For the past two days, I've been tweeting my fingers off at the 'Forum on the Future of the Caribbean' in Trinidad & Tobago hosted by the UNDP Trinidad and Tobago, representing the Global Shapers - Bridgetown Hub. It's been overwhelming & slightly intimidating at times, but one of the most inspiring & invigorating experiences I've had since having my mind blown at One Young World. Follow along for the final day of debate & 'disruption' on Twitter.
Skip to Malou
May 7, 2015
May 4, 2015
It's been quiet on the blog again since our trip to the States. I've been 'catching my tail' with work and a few other projects since I've been back, one of which I'm super excited to share:
I'm off to Trinidad today to attend a UNDP Forum that aims to 'encourage disruptive thinking and derive strategies for securing a sustainable future for Caribbean states.' Caribbean heads of government, policy-makers, civil society and business leaders, and academic experts will be aiming to confront existing development paradigms through innovative, disruptive thought.
I love the use of the phrase disruptive thought for something so important.
The Global Shapers community was invited to participate in the Forum and as a member of the Bridgetown Hub, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of something like this. It reminds me of my One Young World experience, and I can't wait to be surrounded by people who are working towards building a stronger Caribbean region. Our region, and our island specifically, needs to focus on more practical, collaborative solutions for a sustainable future. The Forum is creating a platform for people from various industries and levels of expertise to exchange knowledge on decision making to improve the region. The fact that so many young people are also taking part [free of charge!] already sets this Forum apart from previous events that are off limits to most of us.
There are 7 major themes being talked about at the forum are:
Global Convergence: A Place for the Caribbean
Location Strategies for the Caribbean: Convergence of Ideas and of Ideals
Building the Resilience of Small States: A Strategic Vision for the Caribbean 2050
Multi-dimensional Progress to Tackle Poverty and Inequality
Solutions to Sustainable Development Issues in High & Middle Income Caribbean Countries
New Diplomacy for Strengthening Financial Capacities and New Global Compact
I'm passionate about youth development and volunteerism in the region in particular, so I'm looking forward to being a part of the conversation on 'Solutions to Sustainable Development Issues in High & Middle Income Caribbean Countries.'
The added bonus to all of this is that I get to crash by my good friend Danielle, who is always the hostess with the mostest and I can't wait to catch up with her in Port of Spain.
You can read more about the Forum on their spiffy website. I will also be live tweeting (as much as possible) from the event via our Global Shapers twitter account and using the #CaribbeanFutureForum.
April 16, 2015
J and I are escaping to Washington DC, Alexandria and Philadelphia for a getaway!
Well, technically it's more of a getaway for me than it is for J as he'll be doing a week long business course which prompted this trip in the first place, but it still counts right?
First stop: Washington DC to catch up with friends & see the sights over the weekend. J studied in DC and hasn't been back since he graduated so we'll be sure to check out some of his old watering holes and hang outs. I'll also be linking up with my blog buddy Setarra from Quaintrelle and I'm super excited!
The course is in Alexandria so we'll be there during the week, followed by a weekend in Philadelphia to celebrate J's brother's 30th birthday.
I've never been to an of these cities so I'm curious to hear suggestions on what you do if you were visiting for the first time? I'll try to avoid the tourist traps while still taking in the historical monuments and museums. So far my bucket list includes:
Cherry Blossom Festival
City Bike Ride
Foodie Tour of Alexandria
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Center City Jazz Festival
Any tips or tricks for how to see them like a local are greatly appreciated.
Also, and most importantly, food.
We're not fussy travelers, but we're fussy [and serious] when it comes to food! Any tips & hidden food gems in the DMV area [Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland] and Philadelphia that we should check out? So far my foodie Bucketlist includes:
Ethiopian - Alexandria has the largest Ethiopian expat community in the world, so I'm really keen to try my first Ethiopian meal at one of the many restaurants.
April 12, 2015
Why only spend one day celebrating your birthday when you can do it twice as nice?
We celebrated Jess' birthday again [our first celebration was SUPing on Tuesday afternoon] on Calypso Cruises with a group of friends and I couldn't believe our luck with the weather! The day started off dark and stormy, but eventually the sun peaked through the clouds and gave us the perfect amount of rays. When you're used to sunshine every day, people start to panic when there's 'rainy' weather for more than a day...
I can't believe how lucky I am to live here and I feel even luckier getting to do something like this twice in one week. There's nothing quite as amazing as spending the day on a boat with great friends, eating delicious food and feeling the salt on your skin.
Having friends visit from overseas is always the perfect excuse to go full out 'tourist' and enjoy the special things that this little rock has to offer. Catamaran cruising is high on the list of things we enjoy most about island living, and Calypso Cruises has been a favourite amongst my group of friends for a long time now. Not only are the crew really cool, but the food and 'vibes' are unbeatable and they offer a local, discounted rate on top of that. You can check them out here.
April 9, 2015
Warning: This may potentially be one of those cliche Caribbean dream living posts full of colourful underwater and sunset photos.
I took the afternoon off of work on Tuesday, after a bank holiday weekend spent working, to celebrate a dear friend's birthday.
It was one of those 'Phuck it' moments where I switched off my phone, brought out the GoPro, fully relaxed and really and truly appreciated living in paradise.
This feeling was amplified with the rare sighting of 3 stingrays and 2 beautiful turtles; all playing together and hanging out. I nearly passed out from a combination of sheer excitement and holding my breath a bit too long trying to snap as much footage of these creatures as possible.
After the underwater excitement and the collection of a few beers from the nearby catamaran, we were inspired to attempt yoga poses on our boards.
Thanks to the power of Banks Beer, both Jess and Angie were able to get their poses done after only one attempt.
For any of you who know me well, I am far from a yogi on dry land, so this was a pretty unrealistic attempt for me, and I looked like a drunk penguin even without a sip of beer. The snaps below are a testament to my determination though...even if it took me 10 attempts.
I finally got a split second tree pose done, thanks to the help of Jess holding my board steady for me but I thought it only fair to include some more 'realistic' shots...
Days like these help to remind me to stop and enjoy the sunshine every now and again. We had friends visiting from NYC, who repeatedly asked us whether this is how we spend every Tuesday.
Thanks to our friend Ryan of WhatSUP Barbados for the boards that contributed to a great afternoon with a great group of people!
|Photo cred: Ryan of WhatSUP Barbados|
March 31, 2015
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?
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 believed needed 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.
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.
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 and deal 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
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 understand the 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.
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.
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.
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