Swimming in the S.E.A. – Part 2 (One virus shall rule them all)

I’m usually the person who tries to examine all possibilities and outcomes of situations and decisions (which is ridiculous since we mere mortals are never in control🙄) but I hate surprises and usually operate from a viewpoint of ‘hope for the best but expect the worst’. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, since my Mam’zelle is so different from my son I have been unable to pin her down with the S.E.A. exam, his progress was predictable, hers was a gypsy rollercoaster. Eventually she became steady and I finally became settled. As the days passed, more and more my load felt lighter and lighter, my daughter felt less and less stressed and we were both on the same page of being ready for the S.E.A. exam to come (and go😒).  I booked a surprise mini-vacay to the sister-isle on April 3rd just for the both of us and  I was reallllly looking forward to those memories: sun, sea, sips, spa-time and silliness……

Then came the Coronavirus.

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Out of all the negative predictions I could have thought up to possibly interrupt the smooth running of her exam I did NOT foresee a global pandemic. At first I wasn’t so concerned as I expected COVID-19 to reach Trinidad, but this past week wrapped up with nationals panic-buying groceries, my house perpetually smelling like Lysol, multiple television addresses, closing of schools for a week and heightened speculation on social media that would make your head spin. This was coupled with no immediate word about the exam and of course further speculation from anxious parents and teachers. What finally triggered me was hearing schools closing in St. Lucia until after Easter, Jamaica closing schools and soon to make a decision about their own exams and then news that the Caribbean Examinations Council office in Jamaica closing with the May/June exams in the air.😳

In the wake of this virus taking over there is a pressing need to take all the necessary precautions but sadly it’s now brought two sets of anxieties for me to manage: high-stakes exam preparation and worldwide crisis. I asked Mam’zelle what she would prefer, for the exam to be moved up or postponed. She replied instantly ‘Moved up! It’s time for me to relax!’. I wholeheartedly agreed although now even the vacation is up in the air because you know….life….sigh….😔

So the waiting game continues as we start this week at home with the exam initially carded for two weeks away. Revision is planned, online sessions are prepared, leisure time is scheduled at home and of course, hands are being washed. I am hoping and praying for some semblance of normalcy even in the face of this absurdity that 2020 continues to dole out.

Blessings and be safe out there!

TMIDM

 

 

 

Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago I received a document from Mam’zelle’s teacher to pick secondary schools as choices for her to be placed after writing the S.E.A. exam (not sure what the S.E.A. exam is? See my previous post here). I took the document home, folded it and put it on my dresser. It has remained there to this day.

I am anxious about this exam and nervous for Mam’zelle to write it. My first Son-son did it already and I was nowhere near as nervous then as I am now and that’s mainly because they are two different children. She is not as excited about schoolwork and does it grudgingly at times. Other times she shoots fireworks from her fingers. I think also because she is a girl and the world works differently for females, that this also influences how I feel. Make no mistake though, other than the (light/heavy) encouragement from me or the hubby, I make it a concerted effort not to display said anxiety. There is no perfection there as sometimes I let it slip but often when I feel it coming on because she can’t remember a particular spelling or mathematical formula, I step away to vent to my husband or I log on to Facebook to commiserate with other parents who feel the same as a result of this dreaded exam.

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Illustration by Shrikrishna-Patkar (www.hindustantimes.com)

I know I’ve reached that part of the S.E.A. ride where it’s pedal to the metal but I’m really praying for this ride to slow down and stop. I can’t imagine having to wait until May so for that alone, I thank God it was moved to March (although it remains high stakes for a shorter period of time). A couple of weeks ago there was a meeting held for the parents of the standard five girls and I was really glad that my feelings were shared even though I didn’t speak to anybody. The taut body language in the room spoke volumes. In all the years I have attended meetings in that school, I have NEVER seen so many parents (especially the dads….kudos!!) turn out for one year group. There was a lot of nervous energy in the room that no amount of ice breakers, talks and presentations could allay. As a matter of fact, after one of the members of staff did her presentation on how placement occurs, the tension rose and I left because I felt like I needed to breathe.

