Tag Archives: Grand Bahama

Best Intentions

BEST INTENTIONS — So last week I traveled to Grand Bahama riding on a mountain of stress. I had spent close to an entire week at my computer chair following Hurricane Matthew and reporting information to our Bahamas Weekly readers, and group members on the Facebook page “Bahamas News and Events.”   I went to Grand Bahama, not to report on the hurricane aftermath, but to get a friend off the island who was in a very bad way health-wise. During my 24-hr trip en-route to Grand Bahama, I managed to get online only a few very brief times. And it was during this travel to the island that I screwed up on an article I posted regarding a client’s business, and subsequently I lost this 10-year client.

Flying in to Freeport after realizing the upset I had caused had me feeling sicker in the pit of my stomach than seeing the devastation of the island after Matthew. I went in person to apologize, and try and explain that my heart was in the right place the entire time. That my sole intention was to assist my client. I have to face that I screwed up. Some times people are not willing to forgive or work with you to make things right again. I have to accept that. All I can do is move on, and continue as always, with my best intention.

I want to share a lovely note (there have been many) received today from a Grand Bahama resident:

“Robbin,  Thank you so much for having kept everybody informed around the clock during the hurricane. It was a very important source of info for many people on and off island,  We did rely on your posts all through this ordeal. That was real dedicated and professional journalism and you deserve a medal for this work. Heartfelt thanks.”

I have many friends that are my family on Grand Bahama, and the other islands of the Bahamas. I do not deserve a medal… Through my concern and love for them, I was simply assisting the only way I knew how. It was the least I could do…

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

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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 moment in the life of Firstina Baillou

Firstina Baillou passed away at the age of 104. I was sad to hear of her passing, but at that age death is imminent. I am blessed to say I knew Firstina Baillou, a resident of Sweetings Cay which is just off Grand Bahama Island in The Bahamas. Well I didn’t really “know her”, but I shared a moment with her, a very special moment.

I was invited along in 2009 to Sweetings Cay with Chantal Bethel, Laurie Tuchel and Lauren Austin to interview a 103 year old woman. My colleague Dave Mackey was filming the trip for an upcoming production for the Grand Bahama Heritage Foundation.

I love Sweetings Cay, and  hadn’t been since before the hurricanes so I jumped at the opportunity to tag along.

When we got to the Firstina Baillou’s little home I was not surprised as to what I saw, as I had walked the main road of Sweetings Cay many times. Leaving the boat it was only a few yards to the one road through town, and about ten more feet to the front door of her tiny little home on the other side of the road, which is truly ocean front property.

She was sitting in the corner in an easy chair with a warm hat and sweater on. Her skin showed the years upon her but I was surprised by the childlike quality that emanated from her glowing face. There was something so energetic about Firstina.

We were all introduced and visiting artist Lauren Austin sat in front of the matriarch to begin the interview and pulled open her sketch book and began to draw Firstina as they talked. About four or five of Mrs. Baillou’s family were in the small home with us, spanning a few generations no doubt; her daughter sat behind her on the arm of her chair, and her grandson , Rev. Pedyson Baillou stood in the room across from her helping field questions and answers, as well as some of her grandchildren were in the back area of the two room house.

Dave instructed me to sit next to Mrs. Baillou and to hold the microphone close so he could get adequate sound from the interview. I sat in a chair adjacent to Firstina. I sat quietly, but she must have sensed me because as as soon as I sat she immediately reached out to see who was there. She grabbed my hand, said nothing, and Lauren and the others began asking her questions about her early life at Old Freetown.

What was most incredible was that Firstina never took her hand off my hand for the entire hour or so we were in her home. She never asked who I was, she just never let go. Even when she turned to check that her 78 year old daughter was still at her side, she would turn her body, but never let go of my hand. From time to time she would just stroke the skin on my hand as she answered questions.

I still remember her skin and hand, and how it felt. The years of work, but with so much gentleness and strength. Her eyes, then blind with cataracts, showed so much light and life that when she told us about her past, the stories about her children and grandchildren, when she smiled or giggled I could almost see a glimpse of her as a young girl.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and our interview ended, and we had to get back on the boat to make the shallows before tides changed. We bid our farewells, and the last time I saw her it was her slight little figure leaning against the doorway entrance ‘listening to us’ leave, and as if watching us leave. I’d wished I’d taken that photo, as it was a classic.

