Thank you for bearing with me through such a lengthy hiatus. This is a largely incoherent attempt at catching up with you before resuming regular blogging. Enjoy! 1. Sleeping with strangers inspired me to travel Since joining CouchSurfing on May 4, 2009, I have had an insatiable urge to sleep with strangers. Well, I started off […]
In July 2012 while volunteering at the 19th International AIDS Conference, I met an activist from Cameroon who had a lot to share about his experience volunteering for South Africa 2010; I was intrigued and immediately set up a google alert to be notified when applications opened for Brazil 2014. The wait wasn’t long and I put in my bid two months later; as soon as the announcement was made. The same application was used for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup but I elected not to participate in the training for Confederations Cup and as a result I was not considered for that event.
Brazuca: the official ball of Brazil 2014
The next step was initial online training – an overview of FIFA and the World Cup, including information on the venues and host cities as well as the basics of volunteering. There was also an optional training element that dealt with “themes of social legacy” such as diversity, ethics, conflict resolution, leadership and problem solving. I did not make it through most of these elective courses as they were only offered in Portuguese. The online training and evaluation also included an assessment of language skills; I completed an online test of both my English and Spanish proficiency. This helped the organizing committee to better allocate volunteers to an area of work.
After the training was complete, it was time to schedule my Skype interview. After carefully analyzing my calendar for the next month, I picked a date thirty days away. I had completely forgotten about the interview and was not physically prepared. I answered the call with video not knowing who was on the line, don’t ever do this! When I heard the Brazilian accent, I immediately realized this was the interview. My hair was in its most natural form and my not-quite-an-Afro tuft was still in its fresh-off-the-pillow state but I couldn’t just cut the video off midstream so I smiled and carried on. It turned out to be a great interview, more like a conversation about my skills- especially my interpersonal skills- and my interest in Brazil and the tournament. The interviewer didn’t care about my hair, thankfully.
After successfully completing the interview, I indicated my availability and was soon after presented with an offer to be a Media Volunteer in Manaus. I was happy to receive my first choice of assignment in the city I most desired to visit and immediately accepted. Jamaicans still require a visa to enter Brazil for any reason so the last step of my journey was applying for one1 , which I did as soon as I received the accreditation letter from the World Cup’s organizing committee. The US$20 fee was waived, since I am a volunteer, and the visa took around five business days to process.
I will be working at Arena da Amazônia which will host four matches in the group stage
So there you have it – I did not need to conduct a seance or join a secret society in order to participate in the World Cup. Most major events, even not-so-major ones, will rely on volunteers to ensure a successful, safe and exciting experience while maximizing the involvement of the local and global community.
I will be flying to Manaus next week and I expect to have a whale of a time, eat feijoada and meet some amazing people. Yes, I’ll keep you posted.
P.S. Just a heads up, the Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and they will start accepting applications for volunteers on the 28th of August, 2014.
i visited Brazil in December but the visas are only valid for three months. Bummer. [↩]
Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several meanings, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple. -WikiPedia (at time of publication)
As defined above, there is no dating scene in Jamaica, especially not among Jamaicans. In fact, there is hardly a social venue or event that is not dominated by cliques and this makes it very hard for us to interact with persons from different backgrounds and circles. When individuals do meet and find some romantic interest, it does not usually progress in a manner to facilitate
Jamaicans go out together as couples, usually when their relationship is cemented. Being seen at a movie or dinner with someone implies that you and he/she are an item. To add insult to injury, the ideas presented by my tweeps, earlier this year, regarding ‘dating’ persons you may have met online or only briefly before suggest that a sort of pre-date of meet up is necessary before undertaking activities that will require spending. I didn’t want to believe it either but here are the tweets…
When you trying to get to know somebody & you decide to "meet up" ,I think the venue should be a regular place,if u go to a movie/restaurant
Article contributed by Georgia (@CindysDaughter). The opinions expressed herein may not be those of Karee, the author of Negril Stories.
Last week, I was sitting in a little country restaurant with a few colleagues. Our police force, their tactics and “police brutality” came up. As is often the case when the topic of the JCF comes up, there was soon a loud and rousing argument. This time it was centered on the following incident…
One Sunday, a young man, let’s call him Sam, set out on the road in his vehicle. Sam was travelling alone. While driving along, some policemen drove up behind Sam. They beckoned to him to stop his vehicle. Sam however sped up and sped away. The policemen chased after him. Eventually, Sam’s car overturned.
Sam climbed from the overturned vehicle and ran down an embankment, the police in hot pursuit. The policemen soon started firing at him. In total, six shots were fired at Sam. This story is starting to sound familiar, I know. We after all read the papers and watch the nightly news. Thankfully, the ending is not the usual. None of the shots hit Sam. But they came close enough for him to figure out that he better stop before one did. He was cornered and arrested. Sam was brought to the station and eventually charged for operating a robot taxi.
Yes. That is why Sam was chased and shot after. The police suspected him of “running a robot taxi”.
