A teacher’s tears 2016

November 4, 2016

At the cafe today I walked outside to take a breath and there they were – two women sitting chatting and in between them a boy was sitting. He was around three or four years old. A beautiful children’s book was propped up in front of him. I could see the bright colors AND THEN I REALIZED MY WORSE FEAR – the book was propped up NOT FOR HIM TO READ but for the cell phone to lean. He was sitting there staring at a cell phone. WHAT A LESSON.

YESTERDAY I WAS ANGRY AND SAD. I ALSO FELT A LITTLE SHAME. I NO LONGER WANT TO TEACH.

My focus; the thing that turned me on; the thing that got me excited to meet my students was the fact that we were going to spend time exploring contemporary literature. It has been 15 years at this city college and over time the school and the students pay less and less time to the importance of books. The school is pushing them faster through the system and sending the message that the only important reading is non-fiction. The students come to me from high school and many don’t give a damn about books. They report never being turned on to one; if one not to two. IT IS TIME FOR ME TO MOVE ON. I DON’T KNOW WHY I AM SAD; I DON’T KNOW WHY IT UPSETS ME. AT 57 MY TIME HAS PASSED. STUDENTS TODAY WANT EVERYTHING ELSE BUT NOT BOOKS. I am challenged daily with cell phones; they are the competition. That is the world today. I have to let go because my expectations are now old fashioned. Reading no longer has the same meaning. And, hard books are no longer the thing. And, what I thought of as interesting content is no longer what this school is pushing. Retirement is my future and the time is theirs; it no longer has anything to do with me. It surprises me that I am sad.

A Beautiful Human Gave me Hope Today

July 24, 2016

A Beautiful Human Gave me Hope Today
I am in Starbucks in Goleta; a couple is at my usual table. I am a bit unhappy but not totally because another table is available but it is not near a sunny window. As I stand in line, I look over twice, three times. Okay, they are not moving. I accept, purchase my tea and get to work. Now, this couple I know from frequent visits. They are not tall; she is a bit tubby; she is a busy body; she collects all the newspapers and sits for hours collecting ads. He, on the other hand, is slim tanned cute and very quiet. He is always serious and sits plugged into his cell phone. At times she speaks, he listens. They are a well oiled machine. The years of togetherness speak in every movement. Knowing this, I resign myself to the fact that they are going nowhere soon. I reach for my student papers; I dig in, head down, focus on reading and writing.

 
In between each paper, I look up, look out and remember Donald Trump and the sad knowledge of what bubbles in the minds of many “Americans.”

 
Suddenly, I hear a quiet voice with a smile shaping the words “Hi, would you like the table; I always see you here and I know it’s your favorite table.” In absolute surprise, I look up and see that man, the quiet one, the one with his head down who I always assumed noticed no one, he is right there in my face smiling and continuing with “my wife and I like to sit there too, and I saw you look over.” I am in love for a moment. I gush “thanks.” I rush into “so nice of you, really so very nice for you to think of me.” What I really want to do is hug him and tell him that I am so happy that someone reminds me that lots of us are so human, so beautiful. “Thanks you” is just not enough. But “thank you.”

