What Grade Did You Get?

The second most show-off-worthy time for parents is upon us. After graduation and prom pictures, the CSEC results are the most popular Facebook postings out there. Proud parents (and god-parents) declare how many 1’s or 2’s their child received, and then wait for the congratulations to pour in. The parents are posting for their friends to see how great their children did – but clearly others see them too.

Apparently the ones who didn’t do so well in the school-leaving exams might have been haunted by these posts and the eventual comparisons they elicit because some – disappointed with their results – fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital.

Back in my day, there was the unspoken understanding that all subjects were to be passed, and there were some who did better than others, but I don’t know if the expectations of today’s parents (or the children themselves) are so high that low marks call for bed rest and a few bags of “drip”.

There’s been much talk about the enormous pressure that students are put under which now begins around Grade 5 when the students are told about the impending Common Entrance Exams (or whatever they’ll be called next year). Getting into the Top 100 is of utmost importance seeing as how it gives students a chance to get into one of the “better” government schools.

The comparison of grades when the results come out is expected. In my day (before results were posted online), we’d call around to find out how we stacked up against our peers. Unfortunately, these days everything is put on show. The newspaper article that highlighted the incidences of “bad feeling” experienced by the youngsters, quoted a counsellor as saying that professional help should be sought for the children who were disappointed in their results – as there may be other factors at play.

Whatever will they be told, I wonder?

Some kids aren’t great at taking tests, which is a shame when they actually know the material. And some kids don’t respond well to threats, otherwise known as motivational speeches. And some kids just need an extra week – to study.




No Alchemy Here

We gathered in the space carrying our welcome drinks and wearing our coloured dots like bullseyes. We were encouraged to mingle outside our circle of friends, but it was clear that most felt comfortable with the people they already knew.

It was difficult to tell whether the hum was due to anticipation or feedback from the audio speakers. And as more people came, the attempt to set the mood for the evening resulted in having to compete with the singer just to be heard.

But it was easy to share in the two virtual expressions of excitement from around the kitchen table, when the numbers gathered there were seen.

The group of women who were chosen to inspire mingled only after they told their stories – before that they stood apart, and the tales and their deliveries were as varied as the women who told them – unlike the identical musical crescendos that followed each one.

“Like” did not follow “like”, that evening – at least, not in the way it was intended. At least, not for me. It was, however the perfect opportunity to renew old alliances, just not to make any new ones.

It’s kind of hard to find alchemy if your “connection” doesn’t show.

Should Peter pay for Paul?

It’s graduation season. A cursory look at various social media accounts will show tons of pictures of young people in graduation gowns and prom dresses, in commencement photos and make-up sessions. Signifying the end of one stage and the beginning of another, the commencement exercise here is a rite of passage that starts (incredulously) upon leaving kindergarten.

Last week, a local school made news when the principal made good on his promise not to have a graduation ceremony if the students persisted in behaviour that they had been warned about. After the dust had settled – and to hear some people tell it – it appeared that the behaviour of the students warranted the unprecedented action. But I’m gathering that it wasn’t the entire class – so what about the rest of them? Like others, I could talk about the guilty ones and how it serves them right and question where their parents were in all of this, but what about the rest of them?

I’m trying to rack my brain for a similar example from when I was much younger, and I’m not coming up with anything. I’m thinking that there must have been some story that I can relate from back in the day that parallels this one. You know – where the innocent had to suffer for the guilty, but it taught us a valuable lesson, nonetheless? But I’m drawing a blank.

I could, however, relate some recent examples involving my own children.

My daughter is a Brownie and a few months ago, the Girl Guides celebration of World Thinking Day was marked by several activities – one of which was a hike of several miles. I decided to go along, and donning my walking shoes (because I hate sneakers), we traversed some areas where I hadn’t actually been before. Along the way, the girls attempted to get to know about their counterparts in other companies – but it was really to see who could make it back before the others.

