This article by the Miami Herald recently came to my attention. It touches the subject of Aruba's proximity to Venezuela and to Venezuela's ruler, Hugo Chavez.
The general opinion in Aruba is that Chavez is kind of crazy. We are also very much aware of the cold relations between Venezuela and the U.S. We also know that we are a base for the U.S. on several fronts.
The article says:
Tensions between the islands and Venezuela appear to have grown as a result of the increasingly combative rhetoric between Washington and Caracas, and Venezuela's increased relations with its Caribbean neighbors. In addition to expanding relations with Cuba, Venezuela also has reached out to the rest of the islands with offers of discounted oil and refinery upgrades.
I'm not sure that the relations between Aruba and Venezuela have worsened, but the entire populations is aware that we are heavily dependent on the U.S. for our economy, and if those two will pick a fight with each other .... Things can turn decidedly ugly.
According to an American official:
''This is very much the tempest in the teapot,'' Erikson said. ``There is an unsettled climate around Venezuela's regional ambitions. . . . But while there might be a nervousness there, I just don't see Venezuela having any serious designs on the Netherlands Antilles.''
Yes, honey, that's easy for you to say, but when you live in Aruba, which is ohsoclose to Venezuela, a nervous eye will always be cast to our very large neighbor to the south.
Image provided by this site
It is that time of year again when students' greatest hopes will have been fulfilled, or their most important dreams dashed. I’m referring to the results of the end-of-year exams for graduating high school students.
The Aruban system closely follows the Dutch system, and all the work you did before you reached the final year doesn’t matter, because only the results of the last year decide on whether you will leave the school with a diploma in your pocket or not.
This is also that time of year when there will be endless debates why the results are less than satisfactory. And make no mistake, this will happen again this year. There is endless blame to go around, the parents, the teachers and the students will all get their share by various pundits and experts.
The principal of the highest level of high school in Aruba and my alma mater (Colegio Arubano), Rector Kolfin, has posited that the level of Dutch (link in Papiamento) in the final exams (the language in which all final exams are taken) is to blame for a 50% graduation rate (this was better than last year, by the way). Colegio Arubano is also the primary school that feeds students in further university education.
Putting the mind-boggling fact aside that only half (HALF!) of the students are estimated to graduate, I’d like to explore this explanation further.
I find it pretty amazing that after at the very least ten years of having Dutch as a subject and/or teaching language a student can be caught by surprised by the Dutch language in his or her final year. Especially since students are provided with a Dutch dictionary at their exams. After ten years of studying this language students still get to say “Oops, damn, Dutch is hard?”. Well, wow. I’m sorry, but then I need to ask the teachers what in the hell are they doing in their classrooms, if this is a valid reason. I’m not saying that everybody has to get high grades for Dutch the subject. But it is surely in the teacher’s power, whatever subject he or she teaches, to prepare the student for what lies ahead in May. There are plenty of tools to use, such as exams from previous years to study at home, training sessions with the class, etc. And how can a student pass the previous grades of high school with Dutch as a subject (it is a mandatory subject) and then crash and burn in the final exam because of the language? I must also advice the school to look back at their entire curriculum and check if they’re not doing the students a disservice by making the language too easy in the non-exam years.
The fact is that legions of previous generations have gotten through these exams, so why is Dutch all of a sudden THE biggest issue?
I think that this downward spiral of exam results is not because the level of Dutch, or classrooms without air-conditioning, or boring teachers. I think it’s because the level what is demanded of a students keeps on lowering. We shouldn’t be explaining away a 50% graduation rate of Colegio Arubano, we should be asking ourselves why a 100% graduation rate is so impossible.
Image provided by Colegio Arubano's website.
(The following is an excerpt from a press release sent out by the Cedros Peninsula United and Chatham/Cap-de-Ville Environmental Protection Group, inviting individuals and communities nationwide to partake in a Prayer Vigil Marathon):
National consensus is that a spiritual rebirth throuhgout the land and at all levels of society is necessary for national redemption.
Now, more than ever, there is need for reflection and introspection ... to assess our achievements and failures as a people; to identify where we lost our way and what we collectively have to do as one whole, single and indivisible people ... across ethnic, religious, political and economic lines to fulfil the true destiny of this blessed country and people.
(Read the full press release here): Download prayer_vigil_marathon.doc
To begin or not to begin.
There is no question.
