Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Christmas fairy tale

Mythical Felize had its ups and downs, but was a happy little country most of the time, and Felizeans really came alive over Christmas and New Year’s holidays, with music heard throughout the land and seemingly endless supplies of food and drink and good cheer offered freely at the many parties and celebrations. During this festive time people would often take a few moments to appreciate the blessings of their rich land, bountiful sea and most of all, each other.

“Yeah mon, we got it made in the shade,” Worthy said, washing down a particularly good panade with an icy local brew.
“Sub umbra Floreo,” Javier agreed, leaning back to pat his round belly, “Sub umbra floreo indeed my brudda...”
Tensy, Worthy’s cousin, had been in a bad mood the last few days, and she felt the urge to pass it around.
“Huh! I suppose some got it made in the shade, if they spend enough time there, but me, I’m glad to see 2010 go. Good bye and good riddance, I say.”
“What’s bothering you now, Hortense? ” Worthy asked, but not with too much enthusiasm. He didn’t really want to know, and his cousin’s moods could get ugly.
“What’s bothering me is how some fools go on about how rosy everything is all the time, but for some of us, this wasn’t a very good year.
Even with his big shades on, you could see Worthy’s eyebrows rise up, and Javie just chuckled as he reached for his glass.
But Tensy was on a roll now.
“I suppose you feel like that hurricane was a joke,” she said indignantly.
“That was no joke,” Javier said, “You think I enjoyed replacing that tin roof I only bought last year? “
“And with the roads out I couldn’t make nothing for almost a week, and it was slim after that,” Worthy added, and then he leaned forward and said, “But you know what Tensy? When I did get out it did me good to see how everyone pitched in and helped each other out. Boy, you neva seen people work so fast and so hard... and mostly for free, handing out meals, blankets, helping with hauling and building. Talk about hand wash hand, it did my heart glad!”
“Amen,” Javie toasted.
This gave Tensy pause, but not for long. She turned on Javier.
“Well, I didn’t see you too happy with those big foreign companies pushing in and crowding the best spots you used to take tourists to! You weren’t so sum umbra floreo then”, she folded her arms in triumph.
Javier had to think on that a moment. True, he hadn’t been the happiest of campers. And then he smiled and stretched out to pluck another panade off the plate.
“Well, you got to look on the bright side, Tensy gal, at least it woke people up, and the tour operators are stronger and more united than ever... look, there’s always gonna be greedy people out there, but at least we recognise them now, we know that we got to protect ourselves and it’s making us stronger... people are waking up.”
He took a bite and leaned back again.
“There you go” Worthy said, reaching for another excellent panade.
“Well, Mr There You Go, what do you have to say about the mess our city is in! You drive around there all the time! You read the news! How many people got killed this year? How much senseless mayhem, not to mention the drugs and corruption and filthy streets and everything else? That put a smile on your face?”
This quieted things down quite a bit. Things were bad in the city and seemingly getting worse. It had been a very bad year for crime, which many said was getting out of control. Tensy knew Worthy lost a friend in a shootout in the streets, and she almost regretted her remarks.
“Well, that’s bad, and you may think it’s getting worse, but you know what Tensy? I see some of the worst, and I still see a lot of the best. When I’m in the most nasty part of the city and see some small kindness, like someone helping an old person, or a person comforting a child, or just a stranger smile, then I feel hope, and as long as I can still feel that, all the badness in the world can’t overwhelm me, can’t make me stay sad or angry.
“‘Cause that hope, that’s something that’s real, like a little glowing coal in the blackness, and sooner or later with enough people fanning it, it’s gonna glow brighter and burst back into flames. You see how fast darkness and cold goes away before a good flame?
“Long as there’s a coal going, I’m gonna keep fanning...
“And I think that’s what this birthday we celebrate every year is all about...”
“Amen to that Brother,” Javie said.
Tensy’s face lit up as if a dark cloud was passing. She looked around and almost for the first time that day noticed people talking and laughing, children playing, lovers smiling shyly, old people taking their ease, just appreciating the day, and it was as if a black and white film became colour again.
Hope, a bit of grace, and doing the right thing. That’s what this time of year is all about, she reflected.
“That’s the thing, isn’t it,” she said out loud, “Sometimes we just need to work a little harder to keep that little flame alive,”
Something seemed to catch Javie’s eye. He heaved up with a big smile. “Barbeques’ ready,” he said and walked through the crowd beaming and nodding to everyone he passed.
Here’s to a Merry Christmas and working together towards a brighter flame in 2011.

