Customer Service

Great Customer Service! In Trinidad that is an oxymoron. However I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised on Monday 5th June.

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There I was harassed and concerned about obtaining my International Visa Travel Card. I had joined a queue. You know how waiting multiplies times. Well… I felt that I had been there for a long, long time.

Just as I got to the top of the line, from almost nowhere, another bank customer rushed to the counter to “ask a question”. I was so annoyed but I kept my peace and waited to see what would be the outcome.

Thankfully, something wonderful happened. Something I hardly ever witness. The attending clerk very politely informed said customer that there was a line and everyone else was waiting to ask a question also.

I was relieved. I really thought that the person would have gotten through by breaking the line and it was a breath of fresh air to encounter fair customer service.

I got through but ended up having to visit another section in the same branch. Again, as I sat awaiting my turn, a hot and bothered woman rushed to the counter, with the look on her face that she was very busy and needed attending to right away.

There was already another customer at the counter, so I told her that she had to take a seat and wait her turn. Her response? “I just want to ask a question.” Well ‘dearie’ that is exactly what I was waiting to do as well. I shrugged and let her be.

The clerk noticed her standing impatiently in the way and addressed her with a pleasant, “Good morning”. That was her cue to rush in and “ask her question”.

Again I was fortunate to witness another moment of impartiality, rightness, courtesy, integrity…call it what you will, I witnessed it and was so pleased.

The clerk very nicely asked her to sit and wait her turn. She sat next to me and sought a sympathetic ear. I usually do lend such an ear but not this time. I could not condone her actions.

Would you believe that I witnessed yet another such incident mere hours later at another financial situation? My, my I just may have to reassess the level of customer service in Trinidad. It seems that slowly the apparently uncaring servers are evolving into people with a conscience and a kind, considerate and gentle disposition.

Kudos to those two financial institutions. My faith in humanity and goodness was nurtured on Monday.

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I Did It!

This is just a quick line to let you know – I did it! I completed the Bankers Insurance Half Marathon yesterday, 31st August, 2015.

It was the most exhilarating physical experience I have had for a long time. The atmosphere was charged: there was the smell of competition in the air, the scent of will power and the taste of accomplishment at the end.

The event was so well organised. I have to give kudos to the folks at BI who did this for the first time ever. They did such a great job.

The course was well manned. The route was clear and each mile was marked. There were water stops at almost every mile marker. There were two Gatorade stops. All registration was done prior to race day. The race numbers came with an attached electronic chip which provided data for each runner when they crossed the start, the half line and the finish line.

There was a warm welcome at the finish line. My only peeve was when the announcer said, “look Tanty coming.” For those not familiar with our vernacular “tantie” or “tanty” is used in place of aunty or auntie. It is supposed to be said as a form of respect but to me it represents an older woman ( which I have to confess I am but you know what happens when one is in denial).

That aside at the finish line, all finishers received a specially minted medal, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water and then a host of goodies.

Those goodies included the opportunity for a massage if necessary. There was free doubles which was surprisingly quite good. For those wanting something non-vegetarian, there were chicken puffs. We were also given biscuits, plantain chips, cupcakes, watermelon, bananas, coffee, tea and milo.

I must mention the watermelon station in a little more detail. Those lovely girls who were serving treated me very kindly, giving in to my request to have my slices cut into little cubes to facilitate my special needs. I even got mine on a plate. Special thank you to those girls and their supervisor.

I know there were some information and health booths dealing with diabetes and heart conditions. And of course there was a doctor or two present and the requisite ambulance. There was a strong police presence all along the route.

I almost forgot to mention the Trinidad and Tobago cheerleaders. This band was clad in their blue shorts and tee- shirts and took us through a sequence of their moves.

The race itself was invigorating. I was of course very tired at the end. I did want to quit at about twelve and a half miles but it was still invigorating!

I did not quit! Thank you Lord! I made it to the end. I persevered. I stuck to my goal and grit my teeth and I made it. I took quite a long time but I made it. I completed the race in 2 hours 33 minutes and I am so happy with that.

My good friend was with me for most of the race. We did not train together but we ran the race together and we were compatible; that compatibility made the race even more enjoyable.

My mother and my son made a great sacrifice, getting up very early to get me at the start line at about 4:35 am. They followed the race and took some pictures but I am awaiting those files still.

I will probably write some more about this experience but I just wanted you to know that I did it.

Now on to the next race! Let me know if there is anything specific you would like to know about the race and please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on this feat. Be good and may you continue to walk in the grace of God.

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Well my big day is just about here! Tomorrow at 5:30 am the Bankers Insurance Half Marathon will begin.

My goal is to finish that half marathon!

I have run no more than a 5K before; I have done some training over the last two months and feel prepared to some extent.

I repeat my goal is to finish!

I am not about challenging someone else. I just want to challenge me.

If I can do this then I can take on anything.

The struggle, the training, the discipline, the falling behind in training only to jump back on the bandwagon as soon as possible, the pushing for fifteen minutes more to increase my distance even when I really wanted to stop: all these and other small accomplishments along the way have played a vital part in building the mental toughness it requires to achieve goals.

I will keep you posted about the race, if not tomorrow then hopefully on Tuesday.

Tomorrow Trinidad and Tobago will be celebrating our 53rd Independence. I will be taking in the display of fireworks in San Fernando, near my home with family and friends.

It is going to be a busy week. I look forward to hearing from you. Let me know what you do to build grit.

Your First Day!

How was it? How was your first day on the six week plan?

My mother courageously donned her walking gear and took up the challenge. Of course after only four minutes she wanted to go back home!

