Monday, June 20, 2011

Brief Update

It's been a while since I let you all know what I've been up to, so I am going to interrupt the essay posts for a second here.
Two weeks ago my friend Julia came down to visit for a week.  While she was here we did some interesting things that I had yet to do, such as go on the Mount Gay Rum tour and visit the old synagogue in Bridgetown (over 350 years old!). 
Side note: the modern history of the Caribbean is actually tightly interwoven with Jewish history in the region.  The cultivation of sugar cane was made possible by the exodus of Dutch Jews, who were fleeing Portugese rule in Brazil, to the Caribbean.  The Dutch jews brought windmill technology from Brazil to the Caribbean, thus making industrial-levels of agriculture production possible.
Also, because we went to a birthday party for a friend of mine I met a bunch of new people who live in Barbados.  The most immediate result of these new contacts was an invitation to participate in a Thursday pub trivia game at a bar on the West Coast.  This has been a lot of fun and is something I hope continues during my remaining time here. (Notice: I am soliciting good pub trivia names!).

Currently I am in the middle of my last class for my program. The course is on disaster management in the Caribbean and is taught by two very experienced professors.  One is a Jamaican-born, Canadian university professor who has spent his life traveling and teaching about disaster management.  The other is the director of CDEMA (the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency), which is one of the few shining examples of a productive regional institution.  Not only do their life experiences complement one another well, but they are old friends dating back to their undergraduate days at UWI.  It's actually quite uplifting to see two good UWI products standing before me.  Before, all I heard about was the UWI graduate seen pumping gas or working a menial job in some department store.

Finally, I have planned my trip home, which will be from July 1st to the 9th.  During that time I will spend a few days in Connecticut celebrating Independence Day, one day in NYC, and a few days in Philly with Nora.  Between now and July 1st my only goals are to finish my disaster management class on a good note and secure a rental car to use until I leave Barbados for good. Unfortunately a car is necessary to get to the job I will be starting on July 11th, which is located allllll the way by the airport in the south (about as far away from my apartment as you can get).  On the plus side, having a car will vastly improve my social life since lack of personal transportation has been the main impediment to my going places.

That's pretty much all thats going on at the moment. I'll post more parts of the essay in the coming days.  I haven't forgotten!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Integration in the Caribbean: A Historical Perspective

For my course on CARICOM last semester I wrote an essay on why Caribbean integration is necessary but problematic. I think it provides a good snapshot of the situation facing the modern Caribbean and as such I have decided to share it with you all. Over the next couple of days I will post segments of the essay, in their natural order, for you to peruse. I hope you find them both enjoyable and edifying. Here is the first segment:

“The idea of regional integration has existed in the Caribbean for a considerable period of time,” states scholar Ian Boxill. “Since the seventeenth century, attempts at uniting territories of the region to rationalize administrative costs of running the colonies occupied the thinking of the British government.”[1] In fact, the attempt at federation in the Leeward Islands from 1674-1798 was the second such endeavor in the British Empire, following only the feeble Massachusetts Federation, which was established in 1643.[2] Clearly then, even at the very beginning of their modern existence, the West Indies were seen as prime candidates for integration (especially under the Federal model). This belief – that integration in the West Indies is necessary – has existed continuously in various forms since their founding. Yet despite the longevity of this view, and the growing list of motives propelling it, integration in the West Indies has proven problematic and largely illusive. The argument that Caribbean integration is necessary but problematic remains as true today as it was in the 17th century.

Many of the arguments in favor of integrating the Caribbean date back to the first discussions on the topic in the 17th century. The most significant of these reasons was to coordinate and consolidate the administration of the islands in order to address issues on a regional rather than individual basis and so as to promote administrative efficiency (i.e. save money by shifting administrative authority from each individual island to one regional authority). Attempts at both of these forms of regional governance can be seen in the fraught history of the early Leeward Islands Federation, where federal taxes were successfully raised and where a proposal to standardize the laws of the islands was put forth in 1683 (it was rebuffed).[3]

The issue of coordinating the administration of the islands, originally seen as a way to improve their defense against French and Spanish ambitions and remove official redundancies, gained renewed importance to West Indians as a vehicle for development during the early part of the 20th century. Radical West Indian leaders such as Cipriani, Marryshow, and Hart favored Federation because they saw it as essential “for the overall planning and development of the Caribbean area as an integral part of the larger world economy.”[4] Moreover, “it meant the means whereby West Indian social problems such as education and child labor could receive immediate attention in a way that Crown Colony government could not offer.”[5] In other words, regional integration was the best way to secure a prosperous and just future for the people of the Caribbean.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Very Smart Commercials

I came across these commercials the other day and thought they were very smart, although their "fairness" is questionable.  Thought you might enjoy them.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

End of the Semester!!

Yesterday I handed in my final essay for the semester.  I am now officially done with 8 out of the 9 classes I need for my degree.  Just one more class to go in June and I'm done with courses!

Before I start my last class I hope to get a bit of work done on my thesis.  My internship requires a separate thesis, so once that starts I will probably be spending most of my time on that assignment.  The more of my regular thesis I can get done now, the less I will have to do once my internship is over in early October.

Also, given that things are pretty quiet on my end at the moment, I think I am going to post about some of the stuff I have been learning from my studies here.  After all, the whole point of the Fulbright is cultural exchange, so it's my job to bring the Caribbean to you!  So expect some informative posts on Caribbean integration in the next couple of days. Hope you don't find them boring!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All Quiet in Barbados

Things have been quite since I took my exam a week ago.  Almost all my friends have either gone home or are on a trip to Geneva for their trade policy program.  So I'm pretty much alone.  To fill the time I've been working on my final paper for the semester (which is due June 3rd) and catching up on some missed movies.  Yesterday I watched the King's Speech and was blown away.  Spectacular acting and a great story, I can see why it won so many academy awards.  Next up: Patton.