Mornings

April 15, 2016
     I drive there every morning.
Santa Barbara City College sits on a cliff overlooking the beach and staring at the Pacific Ocean.
     I make a right into the curving driveway, pass the brown tube like booth at the entrance, the yellow bar rises as I pass on to the campus. I shift in my seat, unloose my safety belt and check my lips in the rear view mirror of my red Honda CRV.
     Am I ready for the day? I smile. I look forward to Alex, Yacoob and Maha. They always arrive early. Alex is interesting. He’s Bulgarian, tall and lean and eager to learn English. Yacoob and Maha are husband and wife. They are a 50ish year old couple. Yacoob was a teacher of mathematics back in Syria and Maha a teacher of economics. I think of them as my mind anticipates my morning. I expect it will be the usual.
     I follow the black tar road and it curves to the east. The cream walls and black framed windows of the Administration building slide by on the left and a green jacket moving behind a tree catches my eye. Juan, the regular landscape worker is on the lawn clipping and chipping away at the grass. I let my left hand uncurl from its grip on the car frame and I wave and smile. In another second, I slow down for a road bump as I push on the accelerator to ride toward my office I look to the right and my eyes are captured by the view. It never grows old.
     The blue rises in the distance and strings of white clouds decorate the sky. At the bottom of the canvas are the white frilly waves. As I let my eyes move down and back up, I sigh with the comfort of familiarity.
     I drive slowly to the end of the car park, pull the car into a spot facing the ocean and I stop, breathe, check my watch and step out of the car. I turn my back on the ocean and make my way up the white concrete slope to my classroom. As I reach the long low lying cream building to the left, I walk toward room CC #226 and push open the black steel door and enter. I stop for a minute, adjust my bag and say “Good morning Alex, you are here early as usual.” Alex does not turn or raise his head from the book. “Hello Ms. Bacchus, I’m trying to finish the reading.” I laugh. Students are always trying to catch up.
     I open the cabinet, get out my books, my black erase pens and walk over to the right side of the classroom and punch the button on the computer. A green light, a vibration and a slow glow slowly expands on the screen, eventually light and one by one icons pop at the bottom. I grab a black erase pen turn completely around and write out the agenda for the day. As I proceed to the desk I hear the hinge of the door give a little squeak and I know it is Cole. He bounces in .. white headphones stuck into his ears, huge grin on his smooth baby face and “Hi Ms. B, what’s doin’ … had a great weekend.” He drags out his chair at the end of the back row and drops into it. His desk bumps the one in front, it rocks forward. My gaze sweeps over the twelve six feet grey desks sitting in straight rows. I groan when my eyes hit the well trodden blackish greyish rug dying on the floor.  And, then I look up and laugh as Cole rocks back to cock his feet on the desk.
     As I curse the dean and recall the many complaints emailed, I hear the chatter of voices in the open air of the door. I turn; I smile. Like sunshine young faces brighten my day.

The Pedicure

April 5, 2016

I live alone now.  2006 I lost her to lung cancer.  I am now officially an orphan.  She was my family; she was my best friend.  When I think “family intimacy,” scenes with my mother flash in my memory.

My mother lived in Berkeley.  I took the job in Santa Barbara because I loved the sun and because, most of all, I could spend time with my best friend.  My mother and I had a lot in common, but we had very different personalities.  I can recall one time that I laughed so loud, my colleague came out of her office and I told her the story.  I wrote poems; my mother did not.  I bought blank cards; my mother searched for the card with the best saying.

One day, I sent my mother one of my poems; I sent it in an email.  Very quickly, I heard the ping of a returned email.  I clicked on it and read “Denise, I actually like this one.  Girl, how did you make it into my womb.”  I howled; first I was absolutely surprised that she liked it.  And, “how did you get into my womb” coming from my very straight laced mummy, the woman who doesn’t even say “damn.”  That jerked a laugh out of me.

If I close my eyes I can see that warm smile start and then a kind of soft grin appear, her eyes have a tiny shine, her arms are down as she holds one palm in the other as she stands back from the open door waiting for me to enter. I knew what she was waiting for.

My phone call from the halfway stop had started my anticipation.  I kept laughing on the drive because I loved my mother’s way of getting me to visit.

She’d call; we chatted every night.  She’d say “Denise, I think it’s time; I’m looking at my toes right now.  I think they need you.”  I’d laugh out loud.  “Mummy I think you’ve become addicted to pedicures.”

My mother had to learn to hug.  Long story short, the British cultural straight jacket combined with other trauma made mummy a little stiff.  I knew she loved me because of all the ways she spoiled me.  A couple times I threatened her.  “Mummy if you don’t hug me I am going to shrivel and die.”  I’d put my arms around and say.  “You better squeeze me woman.”  The first time, she hesitated then over time it became our way.  Through the laughter she knew I was serious.  I loved touching my mother.  I needed to hug her.  It took time for me to realize that it mattered to her too.

