Tag Archives: Bahamas

Merry Christmas from Robbin and Co.

The tree is decorated, the cookies are made, the gifts are wrapped; now all that’s left is to wish you a Merry Christmas!

I took this photo above in our front room on one of our rare snowy and chilly nights just days ago.  It looks like Christmas perfection, and luckily my head elf / youngest daughter got us moving towards Christmas this year by picking out the perfect tree, decorating, and even doing a lot of the shopping and wrapping for us!

I’ve been reexamining Christmas and what it means to me, in particular as our world changes so rapidly around us. Although I was raised Catholic, on the surface Christmas appears to be a day we work towards, to come together and share gifts we’ve purchased or made, and eat, drink and be merry. The time together is the real gift however, and it’s should be done more often. I am grateful that Christmas gets us all together, but I am becoming more of the mindset to just leave all the present shopping for birthdays!

Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni's house... (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)
Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni’s house… (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)

My children are all young adults now, and it’s been a long time since I’ve written a Christmas Letter.  This year marks over 5 years that I have been back in Canada after life in The Bahamas, and no regrets. I love being home and I love my country.

My mother Corae has been living with us since September 2015 and all is going well. She turns 83 on December 23rd. For those that do not use Facebook, mom’s become quite the star as I share stories about her under the hashtag #ParentingOurParents.  They are tiny little excerpts of my life as I grapple with trying to be a good daughter, while what seems to be, ‘parenting’ my aging parent.

This year The Bahamas took the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, and I took my ex husband Brian into my home! For those not aware, Brian has Parkinsons, and his health spiraled downhill rather rapidly this summer. He’s been back in Canada since October and although glad to be home, and with family, he has a long road ahead. I’ve been helping him transition back to the real world as he awaits his new healthcare assessments. He’s improved a lot just by being here.

My eldest Loryn (26 years) is now a married working woman, and is speeding through life not only on the snowboarding slopes, but she’s progressing very quickly in her career as a banker. Go see her at HSBC if you are looking to invest.  She and Lorraine (a nurse) have purchased their first home, as well as their first car. The girls live conveniently just down the road from us.

Tohni (now 24 yrs) has been enjoying life in the fast lane and lives in East Vancouver. She’s in a great relationship with Patrick and has been co-managing a fun restaurant called The General Public on Main Street in Vancouver. Do stop in to see her, she’ll give you a super discount. This year Tohni worked her butt off so she could take in as many music festivals as she could over the summer, and traveled a couple times to the USA.

Nathen (22-yrs-old) is studying now at Simon Fraser University and is working at Vision Electronics. Go see him, he’ll also give you a good deal!  While taking on a full course load, he managed to move out last month, so his life is full of responsibility.  He lives just up the hill from us. His present goal is to become a chiropractor like his father, but he said he’ll see how things progress.

Jackie (20-yrs) is the last egg in the nest and has been a huge support around the house with helping take care of her grandmother and father. She’s been working at Dynamite women’s clothing at Coquitlam Centre and is still keeping up as the voice of the ‘community calendar’ on 98.7 FM. She can be heard every hour, on the hour at ckpmfm.com.

As for me, life is full on! I’m still working TheBahamasWeekly.com and this year we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I had hoped to get back for a celebration but the hurricane took care of that.  I’ve taken on several other clients that I do writing or social media work for.

Some 2016 highlights
Some 2016 highlights

This  year I was elected president of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society which manages a salmon enhancement program in the woods near my house. I love my volunteer work there, and have been furthering the HSWS public relations by building and managing a new website, Youtube and social media accounts. Check us out at hoyscottcreeks.org.

I’ve just completed my first year of dragon boating with the 50+ Nothin’ Dragon Masters, and loved every minute of it.  I raced with the team in 4 or 5 festivals this year, which was very exciting. Our oldest teammate is 80. I’ve also been playing soccer with my daughter Loryn on a Div. 3 team once a week, and it’s special time with her and my favourite game. I took my love for the Coquitlam Crunch, a hiking mountain in our city, to new heights by co-chairing the annual event, the Coquitlam Crunch Challenge, and was featured in the city’s promo video. In fall of this year I joined Ultra Throw, a brand new local club of 20+ athletes training and competing in javelin, shot put, discus, hammer, and weight throwing. In 2017 I will start competing. I am excited (and scared) of this, as competing in sport ‘solo’ is brand new to me.

As for my love life, when a girlfriend from the Bahamas asked if I was dating, I said, “I’m open to it, but any group I join, or people I meet, the guys are either gay, already in relationship or married.” Another girlfriend suggested I join the dating group, “Events and Adventures,” to which I chuckled and replied, “My life is already an event and adventure! I don’t need to pay for it, and I don’t have the time in my schedule.”  Another girlfriend suggested I try online dating. I tried that once – went on one date, and although it was fine (meah), I’ve resolved to waiting to see what life doles out. So yes, I am happy and single.

