Getting through the smoke


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Category: Reflections Date: 03 Jul 05


The Beetham dump is spreading a pall of grey smog way into the west and east of Trinidad in a desperate bid, it appears, to be noticed.


Its stench brings news from the people whose voices we donít hear. Fifty percent of the nationís school children who, in the absence of passes, will grow up to be Cepep workers; the patients who will die because they donít have the thousand dollars to pay the deposit at a private institution for a doctor to look at an ailing heart, kidney or an infection that wonít go away.


The smog brings the reminder of an all-pervading menace, of kidnappings that make the most ordinary of days, the simplest of activities like stepping out of an office into a car park, crackle with fear.


The smog smells of a government that prefers to spend millions of dollars on a cricketing facility, rather than rebuild the two crumbling pillars of education and health, which are the true measure of the development of any country.


It stinks of a country in which cabinet ministers are lobbying for an FTAA building, while allowing its manufacturing sector to collapse because it is mopping up all the required labour in its make-work programmes.


But we can drive past the smog to clearer air. Our inner, private, social, professional lives go on. You may be on holiday. Your kids may be home wondering what to do. Here are some ideas:


Ten things to do to survive the vacation in troubled T&T.


Read. Break out of the cocoon of living in a small space in a small island. Start with a book club. Try Oprahís favouritesóThe Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck; Toni Morrisonís The Bluest Eye and Sula; The Power of Now; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya. Read Sam Selvon, VS Naipaul, Earl Lovelace, Derek Walcott.


If you donít like to read, go to a library or the Internet, and look at the world in photographs, in the National Geographic or Time Magazines. Watch a BBC documentary about a country you didnít know existed.


Plan the holiday of a lifetime. Start saving to visit a sandy beach in Croatia, go for an African safari. Instead of Miami, think of a summer house surrounded by lakes and forests in Sweden, a biking and vineyard holiday in France, a slow tour of Vietnam, or rafting on the River Koprulu in Turkey.


See parts of Trinidad youíve never seen. Drive to the little village of Brasso Seco and from there, hike one of the several trails, all of which lead to waterfalls.


Take a walk up Lady Chancellor Hill one afternoon and watch the sun set over Port-of-Spain. Climb up San Fernando Hill and do the same.


Make time for you. Your body, your mind, your soul. Get fit, healthy and sexy. Drop processed foods, white bread, sugar, soft drinks, red meat, and with it, excess weight and disease. Make vegetables a habit. Eat fish. Drink eight glasses of water.


Set a goal. Make a 5k, 10k, a marathon a passion. Start slowly, with a savannah. Take it from lamppost to lamppost, run and walk till you finish. Youíll get there.


Volunteer your time. One afternoon a week at a home for children or the elderly. Do stuff you would do for your parents, children, friends. Doctorsí appointments, a trip to the zoo, a movie.


Visit art galleries. Read up on art. Draw.


Feel like a child again. Laugh without restraint. Walk barefoot in grass. Jump in waves in Maracas at six in the morning. Have a water fight while washing your car. Stretch. Pick mangoes from a tree and make chow.


Take yourself to a movie and coffee. Remind yourself that you are a free spirit, that to be alone or quiet is not to be lonely. Examine yourself honestly.


Go to bed glad that the worst hasnít happened. And if it does, it does. Watch that eternal seedling of human hope pushing past that opaque pall of smoke. As it always does.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur