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Evening of the Griots

lennoxpriceconsulgeneralinnydonnaeveryI’ve just come back from New York where I participated in the Evening of the Griots at the residence of the Consul General, Lennox Price. This is a wonderful initiative organised by Linda Watson-Lorde of the Consulate. A Griot is a West African storyteller and although we were not from West Africa (at least not in recent history) there was an abundance of storytelling in prose and poetry.

I have never seen so many Bajans in one place in New York! They were over 100 members of the Diaspora in attendance who were treated to a wonderful evening of storytelling, poetry and Bajan delicacies. I’m sure that they would all agree that there is a lot of talent in Barbadians, who still consider themselves to be Bajan even though they have been transplanted to the US.

I had the opportunity to share from my new novel The High Road, after making sure that I read the disclaimer to remind the audience that it was a work of fiction and when I referred to the Government or the Opposition I did not mean the existing ones. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I favour a particular party (which may appear that way from the book) since you already know my position on both of them – six is half a dozen.

What I found interesting was that everyone I spoke to talked about longing to come home. No matter how long they had lived in the US, they referred to Barbados as home and the older ones were all eagerly anticipating their retirement so that they could return. Some already had houses built and waiting for them; others just had the land.

I guess my experience of only staying in New York for a few days at a time didn’t really sensitise me to the reality that Bajans face living in the US on a daily basis. I’m talking about having to catch the subway or the bus whether it’s summer, winter or fall. I’m talking about looking out of the apartment window and seeing endless similar apartment buildings instead of our fields and hills beyond recall.

I can therefore sympathise with their desire to get back to the rock. We often complain about how hard life is in Barbados and how expensive everything is and while that is true, I challenge anyone to tell me that New York is not as expensive.

After a room service breakfast that cost me a ridiculous amount of money I quickly found a supermarket and had continental breakfast and fresh fruit for a fraction of the price every morning.

So I have a fresh appreciation of Barbados and all that we have here. I greatly appreciate being able to sit on my patio and look out and see trees and flowers and grass and get in my car at will and drive wherever I want to go.

These are blessings that we often take for granted until we go and visit our relatives and friends living in other parts of the world. As I said to one of my old friends from school, I don’t mind visiting New York but I certainly don’t want to live there.

In my book the protagonist was hired to help make Barbados the #1 place to live, work and do business and it is my heart’s desire to see this become a reality. After this visit I realise more than before that we already have the physical environment to support this vision, all we need to do now is work on everything else. Easier said than done, I know.

The urgency with which we must do this became abundantly clear from the time I hit Barbados and discovered that there were only two immigration officers on duty to clear a plane load of people. Fortunately, another one turned up when I was at the front of the line so I got through quickly. I’m not sure if her shift started at a later time or if she was late for work.

Everything was going well until I noticed that time was passing and I only saw one of my suitcases. After watching the same suitcases going around for several minutes I came to the bitter conclusion that nothing else was coming out and the rest of my luggage was missing. It was not only me in this plight; it seemed as if a quarter of the people on the flight were missing luggage as well.

What really frustrated me was that after my number was taken by the airline personnel and I was told that I would be contacted when my luggage came in, no-one called me. I had to keep calling and I could not get through to a live person. Eventually I had to just drive up to the airport and just hope that my luggage was there and thankfully it was.

So we are still a long way from making Barbados the #1 place to live, work and do business but remember that slogan that I shared many articles ago: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

* Donna Every is the CEO of Arise Consulting Inc. which provides business and motivational training and advice to help individuals and organizations fulfill their purpose. She has written five books and has just released her second novel, The High Road.

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