The Black Sage Toothbrush

While speaking with a childhood friend yesterday and reminiscing about school days, I realized that I couldn’t remember all of the details that surrounded some of the activities we did in school. This got me thinking of experiences that I’d like to share with my children and grandchildren (I hope to be gifted with some grand-kids later in life). Since I haven’t limited my blog to any particular theme, this is a good vehicle for documenting stories and experiences.

Here in the USA, the basic tool for brushing your teeth is the toothbrush and so my children find it “crazy” that we often used the stem of a plant to clean our teeth in rural Guyana. Yes, we had toothbrushes, but when they were not available, we broke off a stem from the Black Sage shrub, pounded or chewed on one of the ends until it got some bristles, applied some toothpaste, and brushed our teeth. If there was no toothpaste, we simply put some salt on that homemade toothbrush and carried on.

When was a toothbrush not available?  If I spent the night at my aunt’s home or if my toothbrush broke, I won’t have had one. Generally, folks did not have extra toothbrushes in their cupboards – simply a matter of not being able to afford such luxuries. Some families, because of the pressures of poverty, did not have toothbrushes at all.

What is this Black Sage? The scientific name for this shrub is Cordia Curassavica. It has small white flowers and tiny red berries that grow in a cluster at the end of the branches.

Below is a photo of the Black Sage. Credit goes to: https://www.inaturalist.org

Black Sage

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Cooking on a Mudstove in Guyana

Mudstove in rural Guyana

Mudstove in rural Guyana

Today’s post is about a traditional cooking stove in low-income rural households in Guyana, my birth country.

This photo was taken in 2011 when my husband visited Guyana. We call this mudstove , a “fireside”. Poverty/low income is a constant in the rural parts of Guyana and many of the residents cook on these firesides. We cooked on a fireside for many years. We had a kerosene stove, but the cost of kerosene caused my mom to return back to mudstove cooking.

As you can imagine, the smoke from these mudstoves cause serious air pollution and health issues. However, the poor had limited choices (those limitations continue today). Nobody paid any attention to the air pollution; I don’t recall any conversations on such topics. We just carried on with life and living!

I am grateful that I am no longer exposed to such household environmental pollution. I continue to keep the hope that someday, residents in rural households in Guyana and all over the world will enjoy a better standard of cooking.

Early School Days Memories

It has been a hectic beginning of the new school year for me and it would appear that I’ve forgotten how taxing the first few weeks can be on my body and my mind. As a result, I’ve taken a step or two or several away from blogging, but I’m hoping to catch up with my reading and writing soon.

Since all I seem to think about is school, today’s post is about some early school days memories. Before I started “big school”, my mom took me to a “bottom house school” for a few months. The “big school” was the Primary School and the “bottom house school” was held at someone’s home. It was made up of a small group of children and was run by a mom. It got the name “bottom house” because of the structure of the house. In those days most of the houses were on posts (stilts) and the open area under the houses was used for various reasons. The teacher placed jute bag mats on the mud floor and that was where the children sat with their slates and slate pencils.

I have only one memory of the Bottom House School. It was time for my brother to pick me up because I saw the children from the Big School walking home, but the teacher told me that she won’t let me go until I did my sums. I started to cry bitterly because I couldn’t do the addition. I doubt that I got the correct answers. I can’t recall how long she kept me back or what state I was in when my brother arrived. I’m glad I don’t remember. 🙂

On my first day of Big School, my mom gave me one cent to buy a treat during the morning recreation (recess). The little tents with treats were outside of the school yard, on the street. I suppose that my mom told my brother to take care of me because he made sure that he took me to get my treat. There were only about three or four tents. Some of the vendors sold plantain chips, tamarind balls, sugar cake, fudge, fruits etc. The item that caught my eye was a red fudge. I was hesitant to buy the fudge because the vendor was the same “teacher lady” from the Bottom House School! However, I must have felt safe with my brother because I bought the red fudge with my cent!

Do you have some early school days memories to share?

Here is a house on stilts. The Bottom House School I attended was definitely not as pretty or as big as this house!

House on stilts Credit: Bing Images

House on stilts
Credit: Bing Images

My Reading Journey

Spent a hundred dollars and some change on the...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I recall with fondness the day my mom kept my brother and I home from school to read to us. I was about 7 years old. We had gone home for lunch as usual but there was an unusual treat for us. We had the most delicious dessert – fairy tales! My mom had borrowed a book of fairy tales that was on a short-term loan. She started to read as soon as we were through eating and I guess because we were so fascinated with the stories, she allowed us to play hookie that day. Although I cannot recollect any other such story time reading with my mom, she did a lot of home work type of reading with me.

We did not have a library in our Primary School. There were no shops around us that sold books, and even if there were any, we would not have been able to buy them. Books were luxuries my parents could not afford. As a result, we did not have any story books at home. However, we did have the “grandfather” of the neighborhood who kept us riveted on burlap sack mats as we gathered around his knees under the afternoon shade of a tamarind tree. His awe inspiring storytelling planted the seed for a lifelong love of reading – the groundwork for my journey as a reader was set in place.

