Monday, February 28, 2011

Sweet Jamaica

As soon as the plane heads over the waters of Jamaica, I have to feast my eyes pon the beauty of the wata, and the land, My Beloved Jamaica comes into sight and I inhale deeply and I can smell the Sea,the heat, the sun, I can smell Jamaica. Perhaps a figment of my imagination but it is real to me, and I can't wait for the doors to open and the full smell and heat hits you in the face like a rambunctious puppy full of love, slobbering as well. The Sweet Kiss of Jamaica.

The smell of Jamaica. As you walk that long hallway to freedom you pass open doors and you peek out and the trees seem to sway like dancers beckoning you into their dance of welcome. You get your stamp, pick up your luggage and speed walk out of the door full force into the mystical arms of your beloved as you turn your nose into the embrace and get the full force of the cologne like scent of your lover.  Sweet Jamaica.

You are home, you are here, you have come back to Jamaica. Sadly I have grown so accustomed after being here for over a year that I find I can no longer smell the intoxicating aroma, unless I go closer to the sea. I realised this today and it made me sad. Being one with this place has always been my edge, I want it back, I hope my sense of smell is not gone, because there is nothing like the combination of the smell of the Sea, the salt, the fish, the sun as it caresses your skin and engulfs you in a warmth like no other place. A distinct sweet smell all its own.

The smell of Jamaica.

Come back, Please.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rain Don't go Away!

Journal entry 2/26/11  9:00 pm

It's funny how where you are can influence your state of mind and acceptance. I have always loved the rain in warm weather. But in Jamaica it's always warm, even when it's a little cool. It rained tonight and as always when I hear rain falling , no matter what I'm doing I stop and go sit on my veranda and listen to it, watch it as if I'm watching a movie, feel it, touch it.  I sit and watch as people hurry home to get out of it. I spy on funny secret moments because people do the strangest things when they think no one is watching.

One day coming from Kingston we went through a downpour and traveling through many Parishes I observed the children on their way home from school. As we traveled we saw kids of all age groups with so many different colored uniforms, Khaki  at all times for the boys with crisp creases in their pants. But for the likkle ladies, orange, blue, burgundy, with  starched white blouses . The younger kids were the most fun to watch, because with the heart of a child, they have nothing to hide and having a little fun on the way home is an important thing. As we noticed  some had taken their shoes off, rolled up their pants and proceeded to make as much of a wet mess as they could while walking into the water puddles, not around, jumping and splashing, pushing and playing to see who could splash the highest. The girls gave as well as they got.

Now the middle grade are just beginning to be aware of  each other so you see groups of boys trailing behind groups of girls and each group is pointing, and giggling and whispering about members of the other group as they make fun at one from each group who is giving each other lots of attention. But this is also the group where the girls still hold hands with each other and you imagine best sisters or best friends, and this group   still have that innocence where they still enjoy splashing through the little rivers forming in the road, but not with the same  gusto and fun of the likkle ones.

Now the group who are on the third level have all of the dignity and grace of the adults that influence them. You see young couples walking, holding hands or hugged up while surrounded by thier posse and each one is vying for the attention of one in the opposite group. (Male/female) there is nothing like watching a young romance blooming when they don't realise they are being watched by adults.

Watching was like riding through my past. Watching my own transition from child to young adult, from purity to all knowing.

I sit tonight and listen as the rain falls heavily onto the trees and flowers in my yard. I listen to the sounds of voices coming from my neighbor's homes, I listen to the ever present music coming from the sound system around the corner, to the always constant barking of the dogs in the neighborhood, there are times I wish I understood what they are saying to each other.

 I  sit and compare the sounds of the rain, my favorite is the sound of rain on the zinc roof of a board house next door, I am imagining the sounds to the people inside, or in our house in  the country where the rain on the zinc roof  and maybe a the sound of the crickets and music from someones sound system can be heard from a distance. I love being on the beach when the rain begins and watching people who are already wet and in the sea, jump out and run for cover and leave the whole sea to me.. this is one of my greatest pleasures. And so much fun, water from above and below as you float and continue to get drenched.

I find there are so many pleasures that once upon a time I had no time to indulge. Sitting and enjoying the rain was one, but now I have all the time in the world to just enjoy getting... WET. And just think, I have 7 miles to choose from, plus the cliffs.

As I've said so many times since coming here its funny the likkle things that  bring me Joy. Jamaica is still capable of doing that for me after all this time. Sun, Sea, Sunsets, Rain  in Jamaica it's all great to me.

