Jamaicans are a fabulous bunch of people

Because they do/say things like this:

Security Guard: I admire your smile.  You look refreshed – like you bathed two times already this morning!

* * *

Random guy walking down the street: Your tall dress fits you well.  It looks nice.

* * *

Security Guard: Sarah!  You look like princess in tall dress!

* * *

Me, dozing on JUTC bus until man behind me taps my seat.  Look up to see my bus driver peering back at me.

Bus driver, with concerned expression on her face: Are you all right?

Me: Yeah, I’m just tired.

Man behind me, like a father to his child: Hush!

* * *

Rasta mon came up to a group of my residents while we were crafting and treated them just like he would any other group of people.

Resting his hand on Ladesha’s braided head: Wha gwan?

Thumb click to Adrian: Respect.

Smiles at the whole bunch: Respect!

Turning to me: You are doing God’s work.

* * *

Turned into an aisle at the supermarket and came face to face with an elderly gentleman who executed a flawless sidestep – elaborate hand gestures, flirtatious smile and all – without missing a beat.

* * *

One of my bus drivers exchanged #s with me so I can call him at anytime to find out where he is and how long the wait at the bus stop will be.  I haven’t called him yet, but he called me to let me know that he would “soon come.”  And he did.

* * *

Older woman politely stopped me and said, Can I give you this?

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I wonder which one of those boxes she thought I might need to check :-)

Romelo, the Connoisseur

Never have I seen anything quite so self-satisfied as the expression on Romelo’s face when he rises from the ground after several hours of patient picking and digging, his t-shirt bulging with several pounds of small stones.

It’s not so much like a cat that has swallowed a single canary, but rather, a whole cage full of the golden mites.

And he still has this to look forward to:

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The sorting of glass from stone.  The forming of neat piles.  The lining up of large rocks and “loose” chunks of concrete.

That last one drives Cedric nuts, because it necessitates the destruction of the walkways and gutters that he – Cedric – faithfully sweeps every day.

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See what I mean?

But Romelo can’t be bothered by these petty concerns.  The rocks are calling and they must be sorted.  Oh, what a glorious thing it is to be a quarry man!

If there is a stray stone left anywhere on the Jerusalem! compound, it won’t be for lack of trying.  Stones are his main occupation, but he’s not above turning his attention to bottle caps if enough of these begin accumulating on the ground.  All are carefully considered before being assigned to their appropriate locations (usually in the way of wheelchair or wheelbarrow traffic).

This absorbing interest is all too often interrupted with reminders that it is time to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner and only by dint of concerted coaxings are the aunties able to induce him to leave his rocks and glass and caps.

But now a new problem arises.  The same judicious and discerning attitude is brought to the table and it is very often displeased by what it finds there.

To begin with there ought to be more sugar in the porridge.  And peas (aka beans, a staple of Jamaican cuisine) are not an acceptable form of nourishment.  It’s useless to try to convince him otherwise.  He simply won’t eat if he finds one in his bowl.  He sits on the couch and waits while an auntie painstakingly removes all the peas from the Rice & Peas (no easy task) or the Turkey Neck Stew.  (Sometimes, I suspect auntie cheats and mashes the peas so they blend in with the overall general color and consistency of the stew.)

Recently, he has taken to noticing me when I walk past and calling out, “Miss!  Come here!”  With some disabilities, it simply takes a while to admit new people into your world.  I figured 3 1/2 months was about right.  But there was far more to it that this.  This past week I was finally clued in to his sudden interest.

“Miss!  You are browning!  You are brown and pretty.  I like brown women.  I want you!”

Apparently, his standards are just as rigorous for women as they are for rocks and meals!

How to Conduct Oneself with Bravery

1.  Get asked if “you want to see a really big moth?”

2.  Say “No!” but get up and go inside the shared bathroom anyway.

3.  See a moth with a wingspan the length of a man’s hand sitting on the windowsill.

4.  Make a rapid retreat.

5.  Lament the fact that you need to go to the bathroom.

6.  Accept the offer of extermination services.

7.  Shriek and hit the floor when the moth swoops towards the open doorway.

8.  Immediately slam the door, trapping the exterminator in the room alone with the creature.

9.  Crack open the door to peek.

10.  Shut again.

11.  Repeat.

12.  Accept assurances that the moth is gone.

13.  Go inside to use the bathroom.

14.  Turn the corner and come fact to face with it on the wall.

15.  Retreat.

16.  Agree to wait it out.

17.  Can’t wait anymore.

18.  Give exterminator a scandal bag.

19.  Shut door and cower.

* Exterminator emerges with a fluttering scandal bag *

20.  Cower with eyes shut.

21.  Entreat the exterminator to take it out (do not open eyes).

* Moth is released outside *

22.  Make illogical responses to the ensuing cross examination.  You know moths are harmless, right?  How come you had to be stopped earlier from poking a very large spider with a very short stick (potentially dangerous) but freaked out when you saw a moth (100% harmless)?  You know they can’t hurt you, right?  etc.