After the five-hour drive, I’d walked through the door and into her arms.  “Hug me woman.”  We laughed.  By nighttime, we’d made a stop in China town to buy our favorite fish.  By 7 p.m., she was in her favorite green armchair; I was on a stool between her legs; water was on to warm for her toes and I was working on her fingernails.  We sat in the warm kitchen; “Law and Order” was on the TV; it was our favorite television show.  We discussed and argued like lawyers.  Holding mummy’s soft hands, shaping and shinning her nails, soaking and scrubbing her feet; these things anchored me in love.  Massaging her legs, feeling the tension leave, hearing her sigh, and seeing my mother smile, these strokes entered directly into our hearts.

Now that she is gone, these things keep me alive.

Grand dad

April 5, 2016

My grandfather was dead when I was born in 1959, but he left a trail of memories.  And, from those memories came stories that suggested that he had badly damaged the man I loved.  His way of being had started a catastrophic avalanche of mental illness in the family.   At least, that was my impression for years.

At the age of seven my dad’s depression had entered our relationship.  I felt a childish desperation in my need to make him happy.  There was some point where our handholding went from careless familiarity to gripping desperation.

I knew he had lost the fight when my mother left.  I learned later that she had found an axe hidden in the bedroom closet.  On the day we moved, I remember vividly seeing his face at the window.  One part of me wanted to stay with him; the other was frightened and wanted to run. His depression led to many accidents; one of them made him a quadriplegic.  I watched as he died.

I stumbled through my teens battering myself with bad choices.  As my critical abilities grew, the childhood whispers grew to conversations; I learned about my grandfather.  I heard stories of strict parental behavior that bordered on abuse.  It seemed he ruled wife and children with an iron fist.  The stories helped me understand the series of events that led to the shrunken skeleton of my father propped up in the coffin.

One story stuck in my head.  My father loved motorcycles.  One day, he took my cousin Audrey for a ride to visit his parents.  My grandfather rejected her blackness and my father confronted his racism.  I became aware of the complicated and confused identity issues in my family.  My grandfather had objected to my father’s choice of wife for her color, and, for that, they were married without his blessing and attendance.

In the late 90s, I decided to learn about my family history.  In an interview with my cousin, I learned that my grandmother had been institutionalized for twelve years.  But, what stunned me is that my grandfather had her meals privately made and delivered daily.  As much as I wanted to hold on to my grotesque opinion of him this information caused something to shift.

Coming on the heels of this information, I learned that on trips to New York with his wife he never left her side.  My aunt said that he gave her money to buy whatever she wanted.  By this time, of course, after more than one of my own complicated love affairs, I had become conscious of the nuances of love.  I sat back to reflect on my own visceral dislike of the man.  And, I continued to explore the family tree.

One year, on my way to Barbados my cousin asked me to visit the archives to look for my grandmother’s birth certificate.  Online, I found a copy of my father and my grandfather’s signatures on a ship from England to New York.  A long trip suggested more than a troubled relationship.  But the shocker was a copy of a certificate that showed that my Muslim grandfather, on a trip with my grandmother, had been baptized so that he could marry my her in a Christian ceremony.

I had to readjust.  I had to open my mind to his realities. The British had practiced divisive policies that pitted blacks against Indians.  He had used his ancestry as an indentured servant to start and successfully manage his own business.  He lost one Indian wife and child in his early years; he had supported all of his children and given them an education that took them into the best jobs.

This was a strong man who, once committed to my grandmother, stayed with her for better or for worse.  He loved her.  And, his love for my father, motivated his need to push him toward what he thought would make him succeed.  This I grew to accept.

The Falls

April 5, 2016

I didn’t know if I could do it.  My heart hammered my ribs.  Pee burned the drop space between my bladder and the seat.  “Denise you can do it.”   Right on its heals, in between the thuds, “Oh God, I can’t wet myself.”   I turned lizard cold.  I squeezed my legs together. “Did I really want to pee?  Was it fear or excitement.”

The white hard plastic seat bumped against the barely covered bones of my ass as gusts of wind bounced the liquid in my bladder. The dry powder smell of the rice grain bags mixed with the musky sweetish sweat of the workers curled up my nostrils.   I needed distraction.

The China blue sky tickled the corner of my eye and drew them both out of the glass bubbled window.  For a time, my gaze drifted between the cotton wool layer of clouds as they drifted above the heads of broccoli like trees and the rivers winding like silver slug trails.