In 2017 I look forward to keeping my life afloat, and also have some long-range writing goals I hope to get started on if I can find the time!

Below is my interview with Tri-Cities Community TV featured on Shaw TV where I talked about #ParentingOurParents, my salmon work, The Bahamas Weekly, and dragon boating. Click the image to view or HERE.

My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV
My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV

Whether I’ve seen you this year, or not; whether we only communicate now and again, or via social media; thank you for being in my life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

B.C. brides-to-be encouraged to enter Bahamas 16 Weddings contest


With The Bahamas laying off the east coast of the United States, it’s often not the destination of choice for Canadians living in the western provinces of Canada.

But, The Bahamas has come out with a contest that I am hoping will excite and chance all that.   This November, sixteen (16) Canadian couples will say ‘I Do’ in paradise, as The Bahamas is giving away 16 wedding packages valued at $12,000 (Cdn) each!

I want as many people out west to know about this contest so that  we can have at least one winner from this region.

All you have to do is enter at Bahamas16Weddings.com

and you could get married on one of the following Bahamian islands:  Abaco, Andros, Bimini, Cat Island, Grand Bahama, New Providence, Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Exuma, Long Island, San Salvador, Paradise Island, Crooked Island, and Inagua.

As editor of thebahamasweekly.com, I’ve been witness to this exciting promotion as it ran first with winners from the UK, and then a second promotion in the United States.  Now it’s Canada’s turn!

But hurry! you only have until May 16th to get your entry in. Enter today!

From left to right: Paul Strachan, Director, Bahamas Tourist Office, Canada; and Anita Johnson-Patty, General Manager, Communications, Bahamas Tourism for Canada; Robbin Whachell, Editor/Cofounder TheBahamasWeekly.com; and Graeme Franklin, Director of Sales, Western Canada, Sunwing Vacations (Photo: TheBahamasWeekly.com)
From left to right: Paul Strachan, Director, Bahamas Tourist Office, Canada; and Anita Johnson-Patty, General Manager, Communications, Bahamas Tourism for Canada; Robbin Whachell, Editor/Cofounder TheBahamasWeekly.com; and Graeme Franklin, Director of Sales, Western Canada, Sunwing Vacations (Photo: TheBahamasWeekly.com)

No purchase required. Contest begins January 8, 2016 at 12:00:01 a.m. EST and ends June 10, 2016 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST. Entry deadline: May 16, 2016 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST. Voting deadline: June 10, 2016 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST. There are a total of 16 prizes available to be won, each consisting of a round trip for two to The Bahamas, 6 days/5 nights accommodation and includes a wedding package provided by the Sponsor. Open to legal residents of Canada, excluding Quebec, who are age of majority in the province or territory of residence at time of entry. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received before entry deadline, entrants’ creativity and popularity of finalists’ entries. Limit one entry per couple. Limit of one vote per person/Facebook account. Entrant information may be used for promotional purposes. Not sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook. For rules and entry details click here

My mother and I at BridalSwap.com (Photo: Cliff Ma Photography)

Bahamian delegates visited with CKPM FM radio in the Tri-Cities to help launch the contest.  Listen here:

A Sweetings Cay Treasure


Rosetta-Cartwright-No-WatermarkWhen I used to live in Grand Bahama Island and well before my work on my newsletter or  TheBahamasWeekly.com), I was always taking photos no matter where I went. I am not sure if it’s my desire to record my life, and those of the people I love, or the example my mother led documenting much of our lives in photos (which was rare in those days). I grew up with a wall full of photo albums all in date order, my mom was that organized.

The beauty of taking so many photos is that one day they become treasures.

I was going through my online photos the other day and came upon a Sweetings Cay album. Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience runs excursions out there and I went out several times with my children or with visiting friends. I was looking through the photo thumbnails and something made me zoom in. “Is that the current Miss World Bahamas, Rosetta Cartwright!?” I thought staring at the photo of children playing barefoot on the road in a plastic car?

For those that do not know, Sweetings Cay is a quaint little fishing village located 55 miles east of Freeport, Grand Bahama only accessible by boat and has a population of @ 400 people, “most of whom live by selling lobster and conch in Freeport. The village stretches about a mile, and there people walk or use golf carts to get around.”

I sent the photo to a mutual friend and he checked with her, and yes indeed it was her! …and guess what!? She said it is the only photo she has of her childhood as all her others were ruined in the storms (I assume the hurricanes). She asked if I had any more, and I looked again and found one other, one of her on a day I visited and school was in session and they were on lunch break.