The hike was to culminate with a bonfire around which the girls would sing campfire songs while roasting marshmallows. My daughter was out of her skin when she heard that part. I had to buy a whole pack of those sugar bombs which she shared with a classmate who had a stick, but no marshmallow. Returning to camp after the walk, we lined up for food (some of which ran out), while some leaders started the bonfire.

Each company had to make a presentation in song and there were twelve or so groups. Darkness was descending quickly. The girls were getting restless, and admittedly, a little loud. A bull-horn was used to quiet them down, but it didn’t work very well. By the time the sixth or seventh company had made their presentation, you couldn’t see the face of the person across from you. I was ready to go, but with the bonfire well underway now, there was no way I could even think of leaving.

Another round of presentations. Who knew which company this was? The bonfire roared and the girls inched ever closer. The bull-horn told them to step back – and to be quiet. It was officially night now and the flames from the bonfire were the only source of illumination. Company leaders began to call out for their members because they certainly couldn’t see them. Some left on the waiting buses before it was all over, because they really had to get back. There was a constant hum of anticipation. Finally, the last company made its presentation. The girls had their marshmallow-topped sticks at the ready. After one last entreaty from the bull-horn, the flames of the bonfire were doused. The campfire was over. The marshmallows remained untoasted – because, as we adults like to say, “who don’t hear will feel”.

It was dark, but you could see (and hear) the disappointment. I guess that was the level of quiet the bull-horn had been looking for.

And so, World Thinking Day ended on a sour note because the actions of a few (who I don’t think could have even been pinpointed), warranted punishment for all.

When we got home, I fired up the stove and we had our roasted marshmallows. I’m not a fan of those spongy balls of sugar – but we made the best of the situation and had our “bonfire” after all. Maybe those parents should do the same.

Swindler’s List

I’ve never understood how some people fall for scams that cause them to lose their hard earned money.

Long before it made local news, I would open business mail that came from a high-placed government official in Africa – most times from Nigeria – who needed to use my bank account to transfer excess money from the sale of equipment, jewelry, oil, or some other precious resource – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The more “honest” letter writers, or the ones who couldn’t be bothered to make up a story about where the funds came from, would just ask for the use of my bank account in which to place an obscene amount of money – and my reward would be a cut of the funds.

The only thing more annoying than the letter writer’s assumption about my stupidity and willingness to ignore the padded contracts, was the awful grammar, syntax and punctuation that was weaved throughout the correspondence. I’m no English teacher but I did consider making the corrections and sending the letter back.

I was reminded of this scam when I viewed a parody of these types of letters that a person was receiving via email. The person showed us (hilariously) how to get the letters to stop, and that’s when I realized that the scammers, not surprisingly, had moved on from paper letters to electronic mail. Unfortunately, the spelling’s still bad.

And that’s another thing I didn’t understand. Didn’t all those grammatical errors give the readers some pause? I mean, for that alone I wouldn’t give them any information. Suppose they didn’t transcribe it correctly? Then where would my promised money go?

A few weeks ago I received a call to my cell phone from a woman who told me that the package I ordered had arrived and that she needed to get my address which she should have had (emphasis mine) – to facilitate delivery. The grammar was good, but the accent was a dead giveaway.

What she didn’t know is that despite all the online shopping that’s taking place here, she picked the one person who hasn’t ordered anything in years. Nonetheless, I played along and asked her for the name on her delivery slip. She asked me to hold on, and I waited while she rustled a few papers, called out to someone who may or may not have been nearby, and murmured to herself. She attempted to invent some legitimacy by repeating my phone number, as if that was just what I needed to hear to give her more information.

She was unable to find a name and assured me that she would call me back.

I know. I should have put her out of her misery sooner.


Who’s The Daddy?

On my wedding day, my mother was the one who walked down the aisle with me. For years I would call my mother and wish her the best on Father’s Day because I realized that since I was ten years old, she has been both mother and father to me… but apparently it’s not politically correct to do that anymore.

I listened to the radio where counselors said that mothers can’t take the place of fathers. I went to church and was told that my mother is my mother and she can’t be anything else. I perused Facebook and found some single mothers up in arms about being wished a happy Father’s Day – because, make no mistake – they are mothers and they are doing it by themselves.

