Weekly in[ternet]spiration

March 31, 2015
Weekly in[ternet]spiration:

My personal round up of a few internet things that inspired me this week

via Mango Island Mama
1. Mango Island Mama - MOOOO. Milk is for cows

Not only is this blog beautiful and inspirational, but Ellen does a great job of explaining and sharing information about all things raw and vegan. One such 'thing' was this article that will make you think differently about the dairy industry and drinking milk. As a Dutchie who is addicted to cheese and all things dairy, Ellen really hit a nerve [in a good way] by talking about the negative effects of milk on our bodies, the trauma cows experience when separated from their newborn calves and how each glass of milk, by USDA standards, is allowed up to one eye-dropper full of pus. Yes, pus. I'm looking at ways of living a healthier lifestyle right now, and this blog is giving me the inspiration boost I need to do just that.

Thankfully, Ellen rounds off the post with some recipes for delicious milk alternatives - Fresh coconut milk smoothie anyone?

The Travelettes are a group of female travelers, writers and photographers sharing their travel stories online. They come from all corners of the world and it is their goal to inspire, inform and motivate young women to travel more. Travelettes.net provides guidelines, tips and personal experiences on all things travel. The Travelettes are your girlfriends who have been there, done that, and are always happy to give advice. I recently joined their Facebook group and am already so inspired by the tips and stories being shared amongst the thousands of travel savvy ladies.

Photo by Romel Hall, borrowed from the Barbados Photographic Society

My friend Nikola, over at her blog Thirteen North, Fifty Nine West, shed some light on the sargassum seaweed situation in Barbados, following some social media frenzy after this photo was uploaded, showing one of our famous East Coast beaches completely covered in the 'weed'. This 'issue' has progressively gotten worse over the last few years and Nikola highlights the negative and positive impact of this visitor from the North. I've recently been discussing the idea of tackling this issue and am still baffled that nobody is seeing this seaweed problem as a social enterprise opportunity....Is anyone able to give a valid excuse for why it hasn't been done already? Anyone out there willing to get crackin' on this? 

Cyber Bullying, trolls & online security in Barbados

March 30, 2015

A few weeks ago, a Barbadian woman went missing on an average Friday afternoon. The community effort that followed over the weekend was intense and admirable, and the first time something of that magnitude took place in this island. The community came together through physical searching, flyering, traditional media and social media. Her flyer was 'shared' like wildfire and I'm pretty sure every single person on the rock knew about it within 12 hours. Luckily, she was discovered safe and sound 24 hours later. This post isn't about the search, but rather the social media flurry surrounding this incident.

It was the first time we witnessed a response of that magnitude in Barbados - people came out of the woodworks to voice their opinion on the incident, whether they knew the woman or not. It was incredible to see that almost every Barbadian, from almost every walk of life, had something to say about it, mainly voiced through social media channels. Not even during the election did people voice such passionate opinions about something online, raising discussions and arguments about race, class, privilege and changes they believeneeded to take place for Barbados to develop a healthier society. Most of the discussions I followed were very interesting purely from the 'civic engagement' standpoint [I wrote my thesis on using social media as a tool for developing civic engagement in Barbados] and I hoped that the debates would lead to more positive action in some cases. In my opinion, discussions like this were needed in our society, and it was great to see so many people ruffling their feathers. Unfortunately, in the same way this incident stirred up healthy discussion and debate online, it also showed a darker, more sinister side to social media and there were lots of trolls who raised their ugly heads.

For those of you who don't know, I'm not referring to cute troll in my photo above, but rather the modern day version of a troll, who is:

a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Trolls vary from individuals who post deliberately annoying or controversial comments in an effort to stir up online discussion up to criminals who harass vulnerable people online. 

As defined above, these trolls really took the 'discussion' surrounding the event to another level; making up sensationalist stories, sharing inappropriate stories, going off topic on popular threads by implying things that were not true....Some took it a step further and stole photos from private Facebook accounts and used them in their stories to cause more of a stir. Reading this was upsetting and exhausting, and so frustrating to see because some people felt like it was the right of the trolls to share their opinion too. But that's not true, and I'll tell you why in a minute.

