a record amount) that have occurred post-elections. There has not been a word from the Government or the Minister of Security on this upsurge. Ooops! I forgot they were in Salybia on a week-long retreat and busy power-walking every morning before dawn.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Still getting with it

Another learning curve may be on its way ...

This morning I turned on my keyboard (which I bought in 1998) to finish up a scoring job due tomorrow. Thank goodness I had already composed the theme song (the most important part) and sent it to their editor ... so he has that. Because when I turned on the keyboard this morning, the LCD screen just glowed orange and had no information on it. The battery is dying ...

Perhaps it is already dead. I can't do anything with that keyboard today.

I will see tomorrow if I can get a new battery somewhere. I hope so!

So far in the past two - three months, my 3 year old video camera conked out (upgraded to a new one), my cellular phone (got a new one) and now keyboard. Something is telling me that:
(i) it's time to shift gears with the music, upgrade and start using different applications
(ii) I also need to examine the non-technological aspects of life and see what old, habitual or comfort-zonish things need to be changed and replaced by the new

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Getting with it

Old and new
The other day I finally decided it was time to do something about my malfunctioning cellular phone which I had bought since early 2004. Over the past few months it was either always cutting off in mid conversation or there would be a strange noise and the message "Insert SIM" would pop up out of the blue and refuse to go away unless I dropped the phone on the floor, banged it against something or fiddled for ten minutes with the clasp for the SIM card, which was becoming progressively loose. Despite all of this I had never bothered to get a new phone ... until (recently) it started getting on my nerves as the problem worsened.

I set out to the Mall, intending to buy a new phone, when I showed my oldie to a man in a bMobile kiosk in the Mall, he told me I didn't have to buy a whole new phone. I could just get this one fixed. To cut a long conversation short, I ended up going to the relocated TSTT service centre (in the mall) to see if they could fix it.

The first person I encountered when I went in was a girl who used to go to school with me at SAGHS. After we exchanged hellos, I showed her my phone and said: "Can I get this fixed here?"

She looked at my phone and then at me with a mix of genuine horror and disbelief. "Oh gosh, Elspeth! Get with it! Move with the times!" She gestured to the sleek new phones in a nearby glass case and added that they don't fix phones there.

Holding my chunky, battered, light blue dinosaur in my hand I glanced at the three-figure prices and told her I wasn't going to pay a few thousand dollars for a phone when all I do with my cel is send and receive calls or texts. I don't need to check e-mails, take photos or download music with it.

The cheapest phone they had was the slim black $299 Samsung, which I ended up buying. The functions are different and I am slowly getting used to them. It's good to break out of the comfort zone of what we know/know how to do/know how to use and experience a learning curve ... even for something as simple as a phone.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

I carry

This week's Sunday Scribblings topic is "I carry ..."

I carry my camera with me everywhere but don't always take photos. The only time I felt like taking it out to get a shot today was when I was driving home tonight through Picadilly ('behind de bridge'). There were a whole set of (about 20 or more) policemen/women wearing bullet proof vests and black woollen caps, as well as army men in camouflage gear, standing in the dark in the middle of the road and on the sidewalk, staring at the few passing cars, looking grim and threatening and all brandishing massive guns (machine guns?) I have no idea what was going on. It looked like some kind of war zone. They stopped the car in front of me and appeared to be questioning the driver. After about a minute he/she drove off and so did I. I wasn't afraid, but considering how fatally trigger happy the police are these days, I was looking forward to getting out of the area quickly.

As I drove off I thought that I would have taken a photo of that if I could have. It looked and felt so unreal. But no way would I have done it. They would have seen me digging furtively in my bag, pulling something out ... and the rest might have been history.

I carry a camera.
You carry a gun.
If I had shot you tonight
Would you have shot me?


Spelling Bee

An excerpt from a conversation I had this morning with a receptionist. This is where she asked me for my name so someone could call me back as "all agents were busy".

Her: Can I have your name please?

Me: Elspeth Duncan

Her (pause): Can you spell that?

Me: E-l-s-p-e-t-h ...

Her: T-e ... I didn't hear you after the T.

Me: Not T. E ... l-s-p-e-t-h ...

Her: T-e-l-

Me: No. Elspeth!

Her (meekly, maybe because she hears irritation in my voice): Miss Duncan, can you start over please?