Now all of us at the table concluded that what Sam did was not very smart. In fact, we all agreed on one thing, Sam was lucky to even be alive. We nervously joked that this could have ended with the too familiar report on the nightly news:
“The police were today engaged in a running gun battle by two gun men who were travelling in a stolen vehicle. The police attempted to intercept the vehicle, whereupon the men alighted from the vehicle and fired several shots at the police. The police returned the fire and the men escaped into nearby bushes, where one was later found suffering from gunshot wounds. He was later pronounced dead at hospital. A gun was recovered from the scene.”
It is every kind of sad that even a child could probably have narrated that “police report”. How many times have we narrated such a story in jest? The line “escaped into nearby bushes” is as Jamaican as jerk pork ackee and saltfish.
Interestingly, while most of us at the table reacted to the story with some amount of cynicism and a certain world weariness, the lone policeman at the table was visibly incensed at the action of the police. According to him, the JCF’s use of force policy is clear; policemen are only supposed to shoot at a suspect in defence of life. In this case, there are no allegations that the policemen or any member of the public were ever in fear for their life. There are no allegations that there was any fear that Sam had a weapon. There are no allegations that Sam was suspected of being involved in any serious crime. The allegations are that Sam was suspected of operating a “robot taxi”. This alleged “robot taxi” was overturned and sitting there in the road. The police could have seized it. Instead they chose to shoot, six times, at a fleeing person.
The Member of Parliament for the community where Sam is from was also at the table. He had spoken to Sam after the incident. He said he was surprised when he heard about what had happened because Sam is not known to anyone in the community as a “troublemaker”. The story struck him as so strange that he had sought out Sam to find out exactly what had transpired. This was Sam’s account…
Sam is from a “rough community”. The type of neighbourhood with lots of crime. Many of the “youths/yutes” in the area are involved in illegal activities. Young men just like Sam. Sam recounted that often times these youths are taken from the community by “cowboy police” and executed when the police become fed up with their antics. According to Sam, when the police flagged him down he was scared they would judge him wrongly because of his community and the actions of some of the other young men there. He said he feared he would be executed too because “him a nuh nobody pickney”. He said he was scared his fate would be the same as some of the other young men from the community, some guilty of various crimes, others only guilty of being poor, black and from a “bad area”. Sam said instinct and adrenaline took over. He ran. Ran by car and then by foot. When the bullets started coming he figured he was dead anyway and stopped.
I don’t know Sam. I cannot vouch for Sam’s character. I cannot say if Sam’s reason for running from the police is factual. Only Sam really knows his own story. But I’ve heard stories like Sam’s before. I’ve heard stories like Sam’s from grieving mothers, girlfriends, aunts, community members wailing on the evening news. Protesting the slain one’s innocence. Disputing the police’s account of the incident. Claiming that there was no shoot out and that the dead person(s) was executed by the police in cold blood. We sit and watch this unfold on our television sets ever so often.
Let’s not pretend we don’t often roll our eyes and comment: “everybody dead dem come out come block road and seh him was ah angel”.
We would probably have said the same for Sam, if one of those six shots had hit their target. He came very close to being a statistic, a reason for a roadblock, a news report.
I’m glad Sam’s story didn’t end up on the nightly news. I’m glad news cameras weren’t thrust into the face of Sam’s family. I’m glad Sam survived.
Note from Karee: Jamaican Bloggers will join forces in tackling police brutality on the first Jamaica Blog Day, May 23, 2013. This date was chosen because the state of emergency that preceded the advance into Tivoli Gardens was announced on Sunday, May 23, 2010 by then-Prime Minister Bruce Golding, a week after announcing that the Jamaican Government was taking action on the months-old extradition request for Christopher Coke. Please follow @JaBlogDay for further updates.
Article contributed by A.L (@AOneGong). The opinions expressed herein may not be those of Karee, the author of Negril Stories.
I love a beautifully orchestrated entrée of beef or chicken, so willingly have I accepted my calling as an omnivore; I salivate at the thought of sushi and I gladly entertain the occasional indulgence in oysters fresh from the sea. While not pretending to be a full blown foodie I will unabashedly endorse indulging in a good meal. I’ve always been aware, however, of the myriad number of additives present in food along with the fat calories I’ve learned to dread like the plague – if not avoid.
I’m aware of the food industry’s almost maddening reliance on preservatives ranging from nitrites to benzoic acid by the food industry, the pervasive utilization of salt, fructose corn syrup in sodas and fruit drinks, the ubiquitous presence of artificial sweetners like Acesulfame and Aspartame in many diet foods; but a few months ago I asked myself: Do you really know where the meat you eat comes from?
This question became even more pertinent in March 2012 when ABC News reported on the use of ‘pink slime’ or ‘lean finely textured beef’ as a ‘meat filler’ in the USA. In essence, this product consists of lean beef carcass trimmings (including bits of cartilage and other connective tissues), not bad as it’s still technically meat. However, the treatment of this material with a heating process that liquefies the fat to enable the removal of any lean beef from the mass, and the subjection of this ‘lean beef’ to gaseous ammonia or citric acid to kill any bacteria which is (invariably) present is frightening. This ‘product’ has found its way into ground beef burgers which even if they contain up to 15% of ‘pink slime’ can be legallylabelled 100% beef in the USA. But don’t think meat fillers are unique to beef, it has found useful acceptance in chicken processing as well. Yummy!