I have since discovered that there are many such trolls in Barbados alone, which is pretty ironic because it's such a small place [not even 300,000 people] and yet it is somehow possible to remain anonymous behind a computer/phone screen. A relatively large percentage of cybercrime involving abuse or threats is perpetrated by people known to the victim. On the flip side, because Barbados is so small, I think it's easier for people to feel disillusioned and that they 'know' someone [either directly or through association] and they therefore feel like they have more 'authority' to share their what they know about a person or topic. Comments and posts are often nasty, sensationalist and untrue, and this is the sad reality of modern day cyber bullying.

Coincidentally, I'm part of a team who is working on launching an Anti-cyber bullying campaign that is targeted at parents of schoolchildren. This project has opened my eyes to the plights of modern teenagers in Barbados, and it's terrifying. One of the main issues we have come across through our research is that people who have experienced cyber bullying don't know what to do about it. This is part of what our campaign aims to address but I also realised that many of us adults don't realise how vulnerable we are to online 'attacks' and how we can protect ourselves and our rights.

In order to attack others, the first thing that trolls need is a victim pool and a public forum of some kind, and they usually want an audience. Trolls gravitate to anywhere online users interact - like blog sites, social networks, multiplayer games, discussion forums, hobby sites and so on. The second thing that certain trolls need is some sort of content, which they can often get straight from the source: you!

While you can’t control whether you will become a troll’s target, you can decide if you will make yourself a troll’s victim. Knowing that the troll’s goal is to embarrass, humiliate, ridicule, demean and shame you, you have a choice about how you are going to react.

Trolling in Barbados hasn't quite reached the [life threatening] extremes that I have read about in the US for example, but it's still becoming a serious issue and I would like to share my opinion on how you can protect yourself against trolling and cyberbullying, and what you can do to deal with it if you find yourself being attacked or victimized online.

*Please note: I am by no means an expert, and my intention is not to come across as one. I have a pretty good understanding of everyday social media usage, and am merely sharing my opinion/experience based on what I know. My points touch on these issues very lightly as a general guideline for anyone in Barbados who cares to read this, and I would strongly advise anyone to do further research into these issues.


1. Protecting your online presence

Since the missing persons incident mentioned above, I have come across another troll who has publicly shamed close family friends of mine and continues to share stories publicly, using their personal photos from Facebook that the troll is able to access, save and share online. This part is somewhat legal [more on that below] but the fact that you share your life online doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned all your expectations on how, why, and by whom your information is used:

Private vs. Public Facebook photos

Scary Fact #1: our Facebook Cover Photo & current Profile Photo is always public. 

Anyone can click on those photos, save them, and share them as they see fit.

My advice is to ever have any personal photos as your Cover Photo or Profile Photo.

Similarly, Facebook the mysterious world of ever-changing Facebook settings is very difficult to navigate. Most of your photos are automatically set to 'Share Publicly' and you have to make sure that every single photo you post is set to 'Friends' anything else that isn't 'Public.' 

Sharing posts on Facebook

You can change your settings by going to Privacy Settings/Profile Information under the Account tab. You'll see options by each category, including Friends and Networks, Friends of Friends, and Only Friends. (Note that the Networks option will only show up if you are part of a professional organization or university.) There is also a Custom option, which opens a pop-up that lets you share only with yourself or with individual users.

Being tagged in photos on Facebook

If you want to prevent anyone from tagging you in photos and videos, you have to go to Account/Privacy Settings/Profile Information/Photos and Videos of Me and deselecting the Everyone default. The safest thing to do is to make them visible only to you (click Customize and choose Only Me) and then share images on a case by case basis.

2. Google yourself from an 'Incognito' window regularly

Scary fact #2:  The moment you post something on Facebook or YouTube, you enter into a contract with that company

From then on, they’re free to benefit from your material in any way they see fit, mainly by selling ads around it, but in some cases by selling your data, or using your avatar and other personal information for commercial purposes.

