I spent my first night in Jamaica sitting out in the driveway with Kei’s sister, Shauna, talking about her time in the States and Boston and her decision to move back to Jamaica to find a job as an educational psychologist (which she got while I was there–I’ll tell you about my magical birthday in a later installation). While we chatted a garage cover band entertained us from a house down the street and up the hill. They weren’t bad. At least the musicians weren’t. The lead singer, though…well, at times it sounded like karaoke night. He should stay away from Police songs and Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” and anything that forces him to use an upper register.
There are many stray dogs in Jamaica. And many guard dogs. They seemed to be quiet while the band played, but in-between songs you would hear one bark far off up the hill. And then another would join. And another. And you could feel a wave of barking barreling toward you, down the hill. All the dogs of the neighborhood would join in (including Eddie) and then the wave would pass, and you’d hear the call carried on down the slope, into the valley. Every time it happened it seemed as if a message were being carried from Point A to Point B. Some very primal message.
I woke the next day to many mosquito bites which I tried my best not to scratch open as I re-read Erna Brodber’s Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home. My former student, Alana Wellington came to visit during the afternoon and we caught-up and chatted for a couple hours about our lives since we last saw each other. She has had many adventures, including teaching English in Peru for a year, and had also returned to the island and was seeking work as she prepared for applying to medical school at King’s College. Shortly after I left she secured an interview and then a job to be an EMT for a private company in Jamaica (congrats again Alana! And another one to add to the list of my magical birthday…)
Here is the room where Alana and I sat and chatted:
As you’ll notice, there are no screens on the windows (I didn’t notice screens on any windows of any building in Jamaica), which allows lots of light and air (and lots of mosquitoes and ants!)
A view from the upper level of the house.
Another view. As I mentioned in Part One, you’ll notice houses (in this picture and the next) built on top of that ridge in the distance. In Kingston, the wealthier you are, the higher up you build on the surrounding hills.
Kei’s house is pretty far up one of the hillsides and is a typical middle class household. You should see the view from the water tower on the hill above his neighborhood. It’s quite panoramic and relaxing.
This is one type of many (three?) different kinds of mango that grow in Kei’s yard. He made fresh mango juice the one day using these mangos and limes (and some other secret ingredients…). You can grab limes off the trees just by reaching through the window (convenient when it’s raining).
This is ackee:
I had some for breakfast the one day. Wish I could describe it, but you just need to try it yourself. It’s good, though I believe its rind is poisonous. (The Jamaican diet is full of starchy foods like breadfruit and yams, but my favorites were plantains and calaloo, which I tried to eat every day.) UPDATE: Alana tells me this: “Ackee cannot be eaten until it is fully ripened and the pods have opened on their own. That’s why one must be careful who s/he chooses to buy the fruit from (on the side of the road, at the market.)”
Coming up in Part 3…Calabash.