As is typical I started this blog at the beginning of the week. The process of editing and consolidating that I do at the end before posting has been particularly challenging this week given what I had started with.
Sunday night provided the first experience of "weather" I have had in Jamaica. Powerful winds and driving rain meant a sleepless night as everything inside and outside my apartment appeared to be banging and crashing, creaking and moving. It was an impressive display of what nature can do and a reminder that the weather here is not always benign. It made my thoughts turn to hurricane season and how quickly things can change as a result of a natural event. By morning all was calm, though somewhat colder than usual.
A night of wind and rain, however extreme at the time, has obviously paled in light of the event of Tuesday in Haiti. I was walking home at the end of the day when I received a call from the CUSO-VSO Programme Manager checking to see if I was alright. I had not heard of the earthquake at that point and had not felt it on the busy, noisy street but it had been felt throughout Kingston by those in buildings. The call is part of the safety protocol used by CUSO-VSO in caring for its volunteers, voice to voice contact must be established in certain circumstances. It is a reassuring process. It also illustrated how quickly events in one of these island nations affect the others, and although each is different much is shared in common.
The earthquake in Haiti has been the focus of discussion this week. For Jamaica it has raised anxiety about the advent of another major earthquake here. It is over two hundred years since the last major quake submerged the then capital of the country, Port Royal. In 1692 the city was lost , and almost all in it, as a result of a major earthquake. The ruins of the city are still visible beneath the waves. People wonder if another earthquake is due here and if the activity in Haiti will cause further instability in the area. The fragility of this lovely environment seems palpable.
Conversation at our Friday staff meeting was about what can be done to help Haiti, and how to make preparations at home.
In addition to what help can be offered, the other major theme of discussion regarding the earthquake, so closely on the heels of three major hurricanes (2008), in Haiti is about why. Jamaica is a country in which Chrisitianity is deeply embedded. Prayers start most meetings and gatherings, Devotion starts every school day and reference to the bible is frequent and reflects a quite literal interpretation. The question many seem to ask is: "Has the wickedness in Haiti brought the judgement of God?" There is a view that Haiti has let "wickedness" grow strong and flourish and by doing so is now vulnerable to the judgement and punishment of God. There is also a concern that God will judge Jamaica's response to Haiti, and that this is an opportunity for Jamaica to show compassion to those who have embraced wickedness, or perhaps a need to show compassion to ward off the potential of punishment here.
This response has raised my consciousness of how judgement and punishment are integrated into the way of life in Jamaica, it is something to which I will give greater thought.
As I look out over the green, lush view toward the mountains and the sun rises on a quiet Sunday morning it is hard to accept that others, not far from here, are living in abject poverty and constant struggle, and that even then events occur than can make their lives, impossibly, more horrific. I do not believe judgement and punishment is a useful perspective. Hope and compassion strike me as offering a better future. However, courtesy and etiquette will restrain me from sharing this opinion in most discussions here, and that is a topic for another entry!
Regardless of judgement or punishment Haiti is foremost in the prayers and thoughts of all here and whatever support can be offered will be generously provided.