Friday, March 13, 2015

A Letter To Rotaract

Reshma's collage makes another appearance

#21 Katwaroo Trace
Ojoe Road
Sangre Grande
Friday, March 13th, 2015
Dearest Rotaract,

Happy Birthday to you! 47 never looked so good. When I think of your humble beginnings in 1968 in North Carolina, and how much you’ve impacted the lives of your members and Communities around the world since, I smile.

I remember the exact moment you came into my life. I was suffering from abject boredom and lacking purpose. Jobless and without a social life, I had just returned from my 11-month sojourn to Colombia. The thrill of living-eating-speaking-dancing-breathing Latin American culture had dried out and morphed into a monotonous cycle of sleep-eat-surf Facebook-watch TV-repeat.

So, your intervention into my life on that rainy Wednesday afternoon was timely. I saw the Facebook post from The Rotaract Club of Sangre Grande Central, asking interested persons to attend a meeting, and I decided to attend with my awkward energy, barely concealed crazy and questionable sense of humour in tow.

There I found a group of young people. Some I already knew, like the girl that was in choir with me in Secondary School, the girl from Little Hardware, and the guy that was my best friend in Primary School. Everyone was very welcoming. It was clear that they were passionate about you. They were detailed in their description of what you’re all about.

So, although my introduction to the others made me seem like I was unaccustomed to being around people, I returned home excited about the future.

A year and some months later, the mission to end the boredom has become a Passion for You, Rotaract.

I look forward to all activities in your avenues of service. Visiting the Children’s July/August Vacation Camp in Sans Souci; Necessary Paperwork Sessions; distributing Christmas hampers; donating to the End Polio Fund; attending Conference, RYLA and other training seminars; random Friday night outings with my fellow members.

I would like to thank you.

Thank you for the camaraderie of your members. I have found new friends. Correction: an extended family. Sure, we have our disagreements and personality traits that irk each other, but the love and support is there. They have accepted me, and I, them. Our WhatsApp group is the best one out there. Outside of my club, I’ve met some great souls too.

Thank you for your motto, Service Above Self. It has changed my approach to life. It’s not always about me. Sometimes, I need to put my ego aside and do the good work without expecting anything in return.

Thank you for the opportunities for growth. I’m talking about Conference, hosting District Leadership Training 2014 and attending RYLA 2015.

Thank you for the much needed sense of belonging. I’ve come to appreciate two things about you: 1) anyone can be a Rotaractor, and 2) there is something to be said about being a part of something that’s so much bigger than yourself.

Thank you for the opportunities to network and share in cultures. 

Thank you for the epic theme parties and limes. There is no doubt in my mind that your members always go full 100.

Overall, thank you for giving me a Purpose.

Tomorrow, my club members and I will celebrate your birthday with a Health Clinic and Membership Drive in Sangre Grande. We hope to encourage others to join our mission to change lives and be exceptional.

Happy Birthday and love abounds.

Just a few moments captured in photos :)

Yours in Service,

Garvin Tafari Parsons
International Service Director
Vice President (Elect)
Rotaract Club of Sangre Grande Central

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I'm Baaack... Not That I Went Anywhere

Hello! *waves emphatically*

I would say Happy New Year, but the novelty of 2015 has worn off, so...

According to my blog stats, the last time I posted an update was Sunday, July 20th, 2014, approximately 5 months and 29 days ago. Looking back a lot has happened in that time, and the phrase, time waits for no one has new meaning.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rotaract District 7030 Conference, Day Three

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced”- John Keats

This here’s the third and final instalment in my Rotaract District 7030 Conference series of blogs. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, who read until the very end. Your commitment and comments on Facebook and WhatsApp made my heart smile. Love abounds!

And that’s enough niceness from me. Below is a recap of Day Two.