From reading the various blogs, it is obvious to see how shocked, saddened and angry Trinidadian citizens were at the loss of one of their own. So much potential, now gone. And for what?
Crime and safety are always issues, everywhere. But when crime and safety concern small children, the pain gets magnified.
The thing that sets this region apart from a lot of other areas of the world is that this sort of thing is not yet common enough that we don't mourn, that we don't feel, when it does happen.
The day that we accept this sort of thing as common-place, then we know that we have lost something precious.
We should be angry, absolutely. We should press our governments for action. Maybe not everyone wore black, maybe not enough people turned on their headlights, but that shouldn't stop us. We can keep on pushing, keep on demanding for change.
We can't stop feeling, because that means that the monsters have won.
Although I set out a black outfit, I didn't manage to leave the house yesterday.
A combination of too much work and also, I guess a bit of fear. I was terrified that Trinis wouldn't have heeded the call to wear black. That people would have dismissed the call and gone on with life as usual. That I would go out and be more angry and upset about this Sean Luke thing.
So I stayed home, watching BBC, watching dead Palestinian children. It's easier that way. To think that the death isn't happening in your back yard. To think that such barbarism won't ever touch your home. But it does and it has and it will continue to do so, because we still don't know the value of our children.
In the evening, my niece and nephews came over. Loud and energetic, climbing all over me, making me exasperated and happy and tired and hoarse all at the same time. I can't imagine someone wanting to destroy such light. We watch some cartoons and after a much arguing and bribing with promises of snacks, I switch to the news. The newsreader is wearing black. Sean Luke's picture comes up on screen. The nephews watch and we share a rare moment of stillness and silence.
"Everybody talking about Sean Luke." Shomari says, I guess to let me know that they know but that they too can't make sense of it. The moment passes. I switch back to cartoons and the boys sigh with relief. They go back to being their sweet, loud, funny, innocent selves again. But I still feel powerless to protect them against the real monsters that live, not under beds or in a far off place with Anansi.
The women of The Pan Collective are deeply horrified and saddened at the news of the brutal killing of 6-year-old Sean Luke.
To the family of this little boy: we send you our most heartfelt prayers. May you somehow, some way, find peace.
To our readers: Trinidadian citizens will be wearing black on Friday, March 31, 2006, in silent protest of Sean Luke's death. We invite you to join us, wherever in the world you might be.
What does it mean to have roots? To have your navel string tied to a place? I have eaten Cascadoo once (curried), so maybe, as the legend says, wherever I go in my lifetime, I will return to Trinidad to die.
Lately I've been thinking about the concept of having Caribbean roots and realising that I don't fully know what it means. It must mean something different to everyone, but I have never felt or explored it consciously. 'Roots' must be archaic and far reaching, touching mystical and unknown depths within each of us. What does that word/concept really mean? 'Roots'. My roots are here in Trinidad at least to the extent that I was born here. My even deeper and older roots are in the Caribbean at least to the extent that my parents and many of my forefathers/mothers were born within the region. However, my leaves, branches, flowers and fruits are Universal ... not tied to a specific place. What nutrients do I get from the ground in which my roots are fixed through birth? And when I bear fruit where are they readily harvested?
With a lot of fanfare a local bank announced that they had just installed their first female board director. In the year of our Lord 2006.
The fact that there are still women who are going where no woman has gone before them in the 21st century is giving me pause. I think everyone would agree that womanhood has the right to be celebrated, but by this time, I'd hoped that the walls and ceilings had already been shattered.
One can also notice it in election time. Four years a government is in power, and few are the times were there is any mention of better day care, addressing the difference in the pay scales, or the sexism that exists. Then election time hits and the female candidates are trotted out, as if to say "See, we love women. We even have women as candidates. How could you not vote for us?!"
What I would love to see is that women in politics is taken as a matter of course, not something that is an exception. I would love to see that when a woman is installed as a board director, her business sense and savvy dealings are praised more than that she is a woman. Yes, she is a woman, but she is so many more things than that. I long for the day that womanhood is not considered an obstacle to overcome when reaching a goal, but something that is a part of a person.
I took this picture on the first day I got my new camera. I took it because I loved how the sun illuminated the water around the surfer and the sky in the background. The fact that the surfer is female is not important in this picture. I suppose that's what I want to see happen in Aruba. The next time that a woman does something great, I'd like her accomplishments to be praised just as much as the fact that she is female.