The rains are on in Jamaica now, the mornings usually start out with fairly clear skies; Mr. sun is up early doing his job in a serious way, however as the day progresses the clouds transform into fluffy puffs, greyed and seemingly pregnant with the impending rain, then the downpour comes as she proudly announces her presence- rain drops beating in a harmonious song about nature.
At Projects Abroad Jamaica we make the best of the weather; well some of us, depending on our individual schedules- a few may be engrossed in meeting office targets and may be busy typing away at their desk to ensure that targets will be met in time for ‘D-day’, staff having face to face with volunteers, ensuring that all has been going well, others may have inductions and are showing volunteers around town-volunteers hoping that Mr. Sun will return to his regular duty pretty soon, and the list could go on.
Usually the rains continue for half a day and the evenings are restored to an almost cool warmth and persons have mixed reactions, the rain lovers are sad that nature’s song has been paused and the sun-lovers are glad to have Mr. Sun fuelling them along. Irrespective of whose shift it is on nature’s schedule, Projects Abroad Jamaica’s schedule continues.
One thing is certain though, that after a day of putting in the work we all feel rewarded when a beautiful rainbow or two smiles at us widely, seemingly sending secret messages our way, we take a moment to be inspired by nature. A few of us gather on the corridor of our offices and we revel in the beauty and the harmony we take a few pictures and we know that we have just received a pleasant reward from nature for a day of working earnestly and we are pleased we smile and say to each other, “Are you ready to go home.”
One of the most recognizable symbols worldwide, the Jamaican flag- or its familiar coloring of yellow, green and gold has become a very marketable commodity. From clothing to household items we can see the colours of the Jamaican flag almost in every sphere of the world.
The Jamaica National Flag was first raised on Independence Day, August 6, 1962. It signifies the birth of our nation. The Flag brings to mind memories of past achievements and gives inspiration towards further success. It is flown on many triumphant occasions, showing the pride that Jamaicans have in their country and in the flag itself. It was designed by Jamaica’s House of Representatives and consists of a diagonal cross with four triangles placed side by side. The diagonal cross is gold; the top and bottom triangles are green; and the hoist and fly (side) triangles are black. The flag symbolizes the following: Black depicts the strength and creativity of the people; Gold, the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and green, hope and agricultural resources.
JAMAICAN COAT OF ARMS
Observing the Jamaican Coat of Arms one may view the symbol as an artsy or stately piece, whatever the interpretations one may arrive at, this symbol is one of the most widely used in Jamaica- books, post cards, souvenirs and many other items display the popular symbol. The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many One People’, based on the population’s multi-racial roots. The motto is represented on the Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of the Taino tribe, who was one of the first inhabitants of Jamaica, standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples. The crest shows a Jamaican crocodile mounted on the Royal Helmet of the British Monarchy and mantling.
JAMAICAN NATIONAL FRUIT - The Ackee (Blighia Sapida) (sourced from www. Jis.gov.jm/special_sections/)
Although the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has remarkable historic associations. Originally, it was imported to the island from West Africa, probably on a slave ship. Now it grows here luxuriantly, producing large quantities of edible fruit each year.
Ackee is derived from the original name Ankye which comes from the Twi language of Ghana. The botanical name of the fruit – Blighia Sapida – was given in honour of Captain William Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, who in 1793 took plants of the fruit from Jamaica to England. Captain Bligh also brought the first breadfruit to Jamaica. Before this, the ackee was unknown to science. In 1778 Dr Thomas Clarke, one of the earliest propagators of the tree, introduced it to the eastern parishes.
The ackee tree grows up to 15.24m (50ft) under favourable conditions. It bears large red and yellow fruit 7.5 – 10 cm (3-4 in.) long. When ripe these fruits burst into sections revealing shiny black round seeds on top of a yellow aril which is partially edible.
There are two main types of ackee identified by the colour of the aril. That with a soft yellow aril is known as ‘butter’ and ‘cheese’ is hard and cream-coloured. Ackee contains a poison (hypoglcin) which is dissipated when it is properly harvested and cooked. The fruit should not be gathered until the pods open naturally. In addition, the aril must be properly cleaned of red fiber and the cooking water discarded.
