One knows that it’s nearing year end, as the nights get darker and cooler much sooner. This year was perhaps a special one. If someone told me a year ago I’d be in this place, I’d probably be laughing, but, perhaps, holding onto the thought that something of this magnitude could be made possible. And so, the hypothetical becomes truth.
I stood on the top of Carlisle Hill, overlooking the airport. Antigua was a vision at night, as a different array of lights peppered the horizon. The moon hung low, heavy with light and wonder, the stars twinkled in and out, and there was a peace in the world from high above. Back on the ground, there were flashing lights and a DJ playing music, loud cheers of family and friends and friends of friends eclipsed the still night air, raising their voices and song to the universe, and a few glasses of wine.
It was a send off party for Team Antigua Island Girls (TAIG). What started out (I thought) as an intimate send off turned out to be much bigger than anyone had expected. There was a slide show depicting images of the girls during training activities, there was a stage and DJ, with performances from Jashaun Hughes, Drastic, Tizzy and others. The food, drinks and dessert bars were stocked with an assortment of great tasting alfredos, readily mixed cocktails, cheesecake, fruits and other delicacies.
As the night drew to a close, the girls gathered together to cut two cakes (one chocolate and the other marble) made in their honour, sharing a slice with anyone who wanted. I’ve got to say, the cake infused rum should’ve probably been at the drinks bar! As I took my first bite of the chocolatey goodness, I coughed, thinking perhaps, all liquid ingredients were exchanged for rum! The cake should’ve come with it’s own designated driver and a three-day sick leave for the accompanying hangover! We had a good laugh about it, Christal exclaiming, “Woah, oh man!” as she bit into her slice. Her face was priceless! It was definitely one for the ages, and a challenge for the heavyweights. Cake rum (not rum cake) aside, Sonalli, the graphic artist who illustrated the girls as superheroes (and rightfully so) was also there, the two cakes decorated with images of the illustrated superhero alter-egos.
I mingled with old and new friends; the pride of everyone permeating the night air. The girls, Christal, Kevinia, Junella, Samara, and Elvira beamed with excitement of the journey that lay ahead, each of them wearing a different colour of our national flag. This was a momentous and historical undertaking as they are the only all black, all girls team to ever embark upon this journey. They’re heading to the UK for one final month of training, before the race starts on December 12th from the Canary Islands, where they will be rowing 3,000 miles back to our shores! It’s not just a personal challenge for each of them, but a great effort to raise money for their charity, Cottage of Hope.
Catching up with the girls, I felt nothing but pride and kinship towards them. We are all family in the grander scheme of things. Their success is our success, but I cannot even begin to phantom all the challenges they went through to get to this point, or even the challenges that lay ahead. To the brave souls that are going out there, all the teams that prepared, and sacrificed to be part of such a challenge, before and hereafter, I salute you! And when you get back here, we’ll definitely have another slice of that cake to celebrate!
Good luck everyone! Team Antigua Island Girls, you’ve already made us proud!