Come out to Market Day this Sunday!

Cultural Expressions, St. Maarten’s monthly cultural newsletter, is hosting its second annual Argicultural Music Festival and Community Market Day this weekend, and everyone is invited. It will be an all-day event with food and fun and deejays and live music.

Expect some of the best local musicians, including Michael Parris, King James and Astatic to perform alongside DeeJ Blaze and Mixmaster Pauly, among other top performers. Acha will be headlining the day-long event. Other music providers will include Uniq Sound, Jack the Hot One and Hearted Lion Sound. There will be food from vendors and games for the family throughout the day.

Cultural Expressions is a free newsletter that is printed each month and shares opinions of cultural practices including gardening, hygiene and lifestyle. Their tagline is “We don’t report news. We report culture.” Spaceless Gardens is a community gardening initiative that allows residents to grow and buy wholesome, locally-produced herbs and vegetables at low cost.

The second annual Agricultural Music Festival and Community Market Day happens this Sunday, July 23, at St. Peters Community Centre, from 11am to 11pm.

New Heights @ Temptation

Summer’s here, it is time for some summer lovin’ and where can love be portrayed best, nowhere better than dining at Temptation.

We had heard about a new summer menu at Temptation, and were very keen to try it out – all right, let’s be honest here; I had heard about the new summer menu, and therefore put it to my nearest and dearest that we should possibly try it out. The proposal was accepted with alacrity; not surprising as it is one of our most favourite classy places to dine at.

The dining area has been increased, the entrance door has been moved back and a wall opened up, so what was the outdoor seating area is now part of the dining room. The piano is situated between the two dining areas and beautiful piano music is played during the meal. Talk about this being a romantic spot!

The entire dining room is classically done out in mute tones of whites and beiges; there are pops of colour on the walls now from gorgeous pictures painted by Roland Richardson, one of the island’s most well-known painters, and of course, the waterfall windows still capture the essence of peacefulness, a wee oasis in a busy world.

Seated in a cosy nook at a beautifully laid table, and served by one of the fabulous wait staff, we made our dinner choices. This was actually quite hard to do, as everything on the menu is good. Should we order some old friends, or go for something new? Should we each order the same course, because we don’t want to share our plates this time or should we get something different – well, the later choice won, we each got different plates throughout the meal.

I love the understated napkin decoration at each place setting; real linen napkins tied with a little raffia and a small sprig of parsley tucked in, sets the tone for the evening. A basket of house-made bread with a basil oil dip arrived in double quick time along with our aperitif

Our first course arrived and we were sent straight to that immortal place of taste heaven. The cold and hot soup was so delightful. The soup was half and half with cold gazpacho and warm black bean adjacent in the bowl, the crab cake and crisp corn kernels brought the two flavours meltingly together. The other starter came served in a half coconut shell; this is a truly divine take on sashimi with tuna and shrimp and a crisp Indian papadum adorning the dish. Chef Dino is a master at combining flavours from different cuisines.


Our mains were as sublime; I am not generally a fan of ordering entrées, preferring to have my own little tasting menu by ordering two or three starters, but at Temptation I am never disappointed with the entrée. On this occasion we both enjoyed a fish dish. I had Roasted Branzino with Caribbean spices, this Mediterranean Sea bass that came straddling a Paella-style risotto. This was a divine dish, slightly salted (which I love) and cooked perfectly, I would order this time and again. The other fish dish was Bay of Fundy Salmon fillet, a Northern Atlantic cold-water fish. Cooked to absolute perfection, sharing a taste was almost forbidden. The fish was accompanied by a pesto broth, eggplant caponata and mushroom risotto. We also indulged in Eggplant Parmigiana, a vegetarian dish heard was sooooo good, yup it was, without doubt, rather excellent.

We both demolished our own desserts too. I’ll tell you why in a few – one white chocolate panna cotta, and one apple fritters with ice cream - fitting end to a kingly meal.

Now the reason we both had desserts was that this entire, excellent repast came at a very good price. Temptation has a great summer special on at the moment – it would be remiss of me if I did not suggest you reserve a table at this restaurant. The summer special offers 2 courses for $39 and 3 courses for $45.