I remember her as a special-spirited child and of course so striking to look at – her eyes I remember most. Rosetta hails from a small fishing village and became Miss World Bahamas.

I’m glad I was able to gift her a tiny piece of her childhood.

(Photos at top: The reigning 2014-15 Miss World Bahamas, Rosetta Cartwright and the two photos I took in Sweetings Cay many years ago that I sent her today. She said she thinks she was 6 years old.)

Petite model fits just right, in Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[end]


This was my first time attending Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[end], and I’d been encouraged to do so by several friends, but it was my new 25 year old Bahamian friend, Lindsay Braynen who pushed me to come see her in the event. My friend Melissa also encouraged me to go along with her. I was very impressed with the entire production. I met Lindsay recently via the “Bahamians in Vancouver” Facebook group. She is now actively modeling and dancing in Canada after she moved to Vancouver, B.C. nearly 5 years ago to attend the Emily Carr University of Art + Design to study illustration.

Braynen who was born in Nassau, lived on Paradise Island, and is a Queen’s College Comet of 2006. She goes by “Androsia Wilde” in the Vancouver modeling and dance industry and says she chose the name to reflect her ties to home. For those not familiar, “Androsia” is a bright and colourful batik fabric The Bahamas is famous for.

Braynen is a petite model, but with her dancing abilities she has been able to explore more options. She’s used her past experiences as a dancer, model and martial artist to conquer the world of burlesque, recently making her lauded Nerdlesque debut as Lando Calrissian in Vancouver-based group Geekenders’ sold-out production of ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strips Back’ in May 2014.

While the modeling industry expects models to be of a certain height, there is one Vancouver event where size does not matter, and that’s the Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[end]. Dubbed “VALT”, the three night event also features visual artists, filmmakers, musical acts and performers. For example, this year’s closing night showcased beautiful and edgy fashions from a handful of designers, an acrobatic troupe, a performance by a poet / songwriter/ harpist, an art exhibit and a short film, making it for a wonderful eclectic fashion arts experience.

Some of Lindsay's modeling portfolio
Some of Lindsay’s modeling portfolio

VALT is in its third year and Linsday said she’s proud to have been with the show since it’s inception.

“VALT is important to me and my career as a model, because I’m not the average model aesthetic – my skills or my talents will never be looked at in mainstream fashion because I am too small, not proportioned exactly right, or I’ve even being told that I’m not ‘exotic’ enough as a black model [yes it’s happened!]”

“The girls and gents that have walked in VALT are short, tall, plus-sized, slender, tattooed, pierced, and there have different ideas of masculinity and femininity. All are allowed to just BE – no apologies or excuses for who we are. We’re allowed to be ourselves, which is a freedom that I’ve cherished every time a designer asks me to walk for them,” said Braynen.

About VALT: Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week[End] provides Vancouver’s wildly explosive underground arts scene with a unique departure from typical arts affairs. This three-day event boasts over 50 jury-selected artists, musicians, performers and designers, in a celebration and promotion of unbridled creativity. VALT encompasses wearable art, music (from solo musicians to full contemporary bands to electronic artists), drawing, painting, mixed-media works, sculpture, film (documentary, art film and narrative), performance art (from short theatrical works, to interpretive dance and beyond), photography and interactive installations. More info: http://www.valt.ca

(Photos at top by Patrick Parenteau)

Bahamas Tourism Officials Visit Vancouver to Announce Direct Flights Via Sunwing

With my role as editor and co-founder of TheBahamasWeekly.com I was invited to a special luncheon hosted by Bahamas Ministry of Tourism who were visiting Vancouver on October 21st to officially launch a weekly flight service to Grand Bahama Island via Sunwing Vacations to start on November 1st, 2014. Not only was I excited to be able to have a direct flight to one of my favourite places and second home, but I knew most of the tourism people visiting as I’ve been working with Bahamas Tourism for approximately eight years now.

The entourage included the Hon. Minister, Obediah Wilchcombe; Director General, Joy Jiburilu; and Deputy General of Tourism, Ellison Thompson.  Representing Sunwing Travel Group was Graeme Franklin, Director of Sales.  I almost fell over when a good friend, Betty Bethel walked through the door, as I had not expected her to be there. She was surprised to see me too!

Left to right: Chris Lowe, Minister of Tourism, Bahamas, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe; and Gareth Hanna. Lowe and Hanna started the Bahamians in Vancouver Facebook group page.
Left to right: Chris Lowe, Minister of Tourism, Bahamas, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe; and Gareth Hanna. Lowe and Hanna started the Bahamians in Vancouver Facebook group page.

