Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gully is to Gaza as Peace Corps is to Fulbright....

So we had Thanksgiving at Scott & Kim's house tonight. They were so kind to invite all of us over for a potluck style meal. Everything was delicious. Call it an ex-pat holiday for sure. But we finally got to meet some Peace Corps volunteers! Scott & Kim did their own Pecce Corps tours in Gabon so they have hooked up with some of the members in Jamaica. Observations....

Peace Corps has strength in numbers! There is 80 of them here!

Fulbright...well, there is 5 of us. Plus Erica. She makes it all worth it! Sorry Erica for selling you out in a photo. It just had to happen.
Erica in Negril.
Peace Corps has NO ONE in Kingston! They live in country....I <3 Country!

Every Fulbrighter is in Kingston....

They have 50 white girls pon di mini bus!

We only have two! Sometimes three!

They all hang out!

We are just lucky. Most Fulbrighters never see eachother!

But truth be told we are all just a bunch of people who want to help in various ways. So I guess the whole Gully vs. Gaza seems a bit dramatic.

Disclaimer: For my non-Jamaican readers...Vybz Kartel represents Gaza (Fulbright) vs. Mavado who represents Gully (Peace Corps).This would imply a fued. But in reality. There is no fued. Big up Peace Corps, we heard great work tonight! By the way you can refer to a Vybz Kartel posting earlier, which I may or may not be slightly embarrassed about a few months later...

Mental Note...Text Vybz to schedule interview about visa discrimination...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pon di minibus

So my obsession with the public transportation system continues. I am fascinated by it. Yes, sometimes I get irritated when I am trying to get somewhere on time; but for the most part I love route taxis. Some really interesting interactions happen in route taxi's. Let me explain.

So last week I was leaving UWI when this guy recruited me to get in his robot. Usually for route minibuses there is a driver and a loader. Basically all the taxi's & minibuses congregate in these condensed areas and the loaders or individual car drivers hop out and try to grab as many people as they can fit as fast as they can. The quicker they run the routes with the most amount of people the more money they make. Logical, sure. The speeds they drive, the dodging in and out of traffic, the sliding their car in neutral to save gas, and flying through parking lots and side streets to avoid traffic, which by the way never works. Anyways...when the loaders are trying to recruit you it can get a little intense. They are yelling, Pa-Pine! Lig-A-ne! Af' Way Tre! Cross-Ro! Yeah all those are areas, I gave you the phonetics, you figure it out... I had too.

So yeah anyways I was leaving UWI and this loader shouts "Af Way Tre" so I look up to see where it's coming from and the guy already sensed me acknowledging his route so he darts over to me and leads me to his minibus. I say no, I don't want a minibus, particularly a minibus where I am the first person in. That means; a) you wait for a full bus, this could be 39 more people or b) every 3 seconds your driver is pulling over on the road to grab more people. So he said that he promised we would only wait five minutes and then leave. I reluctantly agreed. So more people get on the bus we get a good 16 in the next 5 minutes and we are off. No more than 3 seconds after leaving UWI the driver throws on the craziest gospel, reggae country music I have ever heard. Im like right behind the driver squished against the wall so any laughter to myself about the Jesus-loving music would of been easily spotted. They say its the Jesus-loving ones you should fear. But mind you the driver and the loader are like singing this music really loud and no one in this van seems to find it funny at all. I mean obviously there is something to be said for getting acclimated, but still I can't help but observe everything. By the time I'm the quarter of the way home, I am basically sitting with a row of wooden bird statues made by the nomadic rasta sitting next to me. So yeah about half way into the trip I said driver, good here! And jumped out as fast as I could with just enough time to watch the Jesus-loving minibus fly away an ungodly speed.

This stories a little different. So a few days after I got back to Jamaica I caught a ride to school pretty early and there was one more seat open. We pulled over to pick up this woman, the minute she got in the car her phone rang. It was her mother calling to tell her that her baby just died...she was 2 years old. Within 5 seconds we, the three other passengers, jumped out of the car and the driver was taking her wherever she needed to be in her first most awful moments. I am constantly learning how precarious life is.

Today I got to a route at the head of the crowd and was sure that I would get out pretty quickly. My driver was super friendly so I figured he would do his best to try and get us home. Well I should of known that drivers stick together, so when the HUGE bus broke down right in front of out taxi, my driver insisted on helping him and a few others push him off the road.  So finally we touch the road and we are barrelling down Hope Road when all the route taxi drivers are kicking out their passengers before the next intersection. So needless to say the driver we just waited for tells us he can't take the chance and that we have to get on out. Back to walking.

So yesterday Erica & I, with Anita as our consultant, decided we wants to start a route taxi as a social entrepreneurship exercise. I leave you with this video (click here for you computer illiterates) "Two White Girls Pon Di Minibus" to consider the possibilities of Erica & I running a robot.

Feel De Riddim, Feel De Rymm Get On Up Its Bobsled time!

Real Jamaican Bobsled Team
In preparation for the weekend ahead we decided to watch Cool Runnings. Why you may ask? Because we had planned a trip to Mystic Mountain in Ochie where they have the one and only Jamaican bobsled track. Yes, bobsledding occurs in the snow, but here in Jamaica we have a wooden track. It's absurdly fun and you can really yell the Cool Running's Sanka rhyme. We made jokes about kissing lucky eggs and asking eachother if we were dead? Watch the movie if you don't get it. Although, when I was 13 that movie felt a ton more Jamaican. After living here three months you see how much of a Disney film that is! I guess I should of known. But that being said, neighbor David pointed out that if they spoke in Patois, no one would understand it anyways. Hence subtitles in Shottaz. Which you should watch as well if you have not. And since we are on the topic, one last suggestion for now, The Harder They Come.

Can you spot the Lizard?
Your probably wondering where we got to take this excursion, and you want to go... Well it's double the price for tourists so yeah I won't be taking you here when you come visit. MYSTIC MOUNTAIN! Jody. Holly & Robynn picked up Anita, Eric and I. We trekked out to the North Coast.  As always car rides are my favorite and Jody drives like I do... I am really excited to rent a car when my parents come. I hope their excited! So when you get to Mystic Mountain you go on this Sky Coaster that goes through a Jamaican Rainforest. I am not sure what the qualifications are for being a rainforest, but whatever it was beautiful.  I was messing around with my camera so yeah, can you find my friend the lizard?