The wine menu is great; the aperitifs superb; Temptation has an award-winning barman and one of the best chefs creating the menu.

Info:

Temptation

103 Rhine Road, Cupecoy Bay

Telephone: 545-2254

Reservations recommended

Open Tuesday - Sunday 6:30 - 11:00pm

Ratings:

Staff friendliness: *****

Service speed: *****

Restaurant cleanliness: *****

Food quality: *****

Value for money: *****

Ambience: *****

 

Sonesta Maho Group will launch its new entertainment concept in September. The person behind it all is Shep Shephard, Director of Entertainment for Maho Group. He tells us about himself and his plans for entertainment.

Who is Shep Shepherd?

“I’m a professional, creative, and working internationally within the Art and Entertainment industry with a broad experience in entertainment creation, theatrical production and special events. I’m a creative thinker, a passionate and extremely driven individual; I’m also a karma farmer. I strongly believe in doing what you can for who you can whenever you get the chance.”

Where are you from and how did you end up on the Friendly Island?

“I was born in the Potteries, the heart of England, in 1983 to fireman Malcolm and nurse Sandra. In March 2016, I was approached by the Maho Group to join the company and head up their entertainment operation. I moved to the Island in August and have been here since.”

Education?

“I studied performance at Bretton Hall College of Art in West Yorkshire before going on to complete a Master’s Degree at Kings School in London. I originally trained as an actor, but gradually broadened my interests to include the wider aspects of production. Whilst studying, I became known for staging unique events and live performance. Since then my work has taken me around the world, working in theatres, art centres, cruise ships and resort concepts.”

Tell us about your job at Sonesta Maho?

“I joined Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten in August 2016 to oversee the Entertainment Operation at that time. I was approached by the Vice President of Resort Operations… In November the owners invited me to design and deliver a brand-new entertainment concept for Maho Group, spanning Sonesta Resorts, The Maho Village and The Casino Royale Theatre.”

Tell us about your experience in this field?

“I was always an entertainer and loved centre stage… I’ve played for lots of large audiences over the years as a Cruise Director, Compere, Radio Host and interviewer. There’ve been many personal highlights, but professionally speaking, it would be interviewing World Champion Sports Stars and Academy Awards-winning artists… Working at Yorkshire Sculpture Park where I was exposed to many incredible international artists and influential mentors, shaped me as a creative thinker.”

Tell us about the new shows?

“We’re currently developing our brand-new shows for the big launch in September, and it’s really exciting. For the high season we will have three brand-new spectacular productions, featuring aerial artists, acrobats, world champion dancers and vocalists. There will be three shows weekly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday, all at 10:00pm in Casino Royale Theatre. Presently we have two temporary shows running, MJ The Experience on Wednesdays and Dances of The World on Fridays, right after the Maho Village Carnival. In addition to this, of course, we have performances across Great Bay, Ocean Point and Maho Beach Resorts… One thing that I’ve been very clear about in building the new content is that we want the shows to be as appealing and accessible to as wide an audience as possible. We’re investing huge amounts of time, money and effort to build shows that don’t just draw people to Maho Village, but to the Island of St. Maarten.”

What do you like about your job?

“I love the creative process. It’s exciting and stimulating and there’s never two days the same. As I get older I also really enjoy watching younger people develop as performers, it can be really rewarding to invest time and effort in people and see them grow.

Also, you get to meet so many interesting people I hear some really great stories.”

What’s your personal management style?

“My door is always open and I try and listen as much as I can. I’m very strict, but at the same time fair and work hard to highlight people’s strengths so as to empower them to grow. I’m very much “you get out what you put in.”

What differentiates you from other persons in a similar profession?

“From the start of my career it’s been very important to me to gain the broadest experience possible from the industry. I’ve developed a wealth of knowledge from hands on experience, some exceptional mentors and always pushing myself to keep learning.

Critically I’ve never been afraid of challenging the status quo, risking new ideas or taking chances. This is what being a true creative is about, not repeating old formulas. You can’t be afraid of failure either. The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything at all”.