Me (slowly): E-l-s-p-e-t-h Duncan (not spelling Duncan although I've experienced a few people who also can't spell Duncan)

Her: Okay, I'll have someone call you back. Can I have your number?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Brief explanation of removal

I decided to remove the post I wrote earlier, commenting on the comments on this post. Not because anything was wrong with the post, but because I'm fed up of hearing about the E word and the P word (elections and politics) and in that split second I didn't even feel like having them on today's page of my blog.

When I thought about it, even though the comments were a good example of different 'vibrations', I prefer not to bring politics into my explanation of what I meant by 'changing the vibration'.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 useful tips

1. Change the vibration
2. Change the vibration
3. Change the vibration
4. Change the vibration
5. Change the vibration
6. Change the vibration
7. Change the vibration
8. Change the vibration
9. Change the vibration
10. Change the vibration


Monday, November 12, 2007

Happiness - by Elspeth & Liu

This is an experimental audio track my nephew (age 8) and I did some time ago while playing around. The object of our 'game' (which we recorded using Garageband on the laptop) was to spontaneously say whatever positive words, images or thoughts came to our minds in time to the background rhythms provided by Dandelion.

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Child wearing COP cap
Yesterday some friends and I went to the COP Thanksgiving rally at Helping Hands grounds in the Pasea area. It wasn't a jump and wave rally. It was an interfaith event, with various spiritual leaders (Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc.) each saying a prayer and a few words. There was a tabla/Indian instrumental group and a few performers singing 'inspirational' songs which most of the crowd seemed to enjoy.

The large gathering had a family feel - everything from very young children to the aged, mingling amicably. At one point I looked behind me and was surprised to see the sea of people who had quietly amassed in the short space of time since our arrival. Everyone stood for the two hours, intently listening, clapping and cheering for everything.

When 'Dooks' eventually came forward to the mike with his arm wrapped around the shoulder of David St. Clair (the candidate who was attacked, beaten and subsequently hospitalised before elections), most of the large crowd surged forward to the stage, chanting "Winston, Winston!" Subsequently, basically each paragraph he uttered was punctuated by supportive cheers and applause.

There were one or two moments where I felt moved. One I can't remember (must have been something someone said) - but it gave me goosebumps. The other was at the end, when a performer came to sing a song called "Broken World" (and about how we can fix it together). The female MC asked us to connect in some way with the people at our sides. People started to hold hands. I held the hands of my friend Charlotte (on my right) and a man I didn't know (on my left). At one point the crowd to the front raised their connected hands and everyone followed, resulting in a wave of upheld, joined hands rippling from front to back of the gathering. It was the first time I've experienced this.

It was one of those "We are the world" moments which are too soppy for some, but deeply moving for others. I noticed people crying. One older woman a short way off from us stood staring ahead, a large tear running down her cheek, glistening like the silver trail of a snail.

I was not moved to feel patriotic about T & T ... but I was touched by the genuine sense of togetherness and respect of the people and by the sense of gratitude and determination emitted by those on stage. It was a peaceful, communal, 'old time feel' of an evening. Everyone left smiling, or at least looking satisfied on some level.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Turn, turn, turn

I must admit I feel a twinge of jealousy when friends living in temperate countries write and mention in their e-mails 'the signs of coming winter', the nippy weather, the frost, etc.

I love the four temperate seasons - best of all the cool-to-cold autumn, winter and spring. I'm not much of a summer person, which is ironic as I currently live in a hot clime.

When in England, I used to love waking up and beginning the day by looking out of my window onto the expanse of grass outside. It was like opening a new, surprise gift every day ... not knowing what to expect. One day it would be green. One day it would be silver (frost). One day it would be unexpectedly sleeping under a serene, untouched blanket of white. One day there would be footprints and other kinds of prints in the snow. One day there would be little green shoots pushing out of the white expanse. One day there would be slush or white patches. One day there would be a whole set of yellow daffodils ...

Here we have two seasons - wet (which I prefer) and dry. Waking up in the morning there's not the diverse variety in terms of drastic changes in temperature and things like frost, sleet, snow, sudden new flowers, etc. Mostly I see the variety above, in the sky and the clouds. Every morning when I go for my walk there's something different about them that attracts me ... not so much like opening a new gift, but like observing a new painting.