Jamaica is the only place where the fruit is widely eaten. However, it has been introduced into most of the other Caribbean islands (for example, Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua and Barbados), Central America and Florida, where it is known by different names and does not thrive in economic quantities. Jamaican canned ackee is now exported and sold in markets patronized by expatriate Jamaicans.
Ackee is a very delicious fruit and when boiled and cooked with seasoning and salt fish or salt pork, it is considered one of Jamaica’s greatest delicacies.
JAMAICAN NATIONAL BIRD - The Doctor-Bird (Trochilus Polytmus) or Swallow-Tail Hummingbird (sourced from www. Jis.gov.jm/special_sections/)
The doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird, is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica. These birds’ beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colours characteristic only of that family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies. For years the doctor bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song.
The origin of the name ‘Doctor-bird’ is somewhat unsettled. It has been said that the name was given because the erect black crest and tails resemble the top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in the old days. Other schools of thought believe that it refers to the way the birds lance the flowers with their bills to extract nectar.
According to Frederic Cassidy the bird is an object of superstition. The Arawaks spread the belief that the bird had magical powers. They called it the ‘God bird’, believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls.
JAMAICAN NATIONAL FLOWER - Lignum Vitae (Guiacum Officinale) (sourced from www. Jis.gov.jm/special_sections/)
The Lignum Vitae was found here by Christopher Columbus. Its name, when translated from Latin, means “wood of life” – probably adopted because of its medicinal qualities. The short, compact tree is native to continental tropical American and the West Indies. In Jamaica it grows best in the dry woodland along the north and south coasts of the island.
The plant is extremely ornamental, producing an attractive blue flower and orange-yellow fruit, while its crown has an attractive rounded shape. The tree is one of the most useful in the world. The body, gum, bark, fruit, leaves and blossom all serve some useful purpose. In fact, the tree has been regarded for its medicinal properties. A gum (gum guaiac) obtained from its resin was once regarded as a purgative.
The wood was once used as propeller shaft bearings in nearly all the ships sailing the ‘Seven Seas’. Because of this, Lignum Vitae and Jamaica are closely associated in shipyards worldwide. It is a very heavy wood which will sink in water. Because of its toughness it is used for items such as mortars, mallets, pulleys and batons carried by policemen. Sometimes it is used for furniture.
JAMAICAN NATIONAL TREE - The Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus Elatus) (sourced from www. Jis.gov.jm/special_sections/)
The Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica. It is indigenous to the island and grows quite rapidly, often attaining 20m (66ft) or more in height. In wetter districts it will grow in a wide range of elevations, up to 1200m (4000 ft.) and is often used in reforestation.
The tree is quite attractive with its straight trunk, broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. The attractive flower changes colour as it matures, going from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson.
The name mahoe is derived from a Carib Indian word. The ‘blue’ refers to blue-green streaks in the polished wood, giving it a distinctive appearance.
The Blue Mahoe is so beautiful and durable that it is widely used for cabinet making and also for making decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and carving.
The inner bark of the tree is often referred to as Cuba bark because it was formerly used for tying bundles of Havana cigars. Cuba is the only other place where the Blue Mahoe grows naturally.
On September 08, 2011 the Project Officer for Care organised one of the weekly Projects Abroad Jamaica volunteer project meeting, the meeting which began promptly at 2:30pm promised to be an enlightening affair for volunteers who are keen on learning all the key information relevant to their field- Child Care.
The topic for the meeting was “Attachment and Love” volunteers have come to expect quality presentations at the weekly Projects Meetings held at Projects Abroad Jamaica; the expectations were high as usual and the volunteers were eager to learn both from their Project Officer and their fellow volunteers. The objective was strategically crafted to ensure that volunteers were properly introduced to the various attachment styles of Infants and children and to identify the cause and effect of maladaptive attachment styles.
Volunteers were very involved in this meeting and featured Alyssa Wolsey and Annika Heye, both volunteers at the Child Development Agency (CDA) making meaningful and substantive presentations on the topic to the Care group. The ladies explored four main attachment styles, namely; secure, ambivalent, avoidant and disorganized. Volunteers utilized a well developed Power Point presentation which was reinforced through use of informational clips and videos of the manifestations of the styles.