Challenges in the field?

“People who are afraid of change or who fail to see the bigger picture.”

Message for youngsters who want to follow in your professional path?

“Listen, learn and pick great mentors. My Dad always told me: “if you can’t learn from the person next to you it’s your fault not theirs.” I really believe in this sentiment and it’s always served me well. The more you practice the luckier you get so never give up. Be yourself, be bold, make lots of mistakes and learn from them - everyone is a lesson.”

What else are you involved in outside of work?

“There’s an outside of work - what is this place?

Pet peeve?

“Laziness and negativity, get on board or get outta the way. Life’s too short!”

Also people who say “we’ve always done it like this.”

Hobbies?

Music… walking the dogs really relaxes me and playing with Lego too. I’m basically a massive child. I’m passionate about all visual arts so I love galleries, the theatre, cinema and festivals etc.”

What’s your favourite type of music – what artistes do you listen to?

“As I mentioned I really enjoy all genres of music but especially soul and motown, swing and great pop music… There’s always lots of Sinatra playing in my house.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party who would they be and what would you cook for them?

“Frank Sinatra, he changed the face of popular music and politics for several generations and was an incredible story teller. Robin Williams, one of my all-time favourite comedic performers - he’s a million guests in one. And Barack Obama, I think he’s been one of the most inspirational leaders of modern times and we need him back. We’re going to order in Chinese so I can focus on pouring the drinks and picking the music.”

Finding perfection in imperfection

Martine Loubser did not have what many would call a conventional upbringing. For the first fifteen years of her life, she lived on a 44-foot boat with her parents and older brother. Yet, for Martine this was her ‘normal’ and included driving a dinghy to school and sailing from island to island during school vacations.

She accredits her creative drive to her mom, who till today loves anything that requires innovation and creativity.  “My mother, brother and I were always making something. “Sure living on a boat means that you should utilize everything you can, but getting creative was also our form of entertainment”

After high school, Martine followed her passion and graduated with a degree in Illustration from Arts University Bournemouth. Today she is freelancing as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator on Sint Maarten, figuring out her next step into exploring the arts.

Why do you think art is important?

Ha-ha, this is a hard question! I think art means different things to different people, but it definitely serves as a way to connect us. Art brings people together and allows us to share and exchange things about ourselves, our values, and our thoughts. It’s a reflection of our humanity, and I think expressing that is really important.

When did you decide to make art your career?

It took me a while to make that choice. After high school, I did not really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something I loved. Art is often not really seen as a ‘feasible’ career option, so I hesitated on following that route.

Instead, I worked for two years in the yachting industry, in a position that was not creative at all. I think it gave me the understanding that being creative is an integral part of who I am. So I looked into art-based programs and applied to The Arts University of Bournemouth.

What was the most valuable skill you learned during your art studies?

Problem, solving! I had pictured going to art school and learning to use tools and techniques, but it actually focused more on the ‘why’ and less on the ‘how’. It was great. I did not just learn how to ‘problem solve’ in art, but I think many of the processes we went through could really be applied to many aspects of life.

What kind of art inspires you?

There are so many! I love loose, evocative sketches with a lot of movement, like those by Toulouse-Lautrec or Valentin Serov, but I also love the simplicity and humour in the work of an artist like Jean Julien. I think what’s most inspiring is passion, in whatever form. If art makes me feel the passion experienced by the person who created it, it inspires me.

Why do you like ‘creating’?

Most of the time, I have a chaos of thoughts in my head. When I create, it allows me to organize and express them by creating something tangible; a drawing or sculpture maybe.

It is like therapy and a pure expression of myself. The product usually doesn’t end up the way I initially planned it, but that’s the best part. I think I would describe myself as a perfectionist, but art has taught me that perfection actually lies in imperfection! I love that.

I have seen a lot of your drawings, is that what you specialize in?

I do love drawing and it is a comfortable means of expression for me, but actually, I have used a lot of different techniques during my art career, and hope to use many more. At the moment I am very into film, so it would be great to explore my next project through that medium.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

I think I am still on a journey of really finding my ‘signature’ as an artist, but whatever I do, I’d want it to have positive effects on others.