I was sore from the night before. I did not want to get off my bed, but I had to. Today was District Assembly. It’s a glorified meeting of all the stakeholders in the Rotaract organization. I needed to be there. I complained about how poorly my blazer was made. I might have referred to the tailor as a colossal caca-hole. There were a lot of reports. These seemed to have lasted a decade. I was struck by how far-reaching the organization is. I compared myself to a tooth on a cog. I fell asleep a lot. We took a photo in the hot sun. I was very excited when the bus came to take us back to the hotel.

The theme of the 2014 Theme Party was Candy-Land: Colours of the Rainbow. My club and I went as Skittles. I was orange. I looked really cute and rotund. We made Skittles-flavoured rum in the 421 Distillery. We could not take it to the party. We were sad. At the party, there was a long line for food. I was annoyed by this line jumper, dressed in yellow. The food was worth the wait though. I drank Black Cat and danced the night away. I was drunk. I spoke Spanish non-stop for 45-minutes. I helped push a trolley.

If that recap spoke to you, you can read the entire account of Day Two right HERE.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rotaract District 7030 Conference, Day Two

“Nothing becomes real till it is experienced”- John Keats


Welcome to the second instalment in my three-part blog series that chronicles my experience at the Rotaract District 7030 Conference in Paramaribo, Suriname. Below is a summary of Day One:

The Rotaract District 7030 Conference started. I was late for the first event. That event was RETS, which stands for Rotaract Executive Training Seminar. It was a day-long exercise. We were to learn skills. We had four sessions that gave us lessons in emotional intelligence, leadership, ethics, and event planning. It was most instructive. I got a certificate. I was proud.

Later that evening, there was the Opening Ceremony. I was excited. I love culture. And culture was the running theme during the evening’s festivities. There was a Flag Ceremony. Then, a Surinamese drum ensemble took the stage. There was an Amerindian Chief as well, he looked like Powhatan. I was left mesmerized by the entire experience.

Finally, we went clubbing. The club was named 22 Yards. It actually measured 22 yards. There was no space. It was hot. I was annoyed. I bitched about it. But, a shot of tequila and an appearance by Queen Elsa put all that to bed. I managed to enjoy myself. I might have let out my inner jamette.

Day One was exhausting.

If reading that made you curious about the finer details of the day, you can satiate your curiosity right HERE. You might even have a laugh or two.

As to the happenings of Day Two, you can find them after this paragraph. You know the usual, do enjoy and please come again!

The date was Saturday, June 14th, 2014, the time was 7:15AM, and my muscles were sore. I figured that my wotless behaviour from the previous night’s clubbing experience had a lot to with it. We were to leave the hotel at eight to go to the venue for that year’s District Assembly, but I had no zeal to get off my bed.

What my body lacked in inactivity, my mind made up for with a running commentary: “Why should I even go? It’s probably going to be boring. And I might just fall asleep. I wonder if the hotel’s tuck shop sells 5-hour Energy. But no, if I take that, I’ll eventually crash and miss the Theme Party. I hope the omelette lady is there. Her eggs are heavenly.  I should get up. My team would look bad if one of its members doesn’t show up. Plus, I’m new at this Rotaract business; I just might learn something today. Good thing I ironed.”

Half an hour later, I was praising Lipton Yellow Label Tea for its ability to wake me up as I boarded the bus. We arrived at the Surinamese Olympic Stadium after a short drive. The venue for the day’s activities had a nice interior, but the exterior and surrounding infrastructure left much to be desired. Ah well, you can’t have it all.

Presidents, Incoming Presidents or Representatives of the President of each Rotaract club in the District had their seats reserved for them at the front of the Assembly. I was elated, and promptly bade our President a hearty farewell and gravitated to the back. But, before I could be seated, a tiny photo-shoot to show off that day’s attire needed to be had.

Usually, I like having my photo taken. It not only feeds my vanity, but it’s a service to mankind. I mean, who am I to rob the world of my smile?  But, the prospect of taking a photo did not fill me with the same joy on that particular day. You know why? Two words: my blazer.

Flashback- WTF, Mr. Courtney!?!