The main activity was having volunteers learn how to identify the characteristics of each attachment style by placing them in a few groups and have them role play the three maladaptive attachment styles. Volunteers fully embraced this activity and immersed themselves into the acting and their respective characters- there were also a few laughs.
Volunteers were shown an interesting “Monkey Wire” video which demonstrated that even animals brought up in isolation develop the instinctive choice of attachment towards those things or persons who provide comfort. The video revealed that the baby monkeys always spent more time with the fake ‘towel mother’ monkeys opposed to the fake ‘wire mother’ monkeys. They only approached the ‘wire mother’ monkeys when they needed food, which was never lacking for the younger monkeys.
Alyssa and Annika asked the volunteers to apply the concepts of the presentation to their interaction with the children at the respective placements. They were asked to provide love and affection where they see it lacking and ensure that their affection is evenly distributed among younger and older children. The volunteers were highly appreciative of the meeting and was impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of their colleagues who received a round of applauses and numerous commendations
On a day when staff is working tirelessly and determinedly to monitor and improve worthwhileness within destination and of course to attend to the other elements of their portfolio, they gradually feel the day’s efforts begin to settle cruelly across their shoulder blades, then staff may sigh in resignation and try to push on... minutes tick by and they realize an email is waiting in their inbox, having read it-the day seems that much brighter, the sun just smiled a little wider...
The staff of Projects Abroad Jamaica was pleased and much humbled to receive an email from a former volunteer, Fanny Hellsing from Sweden who volunteered (interned) on the Disaster Management Project for 2.75 months. She wrote to share with us a copy of her Master’s thesis, which she wrote while volunteering in Jamaica, she pointed us specifically to the acknowledgements- “If nothing else, please read the acknowledgments. :)” she requested.
The email went on to read, “It was a real challenge writing the thesis in English, but I made it and more importantly; my University liked it! I managed to submit it on time and I graduated Uni. with an A as a final grade. Mission completed! My work in Jamaica also helped getting me a scholarship to pay the final year to become a public relations consultant (a master's degree is not enough, you have to attend a private school, which I will do thanks to Jamaica!). I very much appreciate all your help and concern during my stay in Black River, I will forever keep everyone I met in Jamaica close to my heart! Kind regards, Fanny.”
This email makes us concede that it is all worthwhile; having had a firsthand account, we are encouraged to continue the hard work and dedicate ourselves as staff of Projects Abroad Jamaica to making our projects worthwhile so that in time we will receive at least thirty more emails similar to this by the end of 2012- How di goal sound-think it’s realistic?
Jamaican students entering route taxi
Picture a few of the unique transportations of the world... Do you see the fascinating makeup of the camel rolling through the sandy expanse of the Middle Eastern Regions, or have you pictured the colourful and interesting design of the cycle rickshaw (pedicab) that is pedalled through the streets of South Eastern Asia. Or you may picture a regular car accessorised with red and white license plates, sometimes colourfully splashed with interesting graphics, paired with a an almost jester-like individual who animatedly shouts from a distance in a sweet lilting accent various street or town names of where he might transport his passengers. Well you’ll certainly picture this if you have been on an adventurous visit to the land of wood and water.
That’s the way we roll in Jamaica, not a very Jamaican lingo but the term fits. Yes we have officially established in a local and not yet greatly publicised way, of course, that Jamaica has its very own unique way of transporting passengers. Even though the taxi system is extremely popular around the world, the Jamaican way is highly much inimitable.
Our legal taxis, also called route taxis, zip around town with their red and white license plates and earn the right not to be running from the police every time it is rumoured that they are in town doing their regular checks. The ‘robots’ as they are called in Jamaica, on the other hand craftily ply their taxi status and plain white and blue plates only when there is not even the faintest rumour that the police are around; they are illegal and should be avoided, well that is unless you are seeking an adventure to be chased and driven crazily around town followed by eager police.