Lately, I’ve been exploring the notion that we all regularly experience loneliness, doubt, and disappointment, but we often only want to expose the best of ourselves. This isn’t a bad thing, but I think it would be great if we were more comfortable with showing weakness as well. I think if this happened, it would be easier to support and understand one another. Maybe I could create something about that.

  

You can invite three people over for dinner. Who are they? What will you serve them? What will you discuss?

So many choices! Maybe Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and Franz Kafka. It would be like a surprise party - we’d have cake and champagne, and I’d get to tell them how hugely celebrated and influential their work became after they passed away.

Check out Martine’s art out at www.martineloubser.com

By Laura Bijnsdorp

Yotam Sandak is best described as an avid traveller, musician and photographer. The roguishly handsome artist has been to many corners on his journey to balancing and pursuing all of these passions. Today, he is either in Sint Maarten, on stage rocking out on his guitar or otherwise off-island at a luxury fashion shoot surrounded by models.

Yotam grew up in Tev Avis, Israel, to parents who had run away from the war in Europe, as many other Jews at the time. Contrary to the man I know, he describes himself as a ‘shy’ kid. He fell in love with photography at a young age: “I was seven when my uncle gave me a stack of National Geographic magazines. I lost hours of time just staring at the many amazing photographs. It made me very curious about the world.”

It was the 80’s and photo cameras were very expensive, and thus not a usual consumer item at the time. The only people who owned cameras were the rich, photographers and architects; his mom was the latter. “When I was about twelve, my mom allowed me to use her camera once in a while on family trips. Soon, I was ‘borrowing’ her camera so often that she gave it to me. I was fascinated with the human condition and so people became my favourite subject to photograph” Yotam remembers.

At 15, photography had to make way for Yotam’s newfound love of music. Yotam delved into not just playing music, but producing and managing artists as well. In search of adventure, Yotam ended up in Cape Town, where he studied sound engineering and furthered his career in the music business for eight years. Yotam: “Those were some amazing, but also tough years. I was working and performing 24/7. It wasn’t strange that I eventually got a burn-out.”

So Yotam took a break and started to work behind a bar, and as many a story evolve, he met a girl. Yotam grins: “She was a travel journalist, I fell in love, she inspired my photography, and we became a team and started to travel together.” The love story did not last that long, but Yotam’s renewed love of photography did not fade together with the romance. It might’ve been serendipity or Yotam’s charm that struck, but on Yotam’s first day back in Cape Town, he met another girl.

She did not offer romance, but she did offer an opportunity. “She was a stylist, and she and her team were looking for a photographer. We worked well together and she motivated me to take my craft seriously. Fashion photography is fun; it takes you to amazing locations with gorgeous models; what man would not enjoy that!?”

His photography career took Yotam to England, which was good for work, but bad for his spirit. Tired of the cold, he followed advice of another good friend, who also just happened to be a woman and went on vacation to Sint Maarten.

“At this point you might’ve noticed that women tend to steer my life, ha-ha!” Yotam smiles broadly and adds: “It was also a woman who gave me my first opportunity to work for her magazine, which spurred me to stay on Sint Maarten, and make it my base.”

Yotam has been living on the island for almost five years now, where he enjoys spending time with his friends and playing his music. Most of his work is abroad, satisfying not just his love of photography but also his wanderlust.

Although he dabbles in many forms of photography, his main income stems from fashion-related work. His work is breath-taking, but Yotam humbly does not accredit just his skills to this fact: “Fashion photography is not just about my job, which is finding the best light and angles. It is about whomever is on set, such as the client, location manager, stylist, assistant and model. Often people underestimate how much work the latter, the model, puts in. Good models are very creative people and need to know just as much as the photographer does to create a perfect visual.” These shoots often last more than 12 hours, but according to Yotam the long days are worth it once you see the completed images.