23.  Shudder and shiver (it helps).

Summer Camp 2014

It is not the easiest thing in the world to paint the face of a child who has CP.

Nurse learned this the hard way.

Grand intentions of turning little Natty into Spiderman.

Then, wishful hoping that a camo-soldier look might be attainable.

Finally, in despair, a blue-purple combo that looked something like a cross between a blueberry and Ribena.

And so, our little spastic Blueberry was born.

Meanwhile, Okeno, Melanie, and I were busy transforming Yasanya into a butterfly,

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Adrian into a general, Alexcia into a rainbow, and Keisha into a pink blushed flower garland.

It took some convincing, but Sasha Gay finally agreed to a floral crescent design:

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Fun Day.  The final day of Summer Camp at My Father’s House.

And Face Painting was just the beginning!  We read and colored our final Bible story (the birth of Jesus).  We used glitter ink to decorate heart shaped fans.  And best of all, we made ice cream floats – Caribbean style!

With help, all of the campers were able to scoop vanilla ice cream into their cups.  We let them pick between Pineapple and Kola soda.  Those who were able to noisily slurped their floats through colorful straws.  Those who weren’t able eagerly waited for one of us to hold a cup to their lips so they could drink.

it was the perfect way to wrap up two weeks of art, stories, songs, music, movies, and games.

When we started on a Monday, I didn’t really know what to expect.  I’d be meeting my assistants (Melanie, Jeneel, and Okeno) for the first time.  Over half of the residents on the list I’d been given were ones I hadn’t spent any time with yet.  We quickly found our groove.

Melanie, Jeneel, and Okeno were phenomenal – running with every idea Sister Cathy and I threw their way, making improvements of their own, and working hard to ensure the residents had a great time each day.

By day 3, all it took was for one of us to walk through the gate for Yasanya to start her “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”  Which invariable kicked off Natty’s wheelchair bound happy dance and Dwight’s huge smile.

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Dervon and Brandon would look expectantly towards the exit and Alexcia would narrowly miss crashing her wheelchair into a wall as she raced towards us.

I knew about taking food, clean water, and a job for granted.  But I never realized that “anticipation” could be taken for granted, too.

Having something to look forward to at the start of a new day is a common occurrence for most us (think about it).

But for many of these residents, their disabilities conspire to limit the variety in their days.  That’s why getting to go outside and sit around a table and wait their turn to be helped to place a sticker, paint a picture, or roll a dice was such a big deal to them.  It was something new, something out of the ordinary.

One of the campers was a young woman whose right leg is permanently bent up towards her left ear.  Her left leg crosses over to the right side.  Her fingers are barely able to grip anything.  She can’t talk.  She’s wasn’t able (verbally or physically) to get my attention, so I’d never really noticed her until Summer Camp started.

Suddenly, she was smiling when we came through the gate, when Yasanya answered the question before Adrian had a chance, when Natty accidentally on purpose knocked the paintbrushes to the floor.

One day, when I came through the gate and began making my way around the room, I heard something just behind me.  I turned and realized that she was making the sound.  It was low in her throat.  The noise didn’t approximate syllables, let alone words.  But . . . she was doing something I had assumed was impossible for her.  And her eyes were sparkling.

“Are you ready for Summer Camp!?” I said.

She made the sound again, and this time, smiled BIG.

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Joevan, my baby

Joevan is three years old.  He has a big head.  Literally.  Hydrocephalus will do that to a guy.

When Mustard Seed got him less than a year ago he was malnourished, listless, and unable to hold his head up.  He’d spent the first two years of life in a hospital after being abandoned (presumably at birth).

Now he has pudgy hands and feet and takes a lively interest in everyone and everything.  He sits in his chair chattering, reading books, and blowing kisses.

And in spite of the very stern talks I have had with myself about NOT treating him like an infant, he is totally my baby.

The first time we met, I was walking towards Keisha when a little hand reached out and grabbed mine.  I looked down into an adorable little face with perfect features.  “Mommy!” he said.  (He calls all the aunties that, but the effect is still deadly.  I tumbled hard and fast into love and don’t expect to ever recover.)

Then he pulled my hand to his mouth and planted a kiss on the back of it.  This is when I noticed the Monsters Inc. book he was holding in his other hand.  Could this child be more perfect?

Eventually, I did make it to Keisha,  But I pretty much sprinted back across the room when Miss Gordon suggested I help Dwight who was – oh, darn! – sitting right next to Joevan.

And in between helping Dwight with breakfast Joevan pulled my arm until my cheek was in kissing range and called me Mommy some more and said “I love you!”

By the time the bowl of porridge was finished I was utterly subjugated.

Miss Gordon came up to offer Shanice some tea.

“Me want tea!” said Joevan.

