Saturday, 31 January 2009
It has been interesting listening to all people have to say on the issue - depending on who you ask you get such different opinions. Locals tend to be very supportive, telling me that the Guadeloupean people have been exploited and cheated and tricked, either by the rich (usually white) business owners or the State. Non-locals will point out the harm this is all doing to the economy, particularly tourism but also all other sectors. The large cruise ships are going to Martinique instead at a loss of a huge sum per boat. Although the locals then point out that much of the money from tourism does not go into the local economy in any case.
It certainly does seem unfair that people come from France with more money and set up businesses here, taking away the jobs from locals (with such limited space, there are only so many jobs that you can have available!) - but as a french region and department they have every right to do so, just like locals could go to say Normandy and do the same. My pet complaint is that imported food is the same price or cheaper than local - no way to encourage vital local agriculture. But all I hear rings so familiar - they are the same problems the world over.
A main point of contention is petrol - I feel that in our current world it is now the love of petrol which is the root of all evil... Although I guess it is the love of the money that comes with it. The petrol stations are often owned by whites from France and they recieve a fixed sum from all sales. They are introducing automatic pumps so no need for staff, not only affecting jobs here, but meaning they get more of a profit, little of which goes into the local economy. Many businesses such as water, banks, electricity are based in France, and also do not benefit the local economy.
Apparently the cost of rent and bills etc here is around 42% of people's salary, compared to something like 25% in France. There is also a demand for increase in the minimum wage.
As I listen to all the opinions, I can see both sides, but it does seem to me that the only way all these demands will be met and these particular issues resolved is by the country becoming independent (which is what many unionists would like) but this of course would bring its own set of problems.
Apparently currently 1 in 6 people here are unemployed. This figure will surely shoot up after this strike. Interestingly, though, the demands being made by people here are actually more moderate than those in France mainland! There is very little mention of all this in the French media, and I have to say I can't see why they would worry about this little island of 400,000 people when they have 60 million or so in France to take care off! One person said that the benefit for France of having Guadeloupe is higher than vice versa, but that would surprise me. Show me the figures!!
The agriculteurs have been taking their produce to the streets to sell, but there are so many people it is hard to get anything. Some shops bravely stay open, only to get closed down by the unionists at some point. There have been many people protesting, with their favourite song: Gwadloup ce payi en nou ce pa ta yo (Guadeloupe is our country not theirs) with a groovy carnivelesque beat! Speaking of the carnival, it has been cancelled this Sunday and my niece told me in horror that they may cancel the Carnival week holiday (half term) as they have missed so much school!
I have to say I can see why God created work - it is rather demoralising seeing everyone mooch around with nothing to do, no purpose or structure to the day. In a way more tiring than working, and certainly less satisfactory! So let's hope that things speed up and get resolved - it is not expected to by Monday but mid-week at the earliest.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
All the children very much enjoyed playing on the swing - their favourite game now is being turned round and swinging giddily at top speed. I hated that when I was little! Papy very much enjoyed having visitors, especially those who had never heard his stories before and stood and listened with interest and appreciation!
Now that he is moving around so much, it is impossible to keep him on the nice clean mat. He would much rather crawl in the dirt and stick all sorts of weird and wonderful things in his mouth! I have given up following him around and just let him be - surely doing wonders for his immune system! This aproach is not very appreciated by my Guadeloupean friends and family, who believe in keeping a child clean, but then they're not the one having to lug him around all the time!
Can you guess what this is....yup, a wasp's nest, hanging on a banana leaf! For this reason you have to be very careful when you wander around Pika. Papy came face to face with these unexpectedly last week and made a very hasty retreat, no doubt saving himself from a very swollen face!