In other news, I've secured an internship.  Starting sometime in July I will be working at the Regional Security System, which is the principal security organization for the states of the eastern Caribbean.  It is based in Barbados and responds to crises in its member states when requested.  In essence, it acts as a shared military capability for its 7 member states.  It is also one of the primary institutions the United States works with to combat drug trafficking and promote citizen security in the region.  You can learn more about the RSS here and Washington's security programs for the Caribbean here and here.  Overall I am very excited about this opportunity.  It was the internship I wanted.

That's pretty much all that's going on.  I'm trying to find a time to go home for a visit, but nothing can be done till I find out when I start my internship.

Hope you all are enjoying spring back home.  It's getting VERY hot and humid here.  As always, stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

52 Days to Freedom

In 52 days I will be done with classes at UWI.  On Wednesday I take the final for my AU/EU course; the research paper for my Regional Integration and Development course is due on June 3rd; and my final class runs from June 15th-30th.  BOOM!  DONE!

After that I have to complete a three month internship (hope to have good news on that front soon), write a 10,000+ word paper on my experience there, and write a thesis.  So, still lots of work to be done even after classes are over but at least I won't have any more final exams or class papers.  Just two large projects and a three month job.  If all goes according to plan I can be out of Barbados for good by October.

That's pretty much what's going on.  Social life has been quiet since Nora left but I'm sure it will pick up again once finals are over.  Stay tuned for updates on the internship hunt!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nora Guestblogs Again

Hi everyone,

Stephen put me back on blogging duty.  We’ve been pretty busy since I got here on Tuesday and my gracious host wanted to keep everyone updated on our adventures, but he also wanted to take a nap.  That’s where I come in.
My first night here was pleasant and relatively uneventful, except that we got caught in some torrential rain on our way out to pick up dinner from a nearby BBQ place (excellent ribs and chicken).  Eventually we decided it was more important to get the food home warm than to get ourselves home dry, so we braved the storm and trudged back up the road.  Impressively, most cars actually slowed down to avoid splashing us, which is a courtesy I’ve never experienced.
The next day was perfect for the beach.   Pretty cloudy but not really rainy, so the beaches were not crowded and the heat wasn’t unbearable.  We splashed around in the sea for a while before getting delicious flying fish sandwiches for lunch. 
Thursday was spent basically doing nothing, with the exception of a nice walk around UWI’s main campus.  It was an interesting place, with some cool buildings and a big cricket field (oval?  Whatever they call it), but I prefer the frozen tundra of central New York.  That night, we wandered down a street in Holetown with a lot of nice-looking restaurants.  We ultimately settled on Indian.  That’s right: Stephen Okin went to an Indian restaurant.  And I hope you’re sitting down for this . . . he LOVED it.  Admittedly, I wasn’t much help describing the items on the menu so, other than my personal go-to favorites, we both had to make our best guess when ordering, but it turned out to be an excellent meal.  And a nice departure from the usual barbeque chicken and macaroni pie. 
Friday was dominated by errands.  We went grocery shopping and to the bank, and killed some time exploring Lime Grove, which is a brand new (mostly unfinished, actually) high-end shopping mall in Holetown.   It had very few stores up and running and a lot of it was under construction, but we agreed that the completed parts were the nicest shopping area either of us had ever seen.  There were beautiful seating areas and fountains, and a lot of it was covered but the whole complex is essentially outdoors.  I can only imagine how nice it would have been if they had actually completed it in December, as was the plan.  After our adventure in Holetown, we met up with one of Stephen’s friends and his girlfriend (who’s visiting from Canada) and went to Oistins for dinner.  It was a lot of fun and we had some really good, fresh fish and other typical Bajan fare from one of the many outdoor restaurants.  It was raining on and off, but I can definitely see how the area would turn into a huge party during the peak season.  There were plenty of people there (tourists and locals), a lot of music and some dancing, but I’m told it was really quiet for Friday night in Oistins.
We called it an early night on Friday because the next morning the 4 of us had to meet at 8 am to get picked up to go on a catamaran cruise.  The weather turned out to be perfect, and the cruise was fabulous.  Stephen had already been on one, so I’m sure he’s described it on this blog before, but let me summarize: 2 snorkeling stops (one to swim with sea turtles, the other to look at some sunken ships), a nice long sail up the coast, lunch, swimming in the sea, and sailing back to dock in Bridgetown.  Plus, an open bar throughout the whole excursion.  It was an amazing trip.  I had never been snorkeling before, so getting up close and personal with turtles and schools of bright tropical fish completely blew my mind.  The food they served was also really good, and the crew always made sure no one was without a drink in his hand.  It was so much fun I don’t even care that parts of me were fried to a crisp.
We were pretty exhausted by the time we got home yesterday, so last night was pretty quiet.  We just made dinner and relaxed.  Today we woke up to downpours and were happy we chose yesterday as our catamaran day.  After the rain had stopped for a while, we ventured out to Holetown to get smoothies and read at Lime Grove.  Unfortunately, everything was closed, so no smoothies for us.  We did hang out briefly in one of Lime Grove’s public seating areas, which was nice until we discovered we were being devoured by mosquitoes.  Oh well.  We tried. 
Thanks for sticking with this very long post. Stay tuned for more reports.