More recently there was the ‘horse meat’ scandal in Ireland and Britain, where if you’re unaware, large amounts of processed ‘beef’ products were found to include not just horse DNA, but pig DNA! There was one product tested which was 100% horse meat and more than 75% of the samples taken had ‘oink’ DNA mixed into the ‘meat’. While horse meat is culturally accepted in many countries from Europe to South America to Asia and provides a good source of protein their modern consumption is largely frowned upon. It is notable that Argentina and Brazil which form major sources of corned beef to the Jamaican market are significant horse meat producers. These details I’m sure have many vegans doing Reggae tinged I-told-you-so song and dance.
You may argue that these incidents are firmly based abroad and that in Jamaica we ‘know’ where our meat comes from…but do you really know what goes into making that chicken from the drive-thru you’ll wolf down for lunch, the succulent stewed fish you had for breakfast or the huge baked breast that’s being thought of for dinner? Yes, Jamaicans do eat a lot of chicken.
Well, the processing of chickens is just that-processing. It begins with the harvesting of chicks which are then shuttled as cargo to various growing houses in which they will be allotted 49 days to eat their way to an individual average slaughter weight of about 4.5 pounds. This dramatic increase in weight over this short period is targeted at the breasts and legs which though not accomplished through the use of hormones is achieved by selective breeding based upon growth rates and feed conversion. In these chickens the rapid growth rate results in flesh that grows faster than the bones; these bones may be so underdeveloped they struggle under the weight of these super-sized chickens. The simple act of walking to the feed/water station sees them struggling through blistered breasts and having to waddle through hundreds of pecking neighbours; and their own faeces. There is little wonder many of these birds are unhealthy and provide meat teaming with E.coli and other bacteria.
These chicken breasts and thighs which consumers seem to desire are so huge and flavourless you might as well chow down on the waxed cardboard in which they are shipped. But fear not, this hunk of meat is often rendered delectable with the injection or addition of texturizers, stabilizers, thickeners, citric acid, the ever present corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, good ol’ salt and phosphates among many other chemicals lovingly added in copious amounts. In short the food industry would have you believe that your fried chicken or the mystery-meat-chicken-nugget is chock full of wholesome goodness that they place pictures of smiling old men and happily frolicking birds on their products.
There are many of you reading this and wondering, why not just have fish? Let us. Farmed fish is by design more prone to the presence of contaminants such as industrial chemicals, agricultural run-off often rife with pesticides and heavy metals, and the chemicals contained the food fed to these animals. There are also permissibly higher levels of antibiotics allowed in some fish species, than in livestock; after all one sick fish can kill a whole pen. There are a myriad number of fish which can be farmed; however, Jamaicans have become familiar with Tilapia, which is a hardy species with high yields.
Male Tilapia is generally preferred because of higher yields and the uniformity in size. A Jamaican farming manual indicates the developmental stage at which male-steroid containing feed should be given to promote sex inversion; a process where female fish are converted to males with testicular tissue. There is also the recommended practice of starving fish for 24 hours prior to ‘harvesting’ which makes netting them easier, increases their chance of survival before processing and helps to maintain their quality during processing. No one wants bruised fillets for dinner I guess.
Despite a notable presence on our market, the low levels of Omega-3 makes eating them almost a waste of time; while exposing our systems to all the chemicals that go into producing them.
I love meat, but I’ve resorted to exploring meat from known/trusted sources and with my recent decision to actively trim my mid-section fast food outlets are avoided like the pox. I have become more acquainted with my stove and the pots my mother in her wisdom bequeathed to me. I don’t think it’s practical to completely avoid these products, pervasive as they are but I think the following are options to explore:
o Purchase Fresh Meat – Processed meats are intended to have a longer shelf life containing harmful preservatives and other ingredients used to extend their shelf and maintain their colour and consistency
o Avoid Fast Food – Take your pick, many do offer some “healthy” options, but many consist of processed foods, a salad sprinkled with manufactured bacon bits, processed cheese product and refined flour croutons must make the lettuce cry
o Aim for Natural Flavours – season your own foods with herbs, garlic, onion, scallions etc., all of which we grow here in Jamaica
Read Labels – look for ingredients that sound like food and not ingredients for paint. Many food additives are suspected of contributing to increased cancer risks, hyperactivity in children and decreased sperm counts. Also, look out for products with no added growth hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.
Purchase Food you Recognize – Chickens don’t produce square breasts nor are they neon orange like the fried chicken being served at the work canteen
Eat Regular Meals – keeping your stomach satisfied reduces the temptation to indulge in unhealthy food because of convenience proximity
Eat In-season – incorporate foods that are in-season, out-of-season means they need to be preserved by whatever means necessary it seems
Take Lunch/Snacks – if you provide your own trusted food there is less to be concerned about
Go Organic/ Free-Range – Our grandparents had it figured with the avoidance of fertilizers, pesticides and raising animals in pens, trapped in their own excrement
Avoid GMO – many foods are now genetically modified, try to eat locally grown foods that come from local seed banks (this is hard as many seeds are imported)
I have resolved to implement as much of these pointers as I can and for your own health I encourage you to do the same. After all, we are what we eat. Why not eat as healthily as possible despite the challenges.
