7th of March 2008
Our group arrived in Kingston at 2:00p.m. After walking through customs and baggage claim we boarded a small shuttle. Our driver Samuel drove through the streets of Jamaica vigorously. The roads were paved neatly and the buildings possessed an industrialized structure. Our first stop was to the National bank to exchange our currency for the Jamaican dollar (JM, JAM). I was surprised to see a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant along the street because it began to resemble home. I could see men and women walking and conversing with one another. All the black faces seemed similar to those in Africa even those black faces at home. The Jamaican’s dressed in fairly moderate clothing, khakis pants, business shirts, and the women wore similar formal attire. They were presentable even quite fashionable as we drove through stop lights and stop signs. We were headed to Holywell National Park. Holywell was at the top of a very steep mountain. The two lane road we traveled on was very small and the curves were sharp. I began to get nauseous as we drove further north up the mountain side. The journey lasted about an hour and a half and I slept for the last fifteen minutes. We passed by motorcyclist, men walking and a restaurant on the drive up. When we arrived at Holywell we picked out our individual bed in our huge single cabin. I rested for 30 minutes or so before dinner was served. I walked outside the cabin to see a breath-taking view of the island. It felt like I was on the top of the world. The feeling I got from standing on top of the mountain was exhilarating, empowering almost. Dinner was served picnic-side and included rice, beans, chicken, greens, cole slaw, and a traditional dish. I ate a small amount. We were then given a tour of the National Park.
8th of March, 2008
My first night in Jamaica was a cold one! Staying on top of the mountain produced chilly temperatures and moist air. Our cabin was loosely sealed and small insects crept in through the night. I stayed bundled in my cover for the most part. My morning bath consisted of a blue bucket half full of cold water. I was used to the term “bird bath” by now because I took them in Ghana quite frequently. When we walked outside the cabin after our first night I could barely see the city below through all the fog. I felt as if I was walking in the clouds. Simply incredible! The grass was wet with dew as we headed to eat breakfast. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruits such as oranges, bananas, and kiwi topped with greens and bread. The agenda for today was a slide show lecture on the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT), guest speaker, and a hike down the mountain. The Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust manage Holywell National Park and works with the communities that live inside the park boundaries. They teach farmers how to use better cultivating practices to protect and conserve the parks natural resources. After our lecture we were introduced to a famous Jamaican dub-poet, Cherry Natural. She performed two short poems discussing women, politics, and community. (Illustration) She was truly talented and her words moved me. She took pictures with us and chatted briefly before we sat out on our hike.
Our tour guides for the hike were Marlon, Patrick, Gregory, and Cortland. For much of our hike the road was paved however we ventured off the main road and onto a small dirt-like path. The hike down would prove more difficult than imagined. It used a lot of physical strength that I didn’t even know I had. 2 miles down and 2 miles back up. Our group got separated often with the fast walkers in front and the slow walkers trailing behind. I was a fast walker and was excited to be on my first hike down a real mountain. As we hiked down the mountain we chatted with our tour guides who appeared to be close in age range. Gregory was 19 and attended a local high school. Marlon was a bit older and worked part-time with the JCDT fixing old cabins and giving tours. They were eager to hear of our experiences in the states however sort of disappointed to learn just how similar our lives actually were. We all attended school and worked to support ourselves and shared our passions and ambitions with each other. Marlon wanted to be a rapper while Gregory wanted to pursue college and work in the states. I seen houses along the way which looked like mobile homes positioned alongside the mountain. You could see clothes lines, lawn chairs, even outside grills. We took a brief stop in a village and used a Jamaican’s bathroom. The house was small but possessed amenities such as a television, couch, beds, dresser, even a refrigerator. As we waited for everyone to catch up I saw a handful of children playing soccer and hanging out. I went over and proceeded to join them. They took a brief glance at me then kicked the ball in my direction. They welcomed me eagerly and we began to play with me. They laughed when I was given an opportunity to kick the ball, probably because I was a girl. The kids wore shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. Just like kids would wear in the states. When it was time to go we walked toward a waterfall. Already we had seen some invasive species as the red fern, even found some ginger root. Before making it to the waterfall one of our classmates stepped on a rock twisting her ankle. The hike was dangerous after all. We stopped briefly and waited for a nearby neighbor to take her up the mountain on his moped bike. Finally we reached the amazing waterfall. We had to hike through large rocks and over the small stream. The waterfall seemed like something in a movie. It was natural and untouched by human irrigation methods. Some of us took a small dip in the water and others took pictures and enjoyed this spectacular view. I kept staring at how fast the water fell from the rocks on the stream below. The damp soil and the water inside the earth gathered at this spot on the mountain and produced a beautiful fall. I had never seen anything like it! We stayed at the waterfall for a while and rested for our journey back up the mountain. It was such a long hike up, but I made it! I was the first one back up the mountain racing one of my tour guides. One of the last animals we saw was a gigantic peacock. As we walked back on the Holywell grounds we washed off for our late lunch. We ate salt water fish, mashed potatoes, and a traditional dish. For dinner we were driven down the mountain to the restaurant we spotted on our way to Holywell. The restaurant served us fried chicken, beans, and rice. It was delicious. Next door we visited a small cafe that sold souvenirs such as t-shirts, coffee, tea, and organic foods. We all indulged in the sweets and treats. Looking out the window it was pitch black outside. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was such a long day, today. When we arrived back at Holywell the view was absolutely gorgeous! Below you could see the lights from the city and the calming water surrounding the island. It felt so surreal looking at this immaculate citing. One of our professor’s friends from Kingston brought us authentic Jamaican instruments to play. We gathered in a circle and picked an instrument of choice. I grabbed the morocco’s. We started to play sporadically and a little off beat but it was fun. We entertained each other, even danced round and round. Sine we were in Jamaica we couldn’t help but experience the full on culture. Gregory and Patrick had muscled up some green trees and tops. They made us feel most comfortable and at home.
