Tag Archives: Caribbean

Mayaro Virus … as if Chikungunya and Zika weren’t enough!

Thanks to Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge for informing me of the existence of this new mosquito-borne virus recently discovered in Haiti. Mayaro is “closely related to the chikungunya virus” as we discover in this article posted in the MiamiHerald on Sept. 15, 2016: A new mosquito-borne illness has been detected in Haiti.

As most of my readers know, I contracted, and suffered from, the Chikungunya virus in July, 2014. Two years later and I realize I haven’t noticed any further symptoms of late (knock on wood!) but I do know of others who continue to have problems. And, in the meantime, Zika has also swept through the Caribbean. Now there’s another virus to be concerned about, just as I head back to Bequia for the winter. Hoo boy!

I’ve posted a number of articles previously to this blog (scroll down that page for the complete series) about both Chikungunya and Zika and will now be adding this new post to that list. Far from these viruses having run their course, I’ve found a number of readers have been making their way to my blog looking for information and clicked on these articles I’ve written after searching with phrases such as “unable to stand up properly due to chikunguniya” and “no hunger after chikungunya” and “numbness of arm chikangunya or dengue” – and that’s just in the past couple of days!! Over the two years since I began writing about Chikungunya, this topic has been among the most popular of anything I’ve posted. Obviously people are still suffering, and are still having trouble finding answers and treatment.

So I post this new information now, not to be alarmist, but so that people will become better informed as to what’s happening out there. As always, the best cure for any of these viruses is preventing mosquito bites in the first place. So if you are heading to a tropical destination be sure to use repellents and clean up any standing water where mosquitoes love to breed.

Perhaps in the long term, the experts will discover a means of ridding us of these viruses altogether. Let’s hope it happens sooner, and before another virus mutates and develops.

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One Woman’s Island – and more comments from advance readers!

About the Bequia Perspectives series of novels …

Whether intentional or not, there seems to be a huge character quietly looming across your book series: Bequia, the island herself. Each book, even though different, reveals more and more about her as a character and a force. Quite cool.
~ Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, blogger

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I am close to finishing preparation of the One Woman’s Island manuscript … Just waiting for a couple of recipes to come in. In the meantime, I have received more praise from advance readers I wish to share with you. This is in addition to earlier blogposts both here and here!

Susan Toy’s new novel, One Woman’s Island is: lively; startling; creepy; funny; shocking; sad; insightful – and engaging from start to finish.

~ Ann Ireland, prize-winning author of novels, A Certain Mr. Takahashi, The Instructor, Exile and The Blue Guitar

I enjoyed your book. While at first I was expecting a murder mystery with interesting characters searching for clues like the last one I read, this one was a book of interesting character development with a side dish of murders. The title definitely fits for several reasons – which you realize as you read/finish.

Joan and Solfrid were delightfully fully developed quickly even though they were not the important characters. Tex and Mariana unfolded much more slowly by design. (She did finally find that one to sit down and talk books with – much to her surprise – and so late). That mysterious story opening finally explained – after you had almost forgotten about it. Clever construction.

This with it’s theme/messages should appear perfectly timed with today’s society. In fact was having a discussion this week with a blogger about well meaning people blundering in and trying to “fix” something without having a clue about the reality of a place or situation. I kept thinking, “She needs to read Susan’s book.” Susan states it so clearly.

Between the recipes, assorted characters, and the universal timeless message, the book should be a winner for book clubs. I will certainly recommend it to a couple once it’s out.

I love your writing style and humor and really appreciate you sending me a copy to read.

Whether intentional or not, there seems to be a huge character quietly looming across your book series: Bequia, the island herself. Each book, even though different, reveals more and more about her as a character and a force. Quite cool.

~ Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, blogger

Andrea’s Journey on South Branch Scribbler!

Thanks so much to Allan Hudson who is featuring my writing, yet again, on his blog, South Branch Scribbler!

I’m very pleased to release the short story, Andrea’s Journey, into the wild of the internet. While I wrote the story many, many years ago, this is the first time it’s had a public showing. It has gone through a long dormant period and a number of revisions, as well as a complete rewriting and editing. I hope you enjoy this final version.

thXXREGYQ1 You may read Allan’s blog and Andrea’s Journey in its entirety here.