The settlement of Sweetings Cay, along with all her family and friends will most certainly miss Firstina Baillou. What a gift and how wonderful to have captured some of her history and that conversation on tape; and the image of her loving presence on paper and pencil.

Through the Heritage Foundation’s research we’ve learned that her husband was the great grandson of Scipion Baillou, a slave brought from Africa to the Baillou plantation in Nassau who later landed on Old Freetown’s shore in Grand Bahama.  What a journey.

I am richer to have had that moment with Firstina Baillou. May the memory of her, and her history live on.

 

Reflection... the ride to Sweetings Cay can only be made by small boat as you cross many shallows (Photos seen here by David Mackey)
Reflection… the ride to Sweetings Cay can only be made by small boat as you cross many shallows (Photos seen here by David Mackey)

Publicist, writer, photo-journalist; and co-founder/ editor of one of The Bahamas’ leading news sites, TheBahamasWeekly.com, Robbin Whachell is a successful entrepreneur and pioneer in online marketing. Aside from being a recognized media personality and community builder, she is known for her networking and social media skills, and has a background in information management and film.

The Rich swimwear debuts at Facet Fashion Week

Hollywood, California – Young Bahamian designer Richie McCoy debuted his most recent swimwear collection, ‘Androgynous’ at this year’s Facet Fashion Week. The event was held on the rooftop of the luxurious W Hotel on May 16th. Scores of designers, boutique owners, models and industry lovers from across the U.S were in attendance at the annual event.

The blazing hot temperatures of Hollywood were nothing compared to ‘The Rich’, a brand that is only months old is already making its mark. ‘The Rich’ by Richie McCoy was birthed in late 2013 when the designer entered and won the FashArt competition in Nassau, Bahamas.  As a result of sharing his official brand photos via social media, Richie received an email from the producer of Facet Fashion Week requesting his attendance.

Overwhelmed by the opportunity, Richie gladly accepted and immediately began putting together his new collection.  A self-taught individual who simply experimented with his mother’s sewing machine continues to improve his craft day by day. And if things couldn’t get any better, they did, as Richie asked to close out the event. “They told me they wanted to save the best for last and that my collection would be the grand finale.”

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Collage photos: EthnoNightlife.com

Since the show, several boutiques have requested the designer swimwear to be sold in their stores.

When asked about showing at the event Richie says it was ‘definitely worth it’ as it is just the beginning for what is to come for the young designer. He has plans to eventually expand beyond active and swimwear, with a goal to become a fashion powerhouse.

‘The Rich’ speaks for itself and will continue to grow in the years to come. I can’t wait to see what he has next in store!

TheRich-Tomii

Hector Picard recaps his Triathlon for Grand Bahama’s Beacon School

Double-arm amputee puts in a 2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike ride
–  26.2 mile run in Grand Bahama

American paratriathlete, Hector Picard has returned back to the USA after spending a good week or so in The Bahamas where he participated in the Great Abaco Fitness Weekend and then led his own triathlon in Grand Bahama in aid of The Beacon School. The following are his own words recapping the event which took place last weekend in Freeport:

The Triathlon for the Beacon School was a complete success. I arrived on Grand Bahama island on the 24th and for 5 days I presented at various venues throughout the island that included churches, schools and support groups.  I inspired with my story, but more importantly I made those that attended, aware of The Beacon School and the special children there.

SWIM-Alfa-HI woke up on Saturday morning (March 29th) and was anticipating a long day.  Unfortunately due to certain circumstances I didn’t eat breakfast.  I got to the 2.4 mile swim start at Taino Beach and I was welcomed by a 4 foot choppy surf.  I was supposed to start at 7am but it was still dark resulting in a 7:35am start.  Several local athletes and spectators were there to participate including Ray Cumberbatch who would be doing the entire triathlon with me.  The swim was tough at first until I was able to time the waves and kick in between them. I finished in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The 112 mile bike ride started at 9:05am.  The route took us from Taino Beach to the Grand Lucayan, to Lookout Point to High Rock, then back for two loops.  We encountered some difficult winds making for a 7-hour ride but having a number of the local cyclists joining us throughout, in addition to the beautiful natural scenery of the island, made for an enjoyable time.