I hope you stuck to the plan;perhaps you even did a little more.

Today is the rest day. You may still go outdoors for a stroll but let it be light and enjoyable. Tomorrow’s goal must be met.

The breath-taking sunset is always my favourite part of being outdoors in the evening. Sometimes it is the morning sunrise.

Remember when you complete a workout, to rehydrate, preferably with some coconut water. I recently came across an article that postulated the benefits of cactus water as a rehydrant! Check it out but don’t go attacking your neighbours cactus plant and squeezing the life out of it please!

Do your stretches please. Surging onward with the plan will be less torturous if stretching is carried out religiously.

As tempting as it may be to reward yourself with a (Scooby) snack, defer it for the next day and the next day until eventually you may be less vulnerable to its luring call.

Good job if you started yesterday. If you did not you can still begin tomorrow. Flirt with fitness, make a date with yourself and begin a thrilling voyage into the secret world of running aficionados.

I need to change my shoes soon but for now I am using a Saucony running shoe (will have to check the model).

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Tell me please what type of shoe are you using?

Six Weeks to a 5K Venture for a Novice

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For anyone wanting to enter their first 5K, an admirable but grueling task, I have put together some tips that helped me with my first race.

These tips are targeted for those who do not usually exercise or who have not done so for a while.

I decided to do this in light of the upcoming annual 5K sponsored by a credit union in Trinidad. On the day before there is also a 5K sponsored by another group.

This plan could be used for either of those upcoming races, in which case it should be started on Monday 3rd August. However it could be deferred for use for another future date, it depends on your preference.

The struggle to begin exercising, or to reach to the point of deciding to take it a step further and enter a race, is real. Many of us agonize over taking that first step.

My own mother went through the motion of buying good walking shoes, a suitable track pants and matching tee-shirts but has never gotten past that stage.

I just listen to her whenever she makes a pronouncement that, “I will start to walk from Monday morning.”

It is always that she will start on some Monday and in the morning. She does not even normally get up early, so I know it is a delaying tactic. Her latest declaration should have her starting this coming Monday, when this plan is scheduled to begin.

Enough of the negativity! You have taken the reins of control and are about to challenge yourself.

You are ready to put your resolve, endurance, perseverance and grit to the test.

Congratulations! You are about to plunge into a courageous battle with a most formidable foe, yourself.

To prepare for a race, you need to train, eat properly and hydrate yourself. In addition to these, rest, a good massage routine and stretching are vital to help you comfortably and successfully be victorious in completing the race to the best of your ability.

Remember at every step that the objectives are to challenge yourself to compete and complete; to reduce the odds of injury or of giving up; and to build up your endurance and level of fitness.

Let’s talk about diet first. Over the next few weeks you need to pay particular attention to your eating habits – food is your fuel. Less fuel equals less energy which translates into less productive training.

I kid you not when I advise a good hot doubles with your choice of slight, medium or heavy pepper. Personally I prefer heavy pepper.

For those of you who may not know, doubles is a local street food. It contains curried channa or chick pea, sandwiched between two ‘bara’ or flat fried dough. Doesn’t sound mouth-watering but it is.

This one is my preference: the occasional “sahaina” or “saheena” (pronounced sah-he-nah) or two is my first choice – great roughage, great taste.

Again, a “sahaina” is something like a burger patty made out of bhagi (taro or dasheen) leaves layered with a seasoned paste of powdered split peas. The layered product is rolled into a cylinder then sliced into rounds and deep fried before serving with a hot sauce.

Anyway for those who may consider these foods unhealthy, a well-balanced diet is recommended. You need to include sufficient protein, especially if you are vegetarian – meat, fish and eggs, and peas and beans for the vegetarians.

Carbohydrates can be your friend; just make wise selections. Choose pasta, rice, sweet potato, green bananas and other ground provisions. Avoid refined carbs. In fact I strongly recommend eliminating refined sugar and caffeine.

On a side note I have to confess that prior to February this year I was a strong proponent for sweet treats and the number one soda, Coca cola. I used to drink at least one Coke daily. Thank goodness learning is life-long.

Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables but remember to eat fruits alone and not after a meal. You want it to work for you not against you by fermenting on a full stomach.

Drink lots of water, more in the day, less in the night, especially if you tend to get up to use the washroom at night. For really spectacular results, you need to replace lost electrolytes by drinking an isotonic drink. I recommend, for those of us in Trinidad, coconut water.

Because our foods today are not as nutrient rich as we expect, a good multivitamin becomes a necessity not an option.

Apart from paying attention to what you eat, how much and when you eat is a guaranteed way to reap dietary benefits. Eat smaller portions more regularly and try to cut off eating early in the evening, that is do not eat after about 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

A reliable, proven training guide must include advice on resting and the importance of being well rested especially just before the race. So try to keep regular sleep times.

Avoid standing unnecessarily; standing is an isometric exercise which would cause you to become tired. Sitting for long periods is not advised as it interferes with blood circulation.

Now that you have all the information on hand as to how to prepare as you go into this battle, you need to actually begin to train.

I have worked out a six week training plan as a guide. Use it wisely. You know your body better than anyone else can. Listen to its protests, its requests and respond accordingly.

If you see areas where you can up the training, then do so cautiously to suit your physical level of acceptance. If there are steps that seem too difficult then cut back.

The training guide will be out  later but I will prepare you for the first day at least so that the mental focus can begin.

On Monday, if you have never run before or if you have not run for a while then you will start with a short fifteen minute walk. If you know you can handle more, then adjust the schedule to suit yourself.

Good luck. Congratulations on this new venture.

Let me know your level of interest and tell me, what prompted you to make this decision?