5 Things About Christmas in Nassau, Bahamas


Christmas, everywhere it is celebrated, is generally the same. People go crazy, traffic is insane, the malls are hell, and everyone wants-wants-wants! Even with all of these similarities, there are difference from place to place. Some are subtle, and others are blatant. On that note, I’d like to share a few little tidbits about Christmas in the Bahamas, namely Nassau (the capital).

  1. The Christmas “dinner” is really LUNCH. People are sitting down eating some time between 12 and 3pm.
  2. The items on the menu include the traditional American ham, turkey, and stuffing, but also has native favourites like macaroni (baked with cheese, butter, and cream), peas ‘n’ rice, potato salad, and mutton (goat).
  3. Shopping is hell since we only have two malls. One of them is the graveyard of has-been stores. The other is over-run with people – with money and without. People enjoying milling around and rushing around the mall, whether they plan to make purchases or not.
  4. Christmas trees are ordered and shipped here. I think most of them come from Nova Scotia, Canada. We do not grow our own trees, so no family goes to the Christmas tree farm to pick and cut down its own tree. We just watch that stuff on television.
  5. Christmas time is synonymous with Junkanoo. Junkanoo is a huge festival held in the streets. It’s a competition, really. Lots of groups spend the entire year in what we call “Junkanoo shacks” pasting costumes (decorating the cardboard and foam pieces with crepe paper, beads, and feathers), choosing music, and choreographing dances. They do this to put on a world class show on Bay Street (main street downtown, Nassau). No pictures you find in Google images or video you can find on YouTube will give you a feeling anywhere near being on Bay Street, experiencing it. FEELING the RUSH. But you can try. Search away! :)

Review – “Dead Letters” by The Rasmus


For those who enjoy their hard rock with a dark, yet melodic vibe to it, then the Rasmus will have you enthralled in an almost fairytale-like and emotional venture. Since their emergence from a garage and the release of their first album “Peep,” in 1996, the band have defied a lot of trends to explore their own creativity and “Dead Letters” was a result of this. Of the 2.5 millions album copies sold worldwide by The Rasmus, 1.5 million of these are of Dead Letters and for a group of Finnish schoolmates, this is an incredible feat.

At an initial hearing of the album, you get a strong feeling of sorrow and hardship as well as strength and you wouldn’t believe singer Lauri Ylönen to be encompassing this, as an average kind of Finnish male who then defied a lot of trends to pursue his own creative freedom. To me, the first song sets the stage, or the narrative for the whole album and for ‘First Day Of My Life’ it couldn’t get more straightforward with the title. Strong guitar rhythms and a harmonious voice combined with violins, cellos and myriad of other backing instruments make for a polished and professional piece of audio artwork. Meaning that Dead Letters provokes the senses to feel what The Rasmus are feeling and for fans of hard rock, particularly The Rasmus’ style of hard rock, they would feel goosebumps and chills up their spines. Lauri’s methods of songwriting comprise of cleverly mixing tempo and pitch with the climactic sections of his songs to be loud, almost as if they’re bursting forth from his theme of struggles and with this knowledge in mind, most people would understand how they can interpret the theme of strength in this album. To put it into a nutshell, Lauri Ylönen mixes hard and soft styles of rock but redefines the chorus into amplifying the tone, emotion and message of the song to the listeners and fans.In a way this reaches out to people undergoing great hardships and struggles to take a stand and fight back for their livelihoods.

It was smart of The Rasmus to look at the concepts of sorrow, becoming strong and making our own stamps because at the time of the album release, it was a whole new wave of music where a lot of punk rock and hard rock emerged and young people in particular took to these genres.  Despite the singer’s talents to create masterpiece music befitting of the current social and musical environment, there are a few drawbacks to Dead Letters that encumber Lauri’s songwriting masterpieces. The mood later becomes downtrodden in struggles and misery and albums that start on a high and descend down to a less-than powerful atmosphere often put me off. Meaning that even though Mr Ylönen and the band can create beautiful songs, unfortunately the structure of the tracklist is jagged and misplaced and this can display a different mood entirely. As much as the music is enjoyable, The Rasmus have some ways to go to improve and then dominate the rock genre. Luckily this only happens in a couple of tracks near the end of the album and the melodic hard rock vibe that listeners initially receive from the band, is picked back up again to provide a powerful mood-driven climax.

Regardless of that minor setback in negativity, Dead Letters is an extremely potent mix of melodies, choir-like singing and that hard rock edge that’s like a steel-toe-capped boot, swiping non-believers in the face before they even get a chance to start hating… And that’s one boot I don’t want to have an indent of on my face, believe me.


A recipe for the weekend.

Blue jellybeans

These are surprise ribs, because I made them without following any particular recipe and the result is surprisingly good.

Fast, easy and delicious, what else could you ask for?

I’m trying to give you quantities, but truth be told, I added the ingredients “a ojo de buen cubero” (by guesswork), so feel free to change the quantities and/or ingredients to your taste. One more thing, back ribs are better than spare ribs for this dish because they have more meat.