We started the 26.2 mile run at the Midshipman roundabout, where we were greeted by a multitude of runners that included several children.  We started jogging for a few miles, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep up the pace.  Feeling exhausted after the swim and bike and lack of a nutrition, I still pressed on at a fast walking pace with short runs in between.  The support of my running companions, along with thoughts of The Beacon School and it’s special children helped me battle the occasional dizziness and focus on finishing.  At mile 20 the thunderstorm added another obstacle to our long day, but didn’t “damper” our spirits.  Upon entering the Pelican Bay Hotel property we were greeted by cheers from a large group of supporters at the finish line.  I ended the night with new friends at the fundraiser at Bones Bar and a much needed cold Bahamian beer.

Hector on his 7 hour bike ride (Photo: Tito Cardenas)
Hector on his 7 hour bike ride (Photo: Tito Cardenas)

The event was capped off with an emotional presentation at The Beacon School where we donated the triathlon shirt and almost $1,000 with more donations to come.

I want to thank Coach Bert Bell for his assistance for the entire week and for setting up the course as well as keeping us safe throughout the long 16 hour day.

Thank you to my sponsors The Pelican Bay Hotel, Balearia Bahamas Express, Kelly’s Freeport Ltd, The Spellers and TheBahamasWeekly.com for supporting this first and hopefully annual event.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife Wendy and my new friends on Grand Bahama island.  You listened to my story or swam or cycled or ran or cheered.  Your donations of time and/or money will go a long way to help the children of The Beacon School.  You have a friend for life in me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

With God’s blessing I hope to see you all at the Second Annual Triathlon for The Beacon School.

Hectors website: www.dontstopliving.org

Some of the local community join in on Midshipman Road for a portion of the 26.2 mile run. (Photo: Tito Cardenas)
Some of the local community join in on Midshipman Road for a portion of the 26.2 mile run. (Photo: Tito Cardenas)

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Top feature image: Supporters and members of The Beacon School come out to cheer paratriathlete Hector Picard on in the morning of March 29th at Taino Beach. He completed his 16 hour triathlon for The Beacon School at Pelican Bay Hotel. (Photo: Tito Cardenas)

Songs of Lineage

My youngest Jackie sang tonight at her high school talent show. She’d been rehearsing with her friend Juan, who accompanied her on guitar for some weeks now.  It’s been quite awhile since I’ve heard her sing publicly, the last was in Grand Bahama at the Labyrinth.  She was affectionately introduced tonight at her school here in Canada as “Bahama Mama” as she grew up in The Bahamas.

There’s something about listening to your child sing. It’s like ointment on a wound. T o see your child perform on stage is a whole other experience. For me, I felt like I was right there with her… one with her.  I could feel every change in the music, and feel the emotion. The song they chose to cover was not an easy one.  “Run” by Daughter is a haunting song with lilts and lifts.  A touch of Sarah McLaughlin and Joan Baez.

I snapped away on the camera as I was memorized with my daughter and I became teary. I could hear nothing but her.  Then, I heard more than just her… I heard my youngest sister singing through her, then my oldest sister, and then my mother was singing through her.  She was a chord of song running through my lineage.

It may sound dramatic, but it was really quite simple.  Simple and beautiful…

Listen to her song HERE

 

(Photos seen here were taken by me. Her friend Amal, top left, suggested the song and was the shows MC; and Juan played beautifully on guitar; and her other friend Sara seen coming through the curtains was the shows other MC)
(Photos seen here were taken by me. Her friend Amal, top left, suggested the song and was the shows MC; and Juan played beautifully on guitar; and her other friend Sara seen coming through the curtains was the shows other MC)

 

Writing Reference Letters

I’m beginning to love writing reference letters, as they’ve allowed me to recollect my connections

I’ve been asked to write reference letters over the years, and when I received my first request I was taken aback, shocked that someone would ask me. Over the years I’ve become accustomed and accepting to these requests, and because of them, I feel confident asking for referrals in return.