An Act of Kindness

I have always wanted an old fashioned home made family heirloom quilt, but it was not to be, my family were not the sewing or quilting type. A few weeks ago on a bulletin board that I frequent a woman posted a picture of a quilt that her sister had started, but due to an illness was unable to  finish it. The woman finished it and was planning to bring it to Jamaica when she came this month, February in Jamaica at night can get very cool. But her plan was to gift it to someone here because she did not want to carry it back home with her. After days of pondering I decided to a beggy up and asked for it.

My wonderful Sister Circle Rastafari Quilt

I met her and her husband at a place that I had never visited JahB's on the beach road. Two very delightful people. We had a good visit and I hope I have made two new friends.

What made the quilt and the gifting of it so special was the fact that her sister, my Mom and my older sister Gertrude all had/have the same illness. In honor of all three I feel that I have been entrusted with an authentic heirloom and I will always treasure it.

Bless up to 4 amazing, brave women.
And thank you  my new Friend

She also started another one herself.

The colors of the Jamaican Flag.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whitehall Great House in Negril Jamaica

As you travel around Jamaica you will encounter many seemingly abandoned buildings. But what you might actually be seeing could be a building that was partially destroyed by a hurricane, a building that belongs to a person who is working in foreign to earn the money to finish it, but hasn't done any work on it so the earth has taken it back over, or a little board house that  would surprise you to know people actually live,  mansions with 5 bedrooms that house only one family, buildings that look like hotels that house only one family and 2 room board or concrete homes that house multiple families.

You may even  ride down a road and encounter an old abandoned Plantation. Plantation, when I hear or see the word it automatically conjures up the following images and bad and uncomfortable feelings.

Early 20th-century USA photo: "Negroes picking cotton on a plantation in the South"
African slave labor extracted from forcibly transported Africans was used extensively to work on early plantations (such as cotton and sugar plantations) in the United States, throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and in European-occupied areas of Africa. Several notable historians and economists such as Eric Williams, Walter Rodney and Karl Marx contend that the global capitalist economy was largely founded on the creation and produce of thousands of slave labour camps based in colonial plantations exploiting tens of millions of abducted Africans.]

And  I also visualise lynchings, rape, lashings and brutality. As a result, for the past 50 years of my life, you could not have paid me to seek out, nor support any building with the name Plantation in it. Recently the Rhodes Hall Plantation Resort in Orange Bay, Jamaica sponsored a Weekend Concert with the likes of Queen Ifrika, Tarrus Riley, Richie Spice and Tony Rebel was also in attendence( he did not perform) these are some of the most militant, socially conscious Artists in the business, so I  felt that if they could perform there, then I could support them in this endeavor. It turned out to be a beautiful, and romantic  place, a wonderful  weekend  and an amazing concert.

As a result of finally going through the gates of a Plantation and not having nightmares, I decided to seek out the one in my own back yard. As you know I live in Negril, Westmoreland in the Whitehall housing scheme, some people actually consider my area Good Hope. A  few miles from my home there is an abandoned Plantation. No one knows the story behind this place, who owns it, when it was built, if it was a working Plantation,  growing cotton or sugar cane. I'd like to know if there were  slaves here once upon a time, was it destroyed through man, misfortune or Divine intervention.  Did good people once live here, did they own slaves, were they kind and decent to them, or at the least humane, or where they the vile slave masters I read about in history books , not the ones from the classroom that were watered down, but the ones I discovered as a teenager in  the books that my older brother Albert  shared with me about the middle passage, the cruelty, and inhumane flesh traffickers that conjure up horror in my mind, even today.

 Did they have parties in the Grand Ballroom and on the lawn in the summer, women walking around in their beautiful gowns sipping on cold champagne and iced rum punch, feeling the cool breezes coming from the Caribbean Sea below. And the men in the Great parlor sipping Bourbon while smoking Cuban cigars. Did the slaves have their own celebrations during the holidays, did the ones from different tribes who might have once been enemies in their Homeland  find a common bond once they were brutally bought to this place in bondage.  Was this a good place or an evil one?  I intend to one day investigate, because I really want to know, after all...... it is in my back yard. It is  my neighbor.

 Someone must own it or someone may have captured the land because I had seen it in pictures before my visit and you could tell the difference, in the original pictures it was overgrown with vegetation, when we went it was nicely spruced up for visitors. I'm told it has been a nice place for a courtship with  a picnic on the lawn, some people went up for a camera shoot for their 10Th year Anniversary  and had a lovely time. But I have also heard sinister things of hassles and a robbery. Maybe as in all of these cases it is history repeating itself.

