Wednesday, June 30, 2004

last news report from jamaica

We completed our work with the non-profits organizations and the basic schools in Morant Bay and I am now back in Kingston preparing to depart after an eventful fortnight in the country. With the group of Temple University and West Chester University students I've had the opportunity to explore the capital city of Kingston, and the eastern Jamaica parishes of St. Thomas and Portland. Both St. Thomas and Portland are breathtakingly beautiful. Portland is a destination for tourist interested in lush, unspoilt tropical landscapes. St. Thomas is Jamaica's poorest parish, steeped in history of resistance to colonial tyrrany. Moviegoers will be familiar with the Portland coast, since this is where the author Ian Fleming drew his inspiration for the James Bond books. This is by far the wettest part of the island. The upper reaches of the Rio Grande Valley qualify as one of the wettest locations in the world, with 200 inches of rain in an average year. And yes, it rained on us while we were there. We were only able to view a small portion of this parish, and so while there I made plans to return. When I get a chance [after my return], I want to tell you all about the hike we took up from Hatfield in St. Thomas, across the the Cuna Cuna Pass trail [a historic route connecting Maroon communities in the Blue Mountains] and down into Portland's Rio Grande Valley. It was a grueling hike in the heat of the day, and unfortunately on the next day we had to retrace our steps back out to our transportation. Once we get back, the pictures of the Cuna Cuna Pass and the Ambassabeth Cottages will be posted to the Edu-Tourism website. So check in frequently.

Monday, June 28, 2004

and on sunday we rested ...

Hello again - I am glad to have the opportunity to catch up on my postings to the Edu-Tourism Blog. This past weekend - June 26-27 - was quite a joy. Russell and Laureen Keith were my hosts as I enjoyed the simpler pleasures of a hammock strung between two palm trees. Over bottles of Red Stripe, Guiness and Heinekin, we discussed family genealogy and Jamaican politics. Russell has already enjoyed careers as a journalist and a labor relations manager for the Jamaica Shipping Association. But retirement finds the family engaged in the business of raising chickens - evidently the favorite meat of Jamaicans. When not consuming their own distinctive jerk chicken, the locals turn to 'the Kentucky' for a chance of pace.

On the news from, the major story of note is the departure of longtime Jamaica Labour Party leader Edward Seaga. For more on this important development - Seaga had served as leader for the past 20 years - see the reportage of Jamaica's oldest newspaper, the Jamaica Gleaner [After returning from higher education in the States and employment in Toronto, Russell Keith found employment with the Gleaner in Kingston back in the 1970s].

Friday, June 25, 2004

our second week of edu-tourism activities

Sa 6/19. Hike over the Blue Mountains - sleeping at the Ambassabeth Cabins near Millbank. The van and SUV departed early in the morning from the hotel carrying the entire group of hikers, but unfortunately we became separated from one another, meeting at our departure point later than we had planned - around 10:00 am. Our departure point was the village of Hayfield, north of the spa city of Bath and high in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. During the first of many cloudbursts of the day we met our trail guide Sylvene Sutherland aka 'Shaggy.'

Su 6/20. Return hike over the Blue Mountains.

M 6/21. Tours of Kingston and a class at the University of the West Indies.

Tu 6/22. Return to Morant Bay projects.

W 6/23. Tour of Kingston: Museum of Contemporary Art; Bob Marley House; Twelve Tribes; dinner at Sovereign Mall.

Th 6/24. Portland and PARTY

F 6/25. Morning departure for the airport. Flight leaves Kingston at 1:30 pm to take group back to Philadelphia (w/ 3 hour layover in Montego Bay).

Monday, June 21, 2004

impressions of bowden pen and the cunha cunha pass trail

Over the weekend (June 19 - 20), a diverse group of students, faculty and eco-tourists affiliated with Edu-Tourism successfully crossed the Cunha Cunha Pass Trail from Hayfield into the Rio Grande Valley. Our progress was assisted by a native trail guide, Sylvene Sutherland from the farming community of Hayfield, St. Thomas.