Being a fashion photographer, Yotam is obviously often surrounded by gorgeous women. Yet beauty is something the photographer says goes beyond physical appearance. Yotam: “Many of my favourite models are smart, live a healthy lifestyle, and have good relationships and care about the world. It might sound cliché, but honestly, love of self is key to true beauty.”

Check out Yotam’s work on www.yotamsandak.com.

What happens when you stop consuming sugars?

Last month and a week ago marked the beginning of what was possibly the hardest month of my life; cutting down on my sugar intake. This journey into existentialism all began with a visit to Dr. Gen. It was this trip that opened my eyes to what was really happening with my body and how my lifestyle choices were adversely affecting my health. Sick of receiving the same diagnosis from my doctor, and wondering why I couldn’t manage to be healthy for more than two weeks at a time, a close friend suggested I go to Holistic Health Care. Frustrated, but hopeful, I went for an assessment and treatment of the symptoms. Traumatized at being labelled a hypochondriac, I held close to thoughts that I was overreacting, and half expecting I’d receive my regular diagnosis.

Based on how I answered the initial questionnaire required before seeing Dr. Gen, she was able to pinpoint part of the problem. The particular issue at hand started with me consuming as many forms of gummy candies I could get my hands on, while also maintaining a diet rich in starches and even more hidden sugars. A major reason for this unhealthy lifestyle was my long stints of being too busy to eat. When it did cross my mind that would be followed up by ingesting as much food as possible to compensate for having missed those meals. If I did remember to eat, it would be a hand of gummy bears kept around to provide sugar rushes strong enough to provide energy through the day. The dangerous part of all this is that I wasn’t gaining or losing weight, so there were no real tells besides partial changes in how my brain functioned. But, don’t we all blame work and stress for how tired we are? I slept more and needed more caffeine to get me through the day. The entire visit felt like a confessional; I was drowning in sin, and Dr. Gen, the key to my absolution.

At the end of the visit I left feeling much more hopeful than I did when I first stepped in. But, how would I be able to live on a diet where even the smallest amounts of sugar were now restricted? No refined sugars or starches would pass my lips for the next 28 days. When you hear the term, sugar free, it’s often associated with artificial sweeteners that promise to be a healthier alternative to the common sugar problem. However, this was not the path I was taking. Dr. Gen signed me up for an app that would give me a list of the available foods along with a few helpful recipes to ease the user into the process of clean eating, and artificial sweeteners were not something on those lists. Why I am always stuck with the least fun projects is a mystery to me. But, here we go again.

Everyone breathing was irritating me at some point. Cutting down on sugar really caused me distress. I was constantly being bombarded with sugary indulgences, then someone in the office had the audacity to treat us to cake for their birthday. I had none and was not in the least bit happy about it. The entire survival of the first week was based solely on simply avoiding all foods that weren’t on the spectrum of a vegetable. There was a lot of hunger and there may or may not have been angry tears, so I sought help from Dr. Gen. Once she unlocked the knowledge of healthy fats, e.g. avocados, coconut oil, salmon and olive oil, the weeks got better. Weeks two and three were experimentation weeks, because once I opened up my mind to what I could have there was more room for growth and fun projects. Thanks to Pinterest and YouTube I was able to find recipes for things like gluten- and wheat-free bread; I even blended oats and created my own flour, which made cooking for myself a lot easier.

By the fourth week, my cravings were all but gone and I felt liberated. I’d lost more than fifteen pounds and all my symptoms had subsided or completely disappeared. Aside from my clothes not fitting anymore, or sugar tasting like acid now, I’m pretty content with the choice I made to stick with it. I’m currently working on a proper balance between my sugar intake, as well as no sugar at all. It’s a process; slowly but surely hopefully I’ll get to a point where I don’t even crave sugar at all. 

Staying Safe in a Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms are nature’s own firework shows. They can be spectacular, with dazzling flashes of lightning, rolling booms of thunder and the heavy beat of the rain on the roof. Many kids (and adults) are frightened of thunderstorms. Lightning can be dangerous, so let’s find out how to stay safe.