Since then, I have done my part in remaining in close contact with her teacher, making sure she is physically, mentally and spiritually fed and staying abreast of the conversation about S.E.A. on the networks with other parents which can also drive you crazy if you don’t scroll quickly and limit the amount of comments you read. Examples of Math sums, Language exercises and Creative Writing prompts are posted at various times throughout the day from parents who need help and teachers who want to help. It’s as though everyone is trying to make sure that all 14 million possibilities for this exam are considered in all the three subject areas and coupled with questions, concerns and venting about the exam process, it can become very overwhelming.

Mam’zelle is in lessons Monday to Friday and now Saturdays as well. The way I see it, if the help is offered to keep her brain busy then I’m completely ok with that. She enjoys working with her friends and she listens to her teacher sometimes more than me and I am completely ok with that as well. Any sign of burnout is met with shutdown and sleep and thankfully it hasn’t affected her other than the usual tweenage complaints about school. Of course balance is key so while we don’t have the time for her to be as physically active as she used to be, she is still partaking in one extra-curricular activity because you know….life…….

I am taking it day by day and will continue managing my emotions until the end of this S.E.A. nightmare. Hopefully when I finally get around to filling out that placement document, time will have sped up considerably. In the meantime let me organize breakfast on this goodly Saturday morning and ready myself to drop the child to school.

Blessings

TMIDM

It’s BTS Time!!!

In Trinidad and Tobago the back-to-school countdown has begun! Many parents and guardians are filling out bookstores, shoe stores and fabric stores to make sure that children are prepped and ready to go for the first day of dispatch on  the 3rd of September. The back-to-school rush is the least favourite of ‘rushes’ for me. I hate that particular last-minute feeling so much so that I remember one year I did all my stationery shopping in the supermarket just to avoid the bacchanal. So every year I do my shopping strategically so that I won’t be caught in the middle of people shouting for books at the clerks with booklists flailing about in loooong lines and police ushering in crowds bit-by-bit. Yes…..this happens….

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See? It’s international! Photo taken from South Africa: https://bereamail.co.za/101667/back-to-school-rush-5/

I remember when I was going to school I used to be excited to return. I loved fresh books, bag and lunchkit. I used to loooooove covering my books with brown paper and plastic and I couldn’t wait to use my new stationery…..(one can never have enough stationery. I’m an adult and I still feel that way.) My gremlinz however are not so inclined and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Let me walk that back……I can understand in the sense that I am in no hurry to return to work to return to my own classrooms but come on!!! New pens and notebooks!!! When I do my stationery run for myself next week that’s what will signal to my brain that the new term cometh so they should get inna gear  to inspire me right? Work is a whole different kettle of fish…..

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In spite of the initial gentle probing, I have now insisted that they begin to look sharp. So over the course of the coming days the routine will start back. I have already begun by one simple step.

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Hahahaha! Yes! The dreaded 9 o’clock curfew has returned. The other night I walked past their bedrooms and in the dark their eyes were open like owls in a cave with no way of escaping. Poor things. They eventually fell asleep though. In the day they’ve started back doing school work. Son-son has a mandate to read all of his literature books before school opens and Mam’zelle just started her online revision via pennacool.com which is really tremendous for children in Trinidad and Tobago gearing up for high-stakes exams. I really endorse it! (unsponsored)

Now little Boyo will not see kindergarten until next year but has already mastered oral counting, alphabet, colours and animal sounds through the kind folks who provide daily earworms on YouTube. Until then I am taking the time to ensure that he develops his soft skills as well as activities that involve holding a crayon or using playdoh. There are many internet resources and apps I found but I want to highlight education.com (also unsponsored) because I found that they have a wide range of activities for children from 2 years old right up. Check out the puzzles on the site like these super cute mazes which I figure will help with patience and critical thinking!Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 12.13.42 PM

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Before you know it, we will be smack at the start of the term so I hope everyone’s rearing to go or at least behind the wheel ready to bounce the starter! If not, think of it this way, the faster you start, the nearer you are to Christmas!

Blessings!

TMIDM

Whither the humanity?

humanity

plural humanities

1 :compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition :the quality or state of being humane  (marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration)

(Merriam Webster Online)

It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a Trinidadian right now because sad to say, I live among people who don’t deserve to live in this country, far less this on this planet as human beings.