I think it's really important to understand your online presence. As a blogger, I Google myself regularly to see where my photos and content may end up. Call me paranoid, but I would rather know what's going on and be able to take control than find out my photo is being used somewhere without my consent. You can do this quite easily using an 'incognito' Chrome window, so that it doesn't just show you the results based on your browsing history and connections. Similarly, you can try it out on a different computer to your own.

One of the easiest ways to keep a 'lower' profile on Facebook is to hide your profile from Google’s search engine. You can do this by going to Account/Privacy Settings/ Search and unchecking the Public Search Results box. This will remove your public preview from Google, Bing, and Yahoo Search returns. You can also prevent your profile from showing up on internal search from the same page. Just use the drop down menu to select who you want to be able to find you on the service. 
Note: users could still find you through a friend of a friend.

3. Recognise & Ignore trolls

This point may seem obvious, or a lot easier said than done, but the best thing to do is to ignore the troll/discussion andeal with it indirectly. I've seen incidences where people have confronted their trolls/attackers in the public, and this only adds fuel to the fire. Please don't give them the satisfaction of knowing they have caught your attention, that's all they wanted in the first place.

 Trolling posts are not a signal for you to engage in intelligent argument. Trolls are childlike in their attempts to offend and provoke reaction – you will not be able to debate with them.

You can take other steps to ensure that the matter is dealt with more seriously. For anyone who feels they are being victimized by trolls, the first step should be to contact site administrators. Site administrators will have tools for dealing with such individuals – and are also well-placed to help you take legal action if they believe that it is required.

4. Block the trolls

Take away their power by blocking them. If they pop up under a different name, block them again. Blocking someone beyond social media accounts or IP address may require technical assistance, so I would advise that you get in touch with an I.T professional. IP addresses can be tracked and persistent attacks from an IP or a range of IPs can be effectively blocked.
Unfortunately, blocking an IP address is not often a permanent solution. It’s easy for a banned user to re-register under a new name. Usually all it takes is a new email address. Even an IP address ban is not perfect. Many modern ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) use dynamic (ever changing) IP address and it’s easy for a troll to use a proxy to get around any ban you have in place.

5. Report any offensive behavior

Saving the evidence of the cyberbullying, keep abusive text messages or a screenshot of a webpage, for example, and then report the trolls. If you don't report incidents, the cyberbully will often become more aggressive.

Facebook has a Family Safety Centre, which details "practical advice on what people should do if they are targeted online, from blocking someone to social reporting". The tools page succinctly explains how to block someone from communicating with you on Facebook and how to report a post that you consider to be from a troll, which Facebook promises to investigate. 

In Barbados you can report cyberbullying incidences to the police once they reach a stage that is in line with libel and a defamation laws, but it's very important to understanthe difference between the two:

Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.

Unfortunately [and as far as I know] the laws in Barbados have not been updated to account for online harassment and cyberbullying [yet] I spoke with a lawyer about this, and she suggested that the closes thing is the 'Telecommunications Act', though this refers specifically to phones [more specifically threatening calls and text messages]


Please note: With online interaction & social media settings constantly changing at lighting speed, this post may not be very accurate even after a couple of weeks. For example, when I first scheduled this post, a friend informed me of recent changes to Profile Picture settings, so I had to edit this post to suit those changes. If any of my information is incorrect, please let me know. My aim is merely to start a discussion on these issues in Barbados, because I believe more needs to be done about it.

Why March 25th is an awesome day

March 25, 2015

On March 25th, 1988, one of my best friends/sister from another mister was born in the Middle East. 
On March 25th, 1991, two of my best friends/brothers from my actual mother were born in Aruba.
Is it a coincidence that three of my favourite people were born on the same day? I think not!
Happy Birthday to these special Aries; who all accept my cheesyness, continue to drive me crazy at times, but who always inspire me to be a better person and to keep it very, very real.

Hey there.

March 24, 2015

This is the first time there's been any hint of a pulse on this blog in awhile and it's taken me a few attempts at writing this post because it's pretty personal. In the past, I wouldn't have written something like this, but I can't continue to blog if I can't be more real with the few people who read this space.