So the Sky Coaster is like 700 feet above sea level, Which is particularly high, compared to the rest of the island, (unless your up in the mountains).

Ya Dead Swanka?
Our Jamaican Bobsled Team
So we headed straight for the bobsled track to try out our skills. Turns out you do get to control your own sled! You have a break and everything. So they say you can open it up down the whole track, just not when you get to the red tape! So Anita and I latched our bobsleds together and I was the driver and, as they put it, Anita's job was to scream.  We made it go as fast as we could the whole way down, a whole 30 mph! But on this wooden track it felt pretty fast! It's no Kingda Ka but I would seriously consider doing it again, residents rate style.
Kind of safe looking right?
 Next up was zip-lining through the forest! We got all geared up in our straps, helmets, gloves, and hairnets? YEP, hairnets! Maybe so we don't let lice. The cloth gloves that were drying on the roof cause they were soaked were a bit more disgusting then the easily sanitized plastic helmets. Whatever we wore them. Here Anita, Jody & I will model these hairnets for you.

Thanks Anita for this one

We know we look absurd, big up!
Our zip-line tour guides were hilarious and they pretty much try to freak you out as much as possible. Like when they are holding your safety lines and to send you off and the guy on the other side who is going to catch you scream, NOO DON'T SEND HER YET! Yeah, thanks guys.
Anita does Ziplining, remember I'm holding the Camera
Anita's hard work also got her a Jamaican tattoo, having the camera and all I had to document this one. Sorry Anita! Jody doesn't seem to be too sympathetic!
Rope Burn Sucks.
 But we got Anita Scotchie's for lunch! Needless to say Jerk Chicken & Festival always makes us happy! We then made the long trip back home after picking up Erica. Oh if you did not notice she was not in any of the photos. She tagged along so she could lone wolf Ochie. She almost made it on to the Carnival Cruise Ship. Officially added to the Bucket List... sneak on the Royal Carribbean!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I got chapped lips in Connecticut. Thanks wind chill factor.

So I just returned home from a very short very sweet trip to Connecticut. CT is so very quaint compared to this place; yet Kingston is so small compared to the modest area of NYC that I covered this weekend. Traveling is one of my favorite things, I even like the like physical traveling part even though sometimes its awfully stressful and requires you to make impetuous decisions particularly when the weather is not on your side. Suggestion: The only decision you need to make is that you will not make a decision at all! Because don't worry they will decide for you. I flew home a day early on the house! Yep JetBlue rocks. I coached Jasmine through bitching out Delta for long enough to get the same deal, it worked!

So we know I flew for the GRE's lets get this over with. I did OK. Just OK. But I wont know for good until all the percentiles are released and the essays get scored. Yep so... there it is. Should I retake it...MAYBE. Am I going to do that? Absolutely NOT. I refused to waste any more of my time in Jamaica studying and turning down opportunities because I have to take a test that at its foundation is defunct. I seriously won't go into it. I just think its a poor measurable. Anyways... next up college apps and essays.

Christian picked me up from JFK after I got a bit snippy with the 5th person that denied me use of there cell phone to call him, since my Verizon plan is deactivated and my Digicel obviously would not work there. After a mini-interrogation from the 6th lady she reluctantly let me use her cell. Like it was impossible for anyone to believe I was a young lady without a cell phone! In Jamaica I would have had a ride home by the second person I asked. Whatever, I found Christian and we trekked home dancing to all the Jamaican music I showed him and seriously catching up on the past three months.

Eating is a ridiculously important part of my life. I take it fairly seriously. If I am going to need this energy for my body to convert around and do shit with I am going to enjoy it. With that being said, I made plans to hit my favorites. The Blue Dolphin Wednesday night (so worth it) that place is an anomaly seriously check it out. Best Italian food I have ever eaten. The Ivy Noodle in New Haven Thursday with Dad after dropping of license-less Brother Aaron. Yes it is a dirty Asian noodle joint, its delicious. Or just do Pho Vietnam, which I had to skip due to timing...awful sacrifice to have made. Which by the way if you click on there link above, which I just did for the first time ever, there site is ridiculous for the hole in the wall they are, so deceiving yet in a phenomenally good marketing way. The food is more delicious then the website decorum which is quite nice. Ok, I'm stopping. Oh wait, I had good pizza. Yep thin crust wood fired stove pizza. Mmmm.

I spent two great nights with my Aaron, my brother and best friend. I had quality time with the family, had breakfast with the "Alf"andres, coffee talk with the Kukks and hugging their adorable children for a really long time, HUGE SNUGGLE SESSION WITH REX, lots of hugging and laughing with the Stewart Family, being ridiculous with my best friend Brittney Purdy and going to see the Downpour reunion concert in NYC with Beej, Marge (my lover) and my monkeys!!

I also managed to accrue 100 lbs worth of stuff exactly upon returning to Jamaica. Yes the essentials, my leather jacket, 4 pairs of high heels, jars of capers and calamata greek olives, fried rice spice, a food processor, and a purse (so Anita can stop carrying my shit when we go out). Listen... I also brought back printer paper, an absurd amount of books, steeled toed boots for my Iris Frogger Fulbright and Brittney's summer wardrobe.

Open Can of Lychee Fruit that we somehow rationalized as hurricane food
I missed a lot of people and did not make 1/2 the stops I intended to but I figured that would happen. Next time! Apologies to those I missed!! I am happy to be back in Jamaican and after staying up straight through the night misbehaving in NYC with my monkeys, getting to the airport at 4am and finally getting through customs at 11; I ended up poolside all day with Anita & Erica. 47 degree days in CT right back to 95 and breezy in JA! I also arrived home to "Tomas", which was "No Mas" induced insanity at my apartment and discovered this.... Anita & Erica actually dug into the canned Lychee fruit that we purchased during our psychosis induced Hurricane Tomas grocery shop. You figure it out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Listen Tomas, I gotta get home!