In most cases I’ve implemented ‘the procedure.’  You see, I’ve had other people of whom I’ve requested a reference from, ask ‘me to draft it’ for them.  It’s really a perfect way, in particular if you do not know the person that well, to get the letter you want.  It allows the person needing the reference to ensure the qualities they are hoping to be mentioned, indeed are included, and helps the writer get the letter done, in particular if they are busy people, or not that good at writing.

My latest reference letter request was from one of my best friends. Susan and I have run the gamut of life’s experiences together.  I’ve always looked up to her, as a woman with so much talent.  Her request (as any) come in during my super busy schedule, and so I asked how soon she needed it done.  As I do with most of my writing, I either ‘force and trust’, or ‘let go and trust,’ dependent on whether there are time constraints.  In this case with Susan’s reference, it was a trip down memory lane, and  a review of our collected experiences together. It flowed quite magically, even with her “I  need it asap request.”

Later that day, I came up with the following letter which has made me realize what a joy this process has become for me.  I was able to review the richness of our relationship and recollect what this person offered not only me, but the community we were both a part of.

Here it is:

To Whom it May Concern,

I’ve known Susan Moir Mackay for approximately 15 years. I met Susan when we were both living in The Bahamas. We met during a personal development workshop, when we were paired to do several in-depth and personal exercises that weekend. We quickly became friends.

While I home schooled my four children, Susan led art classes for them in our home (or out in nature), which I can only say were healing and supportive, as it was during the time of my marriage breakup, and these art classes provided a huge source of comfort, and an outlet to the myriad of emotions my children were dealing with. I’ve saved some of their pieces and they have helped, even now that they are grown, to understand what they were feeling back then.

I’ve known Susan to be very involved in her community, as an active volunteer in the school, or the local community centers. She’s led classes for underprivileged Bahamian children, who otherwise might not have had such exposure to her level of knowledge in art. She’s exhibited in many galleries, shows, and more than several times, had her work exhibited in the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, where she also engaged in public art talks.

I’ve observed Susan affect and influence, not only the art scene of the Island of Grand Bahama, but also the art scene of that country (Bahamas) as a whole, with her own unique style and belief in art. I watched as many artists began changing their ideas and expressions of art, after Susan boldly went were very few, if any, went before. She did this by exposing conceptual art to the island of Grand Bahama; a place where art was most often only seen as pretty pictures of flowers, people or landscapes.  I was witness to her exhibition, just months after her unexpected marriage break, where she bravely exposed her still raw and innermost feelings, and pain through her art collection titled, “Into the Crimson Room“.

Susan and I also were founding members of a Grand Bahama writers’ circle, a group which met weekly to write and share; a sacred place where much healing took place through our expression and companionship. Susan was also involved, side-by-side with the founder Barbara Chester and Judy Hopen from Labyrinth Enterprises, in the design and creation of the Grand Bahama Labyrinth.

With Susan’s love of art, natural gift of writing, and her unique way of expression, it was easy for me to ask her to become a columnist for our website, TheBahamasWeekly.com, where she still writes today in her column, “Art Life.”

As a human, Susan is the epitome of compassion, whether it be for a neighbor, friend, loved one, child, or animal. She takes time for anyone who reaches out to her, and is always sensitive to the needs of others. Sweet and gentle, yet open and always honest, Susan is the ‘real deal’, and has always been loved and admired by those whose lives she has touched.

It is my pleasure to offer this reference for Susan to attend your program, as I know she is extremely qualified through her art education, community service, and character.

My Story…

Identity… who am I …. ?

I was born Catherine Rosanne Wachell to Curt and Rose Wachell. My father heritage is Czechoslovakian and my mother’s is German, French and Native American (Cree and Sioux). I like to say that makes me a ‘canceled Czech’. I was raised only knowing I was Canadian.

My mother (nee Rosaline Hintz) was a devout Catholic and taught catechism and Sunday school and read to us from the bible. I remember my first communion and my confirmation and always felt close to God, likely from my mother’s strong influence.  When I was about 6 years old I had a profound dream about Jesus and the devil ( good and evil) that my family still talks about to this day.

We moved to Alberta where I started grade one and completed  my schooling at Sturgeon Composite High School just outside of Edmonton near the Namao Air Base. In grade four my mother started studying numerology and I was thrilled to choose a new name for myself!  I confidently announced to my class, with my teacher at my side, that I was now, Robbin Whachell.