Our club had always wanted to invest in a Rotaract blazer. So, when the Conference newsletter stated that it was part of the dress-code for District Assembly, we seized the opportunity to have them made.

One member found a reputable tailor in Sangre Grande, named Courtney to sew them for us. My Granny- a seamstress- spoke highly of his abilities, he seemed to know what he was doing while he was measuring me, and he charged $300. I saw no reason not to trust him.

The day before I was to leave sweet T&T for Suriname, I came home to find my blazer in my room. I immediately took it off its hanger and put it on. The sleeves were abnormally short, the stitching atrocious and the blazer itself looked dejected. It was a burgundy mess! Like, WTF, Mr. Courtney? I thought you were supposed to be good!

At first, I was nonplussed. Then, I got angry. My voice turned into a screech as I berated Mr. Courtney and his craftsmanship from afar. I called him a host of names like, a colossal caca-hole and an overrated anus of a tailor. I could not believe that I had paid $300 for a blazer that I wouldn’t even use as toilet paper. Steups!

End Flashback

Three days later, I was still seething. However, I was comforted by the fact that we all looked like well-packaged maroon boxes in our Bullshit Blazers made by Courtney. With the photos out of the way and my blazer hanging on the back of my seat, I was ready for the day’s events.

They don't look so bad, right?
The District Assembly brings together the District Committee, Rotary representatives, and Presidents and members of the thirty-five (35) Rotaract clubs in District 7030. I had been forewarned that it’s often a drawn out affair, but given the novelty of the entire experience, my mood was anticipatory.

It began with a prayer and the Four Way Test. Important persons were acknowledged. The minutes of last year’s Assembly had been reviewed in advance, and when no one had anything to say in terms of corrections, we moved on. There was an infomercial about the Rotaract District Committee (RDC). Reports from several District Committees followed.

A cross section of the Rotaractors gathered
When the District Rotaract Representative (DRR) began her report that listed the number of Rotaract clubs in the District, outlined the achievements of each club, and detailed her visits to the different clubs, I was struck by the enormity of the Rotaract organization.

Now, I had always known that my club could not have been the only one in the District, but I had never sat and thought about the big picture. Think about it, there are thirteen (13) countries that make up District 7030, from St. Kitts to Trinidad and Tobago to French Guiana to Guyana to Suriname. In total, there are thirty-five (35) Rotaract clubs with thousands of members.

The District Committee is just a bigger Rotaract club that represents all the clubs in the District. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway. Don’t even get me started on the fact that District 7030 is just one District, and that there are other Districts that encompass the Caribbean, and the world.

In essence, I am one tooth on a cog (my club) that is attached to other cogs (clubs) that turn the giant machine that is Rotaract District 7030. And in the grand scheme of things, District 7030 is yet another cog in the Rotaract machinery, and so on and so forth.

I sat there, thinking: “I am a part of something that’s so much bigger than me!”

The three to four hours I had been sitting there, listening to all those reports, had felt like a decade. Given my sleep deprived state and the heat of the room, I started nodding off on myself. I drank two cups of green tea, but I had apparently become immune to its restorative properties over the course of the past two days.

Trying to fight the sleep and failing miserably was so frustrating. Every time I thought that I was winning, I would jump awake, look around and register the sniggers of my peers. On several occasions, I could have sworn that a camera’s flashing light had startled me awake. Fighting was futile. My ending up on Facebook in the official album of Conference sleepers was inevitable. I gave in.

My nap did help, but I think having to stand under the blazing Surinamese sun in a sweat-box of a blazer, surrounded by a group of persons, posing for the official Conference photo, went a long way in keeping me firmly in the Land of the Awake.

Lunch quickly followed and we moved into the afternoon session, which comprised of a bid to host next year’s conference- Barbados won-, elections, more reports, and a small disagreement that went on forever. I wanted very much to go back to the hotel, and did not hesitate to jump in the bus when it arrived. There was more fun to be had later that evening; I needed a little rest.