Tomas's ultimate trajectory...ended up as "no mas".
Sometimes I like to run into Anita's room at crazy hours of the morning and deliver her news about our day ahead. Last week I did this twice.
First time
Anita: (wakes up hilariously quick) "WHAT? WE NEED TO GET SUPPLIES!"
One of the many reasons I love Anita, she is so damn practical. I immediately started panicking cause it was due to hit Thursday am. Yep, the day of my flight home so I can take the GRE's the following day. After much convincing from roommates, neighbors, and family abroad I was told to forget about it for the day and figure it out as the time gets closer. David made the argument that we would think clearer if we got with nature, so went to to Hellshire Beach to swim and eat their infamous fried fish.

 By the way all these photos are kudos to David. He took responsibility for the camera, super helpful in documenting and facilitating our adventures when adversity strikes!

We swam in the most unclear water we have seen thus far, yet it was still amazing
So we played in floaty tubes instead of worry about our flights
We potentially thought about riding this horse.... or not. He did not seem to thrilled with his profession
Yeah the view of the mountains is barely captured here. There magnificent.

The perks of having a personal photographer. He asked that the photo I took of him remain off, until we take a better one!
So we loved the beach, we made friends with tiny Jamaican kids and played in the water for long enough to watch the sunset while it was still warm enough to swim.

Second Time:
Me: "ANITA WAKE UP ITS 11 O'CLOCK (one of her interviews for grad school was at 11 that morning)
Anita" "WHAT!!!" (she shoots up and grabs her phone) "Ash... my phone says 8am."
Me:  "NOO WAY! Mine says 11! (yeah I slept on my phone and changed my time zone on accident)

We also saw Gerald Hanson's new art expose "Jamaica Home From Home"  which ironically depicted our Dancehall teacher Raddy Raddy Rich.

Raddy Raddy Rich

Even David's Dominoes love KFC
 We also continued to play dominoes and Anita has gotten significantly better!

We also decided to see the new Jamaican flick, "Better Mus Come". It was about a Jamaican youth in the 70's political turmoil that plagued inner city Kingston. The film depicted the conflict that ensued externally that enveloped the people and affected there day to day lives. But also Ricky's inner conflict with desiring more pacifist ways after his wife's shotta initiation inspired death but running up against his friends that believe violence is the answer.

I ended up resolving my flight crisis. More on that later.... 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

So your telling me all I need is 4 Guinness Bottles Tops and I'm in?

True statement. In order to get into the Arthur Guinness 251st Anniversary Concert at the National Stadium you need to purchase 4 bottles with Red Bottle tops, very easy task. Then text the numbers under the cap in to get 4 chances to win tickets. But if you don't win that way, you can just take all four caps over to a Shell Gas Station and turn them in for a ticket. So one cap = a ticket with text, which I accomplished. Or if you blow all four chances its cool they let you come anyways. The line up included, Wyclef Jean, Mavado, Busta Rhymes, Ding Dong, Bounty Killer, Shaggy, Beanie Man, Wayne Wonder (remember him...), & Lady Saw. The one women of course was the best on the stage and bummer that she went out first. This place was packed and you could get everything you needed outside the stadium. Every pan chicken guy in town was outside and so was every cigarette, candy, peanut, sugar cane, and fruit vendor from Kingston. Along with every taxi driver in the city. So imagine all you need is to drink 4 beers. Serious crowd. It was a blast.

Most important fact, which mind you is ridiculous (in a great way), but so is Jamaica so we are just trying to fit in, bear in mind. We printed out copies of my News Times Article about me and Wyclef and attempted to use it as a press pass. FAIL. But we did meet a bunch of really cool people because of our ridiculousness.  We met reporters who Anita accidentally gave an interview about reuniting me and Wyclef, I hope that did not make the cut for live TV.  A reporter, Sunjay, gave Wyclef's brother the newspaper article for us. Hopefully Mr. Jean appreciated my creative efforts. 4 more bottle tops later and who cared anymore, we just danced. GAZA!! Whoops.

Can I big up my own Domino skills?

We often laugh cause here in Jamaica stuff just happens without provocation. It often seems that just being in Jamaica provokes incredible moments, one after another. I find myself laughing at the days because no one is luckier than us right now. Opportunity for learning and exploring Jamaica is presented multiple times a day. For instance, if your an American (like ourselves) and your studying and your out meeting tons of people your name will get passed around and people will contact you about your stay here. Upon our return from Negril I was contacted by another student from the states who was coming to study the criminal justice system and she was put in touch with me through FURI. She was in a jam for housing so we got a couch person. I love having couch people, its like having a new roommate for a few days. It switches up the flow. Basically, Erica rocks. We dig her. She moved in down the road.

The weekend was quickly approaching and in JA we were having a holiday, Heroes Weekend. Celebrating Jamaica's National Heroes who challenged the institution of colonialism and in turn aided in independence, granting political and social freedoms to the people. Paul Bogle, rebellion leader yet peaceful baptist deacon in the 1840's & 50's. George Williams Gordon, aided Britain's compulsion to develop in Jamaica, he was a free land owner and a member of parliament. Nanny of the Maroons, the only female hero was a fearless Asante warrior who constantly outwitted English, yet to them she met her end. She is symbolic of that indomitable desire that will never yield to captivity. Samuel Sharpe preacher, Christmas Rebellion Leader, speaker against slavery he was eventually hung. Sir Alexander Bustamante, initiated some of Jamaica's first peaceful negotiations at the start of parliament, he was knighted and was appointed first Chief Minister. Norman W. Manley, founded the Peoples National Party (PNP), his efforts ultimately afforded universal adult suffrage, also a Chief Minister. Marcus Garvey, a famous worldwide leader who called for improvement for blacks. He spoke out against cultural denigration and economic exploration. He was also DEPORTED. Because I study deportation here, this is important. Culturally connecting deportation to Marcus Garvey spin the deportation stigma? Deportees are criminals, not national heroes? Or...? Ok so there ya go. There has been a push for Bob Marley to join the rankings, but that got put down quickly according to Jody. The link for Bob is a hilarious Rasta guy giving a tour about Bob Marley to tourists...more about tourist's later....

By the way this photo is symbolic of why Bob was known as a peaceful just man. This photo is from the "One Love Peace Concert," where Marley famously joined the hands of two bitter Jamaican political rivals, political rivals Michael Manley (PNP) and Edward Seaga (JLP), onstage.  