I had asked to bring a couple Bahamians who are living in Vancouver, and Gareth Hanna and Chris Lowe joined me at the cheery occasion. Hanna and Lowe started a Facebook page, “Bahamians in Vancouver” which now boasts over 50 people.  Chris said that he and Minister Wilchcombe used to be his neighbours many years ago.

Departing initially on Saturdays, the Sunwing flight becomes a direct, non-stop service departing Fridays from December 19, 2014.

. Left to right: Betty Bethel, Director, Grand Bahama Tourism Office; Robbin Whachell, Editor, TheBahamasWeekly.com; and Carmel Churchil., Director of Marketing Services, Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board.
. Left to right: Betty Bethel, Director, Grand Bahama Tourism Office; Robbin Whachell, Editor, TheBahamasWeekly.com; and Carmel Churchil., Director of Marketing Services, Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board.

Nice! Sunwing offers award-winning Champagne Service that includes a welcome glass of champagne, complimentary food and wine along with in-flight entertainment offered at no charge. All packages also include a generous 20kg free baggage allowance.

Offering remarks at the luncheon held at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel, was Paul Strachan, Director, Bahamas Tourist Office in Toronto; Director General of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu; Betty Bethel, Director, Grand Bahama Tourism Office; Bahamas Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe; and Tourism Deputy Director General, Ellison Thompson.

During their very short stay in Vancouver, signage was posted up in the Burrard subway station downtown showing scenes of kayakers in the mangroves of Grand Bahama Island.

Then, Team Bahamas jetted off to do similar in Toronto!

Bahamas Tourism officials visit Vancouver, Canada to Launch Sunwing direct flights . Left to right: Graeme Franklin, Sunwing Travel Group; Minister of Tourism, Obie Wilchcombe; and Director General of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Bahamas Tourism officials visit Vancouver, Canada to Launch Sunwing direct flights . Left to right: Graeme Franklin, Sunwing Travel Group; Minister of Tourism, Obie Wilchcombe; and Director General of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Check out the promotional video by Tourism Today below:

Team Vendetta takes on Seattle, Washington

Recently Bahamian music impresario, Hip Hop artist Sasha Dunn and his production team The Vendetta Group has embarked on a major undertaking of traveling to Seattle, Washington. The goal of the trip was to push the team’s new music and help with the development and grooming of Vendetta’s young artist Angel K. and Clar.

As team Vendetta arrived into Tacoma International Airport the magnitude and beauty of the city of Seattle that was now somewhat shrouded by some fog and clouds was breathtaking but it was the vision of the iconic Space Needle that brought the bigger vision of the trip into perspective.

The team hit the ground running by organizing a series of photo shoots for the artists on the picturesque island of Anacortes. As the team drove along the highways towards the island they described it as being taken aback by the beauty of the giant majestic evergreen pines that same to be everywhere with the accompanying grandiose mountains which filled the skyline. “Entering Anacortes was like going into a time warp and this is not to say in the town looked old but rather the town seemed to possess an old time sense of innocence and mystery,” said Dunn.

10511291_10154416283320015_5304143759134943015_nThe shoot took place at a landing called Cap Sante which offered a magnificent view of the island and its accompanying islands. “The next day we got started early and made our way down to the Space Needle,” said Dunn. “Just driving towards the world famous landmark was a treat to be able to see the beauty in the architecture of the city of Seattle. The stunning arrangement of classic brownstones with modern art deco building was brilliant.” Once atop the Space Needle the team got to see Seattle’s true beauty. They say a picture tells a thousand words but even if one could take a thousand photos while there it would still not be enough to do the city justice.

Later that Week Angel K, Clar and Sasha Dunn had a date with destiny at the Skylark Bar and Grill where they were set to perform. Clar started the set with an acapella rendition of his song “Live for Something” assisted by Angel K on the hook and the conscious rap song moved the crowd.

Next up was twelve year old Angel K with Sasha performing her track called “Turnt Up.”   She did an amazing job and it shocked the crowd to see  that such a young innocent looking tween girl could possess such vicious lyrical content and confident delivery.

Next up was Mr. Dunn to close out the set with his song “G.L.S. Girls Love Sasha” which the crowd loved for its playfulness but seriousness . Overall with The Vendetta Group being the only Hip Hop act on the bill  were beyond well received. People walked up complementing the team on a job well done. “It is amazing how the team got an opportunity to see and do so much on this one amazing trip,” said Dunn. The trip was beautifully captured by No Budget Production and will be uploaded to youtube and made available on the Sasha’s Street Stash Vol. 4 DVD.

Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience

Tony Macaroni’s World Famous Conch Experience at Taino Beach in Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas is  known for some of the best conch and fish dishes on the island for 22 years.