For most of my teen years I dated the same guy (5 years).  My first job was with Standard General Construction, where my father was manager of road works. It was not until after high school graduation that I found myself single again. I moved into my oldest sister’s home. I’d been working with the Alberta government in records and information management. At one point I took a moonlighting job as a coat check girl in a nightclub.  I did so to help earn money for a 6 week European vacation which I know altered my view on the world. I moved up the ranks in my information management career to a couple other Alberta government departments before moving to BC with my brother. There I continued in information management with Price Waterhouse Chartered Accountants.

It was in Vancouver that I met and married chiropractor, Dr. Brian Blower within a couple months and we began a family immediately. I had been busy developing a career in the corporate world for about 8 years, but with my husband being in the health profession, I decided that his world was a far more fulfilling field to be involved with, and so I started assisting as an office manager at his clinic, and began studying healing modalities.

After I had my first child my desire to return to my love of acting had me sign up for night classes. I got an agent, and soon began dabbling in auditions, bit parts and took filmmaking workshops.  We moved to North Vancouver up Indian Arm and had three more children around 2 years apart; those last three I birthed at home in water. So much for my acting career! Motherhood became all consuming, but was and still is the most fulfilling career of all.

We decided to move to The Bahamas after our fourth child was born. We longed for  warmth and ease of life, and no taxes. I immediately fell in love with Grand Bahama Island. I never knew the feeling of euphoria in everyday life before, but I felt it there. I felt I’d come ‘home’.

Ironically it was in The Bahamas where I became more connected to my native heritage. I read the book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and had an identity awakening that I had not expected to be so profound. It was also during this time that my family in Canada discovered that we could apply for Metis Status due to my mother’s lineage to the Dakota (Sioux) and Cree tribes.

Life in Grand Bahama continued on, and I was a busy active young mother, involved in local soccer programs as a coach and player. I studied Reiki while there, helped form a writer’s group; and even home schooled my children for four years.

During that time I started something I had no idea would grow to be so big today. I began to share information via email to my local contact list.  I began harvesting email addresses, always blind copying, and would send out emails about island activities, upcoming events, news bits, etc. I soon moved to a weekly newsletter and my email list grew as people began requesting to be added to my database.

The idyllic island life took an ugly turn as my marriage unraveled and a lengthy separation and divorce ensued for eight years. After separation I put the children back into school.  Could I now – a single woman, survive in a foreign land while continuing to nurture the growth of my children? I so loved The Bahamas, that I had no thought to return to my birthland. Being female in the Bahamian court system was not an advantage, and my lawyer and I fought to keep my children and family life in balance.

My weekly newsletter continued to gain popularity and my email list grew exponentially with readers even from the USA. I was not allowed to work due to my immigrant status, and continued this activity as a hobby, and saw it as a good deed, and my way of giving back the community I lived in.   The financial hardship of the separation, as a non-working mother was extremely difficult and I realized something had to give.

Then I heard about the Bahamas Film Studios, a proposed 70 million dollar facility that was coming to Grand Bahama. I had to pinch myself, as I’d given up all thoughts of being involved in film again.  I reached out to the CEO and he hired me as his personal assistant after reading my online overview of his project.  This did not go over well with the locals, but I was approved through immigration and things were good to go. However that was short lived, as it didn’t take long for the local ‘coconut express’ to have words buzzing all over the place and within government. My boss, a foreigner, was so worried about all the red flags he was seeing, due to my hiring, that he felt he had no option, but to let me go. Ironically he hired another foreigner and got into the business of bringing in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC), which interestingly enough I was also hired for, but it took them two months of  struggle with immigration to get me on board.  I worked my butt off for 8 months on POTC II and III, to find out that Disney had not paid my work permit fees, so a day came when the guys in green suits escorted me out of the production office for questioning. Management for Second Mate (the title of the Disney project in Grand Bahama) had by then changed hats and the new head  felt I was not worth the immigration fees and let me go. The project was three quarters through, and it was sad to not see my name in the film credits, and instead see names of so many I had a hand in hiring.