I was greatly disheartened to hear of the allegations surrounding the thirty-five former educators who were indicted last Friday in what is becoming the United States’ largest test cheating scandal.1 I was especially saddened by the fact that the face of such a grand scandal is one I can identify with. Dr. Beverly Hall is a product of the Jamaican school system. She graduated from two of the most acclaimed high schools2 in our country and like many Jamaicans who have ventured abroad; she worked hard and earned a leadership position in her field. She was an English teacher who ultimately became the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.
Beverly Hall shows off her medal after being named Superintendent of the Year. Jamaicans are accustomed to glory; we strive for excellence at home and abroad.
Allegations are that Dr. Hall fostered an environment in which educators were forced to cheat (adjust answers on standardized tests) in order to raise students’ test scores and as such she was indicted for violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). In other words, Dr. Hall is accused of being too hard a taskmaster. In a Gleaner article dated April 14, 2009, Dr. Hall explained that her passion for excellence stems from the insistence on success by her Jamaican family and the strictness of instruction that prevails in our schools.3 While I cannot say with certainty that Dr. Hall is not culpable in this case, I do not hold in esteem any system that can implicate supervisors for the wilful, illegal acts of their subordinates.
The focus on Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) as the sole authority on the success of students is similar to the Jamaican obsession with the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Students from grade four and up are made to focus on the subjects that will be tested- they are drilled with past papers, made to attend intensive extra lessons and study very hard. At the end of this testing the students and teachers breathe a unanimous sigh of relief and enter into a three-month academic slump, awaiting their results and placement. The difference between Georgia’s CRCTs and Jamaica’s GSAT is that the results of GSAT determine whether Jamaican students will attend a traditionally ‘good’ high school or be condemned to the oubliette- a newly-upgraded, all-age or technical high school. The two tests are also different in that Jamaican public school teachers do not receive performance-based incentives so they have no financial stake in the student’s success. I imagine that during Dr. Hall’s primary school days, an excellent score in the (now retired) Common Entrance Exam would have secured her a place at St. Hilda’s High.
While Jamaicans are wont to cheat in several ways- giving bun4, lotto scamming, political dishonesty5, and the folk heroification of Anancy the trickster, I have never been led to question our national academic integrity. A copy taker was the worst thing you could be called in school; no form of cheating was sanctioned at any level of my academic career but I am sure there are a few students who did it anyway. I have never imagined that teachers and education administrators could be guilty of such crimes. Unlike in Turkey where, as my friend related to me, cheating students are backed by their parents, teachers, administration and governmental policies; my experience is that an academically dishonest student is alienated in Jamaica. I do not want to believe that we have administrators or educators in our system who would participate in similar vices in order to save face. Or maybe I am young.
If my analysis of our system is incorrect, if Dr. Hall’s Jamaican-instilled mantra of having no choice but to succeed is what led her to “not do more to prevent it[cheating]”6 then we need to evaluate not only our educational structure but our social values, we need to find ways of instilling academic integrity from the ground up. We need to employ methods that will prevent children from copying others’ work in primary school, we must look into the teachers who are involved in the writing of these standardized tests and guarantee that the students they teach privately are not at an unfair advantage to those who cannot afford to pay for additional lessons, we have to ensure that there is balance in our delivery and that we do not thwart our students’ creativity by teaching just for the test; we also need to ensure that university administrators hold to their standards of matriculation.
Jamaica has outgrown the terrible arbiters by which we define success. The time has come for us to work diligently and creatively towards embracing the individuality of each child in our country and the whole human race.
I am not a Grammar Nazi but the more I read text messages and tweets from certain people, the more I want to get rid of all the electronic devices around me and force my nieces and nephews to grow up in a world where verbal truncation is not an acceptable way of life. I am overcome with the desire to kidnap everyone who uses the wrong homophone, lock them in a trailer and instruct them with flash cards til they get it right. Please examine the below text message from two years ago that I have immortalized in the memory of my phone.
“I wan 2 go luk 4 Ant u can giv me z bus fear?”
I can only imagine that this was his or her informal method of communication, that he or she puts greater effort into other aspects of his or her writing than he or she puts into begging ‘bus fear’. Examine also this tweet:
Now, twitter allows you all of 140 characters to work with, you’ve only used 28 and find it necessary to abbreviate already short words like ‘see’, ‘that’ and ‘text’?
According to the American Library Association, digital literacy means the ability to locate, evaluate, and use digital information. The digitally literate can efficiently find the information they seek, evaluate that information, and use that information effectively. The ability to recognize what information is needed and when to use it are additional components of digital literacy.
I am disappointed that the Jamaican curriculum is still focusing on penmanship and so little on electronic typing skills, which includes texting. I believe this is the reason why so many people pay little attention to their electronic communication. I only write by hand on occasion when I have migraines and cannot face a screen; I acknowledge it is very counterproductive as I have to retype [sometimes I am unable to decipher my own handwriting] but I am sure that the emerging professional will have no need to scribble one word in ink. Perhaps the time invested in teaching chi
ldren Victorian cursive could be used to focus more on spelling and reading exercises. I haven’t seen any reading material in cursive since I left the third grade classroom. Even during school when I was forced to write cursive properly, I had primarily sans Serif types in my textbooks. This is largely like being forced to write an entirely different language than you read, they might as well have made us write Cyrillic.