I just know that the day we went it was a nice, unhassled, no stress Sunday Family Outing. And it was a lovely spot to visit. I saw no ghosts of my past.

The View

"Still I Rise"
by Maya Angelou

But donated to another website by Seveen

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

UPDATE:  The following was found on the website below. Bad Man. Bad Place.

Apparently, Mr. Parkinson wanted to be buried on the property with all his gold and jewels and shortly after his burial, his grave was desecrated and vandalized and his body left out to be consumed by scavengers. Mr. Parkinson was not well liked by his neighbors or the slaves that worked on his plantation and was known to frequently tie those who disobeyed him to a "prickle" tree and whip them as punishment.
There is also a famous cotton tree on the property that is believed to be over 900 years old. It is said that if you touch the tree and make a wish it will come true!
The property was taken over by the Jamaican Government from William Cargill III in 1971. The property is now owned by an American from Cincinnati, Ohio.


A great place to visit by horseback, the Whitehall Greathouse is an old plantation mansion on the former property of the Whitehall Family. As recently as 1985 the mansion was reduced to ruins by fire, but still offers incredible views of Negril's coast, and remains a popular attraction.
The Whitehall Great House is a perfect destination for a quick horseback ride through the Jamaican countryside. Originally a plantation home for the Whitehall estate, the property was virtually destroyed due to a fire in 1985. From the Great House, you have a breathtaking view of the Negril's coastline.

As you can see not a lot was written about this place.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lisa's Birthday in Paradise

The year my daughter Alisia turned the big 40 a group of us came to Jamaica, so I decided to contact my friend Cug who owns  a Guest House named Purple Rain in Little Bay, to make  a party for her. I told him what I wanted on the menu and he and the ladies worked magic. How many people can say they celebrated their birthday in Paradise by the Sea?

What can I say, we came, we ate, we enjoyed.

Happy Birthday Lisa

The view                                                       

The Food                                                    

Lisa the Birthday Girl and Patsy            

Another room with a view

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Visit to the Roaring River Community

A few weeks back we decided to go on an adventure. A friend was visiting and she wanted to go to Darliston in search of the Wet Sugar Factory. We  never found it but below is information from the Gleaner regarding one of the factories and the process.

Sugar production sweet business

Published: Sunday | February 22, 2009| The Gleaner

Zepaniah Brown (left) checks the quality of the sugar-cane juice as Clarence Clarke gets the sugar cane ready to be fed into the mill. - photos by Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

IN THE easy-going rural village in Westmoreland called Lundie, one man, a few of his neighbours and a trusty, old horse name Star Boy are in productive mode.
It is near mid-day and Star Boy has been working all morning, turning the rather crude mill that crushes the sugar cane, to extract the juice from which dark, brown sugar is made.
Zephaniah Brown owns this operation. It is an investment with twin objectives. He earns enough to care for himself and hire a few hands, while indulging in a long-time hobby.
"Sugar is something mi know about. Mi love it. Yes man!" he says with a smile.
Brown and his workers seem not to be too troubled by the growing economic turmoil and the spate of redundancies taking place. They have demonstrated that their project is viable.
The retired 83-year-old Brown is maintaining a tradition and his mode of production is reminiscent of the plantation era when sugar-cane production was done manually.
break even
At the centre of Brown's operation is Lincoln Segree who first beats the sugar cane with a hammer-like implement before feeding it to the mill. Round and round the mill, Star Boy pulls the lever that grinds the cane, and the juice is reluctantly fed into a keg or barrel below.
To increase the power and speed, Segree merely shouts at Star Boy and the old, tired horse trots along the circular path.
The sweet juice with a taste of ginger is sold and, says Brown, "makes a refreshing thirst quencher" or is boiled down to produce wet sugar.
According to Brown, he is much better off doing this than waiting on an uncertain sugar-cane market. With an investment of $500,000, he insists he can break even and make a "good profit" in no time.
The process of making the sugar isn't too hard either. With enough help, one can prepare up to 10 gallons of wet sugar on any day. A quart is sold for as much as $400, though Brown sells his for about $300. In total, up to $22,000 can be fetched in a day's business if one is definitely in the trade to make money.
luxury item
In Lundie, Darliston and surrounding communities, wet sugar is a staple, which means there is always a constant demand for it.
"Them no know dry sugar around here," says Brown. "Round here, dry sugar come like luxury. Is wet sugar we know bout."
Unrefined, wet sugar is packed with far more nutrients than general table sugar and it is far tastier.
It is not too hard getting into the business either. Almost everyone in this district grows cane and with a community so close-knit, materials and workmen can be had at a low cost.
On a normal production day, operating costs are also kept low. Fellow farmers pitch in to assist Brown in exchange for some cane 'liquor', or for some of the golden wet sugar.
It is a thing most farmers here enjoy, and so, often after a long workday, playful quarrel develops over the liquor.
"A who you gi dat?" Clarence Clarke queries as just a mouthful of the refreshing juice is thrown into his calabash by fellow farmer Joseph Campbell.
"You can stay there, you must learn to satisfy. You naa get no more!" exclaims Campbell jokingly.