Although it is something that happens fairly rarely, lightning can strike people. The safest thing to do when a thunderstorm approaches is to immediately go inside a sturdy building with four walls, for example a classroom or your house. When inside, avoid touching any electrical items that are plugged into the wall, like a landline phone or a desktop computer, because lightning can pass down electrical wires. Oftentimes, your parents may unplug electrical items in the house during a thunderstorm to protect them from surges caused by lightning strikes. It’s best to avoid the sink and the shower until the storm has passed. Open-sided buildings such as baseball dugouts are not a safe place to be in a thunderstorm.

Another safe place to shelter during a thunderstorm is inside a metal vehicle with a hard roof, like a car or a bus. Once you are inside the vehicle, close the windows and sit with your hands in your lap. If the vehicle is struck by lightning, the lightning passes through the metal shell and out into the ground, and anyone inside is safe. When inside the vehicle, don’t touch metal parts such as the key ignition or the radio because metal conducts electricity.

Stay in your safe building or vehicle for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

As water conducts electricity, it is important to immediately get out of a swimming pool or the ocean if a thunderstorm is coming. You should move well away from the water. Lightning tends to strike at the highest point, so never remain standing on an open playing field, and never shelter under a tree.

It is perfectly normal for some kids to feel nervous during a thunderstorm; after all the thunder can be very loud and the lightning flashes very bright. If you feel scared, you can sit and talk with an adult, play with your pets or wear ear plugs until the storm has passed. You may find that your pets get nervous in storms too, and you may have to soothe them to keep them calm. Remember it may take a while, but the storm will pass.

You can tell roughly how far a storm is away by counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the next boom of thunder. Take that number and divide it by 3. That will give you the approximate distance the storm is away from you in kilometres. You can use this method to figure out if a thunderstorm is moving closer or moving away from your location.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States has a good slogan to remember: “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

Parents don't get it... but kids do!

What is the dab, what is the bolt, what is the difference and why do we do them?

The DAB: It started out as an urban dance move, and has evolved into a pose symbolizing humble accepting of praise... it's like taking a bow, but not as stiff, old fashioned, and certainly way cooler looking.

Technique: partially bent knees, one slightly forward, place your face in the corner of your elbow (above the forward knee), point both your hands back.

Where it started: The hip hop scene of the city of Atlanta around 2013. In 2015, the Whip Nae Nae song sung by a 13-year-old Silento of Atlanta, incorporated the dance pose into the lyrics and the introduction to younger generations was compete.

Its impact:  Possibly the most popular dance move of the past 2 years, pop culture has absorbed and mass-distributed this pose. Even famous soccer players are dabbing after they score a goal!

The BOLT: Made recognizable by the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, this pose took off in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics when he used it as his signature gold medal move. This move is also characterized as a proud moment pose.

Technique: wide stance both knees bent, right arm across the chest, left arm parallel to right arm but slightly higher, pointing up and looking in that direction.

Where it started: The move also has its origins in music, namely the Jamaican dancehall scene of 2008. When Usain made it famous, Jamaica incorporated it into travel commercials for the country.

Its impact: You know it's cool when President Obama, Richard Branson and Prince Harry have been caught striking a bolt! Bolt later used this move to promote tourism to his homeland Jamaica in 'Come to Jamaica' promo video.

So what is the difference?

Well, the bolt takes a little longer to perform and is pegged to great human achievement and pride. The DAB is a casual dance move that is way more of a daily response. Both cool.

Which one is better? You decide!

Sun sets at 6:49pm

Sun rises at 5:47am

Moon phase: New Moon, virtually absent

 

Any moonless summer evening such as tonight and tomorrow night, you can look toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It’s located in the direction of Sagittarius the Archer. Like most constellations, it’s a pattern of stars that doesn’t look much like its namesake. We generally find other groups within the constellation to help us recognize what we are looking for, such as the three stars in a row to find Orion the Hunter.

 

The constellation Sagittarius happens to contain one such easily-recognizable pattern of stars – it’s called “the Teapot” and it makes up the western half of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Modern eyes have an easier time envisioning a teapot than an Archer with a drawn-out bow. Astronomers call these simple star patterns asterisms.