The Theme Party is yet another part of the Conference experience. This year’s theme was CandyLand, and invited persons to dress up in colourful, candylicious outfits. My proclivity for bright colours, over-enthusiasm and eating candy meant that I was looking forward to dressing up and attending.  

We settled on a Skittles inspired costume; each of us would choose a colour and wear a uniformed bottom- a skirt for the girls and pants for the boys. I chose the colour orange because it goes well with my complexion. An important part of our overall presentation was giving everyone shots of Skittles-flavoured rum. We needed a distillery.

Flashback- The Distillery in Room 421

The night before Conference officially began; the Grande massive took over Room 421 and turned it into a distillery for their Skittles-flavoured rum. The main ingredient was White Oak, which, in my mind, is one step above Hard Wine in the Ghetto Rum Classification, and Skittles.

First, we separated the Skittles by colour. In our case: red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and pink. Second, we divided the three bottles. Third, we dropped each colour into the rum. Fourth, we shook the concoction like our lives depended on it. Fifth, we named our creations: Red Light District, Horny Wheatgrass, Indian Tonic, Bup Bup Juice, Sunrise Venom, and Bubblegum Kotch.

The fumes from the White Oak, the vodka and orange juice we had been drinking, and the general vibes in the distillery had obviously influenced us. Ha!

End Flashback

Unfortunately, the venue for the party did not allow patrons to enter with alcohol. Oops! But, the show had to go on. We got dressed in our multi-coloured garments, and looked splendid and uniformed as we made our way through the hotel’s main lobby. Other Rotaractors had gone all out for the festivities, and I was giddy just from looking at them.

The mode of transport to the club made me very nostalgic. It reminded me of the chiva rumbera I had gone on when I was in Colombia back in 2010. This was an uncovered party bus that boasted a stripper pole, seating accommodations, and a number of railings. We were treated to sweet, Soca music, and given a small tour of Paramaribo before heading to the club.

#GrandeMassive #SkittlesCrew
Serving Skittle realness! 
Havana Club was much larger than the club we had gone to the previous night; a fact that I was very grateful for. The host Surinamese clubs had gone all out with the decorations. It was as though I had actually stepped into a Candy Land. I imagined a troupe of ballerinas alighting from the woodwork, outfitted with giant confetti cannons that shot out shining dust and candy and pies. 

In the food line, some persons were behaving as though the food would finish. I hate line jumpers, more so, when hunger is gnawing at my stomach. There was this one girl, who seemed to appear out of thin air (no easy feat given her bright yellow costume), and stood on the side of me, inching closer into the line, bold as brass. I was fuming, silently. I gave her pointed looks, but she paid me no mind. Heaven knows she tried my patience. (If you happen to read this and want to apologize, feel free to private message me on FB)

As it turns out, the food was worth the wait. I was fed. I was content. The music was pumping. There was ample room to dance. I needed to shake a leg, badly! Oh, there was an open bar. 

I decided to try the Surinamese rum, Black Cat. By itself the liquid wasn’t black, but that all changed when Coca-Cola was added as chaser. It was so good, and I committed myself to drinking it the rest of the night. The party was even better under the cat's influence. I unleashed my inner jamette for the second time in two days. I think my jamette level was pretty high, since I pulled a muscle in my leg after wining down low.

I didn't realize how drunk I was until I found myself dancing to and singing Rasta-people music out loud. It was all downhill from there, and I ended the night speaking Spanish to non-Spanish speakers. I always insist that one's proficiency in a second language improves under the influence of alcohol. Ha! 

I'm a helpful drunk :)
NB: Day Three debuts on Sunday. 

Until the next post. Toodles! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rotaract District 7030 Conference, Day One

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced” - John Keats


For three glorious days, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Rotaract District 7030 Conference in Paramaribo, Suriname. I had heard about the annual meeting of Rotaractors in the District two months into my probationary period with the Sangre Grande Central club, and I was eager to participate.