9th of March, 2008
Today we left Holywell National Park. It was a bitter-sweet day leaving such a historic environment. We said our good bye’s to Patrick, and Gregory. I will never forget the view from Holywell. I will remember it forever! As we head down the mountain I got nauseous again. Something about those sharp turns and small road made me feel paranoid. Today we are heading to the village of Millbank. Ronald, our new driver was prepared for the long trip down the mountain. He had an American mixed cd that featured songs from 50 Cent, Ludacris, Ashanti, Chris Brown, even Rihanna. It was fun to sing-a-long to the music as we traveled through the Jamaican streets. It helped the time go by faster. The trip to Millbank proved far indeed. The very last part of the trip the road ended and we drove slowly on rocks and dirt. It was bumpy, rocky, and full of man holes. No concrete! We had traveled for most part of the day. Our destination was the Rio Grande Valley! Once we arrived at Millbank we were introduced to Sistah Lynn, owner of the grounds where we would be staying. Similar to Holywell the grounds consisted of 5 cabins, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and a great room or cafeteria. We were told to put our bags away in our rooms which were spread out. Each cabin roomed 3-4 people and some shared beds or had a twin size bed. Lunch was being served in the great room and we all chatted with each other.
After lunch we decided to take a small hike down to another river. The trail however was very muddy and wet since the night before it rained heavily. The girls reluctantly wore flip-flops and literally slide our way down the trail. Worries, a Jamaican guide hiked with us also bringing along community cow. Yes, cow. When we reached the river many of us took a short swim while others skipped rocks, and took pictures. The hike back up the trail was difficult and many of us went bare foot. After arriving back to our cabins we washed off in time for dinner. When we entered the great room we were welcomed by the Jamaican men and women. Sistah Lynn proceeded to give us the history behind the establishment of the camp grounds:
The Bowden Pin Farmers Association (BFA)
* is connected to the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT)
*was established to help farmers use better farming practices
We met the members of the BFA: President, V.P., Secretary, Treasurer, Carpenter’s, Plumber’s, and Electricians. Sistah Lynn said they all came together and combined their talents and strengths throughout the process. Our class then introduced ourselves by name, age, and majors. We got to discuss our observations from the top of the mountain (Holywell) to our new place of residence at the BFA. We all shared fun and fascinating things we learned and discovered thus far then retired to our rooms. So far I had learned of the many invasive species, farming techniques, and the natural resources hidden inside the mountain.