Once the arduous crossing was complete, we were greeted with open arms by the farmers of Bowden Pen at their new tourist facility, the Ambassabeth Cottages. We stayed overnight there and were treated to several tasty meals of traditional Jamaican cuisine.

This is a breathtakingly beautiful natural setting high in the Rio Grande Valley, offering a wide variety of eco-tourist options for the adventurous traveler. For those interested in Jamaican traditions and holidays, local residents are very willing to share their knowledge and will help you make contact with other residents of the valley. The trail guides are experienced in leading groups deep into the mountain valleys and onto the ridge tops, but for planning purposes it may be wise to pick up topographical map sheets while in Kingston before driving out. These trails become overgrown so quickly that the trail guides are essential. They cut back the brush and keep hiking groups from getting lost in the lush vegetation.

Jonathan Thomas, a Pennsylvania organic farmer who traveled with us last month, was so impressed by what he saw that he wrote a letter of thanks that was published in the Jamaica Observer.

Future hikers of the Cuna Cuna Pass need to keep the following cautions in mind.

1. Mosquitoes are a constant companion on the trail, so hikers should come prepared with insect repellent.

2. Bring a pair of hiking boots that have already been well broken in. The trail is has been improved to assist hikers, but because of the great amount of rainfall in the region, still involves rough sections. Hiking boots that are fit without rubbing and that have waterproofing will be a tremendous asset for hikers of the trail, no matter what season they choose.

3. Let the local coordinator Lynette Wilks know the size of your group, and how many cabins you will be needing, and stay in contact with her by cell regarding the progress of your hike.

4. Sleeping accommations are provided in cabins that include foam mattresses and large pillows. When traveling with a large groups, bringing along additional tents will help to make sure that everyone is comfortable. The Bowden Pen farmers are currently in the process of opening a new camping ground nearby that will accommodate groups of university or secondary school students.

Additional sources of information that will help if you are preparing to explore Port Antonio and hike in the Blue Mountains: the Rough Guide to Jamaica and Skywritings: Air Jamaica's In-Flight Magazine.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

first news report from jamaica

Dear Friends,

Welcome from sunny Jamaica! We have been here for three days now, and the action is non-stop. It is hard to catch everyone up in a brief message - this one is being written from the computer lab in the Morant Bay Public Library. The operative word for Edu-Tourism is patience. We have been able to fit in so much so far. On the first day we visited Cane River Falls (the location where Bob Marley preferred to wash out his dreadlocks) and the memorial at Stony Gut, the location where Paul Bogle organized a rebellion against corrupt British colonial rule in 1865. That rebellion convulsed much of the parish of St. Thomas, and was put down by British troops at the expense of over 400 lives. Today the site is pretty overgrown, and includes a historical marker to the event.

The past two days we have been doing needs assessments in basic (early childhood) schools around Morant Bay. This has been very time consuming but also fun. We have set up a good number of computers, and will need to come back with educational software on CD - they don't have anything except the basic Microft Windows and Office applications so for.

Another highlight was making contact with a disability organization known as 3D projects. They have a branch office in this rural section of Jamaica, and provide important early intervention training for parents of children with disabilities. They have a great many needs. Like most of
the facilities we deal with, they connot yet access the internet from their computers. And yet there may be a great number of resources that the Institute on Disabilities provides that will be a tremendous boon for the. They occupy the same derelict building as the Women's Center. Both will need to move to new facilities in the short term before they can expand their offerings.

Jamaica is so close and yet so starved of things that we take for granted. We need to think of ways that we can work in coalition with these organizations.

More news after the weekend. We leave tomorrow morning to hike into the Blue Mountains for an evening in the clouds.

Warm regards from the field - your sweaty geographic explorer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

First Week of Edu-Tourism Jamaica 2004 Group Activities

Nelson and Novella Keith, our group leaders, headed down to Jamaica at the beginning of the month of June to make the necessary arrangements. The rest of the group met on Fri 6/11 at Temple University to share last minute information on the upcoming trip. Laptop computers were distributed. These would be utilized by students and eventually given to various key individuals who are working with us in Jamaica.

