WPC: Surprise Poetry!


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I love discovering lonely places.  One day, out hiking on our Greek island, we stumbled upon an abandoned home.   It still had some furniture and signs of earlier life, although it was quickly becoming derelict. As we briefly poked around, I was delighted to make the surprise discovery of a poem that was painted on the living room wall behind the sofa:

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The Greek was way beyond my level, so I asked a Greek friend to translate.  She tells me that the poem is by a famous Greek poet called Kostis Palama and translates roughly as follows:

Let other faraway travelers search for the magical edelweiss on the highest mountains of the Alps

Unmoving spirit, that every April you grace me in my village garden

Oh, lakes and fjords, and western palaces, temples, and ports

Northern lights, tropical blossoms, and meadows

Wonders of the art, and unbelievable beauties of the world

I only love this small little island and always keep its image in my eyes.

I love the idea of someone passing their days in this once-pretty home.  They sat on that wooden sofa, looking out to sea, and loving their “small, little island.”  It made me sad to see that its day had passed.

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For this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Surprise: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/surprise-2/

 

 

K is for Kingston


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Yes, K has to be for Kingston.

I have no clear memory of what I expected of the city before I moved here.  Arriving in a new place, knowing its going to be home from now on, I look around with fresh eyes and wonder when I will ever start thinking of all the sights as normal? The people, the streets, the noise, the traffic….figuring out where you are.  Processing it all takes a while and there is no defining moment when the new becomes normal, it just sort of sneaks up on you.

As our time here comes to an end, and by way of reflection, I asked myself some questions.  Mainly I was looking for something new to say that I haven’t already covered earlier.

What were my first impressions?  This one’s easy.  I did a post on it earlier.  I remember thinking how calm and clean Kingston was after Kathmandu. I also didn’t expect it to be so green. Looking down on the city from high up, buildings are nestled between trees and it all looks quite charming.  The northern suburbs especially, where the birds and flowers make the city look pretty attractive. I enjoy looking out to the mountains also, which are mostly visible with dramatic clouds. Compared to the chaos of Manila and Kathmandu, the roads seem relatively orderly, there are traffic lights and drains that work.

What did I like most about living here?  From my first few months to my last few, my favourite things haven’t really changed.  I love the greenery and the mountains, walking around Mona, and sitting in my screen porch writing and listening to the wind blow through the palm leaves.  I can add that I have made friends with Jamaican colleagues, who have been some of the kindest people with a great sense of humour.  Jamaicans know how to laugh!  I’ve also read and learnt about the Caribbean and its history, and –wow– does it have some history, although there is little left to see these days.

What did I dislike most about living here? I have felt trapped and dependent on others my whole stay.  The dangers of crime, vulnerability of being a foreigner, health issues, lack of realistic transportation options and not being able to go out at night have made exploring the city close to impossible for me.  And there just isn’t that much to do for the unconnected in Kingston.  Colleagues with small children have loved it here, as its a great outdoor city and there are nice beaches less than an hour away.  But I’m so ready for a safer city with a public transportation system and urban events that will make it easier to meet people.  I’m looking at you Belgrade!

What do you think you’ll take away from your time here? In each new place we have lived, each comes with its own challenges and benefits.  And I’ve always believed its up to me to figure how to make the best of it.  We chose this life to experience the change and learn from each new place and, perhaps, leave it a little better (however small) than when we arrived.  This time,  its got me.  I don’t truly know what my takeaway from Kingston will be.  Right now it just feels like its an acceptance of “you can’t win them all.”   Hopefully time will teach me there’s something more.

So, I’ll just end with a few random photos of Kingston not covered elsewhere:

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Curlers!  Many Jamaican ladies have no problem going out while they are still fixin’ their hair.  Always makes me smile!

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Street scene near Papine.

 

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A post-apocalptic scene from the downtown.

 

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View from the Northern suburbs of Kingston way out to the Port.

 

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And finally…From the dock of a cruise ship out to the “giraffes” of the dock that I see from pretty much anywhere in Kingston.   Kingston port is still an important harbour in the Carribean and the heart and soul of this island’s economy.

