Saturday, December 18, 2010

Passing Through Portland

So we visited Portland, a parish of Jamaica voted most beautiful among the handful of native-born Jamaicans I've asked.  A few quick facts on Portland:
- It has the lowest crime rate in Jamaica.
- It is the birthplace of Jamaica's famous jerk sauce.

Unfortunately, on the day that we visited Jamaica was experiencing some very odd cold weather.  It was also rainy so we were unable to swim in Portland's beautiful beaches.  After 2 hours of driving from Kingston to our destination we ate at an ital restaurant...magnifique!  We then saw a cool-looking castle-like structure, stopped at the Blue Lagoon, drove over the Rio Grande, watched some surfers do their thing in the rough waters, and sampled some jerk chicken (Mommy had jerk lobster) roasted breadfruit and sweet potato.  Despite the rain we had a good time and saw first hand just how beautiful Portland is.
You can see from this pic just how cold it was in JA this day.  Negasi is wearing long pants and a hoodie.  Ignore my footwear.

This is the bridge we took to cross the Rio Grande and the Rio Grande below, of course.

An old (let's think haunted, possibly) castle. Whoo,whooo (my ghost voice)

Snapshot of the Blue Lagoon.  Look at that blue!!

Us at the Blue Lagoon. 

These are fishnets.  I just thought the concept was so innovative.  What do you think?
 Well, that concludes this post, folks.  I just wanted to give all interested a look at what we're up to on a semi-regular basis.  Thanks for following!

Peace and Love.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Negasi's take on JamRock

Children adapt so easily and are oh so resilient.  I admir-envy them (yes, that's a word I made up.)  Negasi is no exception to this truth.  I remember in October when we saw his Dad off at the airport after he had spent several weeks here with us in Jamaica.  When he actually left our sight to board the plane Negasi cried and cried all the way to the car and then cried some more for much of the ride back home.  But, please believe me when I tell you that the next morning he was able to explain to me that "Daddy is not here right now. He went on the airplane."  Amazing.

Well, needless to say, Negasi (despite a few colds and subsequent hospital visits) has certainly been enjoying his experience here.  He went from feigning sickness and exhaustion just so that he wouldn't have to go to school to absolutely looking forward to each school day.  All of the staff at Negasi's school are women, and he addresses them as, 'Aunty' so he comes home with lots of stories about his various aunties.  This week the school had their annual Christmas party.  Here are some pics:
Negasi in his purple school uniform shorts.

Negasi and his schoolmates.

Negasi on the monkey bars.

Negasi on top of a playhouse.

Bouncing on the bounce about. 

Negasi basically finds the fun in every situation.  For example, he's made a game of climbing our front grill.  See below.

More of a look into Negasi's Jamaican life...
On our way from school

Playing on the swings in the back

Telling his cat to get ready for the picture.

Negasi wearing his funny glasses.

At a Christmas fair.

At a bus stop after school.  Peep the shoes.

Negasi watching his prized portable DVD player.

Negasi with the ball he uses to practice his soccer skills.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's GROWN on me

**The following is all taking place in my mind:
TVJ Commentator: Mizz JohnBuptiste, Top 5 things you've GROWN to love about Kingston, Jamaica. GO!!
Me: (I immediately break out into a sweat because 1. I realize that I'm going to be on Jamaican TV and 2. that already seems like way too long a list.  Eeeek! But, like the trooper I am I collect myself.)
OK.  These are the top 5 things I've grown to love about Kingston:

1. Icy cold 'bag juices' that can be purchased from just about every vendor with something edible on either their stationery or mobile stall.  For those of you not familiar with what a bag juice is, it is just that- a bag of juice.  I purchase these on days when I am particularly hot because Negasi believes that 'girls must carry boys because boys get too hot under the sun.' Don't ask me where he's gotten this from- I'm working with him on improving.  When its 1-2 p.m. and you're standing in a crowded bus park in either downtown Kingston or Half Way Tree, you get a bag juice (I prefer the guava flavored one) and a bag of St. Mary's banana chips to go with it.  Not only does this cool me down, but it also holds me over until my next meal.
The young man pictured here is sucking away on a bag juice. 