In honor of the heroes many things happen island wide, we tried to do a bit of both. At the Bob Marley museum and the Edna Manley School of Performing Arts (where we have been taking dancehall classes) hosted an event thrown by ManifestoJamaica. It just so happens, David, our lovely neighbor is very close with one of the main coordinators so we all went to check out his opening night. Two documentaries were showing; Bouncing Cats, about uniting Uganda youth through hip hop and dance and Community Manifesto where some of the most slighted neighborhoods in Jamaica were shown for their beauty rather than their persistent issues. Due to technical difficulties only the first doc ran and in turn I stumbled upon a community of Jamaican healers! Again, stuff just happens, had I not of been a lighter-less smoker, I would not of met these guys and had the movies played I would not of went outside...coincidence? So I ended up sitting with this Rasta Benny who put 7 crystals (chakras) in my hand, charged them with our energy and we moved them back and forth without touching them. It was bar none this most powerful example of tangible energy I have seen yet. They work at a Reiki center, coincidence?! I think not!! So now I am getting looped into that circle. Super exciting. So cool people, sweet advocacy movement, and a magical night at the Bob museum was seriously satisfying and somewhat unreal. Who would of thought I would be doing energy work and Reiki on Rasta inside of Bob's joint. Hence a great example of how I don't provoke anything, cool shit just happens all the time here!
Our Villas Swimming Pool

Frenchman's Party
So Friday Anita & I packed up to go to Ochie for this huge beachside party, Frenchman's Foreplay, serious profiling. Kam hooked us up with a seriously amazing rate at a Sandals and tickets for Sunday's all day all inclusive party. Basically we got the baddest little villa with our own pool so we swam, tanned, ate way too much, and got a kick out of the tourists. One of them said to me, when in Rome do what the Romans do; when in Jamaica, SMOKE... he was wearing a weed shirt. I hope he know he made my day. But needless to say Sandals was adventure, I'm not sure if I'd stay there again but you could not beat our rate. One of Anita's friends from New York, Radhika, was in Kingston for business so she came in a day early and got to stay with us too. She was able to make it for "Jamaica Thanks Kam! Frenchman was like a fair, Anita texted me since she got their first that she was hunting for funnel cake. The party was a mixture of tourists, Jamaicans who live abroad, or locals. The night was like a mixture of a Jamaican & American wedding. They played the oddest combination of music but we had a blast. We just explored and met random people. The craziest place was the ladies room. They had like touch up makeup artists and full length mirrors. Like I said these parties are not about swimming on the beach, like I wanted to do, they are about high heels and mini swim suits. I asked if I should bring a towel and they said, not if your going to start a trend and be the only swimmer! These beach parties will take some getting used to.

The journey home was on Jamaican time! (Lots of love to our ride home, but man it was late). Anita & Rads took off first since there was only room for two in each car, so me and Jazz stayed behind when they left at noon. We checked out of the Hotel at 1130 and did not end up going home till 9pm. We spent all three meals there and even caught the most serious dinner buffet with hotel staff walking around like Nanny, Marcus Garvey, and Chief! There was also the friend we made who walked around on stilts, I'm not quite sure where he fits in. We also ran into this young famous Jamaican opera singer but he also doubles as the VIP Manager at Sandals. He invited himself to have breakfast with Anita & I. All the sudden this third table set appeared and there he was with his cereal. Things just oddly happen, we are magnets for hilarious stuff. I hope it keeps happening.

So we got home, we buckled down, we worked hard and we rewarded our work week with learning how to play Domino's which is a super Jamaican game. My goal is to play dominoes with some rastas on a corner, its a pretty cool site, and probably only Anita & I playing with them could make it even cooler. Brendan & Damian who we met through David taught us how to play, I ended running the table for the first and only five games. Needless to say they regretted teaching me. Next stop Rasta Corner!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

7 hours & 2 flat tires later we got to Negril

A well deserved escape to the country was on the books for this weekend. So we packed our bags, grabbed an out of date map, rented a tiny car and trekked out for Negril. Negril is on the opposite side of the island so it is a bit of a hike, predicted to take four hours. The roads are anything but highways and you drive on the left, well actually you just drive in the middle and dodge cars, it is too fun.  As you can see the toll booth sign says it all "check yourself before you wreck yourself!" So you driving through contorted mountainside roads covered in pot holes due to rain and flooding.  They are narrow, and the turns are often 180's with 100% blind spots. This is also know as heaven for people who love to drive, these roads were made for Pete <3. So since I love to drive I quickly volunteered, Anita was our co-pilot who rocked the map the whole time, and Jazz provided the tunes, she is our dance hall music extraordinaire. Now your constantly driving through little hillside towns and everyone is unique. The landscape is thick, lush, and so green. The view from the mountains and the valleys are distinct and bucolic (my favorite GRE word that gave us a good laugh today - its a 10pointer). At times the fog rolls in, and the rain just falls, but you can drive out of it in seconds. Overall our intuition for which roads to take were pretty spot on, when in doubt ya just roll down the window and shout out "Negril?" And they yell to stay straight, turn around, or bust a right or left! In Jamaica no one actually gives whole directions, you get directions to the next person that you have to ask for the next step!

On the way we stopped for coconut water and jelly, it was delicious. As you can see Anita is absolutely thrilled. This fruit stand also had the cutest kitty who likes to eat beef patties! She looked just like Kaya (my crazy kitty who I more commonly refer to as ecstasy kitty) did as a baby. Since Kaya is also named after a Bob Marley song maybe she is Jamaican by default! We hit towns like Mile Gully, Maggotty and  Whitehouse. Perhaps these names stick out the most because we made the most ridiculously wrong turn at Mile Gully, got our first flat in Maggotty, and our second one 45 minutes later in Whitehouse. Good thing Pete taught me everything there is to know about cars (more than I ever wanted to know), but its proved to be more valuable then some college classes! We also ran into some incredibly friendly locals that patched up our first blown tire right on the spot in the pouring rain! Thank god he offered to patch up the blown one, cause I hit a pothole and knocked out the wheel of the recently replaced spare, therefore the first mashed up tire had to go back on! Yeah I know, you say nightmare, I say adventure! The local hospitality in a time of need was uplifting therefore the mood never went sour despite the dreaded missing pieces of road. Island Car Rental may never let us rent again!

