Friday, June 09, 2006

Edu-Tourism in Jamaica - Report #3

Hello everyone: As our return to Philadelphia approaches, I would like to take some time to update you all on the various sorts of activities we have been engaged in. So expect a flurry of blog posts here. As before, I will begin with a summary of our daily events, and follow with more in-depth description and analysis. More pictures shortly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - Working at various sites.
Mike, Matthew and Jillian had a long meeting in the RADA office with assistant director Peter Thompson. He provided us with a good overview to RADA operations, and how they seek to develop partnerships with different community groups. After a discussion of various projects that we might be able to assist with, Mr. Thompson drove us out to see a fledgling project in a community called Airy Castle, called the St. Thomas Women’s Agricultural Initiative. We arrived there just in time to observe their business meeting. Seems to be conducted very professionally. A banker from PNC Bank (“The Farmers’ Bank”) had been invited to the meeting to explain the process by which the farmers would be able to save money for the future (individually and as a group). After the meeting I took a look at their computer and noted that they don’t have any useful office software. Peter Thompson and I discussed the possibiliy of adding Open Office. They have limited available space on their hard drive, and Open Office is designed to be smaller and simpler than the Microsoft Office Suite. Other groups of students traveled to their typical sites, the basic schools and the Women's Center.

That evening we decide to have a bonfire on the beach. Sans marshmallows, we tried our hand at roasting bananas. Much more difficult!

Saturday, May 27, 2006 - Excursion Day
The group decides to drive west past Kingston and through Mandeville in St. Elizabeh to visit Treasure Beach and attend the renowned Calabash Festival. We left late because our driver Garnett failed to show up that morning. And because of the state of roads and the fact that Kingsley Kieth was driving an unfamiliar van the drive itself was almost five hours long - in both directions! Now we can see why Treasure Beach is designated an ‘alternative’ tourist destination. I took a number of pictures of the authors and really enjoyed myself. I wound up buying one book by M. G. Vassanji entitled The In-Between World of Vikram Lall that I have been enjoying since. It is set in Kenya during the 1950s and features the difficult position that a family of South Asian background finds themselves in amidst the winds of change. It is an epic and is very well-written. .

Sunday, May 28, 2006 - Excursion Day
Novella, Mike, Annie, Matthew, Ciarra, Hazel, and Cheraine, w/ Kingsley driving: Again heading to the city in the Yallahs High School van. Breakfast deliberation had resulted in multiple options for the day. But the primary vote-getter was to go to Port Royal and then take the ferry out into Kingston Harbor where we enjoyed the luxurious white sand and coral on Lime Cay. The water was absolutely beautiful, and it was definitely a fun place to spend the afternoon. Appeasing the dietary needs of the four vegetarians on the trip, we made sure to stop at a vegetarian restaurant in Kingston before returning to Yallahs (and returning the high school van). Two students who had selected another destination as their preference, Casey & Christianne, were able to arrange with our chef Jhay Grant to visit to Reich Falls.

Monday, May 29, 2006 - Sites Day
Jillian, Matthew and Mike: We arrive at the RADA office too late this morning to accompany Mr. Brown into the field. Instead, we discuss a possible itinerary with Mr. Parke. Drive to the east past Airy Castle and through Bath. We are checking out Eastern Banana Plantation as we drive east towards Hordley Crossing. Taking a road to the left, we climb Johnson Mountain where we meet several ginger farmers sitting in shade along the side of the road. Interview continues with Jillian and to a lesser extent Mike peppering them with questions. Weather threatens to change and we drive down Johnson Mountain and meet Beverley Smith at her house on the old Hordley Plantation. There we discuss her manifold plans to develop the heritage tourist aspects of the region. That evening, Edu-Tourism board member Nicola Shirley arrived from Philadelphia.

Thursday, June 1, 2006 - Another Sites Day
Peter Thompson driving Mike, Matthew, Jillian and Cheraine: We drove north from Morant Bay through dairy fields at the base of the Blue Mountains. The visit to Serge Island Dairy and Juices was short but very interesting. Many of the beverages sold in UHT containers at local stores are in fact produced here. Only a few of them are explorted, such as the Cadbury’s chocolate milk. Most are consumed within Jamaica. We learned much more about their marketing challenges besides the powdered milk issued depicted graphically in the documentary Life and Debt. After our trip, Cheraine returned to Morant Bay to shoot more video activities at the Women’s Center.

June 3, 2006: Day of our hike into Portland over the Cunha Cunha Pass
I woke up around 5:00 am – actually failed to sleep with anticipation and worry. Roused Matthew and the other students around 5:30 am. Garnett arrived with the van at 6:00 am and we finally left for the trip around 6:45 am. Our intent was to get on the trail before the sun was high in the sky and our hiking got too hot. But instead we just happened to choose a day for the hike when the weather would undergo a permanent change.

For the first time Mike Dorn was taking sole leadership for the group of students hiking the Cunha Cunha Pass. Novella, Nelson and Kingsley each decided to forego the trip this year. The designated trail guide Shaggy and Mike offered all of the leadership that this group will really need.

We meet our local trail guide Shaggy alongside the Hayfield Road as we are driving up. We take the time for a few group portraits before heading into the darkness of the trail. We are able to take in some beautiful sights – indigenous snails, and Shaggy ascending the hillside to cut down some sugarcane to suck. I commented that we were ascending into the clouds – it wasn’t long before the sky opened up and the rain began to fall. We particularly appreciated the shelter at the summit of the pass. New trail signs helped to remind us that we were on a trail that had been well maintained by the Bowden Pen Farmers’ Association, and they were about to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Blue Mountain / John Crow Mountain National Park. Their work had made this section far more enjoyable than the climb up Blue Mountain Peak that we made last year. Hiking down into the Rio Grande Valley the rain continued. We stopped at one of the waterfalls to refill our water bottles. Lunch was superb – the usual boiled tropical fruits, but also a vegetarian stew and immense crayfish caught growing wild in the local streams. This is a real delicacy, and was prepared superbly. After another nap and a walk down to the river, our hostess Lynette Wilks heralded the arrival of our special guests. We had arranged in advance for presentations by Ivelyn Harris (an internationally-recognized herbalist who will be coming out with a new edition of her excellent book shortly) and Brother Isaac (a Maroon spiritual leader). I look forward to telling readers of this blog about these unique speakers.

June 4, 200 - Return from Cunha Cunha Pass.
Those damn roosters began crowing around 3:00 am, and by irregular intervals thereafter kept everyone awake. The morning was overcast and gloomy, but the breakfast was again excellent. Enjoyed sitting with Ciarra and Matthew on the front porch of the men’s cabin looking out and reflecting on the experience. A very cool morning. Hazel, Annie, Matthew and Mike steal away to find Three Finger Jack falls for a brisk morning dip. By 9:15 am we were all ready for the return hike with Shaggy in the lead. The sky opened up with rain towards 11:00 am while we are on the trail to Bowden Pen. Garnet sent another driver, Mr. Windsor, to pick us up. We met him, wet and dirty, around 12:30 pm. On the way back to Yallahs, we stopped at Mothers only to find that they were out of most menu items (one of the few restaurants open on a rainy Sunday). Nelson and Novella are surprised to see us returning to Carleva Bay so early in the afternoon. I guess the trip to Bath is going to have to wait until another day. With the weather, we experienced a 'bath' of a different sort this weekend. Ha!

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