Maybe those of us who make the calls to our mothers in May and again in June are seen as trying to muscle in on the father’s special day and some people are having none of it! I don’t really think that the men who aren’t there are that offended when we acknowledge the women who raise children without them. After all, they aren’t there to do it.

Not every absentee father is absent of his own accord. Some, like mine had no choice in the matter, so it’s heartwarming to know that a lot of people are still holding their places. But if they’re not coming back, what’s wrong with recognizing the women who try to straddle two seats?

Nobody’s denying that fathers are the ideal persons to teach a boy about sports and sportsmanship, about being resilient, about being protective, and about how to treat a girl. Everybody agrees that fathers provide the best example to girls of working to provide for a family, of helping yourself when necessary, of expecting only the best and accepting nothing less.

That’s why uncles, godfathers, cousins and grandfathers will sometimes step into the breach. But it was my mother who showed me that sometimes it is necessary to take on a masculine role if there’s no one around to shoulder it.

That’s why she’ll always be remembered on those two special days – because she was the one who did the work.


Is that a gun in your pocket?

On a previous visit to the Court House to get a birth or marriage certificate – I can’t remember which – the security guard at the door paid close attention to my footwear. That day, I was wearing sandals and happily, it was of the type that found favour with the wardrobe police. The woman just ahead of me had not been so lucky.

As I sat and waited for my certificate to be ready, I saw a number of other women (and some men) who had decided on the same style of footwear. It soon became clear, that the main responsibility of the guards was ensuring that visitors were appropriately attired. This meant that before they looked at your face, they looked at your clothing and then at your feet. I’d forgotten to take some reading material along for the wait that day, but it turned out to be quite entertaining to watch who got turned away at the door and who made it through.

It’s this stickler in these islands for proper dress that led this week to a man in Barbados, who was caught trying to enter a Court building with a gun being stopped – not because he was searched leading to the gun being found – but because he had been wearing a pair of shorts. The discovery of the weapon happened completely by accident.

On my most recent visit to the High Court a few weeks ago, I went prepared with an extra pair of shoes (in case the ones that really went with my outfit didn’t pass muster), but I discovered that the foot soldiers had relaxed their restrictions somewhat.

This time, any and all types of sandals seemed to be allowed – as if somebody realized that the slippers versus sandals determination depended on one’s perspective. And if he or she happened to sleep on a narrow bed the night before, well…as we say here, “Dog” could very possibly, “nyam your supper”.

Whose Truth Is It?

Image credit: cdn.mumbaihangout.org
Image credit: cdn.mumbaihangout.org

In my former job I got to hear a lot of stories – some from people I knew and some from people I didn’t who probably hoped never to see me again, after realizing that they’d divulged WAY too much information.

I always wondered what prompted people to tell me things that were really none of my business, but maybe for them it was more than making conversation. Maybe they just wanted someone to hear their side.

I was reminded of one of those storytellers last week, when someone I knew gave a different spin on a TMI conversation that I had quite some ago, and I had a feeling that this version would have been pretty close to the other party’s story. My raconteur couldn’t have known this, so maybe it was a simple case of embarrassment that caused her to pass me straight when she saw me a while back.

But then there are times when you wish that you had been in the room.

That way you wouldn’t have to figure out the truth of a story by listening to both parts, deciding what doesn’t make sense and making your mind up about the rest. But since there are some people who don’t think like the rest of us, that might not be such a foolproof way of going about it.

He said/she said makes for an interesting story, but it’s a different kettle of fish when you have a horse in the actual race. Sorry for mixing my metaphors, but you get my point. Very recently I found myself wishing that I had been a proverbial fly on the wall when I was told two very different versions of a particular conversation.

Unfortunately my horse (or fish, depending on how you look at it), was at a disadvantage due to age, and although certain details of the other story seemed to change mid-stream the victor had already walked away with the spoils. We’ve heard that there are three sides to every story – two for the persons involved and the remaining side reserved for the truth.

The problem is that both always seem to claim it.