Dark, viscose syrup is fed into this trough. It is cooled to produce, wet sugar, which is a sweetener.

This small mill has the capacity to produce more than 10 gallons of wet sugar per day.

Clarence Clarke gathers ripe, freshly cut sugar cane.

 Above article courtesy of the Gleaner

Heading  to Darliston

                                          Darliston, Westmoreland
In the hills of Darliston. The smoke is coming from the burned cane fields in Roaring River

 Nothing like the setting sun on the horizon 

We  also decided  to check out the Blue Hole and the Roaring River Community. This community is in the Parish of Westmoreland, you travel through Little London, through Sav La Mar to a town named Peter'sFeild. You travel through cane fields til you get to Shrewsbury Estate which is the source of the Roaring River. Seemingly from nowhere the river emerges into a blue hole from a subterranean course, I've been told you only hear the roar after May This community has 3 major spots of interest, The caves, where you can get a guided tour underground into the caves were the river flows into private little caverns filled with river water, if you're up for it your guide can give you a full body massage, our guide has always been Dr. Scott, who after your massage which consists of a mud and a rock loofah treatment, very invigorating and calming, takes you into the temple , now here is where the spirit of trust comes in. I can't swim but the vibe of this man was so spiritual for me, I trusted him to lead me in his arms backwards, into this private place where he chanted soothing words to me, which further heightened the experience. I came away from the experience, like I could conquer any obstacle feeling like  that might come my way, or on a more positive note I came away ENHANCED! 

Next stop was the Blue Hole, a supposedly bottomless swim hole the color of pure blue where you can swim to your hearts content, they also have quaint wooden cottages, and another watering hole where you can lay on the rocks and get a massage as the invigorating river water crashes over the rocks like a mini waterfall.

If your up for it you can take a walk around another property on site called Benji's Paradise

(from Benji's website)

Just give Benji's sister "Biggy" a call in advance (876) 350-6152 and let her know when you can come up. Treat yourself to a day as a Rasta, There is nothing commercial here, you will enjoy a day just being one with nature, eating Ital food, swimming and if you are adventurous some short hikes. Relax in the river as you are served many tasty treats fresh from the bountiful gardens.
Jelly Coconuts 
Coco - a potato like root
Callalou with onions and tomato
Star apples
Custard apple
Fresh picked ackee
Salt fish dumplings
Stew peas
Coconut rundown
Various styles rice and peas
Fresh limeaide
You can have all of these made into fresh natural juices [quote]

Or if time permits have a meal at the Blue Hole Cafe as you round the bend coming from Benji's another good place for delicious ital food, fresh natural juices, ice cold drinks, test your skills at dominoes if you dare, against your guide or one of the many folks hanging out at the cafe.

We did a complete walk through  of the entire area over the course of a couple of visits and I must add this is a wonderful place to spend an entire day, as I said it is a community and who knows who you may meet as you walk through the village old and young alike willing to take a minute to explain watagwaan. (whats going on) in their community. Take a minute.

You may find yourself spending hours in one or the other sites and find you must return to explore the others, but it is well worth the trek.

Hills on the horizon

cane  field that has been burned so that the new crop can be started 

On the road to Roaring River

Sign leading into Roaring River
Run off from cave @ Roaring River

You need it they sell it.

Heading into the Community

The River runs through it

Joy, our guide at the Blue Hole

       Out house, yes it's in use

More of the grounds

Rental Cottages behind Joy. Stay the nite

Crossover the river

Wata massage

Benji's Pool much safer for swimming

Ble Hole Cafe

     Reggae Plant

The Blue Hole

Swim with the fish

Benji's private pool

Swim at your own risk, right outside your cottage