Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Little Caribbean Island of Jamaica

Vacation is for relaxing and leaving everything behind. Which is why I wasn't blogging on this adventure to Jamaica. But I did have a little journal, keeping notes and thoughts. Here are my reflections of our visit to the most beautiful Caribbean island I have seen. Also the only one I have seen. But beautiful none the less.

All I can say is "yah mon", Jamaica really is paradise. If you're looking for the most laid-back people in the world, I think I've found them. Right here in paradise.

"No problem", is the most popular phrase, and when we though that out tour guide was playing it up for us outsiders, we were mistaken. "Even if there's a problem; there's no problem."

It was such a dramatic shift from the uptight and stressful nature of school and even just the culture of North America. And as much as I love to be busy; I think I could get used to this; bask in the sun, no responsibilities, nothing to worry about.

I've seen the roads in Cairo, and I didn't think they could get any worse. I still don't think they can, but the roads in Jamaica are not too fabulous either. Right after stepping out of the airport we learned "The left side is the right side, and the right side is suicide." We also learned that in order to drive the roads from Montego Bay to Negril, you need a PHD: a pot-hole dodger. Just as we saw in Egypt, Jamaicans love to use their horns, only they use it out of courtesy, not for road-rage. If you're going to pass the car in front of you, honk to let them know. Or if you're a taxi driver, honk at every gringo you see, in hopes of picking up some business.

The Jamaican people are as friendly as they come. As an outsider, every local wants to shake your hand and inquire your name. So far I've met a Rasta Johnny, Reggae Ricky and even Morgan Freeman himself. After learning we're from Canada the response is always "Cold, cold, Canada" or some comment about ice and snow. We explain that no, we don't actually live in igloos, and in fact in Vancouver it rarely even snows.

"Welcome to Jamaica! First time?"
"Yes, first time."
"You liking it?"
"We love it, beautiful country."
"Alright, respect man, respect."
*And then we pound it*

We learned early on that Jamaicans say "respect", rather than "thank-you". But I think it has many more meanings than that. There is a lot of respect existent on this island. And the moral of 'help a brother out', is lucid in Jamaica. "One Love", as they say is the belief that all humans, no matter the colour, race or religion all share the same blood. We are all the same- "One Blood".

One Love is also the name of a very famous concert in Reggae history. Jamaican legend Bob Marley, along with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer performed a concert in Kingston in 1978 which lead to a peace movement and the 'one love' philosophy.

As we drove from the airport in Montego Bay to our hotel in Negril we passed the burial site of Peter Tosh. As our tour guide elaborated on the history of Reggae in Jamaica, I had recognized the name Peter Tosh, but I was surprised by the rest of it. So, Peter Tosh had moved to Kingston when he was only 15, after being raised by his Aunt because his parents were too young to care for him- which is where his speaking out for those who cannot fight for themselves came from. Once in Kingston, Peter met a boy named Bob and taught him how to play the guitar. Little did he know that this Bob would go on to be the number one most famous and influential Reggae artist on this planet.

Peter Tosh jumped on board and embraced the whole peace movement. He spoke out about political issues, and human rights. But ironically, after one of Peter's peace concerts, he was beaten by the cops for his political voice and then after a different peace concert, Peter Tosh was shot to his death. Slightly different story from Bob Marley's who over-dosed to his death. It was hard to believe how famous Peter Tosh was when I had barely heard his name. But as the Jamaicans say, "It's all about Bob Marley."

The Jamaican flag is one of the brightest ones I know. Bright yellow, lime green and black. We learned that the black represents the people, the green represents vegetation (Jamaica grows a wide variety of agriculture, from sugar cane and ackee fruit to coffee and ganja- the Jamaican word for marijuana) and the yellow represents sunshine- they have a lot of that too.

People say Vancouver is known for its’ fine cuisine, but the Jamaican food was wonderful- this Caribbean island really knows how to use spices. Jerk Chicken is the most popular dish, but our tour guide, Leroy, cleared it up "don't think the locals are calling you guys jerks." Jamaica, also known for it's Rastafarian has lots of vegetarian food as well. Leroy having short hair but claiming to be a Rasta himself, explained that the dreads are just for show- a Rasta is just at heart. Jamaican food also consisted of a lot of seafood. Their wide variety included snapper, lobster, shrimp and conch. My personal favourite dish: Rasta Pasta- penne pasta with assorted vegetables, a creamy coconut sauce and ackee fruit- a Caribbean fruit that tasted more like a vegetable, and is poisonous until it has naturally opened.

As we drove past these little fruit stands and barbecues selling jerk chicken on a deserted road, you can't help but wonder how these businesses make enough to live off of. But apparently they do. I guess the locals eat a lot of fruit and jerk chicken.