So our four hour trip took seven hours! We pulled over to take randoms photos and took our time exploring everything. We saw multiple rainbows and ran into a ton of wildlife. Mangy dogs, a huge pig, hella cute goats, cattle, and horses! All just roaming the roads just like us. Jazz & Anita were constantly reminding me to pay attention to the road as my eyes followed every passing animal! The views were almost fatally distracting. We finally made it to Negril around nine pm (left at 2) and we were starved. Dinner listening to crashing waves was a nice changed compared to the usual car alarms and city noise. As usual we hit the local music spot, danced, and got home stupid late/early. Despite the lack of sleep the beach called at 9am.

Iced coffee, breakfast after swimming, tanning, being serenaded by cute old Rastas was the perfect morning. But the rain clouds came thru and we were off the the country to go check out some more rural parts of town. We went to Grange Hill and landed in a little village known as Paul's Island. I have officially found the part of Jamaica that stole my heart. This village felt like home and the residents felt like family. I would love to build a tiny house there and have it be my getaway. Let me try to explain it: You live off the land here, your fruit and your meat come from what you grow, what you trade and what you raise. The community feel was like no other. As we drove through our friend Teddy who showed us around mingled with every passing neighbor, catching up and sharing laughs. We stopped at Jared and Jeff's house (brothers) and we fell in love with them and their neighbors. They showered us with fresh picked June plums and just cut sugar cane! We have enough to last a serious while. We stayed at their house for hours, listened to dancehall in the streets, played with the kids, and learned how to wield a machete, which we will be buying tomorrow! Just to emphasize my affinity for goats here a few shots to make you love them as much as me!

Anita wanted to be a goat too!

 We have all decided to spend our last three weeks living in this village working on their farms so we can learn the trade.  I wanted to learn so here's my chance!

This weekend also gave us some good laugh at lots of wondering tourists just sucking up the commodification of Jamaican culture. These touristy spots are so engineered, I mean you get a bunch of mishmashed Jamaica culture placed in a pretty package that you purchase. Good documentary to watch on this is "Life & Debt", one of my favorites. If you have only been to Sandals, you have NOT been to Jamaica. Loud Brooklyn accents trying to say "waagwaan & yeah mon" like REALLY OVER ACCENTUATED was too much for us, how can you not laugh. We are certainly not professionals but we are experiencing all of Jamaica! Jody; Kudos: the tropical shit here is really ridiculous looking, no one in Jamaica wears Tropical flower shit except for tourists!

We stopped by Rick's Cafe where you can cliff dive, it's for some daring guests and local performers, I will be convincing both Anita and Jazz to take the leap with me when we return in November. I will say you can do some really cool stuff at these destinations like swim in caves, hike into mountainous caves, and you can try any water sport under the sun.

So if you hit a few tourist spots, your bound to run out of money. After satisfying our good old American cravings we wanted our cheap delicious Jamaican food back. And where better to go than street food! Steamed street fish and conch. You say risky, we say our favorite!

So part of this weekend that we experienced in hindsight was the emergence of a new energetic portal. As we know today is 10/10/10. If I get to into it your mind will probably get blown. (click on  mind, will get, blown for 4 different sites that will...don't make me say it again) Crystalline energy, largely understudied by science, incredibly understood by the esoteric, makes up everything and within its perfect structure it contains memory. The greater, most amazing, collective universal memory. Crystalline structure is formed by an essence of frequencial light resonance that is multidimensional and coherent, existing in matter and antimatter. So the prediction of Gaia (mother earth) to separate from earth and leave it to the earth & lightkeepers (us), has also led to the prediciton that on 10-10-10 the crystaline structure needed to realign to transmit the collective memory from crystals to us. The universe's memories will become ours. This is were we get back in touch with our Galactian selves. Principles emphasized are, simplicity, flow, love, understanding, comoradiry with everyone and everything on our earth. The Cetaceans are responsible for acitivating this energy so imagine the ocean's most amazing and largest creatures; dolphins and whales are among the original lightkeepers and they are teaching us through energy transmissions. Now is a time for meditation, focus on the ocean if you need some inspiration. In short, I feel very blessed to be on a tiny island surrounded by incredible water, ocean, creatures, and the deep. Anita, Jazz & I agree that we experienced our shift this weekend. Finding ourselves at home in the Jamaican country was the perfect conduit for us to experience rural, simple, loving, and environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Now this is Jamaica. We celebrated with kartwheels, splits, handsprings and swimming in the dark on the beach. Perhaps this was us getting in touch with the playful dolphin transmission!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tropical Depression #16

Err, Ah, yeah no... just Tropical Depression #16. Now better known as Nicole which of course, was named once it threatened the US. No need to of named her earlier? Like when it was ransacking Jamaica? What about us!? Flooded, Cold, Wet, Monsoon for 2.5 days, No School, Gully's flooded, people die because of rain here and you can't name the damn storm until the US is affected! BULLSHIT. The constant car alarm symphony has reached a deafening level and I am pretty sure our balcony is going to fall off. Communication about school/work was difficult to come by today. I woke up super early for class and to teach, ready for my productive day, calling a taxi when Anita yelled to me that she heard school was closed. After quickly reading the UWI website, checking out all JA news sites, I could not find a single word about whether or not UWI was closed. I gave up, I've heard rain in Jamaica is a good reason for not making it on time, or at all. Rain is Jamaica's snow. Odd for this Northeaster but everyone has to find some weather excuse to cancel school, its only fair!

Good day to catch up on my two TV shows, Dexter & Grey's. Oh AWESOME, US based stations do not stream live TV to international countries. Strike 2 for the day. Of course us computer junkies found a way around that and I watched both season premieres!

