Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby.

Let’s Talk About Sexism, Baby.

17191731_1820384474845295_1386840009192441995_o.jpg
Image from the Reclaim our Streets: Women’s Solidarity March, Barbados

Everyday instances of sexism and sexual harrasment are still common in Cayman. I’m used to the catcalls I hear when I’m out for a run; I try not to let it get to me (most days) because as irritating and degrading as it might be, I need to choose which battles I pick. And when I’m on the road alone, I don’t pick that battle. Instead, I turn my music up and run harder.

But today, I’m picking a battle. Because yesterday, when I was just out living my life, going around town running errands, I dealt with a lot of patriarchal bullshit… and it’s not okay.

First up, 8:45 AM: I meet with a driving instructor before I go take my road test (yep, finally). The first thing he (middle aged man) says to me is “well, you’re a beautiful girl, so you’ll be fine.” Is that supposed to ease my nerves? It has the opposite effect.

9:15 AM: Road test time. Driving examiner (different middle aged man) “jokingly” tells me he’s single. Then asks who my family is. Of course he knows my dad, and says “Well, I better not say anything else to you because your father would come looking for me.” Yeah, he would. And you shouldn’t be saying anything to me in the first place!!! (I still fail my road test)

12:30 PM: In a shop with dad. See someone he knows on our way out (of course). This guy (yet another middle aged man) says “Is she your daughter? She must have gotten her looks from her mom!” This happens each time I meet one of my dad’s acquaintances. It’s the same joke every time. Wasn’t funny the first time, even less so now. He then proceeds to ask my father questions about me, while I am standing right there. He doesn’t look at me, or ask me any questions directly. I am a trophy daughter. I am humiliated.

1:30 PM: Sitting in a waiting room. A man is next to me, reading the paper. The frontpage headline shows the new Miss Cayman who was crowned on Saturday night. He makes a comment about her weight. I scold him. He asks, “Well, what do you think about her?” to which I reply that I don’t know what I think about her because I haven’t been paying attention, since I don’t agree with the institution of beauty pageants and think they should do away with them altogether. He back-pedals and agrees with me.

So, this was just half a day dealing with demeaning, objectifying comments from numerous men, under the most mundane circumstances. Comments made in passing, as if they were nothing. Comments made as jokes, as if they were funny.

Examples like these don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the ongoing issues of gender discrimination and gender-based violence so prevalent throughout the Caribbean. It’s been normalised in our culture(s). But, the thing about culture is: it’s learned. It changes over time.

And it is beginning to change. The #LifeinLeggings movement is a brilliant example of this: what started as a hashtag for Caribbean women to share their experiences of sexual harassment on social media has blossomed into a full-on registered charity in Barbados, “dedicated to tackling gender based violence and assault,” through numerous projects, including a regional women’s solidarity march.

Next week is the premier of a new film about the women’s suffrage movement in Cayman. Watching the trailer, my heart swelled with pride and adoration for the women who came before me and worked diligently to achieve gender equality. But we still need to work on it, because legislation is one thing, and culture is another.

So Cayman, we need to change the way we speak to and about women. We need to pay attention to the words we speak, and hold ourselves and those around us accountable for those words. It may be difficult and uncomfortable to do so, but it’s much more difficult and uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of those derogatory comments. 

My great grandmother fought for gender quality. I shouldn’t have to fight the same battle she did.

….

Love and light ALWAYS.

-Jess.

A light in the dark.

A light in the dark.

I’d been holding off of writing for the last few weeks because I had this gross, guilty, feeling that everything I wrote was futile in the Age of Trump. How could I share stories about my life when millions of lives were being threatened by Trump’s Draconian policies? How could I have the audacity to express my joy when I was listening to stories of Somali refugees who, after finally being approved to seek asylum in America after spending decades in a Kenyan camp, learned that they couldn’t come to the US, and had to return to the camp with nothing but the winter coats they had bought for their new lives as Americans?  If I wasn’t expressing rage, or sorrow, or sharing political articles, should I be expressing anything at all? Who was I to write about what a great time I had at the Taste of Cayman festival while 450 miles away, the executive order on immigration had just come into effect?

I felt small and powerless during this time of extreme fear and unrest.