Suddenly, the pilot’s “Ha, we made it” and I tilted forward.  Bits of food inside my stomach levitated slightly as he took the plane into a slow descent.  Looking out, I saw a little brown streak of dirt widen into a road.   After ten minutes, our wheels bumped.  I climbed out and immediately ran for slats of wood with the word “TOILET” written in red paint.  I grabbed the door while unbuttoning my pants, sat down and sighed as I heard the splash down and then trickle.  Relief made me smile; a little breathing and a rumble rushed my eardrums.  My fingers shook as I tried to slip in the buttons.

I rushed onto the brown dirt road; the open aired, wet breeze slipped up my nose and the sun rays licked and licked.  I looked up at the emerald green trees, at their majestic brown veined trunks.  Amazed, I could hear the roar of water.  Pounding.  Pounding.   After five minutes of walking, mist turned the air into a silver gray blind.  I walked faster; the ground shook.   Slowly, it all parted to reveal a gaping chasm with a sheer wall of white froth mixed with tea red water.  Slices of yellow sun bounced as the foaming water fell straight down before crashing into rocks.  I held the rail hard as I peeked over the edge, resisting the suicide tug of gravity, to see the water hit and rise high in a shower of gems.

Kaieteur Falls, “the world’s widest single drop waterfall.  I had arrived.  My heart slowed.  Peace surrounded the roar.  I dragged my hand along the rail and walked to the edge of the river that fed the falls.  Years of running through the steamy jungle turned the water coca red.  I let my toes sip at the cool wet and I stopped.  A sawed off tree stump sat in the shallow pool.  I sat down.   Up close, the leaves on one side were crayon green, banana yellow, and dirt brown.  The breezes rustled through them creating a sleepy lullaby.  Rocked by these sounds, my eye lids drooped.   I shook my head.  I could not let go of this beauty.

Reality Strikes

April 5, 2016

My heart sank.  A silent cold filled my chest.  I stopped breathing as it became clear that the purple blue smudge on David’s neck was a love bite.  I let my breath out slowly, I was not going to mention it; I hated conflict and fear of losing David sat quietly in my heart.

I’d met him in my first year of college.  Laughter rang out and my eyes turned to the sound, and, leaning against the silver glitter of a bike stand, was a cute brown skinned young man.  There was a slight dent in his cheek and the sun skipped off white and unusually straight teeth.  He had that twinkle in the eyes; I smiled. I wanted to be included in the warmth.

I turned to my friend Maxine. “Hey, Max, do you know him?”  “Yes,” she said, “but Denise I think he’s sleeping with a guy.  I’ve seen him with Tim and you know Tim!”  I knew Tim yes, but looking at David I decided he couldn’t be gay.

A few months later, David and I were an item.  I made it happen.  Like many college students, we were living together by the end of the year.  David’s personality reminded me of my mother; she and I rarely fought. David didn’t push me to be a “woman.”  He loved to cook; I hated it.  He was good with laundry and he allowed me to be a partner. For four years, we were inseparable.  I slept like a baby once David was wrapped behind me each night.  David was heading to medical school and I admired him.

One day on campus, I noticed a young man following David around the campus.  David was his tutor.  The guy was openly gay. Heat burned inside anytime he passed by.  I never showed it.

Some weeks later, there was the love bite.

I silently worried.  I forced myself into denial.  But, the inner conflict took its toll.  Yet, I continued planning a future with David.  By the time I moved to Philadelphia to join him as he attended medical school, my insides boiled with various degrees of jealousy, resentment and anger. Every sign of tiredness, forgetfulness or complacency was interpreted as his unhappiness.  As a way of avoiding the pain of what I assumed was rejection, I started dreaming of France.  I’d always loved languages and French was a favorite.  I wanted a way to leave without pain.

By the time Robert, another medical student, walked into my life, I was ready for attention.

I was unhappy.  Robert gave me all the attention I craved.  I became an addict.  He made me feel attractive.  Even though it was clear that Robert was a lady’s man, I was caught up in a feeling of wonderful lust.  I started comparing the two men.  David’s indifference lived like a hot brick in my chest.  I was convinced that he longed for what I could not give him.

