International Parenting: Avoiding Stereotypes With ‘Rastamouse’


My son is having an international childhood. His father is a Canadian who lived for a long time in the U.S. and his mother a Spaniard who lived for a long time in England. We divide our time between Santander in Spain and Oxford in England.

One effect of this is that he has different associations for different places. England, for example, is a summer place, a small-town place where in the early morning before going to camp or the park he gets to watch TV. Spain isn’t a TV place because TV sucks in Spain. We didn’t even bother buying a TV there.

I don’t mind him watching BBC because they have some great kids’ programs. One of his favorites also helps make him more international. It’s called “Rastamouse.” Rastamouse is a mystery-solving Reggae mouse musician who always catches the bad guys. Once he does, he shows them the error in their ways and helps them make amends. Rastamouse calls this “making a bad ting good.” It’s a nice change from superheroes, who simply kick the bad guy’s ass.

“Rastamouse” is hugely popular in the UK and is coming soon to the United States. It hasn’t been without controversy, however. Some viewers think the cheese on the show is a symbol for marijuana, ignoring the fact that Rastamouse and his friends are, um, mice. A less silly complaint came from Daily Mail columnist Lindsay Johns, who in his op-ed on “Rastamouse” objects to the Jamaican patois. He says it panders to racial stereotypes and that “the BBC is leading us down the path of linguistic rack and ruin.”

“Very soon (if they aren’t already), a whole generation of primary school children will be rushing around the playground mimicking Rastamouse and saying, ‘Wha gwan?’” he writes.

So far, I have yet to hear my son imitate Rastamouse, and if he did I don’t think that would lead him to forgetting the Queen’s English. I also don’t agree with Johns’ statement that Rastamouse’s being cool means he isn’t cerebral. He solves a mystery every episode by analyzing clues.I let my son watch this show because, unlike what some of its detractors say, it actually breaks stereotypes. I have to admit to a certain amount of snickering on the part of me and my wife when we first saw this show. We kept waiting for pot references but they never came. We missed the whole cheese thing. Rastamouse creators Genevieve Webster and Michael De Souza (who is a Rastafarian) are clearly not interested in making a cult show for stoner college kids.

Our reaction made me think. While we know that most Jamaicans aren’t lazy pot smokers, we were brought up with that stereotype so it pops into our heads even if we don’t believe it. I was interested to learn from various African-American friends that in their community, Jamaicans are stereotyped as workaholics. One friend who worked briefly as a farmer in Jamaica (growing sugar cane) said he couldn’t keep up with the hard pace of his island coworkers. The TV show In Living Color did a riff on this with a series of sketches of a Jamaican family who have more than a hundred jobs between them. Every skit involved the father complaining about his “lazy, good-for-noting son who only has eight jobs.”

My son is getting a different impression of Jamaicans. For him, folks from that island speak differently but have intelligent things to say, make good music, work hard, and help their erring brothers and sisters “make a bad ting good.”

Caribbean Week Brings Music, Dance, Deals To New York City

Caribbean weekNow through June 11, Caribbean Week New York is being held at Grand Central Terminal, offering a celebration of the unique vacation experiences available in the Caribbean. Hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) the event is a chance to experience the sights, sounds and culture of island life along with some exclusive travel deals.

Travel experts from Caribbean destinations will be on hand and visitors will have opportunity to book exclusive Caribbean Week travel deals via Travelocity and American Airlines Vacations.

Part of Caribbean Week New York is the 2012 Rum and Rhythm Benefit. At this event guests will sample premium rums of the Caribbean and cuisine prepared by the region’s celebrity chefs. There is also an opportunity to experience some of the Caribbean’s award winning musicians and mixologists as guests journey from one destination to the other. A live auction will give visitors the opportunity to outbid each other for exclusive vacation packages.

At another event, one lucky couple will tie the knot at a Caribbean-themed wedding ceremony in the iconic New York City landmark. “From the bride’s dress to the wedding cake to the honeymoon, the Caribbean has spared no expense to make their Caribbean dream come true,” says the CTO on their website.

The top-rated island of St Kitts will host a honeymoon for the lucky couple including two business class tickets to St. Kitts in addition to a four-night stay at the St. Kitts Marriott, which is also providing complimentary spa treatments and more.

Performances by JAM-X Band, Danza Fiesta Salsa Dancers of Puerto Rico, Natraj Center for the Performing Arts and Braata Productions will be held throughout the week. Admission is free.

How to Organize a Caribbean Wedding



[Flickr photo by katiew]

Give Back While Traveling With These Voluntourism Hotel Packages And Programs

limelight hotel Just because Earth Day has passed doesn’t mean we should stop doing our part. In the spirit of goodwill, these hotels are offering voluntourism packages and programs for guests.

Limelight Hotel
Aspen, Colorado

Throughout the summer, the Limelight Hotel is helping guests get their hands dirty and help the environment. In partnership with the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, guests will be able to do trail work in the beautiful White River National Forest, which spans millions of acres. Volunteer tasks include trail maintenance, trail construction, invasive species removal and more. Hotel guests who participate will receive transportation, a packed lunch and beverages and a complimentary beer in the hotel lounge when they return.

Eight hour day volunteer projects are available, as well as sunset volunteer times from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Rates start at $150 per night during the summer. Call 970-544-6259 or click here to book. Westin St. John Westin St. John Resort and Villas
St. John, U.S.Virgin Islands

The Westin St. John Resort and Villas, a luxurious tropical resort, is offering incentives to guests who volunteer at the nearby Virgin Islands National Park. Volunteers will get a $100 resort credit, as well as transfers to and from the park. Project tasks include maintaining park trails and ruins and cleaning up beaches and coastlines. To sign up, you can click here or show up on Tuesday or Thursday at 8:00 am. Simply present your volunteer voucher at the front desk of the hotel to receive the credit.

