Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

This past weekend was Thanksgiving in the USA. Having first celebrated it there, I think I rather prefer Thanksgiving in the States than in Canada. My main reason for this is I believe that date on which it falls in the States is much better than the Canadian one.

Thanksgiving to me is similar to Christmas - It's a time to be thankful for all that God has given us, to reunite with family and to relax. I love Christmas time because once it hits December everyone on the streets start looking happier. There is more hustle and bustle of people shopping for things or excitedly talking about presents. People share their funny stories of family members and the city looks more Christmas-y.

When I lived in the US, I knew that once it was close to Thanksgiving time, everyone started acting like it was close to Christmas time. So Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the Christmas season.

Canadian Thanksgiving, however, is in the first week of October. That means that it occurs when all the stores and everyone is gearing up for Halloween. So once Thanksgiving rolls around people do not get into the Christmas spirit as easily because Halloween is next on the agenda and, to me, it is the opposite of Christmas. Everything is dark and gloomy for Halloween versus happy and cheery for Christmas. So in Canada, families re-unite for just that short Thanksgiving weekend. Then we have a whole month before people start really getting into the Christmas season. No looking forward to many family gatherings or parties or nothing.

Anyways, I'm just glad that Christmas is now on everyone's minds.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I just found out that a high school classmate of mine was senselessly killed in Jamaica on Thursday. He and his girlfriend were trying to be good Samaritans after hitting a cyclist on Wednesday. They took the cyclist to the hospital and made arrangements to help him out. The next day, my former classmate and his girlfriend were last seen as they went to bring crutches and medicine to the man. Later on that day, in the early afternoon, my former classmate made a call to his father asking him to send him a large amount of money very urgently and his girlfriend's debit card was shown as having withdrawn $15,000JAM (the max daily limit). Their bodies were found with their throats slashed on Friday. See the newspaper article here.

In Jamaica, we always used to say when you hit someone, especially in certain neighbourhoods, the best thing to do is to continue driving then call the police or go to the police station. My former classmate, RIP Taiwo, and his girlfriend were trying to do the right thing by not only stopping but also offering as much help as they could. They ended up dead.

There were 300 murders in the last 70 days in Jamaica. 300! That's over 4 murders PER DAY. I didn't know Taiwo personally, i.e. I never really talked to him, but I certainly remember seeing him in class & around campus and I know others who spoke to him often so I can put a face to the story in the paper. While all the murders have an effect on each of us, it is, of course, these ones that hit close to home that hurt the most. The sad reality is that with such a murder rate, it is very difficult to find someone in Kingston, Jamaica who has not been personally affected by the frequent murders.

A few years ago, while still in Jamaica, I remember reading about a a survey done in Jamaica which showed that crime was the number one thought on Jamaicans' minds - 24/7. Sometimes, because I now live in safe Toronto, I forget how I used to feel but trust me, I have not forgotten the actual feeling. That constant fear - It would overtake me while waiting for my father to pick me up from school in the evenings when there weren't many students left on-campus, while waiting at the bus stop, when walking down my street by myself in the evening (even in a residential neighbourhood), when going to sleep at night...It was always there. In my last few years in Jamaica, my parents' nerves were shot. They got so scared they used to take turns staying awake keeping vigil for strange noises at night. Our car was broken into twice before it was stolen, clothes were stolen from our laundry room while we slept and we'd heard far too many stories of people being held up in their garages. And we lived in one of the safer neighbourhoods! Plus, that's not even counting other incidents. My cousin's throat was slashed (a very bad time for our family). My uncle (his father) had previously been shot but, unlike my cousin, had miraculously survived. My aunt was held up at knife point while shopping down town. I even remember, when I was little, my mother being held up while my cousins and I were in the car.

So, as far back as I can remember, the murder rate and crime in general has always been bad in Kingston. While the crime is spreading to the other cities, tourists who come to the island don't know about any of this because they're kept insulated from everything in those all-inclusive resorts. I'm not knocking those resorts because I know that tourism is one of the few things we have that help the Jamaican economy and is one of the things we can feel good about. So to tourists, please continue going to Jamaica - for you it is the land of wood and water.

