Wednesday, 1 August 2018

My Summer To Do List 2018

Just popping in to say don't mind too much if it gets a bit quiet around these parts. I'm off on vacation for a bit so I'll see you with new stories to share soon friends!

What am I off in the hopes of doing? Here:
  • At least 3 crazy brave things.
  • Vlog !(might count towards one of the crazy brave things because i'm actually quiet afraid to do this in public!)
  • Hug and love on people I have missed this past year.
  • Dance!
  • Laugh so much that I almost can't stand it!
  • Stretch and Grow.
  • Be Thankful.

I'll report back! In the meantime...

Peace. Love. Adventure Beckons!!!

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Grenada Chocolate Festival 2018 :: The Chocolate Reign and the Mott Greene Legacy

Last year I had the extraordinary pleasure of being a part of the Grenada Chocolates Festival as a local blogger for its 2017 activities. (If you missed any of that you can find more on it my 2017 experience here.) This year, I joyously had the opportunity to attend a few of the Grenada Chocolate Festival's 2018 adventures. While I visited the Victory Chocolate Company and the Crayfish Bay Organic Cocoa Farm in 2017, I was able to go to the Mott Green Grenada Chocolate Company in 2018.

There, in the parish of St. Andrew, we were presented with a vast list of activity options as well as an intimate look at the life, vision and accomplishments of Mott Green. It was a bitter sweet gift to be able to have personal account of his life and passion for chocolate from people who where close with him and knew him, so very well. People like his business partner and friend Edmund Brown.

Now, amateur hiker that I am, I choose the simpler of routes and I decided not to take the trek to the sulphur spring. I have no regret though because as much as cocoa means to me as a Grenadian who enjoys cocoa tea as much as I do, I felt like it was my far over due duty to acquire a more intimate knowledge of the beginnings of my local chocolate industry.

As we coasted up the Eastern main road on to our destination in early morning, I had no idea my heart would become so much more tied up in the local cocoa diligence as it did by that day's end...It is so interesting how unexpectedly, a simple trip can change you.. I suppose I should have known this already after all my crazy experiences on vacation but I was about to learn that if you open yourself to receive everything an experience has to offer to you, it will stir change in you no matter the soil, whether home or abroad.

My tour started with the visiting of the old great house with a corresponding slave pen. If you’re not up to speed, ‘The Great House’ was commonly the ‘Master/Slave Owner’s’ residence where he lived with his family close enough to oversee his property. It is often a structure made to be awe inspiring, full of grandeur and dignity. Even with the passage of centuries the one we visited that day still architecturally has that air about it. Contrastingly, the slave pen is just the opposite. It is quite simply a claustrophobic, dark, dank, hole in the ground meant to break and subdue the spirit of men and women. On this property the two still stand footsteps apart. It hurts me every time to know that once people slept in a hole footsteps away from parties and fĂȘting…but I think the experience of that pain remains important and I am glad that while we visited the cocoa plantation on that property we were allowed to feel the effects of history, re-mastered, so to speak.

We went on to a guided educational walk through the cocoa field, learning to recognize different species of cocoa by the leaves of their trees. We found ourselves, crunching dried leaves underfoot and looking up into cocoa framed, canapĂ© skies. The voice of our guide spoke as we weaved our way through low hanging branches and past healthy, over grown roots of seasons and of hidden flowers ahead of us. 
 The rainbow colours of cocoa pods at every peripheral, as we walked along breathing in fruit fragrances and the intoxicating scent of cocoa in its natural, cared for environment. All of which, infused with the sweet taste of natural sugars, herbs, spices, clean air, Caribbean sunlight and rainforest rainwater to naturally spur on growth… God, I love this country! 
Then it was back to the factory for a tour of it, presentation on the founder of the Mott Green by his partner, national dish eating and a little stopping at the famous bonbon shop. 

 It was a packed day and I loved every moment of it! The entire thing was aesthetically pleasing sure but do you know what really caught my heart in a vice? Mott Green worked hard to establish the reign of the cocoa industry and now it is a beautiful rain that threatens its very flourish…

I was shocked to learn that our cocoa farmers are in danger of themselves disappearing due to growing older, lack of younger people getting into agricultural ventures and many other challenges the present day cocoa farmers are facing.
 Sorting coca with one of the ladies who has worked at the factory for decades!