During the night there was heavy rainfall and it woke me up. It was cold, frigid air as I lay in bed. What a day…
10th of March, 2008
Good Morning! This is our second day in Millbank. Today we will be visiting Moore Town. Breakfast was served in the great room with tea and coffee. They also had my favorite hot coco drink, yum. As I peeked my head outside my cabin I could tell I was the last to wake up. As I quickly grabbed some fresh clothes and entered the great room. Our instructor John was giving a summary of what our day would consist of. We were traveling by car to the swinging bridge then would hike the rest of the way to Moore Town. Sistah Lynn however said the trail would be entirely too muddy to cross. So, some of the students toughed it out and decided to hike while others rode in the car with Sistah Lynn. Sistah Lynn was an elder of the village and you could tell every time she spoke her words were powerful. When she spoke everyone listened and took heed of the wisdom she had to bestow. Such a sweet spirited lady. Once we made it to the swinging bridge we took pictures at this marvelous man-made bridge. The bridge was small but appeared structurally stable. (Illustration)
After driving to Moore Town we were taken to the Cornell’s office for a brief history of the town and of the Maroon culture. The building was nicely decorated, hard wood floors, and positioned like that of a museum. We saw hunting tools, war camouflage, toys, drums, and much more. We were given a lecture about the Maroon culture that spanned a few centuries ago. During our lecture the near-by school had let out for the children’s lunch. They all gathered by the door to peek inside at us. They were playing and laughing and pointing. They had never seen American people before. As I tried to focus my attention on the lecture I couldn’t help but notice those tiny black faces peering in at me. I seen one little girl eating what it appeared to be cheeto’s and another girl eating a small cracker. At the end of our lecture we got to ask questions. The Cornel invited us all back to his house for lunch. His house was fairly large and consisted of three bedrooms, kitchen, eating room, living room, and a bathroom. We all sat on his large porch in rocking chairs and lawn chairs. My friend Katrina and I decided to take a walk to a local convenient store. At the store we bought ramen noodles which were fixed hot to order. The store had candy of all sorts like taffy, salt water, flavored, chips, and pickles. After arriving back at the Cornell’s house the group was directed to take another hike. On this hike we were accompanied by many tour guides that lived in Moore Town. I chatted with Raymond on our hike down. He often called me “his little baby” because I was the smallest of the group. His voice was soft yet his accent was deep. We arrived at an even larger waterfall than before. This time many of us took pictures and some swam in the deep water. The Cornell stripped down to his undies and took a nice dip. I stayed back with Raymond and Katrina and chatted with the Jamaicans. I learned that Raymond was 29 years old, he had three children and he worked as a carpenter for the village. He even told us he had family in the states and visited his brother once in New York City and Vermont. He was very nice and we talked and walked back up the trail together.
11th of March, 2008
Today we will be visiting Bea’s farm. Bea is apart of the Bowden Pin Farmer’s Association. She told us her husband lives in the states (U.S.) while she manages the family farm and raises their child. Today will be a short day. As we arrived on Bea’s banana farm I was excited to see many of the bananas were fully formed. We took pictures as she gave us a tour of her farm. Bea had many acres of land and farmed on 80 percent of it. The largest cash crop was the banana but she also harvested potatoes, greens, and small vegetables for her home. Bea was like many of the people in Millbank substance farmers meaning they grew much of what they ate. Walking along the path one of Bea’s cousins was moving the crop by a mule. The mule was used to transport the heavy crop to be shipped and loaded to various places in the world. Among the many destinations for Bea’s bananas were Europe, and the United States. It was amazing to see how this young, beautiful woman carried the responsibly of tending to the farm and her child. It was influential to see how women in Jamaica lived and survived.
That night we were allowed to go to the local night club. Worries, Smokey, Desi and Bea member’s of the BFA accompanied us. Lexi’s Night Club was the name of it. Walking into the night club many local Jamaican men and women were already dancing and enjoying the night. It was dark in the club and the doors stayed open to receive light from the outside. There was a dj that spoke in heavy accent and kept the crowd dancing the whole night long. The four walls of the club had glow in the dark paint outlines of people in very provocative sexual positions. We all giggled childishly to see such creative art work on the walls. We danced and danced and I fell in love with the way the Jamaican’s moved. I learned a few Jamaican dances and even showed them some American ones. We had a blast! I even was adventurous enough to try some Jamaican White Rum. Nearly 98% full proof alcohol. It was very bitter and strong. I had to wash it down with a Pepsi. By the end of the night we were all sweaty from tearing up the dance floor and finishing the white rum. I bought a bottle back to the cabin with me so I could share it with everyone. Maybe even sneak it through customs… The best part of the night was interacting with the people in the community. They enjoyed our company and we enjoyed theirs.
12th of March, 2008
Agricultural Day!!! We drove to the site where we could participate in helping the village stage and plant. We were all given gloves and told to wear proper tennis shoes or boots. The area that was designated for us to work on was more like a slanted slope of land. It made it difficult to walk and work at the same time. I kept losing my balance and falling down on my butt. It was a small piece of land for all of us to work on but we did it with ease. First we were instructed on how to stage the area. We would use the “A frame” technique that was common among farmers. This was truly exciting for me because I had never planted anything before. Coming from a small town that is known for a cash crop I found it fitting to learn such practices and be knowledgeable on how to farm. We all worked hard and diligently. Everyone was all smiles and excited to assist in the planting process. When we learned we would be planting pineapples it became that much more interesting. I love pineapples! Desi, Smokey, and Worries also helped us with planting. They sang songs to keep us entertained and we tried to join in. Overall today was a great day. I know that those pineapples will forever be a symbol of the hard work my class and I put in this trip. I can’t wait to visit again and see them come up!
We planted pineapples today! At least one hundred of them.