March 24 - The Vacation Continues . . . and Ends

Last Wednesday my parents arrived back in Kingston. On Thursday Wayne's mom Trisha and her partner Warren arrived in Kingston as well. After a short week of back-to-work visits to schools, we were into vacation mode again. Before I describe any of it, I want to relate a moment that occurred at Tivoli Gardens High School on Thursday afternoon. It had been three weeks since our first and only visit (due to school vacation, and school-wide testing). I knew Wayne had made an impression the last time we were there, but I wasn't sure that the momentum he created then would carry us for three weeks of absence. A few minutes after entering the computer lab, one of the students we'd had came in and immediately smiled and came up Wayne. He put out his fist to Wayne and said "Wayne Marshall!". (I don't know how to describe the gesture that consists of putting out one's fist to another person and having them touch their fist to it, with the flat parts up to the first knuckle touching. To anyone who has seen it, which must include most all people under 35 and quite a large number of people older than that, I suspect this description seems quite silly. Oh well.) Then he started in with a detailed question about Fruityloops. He had been using it, he said, to make hip hop beats since the last time we came, but he was having trouble figuring out how to construct a dancehall beat. Wayne assured him that he'd show him when class started. The student started talking to a female classmate who walked in and was wondering what was going on. He explained that we were going to be making music on FruityLoops, like dancehall and hip-hop. She looked at him and said, a little skeptically, "You make music?" He grinned and said yes.

I won't relate too many details of our mini-vacation with the parents. We had a wonderful, very relaxed trip to Lime Cay where we all got to snorkle and see quite a lot of brilliantly colored fish in a shallow reef not 25 feet from the beach. We cooked a huge ackee and saltfish, calalloo and dumpling breakfast for everyone, which they all enjoyed. On Friday evening, Wayne and I left for Ocho Rios with his mother and Warren. After we checked into the hotel in Ochi, we headed to World Of Fish for dinner. I was mildly worried that it would not live up to my memory of it as the best meal that I can remember eating in my entire life. I should not have worried. I can't say enough how great this restaurant is. Even the cole slaw is amazing. (Of course it is the jerk fish that is truly amazing.) I told our waiter how much I loved it and then discovered that he was, in fact, the owner (a man named Clive who inherited it from his aunt and uncle and who goes back and forth between Ochi and Miami). I left wondering what I could possibly do for the place. I think I'll write to the Lonely Planet guide book series (another great thing--if you are coming to Jamaica you should definitely have one) and tell them how great it is. Maybe it will lure a few tourists out of the Jamaica Grande if the Lonely Planet review is good enough. Anyway, I was in heaven. The following morning we went to visit Kush, who showed us around his property and fed us tons of fruit. He was off to play music at an art opening at nearby Harmony Hall, and we told him we'd join him there after visiting the waterfalls. Next we walked up the road and on unmarked paths to Irie Beach. Wayne previously blogged about Irie Beach (before he knew it was called that) in his blog about Nick's visit. I had not yet been there, and obviously, neither had Trisha and Warren. Again, I feel incapable of an adequate description. Irie Beach is not a beach at all, but a piece of the White River where there are a series of cascades, waterfalls, and pools that you can swim in. The water is an amazing color of green that must be produced by some mineral. The banks of the river are overgrown with bamboo and other trees and vines of all sorts. It is stunningly beautiful. According to the guide book, in 1995 there was an attempt to make it into a tourist attraction by construction of stone step paths on the banks of the river. It seems that for some unknown reason, it didn't really take off as a tourist destination and closed sometime before 1999. It has not reopened and it appears that someone bought the property that was the main entrance and built a house on it. We heard that you can't even get a taxi to take you there anymore. Our own experience seemed to bear this out: we had it all to ourselves for our entire time there. An amazing, secluded, watery paradise. Wayne remarked that it is the kind of place that once you visit, you want to bring all your friends there to share in it. It is definitely one of those kinds of places. Almost as soon as we walked back out to the main road from Exchange to Ochi, we got a cab to take us to Harmony Hall where the art opening was. There we found Kush and quite a scene. Harmony Hall is a highly elegant art gallery with some very nice craft stalls on the lawn and a beautiful outdoor restaurant. We enjoyed looking at crafts and art, listening to Kush and others play music, sitting on the lawn talking to Kush and his friends, and eating a very elegant lunch. We dreamed up a plan to bring a group of friends with us to stay and Kush's, work on his house and grounds for a week, swim at Irie Beach every day and eat at World of Fish every night. (Want to come?) There are lots of things not to like about Ocho Rios, but the beauties and wonders we've found there have truly won me over.

While at Harmony Hall, I bought a piece of artwork. Wayne and I recalled admiring the painting Jenn Geetter brought back with her from trip to Thailand and also felt that we would love to find something that would always remind us of living here. Plus, it is great to have an excuse to get something beautiful. In the first four rooms I looked through, there was nothing that seemed truly right, but in the last room, I found something beautiful. Here are a few pictures, so you can get the idea:


We returned to Kingston today to get started again in our more regular routine and end the vacation that the month of March has been for us. Life picked up immediately. As soon as we got home we got on a bus to Half Way Tree to meet Lorna Rowe who heads the Global Teenager Project in Jamaica and works for the JCS Education Foundation (JCS stands for Jamaica Computer Society, but the JCS Education Foundation prefers to abbreviate it to help create distance from the JCS proper.) We had met with her last week to discuss possible ways of linking our two projects since both directly concern Internet and technology-based education in Jamaica's schools. Though we didn't find any very direct ways to collaborate, we found that we can target a few schools in common and try to create a link between our projects that way. Quite generously, she and Michelle Baboolal of the JCS Education Foundation agreed to dig up some boxes of computer speakers that they had had sitting in a trailer in storage for quite a long time. They were eager to see them placed in schools and we were eager to help put them there. (The lack of quality speakers has been a real impediment to Wayne's work at Camper Down HS). So today we went to meet Lorna to go retrieve the speakers from the trailer. We took a hot and very crowded bus to Half Way Tree. We waited at the bus stop for Lorna for about 20 minutes. We were quite tired and hot. I was feeling a little frustrated about waiting for Lorna, but I kept thinking that she was doing us a favor by giving us the speakers in the first place. As I thought about it more, I realized it was quite amazing that the transaction was happening at all. Their choice to give us the speakers was entirely altruistic. They receive nothing for their donation but the satisfaction of knowing they have done it. In exchange Lorna has to go to the trouble of picking us up at the bus stop and taking us to the trailer to get the speakers. We receive something from getting the speakers: a little boost in our ability to do our work by giving those speakers to Camper Down. Personally, we receive nothing. In exchange, we have to take this hot, crowded bus, wait for 20 minutes for Lorna, go into a stuffy, dusty trailer to find the speakers, and carry them home. To me, there is something encouraging about that.