Two years ago (2010) I found a younger me sitting in the office of my government’s Ministry of Finance waiting eagerly to be called in for a meeting I had with the Student Loan committee. It was scheduled for 10:45am and it was now approaching 11:30am. Typical!
My story is that I graduated from college a year earlier, and after working for about a year I was ready to attend university. After a tedious application, interview, and portfolio review process, I was accepted into York University’s Design program. I was pumped of course to get into Canada’s most accredited design program, but it came with a catch; a CA$19k (EC$51.3K) price tag per year on tuition alone.
I wasn’t exactly rolling in that kind of money but was still thankful my pops paid for everything out of pocket for my last college and saved me about two years off of York. I now just had to cover costs for the other two years and that’s why I found myself counting the tiles on the floor repeatedly for 45 minutes. Normally, I would have left the office given that I hate having my time wasted, but since I really did need my government’s help (and had a very understanding boss; BIG shout out to H.D.) I stuck with it.
Just as I was reading the sign stating the dress code required of the visitors of the ministry, I heard someone announce my name. I looked up and saw this heavy set woman with a yellow pencil stuck in her stale contrasting burgundy braids, wearing what appeared to be bed slippers. After making her aware I was present, she asked me to follow her. While walking towards her, I caught glimpse of the sign again and saw the words “professional attire”, then turned my gaze back to the woman I was following who was now displaying the infamous lazy, flat footed, female Antiguan government worker walk. Typical!
I was brought into a room which had an older looking dude and two younger women seated around a long desk with stacks of paper on it. As I entered, I smiled and uttered a cheerful “good morning” which was well received by the dude and one of the chicks. The other chick who appeared to be the youngest received my greeting as if I had just asked her for a blow job and sucking d!(k was against her religion. She didn’t even bother to look up from her phone which she was too busy sending a text on, so instead she let out what sounded like an uneasy grunt.
When the heffa finally put her phone down, she gave me a condescending look as if I was three months late on paying her child support and she had better $h!t to do than listen to me make an excuse for not having the money for yet another month. I could tell she had brought her period into the workplace today and was set out to “bleed” over everything (metaphor alert). The urge to jump up on to the table and flash kick her phone permanently into the snobbish expression on her face left me as the dude started introducing everyone.
Since the majority of my readers are outside of the Caribbean, you may be wondering why I was in a meeting for a student loan. Well in Antigua, the government has a knack for just skull phuq-ing the simplicity out of every simple process and turning it into a journey to Mordor. If you’ve ever played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and tried to get the Big Goron sword, you’ll start to have an understanding of what things are like.
I had to submit transcripts from all secondary and tertiary institution attended, certificates, acceptance letters, cost breakdown, passport pictures, information about my family income (basically all the regular $h!t I suppose). PLUS a two page essay on why I needed the money that didn’t include the words, “university costs a shitload of money and I’m broke as fuck”. Hang on though, it gets better…
Then I had to wait three months for someone to just take my name and put it into an Excel document with a date and time for the interview I was currently in. Then I had to stomach doing the interview with that condescending b!t(h on her period, and wait two more months to see if my loan was approved. Here’s the good part…
IF approved, I had a CHANCE (operative word here) of being loaned EC$50k (CA$18.5k) MAXIMUM to be paid out to me over the span of four years (scroll back up to see what my tuition per year is… I’ll wait). PLUS I had to sign a bond saying the immediately after graduation I had to come back to work there for three years (I’ll explain why that is like being sold into slavery in a later post in the series), basically kissing the two year Canadian work permit I’d be granted upon graduation goodbye. On the flip side, the interest rate was only 3% per annum so I guess it wasn’t all bad. I had goals, was very passionate about what I did, and needed all the help I could get so I didn’t mind having Papa Bird phuq me up with @$$ with the wrong side of a black pineapple to get where I needed to be. (no homo)
I’ll pause the interview for now and finish it up over the span of the next few posts in the series (hopefully you’ll understand why as things play out). Instead, I’d like to take a few moments to sort of get into the “meat” of things.
“I hate Antigua: the country; not the island”
People often hear me make this comment and say that I am unpatriotic. I guess this is because they lack the understanding, ability or willingness to separate the country of Antigua (government, economy, laws, etc.) which for the most part is very intangible, from the island of Antigua (beach, carnival, late night Aziza’s bread shop runs) which is a lot more tangible or maybe easily controlled/influenced by any particular individual (this concept really calls for an open mind).
Me being called unpatriotic is nothing new to me and it is something I have probably grown accustomed to over the last four years. The main reason for this is that I am often openly critical of and question the very essence of what many Antiguans seem to have wrongfully adopted as “the Antiguan way of life”. My issue is that certain areas of the country of Antigua which need to be addressed are being swept under the carpet and written off as, “Oh, it’s Antigua. What do you expect?” as if that is the bandage to heal all wounds.
This mentality of sweeping matters under the carpet and calling those critical of the powers that be “unpatriotic” has been around for some time. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, my aunt had a book published entitled “A Small Place” which was critical of the country of Antigua. As a child growing up, I can remember hearing hateful things about how she hated Antigua and how much of a wicked woman she was. When I met her for the first time I thought she was the nicest person in the world and could not understand why anyone would say those things about her. After reading “A Small Place” (and her other books) a few years later, I could see why some of those arguments were lodged against her, but I could also see the even bigger picture which was there being a strong element of truth in almost everything she said.
The act of being critical of a government (or any functioning body for that matter) does not involve blindly opposing everything they say and do, then going to bed content that you did something like every oppositional party has done over the last 20 years. Instead, it involves disconnecting any ties you have to that body (patriotism included) and constructing your own reality on the way things are or possibly could be, based on the RAW facts about a particular situation. Then in turn you will be in a more unbiased position to point out certain faults that may not be readily seen by the individuals too blinded by patriotism, in the hopes of ultimately sparking the critical thinking needed for effective problem solving (hopefully I didn’t lose anyone there). This is what this series of posts is aimed at doing.
If we’re all “drinking the Kool-Aid” served by whoever is elected Jim Jones Prime Minister, then we’ll forever be stuck in the rut of being “halfway there to nowhere”. Progress cannot be made if we keep doing the same things and recycling the same ideas without anyone initially saying, “Hey, we’re going about this the wrong way and there has to be a better way of doing it!” When you look at it, it’s these people who speak up who are often called unpatriotic, but the reality of the situation is, maybe they are indeed the true patriots that everyone else claims to be.
I know a lot of these words are probably going to fall on deaf ears, but at the same time I am thankful for those who have hearing and understanding. I don’t expect any one person to agree with half the things I say, but I am more concerned with generating the right discussions needed to move forward. I mean, after all I don’t know “everything”.
Next post in the series:
“Being Critical of Antigua: The Tourism Industry Aint $h!t”