The taxis serve as advertisement platforms, entertainment machines and adrenaline. The cars will be done up in wonderful graphics promoting various parties, death announcements etc. Always you can be sure you will be informed of who presents what- on a night called- music by- and the list goes on. The entertainment comes in the form of surround sound, audio and visual car systems playing the latest dancehall and reggae tunes, the bass is in full effect and the party is on right there in a 5-40 minutes ride home. The adrenaline comes with high speed and obstacle course- like driving, our taxis should advertise saying for an immediate rush drive with me- no harmful or illegal drugs necessary. Despite this type of driving, which may have many tense at first, our drivers are sure to take you home safely.
The taxi men are pure entertainers, they are like jesters always ready to give you a good laugh or a shocking moment. From lifting persons by various body parts- sometimes one taxi man will have a foot and the other will have an arm but not to worry, Jamaica no problem mon!- to putting persons in taxis and then asking you where you are going only after they drive off, they just drop you off for work, you walk off for a distance and then they’ll pass you on the way and they shout, “You ready Ms.” Ok then, speak about short term memory, nonetheless it gives many something to laugh about. Every day the shenanigans get more interesting and the more I am convinced that nowhere else in the world has this unique way of transporting its people-only in Jamaican I say, where there is never a dull moment.
The scene probably looked like one you would find in a thriller/ scary movie, when the possible victim would walk into a dimly lit room filled with strange objects placed in an eerie way, suddenly you would hear the door slam punctuated by a creaking sound and then suddenly lights out…
Let me not scare you too much, the description of the scene in a few ways is based on actual events, at our staff de-stressor activity, dubbed “Bring your Zen to work day,” on September 9, 2011 we walked into a room pretty much arranged in that way.
Staff members were encouraged to find their Zen object and take it to work for the day. Zen is a form of one's meditative state-that which brings about self-enlightenment/realization. They were to select an object or representation from their physical environment- suggestions were made to look within their homes or within nature to find what makes them 'Zen'. There was a catch though; staff members were encouraged to tell no other staff before the day and big reveal what their object was going to be- upon arrival to work persons would sneak their Zen object into the lunch room and put it on the table- no one should observe them doing this.
At 3:09pm all staff met up in the lunch room for the big reveal. The contents on the table were an interesting mix, already I could see question signs appearing above everybody’s head. At first each person had to write on a post-it who they thought each object belonged to, the guesses were then put aside and each person had to reveal what their individual objects represented. The object that held the most intrigue was selected to go first.
Collette in her Zen moment...
A black plastic bag, with a comical sticker of a hat and shoes drawing, pasted to the bag with two huge stones and play dough was selected first for the big reveal. The black plastic bag combo turned out to be Collette’s (Project Officer for teaching and medicine). She said the black bag represented her love darkness, when wanting to meditate and focus, also the sticker’s drawing symbolized her love of church-spiritual calmness and the rocks, peace she found when interacting with nature. The second reveal was of loose dirt/soil wrapped in a foil. Bridgette (Country Director) in a touching moment described that the dirt was a sample of the first soil she gathered after her father’s grave was dug. She says she has it stored at home in a treasured receptacle and connects with the dirt when she needs reawakening and refocusing this helps as she shared a close relationship with her father before his passing and could always rely on him for his wise take on life
A powerful Zen
Patrina (Project Officer for care) revealed that a book entitled, “Mastermind” symbolized her finding her centre through intellectual writings. The final reveal was of a candle- Denise (Social Manager) found that a single flame in a darkened room could help her zone in on a central energy; also hot candle wax on the skin can bring about an enlightened feeling.
The purpose of the activity was to a way to remind staff that despite how busy we may become or how overwhelmed we may feel, we can do justice to our mind, body and soul if we take a brief moment to connect with those elements that make us be able to distress and refocus.
Examining the post-its after the reveals- we found that only two staff members guessed each object correctly. We had a few good laughs, a touching moment and a moment of rediscovering ourselves.
Like a delicious cake baked to perfection, freshly cooled, mouth watering appearance and a stimulating aroma wafting through the air; it is presented for your sampling- an elitist group of connoisseurs guaranteed to appreciate such artistic finery- so is the Reggae Dance Class offered at Projects Abroad Jamaica.