I have been a guest on Allan’s blog 5 times now! Allan has also now posted 4 of my short stories that might not otherwise have been read, had he not given me the platform of his blog. So thanks for all you do for other writers, Allan!

Here are the links to my previous SBS visits:
Interview
50 Ways to Lose Your Liver
Another Day in Paradise
Family Jewels

Allan Hudson has also been featured on my promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, and has always been very supportive of his fellow writers! I encourage you to visit Allan’s blog and read his writing, as well!

… better than winning a contest!!

While contest judges may not have considered my novel worthy enough to make their shortlist, I’ve just received far-better validation from a friend who offered to read and write an advance review I can now use in pre-publication promotion.

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And what validation and praise it is, coming from an author who also intimately knows Bequia!

Thanks to Felicity Harley who I promoted previously on Reading Recommendations, and who sent me congratulations on Reading Recommendations‘ anniversary, and wrote a guest post about her two book clubs, and wrote a fabulous review on Amazon of Island in the Clouds … which is how we first “met” online, and since then in person this year while we were both on Bequia.

Here’s what Felicity has to say about One Woman’s Island:

Among its other virtues, One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. I also enjoyed the fact that the author’s ear for the local dialogue is faultless.

Besides its lush and exotic setting however, throughout its pages, the book accurately and with pathos reflects the end of an unsatisfactory marriage for narrator Mariana, who is constantly searching for something meaningful to take its place.

There are a slew of interesting characters in the book as well, including a talking parrot and the visitor from hell.

As Mariana tries to sort out her own life, she takes a young girl, Verity, and her two children under her wing, and is criticized about her “plan” in no uncertain terms by Al, one of the die-hard ex-pats who live there:

“I’m so sick and tired of you do-goodnik, butt-in-ski foreigners who come here with your socialist attitudes thinking life should be a bed of roses for everyone in the world. It’s not. What you don’t understand about Bequia is while it doesn’t have an organized social safety net like what you’re used to in pinko Canada, the people here do generally look after their own—maybe not to the level of your satisfaction, but there haven’t been any cases of people starving to death from neglect on this island lately, so far as I know. Am I right, Doc?”

Besides having interesting and believable characters, there is also a fast-moving plot that keeps the reader engaged, including several murders taking place over the course of the winter months Mariana is staying on Bequia.

Perhaps the heart and soul of the book is summed up at the end by Mariana and Tex, a fast-talking, larger-than-life guy with a heart of gold, and one of my favorite characters:

“When I came here last October, I thought Bequia was going to be paradise, Tex,” I said quietly.

“Here’s how I see it: any place you are can be paradise. It’s all in your mind; it’s whatever you want it to be.”

With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and underlying seriousness of questions so skillfully raised, One Woman’s Island is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are already familiar with Bequia.

But for those of us like myself who are familiar with the setting, we’ll enjoy the island the author presents in her book as one we’ve come to know and love, despite its all-too-human complexities.

I’d better get cracking and prepare that MS for ePublication! And I now have my “quotable quote” with that second-last paragraph. It’s perfect for advertising copy!!

Thanks, Felicity! I just can’t thank you enough!

Guest Post: Rick Bergh on How Our Children’s Books Ended Up in Haiti

Rick Bergh has been featured previously on Reading Recommendations, first in March 2016 and again in April. He’s back now to tell us how it is that his children’s books are now being read by Haitian children!

Rick and Erica Bergh

Rick and Erica Bergh

How Our Children’s Books Ended Up in Haiti

I love how life surprises us when we least expect it.

My wife, Erica, and I had completed two of our children’s books and brought them to our annual Boxing Day gathering – a wonderful family tradition on my mother’s side, which I have not missed in 56 years.

My cousin, Mark, purchased a few copies of these books (after all, you expect your family to buy your books, right?).

Little did I know those children’s books would find their way to an orphanage in Haiti! All the way from Calgary, Alberta!

