July 2015

The Rains Came

After a long period of relative drought, it rained today in St. Lucia. And let me tell ya’ gassa, it rained seereeously.

The bus came OECS bus came early to take us to the public buses because it had rained all day and there were reports of flooding.  When we got in to downtown Castries, the streets the ditches/storm sewers were flooded, the streets were flooded and shopkeepers were either watching the water nervously or they were pushing the water back from their doorways to avoid indoor flooding.  We drove though water that was up past the wheel wells – steam coming off of hot brake pads and engines as the vehicles went deeper.

An article in the St. Lucia Times read:

“Persistent heavy rainfall over Saint Lucia over the past few hours has raised the possibility of flooding and landslides in parts of the island prone to those hazards, the Saint Lucia Meteorological Services has said.”

On the way home to Rodney Bay, the ride was fairly smooth but visibility was way down and emergency vehicles were barreling down the middle of the two-lane highway. Traffic going toward Castries was backed up forever – must have been a large accident.

I used the umbrella family brought when they visited for the first time and I was still soaking wet upon reaching home.

I think this is just ‘rainy season’ weather but I could be wrong. Climate change is real in the Caribbean and the effects create strange weather: Christmas Eve flooding wreaked havoc in 2013, recent drought conditions, wild fires and difficulties for subsistence farmers.

Excerpt from St. Lucia Times on a 2015 Climate Change Initiative:
“Climate Justice also recognises that it is the poorest and weakest in society, that are and will be the most vulnerable to climate change and its impacts on agriculture, fisheries, settlements and infrastructure.”



In a May blog post, I mentioned Patois – also known here as Creole or Kwéyòl (click here for a PDF Kwéyòl to English dictionary) – and then in June I wrote about being called “white boy“.

A couple weeks ago, we were facilitating a train-the-trainer meeting on the pilot program we ran in a secondary school focused on preventing sexual exploitation. Skits were used in the pilot and we were pleased to hear a skit written locally for the program.  That was when I first noticed hearing people being referred to as ‘gassa’.  Turns out ‘gassa’ is from the Kwéyòl word ‘gason’ which comes from the French word ‘Garçon’ which means ‘boy’ in English. 

Today I noticed men calling each other ‘gassa’ during conversation and that’s when it hit me – being called ‘boy’ isn’t necessarily derogatory in St. Lucia. This of course got me thinking about being called ‘white boy’ on Jeremie Street in Castries.

Earlier in my three-month St. Lucian life, I came across this video and didn’t understand much of it – now I get it. But jeesh, I will never get used to the extended hissing kiss sound.  Men should never do that to women – like never.

I’ll end this post now with a song that is currently popular here about ‘wining’ and ‘ducking’.

Bonnapwémidi gassa!


Bad day. Okay, not really bad.

I want a job.

I have six working days left in my practicum with the OECS and had what I call a, “low mental health day”.  Not a day of depression or anxiety, just a day of blah, low productivity, unsociable, quiet, slightly clumsy, contemplative…crap.  Like I said, not depressed – I’ve been depressed and it’s not that. I’m glad these days come along with increasing rarity.

Reduit Beach

Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

When I got home, I ate and then went for a long quiet contemplative swim and then sat on the sand of what has become my favourite beach. I watched the sun go down and then I watched the horizon as slightly blurred outlines of people went about doing their own activities (blurred because I didn’t take my glasses to the beach).

On the way home and right now, I am listening to a mixture of old-school punk music on my smartphone. Lot’s of Iggy Pop, Iggy and the Stooges, New York Dolls, The Clash, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Fugazi, Dead Milkmen, Dead Kennedys…That kind of music – a little angry and a little raucous, sometimes humourous and sometimes political.

I just spent two years working on a Master of Social Work and am having a heck of a time finding a job. I feel like it would be easier finding work in St. Lucia or the Caribbean side of South America than it is finding work in Canada. I would like to stay here but will not put my family through another extended absence.  I miss them and they miss me.  So regardless of where I find work, it has to be a family decision. And it’s a serious family decision because my partner has worked hard to build her photography business (Visual Hues Photography) and living elsewhere for an extended period of time is a big decision – it’s tricky. Oh and we love our neighbourhood – even wrote about it on July 1st.

There are exciting opportunities in Calgary and I have applied for very appealing positions in Edmonton and in Victoria – we’ve talked before about moving to Victoria and I’m pretty sure we can make Edmonton work.  And there is one opportunity that I would love in Canmore – great place to live too I am certain.

It is not easy finding work in a country where you are not currently living and after running my own consulting business in a different industry for fifteen years – it’s been a long time since I even wanted to be an an employee of an entity that I did not create.

And I do want a job, I want a career where I am in a leadership role of a social services nonprofit, government or educational institution.  I want to combine an executive level position with one that interacts with the public, with clients, with staff and with volunteers. I want to contribute research to a body of knowledge and I want to use evidence to create, critique and utilize policy for a more socially just society.

I did this video for school about seven months ago and it still holds – I am determined (the photo in the background was taken by Janet in Nepal).