What started as a humble thatch-roofed hut on the sand, has gone through several  transformations over the years, most in part to hurricanes Sandy and Jean. Today Tony Macaroni’s still provides one of the best local beach scenes, a thatch-roofed hut  is still there, but now it’s situated on stilts and has a large deck overlooking pristine sands and sea.  Sand in your shoes or toes is now optional.

Proprietor, Anthony ‘ Tony Macaroni’ Hanna is a 2003 Ministry of Tourism Cacique Award recipient, taking the highest honour, ‘The Minister’s Award.’   Hanna explains how it all got started, “I used to have lunch almost daily at ‘Billy Joes’ the beach restaurant which still operates today beside the Memories Resort property. When I found out that I had an opportunity to start another business and could have space in Count Basie Square near the main dock I went to John Gilbert (Billy Joe) and asked his permission to use his recipe for Grilled Conch, but I would change the name and ingredients, and thus my Roast Conch was born.”

Tony Macaroni in 1992. It all began in Port Lucaya.
Tony Macaroni in 1992. It all began in Port Lucaya.

“My business started in Port Lucaya, where I catered mainly to the Big Red Boat and the many tourists that came in from the ship for the day. In those days, Port Lucaya was Port Lucaya!” said Hanna.

“I was later forced out by the three main eateries at the time.  A few days later I found myself at Surfside Restaurant out at Taino Beach with some visitors that wanted “conch salad”. One thing led to the next… and it wasn’t long before I was set up out on the beach with my hut. Two years after that I traveled to Washington D.C representing the City of Freeport with my cooking at the “Festival of the Americas”.

“People who helped me in those first years were the late Ron Darville, who owned and operated The Lobster Reef Restaurant in Port Lucaya, David Thompson (Sen.), the late George Munroe, who owned and operated Surfside Restaurant, the Minister of Tourism at the time, C.A. Smith, and my friends Eugenia Yeuell and Fred Smith.  Through years that came next to the present, there have been many who have supported me.  This was evident in 2004 and again in 2005 when the three “ladies” hit.”  The hurricanes totally demolished Tony’s hut and swept it out to sea. It was Freeport’s founder, Edward St. George who through the help of Fred Smith provided Hanna with the funding to rebuild, and through that rebuilding, Hanna moved his hut up and off the sand to be secured for future storms.

Tony Macaroni’s conch salad is world renown, but his specialty is his roast conch which is cooked over an open fire. His popular eatery also offers roast lobster, fish and shrimp, and he serves the Bahamian cultural drink, Gullywash (green coconut water, sweetened condensed milk, and gin).

The way we were... a hut on Taino Beach. (Photo: Leigh Termath)
The way we were… a hut on Taino Beach. (Photo: Leigh Termath)

Hanna reminisces on how the drink Gullywash came about, “Back in the old days in the out Islands after a day or two of fishing, the fishermen would gather together under a coconut tree and fill a tub or large bucket with the water of the coconuts. There were no bars or liquor stores as we know them today, so the “brew” was homemade “Gin”.  During those days the Catholic Church provided its congregation with powdered milk, cheese, butter and sweet condensed milk. The latter was secured from the house without the wife’s permission, to add to the coconut water.  Each fisherman would empty his gin or rum into the batch, and this brew was called the “gullet wash”.  The tradition was to “wash the salt from ones gullet”.  Thus, “Gullywash”!  A song was written about this mixture back in the late forties which goes, “Coconut Water Rum and Gin, that is Bahamian Vitamin.”

The King of Conch! Over the years Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience has been featured on many international TV shows, magazines,  and music videos. Tony Macaroni is also known for his “Conch 101” demonstrations where he walks school students, tourists and visitors through the life-cycle of the conch, and demonstrates how the large sea snail delicacy is properly and easily removed from its beautiful pink shell.

Tony's today! Come out Sundays for Jazz on the Beach...
Tony’s today! Come out Sundays for Jazz on the Beach…

Sunday evenings from 5pm onward Tony Macaroni’s offers a musicians jam or the popular Jazz on the Beach featuring Ralph  Munnings on sax, along with Patrick Boston on keyboards. They is often a bonfire provided on the beach.

Tony  has had many local and international celebrities visit or perform on the deck over the years: Fred Ferguson of Baha Men,  Veronica Bishop, Marvin Henfield, Phil Stubbs,  Ralph Munnings, Johnny Kemp, Cyril ‘Dry Bread’ Ferguson, Joe ‘Kinky’ Fox, Steve Davies, Steven Colebrooke, Obie Pindling of Visage, David Mackey of The T-Connection, New York’s Blues Queen and Blues Hall of Famer, Roxy Perry and American actor Ving Rames, as well as Deon Estus of WHAM!