Tu 6/15. ARRIVING IN ST. THOMAS. Student arrival at Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport before 2:00 p.m. We traveled to St. Thomas in the East by van and SUV, finally arriving in Retreat's Whispering Bamboo Cove Resort, arriving around 3:00 p.m. I traveled in the Land Rover SUV, which afforded the opportunity to meet Philip Keith, nephew to Nelson and Novella Keith the group leaders. Philip was able to spend much of the week with us. Since he knew Jamaican roads and chaotic driving habits, he regularly took the wheel. Kingsley 'Dave' Keith drove the rest of the students in the van. After arriving and getting settles at the hotel, many of us enjoying a chance to take a dip in the Caribbean Sea. I was somewhat surprised to find out how warm the water was - it was also clouded this afternoon with silt and seaweed. In the evening we headed out to eat at Rover's, and enjoyed a lecture by local historian Devon Blake.

W 6/16. TOURING ST. THOMAS. In the morning several of us again enjoyed a dip in the ocean, Jamal Benin took the time to introduce me (Mike Dorn) to the discipline of Shotokan Karate before breakfast. The rest of the day was spent exploring some of the local sites. Turning inland at Bull Bay and heading uphill we found ourselves at Cane River Falls. Noted in my guide book as a favorite location for Bob Marley to wash out his locks, the walk under a bridge and down a well-maintained set of concrete steps deep into the narrow canyon of the Cane River was fittingly dramatic.
The shaded pool of water at the base of the falls was a refreshingly cool reward for our efforts.
With some scrambling I found it possible to perch on a high rock shelf behind the falls. Several of the students also engaged in cliff jumping, although the pool itself was only perhaps six feet deep. Walking back up the steps, I noticed several local youths outlined in profile under one of the arched passages smoking ganga from a water pipe.

From there the van and suv headed back towards Morant Bay, turning inland again as we got closer to the parish capital city, and heading north along the Morant River north to the remote historical site called Stony Gut. This was the site of the community that the famous revolutionary leader Paul Bogle called 'home.' Recognized today as one of Jamaica's National Heroes, Bogle was a deacon in the Baptist Church in Stony Gut who saw his countrymen suffer after their emancipation in 1835, impoverished by an unreconstructed 'Planter's Parliament' that would not respond to requests for land redistribution. Bogle was a fiery orator who travelled the island preaching a gospel of black liberation and harbored a long set of grievances against the English colonial administrators in St. Thomas. After a cross-country march to petition the Governor in Spanish Town resulted in political inaction, on October 11, 1865, Bogle lead a group of his neighbors to engage in protest at the Courthouse in Morant Bay. They went to the Courthouse where a council meeting was going on and armed policemen and soldiers stood guard. A fight broke out and the guards fired. About 20 of Bogle's followers were killed or hurt. The others drove the guards back into the Courthouse and set fire to the building then killed fourteen Whites as they tried to run away. The rebellion continued into the following day as armed groups attacked plantations across the parish of St. Thomas and two additional planters were killed. The importance of the Morant Bay Rebellion, its origins, dimensions and implications have been documented in numerous books, the most complete being Gad J. Heuman's Killing Time (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994). In retribution, Paul Bogle and parliament member George William Gordon were executed, along with over 400 'co-conspirators.' The village of Stony Gut was destroyed. Another article on the Jamaica National Historic Trust website notes that archaeologists have recently excavated the foundations for the original Baptist chapel, and that there is a proposal to rebuild the chapel as a memorial to the rebellion. During our visit to the site we found closed tourist hut and 'guide' pointed us to the a historical marker. Meanwhile, the 'bush' steadily reclaims the rest of the site.

Th 6/17. FIRST DAY OF GROUP PROJECTS - Nelson and Novella charged three groups with the responsibility of visiting basic schools (for children ages 4 - 6) and the Women's Clinic in Morant Bay. The schools had recently received donated computers from Edu-Tourism, and we were responsible for gathering information on the teaching staff and leadership of the school, as well as the physical state of the school and their needs, particularly regarding instructional technology.