And then there is my long work and volunteer history. Check it out and send me any referrals and tips okay? Seriously, I’d appreciate it.

my LinkedIn profile

Now it is very dark and I can hear the sound of the Caribbean’s creatures – I love it. And the sound of far away music combined with the muffled sounds of dogs barking – it’s not such a party night tonight.

Since I’m leaving soon, I had better start looking for a Camaro to drive back to Canada (it’s a segue).


Family in St. Lucia

After hiring John and his taxi, we drove to Hewanorra to meet Janet and kids at the airport. John was a friendly man that Amanda (the housemate) and I had come to know from walking through Rodney Bay on our way home most days from the bus.

John insisted on leaving early and there was no good reason for me to disagree so we traveled leisurely on the airport while listening to Christian reggae.  He asked if I liked music and I replied, “Who doesn’t like music?” and then we fist-bumped.

Somewhere during the last two months, he had figured out that I didn’t drink alcohol and may have been surprised that I liked music. It’s likely for the best that he didn’t ask for my thoughts on Christian music – his musical choices were fine by the way (just not what I would have chosen).

When John and I approached a vehicle stopped on the narrow highway, we stopped and John asked if they were okay.  Help was on the way but a couple needed a ride to the airport and would be late.  The couple got in the vehicle the pace of our drive went much more quickly.

We had over an hour to kill before my family’s plane would arrive, so John took me to Thunder Beach and then we had lunch along the road near the airport – I’m guessing it’s a common stop where taxi drivers and locals meet for food and drink.

airport plane-takingoff

We saw the plane as it stopped at the airport and time started crawling. I knew they were there and I just wanted that big amazing hug (after two-months absence).

The next day, everyone woke up early. The kids were in the pool (the pool is shared with other tenants of our 3-month home) within minutes and then we went to the beach and back to the pool. They visited for two weeks and I managed to get five days off work (plus weekends) so we fit a lot into the visit: walk to marina; bus to Gros Islet and walk to and up Pigeon Point; lots of ice-cream and lots of beach; zip-lining in Babonneau; Gros Piton climb; Sufriere; sulfur springs volcano; botanical gardens; impromptu carving lessons; and more.

We also went to junior carnival, had friends over for dinner and the kids met their own friends.  Friends at the hotel, friends at the apartment, friends on the beach and friends at Holy Family Children’s Home.

 And then they left.

John drove us back to the airport on July 16.  I sat between the kids for the long ride and I knew I would again miss the family. We held back tears at the airport. Knowing we’d see each other again in two-and-a-half weeks, the tears did not flow as heavily as when I left Calgary two-and-a-half months ago. We hugged, said our good-byes and I watched them enter into security.

My awesome travelling companions! goodbye #stlucia #westjet. A photo posted by Kids Photography Academy (@kidsphotographyacademy) on


Happy Canada Day

A few days ago I wrote about my ambivalence for national pride. Mostly, that post was about the flag as a symbol representing systemic racism.

Today, I will share some of the things I love about Canada.

My nieghbourhood in Calgary, Canada is truly wonderful. It is family oriented and we do know and care for one another.  And every July 1, the street is closed for a morning to late-evening block party. I am missing it this year because I am currently 2-months into a 3-month attachment with OECS in beautiful St. Lucia.

Our community (and specifically our street) has been featured nationally in Canada. One of our neighbours were interviewed by the Globe and Mail in 2011 – and although our street is mostly white, heteronormative and middle-to-upper-middle class – I am pleased that Chantel Elliot was able to speak to the diversity that does exist all-the-while discussing its lovely community spirit.

Another neighbour, author Will Ferguson, wrote about our street for CBC and  participated in the ‘hyperlocal’ project for the National Film Board. In that CBC article, Will wrote about our nieghbourhood:

“When I sit on my porch and look down my street, I see veranda after veranda lined up. Close together but not too close.  Kids coming and going. Neighbors chatting to neighbors.

We also often do things with our neighbours: events in Calgary; theatre; camping; hiking in the Rocky Mountains; etc.

Although inequality is growing in Canada, it is still more equal than many of the globe’s wealthy countries and that means Canadians have a better chance of living the ‘American Dream’ than those living in the United States (it says so in the New York Times and in the Globe and Mail).

Other big reasons I like Canada include:

  1.  High quality education (hdr.undp.org)
  2. Nationalized healthcare (thank you Tommy Douglas)
  3. Legalized homosexuality in 1969 (Smith, 2005)
  4. Legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 (Wintemute, 2004)
  5. History of Peacekeeping – at least until recently (UN.org)
  6. History of a strong social safety net (wikipedia.org)
  7. Rocky Mountains and its rivers (UNESCO)
  8. The Prairies where I lived the first half of my life (gov.mb.ca)
  9. Official languages of English and French – wish I could speak them both and that indigenous languages were also ‘official’ (officiallanguages.gc.ca)
  10. Multiculturalism – it’s not perfect but I do love diversity (cic.gc.ca)
  11. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – especially radio and online news (CBC.ca)

So yes, Canada is a cool country and I am happy to be Canadian. I also recognize that I have privilege as a white male Canadian. And while the situation is improving, too few Canadians are aware of the racism that created (and continues in) Canada.  We have a lot of progress to make and the sooner the better.

Happy Canada Day!