2. Political and Social Consciousness among the common folk of Jamaica.
If there's one thing to which Kingston is a testament it is that poverty and adversity do not have to prohibit one from seeking and obtaining knowledge.  Some of the most intellectual and thought provoking conversations I've had have been with individuals of the lowest socio-economic class, many of whom do not hold a university degree much less have been privileged enough to have received an uninterrupted formal education.
In a previous post I spoke of the deeply embedded color consciousness that pervades Jamaican society.  However, I failed to mention the strong traces of Black pride among a considerable portion of the society.  No, I have not surveyed the entire country but when you walk down the street and are hailed as 'Empress' (a term of respect most commonly used by Rastas to address a woman; the term originates from the Rastafarian belief in the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen.) it becomes hard to deny the apparent respect held for this country's African roots.
Lastly, I guarantee you that it is possible to walk up to any Jamaican on the street-man, woman, young or old- and ask them about their opinion on Jamaica's political state.  The facts will be there along with justly formulated opinions.  For instance, while in downtown Kingston one afternoon, I asked a young man who looked to be around my age about the huge construction job that had the label 'Digicel' printed all over the fence that enclosed the site.  His reply was very insightful.  He explained that Digicel, Jamaica's leading cellular service provider, was building its main headquarters there in downtown Kingston.  It was just part of the government's scheme to turn poverty and crime stricken downtown Kingston back into a corporate center.  He went on to explain that this is largely why Dudus had to be 'removed.'  Had Dudus been around, he went on, he would've had a major hand (financially) in this scheme, as he was the area's 'don.'  Also, he added, the entire scheme was the government's way of performing ethnic cleansing on downtown Kingston.
3. Random Art.
Kingston is good for its random displays of artwork.  The city's poorest, richest, and in-between areas are adorned with murals with vibrant colors, social and political messages, and sometimes pretty intricate design.
An example of a street mural in Kingston.  Pictured in these two are Bob Marley and Jamaica's national heroes.

This carving rests on a tree outside of Negasi's school. I've admired it for months and finally took a picture to share.

4.  That there are chill-out spots within Kingston.  In other words, Kingston does offer some aspects of country.
Entryway to Hope Gardens, which I've mentioned in an earlier post.  Dope, no?
Some weeks after moving here, my faculty supervisor took me out to lunch to a spot a few minutes off campus.  The place is in Gordon Town and is referred to as 'Look Out Point' because of the view.  Upon entering this small community he pointed out two things.  The first was where one could get the best herb (gotta love UWI) and the second was where one could get some hearty and delicious ital food.  I think I fell in love with the restaurant even before I took my first bite from a plate of ackee, rice and peas, boiled whole wheat dumpling and yam.  I fell in love with its ambiance. This restaurant is pretty much situated off of a cliff and gives you a great view of mainly lush foliage and what I believe is the community of Hope Valley.  In addition to all this, Shanty Man, the Rasta who owns and operates the restaurant is always in the best mood.
5. Public transportation system.
When I first moved to Jamaica my biggest issue was transportation.  The situation has drastically improved, however.  Although it's still of utmost importance to be ever so cautious and alert when using public transportation here (and in NY. haha) I am ever so grateful for having several bus routes that stop just outside or minutes away from my place!  Shout out to everyone who I ride the number 78 bus with each morning to drop Negasi off at school.  This line runs from downtown Kingston to August Town.  Another lovely thing about riding the bus here is...well...the music selection.  I got on the 78 one morning and as soon as I took my seat Maxwell's 'Fistful of Tears' started to play.  Needless to say I almost touched the sky.
One downside to public transportation here- the drivers drive like madmen!! But, hey, I'm never late...
One of Jamaica's better (this means air-conditioned) buses.

Until next time, people.  Peace and Love.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Always good vibes at the Bob Marley Museum

For a person like myself who doesn't love the club scene ( I never's nothing against Jamaica) I've found the perfect alternative for a Friday night in Kingston with no plans.  Where, you ask?  The Bob Marley Museum.  Yes, it does sound a little weird to spend your Friday night at a museum, but trust that it's not strange at all.  Since I've been here I've been to several really great events/functions at the Museum.  Usually there's live music and 9 times out of 10 it's an event fulldorsed by the Rasta community so I never cease to meet good people, many of whom are able to assist in my research here.

Last night at the Museum a concert to commemorate Emperor Haile Selassie I's and Empress Menen's coronation was held.  All proceeds were to be given to the Haile Selassie High School in Kingston.  I'm not even sure who was slated to perform.  However, I was definitely happy I went as Sizzla made a seemingly unexpected performance.  Aside from the massive egos clearly onstage as he- and his entourage- performed he gave a really good, high-energy performance.  In a Jamaican's words he 'mashed up di place.'

Now, for a few photos I took at the event...
Reggae artist, Protoje and I

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh, how quickly we forget...