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s no big deal …” But it was for me. Let me explain.

Over ten years ago, my daughter, Keeara, went to volunteer at the very same orphanage – she was an 18-year-old girl trying to figure out her next step in life. Her time in Haiti coincided with her mom’s struggle with cancer. So the whole family was in transition and wondering what the future would hold.

Pam, her mom, said “Keeara, go and volunteer at this orphanage.” She did and it changed her life forever. She became an elementary school teacher as a result.

Fast forward 11 years and my cousin’s daughter, Emily, is now volunteering at the same orphanage. We did not make the connection until I asked Emily what orphanage she was going to and it was the exact same one where Keeara had worked.

IMG_6067WOW! So, now Emily is reading these stories to the children – the same stories that I made up and told to my children, including Keeara. Our next book due to be published soon is actually about Keeara (Stretchy Cheese Pizza) and her son, Connor.

And now Emily was reading these same stories I told our children when they lay in bed asking me to tell them a story. Fascinating that it was not long ago when an 18-year-old-Keeara was reading books to these special children in Haiti. And now, they will soon be reading stories about her and her son, Connor.

We are sending copies over for the children in Haiti to read as soon as the new book is published in June. The stories come full circle!

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Not quite a coffee farmer … yet

Almost two-and-a-half years ago, Dennis became interested in growing coffee and wrote this blog post, Roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia, for me. That proved to be a very popular post, as a matter of fact! Then last Sept., we wrote another post on the coffee bean production here at The View: An update on roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia.

So here we are, another 7 months later, and we have good news! No, don’t run away to plug in your grinder and boil water just yet! But there have been significant developments in the two surviving bushes in our garden, as shown in the following photos …

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Although perhaps this development is not fast-enough for Dennis’s liking.

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A farmer out standing in his field …

He did manage to harvest a few beans from the first growth last fall, though … about 3 or 4 “cherries”, to be precise. And once they were dried and ready, they were planted in Jan., and have been slowly growing into 8 more coffee bushes that will eventually be planted out sometime later in the year – or possibly next spring. A coffee drinker needs the patience of Job to be able to withstand the waiting time it takes to grow enough beans just for one pot of coffee!!

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Zika is the new Chikungunya … an update

Not to be alarmist or anything, but …

NO! I DO WANT TO BE ALARMIST WITH THIS BLOG!!!

I’m reblogging a post I wrote in June 2015, part of my series about the virus Chikungunya that so many of us suffered from in 2014, and that some are still suffering from today, if the number of hits those posts continue to receive is any indication.

Last June, a brand new mosquito-borne virus named Zika was beginning to enter the Caribbean. At that time, we were told that it was a “Chikungunya or Dengue Fever-like” virus, but we had no idea then of the long term effects this particular virus would have on pregnant women who contracted it and the babies they subsequently gave birth to.

Here’s a report from Barbados of their first documented case.

And a more recent report: Three Zika virus cases confirmed In Barbados

And an absolutely alarming video of what’s been happening with babies born since last June … It’s reported that there have been over 3500 such births in Brazil alone!!

And finally, a report released today by the CDC that the first cases have been reported in the US.

Following is the blog post I wrote back in June 2014, and in all this time not one word has come from the St. Vincent Government by way of warning to citizens and tourists, and there have been no plans discussed as to how we will be better prepared this time to combat these blasted mosquitoes that are carrying the new virus. Other than the NGO Rise Up Bequia posting to its Facebook site, I have seen nothing at all about this virus. You’d think they would have learned from Chikungunya, right?

Perhaps now that the US has reported cases, our local Caribbean governments will begin to take this new virus much more seriously and we won’t be caught as we were with Chikungunya, essentially closing the barn door after the horses had already escaped.

And a word of advice to the authorities … fogging with chemicals has never, ever worked to eradicate mosquitoes in the past. All it does is kill off the honey bees and poison the rest of us on the island. We need to clean up all standing water and any places where mosquitoes breed. And every citizen must become vigilant about this. We can’t afford to wait for the government to do this for us. We also can’t hide our heads in the sand again, claiming that this will scare away the tourists. We owe it to those tourists to be honest, to warn them of the dangers involved should they contract any virus, and let them decide whether they want to take the risk. Really, there would be little risk involved, if they are made aware of the need to always use insect repellent – and (a BIG if here) if the people of the Caribbean do as much as they can to clean up the environment and diminish the number of mosquitoes.