With the grand exception of the Christmas into Carnival period which is like our yearly escape from reality/purge of bad vibes/one love fest, during the rest of the months we have seem to become a people without hope, descending into a despicable mentality fueled largely by selfishness, race, tribalism, spite, jealousy and greed. There I’ve said it. Harsh? (Where are the lies though?)

Dominica was an island that was largely green, an Eden of sorts, everywhere green with lush flora and fauna. When Hurricane Maria hit, the pictures that emerged were heart-breaking. Aerial shots showed houses with no roofs, broken trees, flood waters and brown earth. The island is completely ravaged, so much so that it brought the Prime Minister to tears on television.

So cue CARICOM. Already there was a need to pour aid into the island of Barbuda, completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma weeks aback. Now as part of the Community there is need to rally behind Dominica as well. Trinidad’s Prime Minister said that Dominicans with friends and family here are welcome for six months with no hassle, we’re opening our borders to help our brothers in need, as good neighbours ought right?  Well thanks to social media, people’s petticoats started to show. These are actual comments from the keyboard warriors on public fora not to mention the private groups of which I’m a member (there are some HEARTLESS teachers out there, TRUST ME!):

“They will have the same rights as national……This is a political move to gain votes…..”

“Is mother Africa sending any aid to hurricane struck islands? Is she opening her home and her pot?”

“…he should open the door to the refugees in Bangladesh”

“just like how it have homeless an needy ppl here all alyuh who agree should take in one homeless Trini…and again I stress that charity begins at home. There is no reason not to help but don’t leave your own to suffer.”

Sigh, it was difficult to sift through the vitriol but I made it out alive. I will also return my new personal rule of not reading commentary after article posts. My brain cells are depending on me.

Whither the humanity Trinidad and Tobago???? 

Now it is notoriously hard to please a Trini eh but something as basic as this? The people island get mash up!!! No infrastructure, no services, no access to communication, in many cases no homes and bare food and you wanna tell me that if they have friends and family over here, people have a problem with them coming? People’s main concerns are about voter padding, “my child didn’t get into Fatima College so it’s not fair for Dominican children to go to school here” and suppose they will all our food and jobs??? Sipping on that Donald Trump tea? Give me a fucking break?  How difficult is it for people to see this rationale behind the decision??? Let me help you. When the day comes and  Trinidad gets fucked over by a mega-Hurricane or by a Mexico-quake (and remember, Karma is a bitch who likes to say, “hold my champagne”), whoever is the new American president (because, Trump 😒 ) or even the Canadian hottie prime minister could make an announcement, “hear what Trinis, once you have friends or family here in the US or Canada, you’re welcome for six months”. Lie to me and tell me you’re not going!!! I’ll wait!!!!…….

…………………….

……………………

Puh-leeze!

Some of us need to take stock of our lives, and I’m not even talking about our physical lives and our needs. I’m talking about our personal lives, our souls, because there is a cynical rot that it taking over that is affecting our present and will most definitely affect our future and I have Trinidadian children to raise and hopefully Trinidadian grandchildren to spoil! A lot of people don’t get that the core of most of the problems in Trinidad and Tobago stem from ourselves, what we hold personally dear, our value systems, our beliefs and notions about what it means to be a HUMAN Being, what we engender in our families and what we contribute to the society in which we live. Crime, crumbling institutions and systems, low productivity, political nonsense all generate from that. So if we as a nation are made up of individuals who measure along this lack of humanity, we are truly lost.

To all who have the courage to defend what it means to be a Trini, I applaud you. I am doing the same. I am blooming where I am planted, it is a philosophy I will continue to ascribe to and according to my vocation, it is one that I will continue to share with those who are to lead in the future. More individuals need to be doing the same instead of down-crying, blaming and stewing in the morass of ‘inhumanity’! That is the ONLY way that the Trinidad and Tobago that we all dream of can return to existence. Fix it!!

Bless up

TMIDM

P.S. There are many organizations taking donations of items but I’m putting here a list of things specifically requested by the Dominican government.  Every little bit of help will help. Give. What you put out into the universe always returns to you, sometimes doubly.

