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!