Fear not the bus, fear the wrath of the preachers thereon.
Don’t you just love homophones? Apart from unnecessary truncation, this is the second most problematic issue I find in electronic communication, my third greatest concern is the nuances of American versus British English. I know that we now have spell checkers and acknowledge that they have been immensely useful to me but the only way you can use one effectively is if you actually know how to spell to a certain degree. Spell checkers are made to correct mistakes, not utter ignorance. There is no way around learning to spell. Even if your friends understand you, you need to be able to spell in order to effectively find information online. While Google and other search engines tend to make corrections some of the time, effective online communication and research relies on more than search engines so we have to be able to express ourselves correctly which means having a wide vocabulary and knowing which homophone to use.
I can only advise you, friends, to read more and encourage your children to do likewise. Just don’t believe that the grammar of editorials is correct. The Jamaican newspapers are no longer holding to the standards of English and now come riddled with blatant mistakes, but that’s a whole other story.
Exactly two months ago, I shared a bit of writing entitled Jamaican Grief Porn and John-Crow Journalism. I would like to thank you all for the positive feedback and shares; this piece is among the most popular to date on Negril Stories. A few days later my attention was drawn to a letter published in The Gleaner from a former columnist under the heading The media have lost news focus. The letter had a very striking resemblance to my post and while I read, I sighted several phrases of three words and longer that appeared exactly in my post.
I read and re-read the letter several times in an attempt to convince myself that this was a coincidence, that this man who has contributed many letters and columns to local newspapers did not just copy my work and send a botched version to the paper for publication, that nobody would be so brazen. I was unable to conclude that this was purely by chance so I did a bit of ranting then sent a letter to The Gleaner requesting that they remove the letter from their website and publish an apology. Three weeks later I received no response so I decided to call the relevant department. After several days, I finally got to speak to a gentleman who was the Opinion Editor and when I did I was told they did not receive the letter and I was provided with an alternate email address. After sending the letter the second time, I still received no response. I tried calling back for a week and finally got to speak to the same gentleman who gave me his personal e-mail address to send the letter to. He confirmed receipt on the 5th of March and to date the matter is yet to be addressed. I have emailed to check on the progress of the matter and no response has been forthcoming and as you can see, the letter is still there on their website today.
The Gleaner should check everything that goes through their press for libel/defamation and plagiarism and should at least pretend to take these matters seriously when they do arise; or maybe I am mistaken for thinking this is normal procedure in the 21st century. Or maybe it is acceptable to steal others’ work, as even the dear Dame Jane Goodall has been accused of lifting passages. Although an email address was published for the gentleman to whom the letter was attributed, I did not contact him on the matter as in my mind the newspaper is entirely responsible for what they publish. The gentleman was, however, sternly reprimanded by a friend of mine. She shared his response with me and his excuse was that “most people in the media fraternity had seen it etc… must have seen it… I saw it on a JOURNALISTS fb page… wade brown…. geffry phillips and i think Janet Silvera… a nuff people mi did see wid the blog article clipped to there profile…”. The gentleman also said: “mi [nah] try steal nobody thunder… ahmm mi even did waan repeat the article sentiment true FB nuh penetrate Jamaica the real way…. the internet is an elite place filled with an elite citizenry I am barely lucky to be apart of… most peoples internet connect is not even continuous but intermittent and mi know the net nuh reach 1 million of we 3 million population… i just thought a letter to the editor wi reach a ends in a chu-kuh… mocho and mafoota and mount horeb u zimmi…”.
Thanks, sir, but no thanks. I do realise that my blog does not enjoy the readership of the entire Jamaican population but as you acknowledged in your response to my friend, it did get to much of my target audience and even if it did not, the decision to submit it for publication on another medium would be entirely my own. You would have been free to drop me a line to recommend that I shared the article with a major newspaper, as many of my friends had done. You had no right to massacre my work and affix your name to it. You thought it was an “excellent article” so you should have left it as it was, where it was.
My dear readers, I love all of you and I welcome your honest opinion on everything I share with you. Every single time I press the word ‘publish’, I have a sense of opening up my heart a little wider to the world. That is one of the main reasons why I no longer submit opinion pieces to major newspapers, I used to do this frequently when I was in High School but I was never satisfied with how they edited my work, which I believe is a tangible piece of my soul. Mainstream media is a wonderful outlet for many things but at this place in time, my work is not among them. I actively exercise the right to express myself and I will continue to reserve the right to choose my media.
P.S. I invite you all to follow Negril Stories as I continue to exercise my right to expression in the April A to Z Challenge. I will be publishing 26 posts throughout the month- one on each day except Sundays.
UPDATE: I have withdrawn from the A to Z Challenge.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is currently hearing the case of Ms Shanique Myrie against the Eastern Caribbean state of Barbados. Ms Myrie is accusing Barbados1 of subjecting her to vaginal fingering2, insults and other inhumane treatment during detention before she was deported to Jamaica. Ms Myrie holds that the substandard and discriminatory treatment she received, including exposure to “forceful, brutish language” was due to her Jamaican nationality. Ms Myrie is not the only Jamaican woman who has accused Barbadian officers of discriminatory treatment3.