I've come to realise that taking a 'digital detox' has become somewhat of a pattern for me over the course of (almost) 5 years of blogging; I get really into it, then I stop posting altogether. My hiatus is then followed by a post explaining why I've been 'such a bad blogger'. This time, it was a bit different, and life got in the way of things.

I've always considered myself to be a happy and positive person, but towards the end of last year, I was frustrated and stuck in a very unhappy, negative frame of mind. It started to affect my life; from the decisions I made to the words that came out of my mouth and how I treated those around me. I was caught in a downward spiral of negativity. It felt similar to losing my temper; my judgement became clouded and my emotions took over any reasoning - I started to blanket everything in a bitter, dark clothe of resentment. I was confused about my career, my friendships with people and my life's purpose. It was very unnerving, especially because it felt like everyone around me had their shit together.

Instead of cheering me up, social media was actually making me feel even more depressed and confused. I've written academic essays about the negative effects of social media, but I never thought that I myself would fall into the trap of comparing myself to others and thinking that everyone was having a better time than me, and living a more fulfilling life than I was. I know that most twentysomethings go through this at some point or another [I had a very public, 'quarter life crisis' a couple of years ago] but social media was pushing me deeper into a negative space, rather than inspiring and exciting me like it used to. I started to resent my Facebook timeline because it was a daily reminder of how exciting 'everyone' else's life was and how boring my life seemed in this little island. Instagram became an emotional game of minesweeper for me; I wanted to know what was going on with everyone, yet I felt really sad when I saw too much fun happening without me. I got frustrated with how little I was traveling [I'm spoilt, I know] and instead of focussing on what I do have, I was obsessing over what I didn't have and what everyone else seemed to have.

Another 'bloggy breaking point' was when J and I took an amazing trip to Europe last summer. We love traveling together and shared 3 weeks of non stop fun, food, friends and exploration. We came home on a high, and I couldn't wait to share some of the stories of our trip on this blog. We hit the ground running as soon as we got home though. I then started to panic because I wasn't on top of my blogging game...and I didn't have the time to do it properly. . I then started to break my own rule of doing things 'half assed' and posted a few things here and there just for the sake of keeping it up. I got so worked up and upset over this that I just decided to ignore this blog altogether. Being a bad blogger was then added to my growing list of failures.

Social Media also forced me to reconsider certain friendships and how it gave me a false sense of 'connectedness' with a lot of people. My birthday at the beginning of December was a turning point, because people I considered to be good friends of mine were writing on my 'timeline' instead of calling me, sending me a private message or email. It felt shallow and fake, and there were losses in translation wrought by a format that favors brevity. Social media should be complementary to other kinds of interaction, not in place of it. And birthdays are a good time to pause and reflect—off-line—on the important relationships in your life. I'm not blaming them for that at all, but I realised that I was craving something more and that the only way for me to change that was to be the change myself and to make more of an effort offline.

It took me some time to recognise what was going on, and when I did, I started to resent myself for it. 

Why couldn't I just get over myself and be happy? 

Augh. I wanted to crawl into a hole to sulk and never come out again. 

Finally, with the help of those closest to me, I started to fully recognise what was happening towards the end of last year and sought help on ways to heal and make things better. I took some time to be selfish and reflect on why I was feeling the way that I was, and how to make it better.

I decided to ease some of the pressure I put on myself and this blog by taking some time off from blogging and certain social media accounts. I 'deleted' Instagram [I removed the App and had a friend change my password for me] Unfortunately I couldn't delete Facebook from my life altogether, as my business is very dependent on it, so I swapped to a separate professional Facebook profile, which was limited to everything work related. I purposely didn't delete Twitter, because I noticed that Twitter wasn't affecting me in the same way. It was more selective, and I ended up using it throughout my 'digital detox' as an outlet, and a way for me to record certain events that were going on in my life.

These simple steps helped me tremendously, and I couldn't believe how easy it was to do. It took removing myself from these channels to realised how they were a constant distraction from my immediate surroundings, and the people in them and how much of my time was wasted through Instagram and Facebook. Stepping away from it all helped me gain some much needed perspective, especially when it came to this blog.