Also good news, Wyclef Jean is coming to Jamaica! For Guinness's 251st anniversary which celebrates worldwide the creator of the thick, funkyish beer.  Buy four bottles with red crown tops and you get one ticket to the show. They way to win is to get a code on the bottom of the cap that is a winner. You text it to 44-GREAT and they will let you know in a few days (wait its not an immediate auto text back?). So we bought 2 six packs to up our odds. I grab one, pop off the cap... CODE.... 203. Oh whats the significance you say... its my area code back home. A few days later guess who was a winner from lucky 203. Yep. ME. Ashley & Wyclef  Meeting #3. Hopefully by meeting #5-8 I'll be his future campaign manager once he boosts his political resume. Making plans to make plans! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Route Taxi Driver, didn't you say we were going to Halfway Tree?

Check out this melded American/Jamaican Flag. We went to the "Jamaica American Friendship Association Concert" hosted by JAFA & the US Embassy. The Whose Who of JA was certainly there. I myself, wearing a rained out black sundress carrying double backpacks after babysitting all weekend for the Genzer Girls and never went home, looked awkward. I had just come from an awesome meeting of the "National Organization of Deported Migrants" (NODM) meeting, where Dr. Headley's efforts have mainly been focused. The point of this group is to collectively push for the economic, social and political empowerment of deportees. They have elected officials from their own population and have built a board representing germane organizations such as, The Red Cross, The Jamaica Foundation, and The Ministry of National Security. Membership ranges in age, both genders are present, colonial capital varied, current fiscal statuses are variegated, yet "still living" was the mantra amongst the group. They have been recently conducting workshops relating to human deportation processes, skills networking, securing proper identification and mapping the resources available to current, incoming and future migrants. I was introduced to the group as someone who is on their side, one yelled out and said "CIA!" I told them that was flattering, but "No" I'm just a student.
Dr. Headley, they call him Prof, told them I was not affiliated with any law enforcement agency, and that they should be happy that a US State Department grant has gone to studying their cause. Someone then shouted, "WHAT LIKE HOMELAND SECURITY!" This may take some trust building, but I'm cool with that. I was taught in basic anthropology courses that being a participant observer is not always a welcomed position. Particularly for a group of people who has felt slighted by government, I believe there skepticism goes without say. Our next meeting is in October and Prof challenged them to have 300 deportees present. I am looking forward to seeing the results; I will also attempt to get a quick survey together for that date, the data opportunity has officially presented itself. After making many connections, getting a ton of numbers and valuable information I joined my roommates for the third annual "Music Throughout the Ages".

So rainy season sucks for a few reasons. 
1) The drainage system/old aqueducts here are inadequate.
2) People decide to stay in because of the rain.
3) Transportation is seriously hindered due to flooded streets and the flocks of people who leave work early on account of the rain. 
This leads to a few problems for someone such as myself:
-Since I am car-less I am forced to deal with the mobbed street. One minute One minute from the taxi dispatcher means anything but one minute.
-Also the taxi phone services get mashed up so I pressed redial 14 times before I could get a taxi for 12:15pm. Since it was pouring I opted against walking down to Devon House for the route, besides I'd be late. But of course I was late anyways.  My awesome driver Marble called me and told me he would "Soon Come" I asked him to define "Soon" he said, "Soon, like don't go outside and get all wet", I was outside already. We talked about my pet snake back at home for 25 minutes. He was fascinated with Roscoe Lee Brown.
- My International Econ Prof never showed to class, so I went for nothing. I decided to overt mental disaster and decided to tackle UWI's library.
- I don't own and umbrella, go figure. Sandal birks, cargos, and a backpack are immediately soaked upon walking across campus. Whatever I am over it, your either sweaty or soaked by rain.
- No backpacks allowed in the library. Cool; check my bag, walk inside, forgot the call number for my book in my bag, accidentally stumbled into the econ section and found the most recent available text on International Econ, 4th edition 2001.  9 years is a long time for economic theory to evolve. By the way, our syllabus says see the 10th edition, shoot 6 too early. I take it out anyways.
- I hate being behind in class, it messes me up, I won't sleep till I know every in and out of the Heckscher-Ohlin theory. I really need a strong econ background for grad school so desperate times call for the 4th edition and Wikipedia.
-So the line to retrieve my bag at this point is 100 people long. 10 minutes later me and my swampy Jansport agree that all dignity in staying dry has eluded us therefore the hike to the route taxi cannot make things any worse.

Route Taxi Process 
So 80J for a taxi home is the best price by far, but you squeeze into a Taxi with at least 3 if not 4 in the back and your either sweaty or soaking wet. But you always get to hear great reggae or dance-hall music. They drive like maniacs and they know every road in Kingston. But they always take these shortcuts if traffic sucks, like it does when it's raining, so then I have no idea where I am and most likely will miss my chance to jump out at a red light close to home. 
Example: Today's trip to Halfway Tree.
" Afway Tree - Afway Tree!"
- cool I think my stop first taxi here! First bit of good luck all day, I get in.
- Ring, phone call for Taxi Driver, "Me Soon Come", he replies 
- QUICK Right, great, I'm lost now, but I know I'm close. I'm sure he will make a left and head my way.
Driver: "We a gwaan south! If ya gwaan nort, ya gwaan get going naw, uzzimi."
- Shit, going Right, no red light in site, I'll wait for the next light. 2 miles later, a red light and a 15 minute walk home versus the usual 5. The above is the result. Enjoy your cute public transportation systems and your efficient street drainage.  

By the way FREE BUJU! Look it up!! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Some nights things just work out. Anita's proclivity was confirmed due to her prediction of Saturday night's events. We decided to really attempt to do Jamaican nightlife right, since we had been bumbling around like obvious foreigners coupled with halfhearted attempts at dressing the part and having enough attitude, I think we officially culturally assimilated. Holly and Jody took Anita, Jazz, Iris & I to shop around Kingston and they prepared us for the night ahead. Iris is another one of the 5 Fulbrights here in Kingston, she got in a few days ago so we were happy to have her along for the day. We also picked up Robin (Jody's sister) & her friend Justine; the more the merrier!