Today the sun was shooting out in massive rays from behind the cloud bank, looking like a scene from one of those religious movies. The angels would have been chorusing and it would have been symbolic of some new beginning or great revelation.
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time of love, a time of hate.
A time of war, a time of peace.
A time you may embrace.
A time to refrain from embracing.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to gain, a time to lose.
A time to rend, a time to sow.
A time for love, a time for hate.
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

(The Byrds)

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

A little visitor

The night before elections I was on the phone. I noticed Jasper was crouched, staring intently at a closed door to another room across from me. I only realised he was in hunting mode when I noticed something small and black crawling under the door. It (the creature) was so dark that from my vantage point on the phone I couldn't make out what it was. I thought it was a tarantula. Then I wondered: "Or is it a frog?"

It crawled slowly behind the piano, closely followed by Jasper, who was probably also trying to figure out what it was. It then crawled back around to the front of the piano (with a curious JJ still behind it) ... and suddenly took flight and began circling the room. Only then did I realise it was a bat. I opened the door to let it out, but it continued flying in hectic circles, bumping into the ceiling ... perhaps in fright, perhaps because it was a baby.

Eventually it flew to the bannister (the stairs) and settled there, as seen in the above photo. I went out to dinner with a friend and by the time I came home it was gone.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Divali (short video)

Location: Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook, Trinidad
Shot using video function on digital still camera.
Members of the public came off the streets and gathered in the square, co-operating to pour coconut oil into the hundreds of deyas, twist and place wicks in the deyas and light up. Indian music played softly in the background. Cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, soft drinks and water were on sale from little vendor carts. It was wonderful seeing so many different people - young and old - helping each other and working in harmony to get all the deyas lit. The atmosphere was peaceful and the laughter of many small children filled the square.

With elections having been just a few days ago, of course the night couldn't pass without some election-type comment being made. Someone, struck by the peaceful, harmonious atmosphere, said: "This is a COP Divali."

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Light over Darkness, Truth over Untruth

The Temple in the Sea lit up like a Deya at sunset on Wednesday.
Today is the celebration of the Hindu Festival of Divali. I may spend the afternoon by a river with a friend, doing some light yoga/meditation, looking for crystals and relaxing. This way we will be 'lighting up ourselves. When darkness falls we will hopefully be somewhere lighting deyas and eating curry and Indian sweets.

I recently read a newspaper article in which makers of deyas were saying that they produce less and less of these clay vessels every year. This is because people are opting for electric Christmas lights ... I suppose due to modern laziness and the quest for 'convenience'. I'm not fond of electric lights for Divali. They don't have that humble feel and earthy beauty, plus they make the place look like Christmas. A few Divalis ago, I was driving around 'looking at lights' with friends. However, there were no lights to look at and the place was pitch black. There was no electricity that night. So much for light conquering darkness.

For those who want the look of deyas but don't want the 'hard work' of pouring oil and placing wicks into hundreds or thousands of deyas and lighting them after, there are those modern deyas with candle wax and wick. They look okay ... but nothing beats the old time authentic deyas with coconut oil, along with the act of dipping the wicks and lighting up. The smell of the oil is comforting and warm and (I find) also builds up more of an appetite for the Divali delicacies.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Letters to the Editor

One does not have to travel as far as South Africa to learn from the example of a great and humble man. In the midst of the freeness, bacchanal, low blows and cheap tricks that constituted the TT 2007 Election, the quiet strength, humility, respect, integrity and genuine desire for the communal healing of "our country" demonstrated by Winston Dookeran stood out above all.

Elspeth Duncan,

St. Augustine


I wrote that letter the morning after elections. It appeared yesterday in the Guardian and Newsday. (For some strange reason my letters to the Express always bounce back saying "cache full"). One of my best friends also wrote a letter that morning, as did my sister and another friend and, no doubt, countless other people who had never even written to the editor before. Emotions were high, with tears and anger for many as their manifestation.

Last night I checked my voice mail and there was a message from a woman I don't even know. She had read the letter (or 'article' as she called it) in the papers and perhaps looked up my name in the phone book. "I read your article on page 28 of the Guardian," she said. "It was so comforting. Thank you and God bless you." She sounded like an older woman. The emotion in her voice told me that she had obviously been devastated by the news of 'zero seats for COP' and was being comforted by anything written in support of them. Who knows ... maybe she called up and thanked everyone who wrote supportive letters and used real names that she could look up in the phone book.