Throughout all of this, I really missed writing and sharing certain aspects of my life and I decided to give it another shot, without the pressure

I just want to be myself. I want to write about things I find inspiring and to share stories with those who cared to listen and to share their own. 

I want blogging to be fun again.

With that, I decided to re join the world of blogging, Instagram and Facebook, but with a different, more selective and realistic way of handling it. 
This blog may never become the what I had originally envisioned, but I've accepted that now. I’m just a sporadic, haphazard blogger; I’ve made many promises to write about a gazillion different things on here, only for them to never materialize. I've made a lot of mistakes, and people have made fun of me for continuing to do this, for putting myself out there the way that I do. I have no idea what I'm doing but I seem to enjoy the process, most of the time.

I've been inspired by other bloggers who keep it real, and though I won't have the time to develop this blog as much as I would like, I'm going to do my best to keep it real, and to keep it constant. This is a life blog, and I would be doing myself and others a disservice by only talking about the fun, and the colourful aspects of my life. 

Thank you to the few of you who spend a little of your day to read my posts, leave a comment, or email me privately. I am so incredibly humbled. I wish I could convey just how much it means to me. I’m not sure what direction this blog is going, but I hope you continue to follow along on my journey.


March 23, 2015
What about a photo inspires you to love the world? I am so excited to see my photo of an unforgettable meal in Vietnam pop up on the BBC Travel 50 reasons to ‪#‎Lovetheworld‬ page! This is a really interesting project that the BBC recently launched: they asked a range of people, from writers and chefs to musicians and photographers, to share one experience that truly inspired them – something that, in no uncertain terms, reminded them why they love the world. Madly. Check out these amazing experiences & mind blowing travel photos and share the love!

My caption reads: Because they giggled at my blonde hair as I walked by, but then offered to share their lunch of boiled, seasoned snails with me once I stopped to inquire what it was that they were eating. This was one of the best meals I've ever had; their kindness was genuine and they were just as curious as I was. 
#Lovetheworld ‪#‎BBCTravel‬

Island diaries: Louisiana Cajun Night at Holder's Season

March 13, 2015

We enjoyed an open air evening celebrating the performing arts at Holders Season last night and I had my first taste of Cajun music. The Holders Season is an annual International Arts Festival that has been running for 22 years and is hosted in the gardens of Holder's Plantation House. I've been fortunate enough to attend this event before and I absolutely love the opportunity to enjoy something different on this island, whilst still appreciating the fact that we can sit outside under a blanket of beautifully lit trees. 

The festival has a very diverse programme, with shows ranging from cabaret to comedy, whilst also sharing the stage with local talent, offering them the opportunity to perform in front of a large, international audience. I can't remember the name of the awesome group below, but they were like Boyz'to'Men with a sense of humour.

The Savoy Family were the featured act of the night, and they were really great! They're considered to be the 'Royal Family of the South' and are very well known in the folk music industry. It was awesome to see Mama Savoy, her son Joel and Joel's wife performing on stage together, swapping between the fiddle, guitar, violin, triangle and a handmade accordion.

Their songs relayed the spectrum of Cajun life from sorrow and lost love to nonsense and the joy of dance. The performance was peppered with humorous and informative anecdotes about life in the Cajun heartland and made me consider adding Louisiana to my future travels. The only criticism was that the show organisers got a bit carried away by asking Joel to 'perform' a half hour 'Cajun cooking show' segment for the crowd. It was a serious buzz kill and everyone was very confused; we came to hear live music, not listen to a very talented musician awkwardly cook a pot of stir fried shrimp on a silent stage. Thankfully, the heavens opened up and cut the cooking show short. 

If you've never heard Cajun music, I'd highly recommend you check out the Savoy Family Trio! 

Island Diaries: Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

March 5, 2015

Chicken Rita's is family run, rum shop style restaurant located in Silver Sands with the best fried chicken in the island, hands down. They also have gizzards, chicken necks and livers, if you're into that sort of thing!