The above wasps actually used to live inside here until very recently
Here is LissaLou collecting them for Mamie before feeding the hens with mais and purima
Sunday, 25 January 2009
We discussed the differences between a palmier (top left) and a cocotier (bottom right). The plant is one that you touch and all the leaves fold in (don't know if you can see that from the picture with LissaLou's hand!) Bertie taught us previously the song that goes with it - have a go at translating it!: Manzel mari feme pot aw diab'la ka vin
Each time we pass here we wonder if these are crocodiles hiding under the water (like the ones in Happy I'm A Hippo) but no, they are always old tyres! The port by sunset - I was going to take a picture of LissaLou's favourite boat (the biggest one!) but it was off for a sail today
Fishermen on the port - don't know if they actually caught anything!Sunset - time to get going!
We were particularly pleased to discover on our return that after an absence of...20 or so hours, the water was back on!
Saturday, 24 January 2009
The electricity went off in the evening and came back sometime in the early hours and I must say I am not cut out for living 18th century life without such luxuries! I threatened to return to "civilised" England but was told I would be going alone...! I wouldn't mind so much if it were because of a massive storm or something, but a strike just seems so petty!
Anyway, we fumbled around with candles and discovered the good side of life with electricity - everyone came out onto the verandah and sat chatting by candlelight. This is quite revolutionary as usually you don't see them away from the tv! And I went to bed early - well there was nothing else to do! At least my ipod was fully charged!
It didn't stop there; just before we went to bed the water went off. And as I write at 3.30pm it has not since returned. GRR! Is there not some legal thing that stops people taking away such a basic need as water!!! We had a few bottles of water stored up and happily it rained this morning so Bertie got to take a shower before going to work (actually open!). By the time I finished washing up in one bowl of water I had the feeling that the items were coming out dirtier than they went in! We had a lovely roast dinner though, and if the water ever returns I shall make some stock out of it.
The supermarkets are still closed as are the petrol stations, and there is a huge manifestation in Pointe a Pitre today. We shall what comes of it all.
I have learnt to apply a new truth amongst all this though - make hay whilst the sun shines. If you have electricity, charge everything and blog (!). If you have water, wash and clean everything. If you are fortunate enough to have both, get your clothes washed. If the shops are open, buy buy buy. Right now. Don't leave it till later as you never know what may happen!
We have sat down with the girls then and explained our new system and that we want them to obey straight away when they are told to do something, responding with "yes mummy" to show they have heard and processed it. Complaining, questioning, moaning etc is not obeying straight away! Failure to act will result in clearly defined consequences...!
In fact, children obeying is not the hardest part of the issue, it is parents remembering to be consistent! It is so easy to let something go because we are occupied or can't be bothered, so that is our challenge. It also makes you consider what boundaries you set or what commands you give more carefully bearing in mind that you will have to follow them up. So I think it ends up with fewer rules but those that are set have more value. I mean, does it really matter if Baby JoJo gets a green felt tip moustache...certainly not to him!
The other thing I struggle with is telling them to do something rather than asking. Of course if I say "Can you close the door LissaLou" she is well within her rights to say no! I am practising rephrasing it as "Close the door please LissaLou".
So far the whole issue of obedience is going much better - as my friend and fellow mum Yvonne pointed out to me (thanks for your help and encouragement on this subject and I hope you don't mind me quoting you!) a child is far happier with clearly defined boundaries and it also means much less shouting which is better for everyone! CassCass in particular is very easily reduced to tears by the word no (even if it isn't a telling off) or by raised voices, and this has helped her lots as we are aiming to speak pleasantly and calmly.
On the subject of shouting, that is another priority for us. Here, everyone shouts, so much! (One person explained that it is because of the outdoor life - it is certainly true that people are more likely to shout "Ki jen aw!" from the pavement across the road to their friend sitting on their verandah than come up close and converse!) So it has been very easy for us to fall into that bad habit. (LissaLou has picked it up from school - more from the teacher than from the kids!)