When I was about 9 years old, I discovered the Enid Blyton books through a friend whose aunt often gifted her with books. Shezida didn’t think twice about lending me her books. I remember turning the pages slowly and savoring the time I spent with her books. What a beautiful time in my childhood.

One of the most treasured memories I have of my childhood is the time when I got the gift of a book from my dear friend, Sharon. The message on the inside cover read, “Congratulations on passing the Common Entrance Exam”. I was most excited because I held in my hand the very first book that I could have called my own. I was 10 years old. That precious gift was “Hello, Mr. Twiddle by Enid Blyton”. My relationship with books and my journey as a reader had only just begun.

My friends and I borrowed books from each other and with each book I read, my appetite and passion for reading grew and grew and grew. I smile when I think of how much I longed to be like the characters in Enid Blyton’s adventure stories. When I was through reading my friends’ books, I was fortunate that a young mother who lived on our street started a book exchange business. I gave her a book, paid her a dollar, and selected another book from her small collection. She got a lot of business from me!

All my life I’ve read- sometimes passionately where I’m shackled to the pages and at others with less zeal. My reading journey gives me glimpses of worlds that I might never experience. As an adult, I have easy access to bookstores, libraries, my own collection, the internet, and the world of blogging. Now, more than ever, I feel that my journey as a reader has only just begun…

The Game of Cricket: Here to Stay!

Two weeks ago, I watched a cricket game between The Starlite Cricket Team and The Miami Royals. Cricket in South Florida is played mostly by immigrants from the Caribbean and Guyana. As I watched the game, warm, sweet memories of my growing up years came rushing back and for a short time, I was a care-free child once again.

My earliest memory of the game of cricket is of a group of children playing “bat and ball” on the street, in the school yard or any open space we could use. We had so much fun! This bat and ball game, called cricket was one of the highlights of my childhood and continues to be even today. What is cricket?

Cricket is the second most watched sports in the world and over 100 countries officially play this game. There is no exact date as to when this sport started, but it is said to be some time in the 16th century in South-East England. Over the years, the game spread throughout England and to the shores of other countries. It was introduced to North America in the 17th century and was popular for a short time, until the early 20th century when it became endangered, but never completely extinct. How is this game played?

To the casual onlooker, cricket can be long and monotonous. However, don’t say this to the millions of die-hard cricket fans out there. In trying not to bore you, I will keep the description short. I encourage you to do some additional research on the game if your interest is piqued.

The game is played on a pitch surrounded by a grassy field. There are two teams with eleven (11) players on each time. One team fields and the other team bats. Two batsmen are on either side of the 22 yard long pitch with wickets (stumps) on both ends. The bowler, from the other team bounces the ball to one of the batsmen whose job is to defend his wicket from the ball. The other batsman (the non striker) is inactive until his partner strikes the ball. When the ball is struck, the two batsmen run across the pitch and touch their bats down at the end to score a “run”. Confused yet?

Game time Photo credit:Google images

Game time
Photo credit:Google images

The fielding/bowling team runs around to catch the ball to throw it back to the bowler or the wicket keeper to stop the batsman from scoring more than four runs from that single hit. Runs are made in singles, fours or sixes. If the batsman hits the ball all the way to the boundary, the umpire calls a six. If the ball bounces before it gets to the boundary, it is a four. In both instances, the batsmen do not have to run.

There is more to the game of cricket, but I promised to keep the description short! More here. As stated earlier, cricket was a much loved sport in the U.S. until the early part of the 20th century, but almost perished. It is making a comeback though- slowly but surely. American College Cricket is helping to keep this sport alive. Cricket is now played across the country in schools, local clubs and in universities. Last year, the John Bart King Award winner was Nick Mancino of the University of Pennsylvania (John Bart King is known as the greatest American cricketer). The University of Pennsylvania is a key part of USA cricket history, its first cricket team was started in 1842.

Bart King Photo credit: Google images

Bart King
Photo credit: Google images

President Obama is getting some batting tips from Brian Lara of the West Indies team.

Photo credit: Google images

Photo credit:
Google images

President Bush is intensely focused!

Photo credit:  Google images

Photo credit:
Google images

Cricket history was made last year at Central Broward Regional Park – it was the first official professional cricket match to be played in the United States. The match was between the West Indies and New Zealand.

Here’s an interesting fact: Central Broward Regional Park is the only International Cricket Council approved stadium in the U.S. Although Florida boasts a cricket stadium, local teams don’t often play there. They rely on the support of the public schools to loan the school grounds for weekend cricket and this can be a challenge. Often, you will find two teams sharing one ground. They play concurrently on the same day or alternate the weekends. Historically, cricketers wear white, but nowadays teams can be seen with colorful uniforms.

Posing for this photo is the Starlite Cricket Team in their new uniform sponsored by Tina Doobay of Choice One Real Estate and Raj Doobay of Choice One Mortgage.

Starlite Cricket Team with sponsors Tina & Raj Doobay

Starlite Cricket Team with sponsors Tina & Raj Doobay

One of the most influential and famous West Indies cricketer, Clive Lloyd, once said, “Cricket is the glue which keeps us together”. Indeed, the game has stood the test of time and has proven to unite people, communities, and nations.

Clive Lloyd Photo Credit: Google images

Clive Lloyd
Photo Credit: Google images