Title

Ital (eye'-tal): of or from the earth; vital; life giving; natural.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome 2011

Each New Year for as long as I can remember, Mo and I have bestowed a name upon the baby year. Actually, it's more like a declaration for what we would like to see happen in the upcoming year. Past years have included names such as: "The year of Reclaimation", "The year of Goodness", "The year of Greatness" and "The year of Mo".


We have named 2011 "The year of Harmony". For the first time in many years, we finally feel like we are in tune, as individuals, as a couple and as a family. Hanging above our door is a plaque that my sister and brother-in-law made for us a few Christmases ago. Written across the word Harmony is this quote by Ghandi: "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible."


So, here is to opening your heart, mind and house to the winds of the universe! May they deliver harmonious chords of peace, love and happiness to you this year!


Blessings,
Rae and Mo

Merry Christmas!

First, a greeting from our sponsor:
It was strange to be celebrating Christmas with 80 degree weather and palm trees. But I really can't complain too much!

I have the best parents in the whole world. They flew down here to help us celebrate our first Jamaican Christmas. It was a wonderful holiday and I am so thankful that we could all be together as a family.


Season's Greetings!

Warm wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Blessings,
Rae

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Six Month-a-versary

Today marks six months since we began our journey. There have been ups and downs; moments of feeling settled and unsettled; milestones reached and celebrated. We took a chance by sailing into the unknown and I'm happy to say that the overall momentum is pushing us forward in a positive direction.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who have supported us emotionally, spiritually, financially as we have transitioned into our new life. We are blessed to have such a strong web of loved ones around us.

Peace and wellness,
Rae

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Journey to the Source


Back when we had a television, LOST was my all time favorite show. It was the only show that I had to be home to watch each week. I loved the characters. I got wrapped up in the crazy plot twists. I enjoyed trying to piece together the various philosophical views being hinted at. I longed to be in that landscape...



I now find myself on an island very similar to the LOST island. And although our plane did not literally fall out of the sky, we, by all means, crashed onto these shores. We are still struggling to make sense of what happened to us. Like the LOST characters, we have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves...to take the lessons learned in our other life and make the most of our new island life. For us there is no going back...we would be in Locke's camp...stay on the island and learn from its mysteries...



This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to a very special place on our island. The Source Farm has the potential to be like that place on LOST where the light of the world is kept. Located in the eastern parish of St. Thomas, The Source Farm is a family vision to bring light, art, culture and sustainable living to a very impoverished community. I found The Source's website while searching for sustainable communities on the web before we left. I decided to send an email to the address listed...just to say hi and that I supported their cause. To my surprise, I got a response! It was the beginning of a dialogue and exchange of beautiful ideas! One of the projects the Source has implemented is a women's sewing cooperative. The unemployment rate is extremely high especially among women in the Johns Town community. The literacy rate is also very low. There are few opportunities for people to travel out of the community to search for work. The sewing co-operative is a way for the women to learn a skill and earn for themselves. It is hoped both by the Source and myself, that my skills can be used to inspire and invigorate the co-op.



Mo wants to get involved with the sustainable building initiative. The Source is promoting the Earthbag building technology as an low impact, affordable way to build housing. So far the Source has two earthbag houses. I got to stay in one on my overnight trip and it couldn't have been more cozy and comfortable! I loved it! Both houses are completely off the grid, relying on solar and wind power for electricity and rain water catchment for water. Like the co-op, this initiative is extremely important to have the community understand and support. On my visit, the Johns Town community had been without water since March! Residents must walk down a treacherous path to a communal pump to get their water...for drinking, cooking, bathing...all their water needs. Reports of people being robbed on their way to the well in the early morning hours are prolific. Elderly people must hire a taxi to carry the water containers back and forth...a cost they just cannot afford. Electricity is also very costly island wide. There is a huge push towards developing renewable energy sources to help lower the costs. In fact, former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, was just here giving a lecture on renewable energy hoping to convince the government to get behind the movement.