Now that my emotions have abated, I can step back, see clearly and calmly accept that the results, just the way they are, are a good thing. Zero says something about the COP: their values are in such a different league that not even in gaining seats could they be classified or grouped with the likes of the two other parties. Let those two and their followers bicker among themselves. COP has more support than they know. As FA said in her comment on yesterday's post, the 'runt', even though a late developer, is capable of great surprises. (Example of a great runt).

My emotions temporarily surged again yesterday as I drove down to Point Fortin to continue work on the HIV project. Upon approaching San Fernando we saw massive victory billboards featuring mid-shots of the smiling PM. The photo is unflattering and makes him look like an oversized chipmunk or, as Katie said, "a rodent". The 'winning party' is celebrating victory based on the illusion that 'the majority' wants them. How far from the truth ... when one counts the numbers who voted against them ... plus those who did not vote at all.

Anyway ... enough politics. Back to normal programming from tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A vicious attack

Jasper is an artful hunter. Normally when he brings in an animal, he brings it either alive or, even if dead, it somehow doesn't even have teeth marks on it. Yesterday morning, the day after elections, he brought in a fledgling Dove. Its feathers were strewn all over the floor, its body was ripped open, heart and innards exposed. I was surprised. Very rarely would Jasper do this. I know he meant it as a gift nonetheless ... but also (as usual) as a message.

It is only this morning as I went for my walk that the image of this shredded Dove returned to me and I saw it as a reflection of Panday's vicious, hateful and irresponsible verbal attack (in his concession speech) on COP and its leader Winston Dookeran. For those who are not aware of what he said, he basically screamed, spat and hissed with bitterness and contempt at those who voted for COP or who did not vote at all:

When one of your family members gets raped, beaten, kidnapped or killed, I want you to look in the mirror and look at your face and say to yourself 'I did this!!!' Then I want you to bow your head in confession and cry ... cry to yourself that you are responsible because you voted for the PNM or CORPSE or you did not vote at all!!!"

These are the words of one of our former Prime Ministers. The leader of a political party who had hopes of being PM again. The possible leader of the opposition. The man who is blaming Dookeran for not joining forces with him to beat the PNM. Between that and our current, elected-back-into-POWER-and-being-sworn-into-office-today-at-Woodford-Square PM screaming at his followers that "TT will progress at an even faster rate in the next 5 years, my dear friends" (i.e. his frightening version of 'progress') ... and bawling out that his being back in power is 'God's victory!!" ... one cannot be sure if this is a script for a sit com or a tragedy.

Anyway, back to the bird. As I walked, I had the image of a bird's nest with three birds eggs in it. Two birds had hatched first. The third egg hatched much later and produced a runt who was not like the others. The other two, being bigger, stronger and more aggressive, fought constantly for food and attention and learned to fly first. The little Dove, although much younger and not as developed, decided that it wanted to fly too. It fell out of the nest and was subsequently attacked and ripped to shreds.

This is just a symbol of the sad truth. It is clear after this election that Trinidad and Tobago is not ready for the Dove (symbol of peace, love, positive transformation, rebirth, etc). And, as a friend of mine said: "... will never be."

This is a place for vultures ... or to make it more 'local' ... cobo.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

French midterm results and Election results

Monday, November 05, 2007

#1 Vote(r): Elshpesh Blanshay Duncan

Electoral ink on my Jupiter finger
In yoga ... the index/Jupiter finger is the finger which, when its tip is connected with the tip of the thumb (representing the ego) forms Gyan Mudra.
This morning I was the first voter in my constituency ... (maybe even in the country if our polling station was the first to start!) Having left home bright and early (or rather dark and early), I was standing at the front of the line of people, all of us waiting for the polling station to open at six on the dot. My family members were behind me. When the time came, I felt like the pied piper, walking toward the polling booth with the long line of other voters behind me. The woman at the desk took my ID card, checked off my name, made me sign on my poll card and then said:

"Elsh ... Elshp ..."

"Elspeth," I said, helping her to pronounce it.


"Blanche," I said.

She then called out loudly for the other pollers to hear: "Elshpesh Blanshay Duncan! Voter #1!"