I figured that it would be an opportunity to understand Rotaract in its entirety, meet new people, and indulge in my love for travel and new cultures. Plus, the stories of almost sleepless nights, balcony jumping and other extracurricular activities that would make Carrie Bradshaw jealous, seemed too good to be true. I had to experience it for myself.

It’s been a month since Conference ended, and I can write, without a shadow of a doubt, that it far exceeded my expectations. The three days were filled with so much activity that it was a task to fit everything into one, nicely-written blog post. Sigh!

After much thought and scrapped writings, I decided to write a three-part blog series with each post relating the events of a day. In theory, it’s a good idea, since I can tell you about all the happenings without the post turning into my debut novel. And well, I’m just hoping that it works in practice.

OK, this introduction is becoming ridiculously long. I should get started with the blogging. Readers, I present an account of the first day of my Conference experience. Enjoy!

The date was Friday, June 13th, 2014, the time was 8:00AM, and I was late for RETS. The Rotaract Executive Training Seminar (RETS) is usually the first event during Conference. It involves training in a number of skills that are aimed at making us better Rotaractors, and by extension, functional human beings.

I groaned inwardly when I entered the Conference Room a few minutes later. Everyone was assembled in groups of five or six, and as a rule, I detest working in groups. I always end up holding the shitty end of the stick. The fact that these were Rotaractors did nothing to soothe my initial misgivings. I needed to be with people I trusted, so I joined the group that consisted of members from my club.

Once settled, I turned my attention to the facilitator of that morning’s session, Emotional Intelligence. His name was RY Jong and he was a Rotarian from Suriname. He was a spritely, middle aged man of short stature. He spoke animatedly, made jokes, bounced on the balls of his feet whenever he had to stand still, and seemed fit to burst with optimism... and rainbows and butterflies.

In short (no pun intended), he was a ball of energy with an infectious personality. I imagined stealing him away in the still of the night, shrinking him with my home-made shrink ray and making a little house for him in my pocket. That way, he could whisper/shout words of encouragement whenever I feel down. Is that weird?

Anyway, the first order of business was introducing ourselves to the other members of the group in a matter of seconds. Before the intros could get under way, The Jong-Man swooped down on my group, and spirited me away to another one.

There, I met Syffra and Giovanni from Suriname, Nikeisha and Christon from Trinidad, and Jamila from Guyana. With the introductions completed, we were to create a poster that: 1) outlined what we hoped to achieve during Conference, and 2) depicted the emotions we felt as a result of being involved with Rotaract. Ours looked something like this:

Sometime during the poster activity, I grasped the point of the session. It wasn't going to be like an episode of Dr. Phil as I had expected, but rather, it was about learning to express and control your own emotions as well as assessing and responding to the emotions of others.

Every member of my group had a different emotional response to the poster-creating process. Some were over-zealous and euphoric, whilst others were indifferent and exasperated. But, instead of becoming frustrated with one another, we were able to pool our resources and create an almost beautiful poster. I mean, let’s face it, our poster lacked colour and pizzazz.

But, we looked pleased.
Next on the agenda, were a number of active exercises. We began with aggressive karate chops. We moved on to pulling an imaginary rope, a few persons managed to look seductive, whereas the majority looked downright constipated. Then, we leaped through the air gracefully, which became affectionately known as “The Picking Mango One”. We ended the activity by aiming mini karate chops between other people’s hands.

Afterwards, I felt like Blaxx during a Soca Monarch performance. For those who don’t get the reference, I was out of breath, and possibly, on the brink of death. As I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth in a valiant attempt to slow my racing heart, I had to ask myself: “What was the point of all this?”

We were asked which of the four exercises we appealed to the most. Since that week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance had rekindled my desire to learn contemporary dance or ballet, I chose, “The Picking Mango One”. My choice meant that my personality was more aligned to the Air Element. Behold, the point! *begins a rousing rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus”*

In the PowerPoint presentation that followed, Mr. Jong explained that each element had a number of strengths and weaknesses attributed to it. For example, my strength lies in being thoughtful and wanting to be informed, but my weaknesses are being indecisive and judgmental. It was yet another way of understanding who you are, which can go a long way in predicting and controlling your emotional responses.