WPC: Home Sweet (Secure) Home


Here in Kingston, home security is a big deal. For some it comes from bars on windows, alarms, and security guards, for others that’s not an option.  Corrugated tin sheets are the de facto security source for those that can’t afford them, but they’re sometimes a work of art in themselves:

This week’s entry for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/security/

90 Days – Heading into Summer


inner peace So, it took a while to settle here in Kingston.  I haven’t been very patient with the resettlement process or the daily realities,  or optimistic about building a more interesting life here for quite a while. And as complaining posts don’t make very good reading, my blog and the impetus to write went silent.  But after the first disastrous year things have gotten better. We settled into a limited daily routine with occasional trips out to Negril, looked forward to friends and family visits, and the weeks have ticked by.  Now here we are at the beginning of April and the countdown to departure begins.

Its become a familiar routine now of checklist items: how to sell the car and buy a new one, when to schedule the pack out and airline tickets, and a million other details. There’s also a separate list of things that you want to do one last time before you go. In Manila we scheduled repeat trips to favourite places or tried to squeeze in a last chance visit to somewhere we’ve never been. In Kathmandu, I planned a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Bhutan, a short trip to Delhi, one more visit down to Pokhara, and another to my beloved Sapana Lodge in Chitwan. Unfortunately, these never happened because of the earthquake and our departure routines were almost bulldozed by the realities of the disaster.

Then there’s things you have to buy: handicrafts or items unique to the place that will shortly stop being home.   Its sort of a bittersweet ritual of remembering and appreciating your time, and how the 90/60/30 day post tradition started on the blog back in 2013.  It would be easy to overlook the tradition this time around because my checklist is short.  But we do have two more Negril visits planned and then there’s the embroidery project, which in itself is a opportunity to explore a positive takeaway from our time here.  ( I’ve done a cushion embroidery project in three previous countries where we have lived.) Its a tricky assignment to pick a design that fulfills a number of requirements: I need to find the design aesthetically pleasing.  It needs to be not too easy or difficult for my skill level, and it has to represent a positive aspect of my stay.  Also it has to be a personal experience from that place, not just something generally representative.  After much hunting for fruit, tropical foliage and rasta designs (that don’t exist), I was drawn to various birds as a subject.  Jamaica has a lot of wonderful, exotic birds, but I finally I settled on this pelican design.

I hesitated at first, as working in multiple shades of grey can be a bit monotonous.  But he has character and enough colour variation to make it interesting, and he makes me think of our regular walks around Mona Reservoir, which has been a real lifesaver for us. I doubt I’ll finish him before we leave, or even before we get to Serbia, but he’s arrived and on his way to being part of my small collection and Mr Pelican will keep me company in airports lounges and economy seats this summer.

WPC: Rice Paddy Harvest (Dense)


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From tending the nursery rice paddies shown here in the background….

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…to the thick, verdant harvest…

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….its back-breaking work.

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I loved meeting with this friendly Nepalese family and the lush, dense paddies outside of Kathmandu.

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Happy Memories!

For this week’s Photo Challenge, Dense: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/dense/

J is for Jump!


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Rick’s Cafe and Bar is a pretty famous attraction in Negril. They’ve been around since 1974,  when I suspect that they were once truly a local, kicked-back kind of place.  Now it is a large affair with a big bar/restaurant, a swimming pool, indoor and outdoor tables, and cabanas for rent. There’s a retail store with “Thanks for Making it Rick’s” t-shirts and various paraphernalia for sale. It’s really quite the slick operation.

Its attraction is the beautiful cliff-side location with sweeping big-sky views out to the wide, blue Caribbean. 35 feet below its cliff top locale, the rocks form a deep, protective pool that has become a favourite place for cliff jumpers. Catamarans leave daily from nearby tourist resorts with onboard bars and pulsing music,  arriving at Rick’s before sundown.   Everyone can watch the divers and the brave can try it themselves. Its a big party with live music, drinks and a spectacular sunset.   However, we have never seen it, as we are not fans of crowds and loud music, but when we discovered that they opened at 12pm for lunch, we decided to go take a look. It was very hot and quiet, but its easy to hang out in the large, shaded bar area with a red stripe and watch.  A small group of lunch time guests paced below us, as they worked on steeling their nerves for the jump.

