Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Dry Season

Portmore is usually dry and dusty, and it rains very infrequently, since it is a semi-desert area. However, you can usually get by, as 100's of thousands of other people in the city do, because there is piped water. That is, until the pipe water stops coming for a couple of days, like 5. To top it all off, the tank on our roof is malfunctioning so all of the stored water runs out. And then when the water does come back, there is not enough pressure for it to reach upstairs. So then you fill up lots of bottles from the hose downstairs and carry them upstairs. It works OK, but we had gotten used to there being water in the tank. So we were caught a little off guard when it ran out.

Luckily, we live close enough to the Peace Corps Office that we can go there and take the occasional shower. Yet another reminder that water is really important, because sometimes we all take it for granted.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Touring Eastern Jamaica

Kaelyn’s dad recently came to Jamaica for the first time. So of course we had to show him some of the wonderful things that the island has to offer. We chose to spend our time in Eastern Jamaica, because this would give a sense of city life and the heart of Jamaican music in Kingston, while also allowing for the wonders of jerk and serene beaches in Portland. The trip also allowed for a tour of the concrete jungle that is Portmore.


We started out in Kingston, going to the Bob Marley museum, Knutsford Boulevard, and Devon House. The Marley museum really has a good tour, so you should check it out if you get a chance. There are tons of intimate details such as the bullet holes from where Bob and some of his entourage were shot in a politically motivated murder attempt. You can see where Bob played football, and his favorite shorts to play in. Then there is a short movie that highlights the music and lyrics of Bob Marley and the Wailers.


Knutsford Boulevard had some interesting places to visit. There was Juici Patty, one of the two most popular patty shops in Jamaica. The food is cheap and good, beef patties, vegetable patties, and other treats. Devon House has plenty of fine shops and restaurants. The Grog Shoppe was where we chose to eat dinner. It has a wonderful outdoor eating area set amidst the old stables of the first black millionaire in Jamaica. The food is tasty as well. We also went out to Two Sister’s Cave and Prendy’s on the Beach, both in Hellshire. Prendy’s has some of the best fried and steamed parrot fish on the island, along with lobster, bammy, and festival, as you can see in the picture.


Every beach in Portland seems to be perfect. But Boston Bay is especially interesting because of it has some of the biggest waves in Jamaica and is the site of the biggest jerk centre in the island. Great Huts, a natural paradise with tents and tree houses, was our base in Portland. Boston Bay has beautiful water and waves, some interesting snorkeling, and is surrounded by cliffs, giving you the impression that you are inside of a big bowl while you are swimming. The jerk centre offers jerk chicken, pork, fish, plus festival, breadfruit, and yam.


We also visited Port Antonio. There is a busy market with food vendors and craft vendors all in one location. Rock Bottom was the name of one craft vendor who makes really nice wood carvings, although they were ridiculously overpriced. The Port Antonio marina is the site of Norma’s on the Terrace, one of Jamaica’s best restaurants. The restaurant has a view of the marina, and while we were eating a small cruise ship was leaving the dock. There are also a number of impressive yachts to see. The food at Norma’s is really good, we had smoked marlin, butterfish, shrimp salad, and stuffed crab back. As you can see, seafood was the order of the day.


We ended the trip in Ocho Rios. The craft market was fun, but tiring. There are only so many times you can hear a vendor tell you that their wares are the best in the market, better than everyone else, even though most are selling the same items. Then we went down to Island Village, browsed the shops and ate at Margaritaville. The Margaritaville people tried to get us to stay for a party with tourists from all the hotels attending, but at 8:30 there was nobody there yet so we left. The next day we stopped at Walkerswood to take a tour of their facility. It’s really fun. The tour guide shows you how to make jerk paste, and then you get to see their clean, modern factory and sample all of the sauces. They were making jerk sauce the day we went, and the smell of pimento and scotch bonnet pepper suffused the whole compound. It is a very nice tour. We made one last stop for jerk at Faith’s Pen before enduring the backed-up traffic on Mt. Rosser and heading home.

