Kingston Launch of “Marley” Documentary

Bob – legend, musical icon, husband, father, mixed- race boy from the inner city & country. Perhaps most important of all, depending on how you look at it, he was undoubtedly, unapologetically Jamaican. One person, many sides and all of them portrayed in the documentary set for worldwide release April 20th – Marley. Last night the Jamaican population was given the distinct honour of sitting with musically royal Marley family to share their stories, thoughts and moments with Bob (image borrowed from net, no copyright infringement intended).

The venue – Emancipation Park, in the heart of New Kingston – was packed to overflowing as thousands of Jamaicans came out to see their beloved. Most sat or lay on mats, cushions, blankets, sprawled on the damp grass, beneath the night sky and the large screens. Complete strangers, through their love for the man and his music were united in this droplet of time. Two ladies I never met before offered my friend and I a seat on their red blanket. Adults swayed and young ones bobbed to the lure of the Bob’s voice. Scents of boiled corn, pan chicken and other street delicacies filled the night air with, of course, the inevitable smoke of herb.

My pores raised as the song “One love” was sung by various persons around the globe – from South Africa & the Congo to California, and on to India & Nepal. No greater reminder was needed of the far reaching tentacles of the message Bob had to share. As the documentary opened we were taken to Elmina Castle, Ghana – site of slave trade. We were walked to the “Door of no return” where slaves were stripped, branded and taken to waiting slave ships. As we went through the door we exited to images of Bob singing “Exodus”. The journey had truly begun.

Depending on how good a student of history you are, you may well find that not too many “new” details were given, but for many I am sure it was a riveting and very moving experience. Seeing Bob’s first teacher sing his favourite song about a donkey, hearing the reason for the choice of name “Wailers” – because they came from a place where people were always wailing and bawling – and finding out that part of the the group’s preparation for success involved performances in the dead of night for duppies (spirits) in the cemetery – all added to the tale. Read between the lines and it is easy to see where the man who gave himself to the world fell short in being father and husband. Perhaps most priceless of all was the slight tremor when his cousin and half sister publicly admitted that the boy who had been shunned by his father’s family had indeed become the cornerstone of the Marley name.

As images of Trenchtown 50 years ago and at present flashed, one couldnt help wondering whether much had changed in the inner city since Bob moved uptown to 56 Hope Road. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture in her speech described Marley as the consummate student of the sidewalk university. Certainly an apt reminder that in life it’s not so much where you came from but where you are headed. Thanks Bob for sharing one night with me.

“Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes. Ah want a penny to buy…”

It is almost impossible to speak of things Caribbean and not dedicate a blog to MANGOES:) Perhaps with all fairness I should rename the post to be less discriminatory to the rest of the fruit family, but boy oh boy, I am sure you will agree that the mango holds a very special place all on its own. Being the creative people we are in the Caribbean, we have found all manner of uses for this delectable fruit. After greedily consuming at least three firm, ripe, juicy Julie mangoes from the tree in my garden today, I was instantaneously propelled down memory lane…

My first memory is from Georgetown and one that I find funny – now! I was at the standpipe early one morning and happened to be beneath a mango tree. A strong breeze blew and sent dozens of leaves dancing off their stems. I felt something fall into my bosom. Thinking it was a leaf, I brushed at it absentmindedly. A minute or two later, I was howling in pain and dancing beneath the tree. As it turned out, what I thought was a leaf was really a marabunta (jack spaniard/large stinging wasp – image borrowed from internet). That bite sent me at top speed up the front step, through the open door and in search of colgate toothpaste for the sting (long-time remedy and I have no proof whatsoever that it works)!

Earlier memories were more mischievous. I remember picking mangoes from just about any neighbour’s yard – this was not considered preadial larceny at the time, but more a healthy activity to keep the neighbourhood children occupied! The process of picking could be as simple as using a long stick to hit the mangoes down, as challenging as making it up and down the trunk of the tree without landing on your rear or as complicated as launching a big stone with army-like accuracy at a waiting bunch whilst avoiding anything breakable in an adjoining yard. Once successful, this was followed by squabbles for who would get the best looking mango. The ultimate reward was the taste of sweet juice and fleshy insides. Not one drop was wasted including the little trickle down the arm. The seeds were not immediately discarded as they could be put to use in a pelting competition that instantly sent all dogs & cats in hiding (again the ignorance of childhood).

