Category Archives: St Croix

Camping on the Beach: ST Croix’s Easter Tradition

From Butler Bay in the west, to Cramer Park in the east, a week before Easter, many Crucian families make the beaches their home, camping out for as long as two weeks for some, or just four or so days for others. It is a tradition dating back at least thirty years, and although, thus far, no one I spoke to can tell me how it began; it is the thing that’s done.IMG_8496

Families and friends tend to camp together and form a cluster or tents that vary in size. While most people stick to basics, over the years, some families have gotten more elaborate bringing gas stoves and fridges from home and generator. In one campsite there was even a large tent designated for entertainment, and inside was a large TV, that reportedly was turned on at nights for the children. There are also porter-potties and makeshift showers at all the camps.

I have visited camp-sights at Dorsch, Salt River and Cramer Park, specifically and hung out with friends and enjoyed meals. As one Crucian senior said to me as we sat on chairs looking out at the ocean and nibbling on vegie burgers,

“I do this so I can forget about everything, including myself.”

Josetta, a mother and grandmother says, “I’ve been camping for over twenty years. My children grew up camping. Now the only baby we have is my four year-old grandson in the water with my daughter. It’s what we do every Easter for 7-10 days.”

Camping allows absolute freedom for the children –-two little ones, no more than four years old were in the water for the three hours I spent at one camp-site and their mother said they had been in the water all day.DSC_0056

There are various bands of children ranging in age and activity, splashing around in the sea, snorkeling, and engaging in other water and beach activity, including chasing and running. Even the pets enjoy this time, as leashed dogs strolls the beach with teenagers.

I stopped a few girls as they were running out the sea and heading towards one of the tents. I asked them if they were enjoying themselves. They affirmed in unison and their responses spilled out and over each other.

“We’ve been doing it since they were young, since third grade,” asserts Shania.

“It’s a family tradition,” adds Jahnaye.

“We do lots of things such as water sports, fishing, hiking and volley ball inserts Shandeah, obviously the leader if the pack.

“And we play board games, and sometimes we do storytelling,” adds the only boy in this group who runs off before telling me his name.

Although I have not camped during this season, I love seeing families and friends living next to the ocean and I enjoy spending the day on the beach with friends and sharing the amazing meals.

Even though living in St Croix, one is never far from the ocean; I imagine there is nothing like sleeping with the sea right in your ears and waking up and jumping right into its arms.IMG_8492

Easter Monday, a public holiday in St Croix, signals the end of this tradition. However, today, Tuesday, you can still see a handful of tents strewn on a few beaches –the true die-harders, soaking up one more of the good sea breeze.IMG_8486

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Women Marching For Justice

womenstxIt has been a week since women and men and children all over the world took to the street demanding justice and equity. Reportedly , On January 21, there were 673 Sister Marches all over cities in the USA, the largest in Washington, DC,  as well as the rest of the World, including Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

I participated in the Women March in St Croix, USVI, led by a group of women with about 4 thousand participants. In good St Croix fashion, the participants were multicultural, and the event include blowing the Tutu  –the conch shell horn, music, dancing, singers, speeches, recitation of poetry reflecting the diverse range of this community.

womenempoweredadisaWhy were women marching?  What did they hope to achieve?

It was a call to action, a call to unify against the current US President who appears to want to turn back the clock.  It signals the forging of  alliances across lines of race, gender and sexual identification, and was a demonstration of the willingness of those individuals who want to ensure justice for all.

Above all it was a hopeful and positive event that made it clear that many people understand their self-agency and will not sit back and allow their rights nor the rights of others that many died for, be overridden.

frontwmarchingadisa17 At the end of this positive and moving event, several women took the mic and said what they were marching for, and central of course was for their grandchildren and the future generations so that they will have a voice, but also for able-bodied and physically challenged people, for Muslins and religious freedom, for the right of gays to marry, for women’s right to own their bodies, for democracy, for freedom. I was marching to say thanks to my ancestors for taking us this for and to end child abuse and domestic violence.

Although we were each marching for different causes , the common denominator was our humanity and the continuation of all our basic rights as people to live as we choose as long as we do no harm to others.

I am positive and optimistic that this movement has just begun world wide, and women who have held up and continue to hold up much more than half the sky/world, will truly rise up and take our rightful place in a feminist/womanist manner that will heal the world and bring compassion and mindfulness to all we do, and how we nurture the world.

