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


Father’s Day, Aboriginal Day & Solstice

June 21st, 2015 is: Father’s Day; National Aboriginal Day; and it’s also the first official day of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. I just checked online and it’s also United Nations International Day of Yoga.

Father’s Day

I am a father and I am not perfect, and neither was my father. Amongst that imperfection in my life, is the perfection of knowing that I love my kids and that my father loves me.  While I do not recall ever hearing my father say he loves me, my kids get annoyed because they think I tell them too often, in both relationships – there is love and (as far as I can tell) it is unconditional.

This year, I am half-way through a three-month absence. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity of completing my MSW with a practicum in St. Lucia and I am also feeling guilty for being away.  I know this time is difficult for my kids and for their mom and I look forward to when we are together again.  I look forward to being a dad who is more in-the-present with my wonderful young children.

I look forward to continuing a tradition of canoeing that started when my own father was young.  As a child, I canoed with my father in Delta Marsh, on lakes, and on a trip down the Assiniboine River. As an adult, I enjoy river tripping and whitewater canoeing. As a father – with my children – I enjoy safer paddles on the Glenmore Reservoir, lakes and slow rivers.

National Aboriginal Day

As written on a Government of Canada webpage, National Aboriginal Day “is a special day to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.” June solstice was chosen for this day because it holds significance to many indigenous cultures within and around Canada’s borders.

While celebration is important, I am also thinking of the 200+ years of oppressive colonialism that is too often ignored by way too many Canadians.  I am thinking of the horrible legacy of residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

There are also issues pertaining to Canada’s ‘Fathers of Confederation‘. While they played important unifying roles for Canada as part of the British Commonwealth and they may have been excellent fathers for their own children, many (maybe all) were sexist racists who established a country that was intended to favour white men (not women and not the people who lived and thrived before European occupation).

Note: I write this with acknowledgement that I am a white male and that I am not merely an innocent  bystander in areas of oppression.

First Day of Summer

I won’t go into this too much, but for us in the northern hemisphere, June 21 is the longest day of the year and it is the first official day of summer. And summer is my favourite Canadian season.

While solstice holds much more significance to cultures and peoples all over the world, right now summer is on my mind.

 International Day of Yoga

I could pretend that I am an enlightened yoga enthusiast but my only experience with yoga is non-spiritual therapeutic yoga for those with back injuries. That experience and the experience of seeing so many lovely people in yoga pants while studying at Phil & Sebastian coffee shop in Marda Loop (sorry folks, I don’t have photos).

Yoga is much more than trendy recreation and here are some resources:


Friends, Confirmation & Love is Love

Eighty-five percent of Lucians are Catholic and and only 5.9% say they have no religion (Sources 1 & 2). The rest are mostly other Christian denominations and a small number are Rastafarian.

I went to a United Church & Sunday School until age eleven and later in my life consciously decided on atheism.  While I always had difficulty believing the stories in both Testaments, the final decision resulted from the homophobia and neoconservatism of the Christian-right in USA and Canada (there’s also matters of evolution and of earth being several billion years older than 6,000 years of age, etc.).

A few weeks ago, we had friends over for dinner and even my non-religious self was enraptured when our friends sang Grace before we ate our meal (Click the box below for a sample of the sound).

I have come to know several community-engaged, accepting, non-judgmental nuns on the island who and have become good friends with one, Sister Anthonia.

When Sister asked if Amanda and I would speak to a group of youth last Sunday, we jumped at the opportunity – I love seeing new places and communities on the island. The youth had anonymously provided questions for us to answer. My questions pertained to parenthood: Why are parents strict? Why do they limit phone use? What are the roles of parents in the lives of their children?

Click for PDF of slides.

Click for PDF of slides.

Sister Anthonia picked us up and then we picked up Sister Elizabeth. We were ready for the hour-plus drive to Laborie with much friendly and informative conversation. Country music was playing on the radio – Sunday’s in St. Lucia are country music days. Every radio station plays country and roadside pubs and restaurants play country – it was everywhere.