Known for his hospitality, quick wit and island charm, many of Tony Macaroni’s foreign patrons revisit Grand Bahama again and again just to hang out at the idyllic location which looks out to sea.  People also arrive by boat,  local volleyball teams gather to play on the sand beside the deck, and parents can sit up above and keep a reasonable eye on their children playing on the sand below, or Tony offers his guests lawn chairs to enjoy the beach. The Taino Beach children’s playground is right across the road, which sits below the Edward St. George memorial site.

When the day is done and his guests belly’s are full, Tony offers them a conch shell to take home to remember their adventure. Accolades pour in on his Facebook page from those that have visited from all over the world. One tourist remarked, ” I love this place! We can’t wait to get back to Taino Beach and stay for a week. Thanks for the great info Tony. Enjoyed the Gullywash, the roast conch and the shell. It doesn’t get any better than this…….We will be back!”

Find Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience on Facebook

Only the freshest ingredients from land and sea go into Tony's food!  (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Only the freshest ingredients from land and sea go into Tony’s food! (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Photos: Mark DaCunha
Photos: Mark DaCunha

Bahamians meet Bahamians in Vancouver, Canada

I lived in The Bahamas for 13 years and I am the editor and co-founder of a leading news site, TheBahamasWeekly.com, so I breath, eat and sleep Bahamas.  I’ve been living back in Canada now for 3 years and run my business from here.  I was very excited to get an invite to a new Facebook group.

It’s only been a few months since Nassau born Chris Lowe of Vancouver started the “Bahamians in Vancouver” facebook group page in hopes of finding other Bahamians in the area.  When he did, it saw instant results, as within 24 hours the page had over 40 members.

Those that could attend made it to the first meetup within the first month hosted at the home of Gareth and Nina Hanna, and a second meetup was scheduled for July 27th at the Caribbean Days Festival in North Vancouver.  The event is organized by the Trinidad and Tobago Society of B.C., and it encourages other nations of the Caribbean to come together and celebrate their cultures. The event is over two days formally but the Society hosts many other events throughout the year.

We set a time to meet, and Chris instructed ‘under the Bahamian flag’ which I thought odd as I know the group was not formally participating, but only attending. I’d never been to the Festival before so thought they must have flags perhaps of all the nations flying.

When I arrived off schedule I was lucky to run into a Jamaican friend, who helps with the event, and runs the Facebook page ‘Caribbean Vibes’.  Trevor told me that the Bahamians were around as he’d seen their flag earlier. I knew then they were not at a stationary location.

I started walking around and it only took me 5 minutes to spot the Turquoise, Black and Gold flying above heads at the already very busy event early afternoon.

Thanks to Chris and his steadfast carrying and waving of the Bahamian flag we had no trouble finding one another over a 4 hour period. A group of about 12 of us overall showed up that day.  Some of the group were university graduates, working professionals, or enjoying retirement, and one was just visiting from Nassau.  It was great to make new friends, and discuss The Bahamas.

It was surprising how many people in the crowd did not recognize the flag.  We hope to change that next year and have a stronger representation and participate in the festival officially with the help of Tourism. Bahamians who live in Vancouver or throughout B.C. are encouraged to join the group. Since forming the group,  the Bahamas High Commission in Canada has made contact to provide pertinent updates that may affect Bahamians living in Canada or abroad.

Michael Hall, friend Sandy, Robbin Whachell, and Chris Lowe
Introductions. Kristian Plakaris, Dani Smith, and Syntche Smith meet Ken Smith for the first time. Chris Lowe carries the Bahamian flag.

Parental Alert: Is your kid getting high on cough syrup?

I was going through my house in Grand Bahama when we were packing for our upcoming exodus after an  8 year life in The Bahamas,   I came across a guitar case in a place I did not expect… it was in my laundry area hanging behind clothing items. I’d forgotten I put it there.

Memories flooded back of that time.  The day my daughter came out into the main area of our home and threw the guitar case into the middle of our lives… where her pain already was showing itself, mixed in with ours…

The guitar case, partially zipped open and full, revealed a myriad of empty cough syrup bottles and empty boxes of cough syrup pills. ..she was only fifteen years old.

The contents therein did not surprise me, but the amount did! We already knew, and she had recently acknowledged her addiction; we were fighting for her life.  In that one moment she’d taken the bold and blunt step to throw her condition into our faces right after arguing with us that she did not have any such addiction. I knew there and then it was my daughter’s cry for help, and I knew that no matter what, I would not stop until we resolved the situation.