After a few months, I felt I was bold enough to walk out and move on.  Emboldened by my unresolved suspicion and the inner turmoil I thought of as strength, I walked into the apartment one night, and without explanation, I told David that I’d found an apartment and I was moving.  I saw the shock on David’s face.  My pain relished it.  But, I was unprepared for my inner crash.

David’s tears and protests caught me unaware.  A love that once helped me breathe, tore at my heart like claws.  The face etched into my skin like a tattoo mirrored the pain in my mind, but fear of the future trumped.  I ran.

The first night alone was dark and sleepless.  An essential piece was missing.  I was an amputee.  My soul was in pieces.   My body screamed.   Insomnia crept into my life.  Each night I longed for the peaceful comfort of David’s arms.

As the nights passed, I sank lower into depression.

 

 

The name

April 4, 2016

 

I lived inside the covers of books. I read and read. Books filled with fairies, gnomes….. books full of magic. I was intrigued. One particular story captured my attention – he was old; he was tall; he was gentle. He lived in the forest and even though he had no friends and lived by himself, he befriended all the animals. They listened to him. He had one pet, a mouse. That tiny mouse lived in his jacket; it ran under his sleeve and appeared above his collar only to disappear into his hat.

You see, this man I thought of as beautiful, reminded me of my father. Dean Bacchus ruled my world, but at that time, he was simply “daddy.” Names had no meaning at the time.   Mummy and daddy, those mattered. I had no idea “Bacchus” was Greek and that I would slowly question its origin.

Fortunately for me, my country had no television at the time. Therefore, no bombarding images filled my days and invaded my mind.   The control of my mind could be interrupted by critical thought and slowly as the years passed and I allowed myself to explore books and visit with educators of color I started to question the history of Denise Bacchus.   Why Denise? Where did Bacchus come from? I looked it up and learned in some book that “Bacchus” was a Creek gods of wine. Essentially, my name meant bacchanal…. a god damn party of liquor and I didn’t even drink.

And, then, one day in college Chukwuma, tall, dark, handsome, Ibo and Nigerian walked into the cafeteria at UC Berkeley this man walked in and I immediately noticed his regal stature. I loved listening to his ideas and, eventually, I learned some knowledge about Nigeria. That was my first close contact with Africa and African culture and I learned that names had meanings and, Chukwuma had meaning. “God knows” – that is the meaning of Chukwuma. How beautiful is that! And, then the envy and the jealousy crept in………… my name had no meaning – no meaning to me. It did not reflect the rich mix of Indian, black, Portuguese and native Carib culture swimming in my veins.

Years later, on a visit to London, I stopped at one of those little quaint bookstores. The ones with tiny doors with blue paint and glass windows stacked with books that leave peepholes to the outside world. The day was a crisp cold one with clear blue skies; the grass and trees climbing over the fence of the gardens were a deep moss green. I had the freedom of travel in my heart.

As I browsed the titles of books, I ran my hand along the well-worn shelves and I enjoyed the feeling of being in the past. I opened one book, I really don’t know why. It was a random pick. But it was a story written by an Indian man who happened to be gay. At that time, I had a particular interest in the gay community because a man who I loved madly had revealed to me that he was more interested in men than women and this had broken my heart. And, as I tend to do, I remedy almost everything by reading. I continued to read about gay men in India and the marriage that society forces on them. As I read one story, I came across the word “yaari.” Something about the spelling of the word vibrated; I felt it. In the context of the story the word seemed to have a deep meaning. I noted “yaari” in my notes. It had an aura that called.

I took it home with me and did the research. “Yaari” or “Yari” I learned, meant “soul mate friendship.” I longed to be soothed by meaning. Today, even though I never officially changed my name, I am Yaari to some, but most of all I am Yaari when I write.

 

granddad

April 4, 2016

My grandfather was dead when I was born in 1959, but he’d left a trail of memories. And, from those memories came stores that suggested that had badly damaged the man I loved. His way of being had started a catastrophic avalanche of mental illness in the family.   At least, that was my impression for years.