I had the opportunity to speak with one of our cocoa farms for an in-depth chat about some of these challenges and we narrowed it down to two major issues negatively impacting the Grenadian cocoa industry and how these issues are frustrating farmers out of the profession while daunting and dissuading new comers to it. We also of course, brainstormed how we might attempt to fix those glaring issues as, after all, it is in our best interest as cocoa enthusiasts, chocolate lovers and Grenadians to so do. Here is what we came up with:

Major Challenges of Cocoa Farmers In Grenada:

Our local farmers are having serious trouble getting their cocoa produce sold due to lack of drying facilities and storage facilities for housing wet cocoa. Cocoa is as its peek in rainy season. However if the cocoa foundation has the monopoly on buying cocoa from our farmers and they do not have a storage facility large enough to house the vast amount of cocoa being produced on island, this means that so much product can be lost to spoilage. 

 Pictured: Me amongst some of the early machinery Mott Green modified to make chocolate out of Grenadian estate farmed cocoa. I know that to some it may not mean much but when I look at it I see what happens when vision meets determination and births a thriving business that grows a national economy!

The Grenadian raw organic cocoa market is expanding every day as demand continues to grow worldwide. Yet less cocoa will be bought from our farmers, if there is no way to turn the raw produce into a marketable good before the very climate that makes it great, also sends it back to ground. This is leaving our local farmers with so much high scale product and no one to whom they can sell it.

So how do we fix it?

Invest in alternative drying methods. As a Caribbean island (Big up 473 Pure Grenada the Isle of Spice!) I believe that solar powered cocoa drying facilities could be utilize to diminish cocoa being lost to spoilage.

Build facilities uniquely tailored to the storage and drying of said cocoa on the sight of cocoa plantations in an effort to encourage and empower local farmers to produce and sell more dried cocoa. This may require an agricultural grant or loan, material, the relevant training and certification workshops that would encourage farmers to maintain community based cocoa drying facilities.

Increase Promotion of Organic Farming within communities rich in cocoa estates. You see, continued emphasis on organic farming and an investment in drying and storage facilities for Grenadian Chocolate Companies so that they can dry their farmer bought, organic cocoa themselves, can only stand to positively propel the industry into further clean production or world so needs right now. This way, some of the burden can be taken of the local cocoa society to store and dry wet cocoa, farmers may not have to travel as far out of their communities to sell their produce and more home grown, organic cocoa product is available for export alongside local consumption.

I have seen my local cocoa product appreciated in my household for generations. I have smiled as a whole industry has continued to boom around it, expanding far into my past and likely far into my future. Now, the threat exists of extinction due to something that should not daunt a Caribbean industry. The issue of wet cocoa not being sufficiently dried before it is too late can be fixed but are we willing to invest in our food and long term employment? Will we see the longevity of an industry that continues to shower us in promise and national pride?


For the love of cocoa tea, I sure hope so.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Grenada Chocolate Festival 2018 Choocolate, Yoga and What Happens When You're not Ready to Heal?

During the 2018 Grenada Chocolate Festival, I had the opportunity to attend another Yoga Session and let me tell you, I was in for a very different experience. 

The yoga studio is in and of itself a very welcoming environment. It’s located as soon as you enter the grounds of the True Blue Bay Resort and Villas. The far wall is really just a beautiful set of floor to ceiling windows and the front of the building opens onto a veranda that give you a bird’s eye view of the resort grounds. The tree tops and even the ocean and the boats lazing on its surface in the distance, take up full frontal view. Really, what could be more calming? Our session was in the morning so of course it was accompanied by that always refreshing inhalation of air you get from being high up and sweet, sweet, Caribbean bird song to punctuate the passage of time.

I had the second session with an instructor I’ve not done yoga with before, May Fakhre, who has been practising yoga for over 10 years and has completed over 200-hour of Hatha Vinyasa Yoga training.

I’m going to go ahead and be honest here; I had a really hard time in this class, not because of anything the trainer did but because I was feeling pretty unwell due to personal health issues. I gave a good go at many of the poses but it was no easy go for me let me tell you.

In those moments of struggle however, yoga yet again did the thing I love it most for…it slowed my speeding brain down. I talked a little about this last year, when I spoke about my Grenada Chocolate Festival 2017 Yoga experience. How yoga forces me, I’d even venture to say it kind of grabs hold of me by the shoulders and makes me look time in the eye, second by second. For a person with a personality like mine, always thinking, always planning? Usually such a thing sounds like an excruciating death sentence but yoga? Yoga has always had a way of humbling me in a way that I do not find threatening but rather instead informing. It sits me down in my own body, all the aches and pain and all and says well, this is what we’re dealing with and you don’t get to ignore any muscle in this body any more. This session focused on healing was no exception.

