Portland, Kingston Dirt, Denham Town, and Iraq

You may have been wondering what happened to us since we last posted blogs. As a sort of family recovery from the scary (but seemingly completely temporary) situation with my father we all went to Port Antonio on the northeast coast of Jamaica. Port Antonio is the home of the Blue Lagoon (where the movie "The Blue Lagoon" was filmed) and of Dragon Bay (where you can see the carribean bar featured at the end of Cocktail.) I don't just relate this information because I imagine you'll be enchanted by it, but rather because it tells a bit of the story about Port Antonio. It is not one of the major tourist destinations in Jamaica, but not because it lacks beauty. It is one of those gorgeous places that has been kept pristine by the rich people (Jamaican and otherwise) who have their vacation homes and estates there. (It is scheduled to receive its first all-inclusive resort sometime in the next few years.) In the 1980s (the era of Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields) it was a haven for people from Hollywood who came to relax and to make their movies. In 1989 the whole place was demolished by hurricane Gilbert. In 2003 it has recovered its beauty and some, if not all, of its appeal to the rich and famous from around Jamaica and the world.

Travelling with my parents, we got to see some of the rich and famous side that we would have missed if we were travelling alone. I took some pictures which will demonstrate, but you'll have to check back in a few days to see them because the camera is still travelling around the island with my parents. I won't try to describe it because I just can't do it justice.

There are quite a lot of people in Port Antonio who are not part of the rich and famous set, but are rather just people who live there. While there we went to what I think was the most beautiful beach I've seen in Jamaica and possibly in my life. It is a public beach called Winifred beach in the small town of Fairy Hill. The beach is a symbol of triumph over the onslaught of all-inclusive tourism on Jamaica's beaches. A few years back a hotel wanted to buy Winifred beach and turn it into a private beach for the hotel. They were in the process of doing so when the locals staged a particularly effective kind of protest: they dug up the entire long, winding road to the beach. Whenever there were attempts to fix the road, they dug it up again. Finally, the hotel gave up and the beautiful beach was left in the management of the local community who charge a small fee to anyone to visit the beach. Getting there is still a trial, because the road has never really been repaired, but the ruts and bouncing around are definitely worth it.

Relaxing in Port Antonio was wonderful. We had great fish, red stripe, no reason to leave the beach or the lagoon, and no Internet access. If our project doesn't work out, I'll think about relocating there for a few weeks!

Our first night back in Kingston, it poured. It hasn't rained since our first week here until the night before last. But the rain was really something. It came down hard all night and into the next morning. Our apartment isn't built for it, so we developed a few puddles on our floor. Most striking of all when it rains, though, is the amount of dirt that accumulates. Probably because of the degree of trash-burning that goes on in this town, everything outside seems to be covered with a very fine layer of very fine dirt. After a few days without sweeping and dusting, this layer of dirt also coats all the surfaces inside because the houses are so open. When it rains, it all turns to mud. Plus we track in more of it on our shoes. Plus it runs into the house with the water, through the slats and the leaks. After a day of rain, the apartment which had been clean on our return had turned into a dirty mess. Today I cleaned it top to bottom (in honor of the arrival of both of our mothers in Kingston in the next day or two) and managed to sweep, mop, dust, and scrub away the dirt that came with the rains. Now I have a very clean apartment and a sore back to show for it. I hope it doesn't rain again before they get here.

Yesterday we went to Denham Town to continue our work with the students there. We still have made no progress on getting FruityLoops onto the computers there, though Maxine Reid, the principal, does know how to fix the problem if we can get enough of her time to make it happen. Instead we were going to work on the website. I had discussed with Arthur McKenley before we went that I wanted to teach him to manage the website before we started to teach students how to make their own pages and he had agreed. Of course when we got there, the students needed something to do, so I ended up with six students (and no Arthur) with the project of working on the website. I would say that the next hour and a half were a definite success, though not smooth by any means. I had made the website in a sort of olive green and orange color scheme that you might have seen if you've visited it before. I did this before I knew that the JLP color was green and the PNP color was orange. This time I knew, so when the students sat down, the first thing we did was pick a new green-on-green color scheme (which you can see on the site) and get started making a new banner image and changing around how the site looked. This wasn't web editing in the proper sense, but it was engaging for some of them who liked working on the banner and gave a good way for us to split up a bit. (Because the whole lab shares a single 56k modem, it is very difficult to have more than one person actually editing the site at a time.) A few students seemed interested in actually editing the content of the site, so we set about putting up the articles that they had written for the newsletter on the site. Carlton, a soft-spoken student, really got into it. By the end of the hour he had put content on several pages and knew how to more when I left. By the end we'd even caught Arthur's attention with how easy the editing was and how nice the site looked. He's making time tomorrow morning to get a private lesson from me on how to manage the site. Next week we'll be able to get started having each student make a home page for him or herself on the site.

The process of working in Denham Town has been quite difficult. There are so few resources, human and physical, that it is hard to get much accomplished. Our project has been proceeding there in a sort of haphazard fashion. Nevertheless, the whole thing seems worthwhile when a single student (in this case, Carlton) really gets into learning something new and valuable like web editing. I'm looking forward to going back next Monday.

When we got home from Denham Town it was almost 7. Along with the rest of the world, we ate our dinner in front of the news. On the regular news at 7, there wasn't a huge focus on the war--local issues got equally as much time and, as usual, sports news took up the bulk of the hour. The daily poll question was "Is Jamaica ready for the consequences of an American-led war on Iraq?". 100% of people who responded said "no". At 8 both network TV stations in Jamaica aired Bush's speech. When it was over, there was related news and a panel discussion about the war. Needless to say, Wayne and I are both strongly opposed to the war. (I can't see anything but hypocrisy and cruelty in Bush's position, and I can't imagine anything other than unnecessary cruelty, loss of life and freedom, and exacerbation of current tensions coming out of it.) Bush's speech didn't sway us. I was overcome by a feeling of frustrating helplessness and depression about what was going to happen. Jamaicans agree overwhelmingly. I have not heard of the existence of a single Jamaican who supports the war. Most striking is how remote it is from here. The effects will be primarily financial (rising gasoline prices) and local issues will likely continue to hold at least equal weight in people's minds here. (I did note that a TV in a public place that I have only seen showing cricket in the past was showing CNN today.)

My mother called this afternoon to invite us to join them on the beach where they are staying tonight. She said the hotel seemed to be occupied by a group of southern Baptist proselytisers (sp?) who were working in the area. According to them, the cause of the problem is that the Islamic religion is evil. Thank Allah that the Jamaican public is too smart to believe that bullshit.