So, yes, alarmist, but I believe the alarm is necessary. I would not want anyone to have to go through what I did with Chikungunya. I still have problems with pain in my shoulder, a full year-and-a-half after I first contracted the virus. NO ONE needs to be unnecessarily exposed to any virus, since we really do have the means to rid our islands of mosquitoes.

Here’s my blog post from last June:

At the very least, this new virus has a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce. But it’s still yet-another virus the Caribbean region must contend with, and only a short while after declaring that ChikV was over and done with in most islands.

12-year-old girl first in the Caribbean to contract the Zika virus 

It was less than a year ago I contracted ChikV when I returned to Bequia for a few weeks to spell Dennis while he paid a visit to Canada. Throughout the months of suffering … and yes, I do not use the word “suffering” lightly! … I wrote about the virus in a number of blog posts (collected here) that received a great deal of attention from around the world and comments written by others who had also contracted the virus while they were visiting, or living in, the Caribbean region, and who now took comfort in the knowledge they were not alone, that they were likely not going to die, and that they would eventually, eventually recover and feel “normal” again.

Well, here I am, writing this 11 months later, and I can honestly say I am feeling about 96% recovered, the only lingering pain being that soreness that seems to be inside the very bones of my right shoulder. That still bothers me every once in a while (just last night, again), but is not excruciating or debilitating, just annoying.

So you may understand my trepidation with the announcement of this new easier-to-spell-and-pronounce virus, Zika. I am gun-shy about travelling to the Caribbean again any time soon. While I currently sit in the woods of Ontario, surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes, I at least know these are the non-virus-bearing variety. Besides, they’re also large enough to carry away a small dog and move so slowly I have a fair chance of actually swatting and killing them before they can manage to bite. It seems like more of a fair fight to me. The mosquitoes on Bequia are sneaky and have a way of beating all our attempts to eradicate them – especially the fogging with poisonous chemicals, which was the only attempt made by the government to deal with Chikungunya last year, and instead resulted in the kill-off of part of the bee population. The mosquitoes themselves somehow managed to dodge that bullet. What stopped the further spread of the virus was that nearly everyone on the island contracted it and, since the virus could not be spread from human to human, it eventually died out, naturally. This is what’s called “herd immunity”.

Let’s hope Caribbean health authorities and governments learned from their mistakes last year in dealing with ChikV and, instead of hiding their heads in the sand (believing that by doing so they were somehow protecting their tourist industry), they take immediate action to stop the spread of Zika, the new kid on the beach, before it gets a foothold. No one … NO ONE! should be made to suffer again as we all did last year with Chikungunya. Bad enough already we have to contend with the constant threat of Dengue (which I have had), Malaria, West Nile, and all the other mosquito-borne diseases, fevers, threats, than to be worried about Zika, as well.

And we can begin eradicating viruses such as Zika by educating the people! This blog post, and the other earlier posts I wrote about ChikV, are my attempt to spread the word to help stop the spread of the virus. Please share this, and my other posts, wherever possible so that many more people read and hear about these mosquito-borne viruses and learn to take proper precautions.

SPREAD THE WORD TO STOP THE SPREAD OF ZIKA!
(How’s that for a slogan?)

I want to hear from you, if you contracted Chikungunya last year and have been following my blog posts abut the virus. How are you doing? Have you now recovered? Please post a comment below and let me and my readers know of your experience. I really do want to hear from you!

From the vaults – Baking bagels and writing, April 9, 2011

Since I made a resolution not to write about writing any longer, as in how to write or get published or how to self-publish, I began digging back into old blog posts and discovered I already have quite a large number of these blogs already written, and they’re just languishing there in the vaults, dormant and unread. So I decided to begin resurrecting them and will repost (updating if need be) for the benefit of any new followers who may have missed them the first time around.

