Sunday, December 26, 2010
Barbados has changed since the days of our annual holidays, with greater sophistication and showing off the well cared-for look of Christmas finery. Every street and road is trim and tidy, houses, trees, roundabouts and town squares are festooned with lighted decorations. Traffic is slow moving and polite, there are no grilles on the verandahs and balconies and the pace is slower and gentler than Jamaica. It feels as if it has embraced its visitors and treats those if us that come to visit as treasured guests with whom those who live here share generously the beauty and ease of this tiny island country. And those who live here are quietly and undemonstrably proud of their island, with a quiet complacency that suggests few think there could be a better place to live.
The variety of topography is different from Jamaica. Barbados is a small island with no mountains but it has glorious coastline and beaches from the placid and lush west coast where the resorts and private houses dominate to the wild and undeveloped north coast with rocky cliffs and caves carved out by the relentless crashing of the sea. The east coast is the Atlantic with no land between Barbados and Africa. The waves that break onto the east shore have travelled a long way and the beaches are long and wilder than the south or west coast, with sand-dunes and miles of open space. The south coast, on which we are staying, has a lived-in feel with holiday homes, hotels, residences and businesses sharing the coast and the roads. A cooling breeze reduces the humidity and the beaches and boardwalk provide a lovely environment in which to walk for miles.
As a visitor, even with family here, I realise my view is limited and I am not privy to the depth of understanding that my stay in Jamaica has provided. Unemployment and underemployment plague Barbados as they do many of the islands. The opportunities are limited but with one of the best education systems in the world, and with a literacy rate in the top five, it does provide for its people to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. As well, Barbados feels to have a comfort with itself and does not seem subject to the highly competitive and aggressive nature of Jamaica. Both history and politics seem to have been kinder to Barbados, with no garrisons (other than that built appropriately for its Defence Force), no Dons and a still largely unarmed police force Barbados is a wonderful island to visit and a lovely place to relax and soak up the sun and the warmth of a gentle Caribbean culture. However, I will return happily to the layers, complexity and challenge of Jamaica where my view includes the Blue Mountains and the Caribbean and where I will usher in the beginning of a new year and all it has to offer.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
"Night Noise" is a significant feature of Kingston and can be excessive. To those of us from places where decibels are measured and monitored and disturbing one's neighbours is unacceptable it is very difficult to tolerate the Jamaican propensity for huge banks of speakers and apparent oblivion to the impact of the volume for those who live within the 5 kilometres across which the sound travels! There is no way to eliminate the sound as windows and shutters are designed for air flow not sound obstruction. It seems, as the holiday season begins, that the noise levels and frequency of street dances increases. As I recall there is not quite the same propensity in Barbados!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The DRF Annual General Meeting, the second I have attended, went well. It is always good to pause and take stock. In the busy-ness of the day-to-day one may not appreciate the people with whom one works and the achievements that are accomplished. Accounting for the year provides that moment of pause and allows for the appreciation of what has been and what is to come. The DRF AGM was this opportunity. There are, of course, significant challenges ahead but probably no greater than those that have already been faced and overcome and it will be a pleasure to continue on into the new year to assist with these challenges. The meeting ended with lunch and the joking and conversations over lunch reminded me how warmly I have been welcomed by this wonderful and diverse group of people.
The flow of students to the programme has diminished as exams are in full swing. Those that have not been allowed back to sit their exams are experiencing the real-life consequence of the impact of their behaviour and poor decisions, as their marks will reflect their absence and thus be much lower than they had wanted.
The youth peace facilitators are catching up on paper work and have decorated our office which now looks extremely festive!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The grocery store has increased its supply of flour and dried fruits as fruit cakes are being made in most kitchens. As with so many things here, there is serious competition as to who makes the best fruit cake and great pride from the baker regarding her (or occasionally his) particular recipe and creation. There are various kinds - moist and well soaked in rum, dense with fruit, more "cakey", those made with fruit soaked for months or even years in rum, those cooked well in advance and steeped in liquor, those freshly baked and eaten immediately, dark ones and light ones. My experience is that they are all delicious and I graciously and with appreciation receive any that I am given! I remember fondly a gift from Markham last year of a particularly delicious one, thank you Kharma.
The darker side to the pre-Christmas season is being more aware when walking around. Crime and muggings increase at this time of year as people carry parcels and often more money. The dark falls early and provides cover for quick get aways, so extra caution is required. As I was walking home one evening a young woman waiting for a taxi asked if she could walk with me as no taxis were available. She was walking home and uncomfortable doing so alone, however the protection of a small, older white woman was more than adequate! A reflection of the respect still afforded, about which I have to say I have mixed feelings. Regardless, the company was pleasant and we enjoyed the walk together.
Friends and colleagues are making plans, as am I and Christmas this year will see me in Barbados with my daughters and the Bajan side of the family. Another tropical Christmas with the only white stuff being the sand on the beach and the only ice being that in our drinks! As well as the delight of sun and warmth, it will be wonderful to spend some time with my brother and his family.