I am a woman who bears a Jamaican passport and I travel primarily alone. I have never been subjected to the treatments described by Ms Myrie et al but I have also never sought entry into Barbados, but depending on the outcome of this case, I just might pay them a visit. I look forward to reading the judgment, regardless of the conclusion, and eagerly anticipate the ironing out of regional border control policies that will undoubtedly arise from such an intense exposé.
Nationality-based discrimination is still a strong human reality, and it is not only a personal prejudice practiced by a few opinionated individuals; it is institutionally legitimized and taught and it does not only take place at international ports of entry. It exists in the labour markets of some developed countries where immigrants automatically receive lower wages and different benefits than natives, ceteris paribus. It exists within the justice and education systems where persons who are incompetent at a country’s accepted language are automatically at a disadvantage. It exists in service and hospitality industries where some patrons are asked to pay upfront while others can pay after being served, where the swiftness of service depends on the accent of the customer; even in Jamaican resort areas, there is a marked difference between the service given to Jamaican nationals and those from foreign countries. I maintain the opinion that Jamaica is the least xenophobic of countries, or reversely xenophobic as it seems as if we are prejudiced against our own and more respectful of foreigners and the Jamaican minorities of a certain social esteem and skin tone.
Even more rampant in societies is gender-based discrimination.
Sand on the beach appears homogenous, but on closer inspection you will find that each grain is different, much like groups of people. Ubuntu (bracelet): We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way4. In an article entitled “Jailed and Raped in Barbados,” a Jamaican woman makes chilling allegations of being repeatedly drugged and raped in a Barbadian lockup. She made several reports of the rape and her claims did not receive any immediate attention. She said, “My biggest fear is not the men; it’s the women; because the women are the ones who let in the men and let them rape me.” We women might be instinctively more nurturing but we are certainly not immune to the disease that is bigotry. There is an evident reluctance among women to support each other. Even though we share the oppression; we do not appear willing to fight the power that is sexism. We do not acknowledge that we are, as women, perpetuating misogyny when we regard each other so callously.
I am still searching for the acceptable explanation as to why only one of the seven CCJ judges is a woman, when women are 51 per cent of the global population, and are faring far better academically than our male counterparts within the Caribbean region. Women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels in politics, law, banking and the civil service, especially. The recurrent elevation of men to positions of significant power is reinforcing negative attitudes regarding the competencies of women, not to mention the arbitrary patriarchal beliefs that are accepted as norms throughout the predominantly Christian region.
Women, Jamaicans and Jamaican women, we must look within ourselves and fix our attitudes towards each other. Society already gi’ we basket fi carry water because we cannot change who we are even if we had the desire to. We are disadvantaged because we are Jamaicans, we are disadvantaged because we are women but internally we have to rise above and reach beyond these stereotypes, we have to expunge them from within ourselves in order to effect change outside of our spheres. Let us do this and look forward to the day when the world is more accepting and just.
or their appointed customs and immigration officers [↩]
I enjoy traveling (duh!) so much that one of my philosophies happens to be ‘home is internal’ but I am sure that if I were among the 100,000 homeless Jamaicans I would barely have the opportunity to travel. But let us imagine that by some stroke of luck I did, my journeys would be fruitless because everyone who has ever gone anywhere knows that half the joy of travel is in the coming home.
The Jamaican government has denied approximately 7,0001 average Jamaican families home ownership by allocating $45 billion from the National Housing Trust (NHT) [which is ‘entrusted with the mission of increasing and enhancing the stock of available housing in Jamaica as well as providing financial assistance to the most needy of our Contributors who wish to build, to buy or to repair their homes’] to a four-year fiscal consolidation plan. This ‘plan’ has not yet been explained in full to Jamaicans, who were informed of this and other shady measures during a national broadcast that ended with Minister Peter Phillips kissing our dear Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller on the cheek.
Ball moss: A parasite that could fight cancer.
Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when many Jamaicans live in substandard conditions, on literal gully banks in lean-tos that can be taken away in the wink of an eye? Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when 120 persons labelled as squatters were evicted from a property and were only provided with communal tents? Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when a common feature of the dwellings of many constituents of both persons who presented this broadcast and several in their cabinet are shaky, corrugated walls, ready to be taken by the wind? Poverty, torment and violence seem to be the only thing Jamaican politicians desire to cultivate.
I have been contributing to the NHT for six years but like many Jamaicans I do not yet own a home, primarily because I do not consider myself ready for a mortgage, and the sum the NHT is offering single applicants will not allow me anything that suits my tastes. Come to think of it, $216,000 of NHT’s money has come from my salary2 and while that sum cannot build anyone a home, I feel entitled to a say in what they do with it. I at least want a clear explanation as to what exactly the money will be doing, what the implications will be for my monthly contributions or any mortgage I will apply for and what plan is, if any, for replenishing this money.
Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms. ~ William J. Bennett
Housing is an integral part of any society and all aspects thereof have large repercussions for the economy; you simply cannot have an economic plan and hinge it on taking funds from a housing agency- it sends the wrong message. Even if the money goes to good use the agency is already failing at its mandate and the right sentiments have not been expressed by our
I wonder if any homeless people inhabit these remnants. Near Port Royal, Kingston
government on the matter. I sincerely hope every contributing Jamaican takes this loan/gift to heart, even if (like many religious fanatics, common in Jamaica) you have lost faith in owning a home in this life and only have the one in heaven waiting.
averaging the cost of a modest, two bedroom home at $7 million [↩]
Now that 2012 has properly digested, I feel like writing about it, or the most memorable aspects of it which happen to be my travels. In all, I took five solo trips and enjoyed every single minute of each of the 49 days I spent on the road. So here’s a rundown of my journeys, discoveries, memorable moments and the tools that helped me to hold it all together.
Big Magic in Houston (7 days)
I had my sights set on New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for several years and was intent on going in May however I did not get the time off. The travel bug had already bitten so I was intent on making a trip the moment I could so I went on musicfestivaljunkies.com to find another concert. Free Press Summer Fest was what I decided on. I made a great choice.
Summer Fest itself was outrageous (in a good way), perfect because I tend to prefer outdoor concerts with several stages as there is always something to groove to. Major Lazer, Willie Nelson, Afrojack, Snoop Dogg and Z-Ro and a hundred other acts did not disappoint. I was also impressed by the platform the festival offered to not only big time companies and food and craft vendors but to the various causes that were allowed a place to express themselves, like The Center for the Healing of Racism and the Rehumanize campaign.
Houston itself does not have a distinctive character, in my opinion, but the arts scene and the various attractions are worth it. CityPass allowed me to see five of them for only $39. It is a good investment for longer trips with less demanding agendas; I forewent the aquarium because it seemed to have been more of a restaurant than something I would find breath-taking. The museums were all impressive with very well curated collections. At the Museum of Fine Arts I saw Renoirs, Rembrandts, Van Goghs and Picassos but what moved me (almost to tears) was a mural, Odyssey, made with gunpowder by Cai Guo-Qiang. Uncut stones and fine jewellery at the Museum of Natural Science’s gem gallery were a sight to behold, an experience brilliantly enhanced by a jazz backdrop. The butterfly display was also pretty amazing.
Houston Ballet’s Made in America and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes was an enthralling, mesmerising journey1. The moment I stepped outside the hall, I was greeted by fireworks generated by the Astros’ victory. One beautiful night. One unforgettable seven-day weekend.
Green, Friendly New Hampshire (7 days)
The main purpose of this trip was to visit my sister who had recently done breast cancer surgery. I was very happy to see her and heartened by the wonderful people she was lucky enough to have around. New England is lovely in summer- green, green everywhere and oh so clean; I enjoyed the relative quiet.
I was invited to a bring-your-own-meat party2; it was a new concept to me but I had a lot of fun with my sister and her friends who were all very hospitable and friendly. I had a head-clearing berry picking session at Brookdale Farm in Hollis, wonderful sushi at Mikata in Merrimack, a gigantic soft-serve ice-cream at King Kone, cheesecake and hearty pilsner at Martha’s Exchange brewery and more good beer at Old Amsterdam Bar and Nathaniel’s Family Eatery, both in Nashua. I re-read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in Greely Park and lived on Panera Bread. I recommend Castro’s Back Room for cigar lovers, League of NH Craftsmen for souvenirs and Cooking Matters for a quick repast and spice shopping.
Power Food Trip to Washington, DC (18 days)
Volunteering at the AIDS 2012 conference was, undoubtedly, one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far. Experiencing such a powerful and savvy city for the first time was tremendous. All the big talkers, celebrities and other inspiring figures at the conference itself, all the monuments, museums, memorials, all the political activism and social hipness was refreshing. I met a fellow blogger, @CucumberJuice, who was also a volunteer at the conference and a Thai food connoisseur.
DC has all the developed beauty and cultural diversity of a well-planned capital city. I enjoyed myself bar hopping in Adams Morgan; this was my first time staying out past 2am on a Friday night and apart from the shocking bottle service menus, I had a good time. Of course, I had a good walk around the National Mall to see the museums and monuments. I must implore you not to take the bike taxis as they are quite expensive and move no faster than a brisk walker. Yes, I made the mistake. The best part of this was delicious brunch at a lovely restaurant called Old Ebbitt Grill- the dexterity of the waiters there should be a tourist attraction, seriously.
I stayed at a hotel in DuPont circle for a while. There was nothing much going on at nights in DuPont and I was led to discover sushi bar nightclub hybrid called Sushi Taro; this is the place for you if you enjoy fresh rolls with cocktails and karaoke. I also spent a lot of time at Pentagon Row in Arlington; there is a Simon Mall with all the major shops and a lovely Food Court with several eateries including a not-so-great Italian Ristorante Murali and the amazing Nando’s Peri-Peri. There are also some good restaurants in the Clarendon, VA neighbourhood including a Cheesecake Factory franchise. I shamelessly declare that I would return to DC, if only for the varied dining options.
Third Edition of North Sea Jazz in Curacao (6 days)
I have been attending the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival since its first staging in 2010 and it is always a great joy and pleasure. Three Stages, two nights, one magical experience. This year was magnificent- the new beach stage was truly a treat. Imagine this night scene- sitting beneath a thatch cabana with the voice of Jill Scott or India Arie permeating the salty air; it was to die for. The top performers were Santana, Alicia Keys, Randy Crawford, Maná and The Bright Mississippi.