I found Session One very eventful and instructive. Plus, I had even exercised for the first time in months. So, it was easy for me to give the Session a perfect score in the anonymous evaluation sheet. Admittedly, the other sessions were not as eventful and flew by in a blur. In the spirit of keeping things concise, I’ll give a brief summary of the remaining three sessions:

Session Two: "You Can’t Lead If No One Follows"

Facilitator: Rotarian Larry a.k.i.g.w.a. (also known in Garvin’s World as) The Rotaractor That Became a Rotarian *insert dramatic thunder and lightning*

About: The five P’s of leadership as previously outlined by John C. Maxwell. Click HERE for more info.

Thoughts: I enjoyed Larry’s sense of humour, and the references to A Game of Thrones in the presentation. And I learned that everyone has the potential to become a leader.

Session Three: "Applying the Four Way Test"

Facilitator: PDRR Vishi Beharry 

About: Using the Four Way Test (click HERE to read) to find solutions to real life and Rotaract-related situations.

Thoughts: The Four Way Test might only have four questions, but applying them to situations is easier said than done. Informative, nonetheless.

Session Four: "Plan It! Execute It!"

Facilitator: PDRR Julian Skeete. Sidebar- I think him a good example of who a Rotaractor should be. We didn’t interact much, but he struck me as very intelligent, professional, purposeful and humble.

About: How to successfully plan and execute events. Also, emphasized the importance of follow up.

Thoughts: The ice-breaker activity was unsettling. I had to stare in this girl’s eyes and have her stare back into mine, after a few minutes of interaction. I felt all exposed. Other than that, the session was very interactive. I appreciated that he didn’t tell us WHAT to think, but rather HOW to think.

After eight hours of listening, talking and being friendly, I was exhausted. I was, therefore, happy when I received my first-ever RETS certificate. I felt all accomplished and what not. A nap was in order before the evening’s festivities.

Unfortunately, I failed at napping since, in the time it took me to leave the Conference Room, get to the hotel room and change out of my clothes, my excitement about the Opening Ceremony had reached new heights. Given the theme of this year’s Conference, “Learn, See, and Accept the Different Cultures”, and my love for all things cultural, I had every right to be. 

In our cultural wear for the Opening Ceremony. Aren't cheesy photos the best?
A man, beating a drum, welcomed us to the venue, The Suriname Rumhuis. He wasn’t the only one; more drummers dressed in pangis and indigenous wear heralded our arrival as we made our way to the reception area.

All smiles...
We were to gather in the compound’s backyard, which had been covered with tents and boasted simple yet effective decorations. I was literally bouncing in my seat as I took in everything from the colourful clusters of Chinese lanterns on the roof of the tent to the Band setting up on stage to the arrival of other Rotaractors dressed in traditional regalia.

The formal part of the evening began with the Flag Ceremony. Basically, members of the Interact Club marched in with the flags from the thirteen (13) countries that make up Rotaract District 7030. As abridged versions of the National Anthems of each territory were played by the Band, the Interactors placed their flag in a holder of sorts. 

The Ceremony was followed by speeches, and many rounds of applause. Waiters passed rum and fruit cocktails to the guests. And for a hot minute, there was even a young lady distributing tokens of appreciation. It’s worth mentioning that while all this was happening, a number of persons, including the four drummers I had seen when I entered, were on stage with their instruments. You know when you know that something is going to happen? Well, I knew!

That something was the Ala Kondre Dron, a multi-ethnic, Surinamese drum ensemble. A hush fell over the audience as a powerful chant rose to the heavens. The chanter was an Amerindian Chief, who reminded me of Powhatan (Pocahontas’ daddy) and exuded otherworldliness. Goose pimples erupted all over my arms and face. I was wholly captivated.