I was given my voting slip and went behind the barricade to stamp my X. Then went to submit my vote and my poll card and dip my index finger in the ink.

I find it interesting that we dip the index finger. Maybe there's a reason why - maybe even that the finger is just easiest to dip (like how we use it to dial on the phone) ... but from a spiritual and yoga perspective: the index finger is known as the Jupiter finger. I find the significance is interesting and relevant:

Jupiter is the planet of expansion. It is the largest planet in the solar system. In the natal chart Jupiter is associated with leadership, principles, philosophy, law, politics, higher education, travel, abundance, problem solving and ritual. Negatively Jupiter can manifest as excess in our lives. It may be physical such as overeating or spiritual such as dogmatism.

"Gyan" means knowledge and this mudra's purpose is that of imparting intelligence and wisdom to the individual who holds this posture.

Other benefits:
  • Bestows intelligence and wisdom.
  • Purifies the mind of the practitioner.
  • Cures many mental ailments.
  • Gives a feeling of joy.
  • Cures intoxication and addictive habits.

May all who dip their Jupiter fingers today do so in the spirit of Gyan.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

A strange dream that somehow makes sense

Last night (until early this morning just before waking) I had a long dream which makes me think of something George Orwell could have written.

I remember it vividly, as if it actually happened to me. Maybe it did.

I was in an extremely large warehouse type of building. It was full of women of every imaginable type: nationalities, race, size, age ... you name it, a woman was there representing her. I was "a new one" and was the only one wearing normal clothing (I had on blue jeans and a black top). The other women wore dark green tent-like poncho-like pullovers with white fringes and ties, like what you would see someone wearing in a hospital - only this was not a hospital. I still don't know what it was.

The women were all sitting or standing around in groups, talking with each other and observing me as I was led through the space by the dark, squat female 'guard' (if she can be called that, because it wasn't a prison either) into whose care I had been placed.

My guard/caretaker was kind, which I found out as the dream progressed. Her kindness was not obvious by just looking at her because she never smiled. I think she was Trini, as she had that way of walking slowly with an expressionless look on her face, reminiscent of a reluctant store attendant who would rather be chatting on her cellular phone than attending to the customer. She led me to the centre of the large space and placed me above a small round drainage grill in the floor. These drainage grills were all over the floor of the 'warehouse'. When she told me to take off my clothes and get ready for 'the shower' I realised that this was why the women were all wearing the kind of hospital robes. They had all already been through the showers.

At first I was hesitant, not knowing why I was there and feeling strange about stripping and being bathed by someone else in a room full of women staring at me. My caretaker told me to relax: that everyone had done it and when I take off my clothes it will be "what everyone else has".

I decided to go with the moment and took off all my clothes. The other woman who was with my caretaker took my clothing and disappeared. It didn't feel strange standing there fully exposed to everyone and it was not threatening. The thousands of women around the warehouse continued chatting with each other ... although I noted I was hearing nothing - no murmur of voices. Their chatting was completely silent. The room was silent. Some of these women were looking at me, but not in an ogling or 'macocious' way. Their eyes just naturally rested on me and then went back to their companions. I felt that it was natural to be in this state.

There was one woman who stood out. She was tall and white (the transparent kind of white like a gekko, where you can see the blue veins under the skin) with short, 'zogged' brown hair. At one point the dream skipped and I was walking behind her down a long corridor. There was a moment where she slowed down so that I was walking next to her and, without saying a word or even looking at me, she told me something important ... then quickened her step and walked ahead back into the room with 'the showers' where everyone was.

The dream skipped back to me being bathed by my caretaker. (N.B. Even though I was being 'bathed' by her she was not actually bathing me and I was not physically bathing myself either. Not sure how it was happening, but I was 'being bathed'). She was more like someone just watching over me, 'in charge' of me, attending to me.

Suddenly we were no longer in the warehouse, but out in the open air, on some sunny green grass, away from everyone. As I (was being) bathed, she lowered her voice and said to me: "If you are looking aware and conscious, some may try to stop you. That's why I walk around looking vacant so they don't know." It was the first time anyone used audible words in the whole dream. Only then did I realise that all other talking had been in complete silence.

In a cryptic way I felt that she was telling me that she meditates, so I asked her: "You meditate?"

She said: "Yes. It only looks like we're just cleaning the outside ... but it's the inside."