 

For us in St. Maarten, just look south during the evening hours for this star pattern. The Teapot currently stands in the upright position, although sometimes it is in the “pouring out” position. Study the photos here to learn the pattern to look for. And note that right now the planet Saturn shines nearby, just a few degrees to the right or west of Sagittarius.

 

Between the Teapot and Saturn, you’ll see a broad boulevard of stars – hazy from the muted light of stars not seen. How many stars are in our Milky Way Galaxy? They say 100 billion! Our sun is just one of those!

 

If you find a really dark sky, away from any street lights and cars, you will be able to see the edgewise view of our galaxy – which broadens and brightens in the direction of the galaxy’s center. We can’t really see the galactic center. It’s heavily veiled by intervening stars, star clusters and nebulae (vast clouds of gas and dust). The center of our Milky Way looms some 26,000 light-years away. But we can gaze toward this direction in space, and – if your sky is dark enough – it’s a sight to behold!

 

Another asterism, which we learned last weekend, is the Summer Triangle asterism. This huge star pattern is fairly high in the eastern sky at nightfall. It consists of three brilliant stars – Vega, Deneb and Altair – you remember that from last week, right?

 

If you are otherwise lost on some starry night but can find the Summer Triangle, let this signpost star formation escort you to the Teapot. By the way, Sagittarius the Archer – and its Teapot asterism – lie next to the constellation Scorpius.

 

Also starting on Thursday of this week and on through next weekend, treat yourself to one of nature’s spectacles. It’s time for the Delta Aquariid meteor shower. The Delta Aquarids don’t have as definite a peak as the better known August Perseids. This shower will produce a steady supply of meteors, which you can see in dark skies from Thursday through the next weekend. We have should still have dark enough skies for watching the Delta Aquariids, which are at their best in dark hours before dawn. You might see as many as 10 to 15 rather faint meteors per hour.

 

The Delta Aquarid shower reaches its nominal peak every year in late July. They’ll still be flying when the Perseids peak in August.The Perseid shower is expected to produce the greatest number of meteors on the night of August 11-12 or 12-13, 2017. However, the waning gibbous moon will obtrude on the Perseid show in 2017.

 

Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email lisa@thedailyherald.com

The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the Caribbean region has prompted leaders of the Caribbean Community to issue a declaration indicating their commitment to implement measures to reduce this burden. Individual citizens, as well as states, bear the cost of this group of diseases. Secretary General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque refers to “estimates that suggest that NCDs cost our region anywhere between two and five per cent of GDP”. In addition, a sobering statistic is that NCDs such as diabetes and high blood pressure account for more than 60 per cent of deaths in the Caribbean. At the 4th July 2017 CARICOM summit in Grenada the leaders of the region decided to move forward collectively with a strong commitment to reach the goals of the Port of Spain declaration issued 10 years ago of “Uniting to stop the epidemic of Chronic Non-Communicable diseases.”

Caribbean countries have not been idle during those ten years. Individual states have implemented programmes to help reduce NCDs. They certainly have been treating the illnesses and focussing on education about and prevention of such diseases. I think most citizens of the region keep hearing the term non-communicable diseases on the media and know to what it refers. Even non- government organisations provide information and there are frequent opportunities in St Kitts and Nevis for testing of blood sugar and blood pressure and accompanying advice by health professionals. Church groups invite speakers and doctors visit the topics often enough on their radio programmes. However the region is apparently still struggling to make an impact in the fight against NCDs.

The Caribbean countries would prefer to be leading the world in more positive areas such as economic growth rather than poor health statistics. Dr. Alafia Samuels, Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, University of the West Indies, and head of a wide-ranging evaluation of the Port-of-Spain Declaration says “the statistics are quite shocking. Our soda consumption is the highest in the world. In some countries more than 30% of young people are overweight or obese. Our diabetes rates are double global rates and in some populations up to 50% of us are living with high blood pressure. It is clear that we need to accelerate our response.” No doubt the evaluation of our progress in fighting NCDs 10 years after we started in Port of Spain has prompted a need for a more robust response. 