But then I realised: feeling guilty and staying silent isn’t the answer. Withholding my story isn’t helping me, or anyone else. Even though these policies don’t directly affect my life, and even though I may feel isolated from what’s happening in the States while I’m on this small island, I came to the realisation that sharing my truth can be an act of resistance. I’m a mixed race, liberal, foreign woman. The rights of people like me are being infringed upon. And the fact that I have the ability to share whatever I wish to share is something that I cannot take for granted. So, maybe sometimes I’ll share links to articles or podcasts that I find thought-provoking and pertinent, and other times I’ll share a recipe for the smoothie I had for breakfast. . . and I need to remind myself that that’s okay. Because spreading a little light amidst the darkness isn’t superfluous or superficial, it’s necessary.

And with that being said, I’ll say that things in my life have been pretty great lately. Last weekend I celebrated a friend’s birthday by dancing my troubles away on a boat party. On Wednesday I went to a full moon Rave Aerobics class, which is as amazing as it sounds… a high energy dance workout under the stars, led by an awesome crew of people, complete with light-up rave accessories! This past Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a concert by the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble as part of the Cayman Arts Festival, which was phenomenal. And this morning I woke up to the news that my best friend Mel has booked her flight to come visit me in April!!! I feel so. damn. grateful to be where I am and to have these opportunities.

img_2060
GOOD THINGS: My brother got engaged to this amazing lady! A bunch of girls gathered to celebrate over brunch at Blue Cilantro
img_2005
Sunset walks at Smith Cove to quiet the mind.

So, a gentle reminder to those feeling disheartened by ALL THE THINGS happening right now: stay woke, and also enjoy your life. Because you can do both.

Sending all the light & love,

Jess.

Getting Back in the Blue

Getting Back in the Blue

Hi, internet. It’s been quiet around here lately. Truth be told I didn’t feel inspired to blog over the holidays . . . I was in a strange head space and the words just weren’t flowing. BUT, I did something very exciting a few days ago and I’m thrilled to share it here.

I went scuba diving! For the first time in 5 and 1/2 years! And I had such a great time!

I got my PADI Open Water certification when I was living in Cayman in summer 2011, and went diving a few times during that season, but I hadn’t been since. I didn’t have any dive buddies in Victoria, and zipping into a drysuit to brave the frigid Canadian waters somehow didn’t seem as appealing as the bikini-clad Caribbean dives I had grown accustomed to (spoiled, I know. Excuses, I know). So, somehow FIVE years passed, until I signed up for a Dive Refresher course and finally got back underwater.

My day started out at the pool at the Westin. I was the only one taking the course that day, so the morning theory and pool session were very brief. It was also one of the coolest days I’ve ever experienced in Cayman, and my tiny instructor wasn’t too keen on being in the pool. So after practicing some basic skills in the pool for approximately 10 minutes, she declared that I was good to go and she would see me at the Red Bay dock in 3 hours for our boat dive. Just like that! Yikes.

I fuelled up with a delicious, nourishing lunch at Island Naturals, and read up on some more diving rules and tips online. I didn’t feel adequately prepared after the morning session, so I felt the need to do some more research on my own.

img_1934
Study fuel & diving fuel: Green curry over quinoa, washed down with beet & ginger juice.

I was somewhat nervous as I got to the dock and joined the group, but as the boat took off I relaxed & my excitement grew. (I’ve always felt at home when I’m on a boat. The men in my family are sailors, sea captains, and fishermen. And anyone who’s lived on Vancouver Island knows the familiar comfort of BC Ferries). There were 3 first time divers on board, so us novices stuck with the instructor.

We dove at a site called Bullwinkle West, and I loved it. The meditative breathing, the simultaneous sense of calm and adventure, the absolute magic of experiencing a different world. It’s awe-inspiring.

scuba-dive
Can you see the excitement in my eyes?!

I was buzzing with happiness and adrenaline when we got back on the boat.

Ever since I’ve moved back to Cayman, I’ve been feeling somewhat lost. My close friends are in Victoria. My mum is in Victoria. I rely on rides to get around everywhere because I don’t have my own car yet and this place is so un-pedestrian friendly it’s insane. BUT, this felt right. Diving felt right. And I feel motivated to keep going, keep learning, keep experiencing that magic. 

img_1938
Post-dive bliss. Mask indentation on my forehead. LOVING LIFE.

I’ve been YouTubing diving videos and reading dive blogs all week. And I’ve set a goal of doing 50 dives in 2017. This is big for me, as I’m not usually a quantifiable goal type of person. But, in the spirit of the New Year, I figured I’d put it out there and challenge myself to follow through with a measurable, action-oriented resolution.

So, if you’re a diver and you’re in Cayman, hit a girl up! Let’s be dive buddies.

See you underwater!

-Jess

Full Moon Feelings

Full Moon Feelings

On Tuesday’s full moon, I went to a yoga class at Bliss and it was beautiful.