Ingredients

1 kg pork ribs
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mustard
½ teaspoon thyme
Garlic powder
 Salt and black pepper
 ½ tablespoon soy sauce
 Roasted onions (like the ones from IKEA)
 

Directions

In a skillet sauté the ribs until browned. In a bowl mix honey and mustard, add the remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Pour this sauce over the ribs. Reduce heat and continue cooking until the sauce reduces…

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The Spirit and Meaning of Family



Over the Christmas holidays and festive celebrations, I was pondering the concept of the word family and what it means… It got me thinking about its boundaries and the people this word affects. More importantly, we need to understand who our families are, how and what we do influences the family and the overall idea.

First off, what comes to mind when we think of the word ‘Family’? There are several interpretations: a close-knit unit, a group of loving people, blood-relation. Commonly, we see it as a blood-related group of people that share emotional, physical and financial relations with one another, ranging from three to fifteen people… IN SOME CASES (to be explained in due time), it can be even larger than that! In a modern-day era, the term is mostly subjective in the idea and therefore is quite flexible to suit one’s needs and/or emotions and I couldn’t be happier with this outcome. Regardless of what we are TOLD is the meaning of family, as we get older we develop our own thoughts and opinions, as is natural when we grow up and become more individual. When you think about it, most of us cannot recall where the word family came from (unless you’re a historian or history wiz) and it does get you questioning.

In religious views, family is a sanctity of a married man and women who have procreated offspring, commonly a family of 4. As most of us consider ourselves atheist and agnostic, leaving only the fanatical religious followers keeping up this tradition, we disregard this and create our own versions of families purely based on who we care about. If such an idea of free will and individuality didn’t exist, this slims down adoption rates as well as psychologically supressing our thoughts and emotions. Gay people in particular are supressed by religion and is often seen as immoral to have a relationship with someone of the same gender, which to me is not right because I honestly believe that we can all be good people no matter of who we are dating/courting, or who we are as a person.

Which leads me onto my next point in terms of family- Parents. Does it really matter if a child has two male parents or two female parents? To me, as long as both the parents love eachother and the child, then that is more than enough to keep a happy family household and I would strongly back and lesbian/gay couples rights to adopting a child, because denial of this is denial of our freedom of expression, as well as denial of a safe and healthy living enviroment for the child. I am not saying that Orphanages are bad places, but it’s better and happier for children to find homes with loving parents. On the 9th of June 2010, a writer of pinknews.co.uk called Jessica Geen wrote an article on Gay parenting and the Prejudice at schools for adoptees. The first paragraph of the article goes

The qualitative research follows the publication of a 17-year study on children brought up by lesbian couples, which found they were happier and had fewer behavioural problems than children brought up by straight parents.”

It is worth a read as the children and teenagers being studied said they were proud of their gay parents and that their families are “special.”

Children of gay parents ‘proud, but need schools to tackle issues’

What I’m trying to address, is that kids are happy with gay parents… In fact most cases would say that they’re happier than with a straight couple. Don’t you see? It’s love and care that make a family, not blood relations or religion. It does not matter who you are or where you’re from, because your family is whoever you want them to be, so long as you love oneanother… And if I remember correctly, one of the commandments says to “love thy neighbour”? So if the church denies gay marriage or gay parenting, then they’re denying one of their most foundational rules. Tell THAT to them!

With this is mind, I come to my third and final point, which I have entitled ‘Friendship Love’. When you have a best friend that you care for so much, that you deem them to be like a sister/brother to you. You feel a certian level of trust and respect from the other person and they’re not even blood-related to you and if the sanctity of the family was meant to stick to old-time traditions, then this “God” wouldn’t give us such thoughts. I am atheist currently and as far as I’m concerned, I can lead a good and happy life without being weighed down by religious rules and nonsense, where the bible is just contradicting with itself since it often states you must make sacrifices/offerings to please God or he will bring down his wrath upon us… And that is just a load of @&!”. Personally, I have 3 friends whom I met over the internet that I have talked to for several years and we’ve shared, pictures, conversations and moments, that I see them as sisters: I care for them and I do my best to support them if they need me. For those who ask me “what if they’re a paedophile?”… Trust me, I have been careful and everyone should be careful on the internet. Regardless of that, I have found people I care about and I now consider them family, no matter of how they dress or what they wear.

So pay attention people, this is important! Family is more than what you may think, it is a bond of love and caring for who people are as a person and nothing else. When we spend time with a certain someone, or certain people and we grow to accept them and sometimes even love them for it. You should not feel ashamed to express who you are and you should always let that special person or people know how you feel about them. If you’re a gay couple, go ahead and adopt since it will make more than just you happy. If you have a best friend who you have cherished forever, let them know how much they mean to you.

As my final statement: “Family is not about blood-relation, but a bond of love one shares with another, regardless of family ties or personal background. Blood may be thicker than water, but you need that water to keep everything flowing.”

(images found on google.images.co.uk)

The Pollera of Panama


This Christmas I went to Panama after 9 years of absence. I live in Madrid and with 4 children and a husband a trip to Panama is something you have to meditate on and save for. Well, that’s what we did last year, so off we went on the 23rd; the whole family, including my parents in law (it was their first time in Panama).