Some got to the edge of the higher jump and make the leap before they’ve had too much time to think about it.  Others stared down at the water for endless minutes before they turned back and decided to take the safer jump from the lower platform. With an audience casually sitting around watching you fight your fears, it takes some nerve either way.  I took plenty of photos and enjoyed watching the show.

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This guy was the staff superstar diver.  With lots of trapeze artist panache, he greeted his audience and announced his dive…

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Everyone watched and waited.

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And off he went on his first jump.

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For a $20 tip, he also jumps for this high rickedy chair on a poll.  It adds about another 12-20 ft.  Yikes!

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…and then a second jump to show everyone who’s boss…

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…and then the jumpers had their go.

The first time we went, I have to admit it was an entertaining visit and and we have since taken friends and family on subsequent trips. I can imagine its lots of fun if you are young and love a party scene.  However, I did wonder about the safety of having alcohol and cliff jumping going on in the same place.   I know there have been quite a few serious incidents in recent years. Yes, there are signs warning that cliff jumping is dangerous, warning that divers do so at their own risk, and absolving Rick’s of any responsibility. However, I can’t imagine that signs like that would hold water in US courts.   Although they say there are trained life guards and security people watching, there aren’t many safety rails and I can’t imagine that every drunk who is suddenly emboldened to do something crazy will be spotted in time.   As the mother of a young adult of similar age, its all a bit scary really.

WPC: Green Lizards!


Florida’s Keys have great lizards and most of them are green, camouflaging into the equally impressive flora. Here’s a few we spotted hiding in plain sight:

Just for contrast, here is a truly impressive orange one that was just hanging out on the tree above my head….until I finally spotted him!

In response to this week’s photo challenge:  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/it-is-easy-being-green/

 

I is for Island Time


As I walk by, sometimes I catch two Jamaicans looking at each other, “Where’s the fire?” I see in their exchange of glances.  They’re wondering why someone might be in such a rush.   From my perspective, as I walk around town, I constantly run into fellow pedestrians doing a slow, slow, shuffle.  I’m a brisk walker and an energetic pace feels natural to me.  And I have a learned, deliberate walk that comes from years of being in places where a single, expat woman is the target of every panhandler and cat caller in my path,  so I walk fast to avoid their advances.  The problem is that when others amble along in front, walk three abreast, stop to check their phone with no warning, light their cigarette, or just stop to smell the friggin’ roses– in the mIDDLe of the sidewalk – it can be a tad frustrating.

But, unfortunately, that’s no excuse.  I know that I can’t be that foreigner who barges past and demands that everyone get out of my way.  It’s rude, tacky, and after all, I’m in their space.  So in addition to the uneven surface, crazy driver, dog poo and pothole radars, I need to add “slow walking person” to my calculations, so I can slow down a little before I approach the ambler, so as to not scare the bejesus out of them.  They are, in turn, supposed to notice that someone is coming up behind them and step out of the way.  But they often remain blithely unaware and I need to pull out technique two:  “Good morning, ladies,” I say cheerily.  “How are you?”  “Good morning,” they say back, coming to a complete halt to search for something at the bottom of their bag.  So, when that fails, there’s technique three: a hop, skip and jump up and down the curb (or between a gap in the fence) where I use my speed advantage to quickly nip around them.  The problem here is that the aforementioned dog poo, pot hole or uneven road surface sits lurking at just the point where I need to do that little jig,  just like a little unexploded bomb.

Is it worth it you ask?  After all, island time is the call of all visitors to Jamaica who long for their famous “no worries” laid back vibe.  It’s hot, take it slow, go with the flow.  Why not stop and smell the Jamaican roses?  Because there are no roses.  Because the traffic light is about to change and that bus is going to blow toxic diesel smoke in my face.  Because the corner panhandler has already spotted me, and I know the guy leaning up against the wall is planning on making me his next taxi fare.  Ugh, no thanks.  Gotta go!