What do we think when we see a drug addict on TV or in the streets? We may assume that they are beneath us, that they have little support, little income, but most of the time these people are just like you and me.  Many are capable of leading a ‘normal’ life  just like you and I, and they usually have money, or at least have parents that do. So what is the problem? I do not know… I only know of what I experienced. That being my daughter was altered after the divorce of her parents – trying to cope with her once surreal ‘perfect life’ now gone as she knew it.  We had lost her, amongst  her own fears and sorrows which projected ‘as real’ to her.

I could tell you stories of that time that could possible startle or shock you, but the  long and short of it is that my daughter was addicted to cough syrup – yup, good old Vicks, Triaminic, Robitussin and such. Where did she get this idea?  Well she is one smart girl, which is a good thing overall.  She has always been a seeker of knowledge, and that is how she found out about it. She found information online, actually a forum (forums were big back then) and on this particular forum she had to write an essay to be accepted into it – many members were adults, even ‘doctors’ she  boasted when telling us about it later. It also didn’t help that consuming ‘purple drank‘ was being popularized by popularized by several prominent hip-hop artists.

My daughter gained acceptance to ‘the forum’ and behind her closed bedroom door she began experimenting with cough syrup, which contains a derivative of speed. Not only that, but she also read and learned about the natural drug, nutmeg.  Yes, nutmeg! Apparently if you grind nutmeg and ingest it, you will get high.  All this she began photo documenting as part of her membership on this forum.  At one time, a member even died, and it was being discussed in our household and on the forum.

I go into drug stores and see the liquid (slang name, Purple Drank or Sizzurp) at waist height… so accessible to to fast hands even if someone doesn’t have the money to purchase it. Parents and store owners everywhere need to know about this drug which has gained popularity, because anyone can go purchase it, and hence why it’s called a ‘legal drug’.  Anything containing codeine should be by prescription.

My daughter, who gave me the okay to write this, made it through that time, and she’s now a vibrant young adult and university graduate working hard at her future. Her teeth are extremely weak today and I think it’s due to the cough syrup.  She lost almost 2 years of her life due to this toxic mix.  She has little memory of the things that took place then, which may be a good thing.  During that time she lost weight,  slept for hours and hours after being up on a high for often 2 full days…

She slept in the day, and was awake most of the nights. During the worst she said such things I had no idea where she could have the knowledge or verbiage to say, and I am not talking about swearwords either.  There were many episodes that turned our family life into living nightmares.  She was hypersensitive  and flew off the handle easily, at times becoming violent.  She had no appetite and complained of stomach pains.

Unfortunately in The Bahamas there was little support on Grand Bahama Island for drug addiction at that time. My friend in Nassau took her in for a couple weeks so she could see well-known psychologist Dr. David Allen. He reported that she was very smart  and had nothing wrong her with her other than her like for experimentation. He said she was actually extremely bright and talented – this I already knew!

I am glad to have my daughter back. When she was gone, she was gone. Her eyes and spirit were empty when she was high on cough syrup. It was like losing a child. We were lucky to win the battle and I urge all parents to be wary of this. Talk to store owners who carry these items openly on the aisles, and store owners please be wary of young people buying cough medicines in your establishment.

I am a lucky parent. My daughter survived, but I read countless stories online where many parents lost their children as they went on to harder street drugs, and they could no longer allow their child’s abusive behaviour in their homes, so they subsequently lost them altogether.

BE AWARE! Here is some information:

Cough Preparations
Many cough preparations, especially cough suppressants, contain codeine or DXM (Dextromethorphan). Codeine and other opiates are very effective cough suppressants, but they are addictive. DXM, a powerful psychoactive drug, is particularly addictive. Cough syrup abusers can obtain the drug from their doctors by complaining about coughs and other cold symptoms. Ingredients in many cough preparations are considered to be dangerous in combination with other drugs, particularly antidepressants (including SSRI medications and MAO Inhibitors), antihistamine allergy medications, and Yohimbe.

Addicts commonly point to three reasons for using cough syrup:

It’s legal (and therefore more acceptable)
It’s low-cost or free
It’s seen as being safer than other drugs of abuse.

Methods of Use
Some addicts drink cough syrup undiluted or mixed with sodas. Others soak marijuana joints with the syrup. In some cities, an underground black market has developed for selling syrup. DXM can also be extracted from cough preparations and taken orally, injected, and occasionally freebased.

Examples of cough preparations include Drixoral Cough Liquid Caps, Robitussin AC, Dectuss, Phenergan with Codeine, Phensedyl, and Pherazine with Codeine.

Effects on the Central Nervous System
DXM exhibits cough-suppressant functions by activating specific opioid receptors (sigma opioid receptors) in the central nervous system. In this sense, DXM functions like Ketamine or PCP. The sigma opioid receptor has been implicated in many of the symptoms of schizophrenia. DXM also affects receptors in the part of the brain called the cerebellum, which plays a role in coordinating movement. The involvement of cerebellum receptors may account for reports of peculiar reactions to movement among persons abusing cough syrup.