Grocery games

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I used to love going to the grocery. It was like a field trip that I looked forward to each month end. I would make sure all the members of the home clan are washed and fed, dress myself up and head out. I don’t favour carrying the whole family to the supermarket with me though unless I really have to. Boyo doesn’t like to stay in the stroller for long periods of time even in wide aisles and air-conditioned comfort. Mam’zelle and Son-son forever squabble about who gets to push the trolley which drives me up a wall and Husby always makes me buy random stuff outside my budget.

Now I say ‘used to love’ because even with my happy intentions and my genuine need to put food on the table, I’m finding it to be a droll chore. This is mainly because there is such a heaviness when I observe people (read: women) in the grocery. One after the next stare at the shelves at the products, hemming and hawing, deliberating, pro-ing and con-ning. People quarrel to themselves, mutter under their breaths, suck their teeth (steups) and even outrightly complain about what a state we are in with food prices rising and rising to seemingly meet the Lord. And I completely understand it. The fact is, money is tight and when you make out that monthly budget, that allocation marked “Grocery” seems to be rising higher, denting your other categories of spending.

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Adapted from https://www.attwiw.com

Once I spoke to a friend of mine who told me she wished she could just walk into the grocery, see what she needs/wants, take it, dump it in the trolley, head to the cashier, pay and leave.This may seem very normal to some of you reading this, but that reality is far removed from some of us like me who live in the middle.   Going to the grocery is indeed a process. You spend more time doing mathematical functions, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing as well as justifying, predicting and wondering if it’s cheaper in Pricesmart or Maharaj Wholesale.

The thing is I usually make sure I get everything I need to I wouldn’t have to buy food outside which is a bad habit that I’m trying to cut down on. Eat home and save money? Sure! But this idea is also under the scrutiny of a ‘cut-eye’. Example: hot dogs work right? For dinner, work, lunch kit, breakfast, you name it unless you are a parent who is adamant against processed meats but dais not me. Everything requires balance like box juice one day, freshly squeezed the next. Anyways I wanted to upgrade my hot dogs so I decided I will buy the jumbo ones instead of the usual skinny franks. Usually I make those with the lettuce, grated carrots, the full nine for family dinners or for school. There is a particular brand I like that I’ve been buying for $32.99 for the longest while. Aye aye, when I gone this month to pick it up, is $39.99 staring me in my face yuh know! The prospect of paying that extra seven dollars out of nowhere hurt me, made me consider a hit or miss with a next brand, a return to the skinny franks with an addition of tortillas or fries to the meal. Sigh, I really liked those jumbo hot dogs dammit!!!

Food prices are ridiculous. Now let me say for those of you who are thinking “set up a kitchen garden” or “budget your money better!”, my thumbs are as black as they come and if my budget were any tighter it would give millennial jeans a run for their money. Mankind needs to eat and you see particularly as Son-son is hitting puberty and again, nobody adequately warned me about his voraciousness that has no bounds, I have to do what I must. But the fed-upcy is growing. You know with carefully crafted buying of ingredients, follows the carefully crafted providing of food for a month using said ingredients and meals must be varied. At times this mother here does not have the mental fortitude to win at this game every day and with the way things are looking at the grocery, the odds are beginning to stack higher.

Adapted from http://www.fiterature.com

Bless up

TMIDM

Wanna hear a story?

Here it goes:

Once upon a time on a random Tuesday afternoon, a teacher set aside her lesson to scold her class of form ones (11-13 years olds). They had been behaving badly in recent times and they needed a shake up to try to bring them back to reality.

When the teacher was finished and the bell had rung signalling the end of the school day, she had scarcely reached her office and begun to pack up when she was confronted by another teacher who indicated that two girls who were part of the class to whom she had spoken earlier, had instigated a fight with another female student that very minute. The teacher was aghast. Hadn’t she just spoken to these students about their deportment and their lack of discipline? Was it simply a matter of her 35-minute sermon going in one ear and coming out the next? Had she lost precious teaching time for nothing?

The teacher went outside and proceeded to call the two girls who proceeded to delay in walking toward her. This got the teacher annoyed because she began to think about her own biological children who needed to be picked up from school a whole 60-something kilometres away while she had to be there dealing with that nonsense. She began to shout with authority at the girls about the mere stupidity of their actions and insisted that they go to the office.