I was thinking about my blog recently and it dawned on me that I might not be painting the fullest picture of Jamaica as I've come to know it with my not-so-consistent posts.  I might have only hinted at this in 1 or 2 previous posts, but I must reiterate the following: Jamaica IS a developing nation.  It's a tough place to live.  It is not for the thin-skinned nor the weak-minded.
Why have I felt the need to remind my readers of this (yes, all 13 of you), you ask?  I've come to realize that I'm much more likely to post something on my blog after a pleasant experience I've had here in Jamaica than I am after a not-so-pleasant experience here.  And, whaduya know?  I haven't posted consistently since August, folks.  Life here ain't easy.  Let me give you a few examples of this and why I constantly find myself annoyed with a whole host of things here, namely the class system that plays a huge role in pretty much every aspect of Jamaican life.
1. Before I even moved to Jamaica I was able to meet my first landlord in Queens, New York while she was visiting family.  At the end of our first meeting she asked me if I was a Rastafarian. WTF!! Who does that anymore?? This is something at which I cannot even get mad.  Shame on me for not being able to foresee the difficulty I'd have with this landlord during my tenancy and long after I vacated her tiny, overpriced flat in a mock Suburb of Kingston just from that one question alone.
Please believe that there are tons of classified ads in Jamaica's newspapers in which renters request 'decent Christian individuals.'  Wheredeydodatat, you ask?  Jamaica, baby.
2. Jamaica is having extreme difficulty making up her mind on her stance on Rastafari.  In Jamaican homes, schools, and businesses the general consensus is, 'Bob Marley all day, every day.'  However, you will find that members of the Rastafari community are generally considered to be of the lower class here.  Color consciousness- excuse me- obsession with skin color continues to pervade Jamaican society.  Meeting a Eurocentric standard of beauty is key, also.  I've noticed, and my Jamaican-born schoolmates agree that retail store employers are more likely to hire applicants who are 'pretty' or 'light.'  The opposite exists where domestic workers, sometimes called helpers or maids, are concerned.  One noticeable commonality among domestic workers in Jamaica (it is very common for the average middle-class family to hire a domestic helper to do house chores throughout the week) is that they are usually middle-aged, darker complected women.  Notice a trend?
3. This place in no way caters to the handicapped or disabled.  OK, I'm whining now, but this has irked me for a while.  I often see persons in wheelchairs, walkers, or the things you place your arms into to help you walk upright because there is a physical rehabilitation center located just off of the University of the West Indies Campus, and man!...these people barely have sidewalks to walk on.  The last thing I'll say on this matter is that the U.W.I. campus has few ramps for persons with disabilities.

That concludes my overdue rant.  I leave you with descriptive photos:
My expression after the people at Courts told me I wasn't eligible for a price plan on a washer because I wasn't a Jamaican.

Negasi disappointed at the fact that the public park gates were locked at 3 p.m on a Friday afternoon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hope in Kingston: Our Trip to Kingston's Botanical Gardens

Now that the threat of Tropical Storm Thomas is behind us, Mommy, Gasi, and I decided to venture out of our safe home well-stocked with all types of hurricane preparedness things- you know, water, water, bottled tap water, more water, canned food, candles, matches, etc.- and take a trip to....WENDY'S!!! Yay!! I had ( I won't speak for Mommy or Negasi) a serious fast food itch.  I know how pathetic that sounds, but it's the truth.  
Anyway, that's not what this blog post is about.  It's about what we did after we stuffed our faces at Wendy's, which was take a stroll through one of Jamaica's Botanical Gardens, Hope Gardens.  I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we were amazed at the ability to simply walk through a tall gate (the entrance to Hope Gardens) and take ourselves away from the madness and haste that is Kingston.  The whole time there all I could think was, 'Dudus WHO? Political strife WHAT? Murder capitol WHERE?'  Hope Gardens is FREE to the public- this is a first for me in JA so I was appreciative of this alone.  The Gardens are so expansive that we did not and could not possibly have walked the entire grounds in one afternoon.  Natural beauty abounds the Gardens.  Think beautiful, ancient trees with roots whose strength you just don't see in NYC (I can't talk for the South or the rest of the US.)  OK, OK, so this is one of those things you must see.  Enough with the descriptions!! For your viewing pleasure:

Curly weave?

There he goes.

Here I come.

Mommy and Negasi.


Excited about nature...

Let's call this the 'Tree of Life'

Does this remind anyone else of Coming to America's Zamunda??

These trees make me laugh for some reason..

Everyone should hug a tree once in their lifetime.

Charlie Brown joined us for the day.

Real Bushman...I kid you not he opted to sit and eat his popsicle on this tree stump as opposed to the neatly crafted bench just steps away.  IMMEDIATELY after he took his shoes off!! Then, he orders me to remove mine.

Nature's footrest.

Return to nature

The view from down below.

This sculpture really spoke to Mommy and I because we've had to get down and dirty washing clothes by hand...we have no washer : (

Negasi against a massive tree trunk.