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A matter of survival

Eff yuh neighbour is dousing their house wid water; wouldn’t it be wise to do the same?

The Saturday evening ride on the blue, yellow and black Sam Lord’s Castle bus was reflective and revealing. It was picturesque, it showed the changes in Barbados over the years and it made me ask the question ‘progress wha’ nex’?

When finally I reached the home of a family who lives in the USA, three of the visitors were outside scanning the small parcel of land around the upscale property for vegetables, picking fruits and asking for plastic bags. On the other hand, I had just passed several plots of land covered with grass or bush. Honestly, I was shocked. The St. Philip I once knew had changed. Yet, I was reminded of the vast difference in lifestyles of the folks in my Brooklyn neighbourhood and elsewhere.

Now, it is not for me to tell others how to live their lives, but as an educator, I am eternally grateful for any opportunity to learn and grow. Comparative experiences is a great teacher.

On Pine Street, two large concrete plants pots stand in the verandahs of two houses, next to each other. One plant pot contains synthetic flowers, the other is full of beans, black eyes and okras.

When I asked Papa Jones who is from down South, why he planted beans and flowers, he took me into his back yard and gave me an extensive tour of a yard garden, and, ordered me to come back for some tomatoes, collard greens, callaloo, etc.

It was just like any yesteryear Bajan backyard with one difference – Papa Jones taught his vines to run on tall sticks.

“God gave us light, and the plants know it. I talk to my plants every day and encourage them to rise up . . . Take some more pictures… Look at this pumpkin. It is hiding. Now come back, ya hear, ” a joyful, Papa Jones said.

Papa Jones – who also rents an open lot from the city to feed another neighbourhood – may be the only American in the neighbourhood that has this kind of garden, but he is not the only one with a green thumb.

Growing everywhere

The immigrants from Bangladesh grow vegetables everywhere – in pots, on walls, on fences,

Hussein, who bought a house in the neighbourhood two years ago, explains why he and his family plant vegetables.

“Aren’t we in recession? Three of these hot peppers cost $1. This tree has on 20. This cilantro falls flat during winter, but it does not die.”

Furthermore, if one visits their neighbourhood groceries on Pitkin, one sees the excess produce, the connection one with another, as was once in many parts of Barbados.

It is simply a matter of survival. The single truth that never changes, that is driven by the fear of extinction.

On Lafayette, Robert – a Trinidadian who lived in England – shares a different story, still a memory. He sells coconut water and cane juice on the side of the road. His machines are powered by the motor of a discarded fridge and he stores the remnants in the back of his vintage volkswagon van. The pathway on which he plies his trade is spotlessly clean. Again, he is part of a chain. He purchased the machines from a New Jersey entrepreneur who exports them to Korea.

Maybe, this story should have begun on the Friday night before my ride from Oistins to Sam Lord’s Castle, and be told through the movie function of my camera. I would begin with a packed, noisy Oistins and with people wading through the water in order to move around. The rainbow of culture would feature Mildred selling me delicious grilled fish the night before, and still at work, the next day Saturday, at 3 in the afternoon. For sure, the lens would come up close and reveal fears and zoom out and give hope.

Ultimately, the lens we use to view the world and our experiences pales bare when compared with the choices we make. So who is to blame if our society falls apart? The politician or we, you, and I ?


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