Later memories in Trinbago are of the incomparable mango chow! If you don’t know what this is, trust me yuh missing part of your life! A chow is a delectable mixture of slices of half-ripe mangoes seasoned with salt, hot pepper/ pepper sauce, chopped garlic, shadon beni, lime juice, eschallot (chives/green onions). Mix together well, leave to “soak iiinnn” for a bit and then enjoy! (Image borrowed from the internet) Usually while enjoying I can faintly hear my granny’s voice saying I will either get “colic” or “bilious”. Ah well, thank goodness for senna pods and/or salts – a topic perhaphs for another post:)

The memories are endless. I would be interested in hearing some of yours.

Memories of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains

What is it like to open sleep shrouded eyes to the sight of waterfalls, butterflies, lush green grass, fruit trees heavily laden and bent beneath their weight? What is it like to roll over in a hammock, stretch your feet, curl your toes and gaze at a majestic mountain range softly clothed in mist, almost like a soft cotton frock? Could this somehow have been one typical morning of Eve’s life in the Garden of Eden? I wonder…

Sometimes in can be so easy to take beauty for granted. Much like we in the Caribbean do – until we’re away from it! We are surrounded by the vibrant palettes of the tropics, yet oftentimes we forget what a treasure it is. Over the Easter weekend, I joined a group of Hashers at 5:30am and we set off into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Our desinatation was Hollywell Park & the Gap cafe – located some 3000ft above sea level. Our mission was to make it to the cafe – alive of course! – to enjoy a steaming hot cup of Blue mountain coffee. We started from the Norbrook area and did a gruelling uphill journey for close to four (4) hours, passing through Woodford & Peter’s Rock. My feet are still recovering from this ordeal!

For a few hours, I felt like I was in a different world. Here, like many other communities in Jamiaca, motorcycle is a form of public transport. You can even call the motorcycle man from the bottom of a hill via cell phone and like any taxi service he comes and dutifully takes you home. Alongside many homes are small plots of land dedicated to growing vegetables. The generosity, sincere smiles and greetings of the many villagers could almost make you cry. One orchid vendor stopped for a few moments, and handed out ripe bananas, fresh from her garden, to us. Jamaica has a very large following of the Seventh Day Adventist faith. As we slowly toiled uphill, we passed many old ladies, children and men dressed up in Saturday best heading to church.

At Hollywell Park I dug in to a feast of fresh raspberries and golden apples. Standing at a point dubbed “Mount Edge” I filled my lungs with the cool, sweet mountain air and looked out on the green vastness before me. A short walk along the quiet pathway brought us to the gate of Gap Cafe – a rustic cottage nestled in the hillside and flanked by flower beds, shrubs, a green picket fence and circular flagstones – inviting the eager traveller to step inside the cool interior and sample mixed fare.  The decor was reminiscent of my granny’s taste, simple and faded but with an inexplicable charm that makes you feel right at home.

The step down verandah at the back offers equisite views, a sloping flower garden, tall eucalyptus trees and the possibility of sighting a Doctor bird or two. The Doctor bird is the National bird of Jamaica and one of approx 320 species of hummingbird. Jamaica is the only place on earth where the Doctor bird can be found – a challenge for bird lovers:). (Photo courtesy the internet).

Here, it was easy to forget that several miles away and closer to sea level lay bustling Kingston. It was easy to forget the daily struggles that characterizes life, the many allegations of police shootings, persistent crime, the dons of the inner cities and the appalling cases of sexual abuse of the nation’s children. What a contrast. Crime unfortunately is not only Kingston’s problem, but one that is stifling memories of the carefree existence of a Caribbean childhood. Thankfully there is hope, as we in the various islands continue to pool our collective resources and intellect to battle the problem in various ways. Check out this informative video on the Caribbean Human Development Report 2012. It seeks to look at the link between development and growing levels of insecurity in the Caribbean. One key message that resonates with me – INVEST IN THE YOUTH.