Monthly Reggae Dance classes at Projects Abroad Jamaica offers artistic finery to the volunteers, who are seen as the elitist connoisseurs, they are able to use the classes as a means of exercise, self-expression, release, fun activity, cultural lesson and socializing with other volunteers- with all these offerings combined the art of movement is forever on the agenda as volunteers are encouraged to express themselves, loose all shyness and enjoy learning the dances.
The Jamaican dance landscape is dynamic, the dance moves are always changing, they are expressive, technical and plain fun, as such volunteers are constantly drawn to this aspect of Jamaica and are always asking, “When is the next Reggae Dance Class?”
September 6, 2011’s Reggae Dance Class was no different volunteers brought the vibe and energy and were determined to loosen up and represent in true Jamaican style. The collective energy was good and the sequences came together nicely. We served the cake alright and everyone took a bite of the delicious culture of Jamaica. Can you imagine tasting that- not to worry it’s low fat and caters to the vegetarians too, basically this cake is for everyone.
Outside of the classes we encourage legal-aged volunteers to visit the Jamaican club scene and see first-hand how the dances evolve and also to observe the variations. Also to bust a move if they wish, after all you are in Jamaica and a wi seh (we say) no problem mon. Our message to you is move your bodies the Jamaican way, visit Jamaica, use youtube, use those resources to find the moves and give them a try you will have so much fun trying and it is a quick sure way to get that heart pumping faster and faster-well the healthy way. Get your slice of the cake now-Come to Jamaica mon!
My thoughts are unable to form one dominant idea at this time- excitement, pride and awe stuns my mind into a euphoric jumble. I know for sure that the images and a certain song are constantly playing in my head- I am stuck in mental repeat mode. The lyrics of that certain song are from Junior Gong’s and Nas’ song, “Only the strong will continue.” Let me share with you a small sampling of the lyrics:
“...Only the strong will continue
Do you have it in you?
Cause we’ve got a journey to go...
I know you have it in you
I know you have it in you...”
These lyrics are joined by simultaneous flashes of our Jamaican athletes in television format edited to represent a summary of all that unfolded in Daegu, South Korea. The images showed athletes in victory poses, celebratory dancing, competing, embracing, crying- all the images that one can possibly associate with a track meet of the highest calibre.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) staged its thirteenth track and field world championships in Daegu, South Korea on August 27, 2011, which lasted for nine days. Our Jamaican athletes set out to compete and represent well for their Island. The brave and the strong embarked on a journey to conquer as many medals (gold) as possible. The fifty member squad which included athletes, coaches, medical staff, managers etc were poised to represent their homeland to the fullest- Veronica Campbell was the team captain for the Jamaican contingent.
As a Jamaican witnessing the meet as it unfolded, a permanent stamp has since been created in my head, having observed the sheer power, speed, humility and nationalistic fervour of the athletes I have been left in a inexplicable state.
Trying to share the power of Jamaica with the world seems like an easy enough task, but today I had to ask myself where do I begin, how do I begin? Beyond the physical beauty of Jamaica there exist the Jamaican people who are dynamic and talented beyond belief. Athletics is one such arena where Jamaicans dominate-this past championship round has reminded me and many Jamaicans that this country nuh normal- not normal. We have so much to offer and so much to be proud of. This blog is about sharing this feeling, this phenomenon with the blog family- my enthusiasm is contagious- allow yourself to be infected by its power.
Jamaica at the end of the championship finished fourth overall behind the United States, Russia and Kenya (Over thirty countries were represented). Our females represented to the fullest Veronica Campbell- Brown earned a well contested gold medal in the women’s two hundred metres flat, as usual our males were on par and the inimitable Usain Bolt paired up perfectly with a gold medal of his own in the men’s two hundred metres flat. Our relay teams did exceptionally well. The male four hundred relay team earned a silver medal; similarly the women in the same event claimed a silver medal as well. The sprint relays for the one hundred metre women team received a silver medal for their efforts and the men made a stunning world record win in 37.04 seconds, breaking their own record set previously in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beyond these achievements other Jamaicans athletes represented to the fullest and claimed other individual medals. We are still burning with pride for our fellow countrymen and their stellar achievements. Trust me this was worth sharing.
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