As the group drove into parking lot for the Women's Clinic (housed in Morant Bay's old post office - photos), I noticed a sign on the corner post for 3D Projects, an Jamaican non-profit organization that provides community-based rehabilitation services, largely for children with disabilities.

Since Philip Keith managed to lock his keys in the SUV, M.J. Lovett, Germaine Edwards and I had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and learn a little bit more about the work of 3D Projects in St. Thomas. The conversion quickly progressed to finding ways that we could help with their work. The branch was receiving less and less material and financial support from the main Spanish Town office. The Community Rehabilitation Workers themselves had little scope for professional development. By the time we had to leave that morning, we had made arrangements to meet again the following week. From there, M.J. Lovett, Germaine Edwards and Mike Dorn traveled to the Duhaney Pen Basic School. While Mike did some computer instruction for the principal, MJ took some pictures of the young students. There were two other groups of students. The group of Jamal Benin, Emma Doyle, Jessica Passucci and Biany Perez spent the morning at the Women's Clinic and then from there walked to Christ Chapel Basic School. Both visits appeared to have gone well. Emma, Jessica and Biany led a discussion with the teens and young adults who had turned to the Center for support when the became pregant and were forced to leave school. These were tough women, and it took a good amount for them to open up to this group of Americans. The visit to Christ Chapel Basic School was interesting as well, because the amount of computer resources there were so much greater than what one found at the other basic schools in the region. The group of Daniel Savage, Jessica Lique and Brendan Hayes visited the school 'in the bush,' Officially, it is called Needham Pen Basic School. They found a very warm welcome there from the children who were so pleased to have visitors.

Fr 6/18. SECOND DAY OF GROUP PROJECTS: needs assessments and computer installations at the basic schools. This day the groups split up again. M.J., Germaine, Jamal and Mike were dropped off at Calvary Mission Basic School. This school was much different than the one that M.J., Germaine and Mike had visited the day before. Calvary was much larger - teacher informed us that they had approx. 300 students on the books. Discipline at a school of such size was much stricter. But when the students took a lunch break and Mike began to take pictures of them, they went wild with excitement. Safety concerns prevented the children from even getting out in the sun for lunch. We were at the school to install two computers in their brand new computer lab. Once the setup was complete, M.J. and Mike guided groups of five students through brief introductions to the keyboard, the mouse, and simple research or creative tasks.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

less than 32 hours until departure ...

and I haven't started to pack yet. Wrapping up work at the office, checking out the weather forcast (low to mid 90s and wet this coming week in Morant Bay). It has been interesting reading in the Jamaica Observer how much impact American presidential politics can have on our island neighbor. Ronald Reagan may have had trouble with his geography (confusing the Caribbean with the Mediterranean) but he found common ground the the Seaga government.

Now George Herbert Bush is planning to celebrate his 80th birthday by jumping out of an airplane again (3rd time) and I am planning my first trip to the Caribbean. Not something I even thought was a possibility while growing up in the Midwest. M

Friday, June 11, 2004

FW: forthcoming Jamaica trip

Dear Ethan - Thanks so much for this excellent contact. I am posting your
recommendations to, to share this with my
colleagues and students. Mike

-----Original Message-----
From: Ethan Zuckerman []
Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 10:57 AM
Subject: forthcoming Jamaica trip

Mike -
Saw you linking to some of my stuff on Technorati - thanks. Good luck with
the forthcoming Jamaica trip. You may want to take a look at Charlie
Nesson's work in the country
- he's been sponsoring a lot of interesting
work on music in the prisons, and on tech and education. Lots
more on him on Berkman's site:


Ethan Zuckerman |
Research Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society
413-441-3380 |

Thursday, June 10, 2004

FW: SchoolNet Namibia

This initiative may of worth paying attention when we attend to issues of networking basic schools in Jamaica.
-----Original Message-----
From: EthanZ's Weblog []
Posted At: Thursday, June 10, 2004 10:24 AM
Posted To: EthanZ's Weblog
Conversation: SchoolNet Namibia
Subject: SchoolNet Namibia

I'm in Berlin, speaking at Wizards of OS tomorrow, and hanging out with some of my Open Society Institute friends. So far, the conference is a little ideological for my tastes, unreformed capitalist that I am, but the company is pretty good.