One aim of the newest declaration is for countries who have not yet done so to immediately introduce legislation to “limit or eliminate smoking in public places, ban the sale, advertising and promotion of tobacco products to children.” This legislation should also insist on proper labelling of tobacco products and encourage the use of taxes to reduce “accessibility of tobacco.” This is really in step with international measures taken to reduce harmful effects of tobacco on the health of smokers and non-smokers. Although some people hold the view that this type of legislation amounts to restrictions on personal choices others rebut that it is the same government that often has to bear the costs of healthcare for those affected by tobacco related and other non-communicable diseases. A further argument is that another person’s choice to smoke should not be allowed to create a health hazard for others who themselves have chosen not to smoke. That is a powerful response indeed and in any case a ban on smoking in public spaces does not remove the right or choice to smoke it just limits the locations available for such activity.

Other activities or physical activity on the whole is also being encouraged. It is unfortunate that we in the Caribbean have allowed ourselves to become so sedentary that governments have to consider developing policies to get citizens to become physically active. It is difficult to imagine that governments will have to “mandate the re-introduction of physical education in our schools where necessary”. This stems from the apparent increase in childhood obesity and the unfortunate occurrence of type 2 diabetes in children. Reports seem to indicate that childhood obesity is a global phenomenon. The obesity is blamed on unhealthy food choices and on lack of physical activity. Although my observation is that at recess time at some primary schools the grounds are filled with running, squealing children and a ball comes sailing over the fence often enough. The primary schools also have organised sports programmes and most of them have football, netball and cricket teams. This may not be the normal school programme in every CARICOM state however. It is still evident though that some children prefer their video games to actual sports. Some readers may well recall the endless activities they organised for themselves especially during these upcoming long school vacations; roaming the hillsides picking fruits, walking to the beach to go swimming, making toys, having long cricket matches. Children are still active but they definitely used to be more active.

Overall the food may be more to blame than the lack of activity especially in younger children. The Caribbean leaders are trying preventive measures from both angles – increasing physical activity and providing healthy food choices. They can make a difference on both fronts especially where school meals are served. Governments have declared their aim to ensure that their “education sectors promote programmes aimed at providing healthy school meals and promoting healthy eating.” The schools will need the cooperation and will have to educate parents as well to ensure that unhealthy eating at home does not negate the healthy eating in schools.

Social changes have contributed to changes in eating habits and in levels of physical activity. With the increase in crime and especially the introduction of gangs into our communities parents would be reluctant to allow long periods of self-organised and unsupervised outdoor play as used to occur in the past. As far as food is concerned the introduction of fast food outlets in the countries has created a demand and a source of unhealthy foods. Consumption of these global brands is sometimes a convenience and sometimes a means of showing that you have the means to purchase such branded food bearing the internationally recognised names. I suppose as we earn more we are able to spend more on fast foods and we are also able to afford the gadgets that may attract our children away from physical activity. However where food is concerned all the blame as regards unhealthy eating cannot be heaped on fast food outlets. Our Caribbean tastes somehow favour salty foods as well as sweet foods. The drive should be towards reduction of salt and sugar and moderation in general.

While schools will focus on physical education the CARICOM governments are intent on getting the entire population more active using different means including sport, activities “at work sites’ and even “mass activities”. For those who object to being told where to smoke I wonder how they would react if the government were to say that office workers have to come from behind their desks and into the parking lot for their daily 15 minute physical activity session. I doubt whether there would be such a mandatory session. That is just my imagination but it is an interesting picture. Activities would be voluntary but the workplace may provide a facility for exercise or may provide a fitness tutor for lunch break exercise. We have seen the images of workers en masse performing Tai chi. Some businesses offer such classes to their workers as businesses like governments have realised that physically active and healthy workers reduce costs and can improve productivity.

We can really accomplish most of these healthy goals on our own. We can exercise more, eat more healthy foods and reduce consumption of tobacco. The Caribbean leaders are not convinced that we will take such steps toward a healthier lifestyle so they are prepared to offer assistance to their populations to make changes to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases. It is a big decision and it will take some time for habits to change although the concern and statistics declare some urgency.

By Terry Nisbett

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