I’m trying something new here today at The View… Not baking bagels – I can`t count the number of bagels I may have churned out of this kitchen since I first tried my hand at making them. Here’s what half an order looked like when I supplied the Firefly Hotel on Mustique with 22 dozen. They were catering a Tommy Hilfiger photo shoot and asked me to pre-slice the entire order, for their ease in serving. (I think I remember cutting my hand in the process, and that I bled on a few before the rest were bagged…)

At that time, I’d tried setting up a baking business out of my house, and celebrities on Mustique, such as the late Felix Dennis, proclaimed mine to be the best bagels they’d ever tasted, or so I was told. I was baking healthy breads, using ingredients my neighbour packed down for me from Canada – nuts, seeds, special flours – that made my baked goods more expensive than what was available locally, but also unique. Unfortunately for me, my “friends” on Bequia were too cheap to pay the higher price for artisanal breads (and one even asked if I could deliver – on a 7-sq. mile island, fer cryin’ out loud!), so that shut down any pretensions I had for becoming a professional baker.

Now I bake for the sheer pleasure of it; I find all cooking to be extremely meditative. I love the entire process – poring over cookbooks, looking for new recipes to try, developing my own, and then the actual cooking/baking part, not to mention devouring the finished dish. It struck me many years ago, when I was taking the Humber Creative Writing Course online while living here in Bequia, trying to bake at the same time I was writing for Paul Quarrington, my mentor, that baking and writing are a lot alike – A LOT! I came up with a complete correlation of the two activities, and was going to share my idea on the student chat forum, but never got around to writing the damn thing down! I was reminded of it when I read Stephen King’s On Writing recently where he makes a comparison between the two activities. Double damn! My idea had not been unique after all.

But here’s another aspect where baking and writing are similar that I hadn’t thought of until writing this post today – few people are willing to pay what your “craft” is actually worth, because they refuse to value the work as highly as we creators value what we’ve created – both bakers and writers.

A long circuitous route around to my initial point for writing this blog, which is to tell you that this morning, when I decided it was time to start making bagels, I had the laptop set up on the verandah, and the file for my novel open so that I could, once again, commence eradicating adverbs from the MS. I walked into the kitchen, came up with a better way to rephrase something, went back out to the verandah to correct that, then thought – Bingo! Why not bring the computer into the kitchen, wipe the flour from my hands whenever I have another idea, or a few minutes during yeast fermenting or dough rising, when I can turn my attention back to my writing.

And that’s when I came up with the idea for writing this blog instead. So, editing avoidance extraordinaire! Only one change made so far on the novel, because I’ve been too busy writing for my blog. Plus, I keep looking up at this …

Dennis doesn’t want to light the pizza oven for me today – too much trouble, he says. (In fact, I haven’t been able to use the oven the entire time I’ve been here this time. He’s the pizza-oven builder, so he also lays claim to deciding when it can and can’t be used, it seems …) So these bagels won’t be wood-fired today. Instead I’m baking bagels, and a Pecan Pie, in the stove-oven … But, in the meantime, and while the bagel dough is spending time in the fridge before it needs to be formed, boiled and baked, maybe I’ll be able to get back to that novel editing.

Susan M. Toy on The South Branch Scribbler

Thanks to Allan Hudson for inviting me once again to take part in his weekly blog, The South Branch Scribbler, where he promotes the writing of many authors! You may read my story, Another Day in Paradise, in full here.

While you’re at it, have a look at the promotion I published for Allan on my blog, Reading Recommendations, in Feb. 2014.

Bequia – some great videos of the island!

I’ve just discovered a YouTube channel where a number of very interesting videos of Bequia have been posted! Check out each one for a good overview of what the island is all about. (And, if you know where to look, you’ll see our house in a few of them.)

Bequia Island

Bequia Island – Fort Hamilton

Sargeant’s Model Boat Shop – Bequia Island

Marco Visit Bequia Fruit Market

Port Elizabeth Town – Bequia Island

Friendship Bay Beach Bequia

Lower Bay Beach Bequia