Le Chief!
He was the Head of a procession, comprised of Rotaractors from Suriname, bedecked in traditional garb, which made its way to the stage. Chief Powhatan went on stage to pass on the ceremonial baton, whilst the procession made two parallel lines to the front. Then, the Ala Kondre Dron began their performance.

Simple words cannot describe what I heard that night. Drums from Africa and Asia were being beaten in unison. The sound was transcendental and melodious. The pulsating rhythms reverberated in my soul as a world of colour and tiny stick figures seemingly exploded before my eyes.

Although each drum group had its time in the spotlight, together they were more impactful. The Ala Kondre Dron perfectly captured the cultural diversity and harmony that exists in Suriname.

Eventually, many of us found ourselves in front of the stage. The tassa was infectious and invited persons to show off their best Bhangra moves. The Surinamese demonstrated a wide array of dances. We cheered. We laughed. We joined hands in unity as a Mother closed off the performance with a stirring vocal. I was left mesmerized, y’all!

Showing us how it's done!
Unity, and my big head...
Deserving of all this and more. Bravo!
Soca, Dancehall, Zouk, and other musical genres from the Caribbean blared from the speakers as we engaged in food and fellowship. What an evening! I was pumped to go clubbing. I mean, I did pay $10US for the experience.  

A soak in the rain, two bus rides, an “Oh my God, my belly is huge!” crisis, an elevator usfie, and a cat nap later, I arrived at 22 Yards. It was the clubbing venue and I was not impressed.

Elevator usfie- the only photo of that night's fun.
The club must have gotten its name from its measurements; I swear there was no room by the time we arrived. To add insult to injury, all the nice drinks were done, and there was a lot of sweating and bouncing and wining interruptions. Not long after, my nose was assaulted by the acrid smell of bad perspiration. I was so annoyed! I needed to get out like, ya mismo.

I stormed out of the club- in my head, I did- and sat on a bench outside, pouting like a spoiled brat, and bemoaned my very existence. I was sleepy. I wasn’t having fun. My throat was parched. I wanted to go back to my air-conditioned hotel room. I did not come this far and pay so much for a heat stroke!

Fifteen (15) minutes into my existential crisis, a shot of tequila in an orange flask found its way into my hand. I looked at it, and wondered where the salt and lime were. The bar must have run out. This pissed me off even more.

After some coaxing from my friends, I took the shot, and Elsa, one of my many voices of reason, made an appearance. She implored me to "Let It Go" because I didn’t know when I would be in Suriname again. She did have a point. Right then and there, I made up my mind to carpe diem the shit out of the party!

My friends and I formed a circle, creating a small albeit well-ventilated dance space. The bar had lots of water on sale, which kept me hydrated. And I danced. I gyrated. I yelled. I jumped. I fist pumped. I fired off an imaginary gun in the air, screaming: “Bup bup bup bup!” I ended up having an amazing time.

I was running on empty by the time I made it back to the hotel. I was dreading the early start to the day tomorrow. Ah well, you know what they say: "No rest for the handsome".

Until the next post on Thursday, God spare life! Toodles! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Acceptance Pending


“You see I study art
The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot”

-Macklemore, Ten Thousand Hours

In January, I wrote a blog post about my struggle with self doubt. If you read it, you may have remembered that it left me wondering if pursuing a Masters’ in Creative Writing was a step in the right direction. What you may not know is that I eventually decided to apply.

Part of the application process involved presenting a manuscript. I opted to write a short story entitled, “The Broken Path to Indifference”. It told the story of a boy’s reaction to his father’s infidelity. It outlined the stages of his emotional breakdown, and ended with him becoming indifferent to it all. After a million and one revisions, well thought out insights from others, a thorough read through in the maxi and a post to Instagram, I submitted the story.

Two weeks ago, I received an email from the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies. I had to present myself for an interview with the Programme Coordinator, Prof. Funso Aiyejina. I was nervous and excited all at the same time.

