It has been a difficult week, unsettled on all fronts and a stark reminder that this is not a gentle or benign environment. The factions that went to war on Monday appear to be re-assessing. There has been no definitive outcome despite much destruction, many deaths and signficant damage to many communities and the reputation of the country. Few of the illegal arms were found, the most senior members of the gangs have evaded capture and Mr "Dudus" Coke is still not in custody. The JDF sustains a powerful presence in several communities, the gangsters co-ordinated effort seems to be over for now and many smaller gangsters are taking advantage of the mayhem to act more viciously than usual within their fiefdoms.
Rains and floods have added to the difficulties, though perhaps also contributed to quelling the uprisings, and the silver lining to the rain clouds is that there is water in abundance again, everwhere is green and lush, trees, bushes and vines are full of blossom and the air is full of butterflies of all colours and sizes.
With the uncertainty still prevalent in many of the garrisons that abutt the major thoroughfares we had been advised not to travel too far and to continue to avoid certain routes. This inspired me to look more locally for a quiet haven where I might spend Sunday afternoon and I decided upon Hope Botanical Gardens. The gardens are a large cultivated area that has been variously tended and untended over the last 200 years. Nestled in the north east of the city, it is an easy 10 minute city bus ride on the 900 up Hope Road. The mountains surround three sides of this neighbourhood which also houses Jamaica College, a venerable old educational institute that has provided for many who might not have attained higher education without the support of this specialised institution, Univeristy of the West Indies and Northern Technical University. It is at the edge of the road up into the Blue Mountains.
As with so much here Hope Gardens shows the wear and tear of the different periods at which it has been untended. The high wrought iron gates are bent and broken between the tall gate posts. There are a series of decorative water gardens at the entrance to the Gardens in which the fountains no longer run but the ponds are clean and the plants well cared for and once past the water gardens the lawns, path and trees are spectacular. There are walking paths cut though dense gullies of exotic and enormous palms of all species, pergolas covered with bouganvillaea, a water lilly pond with lillies with leaves the size of tea trays and purple, white and yellow flowers the size of dinner plates.
Vast lawns beautifully tended, green and lush after all the rain, punctuated by large numbers of trees with sprawling roots and branches perfectly designed for providing shade under which blankets should be spread on which to picnic or read. Birds, including parrots, and butterflies move from tree to tree and blossom to blossom. It is a wonderful place of peace and tranquillity in a city that offers too little of either.
I had an afternoon that restored a sense of security and provided energy for work tomorrow with the students whose lives will have been much more directly affected by the troubles.