At the age of seven my dad’s depression had entered our relationship. I felt a childish desperation in my need to make him happy. There was some point where our handholding went from careless familiarity to gripping desperation.

I knew he had lost the fight when my mother left. I learned later that she had found an axe hidden in the bedroom closet. On the day we moved, I remember vividly seeing his face at the window. One part of me wanted to stay with him; the other was frightened and wanted to run. His depression led to many accidents; one of them made him a quadriplegic. I watched as he died.

I stumbled through my teens battering myself with bad choices. As my critical abilities grew, the childhood whispers grew to conversations; I learned about my grandfather. I heard stories of strict parental behavior that bordered on abuse. It seemed he ruled wife and children with an iron fist. The stories helped me understand the series of events that led to the shrunken skeleton of my father propped up in the coffin.

One story stuck in my head. My father loved motorcycles. One day, he took my cousin Audrey for a ride to visit his parents. My grandfather rejected her blackness and my father confronted his racism. I became aware of the complicated and confused identity issues in my family. My grandfather had objected to my father’s choice of wife for her color, and, for that, they were married without his blessing and attendance.

In the late 90s, I decided to learn about my family history. In an interview with my cousin, I learned that my grandmother had been institutionalized for twelve years. But, what stunned me is that my grandfather had her meals privately made and delivered daily. As much as I wanted to hold on to my grotesque opinion of him this information caused something to shift.

Coming on the heels of this information, I learned that on trips to New York with his wife he never left her side. My aunt said that he gave her money to buy whatever she wanted. By this time, of course, after more than one of my own complicated love affairs, I had become conscious of the nuances of love. I sat back to reflect on my own visceral dislike of the man. And, I continued to explore the family tree.

One year, on my way to Barbados my cousin asked me to visit the archives to look for my grandmother’s birth certificate. Online, I found a copy of my father and my grandfather’s signature on a ship from England to New York. A long trip suggested more than a troubled relationship. But the shocker was a copy of a certificate that showed that my grandfather, on a trip with my grandmother, had been baptized so that he could marry my grandmother in a Christian ceremony.

I had to readjust. I had to open my mind to his realities. The British had practiced divisive policies that pitted blacks against Indians. He had used his ancestry as an indentured servant to start and successfully manage his own business. He lost one Indian wife and child in his early years; he had supported all of his children and given them an education that took them into the best jobs.

This was a strong man who, once committed to my grandmother, stayed with her for better or for worse. He loved her. And, his love for my father, motivated his need to push him toward what he thought would make him succeed. This I grew to accept.

Reflecting on the Annual Conference by Yaari

March 8, 2016

CSA – Reflecting on the Annual Conference by Yaari

Sugar and spice,
ehan’ all dem nice puppy dog tails
dat’s what CSA is made of

Arriving in Barbados stirred all of my Caribbean memories. As the plane dipped toward the island and tiny lights blinked into view, my anticipation increased.

The touchdown excitement had nothing to do with the conference and all to do with the bitter sweet memories that come with the life of an immigrant. Memories, like thick bright colored paintings portraying vague images, lingered as the old me and the newer version collided. Childhood images and sensory memories crowded in and pushing on them were the memories of life in the US. The questions always intrude… Am I happier? Can I come back? Who am I in the US? In the midst of black and brown people, I became someone.

Leaving the plane, I stepped on to the slightly shaky metal stairs and welcomed the warm breezy kiss of the Caribbean. “Home” now is anywhere the accent sings, the people smile, and the colors vary from chocolate smooth black, mingled with caramel brown, repeatedly touched by golden sun kissed sugar, and creamy warm butterscotch.

Routine becomes reminiscing; I have patience in lines; it gives me time to eye mingle with the crowd. I watch shapes of faces, inclines of bodies; I wonder where they go. I recognize with casual acceptance the two customs officers at work and the seven or eight empty booths of promise. For a minute you stewups your teeth and ask yourself, “why dese people goffa do dis, eh. Dey does wait till deh got a big crowd den dey does disappear.” The anxiety creeps into my belly when the bags start to jump out of the hole. It’s the bags; will they arrive I wonder. I hold back and wait. Nervous tummy jumpin’ all over deh place. And, wuh yuh know, deh damn bag nah show up.