After last weekend's emotional overload a we were due for some fun. On our way out of the apartment Jody spotted a roof top party across the street that we could walk to. Deal, we decided to go tonight. We each got an "out of character" outfit for ourselves, then we went shoe shopping. Now here in JA the more outrageous the shoe the better. Your also likely to end up at the bottom of the stairs more quickly than you intended to. Lucky for us Jody is a master of disclaimers and Holly explains everything really well. So when Jody said "wifey walk out" as we were trying on heels we immediately looked to Holly for same clarity. Compliment? Poking Fun? What in the world was Jody talking about! Basically when wifey walks out, the girl on the side (matey) walks on in. Thanks Jody! We'll take it as a compliment! After some sound advice from Jody on shoes, we heeded his advice and waited before we bought the loudest pumps in the store.

We all then went to dinner at this hella good Japanese restaurant and Anita and I were finally able to beat Jody to the bill! It's the least we can do for their constant hospitality, and we just adore them. Their champs for sure since we are always asking ludicrous questions and forcing them to explain everything! Jody is also going to let me drive his car. His Subaru makes me homesick for mine! Driving on the left hand side of the road in a oppositely built car is bound to be thrilling. After dinner we went home to work for a few more hours and actually go out late. Waiting till after midnight to go out and get ready is a new phenomena but we made it happen. We were walking out of the apartment when we met one of our first neighbors! He offered to drive us across the street because, which turned out to be a blessing cause walking across a main four way four lane intersection in pumps would of sucked.

So long story short we met a Canadian guy who was here signing Vybz Kartel, Jamaica's dancehall king, for a Canadian tour. So here comes my phenomenal idea, Vybz Kartel got his US visa revoked (along with Canada & the UK). I'm interested in immigration discrimination. INTERVIEW! So we go meet Vybz within the same hour, quickest connection ever made in Jamaica to come to fruition. Probably the oddest experience was Vybz's personal photographer snapped a frame of us and Vybz says's "4 Copies". 25 minutes later, no lie, 4 printed copies. I don't know where the hell the photographer went but when he came back with prints in hand we were astounded. It was more challenging to get a printing card at our University Library!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And its only been a month!

So my lovely friend Christian decided to send me a little surprise to let me know he is always thinking about me! So I wanted to share it with all of you! Since one of my recent blogs touched on this subject. 

Even the NY Times is interested!
I believe the appropriate attitude for this year abroad is, "don't worry you can sleep in a year!" I am also trying to incorporate the never say no mantra so I can do everything Jamaica has to offer. Since Tuesday it has been non-stop. Jazz's birthday, first grad class ever, Rosh Hashanah dinner, American football, Samir (Anita's boyfriend) arrived, FURI's founder who live in NY is here for a solid week of FURI work, a trip to Ochie & MoBay and the tumultuous task of keeping up on the personal work I've created for myself.

We kept Jazz's birthday fairly low key, but since half of this trip is dedicated to eating our way through Jamaica we decided to try Market Place a ingenious half outdoor and half indoor restaurant complex. So here is the genius part... if you sit in the middle section and don't pick a specific restaurant you and your buddies can choose from anyone of the 5 or so restaurants. Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Japanese and French. So yeah were going to try them all...obviously. We started with Japanese which was outrageously good. Reminds me of some places in NYC, Hagi to be specific.

We all had an early morning, Jazz was getting the "don't fall in love lecture at the embassy" and we told her to be ON TIME. Anita as usual trucks through the "M" everyday, and I started my first grad class ever. Caribbean Political Institutions! So stoked. The class represented many countries, most heavily represented was the French and their overseas region Martinique, about 5 French and 3 from Martinique. I was the only American and there was one Barbadian and 3 Jamaicans. There is a 5 year comparative politics program set up between Bordeaux France , Mona Jamaica, and Martinique. 3 years at your primary institution and then 1 at each affiliate university. Pretty cool! So the teacher taught his first 30 minutes with his sunglasses and his first main point was that Caribbean Political Institutions don't work, and that we should, as politics/governance majors, fix it. Bottom line is the Caribbean function in Crisis governance mode almost consistently. And there are a few major reasons for it. First Caribbean Islands poorest to wealthiest: Based on GDP per capita in USD in 2009.

1) Haiti - $733
2) Jamaica - $4,390
3) Dominicana - $4,949
4) Domincan Republic - $5,176
5) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - $ 5.261
6) Saint Lucia - $5,671
7) Grenada - $5,969
8) Saint Kitts and Nevis - $10,315
9)Barbados - $13,003
10) Antigua & Barbuda - $13,852
11) Trinidad & Tobago -$15,851
12) Bahamas - $21,529

Needless to say these many of these countries have incomprehensible Debt to GDP ratios, they are in the middle of hurricane territory( Haiti), also on a fault line which makes them highly susceptible to earthquakes (Haiti), the literacy rate is abysmal, and corruptions ripples through most institutions, private and government alike. Not to mention that they are in the middle of the ocean and the polar ice caps are melting, potential HUGE CRISIS. So yeah, maybe the should worry a bit.
But everything is done without careful planning because there is an awful game taking place that forces these nations to always play catchup and use band aids. They are also highly aid dependent and they have a "taking mentality" that is pervasive in their fiscal management but also in the way the they participate in the global market. They import almost everything, and there exports are low. They have a market in tourism that suffers from crime, but not as much as you would think.
There is a lack of foreign investment and the political environment is polarized by violent political affiliations. This all equals crisis governance. So whats in the future for the Caribbean? More after Wednesday! Oh I am also teacher assisting a class on Crime, Violence, & Political Strife in the Caribbean! Someone should probably tell me to "big up myself" right now.

Jazzy & I made our way to the Genzer's for Rosh Hashanna dinner where we had Matzoh Ball Soup & Koogel just like we would at home! We had the traditionally apples & honey for dessert and overall it was a great way to spend the Jewish New Year! Mom, Dad, I hope you guys are impressed that I continued to stay Jewish in Jamaica!

Samir, Anita, Me, Jazzy & Kam @ club Fiction
Samir came on Thursday so we showed him around Kingston for the night which inevitably resulted in Friday being dedicated to some serious rest that was well deserved. I don't think Jazzy & I moved till 10pm when the craving for pan chicken became too strong. I was also resting up for my trip to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios with FURI. Carmeta was picking me up Saturday at 6:30am! Carmeta, Martha, Marleen, Ishon & I were driving through the mountains into the country to see a community of deportees that was really suffering. Martha came from this community and made her way to Kingston and now wanted to bring back FURI to help those she left behind.