Cough syrup abusers use the drug to obtain a marijuana-like high with occasional auditory hallucinations and pleasurable reactions to movement. Other less desirable effects depend on the dose taken:

Dilated pupils
High blood pressure
Hot and cold flashes
Impaired judgment
Memory disturbances
Nausea and other gastric disturbances
Panic attacks
Psychotic episodes
Sexual dysfunction
Tachycardia (increased heart rate)

Life Risks
Aside from the risk of addiction, cough syrup use is associated with increased fatigue, poor coordination, constipation, urinary retention, and other problems. Overdose deaths have been reported. As mentioned above, DXM may be particularly dangerous in combination with other medications or substances, including:

  • “Non-drowsy” antihistamines (allergy medications) such as  Claritin, Seldane, or Hismina
  • MAO inhibitors (a certain class of anti-depressant)
  • SSRI antidepressants, such as Desyrel or Serzone
  • The herb Yohimbe / yohimbine

Any of these substances in the system at the same time as DXM can be fatal!

Withdrawal from cough syrups can cause a range of unpleasant and dangerous symptoms, depending on the content dosage of the preparation. DXM withdrawal is characterized by depression and difficulties with thinking and memory.

Warning Signs
A person who is addicted to cough preparations may:

– Frequently purchase over-the-counter cough preparations
–  Buy cough preparations at different stores


(Photo credit for bottles on ground: Sumit Molhotra)

My angel wore lipstick and perfume

This was not 'my angel' but if you added 20 years, very tanned skin and a larger bust line, she comes pretty close!
This was not ‘my angel’ but if you added 20 years, very tanned skin and a larger bust line, she comes pretty close! “Just write the paper,” she said.

It was a typical evening  in Grand Bahama Island in the early 2000s. I’d met up with friends for drinks at Count Basie Square.  It was a hot sultry night, one where even the slightest breeze felt like a kiss from God.

I was in survival mode. Survival mode because I’d been dealing with a separation, which was a pretty big deal when you are living in a country where you are a foreigner. I had just finished working for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean II and III, and I was trying to sort out my next move.   Surviving as a single mom with four children, amid the nastiness and pain of separation and divorce was taking its toll on me.

I was totally stressed out.  I did not want to move home to Canada as my ex lived on the Island and I wanted my children to be near their father.  I also was in love with the place, and that was reason enough to fight to stay.

A male friend in our group that night brought a guest along with him who was new to the island, staying at a rental in the gated community he lived in.  She was a blond and attractive American woman. I remember her very tanned skin, her eye makeup, her lipstick, and her ample cleavage; but I cannot remember her name.

She and I began talking and I openly shared some of my struggles, easy when someone is a ‘stranger’.  She listened intently and then said, “Can I tell you something? You may think I am crazy, but the angels talk to me…”

I told her I had no problem hearing anything ‘the angels’ had to say.

She then got very quiet, and I recall how very pensive I became. Then she calmly said, “The angels say that you are to start the paper. Everything will be okay, just start the paper.”

I thought, “The paper!?” as I could not understand the message. I knew I was not going to work for the island newspaper, The Freeport News.  I thought surely these angels had me all wrong or mixed up.

I took her message home with me, wrote it in my journal, and I never saw her again.  I forgot about what she said for quite some time.  I don’t even know if she ever returned to Grand Bahama, but today I see her as one of my life’s angels.

Like so many messages from above, they often don’t always make sense until some time has been put between them, and you have a look back – a reference. Today her message makes total 100% sense!

‘The paper’ is TheBahamasWeekly.com, of which I am editor and co-founder.  At the time I met this angel, I was already writing and sending out a weekly  email newsletter I’d created called “Freeport Announcements.”  I just hadn’t put two-and-two together when she said ‘the paper.’  She’d said, “I see pages and pages” and in my mind I was thinking ‘print,’ and it totally confused me.

It was only within months after that night, that I partnered with David Mackey to produce GBWeekly.com and within a year we created TheBahamasWeekly.com. Now ten year’s later and even though I’m living back in Canada, I am still working the news and events of The Bahamas from here.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes, and messages (signs) come from a variety of sources. It’s trusting that guidance along the way, and believing in your own dreams until they can unfold, as you may or may not have, imagined them.

“Miracles occur as involuntary effects of a loving personality, an invisible force that emanates from someone whose conscious intention is to give and receive love. As we relinquish the fears that block the love within us, we becomes God’s instruments. We become His miracles workers.” (A Course in Miracles)

You can read “Robbin Whachell and the History of The Bahamas Weekly”  here