“Oh my gosh!  Did you hear that?  He said ‘Me want tea!'” I reported delightedly (and unnecessarily.  Last time I checked Miss Gordon’s ears work just fine).  “He’s soooo smart!”

Yes, I’ll own up to it.  I was a gushy, cooing, sappy mess.

“Where is your head?” queried Kimberly.

“Here!” said Joevan, pointing to his head.

“Where is your eye?”

“Here is my eye!” said Joevan, covering his eye with one hand.

“Where is your teeth!”

“Here!” said Joevan, and pointed to his mouth.

“Oh my gosh!!!” said me.  “You’re sooooo smart!”

“Praise the Lord!” said Joevan.

An aunty walking past chuckled and responded,  “Hallelujah!”

“Hallelujah!” said Joevan, and raised one six-fingered hand in the air.

“Awwwwww!!!” I cooed.

“Tank you, Jesus!” he prattled.

I’m pretty sure I was getting cavities left and right from all this sweetness.

“I am a Promise!  I am a possibility” he warbled.  “I am a Promise with a capital P.”

“Tanks” to Mustard Seed and Jesus, he truly is!

Reggae Rhythms

I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t start introducing you to some of the fabulous music I am surrounded by each day.

I’m going to start with the cream of the crop.  There is so much that is right with this Chronixx music video.  (Hello!  It’s Chronixx after all.)  The “Oh, Jah!” when his wife realizes she’s out of peas.  Her Dashki shirt.  The conversations in Patois. The confrontation with the police – “Officer, ease out!  Don’t you judge me by my hair!”

And the fact that it was filmed in the Gordon Town area!  Industry Village Community Club sign (0:05)?  Pass that every day.  The red/yellow/green wall about 4:06 minutes in?  Same.  Kentucky Drinking Saloon (4:29) is just up the road.  I drive by the broom shop (5:00) every time I need to go to Papine.  As well as that wall at 5:29.

Wives, have you ever sent your husband to the store and he came back with everything BUT what you asked for?

Imagine how this poor woman feels!  He drops the peas on the ground but manages to hold on to his “good jar of herb.”

I’ll give you 3 chances to guess what the herb really is.  (Hint: It’s not Rosemary.  No, it’s not Thyme either . . .)

I shall not want . . .

for wacky conversations.  All of which took place within a 24 hour time period.

Downtown

Jamaican mon with gold tooth (embellished with red enamel heart): White girl!  Do you like Jamaicans? (Gesturing to himself)

Me, purposely mis-understanding: Yes, I love Jamaica!

Him: What do you love about Jamaicans?

Me, with selective hearing loss (in this case, that final “ns”): The weather, the waterfalls, the mountains, the food . . .

Him: Oh, so you love Jamaica but you don’t love we.

Me, seeing no help for it: No, I love the people, too.

Him, lighting up:  So you love we.

Me: Yes.

Him, big smile: So you love [insert the N-word].  You love we!

Me: Uhhhh . . .

 

Taxi

Can’t give a word for word description here.  Too much Patois.  But we took a detour to a Rasta mon’s shop on our way to Gordon Town.  Orange Shirt Passenger exited and came back smelling strongly of ganja.

Taxi Driver claimed that Rasta mon sprayed something to get it to smell that way.

Orange Shirt: “No, Mon, it’s a natural ting.”

Taxi Driver: “But it should smell sweet.”

I hate to say it, but I know exactly what he meant.  Second hand ganja smoke (from the twenty-somethings next door, from the elderly lady selling newspapers, from the Rasta mon in the taxi) has that effect on one.  One day you’re innocently walking through Papine and catch yourself wrinkling your nose.  “Oh my gosh, that is NOT a nice batch of ganja.”  And just like that, you’ve become a connoisseur of ganja scents.  Cue face palm.

I peeked (oh-so-casually) over my shoulder.  Yeah, Mon.  That was definitely a packet of a weedy looking “something” that he was pulling out of his pocket and admiring.

A conversation ensued between Orange Shirt Passenger, Black Shirt Passenger, and Taxi Driver on ganja’s scent, places to plant it, ways to smoke it (orange peel, anyone?), the benefits of legalization, and politicians.

This, for the record, was waaaaaaay more illegal activity than I am used to being in close proximity to.

I certainly had got my fill of epithets and criminal behavior by 4 pm.  Oh well, tomorrow was a new day, right?

 

JUTC Bus

Guy who’s proposed to me twice (because he wants to go to the US) and who I’ve seen at the bus stop maybe 8 times: Sarah.

Me: What?

Guy, evidently abandoning the business arrangement approach in favor of the “romance” tactic: I think it is time I kiss you and hold your hand.

Me, firmly enough that nearby passengers turn and look: No!

Guy: You don’t want me to?

Me: No!  (At this point, the man sitting in front of me gets up and changes seats.)

Guy: Why not?

Me.  Because I don’t want you to.

Guy: So you will marry me and take me with you.

I’m sorry, but 8 am in the morning is waaaaaay too early for this kind of nonsense!