It was the first time I haven't been in Canada for Christmas- my first tropical one. And I must say, I much prefer traveling to the Caribbean over presents under a Christmas tree. Christmas Eve was a nice family dinner at Norma's- a famous Jamaican chef. And Christmas morning we got up to go jet skiing. It doesn't get much better than that.

One day we spent at YS falls, where we swung from a rope like Tarzan and enjoyed the natural beauty of the waterfalls. One day we went snorkeling at a beautiful reef, seeing all sorts of gorgeous fish, and a puffer-fish, which I attempted to make puff up, but failed. Even when we were just swimming in the shallow waters, occasionally you'd see a sting ray swim by, which makes you jump a little- don't want to get stung by one of those. One day we went to the world famous Negril cliffs, which I must say were pretty spectacular. We made a stop at the lighthouse where you have a fabulous view of most of Negril. And then we took a turn cliff jumping and watching some Jamaicans dive from incredible heights and doing insane tricks. And of course, we relaxed on the beach, soaking up some vitamin D, and hitting the ocean when we got too hot.

As us tourists bask in the sun, having spent at least $500 on a flight alone, there are locals marching the length of the beach with fresh squeezed orange juice, handmade jewellery or "sugar cane, pineapple, coconut, papaya", who probably hope to make $20 dollars a day. You can't help but feel guilty about how we live such luxurious lives while these people in front of us struggle to meet their basic needs. Also the fact that we are spending as much on a single meal, as these people are making in an entire day of work upsets me a little.

But there were two people I saw that really got to me. One was a young boy, he said he was in grade 7, but he didn't look older than 10. We got out of our taxi at the Negril lighthouse, and he approached us asking if we wanted to buy his cookies so he could go to school. 50 cents apiece he was selling them for. Imagine a 10 year old boy raising money, 50 cents at a time for his education. I asked where he went to school, and he said he has to taxi to and from school every day since it's too far to walk, and there's no public bus in the area.

The second person was a man who was walking down the beach, like all of those vendors. Except he was doing it a little differently; without vision. With every step, he swept his cane on the sand in front of him to make sure he wouldn't run into anything. He would take a few steps, then stop to stick out his hand. The part that got to me was not that no one was giving him money; it was that no one even acknowledged his existence. Can you imagine not being able to see, little own being totally ignored by everybody around you? And if blind people here in Canada have a hard time functioning in society, then imagine how difficult it would be in a country like Jamaica where they are not as advanced in science and technology.

It's hard to say, but I think think this might have been one of my favourite Christmas' yet, even though it hardly felt like Christmas at all.

Jamaica = love

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World Peace.

RCMP officer by day and musician by night, Jesse David Weeks writes his songs about his encounters as a police officer. It may be about the people he meets, the fights he breaks up, the speeding tickets he gives or even the protesters of the G20 summit. All his songs give one clear message; and it's about world peace and a safe place for everyone.

"Big groups march down to the city
Each one with concerns on their mind
Each holds dear a cause to which they’re proud
Each story demands to be spoken
Each message deserves to be heard
Everyone wants their voice to be heard loud

Many march to their own beat
Caution now has reached its peak

How can we hope for world peace?
Tough enough to find peace in one city
Can we hope for world peace x3?
People protest police while misguided hate runs wild in the city
Can we hope for world peace x 2?

Leaders of nations are gathered
While public dissent is made known
Will scales balance and cooler heads prevail?
Police cars burn in the city
Rebellion reigns supreme
Riots become the climax of this tale

As quickly tension levels rise
Its only anger in their eyes

How can we hope for world peace?
Tough enough to find peace in one city
Can we hope for world peace x3?
People protest police while misguided hate runs wild in the city
Can we hope for world peace x 2?

Why can’t we all just get along?
Why can’t we sing the same song?
Why can’t dream the same dream?
How can we change this bitter scene?

Monday, December 6, 2010


I sit here typing, just because I'd rather do this than answer questions about Canada's economy in the 1920s. Ahh, procrastination at its best.

Lately I've been attending many school board meetings and reading lots of blogs and articles about revolutionizing the way we learn and the way our schools are run; about teachers being innovative and incorporating technology into classrooms, while keeping traditional values and creating a sense of global community. Teachers have quite a challenging task ahead of them.

But it got me wondering; if I were born in lets say 2030, how would I be learning about Canada's economy in the 1920s? I'm sure it will look a lot different from what I'm doing right now- pen, paper and a text book.

We have an exciting future of endless possibilities ahead of us.

Santa Shuffle

I've grown a strong liking to these 5k runs. In October was the Run for the Cure, raising money for cancer research, which my mom and I finished in 40 minutes, and this weekend was the Santa Shuffle, raising money for the Salvation Army, which we finished in 35 minutes. Not only does it feel great to run through the finish line after a 5k run, but it also feels great to know it's for a good cause. I think I'll be doing more of these!

Girl Effect