It was my first time staying at Blue Bay, which is an old plantation on which have been constructed lovely villas and fully-equipped apartments. It is a very beautiful, expansive property with courteous staff and a well-cared beach. There was paid Wi-Fi throughout the property and free Wi-Fi on the beach.
I hereby send a major shout-out to Mookie Job, owner/operator of Tik Tak in Punda who always finds tickets for me each year, even when they are sold out. I owe to him the beautiful experience I had of seeing Stevie Wonder live in 2011 and he also made it possible for me to see Santana in 2012. The owner of Café Vienna in Punda was a friendly waiter- he served me a chilled, refreshing glass of rose; the best I ever had. It was also good to finally meet fellow blogger @sablikatriumph.
Abundant Life in New Orleans, then South Beach (11 days)
I welcomed 2013 in The Big Easy and got my official induction into the Who Dat Nation. It was beautiful to be walking into a football stadium with brass bands all around. We lost against the Panthers but the vibe inside the Superdome was very happy and the party still went on at Champions Square and I enjoyed the alligator sausage po’ boy, jambalaya with Andouille and root beer.
Walking around the French Quarter was fun, the street performers and artists in Jackson Square were mostly seriously talented people. The art galleries on Chartres Street displayed some strong contemporary pieces and a few had antiques on display. I got the mandatory coffee and beignets at Café du Monde and compared them to those at Morning Call, both very delicious except that at Morning Call you get to shake your own sugar. I cannot begin to relate to you the amount of food I had in New Orleans, the number of dishes was only surpassed by the number of cocktails. The Doc Brinker’s Special at Camellia Grill, the Pimm’s Cup and Hot Muffuletta at Napoleon House and hush puppies at Adam’s Catfish were some of the more impressive gastronomic treats.
Riding a streetcar up and down St. Charles, drooling over the gorgeous homes in the Garden District, City Park, the Museum of Art and Sculpture Park, the Riverwalk, the majestic cemeteries and the beautiful Mississippi river were the top daytime attractions. The annual Celebration in the Oaks which featured pretty lights and everything you expect at a fair and more appealed to the child in me. I highly recommend it as an evening activity for families.
I appreciated my time on Bourbon Street but Basin and Frenchmen Street had a more local feel and much more live jazz. I took advantage of the liberal open container laws of Orleans Parish, always had a drink or two in hand, night and day. The hand grenades on Bourbon Street were refreshing- a little weak for me but the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s lived up to its reputation.
Fly Jamaica Airways – I hope to travel with them this year.
The beauty of New Orleans was not in the tasty food, drinks, or unique buildings. I met so many warm-hearted people who became instant friends. I had a lovely walk around Louis Armstrong Park and Faubourg Tremé which was celebrating its bicentennial – 200 years, and is the oldest African-American neighbourhood in the United States. Across the road from Armstrong Park I wandered into a bar called Michael’s3. The bartender picked up on my Jamaican accent and became an instant friend, telling me of his voyages to Negril and recommending places to go and things to see around NOLA.
I spent a few days in South Beach on my way back home. I did a little of the requisite clubbing but I spent most of my time on property at Freehand Miami, ordering GrubHub and relaxing. Enjoying a film on the grass, outdoors, with a few hundred other people and some pets- SoundScape Miami was my most memorable South Beach experience.
Tools of the Trade
So here are the products and services that kept me through almost 50 days on the road.
Google Maps (iPhone) – I am indebted to this app for a lot of navigation assistance, including public transit routes and schedule. I also used Maps to find good places to eat and shop.
Tripit Pro – Kept me organized on the road and aware of my flight status. Tripit sends useful and timely reminders via text and push notification.
MeetUp – Helped me find like-minded people and events that suit my interests.
CouchSurfing – I used CouchSurfing to meet up with amazing people- locals and fellow travellers.
TravBuddy – I met one local in Houston through TravBuddy. She has become a close friend.
Red Pocket – Kept me connected with a reliable, prepaid voice and data plan.
GrubHub – Brought the food to me when I was not feeling up to the walk.
Super Shuttle – Provided reliable airport transportation in Houston and Miami.
AirBnB – I used this amazing resource to rent two very lovely, very different apartments that both felt like home. The most unique accommodation options may be found here, you can literally rent a plane, train, or automobile (modified for livability, of course)! You rent from owners and landlords, most properties are private apartments but the bed and breakfast operators have been catching on. The options are a) entire home/apartment b) private room and c) shared room. AirBnB is usually less expensive than a hotel and provides much more flexibility.
Starbucks – Hangover recovery and pastry provider. The best one, in my humble opinion is at Clear Lake in Houston
Here’s to 2013 and the journeys therein.
I spent only $15 on this for a seat worth $180 with their Under 25 Fridays program. It did not matter that I was a foreigner. [↩]
I brought pork chops and the snob in me insisted on preparing my own jerk sauce. [↩]
Unbeknownst to me, Michael’s was a gay bar but I am still happy I went and I will return next year for an eggnogatini. [↩]