D Island Life: A Jamaican coaster ride!

Island life is one that has always attracted people from all walks of life. Tourists come from every part of the world to experience the supposedly carefree, rythmic, sea, sand & sun existence of the Caribbean. Yet beneath the seeming nonchalance, there is a life, a character, a savvy, a certain vibe that defines the West Indian experience and makes me proud to be a daughter of this collective soil. Having spent some time in Jamaica, I feel it is an absolute necessity to walk you through what is a typical morning commute for many Jamaicans. Please forgive the lack of accuracy of my patois! Here goes with some of my first impressions after the first few coaster rides (I am happy to report no recent sprains, twists or broken limbs:)

Dancehall music blaring from the radio, passengers screaming “buus stap”, “leh go”, “let aff” “ducta, ducta”; the conductor hanging out the speeding maxi bawling “down town” “alfwey tree” “run come mammy” while screaming to the driver “ROAD!!!” (meaning drive off); $20 coins jingling in passengers hands, with those standing have grabbed on to seats, roof, holder and yet still manage to sway in time to the music! The driver loudly converses with no one in particular, while it seems he’s testing every possible technique to crash the vehicle. Yet he too manages to “bubble” to the music, switch CDs, sight the occasional policeman and screech into every bus stop!

It seems Thursday however is a day of peace for coaster rides. I have decided it must be the calm before the avalanche of dancehall lyrics on Fridays. Last Thursday I hopped onto my coaster, fully prepared to lose hearing in one ear and lose control of my heartbeat but to my surprise – and delight – I got Thanksgiving Thursday instead! I was treated to every form of foot tapping, hair raising, soul balming gospel there is – for two (2) straight coaster rides! Lucky me:)

Mind you the soothing lyrics had no effect on the crazy driving, so I had to enjoy my music while standing, gripped to the overhead bar and trying not to fall out the window or door! So there I was enjoying de vibes for what could very well be my last ride before de afterlife! From my vantage point I started to look around to see if the other passengers were enjoying it as much as I was. Well they most definitely were! Curiously though, it seemed that the guys were more into it than the ladies!

There was one rastaman just behind me and I swear he was going to start church up in de coaster! He was flinging those locks, dancing and singing like nobody’s business! A lock or two almost hit me square in the face – at which point I was tempted to pull mine down and start flinging them around too. Almost like – brotha man you cant show me how to pelt locks – take that!! and oh yeah Praise God!!!! Then I thought better of it and just moved around by 1/16th of an inch – it was all I could do seeing that I was packed in like a sardine! Ah, what enviable morning bliss!

You just have to love Jamaica:) If after reading this post you still dont believe me, then do a search for “Two white women pon a minibus” Prepare to smile:)

Sunrise symphony

 

This morning as I awoke I was compelled to share a piece of my joy with you! As I opened my eyes, I found it hard to get out of bed just yet, so I pulled the covers back over my head and just lay there. What greeted me under those sheets was a symphony that could rival anything created by Beethoven! There were so many beautiful sounds coming through the louvre windows. The birds – so many different sounds and yet together it made magic! The little insects – I dont know what they are but I do know that they just added to the symphony. The rising sun – no I didnt hear it! – but I could feel the energy, freshness and promise that it brought in the new day. I could almost feel the earth coming alive – all from just under the sheets! Isnt that a beuatiful way to start off the day? I declare this day filled with the promise of the Lord and the fulfillment of His will! I declare this day blessed and every plan of the Lord for our lives ACCOMPLISHED, in the wonderful name of Jesus! We’ve already won so be blessed today and try to catch your symphony tomorrow morning 🙂

A post-it on Faith

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” [Matthew 6:28-30, NIV]

Beauty is all around us. Sometimes we dont have to look too far to find it. We think of the dog as man’s best friend, I like to think of flowers as man’s best reminder of this awesome promise! Think about it 🙂 and while you’re at it, have a great day!

EXPLORING CARIBBEAN PERSPECTIVES

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