On the other side of Covid-19 …

I always try to look at the positive side of life.  It just makes more sense.  And as such, even though Covid has brought many many downsides, I am still standing firm that there has be a bright light at the end of this very long tunnel.  We’ve witnessed many many good things though – with amazing people stepping up and helping within societies and communities, families coming together for the common good – in some instances for the very first time.

I acknowledge that we’ve all lost – family, friends, livelihoods, time with family and friends, education …. and the list goes on and on… but I can’t help believing that there has to be a damn good reason for our pain.

There must be a lesson that we need to learn – that I need to learn.  Otherwise, this dark era will be for nought.

We’ve learned that family and friends are more than just important – they are critical to our well-being.  We’ve learned that our materialistic way of life is worth little at the end of the day.  We’ve learned that we are all in this thing called life, together.  That for one of us to survive, we all need to survive.  That we are social beings who struggle without human contact and interaction.  That as much as technology has got us through this to a large extent, it is not to be revered.  That to get through this our faith is also an important factor.

And none of this is new.  We’ve been given a chance to step back, take a second look at where we were heading, where we truly want to be going, and press that reset button.

Stop.  Don’t yell at me.  I know there are people suffering.  I too am suffering.

But I honestly believe that amidst all of this, if we can just spare one moment, we will all realise that we have a tremendous amount to be grateful for, and that to move forward on a more sustainable path, we need to make some changes.  That coming through that Covid tunnel not only depends on a serious vaccination programme, but on an internal rejuvenation process that each of us must take.

What has the past year and a half taught you.   What have you done without, that you realise is of little significance to your happiness? What blessings have kept you going?

Nurture those things that you realise are important. And get rid of those things that are merely superficial.

We are a village.   A village that is not as large as you believe it to be.  We can do simple things to help the village grow and prosper. Each one of us is a critical spoke in the wheel.

I’ve noticed that within my small circle of family and friends, simple things have kept us together – the sharing of our time – a simple telephone call to check in – sharing our overabundance of fruit, a new recipe, an extra loaf of homemade bread, a not so funny joke.  We have bonded in a way that we may not have if life had remained on its fast-paced track. And I am sure you have too.

As much as I favour the positive side of life, I worry though that this simple life will not last long.  When the world is once again available in all its glory, will I be strong enough to continue to focus on quality vs quantity.  Will I be humble enough to nurture a simple life?

Serenity abounds

Good Friday Paria Challenge

Even before we were lucky enough to lease and now own Manixia, our home away from home, my family and I, and close friends have been hiking to Paria Bay (click here for my blog The Paria Trail), a secluded beach along the North Coast of Trinidad, on Good Friday. It was a simple gesture for our kids to do something challenging in commemoration of the significance of Good Friday itself.

Needless to say, this gesture, some 25 years in the making, has become a tradition. And has come to include many friends and friends of friends – anyone willing to join in the challenge of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Trinidad and Tobago – (we can discuss this point at another time). It has become a day of sharing, a day of camaraderie, a day to relax and maybe reflect, but certainly a day when like-minded outdoor enthusiasts get together for a good time.

Then 2020 happened.

And then 2021, when a small light at the end of the tunnel lit a spark, albeit a small spark, and the Good Friday hike was on again. This time with a difference. And as if we needed to inject any amount of enthusiasm, my husband decided that the hike should include a mental challenge as well. These challenges took the form of simple questions related to the location, the environment and of course Good Friday.

Not surprisingly, the participation was infectious, the enthusiasm at its highest, and the day a splendid one.

Thanks to all for being there.

Touring Tobago… the unconventional way.

It sounded like a cool vacation-type day, exploring the coastline, dreamily driving through the quaint villages, stopping to take some pics, experimenting with the local cuisine, and finally dipping your toes in the ocean, relaxing on some secluded beach sipping on your favourite beverage.  Life in the tropics.

That’s one way to tour Tobago – Trinidad’s charming sister isle.  But I met a bunch of determined, strong-minded, never-give-up, leave-no-man-behind kind of tourists, who took Tobago by storm – on their bikes.  Oh, and I am quite sure there must have been some level of ‘crazy’ in them as well – but that’s another story.

Before the sun could rise, vital supplies were packed, bikes prepped, minds set and off we went.  And by ‘we’ I mean, me donned with my camera in a vehicle, and the rest of the group on their bikes (just to be clear). What initially seemed like a cool, slow, leisurely ride around the island quickly turned into a gruelling test of will, strength, preparedness and sheer gut.  They pumped their way up and down, up and down some of the steepest hills, with sharp hairpin corners, in the hot midday sun.  Stopping only to refuel, regroup and start all over again.  Their minds set on the finish line and the oh so rewarding moment when you realise that you have just completed a 102km ride, climbing 2,700m, some sections with a gradient of 15-18%, 5-7 hours of riding your heart out.

I learned a lot on this tour.  I learned that your mind is probably your most powerful tool.  I learned that your body can endure far more than you give it credit for.  And quite unexpectedly, I also learned a few choice words to add to my ever-expanding vocabulary.

Who won? They all won.  If nothing else, they won my complete admiration.

The day did end with the ‘sipping on your favourite beverage’ part, near to a body of water. Not to mention the telling and re-telling of the many personal stories of the day.  There was laughter, camaraderie, relief and most of all a great sense of accomplishment.

You people are all my heroes.