I walked over to the airline counter and started to fill out papers. In the meantime, the thought of being in Barbados without clothes did not excite me. (Even though, the heat waiting for me outside might have changed my mind.) Runnin’ tru meh min’ was nuff nuff money spendin’ again.

At the counter my mounting irritability was distracted by the pleasant smile and helpful attitude of the customer service officer. Sche look up at meh an’ smile – yuh kno’… dat eye crinkle way we West Indians does flirt wid friendly. She brought me back home immediately. A warm smile goes a long way to sustain the endurance needed for such matters. Then the forms came and threatened my calm. I managed to breathe in and finish all the blank lines.

Outside the airport my eyes skimmed the crowd and there she was – old friend and colleague from UCB – with a frantic look on her face. Eventually, after hugs and laughter we climbed in the SUV and hit the road. The blast of air through the open window brushed tired away for a while; I leaned back and emptied my mind.

Next morning we ate breakfast and each other’s experiences at the same time. We sat on the verandah with the cool breeze circling and the fowl cocks crowing. Dat didn’t last too long doh. Soon it was swimsuit, sandals and bodies answering the call of the sun and the crash of the waves. Ahh … the warm blue green ocean cradled my body and offered me to the sun. Then I knew that I was a member of the CSA cult – addict to my senses, an intellectual and sensual junkie – always hunting for that information high and selling my body to the sun goddess.

Next day seriousness stepped in and took over. Out the car I jumped; into the hotel lobby I moved among a bustling crowd of orange tagged academics rushing to and fro trying to register, check in and find panels – madness in the making. Keeping it all together was the nervous energy of greedy curiosity – who to see? What to hear? Where’s the bar.. maybe some food too and, don’t forget; ah wonder how meh presentation gon go? Five days jam packed with intellectual stimulation – all about violence. Crisscrossing tiled patios and grassy walkways people moved in all manner of walk and wear – hair up down and dreadlock long.

Violence centered subjects hit the airwaves – lectures, Powerpoint presentations, videos – dance, stage.. all engaging the audience and sending them rushing from one to the other. There was the constant surge of crowded conversations stretching across spaces over food and drink and in between emails to folk back home – other expectations and obligations.

What jumped out at me was the women focused conversations and presentations. The air was charged with necks stretched to see and the uuummm huummms of patient agreement and the hand clapping to control the frustrated excitement of the shared lived experiences of perpetual endurance and the longing for change. Pride straightened my back and stretched out my chest and made it worthwhile to have crossed ocean and the guilty spendin’ of lill’ plastic money. In my head I heard .. yeah yeah yeah, I am woman hear me roar.

Special to me is the chance that CSA gives me to explore and get to know the local folk and hear the lore of oral histories so often ignored. This time it was Mrs. R – 99 years old – born 1911. Laud, the woman could tell a story; she circled me with laughter and in the midst gave me understandings of how race was experienced and community used to heal and endure. She revealed to me lessons of life and secrets of survival that might be useful to us if we listened well and listened more.

Too was the chance to ride the island with a dreadlock man of serious contemplation. He raised for me more questions of CSA leanings. As we circled the island, he brought to my attention that more and more walls were going up and he could not longer, “see” in. Dat there were people buying up deh island and, for me there was a little confusion, is who buyin’ up deh island so? And if the buyers are foreigners what den will become of Bajan identity as people get squeezed into deh middle? The Rasta is a farmer and he let me know that he must sell to dem – is a relationship full a caution for him.

The CSA in me wondered about this “trade.” Is this the “free market” experience that is repeating itself in many a Caribbean place? If we are getting pushed to the center of the land; if we are being circled by others; if the dependency grows, what will that mean for the future?

Creative and stimulating associations are necessary. CSA in my pocket; CSA as my compass; CSA as lens; CSA explorations and explanations. I look forward to the opportunity to hear; like Trinidad, Brazil, San Andres, Jamaica, and Barbados, I look forward to going deeper into community, to opening myself again and again to knowing family in the Diaspora.