I have been ashamed to hear LissaLou saying pitifully "why do you always shout at me mummy!" but it is a good lesson in learning to apologise to your child! I was also challenged by this post which told us that "there are few emergencies" whereas we mums (well, I speak for myself here!) can have a bad habit of hurrying, hassling, perhaps shouting our way through the day. Listening to the way the parents speak to their children around us (and their children reply) reminds me of a quote from "Shepherding Your Child's Heart" (Tedd Tripp) on the principle that conversation is dialogue, not monologue: "Her mother was a screamer. Communication was limited to periods of volcanic activity. When Mom spewed forth lava, [she] learnt to head for cover". Oh yes, la Soufriere is not the only volcano on this island!
So shouting is now out. Except in the case of fire of course. I would say that Bertie rarely if ever shouts so that is a great example for us. Presumably that was developed by his desire to retain his voice throughout his years in an inner city school! And believe me, LissaLou is quick to remind me if I forget this one!
We are working on saying thank you and that is going well, particularly with CassCass, who has a great example to follow in LissaLou.
Finally, as LissaLou approaches the grand old age of 5, I have introduced two new concepts - privilege and responsibility. For privilege, she is going to be receiving pocket money. I think I will give her €1.50 a week in three 50 centimes coins - one for church collection, one for saving and one for spending. Sounded a lot to me but it won't even buy her a floup! (They have just gone up to 75 centimes, shock horror!) This is the beginning of that topic close to my heart (and which my dad gave me such good lessons in!)...money management!
For responsibility, we discussed all the things that needed to be done to keep the house nice and everyone healthy, then who did all these things. Daddy got equal mention with me, which seemed a bit inaccurate...! When put in this perspective, LissaLou was quite happy to get away with five things to match her age:
1. Carry cups down for lunch and upstairs to be washed
2. Put her pyjamas on her bed after her shower
3. Put her clothes in the washing basket
4. Put her shoes in the shoe box
5. Tidy up her toys
Oh for such an easy life!
Right, enough thinking for now, I am off to roast a chicken and cope without water, again!
So here are my thoughts on my goals, which I could have blogged about on 1 Jan but I thought I would wait a while and make sure they were going to happen! Feel free to share your thoughts or own goals in the comments field (non-family members also welcome!)
My usual practice is to have a theme for the year (I have read about some bloggers who have a word such as gratitude or communion which is also a nice idea). Last year it was "stepping outside of my comfort zone" (with baby number three as well as the move) and according to my journal my verse for the year was Zech 4:6 "Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit".
This year the theme is spiritual discipline and my verse goes along with that: "rather, train yourself to be godly" 1 Tim 4: 7-8. I am reading "Disciplines of a Godly Woman" by Barbara Hughes and currently working on daily prayer, bible reading and the really hard one....getting up early enough to do it! Not quite managed the last one yet! This is mainly due to having
1. a tv
2. a husband who likes watching films in the evening
3. the french system of starting films at 8.50pm so they finish ridiculously late
4. ok ok a general lack of self discipline on my part too!
In addition to that, I have also been musing on the idea of intentional parenting. (I made this term up for myself then discovered loads of people have already used it, ah well!) In fact, there is room for intentionality in all of my life but I thought I would particularly focus on this crucial area.
What do I mean by this phrase... Well, it is all to easy to drift through life without any particular focus or (to take some helpful cliches) surviving not thriving and failing to plan which of course we are told means planning to fail!! I like organising and believe it to be important, although there is of course room for spontaneity and impulsiveness in life. The problem is, if I don't have a clear picture of where I am going and what is the priority for me to get done, there is a very good chance I won't achieve the important things in life, but will get caught up in what Stephen Covey so helpfully classes as the unimportant urgent things that clamour for our attention. (7 Habits For Highly Effective People - great book!)
So the first thing to do is have a mission plan for where I am going - I enjoyed listening to Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday as it was a very clear mission plan for the American people. In effect, he was saying this is what we wish to attain, now his job is to work out the details and strategy of how to get there. And if he gets lost or distracted on the way, he can always refer back to it and check if he is focusing his attention on what he classed as his priorities.