Anyways, with regards to crime, all Jamaicans agree that murder is the number one priority. It's funny and sad how we Jamaicans are always thankful if someone was only held up or only got stuff stolen because that means the perpetrators LEFT THEM ALIVE. Although it happens far too frequently, we are equally or even more angry when they take all the victims' money and other valuables yet still end up killing them, like they did with my cousin, my classmate and many others.

Jamaicans love our country. I would go back to live there in a second if stuff like this didn't keep happening. This was the reason my parents left the country. We had a good life in Jamaica but the crime was getting to be too much. When murders are committed, we feel so helpless. I ALWAYS FEEL SO HELPLESS when I think about the murder rate. How do we get people to stop committing these murders with wanton abandon? How do we get others to inform when they have information? How do we stop others from hiding information after being bribed? How can we assure the ones who have information that their life will not be in danger if they share the information? How do we stop the corruption which helps in keeping the criminals hidden? How do we change the mentality of a country?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

John Brown's baby

I mentioned the songs I had stuck in my head yesterday. My sister was telling me that for the past week she has only one stuck in her head - a song my father sings day in and day out to the baby to put her to sleep. It's a J'can song I guess he learnt when he was young as my aunt used to also sing it to her preschool kids at her school in Jamaica. It's sung to the tune of that Glory Glory Hallelujah song with the chorus being the Camphor camphor... part.
Anyways, I know exactly how it sounds because I hear him at nights singing it in his thick Jamaican accent. I can just see him trotting back and forth our living room singing it. I should have taped it and post it up on here but I'm too lazy.

It goes:

John Brown baby has a cold upon his chest.
A cold upon his chest.
A cold upon his chest.
John Brown baby has a cold upon his chest.
And we rub him down with camphorated oil.

Camphor camphor camphor-aaated!
Camphor camphor camphorated.
Camphor camphor camphor-aaated!
And we rub him down with camphorated oil!


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Red Red Wiiiiine...

The songs playing over and over in my head right now are:

Ashes and Wine by A Fine Frenzy (LOVE this song!)
Strawberry Wine by The Dixie Chicks (cover of Deana Carter's song)
Red Red Wine by UB40

From the list above, you might think wine, or at least alcohol, is on my mind. It wasn't really - until I realized the theme. However, now that I think about it, I should get some wine for the holidays.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lessons Learnt

I've recently begun teaching Sunday School to the toddlers at church. I'm not sure of the official age group that I should be teaching but the kids in the class are 2 - 4 year olds.

I love kids and although I think that I am the worst teacher (have always avoided teaching anyone), I love interacting with them. At that age, I don't really consider myself teaching them. It's more like having conversations with them about stuff. Plus, the actual Bible teaching time, or at least the time I think I have their attention long enough for something to get through to them, in the entire 45 minutes is probably 7 - 10 minutes max, and not all in one go. I actually think I'm getting more from this setup than they are....At the end of the lessons, yes I feel tired from keeping up with them and their hyperactivity but most of all I just feel so much happier from hanging out with kids who, for the most part, really seem to have the eternal joy thing down.

Little things they do that make me smile:
  • One kid started crying because she had a cut on her upper lip and it was hurting. I told her to lick it, then had her come over and gave her a hug. While hugging her, I asked her if she felt better now. With the honesty that kids seem to naturally possess she shook her head and said no.

  • Another kid who came to us last time was very quiet for most of the first week he was here. My sister (who helps out) and I, tried to coax him into talking as much as possible his first week. He participated but didn't speak much. This week, the little fella was up and about showing us everything he did, talking to the other kids and commenting on everything.
    I love how, often when they come to Sunday school and have to let their parents leave, for the first few minutes they look like they are about to dissolve into tears if you touch them but once you talk to them a little, encourage them to listen to your story, colour or play with the play dough they forget that they were even crying.

  • I love that the kids all mimic the speech patterns of their parents. There is one who always says things like "but I sure does like to..." (Guyanese parents) or another who says "Mi like to..." (Jamaican parents) or yet another who tilts his head and talks the way his father talks.

  • As the kids are very young, when a lot of them speak it sounds like a cross between incomprehensible baby talk and words that I recognize. My sister and I will ask them to repeat words over and over until we can figure out what it is that they are saying. However, their patience is amazing! They NEVER get angry or frustrated. They just repeat the word over and over until we figure out what it is they are trying to say or until WE give up.
    I wish I could be like that when I try to speak french. I wish I could just accept that although people will not always understand me I should still TRY.