One of the main reasons to go was to celebrate the 15 years of my daughter Pilar. For me is very important to keep the traditions with which I grew up as a child,  and there were only one place to properly celebrate Pilar’s quinceaños: Panama.

The party was great, very similar, I guess, to the sweet sixteen parties at the US, but we did something different. I cousin of mine (well, his wife Jessie) arranged for Pilar and Isabel to wear the traditional dress of Panama, the Pollera. We went to my cousin’s place and got Pilar dressed, then we went to the ruins of the first settlement of Panama City, usually called “Panama la Vieja”. I took the photographs and despite the heat, everything went great.

Here I bring some photographs and an excerpt of the book “The pollera from Panama” written by Dora P. de Zarate where she explains the origin of this garment.


ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE POLLERA


Many people have spoken about the pollera. Some have indicated the exact point of origin for the costume, but such exactness is not compatible with folk material since one of the main characteristics of folklore is spontaneous and anonymous origin. When people become aware of the existence of a folk tradition, a great deal of time has already passed during which the tradition has grown and developed. The pollera had an origin. Along with the other traditional Latin American dresses, the pollera descended from the Spanish dress of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In response to our investigation into the origin of the pollera, Miss Nieves de Hoyos, director of the Museo del Pueblo Español, published an article, “La Pollera Panameña,” in the Revista de Indias of December, 1963. She wrote,


“I sincerely believe the answer is simple; the origin is in Spain, but not from the regional Spanish dress, which contrary to general opinion did not develop its current form until the eighteenth century or later. The pollera in Panama evolved from the Spanish feminine dress of the seventeenth century, not from the court dress with its grand hoops covered with velvets and embroidered silks embellished with laces, gold, and silver threads – the dress which immediately comes to mind to most people because they have frequently seen the pictures of Velazquez. In the seventeenth century, as in any other time, contemporary with the beautiful court dresses there was the daily house dress, which in this epoch was generally white with a full skirt of two or three ruffles embroidered or appliqued in floral designs. This description is, simply, the pollera.


As for the pollera montuna or the dress for daily use, a cotton skirt printed in floral design is commonly used in tropical climates and during summer seasons in colder regions. We should think of the skirts from Andalucía, but not of the close-fitting ruffled skirt of the flamenco dancers, nor the traditional cloth of the mountain regions – rather of the skirt of the common women in any city, who used a pollera montuna. In the Museo del Pueblo Español there is a woman’s dress of Cordoba, made of percale with a small printed pattern, very full and with a ruffle, which cannot be differentiated from the pollera montuna of Panama. The complicated hair style which uses gold combs makes us think of the hair styles from Valencia and Salamanca where they do not use combs but large, richly decorated pins. Naturally the hair style and hair ornaments found in Panama would not be an imitation, but with the passage of time they would change and acquire a character different from their Spanish predecessors.”


The important fact is the originality and direction the dress developed in Panama, which made it distinct from typical dresses in other Latin countries with similar roots in Spain. It is known that the same seed can produce fruit of different flavor and quality according to the earth in which it falls and the conditions under which it grows. In Panama, time, various ethnic groups, geography, and climate combined to transform our dress into the attractive and pleasing pollera we see today.

How did the pollera come to be the dress it is today? At what moment did the dress of our Spanish or mestizo grandmothers change into this lovely dress of the tropics? The answer lies in the passage of time, which allowed a gradual evolution of the pollera into what we have today.


THE POLLERA, A DRESS OF THE COMMON PEOPLE

After reading the references left by writers interested in the pollera, it is possible to appreciate one important fact; every writer insisted that it was the dress of the lower classes. Lady Mallet described it as “the usual attire of the woman servants; it was especially the dress of the wet nurses who nursed the children of the family. The dress was generally white, almost without adornments. The cooks and wash ladies used colored skirts, usually purple, with a white blouse. . . It was a custom among some families to decorate the clothes of the domestic help with special types of handwork; some used an embroidery stitch, others a cross-stitch, and others applique.”


If we pay special attention to the article in the Diario de Madrid referring to celebrations here in Panama mentioned by D. Samuel Lewis, we find it speaks of thirty women of the town richly dressed in polleras. It does not say the higher class, but the townspeople. Reclus also referred to the town: “the colored women wear the pollera” and “the women wear the old dress of the criollas.” Who are the criollas for Reclus? The person born in America of Spanish descent? The native aristocracy? From the drawings he presents in his writings, the criolla appears to be neither Spanish nor the native aristocracy. The pollera was the dress of the common people, and here lies its strength, its continuity, and its permanence. As a creation of the common people, it reflected the vitality and spirit of that class, and extended into every city, town, and farm. From its humble beginning the pollera gradually was adopted by the women in the upper classes. Once accepting the pollera, this class adopted it as their own almost as if it had always been their traditional costume. Today the daughters of the aristocracy are just as proud to wear their polleras during days of fiestas as the women in rural areas”.