On a rooftop, overlooking the banana trees from the nursery next door, giant silver moon rising in front of us.

It had been five months since I had gone to a yoga class and I was feeling slightly apprehensive- would I be clumsy and off-balance? (That little voice in my head, nagging me with fear and doubt.)

The voice quieted as the practice began. As we moved, I was focused, I was in the flow, I was strong and confident and grounded. It just clicked.

And then! At the end of the practice, in Savasana, something wonderful happened. I usually get distracted in Savasana; during my practice, I often feel much more present when my body is in motion, rather than in stillness. This time, however, was different.

As I laid in stillness, names and faces of people that have been in my life this year appeared in my head. I thought of old friends, of former coworkers from the restaurant, of people who I may have only shared space with a few times, of family members near and far, of the people I’ve connected with on this tiny rock- and I felt a deep sense of GRATITUDE. I didn’t fixate on any one person,or harbour any resentment. I simply saw them, thanked them, and moved on.

I’m grateful for the people that come and go from my life. I’ve struggled with the letting go part – friends I’ve lost touch with, lovers I  don’t love anymore – and have mourned the loss of the connection and intimacy that once was there. But I know that not everyone can be in my life forever. They’re not meant to be. And rather than thinking back on our shared moments with a sense of loss, or regret, it feels so. much. better. to be grateful. To thank those people for those moments, for the joy we shared, for the lessons they taught me (knowingly or unknowingly).

“Finding the good and the lessons in things allows us to move through them and on to new experiences. If you want to stay stuck in the same place and keep getting spanked with the same lessons over and over, be negative, resentful, and victimised. If you want to get over your issues and rock your life, be grateful, look for the good and learn.” -Jen Sincero, author of the equally hilarious and profound book “You Are a Badass” 

Gratitude is a life changer!

Love & Light,

-Jess.

img_1409

Weekend Reset

Weekend Reset

Hi, friends!

Just a quick note to share some highlights from the weekend. It was lovely! I had to work late on Friday for an event, then had an extremely busy day at work on Saturday for a family day I coordinated, so by Saturday evening I was exhausted and ready for some relaxation. I started watching The Good Wife (7 years late to that bandwagon) and thoroughly enjoyed an early night of Netflixing. It was necessary. It was fantastic.

On Sunday I was up bright and early to participate in the annual Jingle Bell Run for the Cayman Islands Crisis Center. I chose to run the 10km (you could do 5km or 10km, walk or run) and was a little nervous because I hadn’t run that distance since being in Cayman. The route was a straight, there-and-back 5km stretch, which meant that you just did it twice for the 10km. Despite my feet hurting (I’m cursed with very long second toes and now realise I need to buy bigger trainers) and a bit of knee pain at the end, I felt good (mentally and energetically). It was a really great atmosphere! The whole thing was very casual and community oriented, and was capped off with a post-race breakfast and raffle on the beach at Calico Jack’s. While the whole event felt jovial and festive. . . as mentioned, proceeds supported the Crisis Center, which provides shelter for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, in addition to a 24hr hotline and various outreach programmes. If you’re in Cayman, please consider donating money or goods to the Crisis Center. 

img_1551
TIRED and happy!
img_1553
Will run for food (and worthwhile causes)
img_1560
Sandra won grocery money!
img_1556
Post-run breakfast view. What a world.

 

The rest of Sunday was spent recuperating on the beach by the Marriott. Felt like a tourist, fruity cocktail and all. Bliss!

img_1564
YES to this Coconut Mule.
img_1573
YES to playing tourist for an afternoon

Today was spent with Dad, running errands, going for lunch at Da Fish Shack, and a quick afternoon snorkel. It had been awhile since I last snorkelled. Although I love to spend time  in the water, I’ll admit that regular life stuff often gets in the way. The stereotypical “island lifestyle” isn’t a reality for most people here, myself included (we have jobs! we have responsibilities!), so I cherish weekends like this where I get to spend not one, but 2 DAYS (!!) in the sea.

I’m feeling recharged and relaxed. Participating in a community events + spending time with friends and family + getting outside + eating good food felt so right. My heart is happy. Hope yours is too.

Love & Light,

-Jess.

 

Self Care Strategies: Staying Grounded After an International Move

Self Care Strategies: Staying Grounded After an International Move

Moving to another country is no joke. Even if that country is familiar, it’s still a major transition that rocks you to your core.

Moving back to Cayman meant starting my career, leaving my beloved friends, sister, niece and mum back in Victoria, moving into a house with 5 family members and a chihuahua, and having to rely on other people for transportation everywhere, everyday. To put it mildly: these past 4 months have been intense.