Blessed and Doing the Work

I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have an endless stream of creativity, to care about the world and contribute to help make it better, to be alive at this time and know that right now is the absolutely best time of my life, that everyday I get stronger, better, more inspired, and that I have always been able to find people who love me to support my artistic expressions and my cultural activist work.seahibicusadisa16

Although it is not always easy to make my dream a reality, and sometimes I get frustrated and ask where is my help, why do I have to do so much of the leg work alone, where are the billions to fund my project –after all I want to do good in the world, I don’t want six cars and a diamond ring that cost millions.  I just want to create an amazing  artists colony with a profuse Caribbean garden with sculptures and an orchard with all the many fruits, and ponds and flowing water and wide open space to dream and think and create.

I want to leave my children a legacy of land and ownership, in addition to my writings, so each generation is not beginning from scratch so that we never make any ground way .  I don’t want to go out the same way I came, unknown, unheralded, without leaving monuments that document that I was here, I had dreams and plans which I implemented that will exist long, long after i have gone, and will contribute to humanity.

The Cock Crows Our Secrets Flier Final

I want it all.  I deserve it all.  I will live my dreams.  I will continue to create and leave a lasting legacy.  I will continue to help heal the world, and expose child abuse, and provide victims and parents with a voice to say no more enough. Our community must talk out, blare out, expose, eradicate and heal.  To this end I have written, The Cock Crows Our Secrets, to begin the dialogue.  I cannot do this without out. So support in all ways you can, spread the word, send contribution to the St Croix Foundation care of Moving Women. Raise the conversation with friends, family and colleagues, and most importantly do not be silent about these crimes that impact the entire community.

I am blessed and grateful and each day I am doing my part.  Join me in happinesses and wealth building to support all our dreams. Support Moving Women’s theatre efforts.

Broken Ankle: Learning From My Immobility

opalcrutchesI began walking because it is healthy, because one needs to keep fit when one gets to a certain age – well any age, because I have had stubborn middle-age excess weight that I have been trying to lose.

I have grown to like walking in the morning before the sun is too high and hot. I enjoy the clearing of my head that walking provides. I have come to enjoy walking by myself, to move at my own pace, to pause when I see a flower or an insect or a view, anything, even a dead frog or iguana that has been run over by a vehicle, to really see and not just look and walk by, but to marvel at life and death and the every day, simple extraordinary sights.

So the morning, when I was feeling lazy and pondering “where am I going in life?” and thinking I should skip the walk, but decide to go anyway, my head like a wasp nest, I took the same path, and not far from the house I slipped and cursed the gravel. Then the pain flew to my head and I saw the blood seeping from my ankle from the gash from the stone. I cursed the stone. I laid there on my back thinking I would just stay for a while then get up.

I looked at the sky as blue and beautiful as every other day and wondered why am I on my back on the road, gravel on my back, my ankle bleeding and hurting.  My left foot and ankle were still twisted. I tried to stand and raw pain was like a snake coursing through my body. Right then and there I decided that I needed help, I wanted someone to pick me up, I was too hurt to pick up myself. I felt the strap of my little pouch in which I had my cell phone, tight around my neck, partially under my back. I tugged, retrieved it and dialed Brian and he was right there.

After an hour at home, ankle swelling more despite ice pack, blood still seeping despite generous dosage of peroxide, I decided it was more than a sprain and I needed to go to the emergency room.

Juan Louis Hospital in St Croix, a wheel chair that could not be adjusted, nurses and doctors from everywhere but St Croix or the greater Caribbean, x-ray, 4 stitches, confirm ankle broken upper and lower fibula, 4 hours later, scheduled to see the orthopaedic surgeon in two days.

Feet according to Louise Hay, represents our understanding of ourselves, of our life, of others. A Broken joint suggests fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life or it could also mean rebelling against authority.

*          *          *          *

I called my mother because I remember that she broke her ankle my first year in college, and since she was the sole breadwinner, and I was a spoilt brat, only working 10 hours a week for pocket money, I was worried about how the mortgage would be paid, who would cook dinner as she still did daily even though she worked, and what it would mean for my life. I was terrified. My mother was doing what she did everyday, coming down the stairs in our home when she slipped, broke her ankle in several places, and had to have pins implanted; she was off work for 3 months.

*          *          *          *

I got crutches, which initially were not adjusted properly, but thanks to YouTube videos they are now properly fitted and I almost feel as if I could run in them like I remembering see a youth in a movie do. But I won’t. I understand metaphysics, and the way the universe gives us messages, gently or harshly – okay I get it, I was juggling too much and needed to pull back and slow it way down. I am prone.