We passed the Hewanorra airport  and stopped in a shanty town area where one of the Sisters used to live. She spoke with several people for a while and then drove on to see some sights.

After sightseeing, we went to Sister’s family home where her mom fed us a delicious homemade lunch complete with coconut water (fresh coconut water is nothing like the kind we get in Canada – it is very tasty in St. Lucia).

Afterwards, we headed to the Catholic church in Laborie. We could immediately hear children singing and clapping from the building we were about to enter. When we entered the building some of the young people changed to a song with the line, “Hello Sisters”. For me, it was all very cool and very welcoming.

When I learned then that our presentations were part of Confirmation lessons for this group of young people, I recall thinking of the irony that I was taking part in this process. As a community worker (and as a fellow human), I knew this day was important and that I needed to respect the Church community AND my own values. I also remembered my own Confirmation as a young boy while actively partaking in Scouts in Manitoba circa 1979-ish.

One of the Sisters started off speaking about careers, career development and how she became a Sister. She spoke of a boyfriend when she was younger (before becoming a nun) that brought about some laughter and a series of questions about a nun with a boyfriend. She welcomed all questions even if they were a bit embarrassing for the adult-aged youth leaders in the room.

I learned that nuns and priests take the vow of celibacy so they can better focus on the community. They are not distracted by their own spouses and children and I thought this was commendable – I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

The next Sister spoke about topics like sexuality in relation to the Church. Of course, it was expected that people wait until marriage to have sex but she did mention that God made humans as sexual beings and stated that we all have urges.

When she got to the part about “Homosexuality and the Catholic Church”, I began listening even more intently. This was when she stated that God makes some people homosexual and that all people should be loved. She paraphrased Pope Francis when stating that homosexual people should not be discriminated against and that they should be accepted as members of the Church community (On homosexuality, the Pope once asked, “Who am I to judge?“).

In my outsider’s view of the Church and its stance on non-procreative-sex, it appears that sexual acts between same-sex couples are no greater a sin than those of heterosexual couples engaging in sex outside of marriage.

While I do not subscribe to specifically religious values of right and wrong, I was enlightened (and impressed) with the progressive stance taken by the Catholic Church on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. On the way home, I even heard the Sister speak the phrase, “love is love” while conversing in the seats behind me.

Once home, I listened to a Blur song from years before “love is love” became used as phrase to defend LGBTQ* rights.


  1. Before (and quite likely now), neither Sister knew of my non-religious self – it never came up in conversation.
  2. If you are wondering what LGBTQ* means, here are a few resources:

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to my wife.  We married at a time when fun, experience and motivation were huge. Life and joy seemed effortless. We traveled to amazing countries for experiences that will continue to shape our futures.   I was self-employed and building my business, you became self-employed and grew into an accomplished and wonderfully talented photographer.  We had a beautiful daughter and then a most wondrous son.

Life became painful.  You stood by when it must have been immensely difficult.

I went to school in a rather massive career shift.  And now I am away for the first Mother’s Day since our children were born.  Thank you for allowing this important experience as I finish school.  I so look forward to being with you and the kids when you’re here and when I’m home later this summer.

I look forward to meaningful work – for me, and also so you can take a well-deserved a break.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom.  You worked hard to raise us. Instead of trying to control me, you let me learn from my mistakes (and I made some doosies) and I am forever grateful.  And our kids love visiting with you – you’re knitting and sewing abilities and more importantly, your laughter, are magical to them.

Happy Mother’s Day to the step-moms. Our kids are so lucky to have you in their lives and I’m pleased that they call you ‘Grandma’.

And to my mother-in-law, you were one of the most accepting people I’ve met.  You accepted a vegan into your cattle-ranching family and you cooked amazing meals that included my way-of-life.  We think of you all the time in our family and I’m so happy you were there to teach our daughter her first set of animal sounds.  Our daughter also happily proclaims that you taught her how to bake cookies (before she was even two-years-old).