(I’ve included a short video for those wishing to see the heroes of the day)

the NEW friday…

Fridays have always been a much-treasured day for me.  A day when years ago I would rush home from work, gather up the kids and head to a dear friend’s home, so that the kids could play with their friends and I would have someone to share the week’s ups and downs with – with a ‘drink in hand’ of course.

Then it became the Friday B-B-que night – where I’d prepare all the food, sit back and watch my boys ‘do the B-B-que’ – with a ‘drink in hand’ needless to say.

As the years passed, and work responsibilities increased, not to mention the kids became teenagers, Wednesday became the new Friday – if only because the ‘drinks in hand’ scenario needed to start a bit earlier in the week.

I won’t even go through the Covid times when every day rolled into one and Friday was whichever day you wanted it to be – signalled by the ‘drink in hand’, of course.

With nowhere to be and lots of time to get there however, my Fridays have taken on a new meaning – it’s the wherever I want to be day and I’m loving it.

The Paria trail…

Over the past few years that I’ve had the privilege of occupying a modest space on our north coast, I’ve witnessed hundreds of hikers brave the Paria trail.  It’s not a hike for the faint hearted.  It has its fair share of hills which meander gently down to small creeks.  Views of the coast tease you from time to time.  And the cool breezes that waft through the forest beckon you on to your destination.

It is challenging and well worth the effort.  And over the years that my husband and I have trekked the trail for our early morning exercise, I’ve always threatened to take my camera with me.  To stop from time to time to truly enjoy the views, the flora, the breezes, the birds awakening, the butterflies flitting.

Now that I have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there….. Guess what…. My camera came for the hike.

Hiking the virgin forest …

Early morning wake-up call, an hour’s drive to the start of our adventure, wide open paths (for the most part anyway), scrambling up muddy slopes on hands, tummies and knees, cool breezes, breath-taking hilltop views, ocean-scapes – nature at its best.

A lovely morning spent with like-minded crazies.  And we would do it all again with nowhere to be and lots of time to get there.

@Pigeon’s Peak, Tobago

Just look around….

With eyes that look for the beauty that surrounds, everything is picture perfect.

My camera has been smiling a lot lately. I recently shared with another photographer friend that I had simply lost my photo-mojo.  Work life balance was challenging.  I was going nowhere that was picture worthy.  My life was one big world wind of work and more work.  He was horrified and fearful that I was spiralling into a depression of some sort.  I had absolutely no desire to think of F-stop, Aperture, ISO – this was becoming so foreign to me.

But today – my camera (my mobile for the moment anyway) and I are once again joined by the hip.  Well let’s just say that the dust is clearing, and we’re rebuilding that special relationship.  There’s that quaint house, the mountains, that view that all make is so easy to snap.

And the beauty of the world is once again high on my radar.

Always give thanks…

We all take this time of year to reflect. Reflect on what we have done, could have done, should have done. What we will do differently in the New Year to achieve different results – to become the person we always wanted to be and make promises to be better in every way in the New Year. This Year will be the best year of our lives.

I’ve stopped doing that – quite some time ago. I’ve learned that making New Year’s resolutions are filled with drunken hopes of ideals that, for the most part, never happen. Filled with wishes that never come true. Filled with high expectations that I can never live up to.

Now, I simply thank God. Thank Him for my blessings. And I have very many. I thank Him for my husband of thirty-something years who still manages to surprise and delight me in the simplest of ways, my children who continue to burst my heart with pride, my daughters-in-law who share my passion for life, and now my grandson, who has opened my heart to a different kind of love and adoration that I never knew existed.

I thank Him for my siblings who always have my back, no matter what. I thank him for my friends who always show up, without expectations. I thank Him for my health, my passion to carry on, my love of life.

And with this gratitude I embrace the New Year knowing that I can and will survive, endure, enjoy whatever life has to offer.

May your New Year be filled with an abundance of blessings.

I’m on my way …

And so the journey begins… One flight down, 3 more to go, to meet my grandson.

You must be dying to hug him and kiss him. How can you be so calm? How come you’ve waited so long. Why didn’t you go for his birth?

You see my two eldest sons now live in a land far far away from our home. I often joke that they couldn’t have run further away from me if they wanted. But it is what it is, and as a family we try not to make the distance an issue. And to a large extent, we’ve succeeded. At this point in time though, the distance has created a huge hole in my heart. And with each flight today, the hole will close bit by bit.

Until then, I will read, watch movies, sleep, eat, toss and turn. All the while wondering how it will feel to touch his little toes, to hold his little hand, to caress his little face, to hug him, kiss him and let him know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that his Grandma loves him to the moon and back.

Tippy Top of the mountain…

I remember exploring Australia (https://wordpress.com/post/manixia.com/282) with my family some years ago. Such a beautiful country. Amazing sunrises, peaceful sunsets. Scenic drives, expansive beaches, challenging hikes. Nature at its best. While sitting at our campsite one day, an Aussie ambled over to chat and exchange experiences. And one of his sentences has stayed with me since that chance meeting – just remember to look for the beauty in your own back yard.

At the ‘tippy top of Paramin’ this morning (as our passionate guide described), I experienced just that – the beauty in my own back yard. Just 10 minute’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Port of Spain, the expanse lush mountains and the quiet scenic views of Paramin greet you with open arms. Inhabited by a community ‘where everybody knows your name’, you are taunted by the smell of fresh seasonings telling tales of the local livelihood, the gentle smells of breakfast wafting from the simple homes, the welcoming smiles of those who know and cherish the beauty that surrounds.

And you thank the ‘tippy top of the mountain’ for welcoming you so gratiously.