Concurrently, one of the girls had a boyfriend who was in another class who decided that he would jump into the fray to save his girlfriend from the teacher who was admonishing her. Upon realizing that the boyfriend was addressing her, the teacher turned to the young boy and spoke to him directly, indicating that no one had called him and he should excuse himself. The boyfriend muttered. The teacher asked for clarity and indicated that if he had something to say he should come to her directly. The young boy bounced up, pointed a finger in the teacher’s face and said she should mind her business. Unrelenting in her purpose, the teacher told him that he had no authority to point at her to which he replied “Hush your cunt”. The teacher replied that she didn’t know that he was aware of any body parts belonging to her and then turned to the girlfriend and said, “You have great taste in men.”

In the office, while writing up the notices to see parents for the two young girls, the teacher’s annoyance switched to amusement.  In all of her years working at the school, never had she been so disrespected but she felt as though if it had to happen, it should have been someone a bit more worthy. She jumped in her car and went on her merry way, eager to give her husband the joke about these students’ obvious loss of mental capacity, ruminating on her strategy for the following day and boy would it be a good one.

THE END

EPILOGUE

The mother picked up her own children from school and after her usual pleasantries, realized that something was wrong with her son. He was unusually quiet. He then randomly asks (or maybe not so randomly) when was the next occasion for Confession at their church. This made the mother anxious. At home she realized that he was shadowing her and kept asking for hugs. She didn’t ask him anything but merely waited. Eventually he said he had something to tell her and after almost five minutes of fidgety eyes and playing with his fingers, he said that he knew she was going to get mad but he proceeded to outline what happened. Apparently he was part of  a WhatsApp group with boys commenting using very strong obscene language. A parent found out and the boys got in trouble at school with their teacher. He looked at his mother and said that he was sorry and he knew it was “out of his character” and that he got “caught up”. The mother sighed and said she was glad that he told her and she spoke to him about being responsible on social media and not bowing to peer pressure. She imagined that it would be the first of many like conversations but boy was she proud that he found it enough on his conscience to recognize his missteps and to come clean. She trained her son to be sensible enough (not perfect but sensible!) to identify a basic right from a wrong approach and wondered why other parents couldn’t do the same.

Bless up

TMIDM

Well Happy Divali yes!

In Trinidad and Tobago tonight is the eve of Divali, the Hindu festival of lights, the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. Tomorrow Hindus pray to the goddess Mother Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity, for her to fill their homes which will be beautifully lit with deyas and celebrations will be had.

Today some schools (I say ‘some’ because I suspect not all) give children the option to dress in East Indian wear to celebrate and give significance to the East Indian community because the festival is largely cultural as it is a deeply religious observance. My gremz both attend Roman Catholic primary schools and the request is the same every year which is no big deal to me because like I said Divali is also very much a cultural thing and Trinidad and Tobago is chock full of different races and cultures mixed into one. So even though children are of African, Chinese, Syrian, European descent, East Indian wear is welcomed. 

Now Mam’zelle wore East Indian clothing and Son-son didn’t. He said he didn’t want to be noticed too much which is fine with me while she was down for the fanciness. This afternoon I picked them up from school and in the car we had the usual banter of what happened during the day. She told me “Mummy ‘soandso’ and I wore the same thing, could you believe that?”. I replied “wow! twinsies!”, glad that she wasn’t mortified. She’s very particular about what she wears, but then she said “…and thennnn ‘soanso’ tell me ‘why you have on that? you looking ugly!'”…….I understood the underlying meaning and looked at her trying to gauge her emotional state at the recollection. Then I tested her by saying very matter-of-factly “And?”. She replied “I know right? I was still feeling sad though”. It was her first time wearing East Indian wear, last year she was sick and didn’t make it to school so she missed out. I told her that she looked beyond beautiful and anybody who couldn’t see that is probably blind.

I’ve arrived at my point. There is a blindness that pervades this Trinidad and Tobago society which is beyond irritating. I get that there are residual historical, societal and cultural issues and biases that affect and are passed down from generation after generation. But….have mercy……when will it stop? A next ten/twenty years and the same nonsense? When do we begin to teach our children or to reflect to them the appreciation of the beauty and culture of all races especially in this country? The Indian/African/Syrian/’Chinee’ thing is so played out. One doesn’t have to subscribe to a religion or be a certain race to show tolerance, understanding and appreciation. This doesn’t stand for Hinduism alone, I’m ‘African’ and Catholic, not Orisha which I guess makes me less of an ‘African.’ I’m blasted for what I believe and practice which by the way is a freedom I enjoy without having to prove the rightness and wrongness of Catholicism. Don’t even get me started on Islam.