I had the great pleasure of having dinner last night with Joris Komen of SchoolNet Namibia, one of my favorite projects on the African continent. Joris and crew have been bringing low-cost harware, Unix software and training into schools throughout Namibia - at present, they've worked with close to 250 schools throughout the country.

The major achievement of SchoolNet, from my perspective, is the substantial concessions they've gotten from the Namibian government. They've gotten the state telco to provision service to schools at extremely low cost, which allows them - with some grant funding - to give funding to schools at no cost. And they've gotten access to the 2.6Ghz frequency, which they're using to provide wireless access to rural schools across the nation, a crucial strategy in a nation as huge and sparsely populated as Namibia.

Joris observed that educational uses are a great lever for telecommunications reform in African countries. Most arguments about telco reform in Africa end up in battles between incumbent telco providers trying to protect a near-monopoly on service versus new players who attack that monopoly with new tech. Joris suggests changing the debate, by forcing dominant telcos either to prove that they can provide universal service to schools ... or get out of the way and allow new technologies and new companies to do it. A very cool strategy, and a good proof of concept in the successes SchoolNet have achieved so far.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

initiatives aimed at overcoming the global digital divide

Geeking in the Third World by Richard Koman -- Geekcorps volunteers work in third world countries helping companies become technically competent IT businesses. Richard Koman interviews Geekcorps founder Ethan Zuckerman.

Making Room for the Third World in the Second Superpower According to Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, "the emergence of an Iranian blogger community is an encouraging example of bridge building."

Two years ago, Hossein Derakhshan (better known as "Hoder") posted a Web page with instructions on blogging in Farsi called "How to build a Persian weblog.” NITLE now reports 62,901 Farsi weblogs, making Farsi the third most popular weblog language. As the Iranian blogger community grew, Hoder and others, including Pedram Moallemian of The Eyeranian began blogging in Farsi and English, and encouraging others to do likewise, so that non -Farsi speakers could understand the current political and cultural situation in Iran. Sites like IranFilter now allow English speakers to understand the concerns of an Iranian community that's reaching out to the wider world.

BlogAfrica is one of several projects underway designed to build bridges between bloggers in Africa and the rest of the world. The BlogAfrica site hosts a catalog of blogs written by Africans or Afrophiles and aggregates these blogs into an African blog RSS feed. Working with volunteers working in Africa with Peace Corps or Geekcorps and visitors traveling to Africa, BlogAfrica is running public workshops in Internet cafes and universities to introduce weblogging to a new population. In future trips, BlogAfrica plans to bring prominent webloggers to Africa to teach workshops, encourage local bloggers and share their perceptions of Africa with their blog readers. Early participants in the workshops include Adam Chambas, whose Accra Crisis blog provides a first-person view of the 2004 Ghanaian presidential campaign.

jamaican government urged to spend more on education

Jamaica may be allocating proportionately less of its budget today to education than a century-and-a quarter ago, but the critics are wrong to say that students performed better in the past or that the island had a halcyon period of education during colonial times, according to the education researcher, Professor Errol Miller. See archived article from the Jamaica Observer, Tuesday, May 11, 2004.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

don't know much about history

Thanks to Erin O'Connor, a blogging former English lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, for posting this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education considering some of the regretable effects of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2000. Critical Mass: Don't know much about history Part of the challenge of studying Jamaica up close will be to connect contemporary experience with colonial history. I have found Niall Ferguson's book Empire (2002) useful in gaining a better understanding the webs of trade and consumption that connected farflung outposts of the British empire. You don't have to agree with his Union Jack-waving to find the book an envigorating read.

blogs in education

Find out more about the Blog phenomenon. This page is designed to provide you some resources if you want to get started using blogs for yourself or with your students. Blogs in Education