 

 

H is for Hurricane


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In early October last year, Hurricane Matthew was on its way to Jamaica.  At one point it was upgraded to a category 5 storm that was looking very much as though it would make landfall on island.   Colleagues were full of terrible stories from the last major hurricane to hit, Gilbert, who in 1988 caused extensive damage to houses, farms and infrastructure– and Gilbert was only a category 3.

With impending disaster heading our way, the Embassy was put on voluntary departure and most families with small children headed to the States.  Those remaining, like us, were told to leave our homes and shelter at the main Embassy residential compound so we would all be together in a building with hurricane windows, an independent water supply and a generator.  That meant we had to pack up our house (as best we could) to weather the storm.  I stood in my living room surveying my options:  rugs, soft furnishings, book cases, metal items…there were all sorts of things that could be permanently damaged by a flood.  The prospect of moving heavy furniture so that rugs could be rolled up was not appealing, but the thought of returning to soaking, moulding furnishings was not an option.  We had never been through heavy weather in this house before and had no idea if the windows would leak or from what direction the weather would come, so we had no choice but to move it all.  So rugs were rolled and elevated, bookcases were raised on cans of tuna, we dragged big heavy plants inside so they wouldn’t snap in the high winds.  It all took several hours.

Around midday we were done.  The skies looked stormy and the palm trees were whipping, but the storm still hadn’t arrived.  It seemed like a good time to head out for the 30 minute drive before the rains hit.  It took 10-15 minutes to load the car with several days of food and provisions and, in that brief time,  the rain and wind started up.  Suddenly we were in a fierce squall and packed the last few items in high wind and pounding rain that easily found its way under the protective cover of the car port.  By the time we pulled the car door shut and drove towards the exit, the windscreen wipers could hardly keep up.  “Here it comes…” we thought…  but the car started to make a strange rattling noise before we departed the front gate and Robert decided it was better to be cautious and figure out what was wrong with the car, so we headed back to the house.  Thirty minutes passed, the car issue was fixed, the squall was over, and we made our second exit.

As we drove through the mostly empty Kingston streets, we could see scattered branches lying in the road and huge amounts of water carrying dirt and debris down the drains.  It was easy to see how this city’s draining system could clog and flood the streets.  The massive gullies were running hard with water, but not too deep for our vehicle to pass….but things could quickly change.

There are gullies like this all over the city for a reason.

By the time we reached our destination, the rain had stopped altogether.  The sky remained steely gray but the air was still.  Maintenance crews were moving everything that wasn’t tied down and we settled into our loaned space to make it our base for the next few days.

We waited and watched.  The apartment building has excellent views and we periodically scanned the horizon wondering when it was coming.  The national hurricane website gave updates every 4-8 hrs, and the storm seemed to be heading east.  By the next day there was still no rain.  By the third day, it was clear that Matthew was going to miss Jamaica altogether but was heading straight for poor Haiti, which is still recovering from the earthquake after all these  years.  This was tragic for Haiti and excellent news for Jamaica, but by then I was suffering from a very bad case of cabin fever.  All the precautions, packing and waiting was making me feel very tense.  It was impossible to just relax and try to read a book or binge watch Netflix.  I just wanted to go home.  We returned to a dark house that needed reassembling and the boards needed to be removed from the windows.  Amazingly the internet was still working and we set about the unwelcome task of putting everything back where it belonged.  Friends reached out to ask if we were ok, now that Matthew was making international news headlines because of the damage to Haiti and the impending implications for the US coastline.  However, for us it was over.

After Typhoon Pedring in the Philippines and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, we knew that the odds were real that we could add a hurricane to our list of disasters experienced three posts in a row.  This time Jamaica dodged the bullet.

 

 

 

 

WPC: Monkey’n Around (Atop)


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For some unknown reason (as I can’t read Nepali) a Nepali bank had strung a banner to a tree at the famous Pashnupathi temple. The monkeys loved it!

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They used it as a hammock, a swing, and as a launching pad to jump down on other unsuspecting monkeys who were hanging around for the fun.

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I guess you say they were making a monkey out of banks!

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In response to this week’s challenge:  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/atop/