So back to Mam’zelle. I posted her dress pic early on Facebook this morning and 38 people clicked like on the photo. It may sound trivial but those 38 people, though not children,  reaffirmed what it means to be Trini for me. They helped me to make my point to her that it does not matter what some may think, in this country there are others who will disagree, do away with the blindness and still strive to make this country the rainbow that it should be.

Shine light in your hearts man, sounds good to me. What do we say about every creed and race in the National Anthem? We sing it twice for crying out loud! Sigh.

Bless up

TMIDM

Germageddon

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Ebola is at the forefront in many ways than one and you know when things are bad in Trinidad and Tobago when people start making up jokes as a coping mechanism.  So overheard a caller on the radio today: “You go by the doctor to find out if you have Ebola and the doctor tells you well hear nah,  you don’t have Ebola but you’re HIV Positive! which then makes you shout for joy: Thank you Jesus Thank the Lord!”. The radio announcer says he knows he shouldn’t be laughing but it’s funny because the thinking is at least you can live with HIV…sigh….Imagine the biggest debate in Trinidad and Tobago regarding Ebola is if to cancel Carnival in 2015…-_- Carnival yuh know, dat is what people studying!!!

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Everything is a joke in this country. That’s how we deal…..

This deadly disease is on my mind because germs are transmitted so easily as far as I see. No amount of pitchy hand-washing campaigns by the Ministry of Health and hand-sanitizers on sale in exotic fragrances of Japanese Cherry Blossom and Midnight Pomegranate can sway the fact that germs still bounce from here to there. People still sneeze and cough wildly in public, in taxis and buses and still talk animatedly over food being sold (watch your doubles vendor). Today I saw one of my students sucking her thumb and it dawned on me that it’s a habit that can exacerbate the germ-spreading much like biting the nails, both of which are mostly done so absent-mindedly, both of which are ever-present in schools….yikes….

I’m no germophobe but my mother always clued me in to germ-spreading when I was growing up so much so that I was forced to “see” germs being spread. So I used to press the button in the bus with my knuckle, open doors with my forearms/elbows, hold my bag on my shoulder when I have to use a public restroom, pump the soap with the corner of my wrist and I have hand sanitizer in every one of my handbags and my car. I’m not perfect with it and I certainly won’t reach my mom and her level of OCD where she takes grocery cheddar out of the plastic, washes it and then proceeds to slice……..yes…….I’ve talked to her about that.

My daughter Mam’zelle sucks her thumb, a habit she picked up before she breathed air. When she was born she was searching wildly for the finger by the mouth so much so the head nurse exclaimed “Aye Aye! She fass! Look she suckin finger! Chile yuh jus’ born!” I’ve never cut the habit with her because I too know the sweetness, so too my husband, same issue, same hand, (is thumb-sucking genetic?) and I figure she will cut that out very soon. She doesn’t do it in school which tells you the level of pride (or shame) that she has. So when I pick her up and I don’t hear her antics in the car, I know she’s sucking the thumb as though she suffered withdrawal and de feeling so sweet but then I have to yell about germs and cleanliness, rinse and repeat the following day. Sometimes she asks me “Can I suck my finger now?” or she would casually ask if I have hand-sanitizer as if we’re talking about the weather (“oh, by the way…”).

It’s all well and good with the common cold and sundry other mutated forms of viruses that I can battle with doctor visits, meds, excessive talking and frenzied harping and hand-washing but Ebola??? Who am I against a disease that is dismantling West Africa, is one-up in the US, crept into Brazil and made it’s way into Spain and Germany’s news headlines? I am praying to God that Ebola doesn’t make its way into Trinidad and Tobago because we are studying Carnival and at our very best I don’t think we are anywhere close to handling it the way we should and if it’s one thing about this country, ting does realll spread.

Stay safe and be wisely informed. Pick sense from nonsense.

Bless up

TMIDM