I went to my trusty Google and entered the words: “common questions postgraduate interview mfa”. With the questions printed, I began to draft appropriate responses. I interviewed myself in the mirror. I asked that good vibrations be sent my way. I took a haircut. And I tried on different shirt and pants combinations. By the day of the interview, I was more than prepared.

So, when the first question Uncle Funji asked was: “Why do you want to do this MFA?” I smiled and rattled off my pre-planned response complete with my signature hand gestures and facial expressions. This was going according to planned. My enthusiasm and confidence was palpable. Then, he asked: “What did you write about again?”

You know in the movies when the character falls into an abyss, hands and legs flailing, screaming, “NOOOOOOO!”? Yeah? Well, that’s how I imagined myself in that instant. I figured that he honestly did not remember what I had written or worse yet, my story was -gasp!- forgettable.

I did not stop to ponder both possibilities, but gave him a summary of my short story. After which, he pulled it from a pile, skimmed through the pages, looked at me, and said, “OK, Garvin, we have several problems.”

My stomach plummeted and my armpits started itching as I came to the realization that what I thought was going to be an interview was really a critique of my manuscript. I had not prepared for this! Why is he clearing his throat? Why is he opening his mouth? Don’t. Say. It. Oh no, he’s saying it!

Listed below were the five main problems (NB: The lines in red are to be read with a Nigerian accent, so as to fully grasp what it was like):

1) Too much “telling”, not enough “showing” in the story. For example, instead of telling him that the protagonist is tall, show him a man brushing his head against a door frame every time he enters the room.

2) Poor story structure. It was too basic. I went from A to B to C to D. It would have been a more exciting read if I had started at C gone to A jumped to D and ended with B.

3) A lack of defining moments.

4) Too analytical. Almost like an academic essay. It links to the first point; I need to “show” more.

5) Inappropriate vocabulary. Use of “big words” came off as me wanting to show off.

He provided examples when necessary. He advised that I read more widely and critically.  Finally, he ended his critique with:

“If you are accepted into the programme, you have A LOT of work to do. We usually take a small group as the programme is rigorous and hands on. The committee still has to meet. You will hear from us very soon.”

I wanted nothing more than to run out of the room, crying with my imaginary long, red hair blowing in the wind behind me. It probably would not have been in my best interest- whatever little I had left- if I had, so I pulled it together.

When prompted, I asked him questions about the programme. I told him about the type of novel or short story collection I envision myself writing. He reiterated that they had not made a decision about my acceptance. We shook hands. It was over.

As I exited the department office, the words of the last half hour washed over me, and I whispered to myself: “I am not getting into the programme.”

I needed to process. Naturally, I went to the office of my former lecturer turned thesis adviser turned one of the few people who can talk me out off spiralling into emotional despair. And we talked.

I told her that Uncle Funji was never malicious. In fact, his critique was constructive. He knew what he was talking about. Plus, the whole purpose of doing the MFA was to learn more and perfect the craft. I knew that entering the field would involve critiques like these. But, in spite of all this, I felt like a watery load of faecal matter.

Furthermore, being accepted into the MFA had completely captivated me for the past year. I need the technical knowhow if I am to realize my dream of becoming a writer. I finally know what I want to do. I never stopped for one instant to think about what I would do if things didn’t go my way. Basically, in the space of half an hour, I had become very uncertain about my future.

She completely understood. I did put my heart and soul into the manuscript. And no matter how imperfect it was, I was proud of it. So, to hear someone tear it apart, although it was to help me in the long run, was bound to hurt.

She advised that I not dwell on whether or not I was accepted. In a few short weeks, I will know my faith. If it’s not to my liking, it doesn’t mean that I should give up. Most times, you must be prepared to work hard for what you really want.

And that’s where I am now, walking that fine line between getting my hopes up and not getting my hopes up, until I know for sure. What I do know is that, no matter the outcome, I intend to KEEP WRITING. Stay tuned! 

Until the next post.