I understood that the washing in the showers was not a physical, external thing. It was internal. Maybe it was a way of enlightening all of the women in a way that was not obvious to others ... and maybe that's why the women could have spoken with each other without having to use audible words ... and why the tall transparent woman could have told me whatever she did - without using words or looking at me. We were communicating on other levels. And standing naked in front of all of the women was not about 'being naked' because it was not about the body. Perhaps in taking off my clothes, only my spirit was left standing there in the room full of women.

My caretaker took me back inside and gave me two injections. Like everything else, nothing was explained, but I trusted her and trusted the process. One injection was to my upper right arm, the other was in the region of the skin of my upper left back just above the shoulder blade. This felt necessary in the grand scheme of things.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

What colour is your t-shirt today?

My t-shirt is white because I was doing yoga this morning and I usually wear white to do yoga. On the streets however, once you are wearing a particular colour t-shirt in these pre-election days, it means you're supporting & voting for a particular party. Even if you aren't ... that's what it means psychologically to anyone seeing you pass by. So even though my t-shirt says 'Sedona, Arizona" and has nothing to do with politics, to the onlooker, I must be voting COP, whose colour is white.

Just a while ago I drove to the hardware to buy some wire. Red t-shirts were swarming like irritating ants at the corner. PNM stalwarts preparing for their rally in Tunapuna today. Anyone wearing a red t-shirt today will be considered PNM ... especially as their ads stress: "Wear red and represent!"

Along the way I saw several orange t-shirts. Orange says UNC, whether you are or not. I met a friend at the hardware and she pointed out to me that she had on her 'neutral top'. It was a shrimp-coloured vest. "A little more orange in it and I would be UNC," she said.

In the grocery, a man was walking around shouting/singing: "Get rid of PNM. Get rid of UNC. Move wit' COP!" He was directing his statement to the woman in front of me who was wearing orange. The level of their picong made me assume they knew each other.

She shouted back at him: "Be careful you get shoot before de end of de day!"

Then she laughed and looked around at me and others to see who would laugh at her 'joke'. No-one laughed.


Sitting here

This morning.
Quiet and surprisingly cool.
Swallows circle and play in the sky.
Birds are calling.
Varying calls.
Varying distances away.
Dogs barking.
Many different shades of green.
Never noticed how many trees!
I am above them, surveying from the upper verandah.
Cloudy spires.
Blue skies with some pink pollution in them.
Distant drone of traffic.


Friday, November 02, 2007

The time is now

Two years ago, I was offered this book to read and did not feel drawn to it. Many people have brought up the name since then and I have seen it on the shelves of countless bookstores, but never felt inclined to delve into it.

Recently Kikipotamus read it and was writing about her experiences of it on her blog. Maybe it was something she said, but I began to feel like I needed/wanted to read it now. I told myself that if I saw it somewhere I would buy it.

Today I was talking with a friend on the phone and, at the end of our conversation, something made me mention the book "The Power of Now". My friend perked up and said that just the other day someone had told her she should read it. I was going to visit her (as she had been sick for a few days) and decided that on the way I would go to a bookstore and buy a copy. My friend asked me to also buy one for her.

At the bookstore I asked the shop attendant if they had "The Power of Now". She led me to where the book was ... and there were exactly only two copies there (!) waiting for their two new owners.

So far I have only read a few pages and I am looking forward to reading the rest over the next few days. In the two years since I was first offered the book, I have learned (and will continue to learn) from the pages of life aspects of what I may have read back then in the pages of the book.

Everything in its own time and way. I guess reading it now in black and white will serve to further bring it home.


Party politics, literally

Do not litter
It seems that voting in T & T 2007 has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with:
* which political party throws the better free fete/concert
* which party gives away the most t-shirts and has the glossiest-looking ads
* which party can worsen our litter problem by sticking up the most election posters
* which party can waste the most money on campaigns designed to bad-talk the other parties
* which party's supporters can best beat up and badly damage or kill other parties' supporters or candidates
* which party's supporters can deface the most buildings with fluorescent election graffiti
* which party's candidates can scream the loudest and get the hoarsest
* which party's members can make up the most creative stories about their rivals
* which party can bring in the biggest Jamaican dance hall artistes to endorse them and pull bigger youth crowds
* which party has the best soca jingle (even if sung by Jamaicans) and the loudest truck driving through the streets blaring it (I think right now 'Patos' has the road march)
* ... and so on.