This year the session with May was a lot more advanced positioning than I’m used to so a lot of the time you could find this girl flat on her back staring down some hard truths about wellness and healing.  Which, I suppose was fortunate as this year’s theme was focused a lot on healing your body in stages from the top of your head to the sole of your feet. 

Our instructor talked a lot about the Grenadian organic cocoa plants growth process from roots, to flower, to pod and while I’ve heard this before, this year as we spoke of healing, we talked and I heard better this time of the slow unfurling of leaves and flowers. It accosted me then, in that room full of fresh air and chocolate fragrances that permeated the space throughout our yoga practice, thoughts of the extension to the sky to catch the sunlight cocoa plants do as they gather the necessities they need. All done long before our dedicated, hard working farmers turn them in to rich, tree to bar, healthy and humanely crafted dark chocolate for which my beautiful Caribbean country has become so well known. It had me thinking about how badly we as human beings want healing to happen quickly but how, even in nature, manifestation takes time. It wasn’t a lesson my heart wanted to hear I will admit but it was one it needed to hear, I know. I love how yoga helps me to get to that place of hard truths with my body as a friend and not as foe. What an added bonus that the Grenada Chocolate Fest 2018 rewards me with chocolate, as a part of that journey.

In communication with May she said this of yoga ‘it's a humbling journey of self-discovery and surrender.’ and I couldn’t agree more on that day because those playful poses meant to have us bending in ways that were healing and a bit giggly had me deep thing about what It feels like when you’re not ready to heal.

This is something I’ve struggled with in various parts of my life at various points of my life. There are moments when you are provided all the tools and all the grace necessary for healing but what happens when you are not there yet mentally, physically or emotionally?

I think that becoming ill can teach you the answer to that question very quickly. On this Saturday I was provided a skilled yoga teacher who provided instruction that was playful and good for the body. I was in a healing and safe environment on the grounds of the True Blue Bay Resort and Villas with chocolates to sample throughout the yoga practice and bird song to calm my mind but my body and my mind were not well enough to keep up.

So, this is what I learned through failed attempt at being a one hundred percent participant of this healing through yoga exercise, during the Grenada Chocolate Festival 2018. This is what you do when you’re not ready to heal:

First, I suggest you be still. It is often only in that moment of stillness that you can find the peace to do what you’re going to need to do next. So take a breath friend, stay in tuned and hold on to that act of being ever present in this moment no matter what it feels like because you’re here, right then, no matter what that looks like you’re still here and that means change can happen.

Then, accept that healing looks very different for everyone. Now while I lay on that floor in that yoga session all about healing with people far more skilled than I bending and twisting in ways I simply could not, best believe I had some none too righteous feelings about my body and it’s ability. In that moment too, as I breathed my way through it, I also had to acknowledge that I am not nor have I ever been just like everybody else and I should not hate my body for that blessing. So accept that healing just might look a little different for you than the people around you and DO NOT blame yourself for that because that very difference? Just may serve a blessing to you and others.

Lastly, embrace modification. You know I have had a long and sordid affair with modification from childhood up. I fought with it for a long time. I saw a lot of self loathing happening then too for inconveniencing others by having to deviate from the regular or the easily accomplished by others. Growing up I have learned that there is a unique brilliance that can be found in modification. A brilliance, only you can bring to an idea. 

So maybe, I didn’t walk out of that beautifully housed and skilfully tutored yoga session feeling accomplished at the practice or like a looked like I belonged there or blissed out on healing but you know what? I think that day I got just the kind of healing I needed for me, a moment of self reflection in the middle of a session focused on healing. Again, yoga managed to shake me up properly though gently and remind me to feel even the bad feelings and let them too usher me into healing.

I will readily admit that the scent of chocolate while doing yoga ad even the smooth taste of it during practice, small as it may be enhances my experience by waking my senses up and keeping them in the moment in a way I cannot explain. Thank you to the Grenada Chocolate Festival 2018 and the open sankalpa True Blue Bay Resort and Villas Yoga Studio for another amazingly sensory experience and the delicious chocolate breakfast they provided one in conjunction with the event that day!

 Peace, Love, Feel Your Feelings. 
photography Grenada Chocolate Fest 2018
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