Monday, 17 October 2011

Flankers Family Fun Day

Today, Monday, is National Heroes Day. The Peace & Justice Centre, located in the community centre in Flankers (few km east of Montego Bay) is where Julia works for the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF). The centre hosted a Family Fun Day on the playing fields nearby.

Julia and I went there at 10 am to help set up, which mostly consisted of us waiting around for two hours while organizers figured what they might want to do :-)  Julia stayed several more hours, selling tickets - eventually - for face painting and the bouncy thing. I took the car back to MoBay and spent some time on the "hip strip", coming back to rescue her with the excuse that she had to take me to the bus. We stopped for a quick swim before heading to the bus . . .  pouring rain again . . .  and feeling quite badly for the folks at Flankers who had all volunteered to put this day on for the community.

Cleaning up and setting up the cook shop. No Jamaican festival is complete without a generous supply of food.

Cook shop taking shape. That is Charlie (in white T-Shirt) on the left, who is visiting from the Bronx, NY, and Miss Rose (in the blue T) who was chief cook. 

This was the planned cooker.  Really. However, better thinking prevailed and they decided to use two old wheel rims, filled with coals and topped with old wire fridge shelves instead. Everyone was pleased with the upgrade. 

Menu. Appears that 'Chicken & Chips' are priceless.

The universal game. These lads were playing football, barefoot on a muddy field, non-stop from the moment they got there. 

The cook shop in action.

Girls from Flankers await the beginning of the festivities.

MoBay in the Sunshine! (and a little bit of rain)

Last blog re MoBay in the rain was sent belatedly at the end of the weekend, after I arrived home in Kingston about an hour ago. Had some connectivity problems at Julia's - her newly installed internet was mostly not working and when it was it was on glacial pace. So blog was drafted and bingo! got uploaded about an hour ago.

Lest everyone is thinking we were drowned rats all weekend, let me assure you that the sun was out much of the next three days and we only had to run for cover a few times each afternoon. 

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and my first "holiday" since I arrived two months ago. Yes, two months ago. And now, only two months before I head home for Christmas.  My thanks to Julia for hosting me - she has a wonderful apartment in MoBay and I greatly enjoyed her hospitality and humour. She says I can come back again . . .  

The Bobsey Twins in MoBay, wearing our genuine tye-died sundresses.

MoBay Yacht Club where Julia sails.

MoBay Yacht Club

Beach Club across from Yacht Club where I spent the day while Julia was sailing.  She joined me for a swim afterwards.


There's that rain again! Fortunately I was lunching at the time.

View from the Richmond Hotel - quite stunning. We went there for drinks after our day at Yacht Club and beach.

MoBay in the Rain

Up here in Montego Bay for four days - a long weekend here, with Monday being National Heroes Day. My first "holiday" since I got here and second chance to go to a beach . . .  well, it is a little wet.  Yesterday was torrential, so we wisely chose beer and pizza; today was the first time that I had a day that was either raining or grey all day - but warm!  Of course, it is the height of the rainy season so we should expect this. 

We are making the best of it and being rather adventurous.  We have rented a car for three days and both getting used to driving on the left: our greatest challenge is trying to use the turn signal without turning on the windshield wipers. When either of us do this - and we both do - we break into laughter. 

Have plans for tomorrow, Sunday, and hoping for less rain.  Julia is hoping to go sailing, as per her usual Sunday schedule, and I hoping to be on the beach.  Stay tuned . . . 

 Jamaican Bobsled Cafe on the "hip strip", where we sheltered for lunch on Friday and shared a very good jerk sausage pizza and had a good time. 
 Jamaican Bobsled Cafe
 Julia ready for the winter Olympics :-)
 Greenwood Great House was built in the late 1600's by the Barretts and was the birthplace and home of the father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (who was born in England). The road up was formerly regarded as the best 1.5 miles of road in all of Jamaica - unfortunately, it has not been upgraded for the last 400 years. It has many of the original furnishings and was a very interesting. 
 Rose Hall Great House, originally built in 1770, was a plantation with 2000+ slaves.  It fell into ruins, but is now fully restored. A good gift shop here, where Julia and I indulged in soe retail therapy and now have matching tie-dyed dresses - actually made in Jamaica!
 The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary is run by donations and was started almost 70 years ago by Lisa Sammons, who died in 2000 at age of 96. Commonly referred to as "the bird lady' she lived in the forested hills inland from MoBay. The guide book described the road as "one abominable road" - I think they underestimated it!  However it was well worth the trip . . . .
Lisa Sammons spent many years luring the birds, sitting patiently with them and holding small "feeders" in her hand.  Now the birds will come to perch on your hand and dine if you sit very still . . .  as did little Anna a visitor from Germany. That is a lovely Doctor Bird (hummingbird), the national bird of Jamaica.  
 Julia astounded that she actually had a hummingbird eating out of her hand!
 Alas, Fritz, who was supposed to be taking my picture on the several times I was feeding a hummingbird - Doctor Birds and Mango Hummingbirds - did not know how to us my camera. However, right before we left I took this with my left hand and just caught a doctor bird - see the luminescent green - as he flies away from a long perch on my finger. Quite delightful.
In the gardens of Rockland Sanctuary.
Brown doves feeding at the sanctuary.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Canadian Thanksgiving in Jamaica