TT's obsession with 'wine and jam' is considered 'we culture' regardless of the occasion. What is taken seriously in this nation? This 2007 election season is a Carnival: trucks driving through the streets, blaring campaign road marches, waving banners and causing a greater pile-up of traffic than normal. Recently I saw a man wining on the sidewalk, drunkenly waving a rag 'in de air' as election soca blared from a campaign truck at the traffic lights.

Over the weekend I was waiting on the sidewalk up East for the documentary crew. A drunkenly merry maxi tout (maybe in his late 20's, early 30's) came and started chatting me up.

He hopefully asked me: "Yuh going PNM rally" (which was on that day - Sunday - in the Q.P. Savannah).

I told him: "No."

He took a swig from his styrotex cup and said: "Well my head done nice and I goin! Dat is my vote, yuh know!" He then proceeded to tell me how he "working CEPEP", about how Patrick is the only person for PM and how "life in Trinidad sweet."

I asked him what makes life in Trinidad sweet and he said: "How yuh mean?! We free to do what we want! Nowhere else in de world yuh could be free so." (He then admitted that he had never been anywhere else in the world).

The initials of TT political parties are now like brand names on jeans or sneakers. Which one is trendy? People are buying what they feel is in fashion without caring about what material it is made from and how long it will last. PNM and UNC are pushing their brands with free fetes, expensive ads and desperate moves like whistle-stop' visits to Nelson Mandela in South Africa. COP says their youths will not be won over with free fetes, but with their sweat and tears. Being a nation of partying and bachanaal, is this what the average Trinbagonian youth wants to hear? Why must one work or be serious about change when 'free ting' is being handed out? Who wants a seemingly strict parent telling the nation to buckle up and do its homework ... when there are parents who, in their eagerness to win the children over, will spoil them with cheap toys and promises of trips to Wonderland.

I can't wait until 6th November when it is all over! Or who knows ... maybe that's when it will all begin.


I want ...

Some time ago a friend of mine was feeling in the doldrums due to routine, lack of inspiration, etc etc etc ... and in our conversation I suggested to her that she write five things each morning that she REALLY wants to do that day, no matter how 'impossible' they may seem (e.g. fly to Italy for a pasta lunch). Initially she told me it was hard to do, but then she got into it.

Yesterday I decided to try it too ... by writing just two things I really wanted to do. It felt difficult to think of even two things! There was a time when this would have been easy for me, especially as my wants are simple. It horrified me to think that I couldn't think of any wants. It made me feel that I have slipped too far into the daily routine of 'things I have to do'. Are the wants now shoved aside and invisible?

My two wants ended up being:
1. Go for a long, unplanned drive/an adventure with someone whose company I really enjoy (and vice versa)
2. Be in a cinematography/directors workshop with interesting people in a place I like (I put Toronto as a definite choice, but when I thought more about it I felt that it could also be somewhere else, once I enjoyed being in the place - but TO is the first one I feel, so I left it as that)

Want #1 appeals to my desire to do nothing and just be spontaneous, having no thoughts of anything that 'has' to be done. Emptiness waiting to be filled by fun and interesting things.

Want #2 is practical. It appeals to my desire to enjoy learning something I am interested in and which applies to my professional life, with the added benefit of being in a place which stimulates me on different levels.

A want can be simple or complex. It can be deep or on the surface. I may be conscious of it immediately or maybe it might take a long while for me to really unearth what I want.

I want to explore 'want' more deeply.
What I 'want' (as opposed to what I 'need' or 'have to do').
Then I want to get what I want.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beginning on a beginning (1st Nov)

A piece of the card
I got a belated Beginning from Pastormac's Ann. Thank you. It looks like a rainbow with a long pathway meandering through it.

The writing on the front says:

A new beginning starts with a single step ... Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin ...

On the back: Hoping your new beginnings, be they big or small, bring you many blessings and much joy!

In other news, we did not get the results of our French midterms yesterday, as expected. Instead, we will get them on Monday (election day). I can't wait until elections are over. They are disgustingly desperate, chronically commercialized and sickeningly symptomatic of a country that has no deeper sense of consciousness and is 'wining dong' to an all time low.

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