Offer available through December 31, 2012. Rates start at $399 per night based, on double occupancy. Call 888-627-7206 or click here to book.

hyatt regency Hyatt Regency Waikki Beach Resort and Spa
Honolulu, Hawaii

The Hyatt Regency Waikki Beach Resort and Spa believes everyone should do their part. To help motivate guests to volunteer, the property is offering a Lokahi Package, or Lokahi Group Meetings, which rewards meeting planners, attendees and the community. The incentive, which also encourages groups to spend time volunteering with local organizations to help team building, raised almost $30,000 in 2009 and 2010 for the Waikiki Community Center. Perks for the meeting planner include double Hyatt Gold Passport bonus points and a complimentary Pohaku Lomi Massage. Attendees will receive free in-room Wi-Fi, 15% off spa treatments, a complimentary lei greeting and a special room rate for five days before and after the meeting. Additionally, community benefits include 5% of profits going to a local nonprofit of the meeting group’s choice and help from volunteers.

Offer valid until December 24, 2012. Packages start at $149 per night. Call 808-237-6200 or click here to book. Use promo code LOKAHI when booking.

ymca rockies YMCA of the Rockies
Estes Park, Colorado

If you’re planning on staying in the Rockies for at least six weeks, YMCA Estes Park Center and YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch offer free room and board for volunteers. Volunteers stay in a range of accommodation types, like cabins, hotel-style lodges and even yurts. There are myriad jobs to choose from, like instructing crafts, leading hikes and maintaining trails. While returning volunteers can stay for short periods of time, new volunteers must commit six weeks from September to mid-May, and 11 weeks from May to August.

Click here to learn more.

loews hotels Loews Coronado Bay Resort
San Diego, California

Through a partnership with the California State Parks and California State Parks Foundation, Loews Coronado Bay Resort is able to offer guests a volunteer vacation at Silver Strand State Beach. Participants will get a tour of the beaches rare coastal habitat and the chance to take part in a restoration project or beach clean-up. The property also includes a 1% donation fee to the project in their room rate, which has helped raise over $300,000 since 2008.

There is no charge to take part in the volunteer vacation, which is offered on Saturdays and Sundays, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. Room rates begin at $159 per night. Call 800-235-6397 or click here to book.

mandarin oriental Mandarin Oriental
Miami, Florida

To help guests have a worthwhile vacation, Mandarin Oriental is offering a community service package that includes a trip to the Everglades, morning volunteer work with park rangers and a tour of the park. Volunteer tasks range from mulching trees, weeding invasive plants and working on recycling projects. Moreover, guests will receive perks like a free hybrid car rental for the day and a 90-minute Thai Herbal Compress Ritual in the spa. For each treatment received, a native tree gets donated to the Everglades.

Package is $2,200 based on three nights, with double occupancy. Call 866-888-6780 or click here to book.

iguanaThe Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

While the entire Ritz-Carlton Hotel brand participates in a Give Back Getaway program, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman adds a special angle to theirs. The property’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program Giveback Getaway allows guests to join employees in half-day voluntourism projects. Volunteers will work with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment to help save the indigenous and endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. Tasks include feeding the animals, assisting with the shelter and using GPS to help track the iguanas.

Zarco, the iguana pictured above, also has an inspirational success story. He was the first male Blue Iguana adopted by the hotel, through their relationship with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. As an alpha male in the park, he bred with many females, and was successfully released back into his native habitat last year.

The project is available from November through August, for groups as small as two and as large as 15. A fee of $100 per adult, and $50 per child aged 12-15 covers transportation to Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and a donation to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. Room rates start at $383.20 per night. Click here to book.

volunteerSandals Resorts
Caribbean

To help improve literacy in local children, Sandals Resorts is featuring a Reading Road Trip program. Guests of any Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts or Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts can take part. The program lasts for two hours, and takes volunteers in local Caribbean communities to visit adopted schools in Saint Lucia, Antigua, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos or Jamaica to work with small groups of children on their reading skills.

The cost to participate is $20 for adults, and free for children 8 to 12. This includes round-trip transportation and all supplies. Click here for more information, and click here to book.

Luxury spring break options for the budget traveler

beachhDo you wish you could afford to relax on a beach in the Caribbean with private butler service, or watch the sunset from the veranda of a luxury villa this spring? Thanks to Jetsetter Home‘s spring break sale, now you can.

Jetsetter Homes boasts properties all over the world, and during select dates this spring, some of their most affluent properties will be on sale. The private villas are each hand-selected, visited, and approved by Jetsetter travel correspondents, so you know the recommendations you’re getting are coming from a travel professional.

There is no fee to signup – simply go to the website and register for free.

To get some affordable, last minute vacation ideas for spring break, check out the gallery below.

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Would you get married in the nude?

hedonism How would you like to win a free wedding in Jamaica and be on national television? Well, now you can. The only catch is you have to exchange vows in the nude.

Hedonism II, a resort that is well-known for “shattering inhibitions and provoking the kind of behavior people don’t talk about in polite circles”, is currently looking for 10 couples to get married in the buff for a major network documentary on Valentine’s Day, 2012 (don’t worry, your parts will be blurred on air).

Not only will couples receive a complimentary 4-night stay at the all-inclusive resort, but also a “Dream Wedding”. Funny, every time I’ve pictured my dream wedding I’m wearing a dress. The resort does have a lot of perks for couples, like the on-site Blue Mahoe Spa, beach and garden view rooms, en suite Jacuzzis, private terraces, 5 bars, and onsite entertainment and dining.

If you’d like to be considered as a contestant, fill out of the form here and submit. The deadline for applications is January 6, 2012.