I considered lots of approaches for this week’s challenge: clocks, ancient places, ancient faces, timeless graces… but I think I like the idea of the passage of time the most. Every year Latham and I take a picture for his birthday at the gate of our Greek home. Here is the passage of time over twenty years. Time indeed waits for no one. And what a story it tells!:
Its been a while since I’ve found an interesting subject for Sign Language until I spotted this one. There’s a small town called Red Light on the road half way up the mountain towards Holywell, one of those very respectable “blink and you miss it” places gathered around a small community church. If you look closely you will see this double-sided sign on the roadside, serving as both a welcome and a goodbye notice to drivers passing through on the narrow, windy road. Now I have to ask myself “why is this Red Light district” and not “Red Light town” or simply “Red Light?” Is this a nod to the history of the place, or an innocent coincidence? The charming care that someone has taken to decorate the sign with flowers adds to the intrigue a little when you realize that the flowers illustrated are the indigenous “hot lips” (see my earlier Holywell post) because they resemble a sexy woman’s lips. Mmmmh. Is there a connection? Did the town really get it name from ladies of the night? Or some other way? How intriguing to see a sign that seems to focus on its shady history and encourage visitors to “walk, drive & ride safely” at the same time. Someone needs to explain this to me!
As a kind of part two to my earlier post about our stay in the blue mountains, here are some favourite photos from the trails around Holywell. They were much too interesting not be awarded a post of their own, and it was a great excuse to use my macro lens.
The minute we entered on to the cabin grounds, we were approached by a salesman selling raspberries. I had heard they grew up here and was planning on picking some myself, but when I saw how I would have to scramble down steep trail banks to get them it certainly seemed worth buying them rather than getting a broken ankle. This went against my hunter-gatherer instinct but it was probably a smart decision. When I told the sales guy that picking them looked a bit risky, he said, “I know what you mean. That’s why I have my own plants at my house!”
It is crazy expensive here. We were warned. Its easy to think of things like French Chevre or other luxury food items as being understandably pricey. However with less fancy items like apples, celery, leeks, potatoes – items that we think of as being inexpensive nutritious foods that we like to eat everyday–it becomes a lot harder to accept. But the import gods make no such distinction. You want it? Then thou shalt pay anyway… and through the nose…Paying for the privilege of maintaining expat standards is par for the course when you live outside your home country (whichever country that is – I lose track.) If you want peanut butter in (fill in your current country name) you pay. Which is not unreasonable as someone had to ship it here, pay import taxes, and find a niche market that buys it. And we accept that these are treats and, like all treats, they are an occasional expense that we justify as a reward for homesickness or little crutches to help with the challenges of adaptation. There’s not really much I can’t live without these days: maybe good tea, good coffee, healthy cereal (a great comfort food), cheese… but nothing I have to have. But oh I start to miss the variety and choice elsewhere!
I have long cherished the idea that it is good to eat local foods — at local prices — and to learn how to benefit from delicious cuisine that the locals enjoy without the extravagance and expense of expat imports. However, in practice, I’ve only had limited success. As I am a vegetarian, the quality of produce is of the highest importance and Jamaica and our previous two posts haven’t done very well in this respect. The Philippines had fabulous produce grown in the Northern part of Luzon, but after they trucked in down in unrefrigerated trucks for 10 hours in the searing heat and, after leaving it lying around for another 10 hours until a vendor bought it, by the time it reached our kitchen it was often putrefying from the inside out. I feared what I might find oozing in my vegetable bin after only 12 hours in the fridge! Local meats and poultry were tough and stringy. Fortunately, fish and fruit excelled.
In Kathmandu local, seasonal fruits and vegetables were sometimes very good, but many were imported from India and made the same sad journey to our table. Worse, bad sanitation made the consumption of fresh local produce dangerous without bleaching. Salad in the winter was a no-no because of a microscopic parasite. Yet, with some good kitchen management, it was my most successful attempt at eating local. Our housekeeper would shop from the local market, sanitize the vegetables and cook local food, which I had nearly every day for lunch.
Here in Jamaica I find a lot of the local food is not for me. Most vegetables are the starchy root variety, which have often been fried, so I head to the supermarket produce aisle for imported vegetables. I buy local produce there whenever I can, with mixed results, as the quality and freshness of local produce is often not there either. The imported vegetable prices are skyrocketedly crazy: $17 for a tiny, withered cauliflower. $20 for a punnet of yellowing mushrooms. A small bag of apples can cost $15. I just can’t do it most of the time. And I can’t get to the local markets which I am suspicious carry a better selection at better prices, so I am now actually looking at canned and frozen vegetables as a supplement to the overpriced “fresh” produce available to me. There are some imported quality brands available at reasonable prices. Its a quite exciting discovery and a new low at the same time.