Once I have a mission plan, I can refer all my plans and projects to it, and check them against it so to speak. Then when I have a conflict of choices and decisions to make, I can go for the ones that match with my priorities. If my time is limited, and the season that I am currently in is brief (for a great talk on this, have a look at Caroline Mahaney's talk here) then it is all the more important to use each hour wisely. Sometimes I look back and think if I had given it a bit more thought I would not necessarily have spent my time doing that (surfing the net perhaps!!) or committed myself to going to x, y or z. I have my mission plan in my head but I would like to put it in writing - my current favourite verse for it is 2 Cor 5:9 "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it".
On to intentional parenting then. Nowhere in my life am I more aware of wasted time than with the children, as we are often reminded how short our time with them is and how quickly these lovely years of being their main influence will pass. And as we are also reminded as parents, how important our job is! We are shaping children and how they turn out in years to come will be to a large extent dependent on what input they receive from us. Wow! I love that challenge, daunting as it is! Who would be a City Banker when they could be a child shaper!!!
I also notice in my own life that whilst I have the privilege of being at home all the time with the kids, if I don't pay attention and give thought to the time I spend with them, I can actually spend hardly more time really interacting with them than someone who is out at work all day, as I get sidetracked by cleaning and er, surfing the web and all the other demands or temptations that pop up.
So in choosing to be more intentional, it is a way of reflecting on what our priorities are for our family, for the characters and capabilities of the children (not to mention ourselves!) and then highlighting what will help us achieve these and prioritising these activities or times above all others. I don't mean that I have every minute and hour of the day planned out (doesn't that sound nice though! If somewhat unrealistic!) but working out what are the rocks of the day and making them get placed into the jar (I love this picture very clearly explained on one of my favourite blogs here!) before all the pebbles and sand come fill it up. And in my case, if this is not done prayerfully and basing my mission plan and goals on the Bible, it will not be done well.
Look out for the next post which gives you some practical ways that I am implementing all this.
Friday, 23 January 2009
They have one of these in Shoreditch Park, Hoxton!
Baby JoJo enjoyed the water very much, splashing and swallowing alternately!Now LissaLou wants to go back for her birthday but I think we might just have a party instead!
Bertie and I debated the issue yesterday. He thinks that the high price of living (40% or so) is unjustified and that it relates in part to the monopolisation of a few big companies here, usually owned by beke or blanc-pays - descendants of the colonialists who owned the slaves and plantations. Bertie pointed out that it is difficult for a local Guadeloupean to get very far in setting up his own business here, due to lack of capital and the ferocity of the competition, who have the advantage of inherited wealth which initially came from profiting from the slave trade...Interesting how many things relate back to slavery, time and time again. However, we didn't get very far in finding a solution. Hopefully the powers that be will be more successful, as in the meantime there are
1. few people working
2. few shops open
3. various roads blocked
4. sporadically no water (last night)
5. daily periods of no electricity (however I have noticed that it always comes back on in time for that Great Guadeloupean Institution Les Feux de L'Amour. Coincidence...or do the strikers not want to face their furious grandmothers deprived of their favourite soap fix...!)
6. various incidents of car burning etc
Of course, strikes aren't all bad things - we have LissaLou at home which is lovely, and no great loss to her education I am sure! We also have Bertie around a lot - lovely but more of a loss to our pocket... Hmm we have hardly any food in the fridge but at least we can always go and squat at Mamie's and now Bertie's tomatoes and lettuces are out in full, we are semi self-sustainable! (One day he will get the photos on his blog!) There is a very chilled feel to life all in all.
What is interesting is how unbothered the locals seem to be about the whole thing, whereas we outsiders get up on soap boxes and complain vociferously about yet another strike! Various people are trying to tempt us into outstaying our year, but I have to say this is one aspect of life that makes living here very unattractive. Unless, of course, you are employed by the state and sitting at home comfortably whilst the pay still drops into your account!