Photo credit: Appadvice.com

Monday, January 31, 2011

The day the Carnival left town

A fairy tale
Once upon a time there was a happy little land known as Felize, where the people enjoyed life and welcomed entertainment. So when news arrived one day that a Carnival was coming, there was great excitement throughout the realm.
“A Carnival! What fun! That will be something different!” they said.
And they were right, for this was no ordinary carnival. No, this was a floating Carnival, a massive, sea going Carnival alive with music, dancing, bright lights and romance as it sailed over the ocean.
Felizeans from all walks of life, traders and merchants, bankers and workers, even Felize’s leaders themselves all greeted the floating Carnival with open arms.
“Welcome to Felize!” They cheered.
Soon the Ringmaster came ashore and greeted everyone, inviting the whole country to participate and have fun.
“Would you like to join us?” The Ringmaster asked.
“Join the Carnival?”
“Certainly,” he smiled, “Let us speak with your leaders”.
After three days and three nights of feasting and talking the leaders addressed the people.
“Fellow Felizeans,” they said, “we are pleased to say that we are all going to join the Carnival!”
The crowd erupted in cheers of jubilation, dancing up and down and throwing their hats into the air.
“The Carnival is going to bring us many Party People who will pay us to take them on boat trips, cook meals, make things for them to take home and even braid their hair! There will be something for everybody! We’ll all have more gold than we ever dreamed of!”
The crowd went wild. And so Felize became part of the Carnival.
At first things seemed to go well, and the people were happy. The Felizeans were indeed earning sacks of gold and they used it to buy new boats and carriages to take the Party People around. They bought what they needed to make things for the Party People to buy.
It all seemed to be working so well that Felizeans began borrowing from the moneylenders to pay for ways to join in the Carnival.  After all, the Floating Fiesta was bringing in more and more people, and promising even more. The future was looking bright indeed for lucky little Felize.
Soon everyone had signed over their lands to the moneylenders as a promise to pay back the gold, but no one was worried – in a few years they would have their land back with gold to spare! It was all going wonderfully.
The leaders even went to the moneylenders and borrowed more gold to build an expensive little pretend village the Carnival owners wanted. But the village had a large fence around it to keep Felizeans out, and this made some people angry.
Then the Carnival people had another talk with Felize’s leaders. “We want you to charge less to bring our Party People from the Floating Fiesta to the Pretend Village. After all, more people mean more gold, so you can charge less and still make the same!”
The people grumbled a little bit, but they finally said, “Alright, we’ll charge less.”
Then the Carnival owners wanted to bring the Floating Fiestas to a very pretty, untouched part of Felize.
But the villagers of beautiful Sandy Point did not like the idea.
“We love our village just the way it is!” They said, “We don’t want big ships in our little bay and so many people coming ashore. It will wreck everything. And our own guests won’t like it either if it’s all crowded and full of special docks and fences. We don’t want those big ships down here wrecking our village!”
The Carnival Ringmaster took out a big parchment with official stamps and ribbons on it and held it up in the air. “It says here that our Carnival can wreck whatever we want and wherever we please.”
“What’s that?” The people asked, pointing to the mysterious parchment.
“Why, this is THE DEAL!” The Ringmaster said, quickly rolling it up.
“Can we have a look at it?” one of the village elders asked.
“No, it’s written in Carnivalese, you wouldn’t understand it,” the Ringmaster said, handing the roll to one of his assistants, who quickly scurried off.
The people became angry. Felizeans are very easy going, but they are also a proud people, and now they were very, very unhappy with how the Carnival people were acting.
“They think we’re simple! They’re acting like bullies! They just want to use our land to make money! This Carnival’s no fun for us!”
The owners of the Carnival called the Ringmaster back to the magical land of Myamee for a meeting.
“What’s all this grumbling down in Felize? It’s supposed to be a happy place! Our Party People don’t want to hear a bunch of grumbling and complaining! They want big smiley faces! What’s going on?”
“Well,” the Ringmaster replied, “They say we’re acting like bullies…”
“Bullies! Bullies!  We’ll show them bullies! Get back down there and show them who’s boss! This is what we’ll do…”
Soon the Ringmaster called the people of Felize together and said, “Starting tomorrow, you’ll need to buy new boats…”
“But we just bought these boats! We still haven’t even finished paying for them! They’re fine new boats! You said so yourself!”
“Well, yes, but we changed our minds. You need boats that can carry hundreds of people now.”
Hundreds of people? We don’t own any boats like that!”
“Oh well, we have some friends who do, and if you can’t buy some quick, we’ll just have to use theirs.”
“No!” the Felizeans shouted. “You can’t keep changing things like that! No!”
“OK, fine,” the Ringmaster said, “No more Carnival for Felize. It’s going somewhere else.”
The next day the Floating Fiesta didn’t arrive as it usually did. The boatmen, the people who drove the carriages, the vendors and the hair braiders all stood idle in the hot sun, worrying where the gold would come to buy dinner that night. Soon they realised that there would be no gold to pay the moneylenders that week, and they would lose their new boats, carriages, and the land they used to borrow with.
Their leaders quickly travelled to Myamee to meet with the Carnival owners, but the owners just laughed at them and sent them home. “You people shouldn’t interfere with our Grand Plans,” they said.
Suddenly the Carnival became a nightmare. Felizeans owed so much to the moneylenders that they would never be able to repay it without the Party People. It seemed like a big dark cloud settled on once sunny Felize.
The moneylenders said, “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do,” and they took back the new boats and carriages, and then started taking the Felizeans’ houses and lands too. Instead of the promised prosperity, Felize now faced hunger and despair. Desperation replaced happiness, and there was no joy to be found.
Back in Myamee, the Carnival owners asked the Ringmaster how it was going in Felize.
“Very bad, sir. Many people are out of work and losing their homes. There is much hunger and unhappiness…”
“Excellent,” the owners said, “Now they know who’s boss! A few months of this and they’ll be begging us to come back at any price.”
“So what do we do now?” The ringmaster asked.
The owners chuckled.
“We wait and see…”
Coming soon in the next instalment:  What the Felizeans and their Leaders did
Photo credit: ShipParade.com