Probably my biggest sell out on the subject of eating and buying locally is the move to Walmart online shopping. They ship orders over $45 for free and this opens a huge world of savings for items like mayonnaise, toilet paper, washing powder. If they can ship it, we can have it at one third to half the price that it costs in Kingston. A significant saving. The sellout comes when I think about principles of shopping local, how much jet fuel it took to fly my bread flour here. But then again, the same jet fuel was burned to bring these items to the local shelves where I pay 2-3 times the price, and the difference in cost is not supporting organic practices or paying carbon footprint taxes. So, I reckon that if I can’t live without it at all, and honesty I can’t–at least not without some of it–then I will continue support the exploitative practices of the Walton empire to get at their cheap prices, and will continue to burn jet fuel doing it. It doesn’t make me proud but it does make life happier.
On a more positive note, we are discovering the blue mountain farms that deliver fresh organic produce to Kingston. Getting it has been challenging between delivery dates, communication problems and junk mail filters…but hopefully next week we’ll get our first delivery. How exciting would it be to be able to buy good, fresh produce that supports local farmers? And hopefully doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either… More on this to follow (I hope!)
We first discovered Holywell Recreational Park on an exploratory weekend drive in the mountains above Kingston. It takes somewhere between 1-1.5hrs to drive the narrow, windy and treacherous road up the mountain. Timing sort of depends on what you get stuck behind, or who’s behind you threatening to overtake uphill on a curve. Drivers here can be crazy that way! Along the road’s edge are plenty of vehicles that tell the story of what can go wrong on blind bends, frighteningly many actually. Or perhaps these were under-maintained vehicles that just gave up the ghost trying to make it up the steep ascents. Most have been stripped of details like hub caps, tires, or wing mirrors and are now just sitting there rusting. It can be hard to see what fell off and what was taken…but I digress…
Holywell was a wonderful discovery. Its a park open to groups for nature tours or individuals that just want to get outside and find some fresh mountain air. It has well marked trails that aren’t too difficult, great views, as well as places to camp. When we spotted the cabins for rent we planned on coming back to stay for a couple of nights, which is exactly what we did after the Christmas holidays.
Best of all, the cabin had a large, covered deck with sweeping views across the mountains and down to the port of Kingston and the sea. It was a great place to read or catch a movie, and watch the ever changing sky roll by before us. We will go back.
As promised and requested by my small (but growing) band of readers… here are some pictures from our Kingston home after we finished unpacking. For those unfamiliar with US government supplied housing, it comes furnished and we get very little say on style or colour choices, and some of it is quite horrendous! We make do and try to make the best of it. Its also challenging how you have to make the same personal stuff work in a different house which may be significantly larger or smaller than before. Again, we try to make it work.
Here’s a little tour:
Its a pretty nice space made infinitely better by the screen porch with the view out to palm trees and greenery. Many townhomes here–including ours–are traditionally built to be dark and cool. Although ours lacks light too, the screen porch is cheery and the view is nice. Most of all I like the access to fresh air and the porch sofa is a favourite place to curl up with a book.
Happy New Year! Breaking a long respite from the weekly photo challenge with this week’s theme of circles:
Our second unplanned stop on our recent Port Royal trip was the large and mostly abandoned Old Naval Cemetery on the outskirts of town. Enclosed by a brick wall, the left-hand side of the cemetery is open scrub land. Whatever graves may have been there are long gone. On the right, there are rows of numbered crosses in various states of disrepair. Alongside the simple crosses, more elaborate, older, stone graves are carved with the names of sailors from the late 1800s. Many were victims of yellow fever and almost all are British naval personnel. Everything leans a little to the left or right, or tilts forward or backwards, sitting awkwardly on the unstable sandy soil.
The history of the cemetery goes back to the 1600s but, yet again, the earthquake of 1692 sent a large part of history into the sea and famous graves such as that of the notorious pirate, Henry Morgan, are lost forever.
I learnt that recently a 40-strong detail of sailors from HMS Lancaster helped restore the neglected graves of their forebears when their frigate visited Jamaica in 2013. They cleaned up the overgrown graves, explaining how we could even walk into somewhere in such disrepair. Whatever did it look like before they cleared it out? Its such a shame that so much history sits so neglected.