We traveled through Spanish Town which used to be the capital of Jamaica, as of April 17th it is ranked as the most dangerous place to live in Jamaica Despite the well known political violence Spanish Town is vibrant, colorful, and eccentric. All kinds reside in the old city that is nicknamed "Prison Oval". Some of the prisoners can see through there bars an oval cricket field and potentially catch part of the match.

In other disturbing news, the Jamaica Gleaner (daily news) posts the death/murder count on the front page of every paper. Also there is monument deep in the "M" on Church Street where all the names of children or teens who have been killed due to violence are listed. Jamaica has many ironies rooted in their violent history. There national hero Marcus Garvey, father of pan-africanism, was a peaceful man (despite the means in which mass movements advocate, protests etc). He is also considered a prophet by the Rastafari and Garvey's legacy is pervasive throughout Jamaican music, poetry, architecture, and political rhetoric. Garvey is quoted constantly. Specific to my cause, GARVEY HIMSELF WAS DEPORTED. Yet most Jamaican's refuse to associate themselves with deportees. I'll be meeting with a few experts on Jamaican criminology so more to come once I'm more informed!

Back to my MoBay/Ochie trip. After Spanish Town, we crossed Flat Bridge and journeyed toward Fern Gully. Which as far as I knew only existed in an animated film from the 90's! Fern Gully also has the coolest street side craft stands.
Phenomenally rooted trees lined F.G

The trees almost form a canopy over the road
Martha & I with a well endowed statue!
Mainly the streets are lined with wooden statues of all sizes that are individually hand carved. Some racier than others! On another trip I'll certainly be coming back with some crafts for mis amigos back in the states.We arrived in Ochie and you cannot help but notice how blue the ocean is. It blows the bluest skies out of the water
No wonder they consider Jamaica Paradise, it speaks for itself

Although the island is beautiful and the history is rich and captivating we were about to step into a clearing in the woods that is home to many deportees that resort to self-destructive behavior because the social services provided to them are close to none. And even if they did exist, say in Kingston, how would one access the facility which is over 4 hours away by car/bus from MoBay Martha first brings us to Fisherman's beach where in the evening she used to hang out with a desperate crowd. Gambling, drinking, drugs, prostitution and violence are a nightly occurrence. During the day the occupants fish and try to earn a buck by selling loose cigarettes, the days catch and bag juice. Even though they face the days wondering how they will eat, they are laughing, singing and haranguing one another about Rasta tenets and political anecdotes.

The Reggae/Dancehall is loud and the vulgar language under the card gazebo can be heard by all. Everyone is thrilled to see Martha! Even though she is clean, dressed and fed they recognize her as one of their own. Before she could even get out of the car everyone left their seats to get a peak at the new Martha. Many gawked with amazement some started with a twinge of jealousy, yet most were happy to see she was alive. After Martha's reunion we made our way to the highway overpass and instead of walking over it we walk right down underneath it to see a house that was built by a deportee with electricity! Indian was a honorably discharged Marine who served in Cambodia and was ultimately deported from California. He now lives under this bridge and attempts to find work as a welder when someone reads his sign that he carries up to the road.
Going Under the Overpass
Indian's Perch
Work is scare but Indian is grateful he has a place to accumulate some belongings. He notes that

Indian's House, note the light coming through the "window"
one of the hardships endured during homelessness is that anything you accrue is fair game for someone to take since you don't have a place for it. But Indian has a place for his stuff the inside is organized quite well. With a make shift closet, hanging Christmas lights, and a fire pit he is "living comfortably". His place is extemporaneously built but he positioned it on the highest ground possible since the river floods during the rainy season. Without careful planning all of Indian's stuff could wash away. After filming 20 minutes of footage about Indian's story we left him with enough money to purchase a phone so he can keep in contact with us while we attempt to find him work.
"Welder Needs Some Work"

 We also left him with rice, chicken broth, beans, bananas and cane. We were then venturing into the thick brush so we could find the Guinep tree Martha used to sleep under for months. Martha led the way and I followed under strict instructions to only take pictures if I am granted allowance by the residents of the wooded area. After introductions to the group of 12-15 deportees/homeless a relationship was established and we handed out business cards to the deportees who may want to seek social services. This is trickier than is said here, but do to causes for concern I'll keep it simple. This clearing is commanded by a Don we will call Mustafa. Unfortunately the same antics at fisherman's beach run ramped here. Unlike the beach these people sleep amongst the pigs they raise for minimal income.  They sleep on Styrofoam slabs
and when it rains they "all go home". Martha tells us that just means they go under Indian's bridge. They are not proud of living like this so they make it seem as though it is a choice. Remember human beings hold onto pride until there is nothing left. Remember many of these people built lives in the United States only to be sent to a country that they originally chose to leave. We also left these people with food and let them know we were there if and when the decided to seek help. Indian has already followed up and called us. He has high hopes for his future dealings with FURI and we will do our best too meet him halfway.

Needless to say this emotional day wore me out so we had a traditional Jamaican dinner back in Ochie, cooked by Carmeta's childhood friend Cecil. She also let the 5 of us crash at her place and she was such a lovely person to meet. Her house that she built from her self run restaurant was gorgeous. Imagine this view every morning. One of our last stops on this trip was Sunday morning service at Ocho Rios Baptist Church. Oh yeah you better believe it, me Ashley, in a Baptist Church! The singing was angel like the music was heartfelt and the testimony about the prodigal daughter was eloquently preached. The prodigal daughter was bathed, clothed and fed by the church. And ironically that was the reason we were there. This church clothed, bathed & fed Martha, she was this churches prodigal daughter! And when it was her turn, her testimony was a paean for the church from the pulpit! No doubt, inspiring for all. She told the story about how she was dirty and hungry and as she approached the church two teenage sisters said good morning to her. She couldn't believe that she was not invisible and that someone actually noticed her. You can always count on the youth in my opinion! They took her to the church and aided in her transformation that day. Lucky enough for us they were there this Sunday morning! So I'll leave you with this heartwarming reunion that was a pleasure to see after hearing so many heart wrenching stories the day before. We should all thank the Universe for what we have.