All through this very busy time, I was still dealing with my divorce, a teen daughter who was venting out via drugs and alcohol, and keeping my weekly newsletter going, which seemed to be the one thing that remained consistent. My email list and newsletter had grown so much that I had to find new solutions in disseminating all the information I was gathering and being given.

I ended up partnering with Bahamian, David Mackey of Mackey Media Ltd, and we developed a website called TheBahamasWeekly.com, providing a location for my newsletter content and a platform to send my weekly updates from. We worked day and night, and I continued doing so without an income.

Then a miracle happened. We interviewed a man that used to head Bahamas Immigration and was then an immigration consultant. He said I was a tourism ambassador by the work I was doing for The Bahamas and he took on my case.  I had a  permit to work within the year.

Over those years (and through those jobs) I dealt with racism and jealousy. Because I was a white foreigner, many assumed I had money. Because I dressed well and am attractive, people assumed I was ‘taken care of’ by someone, or had money,,. Believe me, at times I wished I was big, fat and ugly, because then many people, mostly women, would have paid no mind to me.

I’ve been the brunt of much controversy in The Bahamas, most of which was behind the scenes from the general public. Through all that adversity I put on a happy face, kept my poise and maintained my dignity, and stayed true to the task at hand, that of creatively sharing information that brought good light to Bahamians and the country; and the enormous task of raising my growing children on an extremely limited income.

The Bahamas Weekly grew and grew and still has  a great reputation to this day. My business partner David Mackey and I were pioneering in online marketing and of course we also had fierce competitors and copycats. Some of my competitors took it upon themselves to  personally try and have me run out of the country… for doing what you may ask? Simply supplying information and getting an income for it via advertisers on our site. A Bahamian friend would often say to me, ‘You love The Bahamas more than Bahamians do.’ I just see such promise and beauty there, sitting idly, and I want to shout and share it with the world.

I was attacked behind the scenes so to speak. A couple of my competitors were out to get me out of the country entirely. They stopped at nothing and for years slandered my name to anyone they could, but mostly to politicians and those that ran immigration. Each year I had to prove why I should remain there, and how I was different than a Bahamian. You see, for IF a Bahamian could do what I was doing, I could then not do it. Without this work, I would not be allowed to remain in the country, even though my separated husband lived there and we had 4 children. Even though this was an online business and one I created and drove.  It became my annual struggle. The work permit renewal process itself took almost 6 months. I’d get approved with a great sigh of relief, put my head down and work, and in 6 months it would start all over again. There were lawyers involved and many people came to my aid to support me in my staying. The irony was, that TheBahamasWeekly.com WAS ME. How could I let go, or hand off something I created, worked tirelessly on to someone else? It was my baby!

Through all of that my love for The Bahamas grew and grew, and of course so did my opportunities with my work. I was lucky enough to interview such notables as Sir Sean Connery, Pierre-Yves Cousteau, Johnny Depp, Lenny Kravitz and many many others through my work. For two years, I was seen on a Grand Bahama Island tourism TV channel,  when my business partner started sharing looping video content of years of our work through our connection with the local tourism office.

Finally, with my children growing into their teen years, and the older ones heading back to Canada for school, coupled with my parents being in their golden years, I decided I was exhausted from the annual immigration fight. With social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and tools like Skype,  I knew I could likely run my internet-business from Canada. I also had developed a wealth of contacts in the industry. I took a leap of faith, and I decided I had had enough, It was time for a change, and to come back to my homeland.

Coming back to Canada was not what I had expected. My sister, the angel, had an apartment all ready for me, right down to food in the fridge and beds to slip into directly from the airport. I live on the 32nd floor of a highrise now, up in the clouds in my nest. I only missed two days of down-time in my work in the transition from Bahamas to Canada.

My world here has changed so. Long gone is the Canada I remember from my youth. I am okay with it, but it’s quite different. I often feel like a minority here now. My neighbours are mostly Asian, Persian or European. Hearing foreign languages is an everyday occurrence.  I am still adjusting to being back and have been tapping in to some of the Native developments that have taken shape during my time away.  We just found out our status as Metis’ may soon be full Native status in the latest court rulings. That’s cool too, whatever that means… and if it really happens.