I certainly missed my family at Thanksgiving and all the wonderful family traditions.  Meredith continued the family tradition by hosting dinner, with everyone else pitching in to help. Except Jenn, Warren and Lizzie who were happy to stop in on their way home from Kelowna, where Jenn had completed her third marathon the day before! Congratulations to Jenn on an amazing race and to Meredith for a beautiful table and dinner (while jostling a 3 year old and a 6 month old). 

Short message to say that I was fortunate to be invited to a Canadian Thanksgiving, organized and prepared by the Canadian Women's Club, and graciously hosted at the home of the Canadian High Commissioner.  It was a lovely evening with my "Jamaican family" and new friends and colleagues that I met. All the traditional foods, beautifully presented and wonderful Canadian wines! There were about 40 people there: about 10 CUSO-VSO volunteers, some High Commission senior staff, and some other Canadians from all walks. 

My thanks to all - a lovely evening. Was interesting to be eating Thanksgiving dinner under the canopy by the pool!

Sorry, no pictures - a few others took some and I may post if I can connect with them. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

San San Beach & A Long Day

Upon my impetus, we went on a Jamaica adventure today. Took a "coaster" to Port Antonio and then a route taxi/smaller coaster for the extra 8km to San San Beach. Our research and local advisors gave us high hopes regarding this beach and the trip there.

It turned out to be much more of an adventure than any of us planned. We were a little bit late getting organized in the morning, but that was okay as we are all learning to live on Jamaica-time.  But the coaster trip (i.e. small, overcrowded bus) was much longer than we were lead to believe; the smaller coaster to San San was a 12 passenger van with 20 adults and four children, not including the driver!; they charged us $400 J to go on the beach (almost all beaches are private and have a fee or belong to a resort); food had to be ordered out and was expensive. 

We tried to convince them that we were poor Canadians and not rich Americans, but to no avail. And there were a lot of ants.

Good news, the water was lovely as was the snorkeling. And the "restaurant" had some nice tables in the shade and you could buy cold drinks, including beer that was overpriced. But they had to send the lifeguard into Port Antonio for the food, which took forever and we were wondering if he would ever come back with either the food or the money.  He did come back. Note that I say "they", because George and I brought our own lunches and did not have to buy food - age has its advantages :-) - but we did indulge in a beer. 

At least I don't have to worry about organizing another adventure . . .  no one will sign up. Many thanks to my friends who, despite all the challenges of the day, were troopers.

This is our coaster, which is looking much better than it actually was. The coasters than run up and down Half Way Tree to 'town are much more decrepit. The "island" coasters that act as buses to other communities can be very nice and new with air conditioning and lovely seats; or they can be dodgey.  This one was dodgey.  An inauspicious start to the day. 

Waiting for the coaster to fill up. And I do mean "fill up".  See that back seat with 4 seats, well there has to be 6 on there and the aisle will be filled with fold-down seats, often accommodating two people - if these conditions are not met, we wait until they are.

See previous comment re aisle seats. Note front right of bus where someone carried a TV on their lap all the way - reminded me of a Sienfeld episode. And why, in 30 degree weather would you wear a wool toque? On the left that is the back of silver-haired George, who has the patience of Job.

You can top up your Digicel phone anywhere, including the smallest village in the middle of the Blue Mountains. 

Don't believe the sign.

Erin and Del, with Julia and Kim in the distance. Wanted to snorkel out to Monkey Island in the background, but did not want to go alone. And I was the only one with gear.

San San with Monkey Island.  Around the point to the right is Frenchman's Cove and Blue Lagoon is not far.

Very quiet and we mostly had the beach to ourselves. 

To left and out there was some very nice coral and good snorkeling with all the colours of Caribbean fish.