 

The first commercially produced crutch was patented in 1917 by Emile Schlick, but his design was more like a walking stick with upper arm support. Later, A.R. Lofstrand, Jr. developed the first height-adjustable crutches. Thomas Fetterman is credited with inventing the first forearm crutches after his experiences with polio in the 1950s. Modern crutches are designed with the help of orthopedic specialists and have padding for shock absorption and terrain grip.

 

Since I have broken my ankle, the stories I have been told about broken limbs have been endless:

  1. Jumping out of bed because the cat sprang on the bed with a mouse, and she landed too heavily in her bedroom, broken foot.
  2. Watering the garden in her backyard, tripped on the hose.
  3. Coming down from a step ladder in her kitchen, trying to secure china from breaking, slipped, right foot broken. Etcetera…No need to go on.

 

I have pulled back. Days and moments go by and my gaze into the horizon flits away hours. Projects and timelines have been abandoned. I am doing what the universe has instructed. I am laying low.

 

 

 

Writer/Teacher: The Importance of Play

Anyone who knows Winifred “Oyoko” Loving will confirm that she is a happy, inviting person, who loves to laugh.  Hence it comes as no surprise that her second children’s book, My Grandma Loves to Play, 2013, has a jolly, inviting tone. An ideal book for a grandmother to read to her grandchild, it is also a great read for any adult to read to any child, especially as it is about togetherness and having fun.

bio picture from cruise_BwOPA: You are a poet, a children’s writer and a retired teacher. What grades did you teach and for how many years?

WOL: I taught all elementary grades from Kindergarten through 6th grade over a period of 31 years.   In preparation for working with young ones, I received a Masters in Early Childhood Development from Wheelock College in Boston back in 1972.  I am ancient!

OPA: You have written 2 children’s books, most recent, My Grandma Loves to Play. I know you are a grandmother. Was this book inspired by your grandchild?

WOL:  I have three granddaughters who are the inspiration for most of my writings, and for this book in particular.

OPA: In the notes at the back of the book, you say you emphasize play and family time?  Why is the value of both?

WOL: Time spent having fun is more precious than gold to little children.  Many life lessons can be said in a funny, animal voice, making it engaging and non-threatening to communicate with a child.

OPA: The book is beautifully illustrated by Niarus Walker, a local artist and teacher, can you talk about how that collaboration came about?

WOL: I went to an art exhibit here on St. Croix, and Niarus was the featured artist.  I love her work, so it was only natural that I re-introduce myself a year or so later when I needed an illustrator for My Grandma Loves to Play.  Without hesitation she agreed to the job.  Niarus has two, beautiful daughters of her own and I do believe she has images in the book that “vaguely resemble” Keren and Rayna!  Even her puppy is featured in the story line!  I am so grateful that we were able to find time to work together on this book.

OPA: The entire tone of the book is playful, one of patient exploration, and it rhymes.  Was the use of rhyme a deliberate choice?

WOL: Oh, yes.  It is always fun to rhyme with little ones.  If I say hickory, dickory DOCK; the mouse ran up the…(pause)  All the kiddies will (more than likely) yell the word CLOCK!  Of course, if the class is unfamiliar with Mother Goose, I can begin slowly by teaching rhymes and the meaning of rhyming words.  Rhyming poetry is another fun vehicle for learning vocabulary.  Memorizing poems at an early age helps the children gain confidence in other learning areas.  My story offers a look at a Caribbean grandmother and grandchild, which is a change from mainstream rhyming stories.  All my stories, so far, are based in St. Croix, I’m happy to say.  This is my home.

OPA: Was there a particular memory or incident that prompted this book, maybe an unmade bed…?

WOL: My own grandmother, rest her sweet soul, taught us manners, the books of the Bible, how to sing three-part harmony, and our bedtime prayers.  Those lessons instilled so much confidence into my siblings and me that I now find myself  doing the very same things she did!!!  To this day I can sing and recite all 66 books~~both old and new testaments!

OPA: How has your years as a teacher, helped you to capture the right tone that would appeal to children?

WOL: Be prepared.  Be flexible.  Keep it short, keep it sweet, make it fun.  Laugh a lot.  That’s it!

OPA: When can we expect your next children’s book, and are you willing to share what it is about?

WOL: Most definitely, Opal, my next book will be about a boy who is eagerly waiting for an important event.  (I will leavethat for your readers to imagine!)  I would like to publish it in 2016.  I already have Bethany Kennedy~~an awesome illustrator! (Finally,  I have yet another idea looming in my imagination about  a book I began while visiting the Philippines last summer.)  LOL   I am laughing out loud, indeed!

51t3YBKteNL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_ Available @ amazon.com and from author:

oyoko_viayahoo.com