Lately I’ve asked myself, do I have a right to call myself Native?  I am caught between so many worlds…my heads in The Bahamas, but my body is here. I am Native but I’ve been away for so long, while so many others have fought for the rights of many. What is my place?

I look at the word “Identity”.  [Personal conception and expression; Specifications of persons –] Who am I really?

We cling to things that seemingly create our identity, like our skin colour, beauty, religion, hairstyle, wardrobe, home, car, habits, yet its the core of our beliefs that define us when the lights go out.

I am a woman, a mother, a lover, sister, friend, colleague, confidant, teacher, and I aim to be a good example to everyone I know, but mostly someone, I can live with – day in and day out, and that is me.

My coach, Donnie Knowles’ acknowledged for Sports Contribution in The Bahamas

Knowles-TributeCoach Donnie Knowles, has been honoured for his contribution to sports in The Bahamas by the Kamalamee organization.  Although I could not be at the honouring event at the Regency Theatre on October 27th, I was asked to provide remarks, and a video presentation (see my link at bottom).

I met Donnie and Mary Knowles the first year I moved to Grand Bahama in 1998. I fulfilled a life-long dream of playing soccer when I joined his team The Predators in the Grand Bahama Football League, which sadly, no longer exists. The Predators were undefeated in the GBFL and Knowles took them to 5 national championships.

What was his recipe for success? Well some say it’s because he always had the best players, but in actual fact – it’s because he has always been, the best coach. He is strong in his disciplinary actions, but always wields a loving approach, and his girls feel it and respect him for it.

One night after a soccer meeting, Donnie shared with me his vision of starting a girls’ league. Mary was teaching school by day and studying by night  to further her degree; so I offered to help him get started on that dream.  We formed the Coca-Cola Crushers and for the first time the GBFL had an All-Youth girls’ team. Donnie worked hard coaching 2 teams in tandem.  And if that wasn’t enough, he was also playing in the men’s league, and leading the GBFL.

“Behind every great man, is a great woman.”  As soon as Mary completed her studies, the Grand Bahama Girls’ Soccer Developmental League was born.  The love and skills he had instilled in his players, came back in spades when many of us joined to coach in the new league.  Those were humble beginnings and Donnie still coached at the YMCA programme that first year.  I used to call it ‘Soccer Saturdays’ – Predators were at the field for 7am shooting practice, coached morning at the Y, shoved down lunch, and then rush over to the Girls’ program for the afternoon.

Today his girls program boasts almost 300 players and 5 divisions. After 11 years, if you pass by the Freeport Rugby Football Club on Saturday mornings, you’ll still see Donnie Knowles, busy setting up over 10 fields for his Grand Bahama Girls’ Soccer League

But before he became the Coach Donnie that we know today, in his youth, Donnie was the soccer team captain at Aquinas Boys College; he played in 3 Bahamas Games for Grand Bahama Island; he was a Bahamas National Team player; and he even got a taste of the pro leagues in Scotland and England until he broke his leg before signing the big contract. During his coaching years he was called to both head coach and be an assistant coach to the Bahamas Women’s National Team for both World Cup and Olympic qualifiers. Just look at how far he’s come, and what one man has accomplished, to the benefit of his island and his country!

“Coaching, is teaching, training or developing a process while achieving a specific personal or professional result or goal.” I believe he’s reached his goal! His vision has become a reality.

Coach Donnie and Coach Mary have always instilled ‘life skills’ along with ‘soccer skills’, and after all, isn’t “teamwork” what life is really all about?

Although they have no children of their own, in actual fact they’ve raised hundreds and hundreds of girls through their love, discipline, and soccer success. Today they are invited to weddings and graduations, and are cherished members, of many soccer families.

My friend, and you will always be ‘MY Coach’, you are so very deserving of this Kamalamee Honour for your contribution to Sports in The Bahamas.  You exemplify the best in coaching and mentoring, and remind us, of what community spirit truly is.

Congratulations!

My family sends you Cyber Hugs from Canada!

Coach Robbin

(Children: coach / ref / player, Loryn Blower; coach Nathen Blower; player Tohni Blower; and player Jackie Blower)

Donnie Knowles’ contribution to sports in The Bahamas acknowledged from Robbin Whachell on Vimeo.