In the midst of all of this upheaval, adjustment, and busyness, I’ve found that prioritising self care has been VITAL for managing stress and avoiding burnout.

For me, self care takes the form of…

  • Listening to podcasts. This is a big one. I usually listen to a self-help podcast when getting ready for work in the mornings to set the tone for my day. Even if work is chaotic and stressful, knowing that I have intentionally invested in some self-love and self-reflection in the morning helps to keep me motivated and grounded. On my lunch breaks I tend to listen to more current events/political shows, as the local media in Cayman leaves much to be desired and is quite conservative (which I am not.) Some podcasts I have on heavy rotation are: The Lively Show, Good Life Project, Another Round,  and This American Life, among others. I’m always open to recommendations, so feel free to leave a comment and share your favourite shows!
  • Drinking a cup of tea and making a healthy breakfast each morning. Which, 90% of the time means a smoothie or oatmeal. Endlessly customisable, always delicious, and so good for my insides. Again, much like the podcast thing: I feel good knowing that I started my day off in a healthy way, even if I end up eating a bunch of jerk pork or chocolate later in the day (both very likely scenarios).
  • Standing on the balcony with my headphones in, listening to this song. I find it very comforting, and something about the music and the breeze feels like magic.
  • Journaling.
  • EXERCISE. Right now I’m focusing on running, with some bodyweight exercises thrown in for good measure. I also take circuit classes at the boxing gym sometimes, which are fun, challenging, and make me feel like a badass.
  • Going to the beach as often as I can.
  • Nightly phone conversations with loved ones in Victoria. Soul nourishing.
  • Experimenting with different homemade/natural skin and hair care concoctions. I think it’s really fun to mix up ingredients like honey, oats and lemon juice and slather them on my face, or soak my hair in coconut oil. I’m fascinated by learning about the healing properties of various plants, ingredients, and oils. Truthfully, I’ve been experiencing the worst skin of my life since moving back here and it’s been pretty frustrating and embarrassing. I don’t know what the exact cause(s) is/are… hormones, climate, stress, diet, products? While my skin may not be great for the time being, I still enjoy the process of creating and applying face masks and scrubs, even if I’m not seeing amazing results.

These are just a few habits I practice to keep myself feeling good. My external circumstances have changed drastically in the last few months, and I’ve realised just how important it is to stay centred if I want to stay sane. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position to have the time and resources to prioritise these habits, and for that I am grateful!

Tell me, what are some of your fave self care strategies?

Light & Love,

Jess.

Coming back to Cayman

Coming back to Cayman

img_1468

“So if you moved away when you were 5, then you’re not really from here.” 

Words said to me by a girl introduced through a mutual friend a few weeks ago. Little did she know, she struck a nerve on one of my deepest insecurities. I’m from here, but I left.

“I’m an Ebanks. I’m from here.” I quickly responded. Ebanks is probably the most common name on island. When I first started my job, 3 of us in our office of 9 staff were Ebanks’s. If you’re an Ebanks, you’re Caymanian.

I’ve got a tricky relationship with this place.

My roots run deep here. My father’s family has been here for generations. They were the sea captains, the rope makers, the fishermen and women who built this island. My grandmother still weaves Silver Thatch palm hats like the women in our family before her; my dad and brother dive for conch and lobster at 6:00 AM on the first day the season opens.

But I don’t know how to do any of that, because I wasn’t raised here. I was raised in Victoria, with mum, where I had a perfectly lovely and happy life. I was socialised in Canada, I was educated in Canada, all of mum’s family is in Canada, I speak with a Canadian accent, I have a Canadian passport.

Whenever I visited Cayman growing up, people always welcomed me home, but I never felt like I was home. How can somewhere be home when you hardly know anyone there?

And ironically, I moved back here to work as an arts and culture educator. I spend my days teaching people about Caymanian culture and history, which is really wonderful and has helped me feel more at home here. I feel empowered by teaching children about our islands’ heritage. We talk about Silver Thatch, turtling, and wompas (old-fashioned shoes made from recycled car tires and thatch). We learn together.

And I do know people here now, beyond my family. I’m making friends, I’ve got awesome coworkers, I meet tons of people in the community through my job, Ive been dating a little bit. I’m making a life here, and it does feel like home.

Coming back has been a difficult transition in many ways, but I know it was the right move. I’m learning and growing all the time. I don’t know if I’ll be here forever, but for now I’m exactly where I should be.

Light & Love,

Jess.