Sunday, November 7, 2010

Waiting for Tomas

Much of the week was spent watching and waiting for Hurricane Tomas. Having been surprised by Tropical Storm Nicole there was a vigilance about watching the progress of Tomas. The week was filled with emails and radio reports on hurricane preparation: 5 gallons of water per person, batteries, torches, canned food, staples that do not require warming, matches and candles, cash and well charged cell phones. Travel plans for the weekend were cancelled, check in systems established. For those with houses roofs were strapped down, shutters located and prepared. All this requires resources and so many do not have the additional financial resources to easily make these preparations. I was surprised about how consuming it was and how it affected all that was going on. Children and staff at the Youth Programme were unsettled. The longer I am here the more I appreciate how tenuous things can feel and how vulnerable so many people are to things beyond their control. Once again people's thoughts turned to Haiti, despite being so occupied with their own preparation and the potential hardship here many people spoke quietly of how it would be so much worse in Haiti so if it had to be a hurricane let it be here not there. However nature is neither kind nor discriminating and Jamaica escaped but Haiti did not. By Friday evening it was clear that Tomas had passed us by without incident leaving only the freshness of a cool breeze and a beautiful sunset as the sky cleared and the dark menacing clouds of the previous forty eight hours gave way to gentle wisps that looked like brush-strokes across the western horizon. There will be much activity over the weekend to determine how to help our neighbours to the east who seem to be subject to a heartbreaking string of disasters.

Work-wise my week was occupied by attending Mediation Training. Mediation training is one of the major activities for DRF and there were over 35 people in training this week. The participants represented countries from Canada, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. The training was engaging and it was a pleasure to get to know the other participants. We will have some catching up to do next week as all non-essential workers were required to be home from Thursday noon onwards so the roads could be kept clear in case of the need for emergency vehicles to have quick passage. This meant our training time was curtailed and will have to be made up to enable our certification. The value of alternative dispute resolution is enormous in Jamaica given the propensity for disputes to very quickly escalate to either adversarial and litigious or aggressive responses. One of the participants noted that the language and style of interaction, that of questions, clarification and re-framing, is quite different from the typical verbal interaction between disputants. It is true that even the verbal interactions one hears often sound aggressive and Jamaica patois has an aggressive tone.

On Wednesday evening I attended the launch of the book: "Music, Media and Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica" written by Marcia Forbes. It was a well attended event with four government Ministers offering accolades and other privileged members of society commending the book. The findings of the research that underpins the book were familiar, reflecting in content the daily conversations we have with the students at the youth programme. There seems little confusion about what the issues are for youth, there is little confusion about actions that have the potential to have a positive impact but there is considerable difficulty in getting from theory to practice!

The week has ended with two days of sunshine accompanied by a fresh cool wind from the north bringing unusually low, but not unwelcome, temperatures. I walked down to friends' yesterday evening to enjoy a wonderful dinner and great conversation. It was perfect walking weather and I even enjoyed wearing a cardigan to fend off the chill in the air. 24 degrees is now the temperature that feels as if there is a chill in the air! The freshness promotes a sense of well-being and I look forward to a productive week without the distraction of emergency planning.

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