Sadly, the journey had to come to an end. As Bob would say, “Jah live i-tinually.”

-Shane and Kaelyn

Monday, February 05, 2007

Birthday Weekend

The past weekend I celebrated my 26th birthday with many of my Peace Corps friends. I got to celebrate my birthday for three whole days. It was tiring, but well worth it.

On Friday night, some friends came over and we had potato and pumpkin ragout, salad, and frozen rum lemonade. Frozen rum lemonade would turn out to be a theme for the weekend, as we had it on all three days. On Saturday morning, I set out to Lime Cay with a group of about 12 friends. We made it there in the early afternoon, after taking a ferry from Port Royal. The island is very small, and takes about 5 minutes to walk from one end to the other. It is not affected by pollution from Kingston, as there is a strip of land called the Palisadoes that lies in between Kingston and Lime Cay. This means that the water is very clear and there is less debris washed up on the sand. We had a fun time swimming, lounging, and eating some fried fish and festival. I got a really awesome belt from Khaled and Caitlin. It has the really big silver buckle that is popular in Jamaica, but the image on the buckle is a lizard. Kind of reminds me of the famous Jamaican iguana, which is only found in the Hellshire Hills near where we live. Anyway, then we went back to our apartment and had coconut pasta while we watched the KU game. Unfortunately, they lost.

Sunday was spent cooking, eating, and watching the Super Bowl. There was chili, beer bread, twice baked potatoes, seven layer dip, tortillas, tortilla chips, rice krispy treats, chocolate cheesecake, and carrot cake with ice cream (the last being my traditional birthday treat). After all that eating, it was hard to stay awake for the football game. But the team I was nominally rooting for did win. This did not make up for KU losing, but it helped me to move on. All in all, it was a really jam-packed, exciting birthday weekend.


Thursday, February 01, 2007


The other day on while on the bus on the way home from Kingston I witnessed 2 random acts of kindness. The first was bestowed on a man who stood up in the center aisle of the bus and started preaching. Now this is a fairly common occurrence because bus riders are a pretty captive audience, since they don't really have anything else to listen to and are rarely going to leave until they reach their stop. But the man soon revealed that he wasn't really a preacher, in fact he wasn't exactly even a Christian. This was a bit amusing and it seemed that his conscience had gotten the better of him. He started out with the typical preaching beginnings "Good evening in the name of Jesus Christ ..." and then stopped and decided to fess up. But eventually he got to the point, what he really wanted was some money for food. Now I didn't have any smalls (small change) handy or I might have given it to him because at least he was being honest, and fessing up about not being a devout Christian in Jamaica is a pretty big deal. But I did notice that a few other of the passengers gave him some coins and then the women sitting across the aisle from me did a very impressive thing. She opened up her bag and removed a box lunch (a styrofoam container of cooked food) and gave it to the man. Now this was probably her dinner that she was carrying home and I couldn't help but be touched by this kindness. And I also couldn't agree more that giving the man actual food was probably much better than giving him money because then you knew he would be eating a proper meal that night.

Well it wasn't a few minutes later that this woman's kindness was repaid to her. As we were turning onto the causeway the woman made a loud exclamation. She realized that she had missed her stop because she certainly wasn't expecting to be on the bridge heading towards Portmore. Well there must have been 10 people trying to help this lady out, they were yelling at the driver asking him to stop so she could walk back and they were inquiring as to this lady's destination and trying to come up with alternate routes for her to take. Pretty much everyone sitting around her jumped into action and came to her assistance, truly concerned that she get where she need to go. In fact when we finally reached the next stop at the Portmore Mall I even saw persons stand up and look out the window to make sure that she headed in the right direction to get the next bus back to Kingston. And this is something I have often seen in Jamaica, whenever you ask someone for directions or assistance whether you know them or not they will often go out of their way to help you.

There is something refreshing about seeing persons come to the aid of others and even though I had not been personally involved in either act I felt very satisfied that the beggar had gotten a good supper and the women had gotten back to where she needed to go.