The other projects the Source is working on include an organic farm and CSA, healing arts center, a learning center focusing on progressive global learning models and eco-tourism. When Nicola told me about the plans for the learning center, I got so excited! I envisioned Shine and Song attending. In fact, when Nicola spoke about any of the numerous projects evolving at the Source, I got excited! Like I said, it is a very special place. The land itself seems to vibrate with positive energy. Surrounded by the Blue Mountains on one side and the sea on the other, this former coconut farms boasts gorgeous views as well as cozy nooks, like the stream with lovely waterfalls, where one can literally get lost...only to be found again. I was inspired by all that I saw and talked about with Nicola. The vision she shared with me was just beautiful. I'm thrilled to have found this place and truly believe that it is the Source for all the is good and beautiful...






I feel like I have found my place...my path...there was a reason I was brought to this island...


Please check out their website to learn more: http://thesourcefarm.com/
And if you are looking for a way to see the true Jamaica and do something positive and good at the same time, check out their work exchange program. You won't regret it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Joy of Raw Food

We were given a gift this week. Mom-in-Law bought us a week of dinners from Joy. Joy is a lovely woman who cooks or rather un-cooks from the outdoor kitchen behind her house. Her specialty is "live" food...raw fruits and vegetables prepared to delicious heights! We've enjoyed pickled sweet raw plantain, spicy sprouted cashews, sweet potato "noodles", curried veggie wraps, almond balls, cucumber and eggplant salad, tabouleh and the list goes on and on and on. I've never eaten so well! I'm so excited to bring home our carefully packaged meals to see what new treats will greet me!

Food and healthy eating is one of my passions. I've been a vegetarian committed to eating whole foods for almost 17 years. I try to eat locally grown foods and dream of the garden I will one day tend. In Brooklyn we belonged to a CSA and supported Farmer Ted from upstate New York. It just makes sense that the things that are supposed to nourish and support our bodies should be of the best quality possible. I was spoiled in Brooklyn because these foods, compared to other parts of the U.S., were easy to come by. We had 2 year round farmer's markets within walking distance from our apartment, the neighborhood CSA and health food establishments aplenty. Before we moved, one of my friends asked me if it would be difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet here in Jamaica. My reply was no because the Rastafarian culture promotes an "ital" or vegetarian lifestyle. I knew veggie foods were available but I didn't realize just how prolific ital food is down here!

To my delight, there are vegetarian options at every restaurant and I'm not talking about the one pasta dish with vegetables that you would find in the states. There is usually a whole section of the menu dedicated to vegetarians!! There are options!! Even the popular fast food restaurant offers veggie stew peas (one of my favorites by the way...although way better when not prepared by a fast food chain...but hey, in a bind, it's great to know it's there...). And the number of restaurants dedicated completely to veggie eating rivals those in NYC! Hope Botanic Gardens, the national botanic garden, has a fancy pants veggie restaurant within its beautiful borders! I wonder how that would fly in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens!

So, what is the reason for all of this ital food? The reason is simple...God. Jamaica is one of the most religious places I've ever been. There is a church around every corner. The whole educational system is tied to the church. Hospitals and other public institutions are also affiliated. Praise music and gospel is mixed in with the latest Dancehall rhythm on the radio. And I'm not just talking about organized religion...from Rastas to Eckankar members to Spiritualists and others unnamed...they are all here and they are all practicing in a holistic way. They take seriously the call, God in all things. There is a true respect for food that God made for us to nourish our bodies. It's a concept that I find lacking in the majority of believers in the U.S.

It's funny...my views on religion have changed drastically over the years (and I didn't intend for this post to go in this direction...but hey, I'm following the flow...). I consider myself a Spiritualist...open to the many forms the higher energy will take. God, Jah, Allah, whatever the name, is energy...an energy that moves through all things...an energy that is never destroyed but instead changed over and over and over again. With each new incarnation of energy, a new consciousness is born until finally Nirvana, true Enlightenment, is reached. It's a beautiful thing. Once we connect to that energy (in whichever way we choose...church services, yoga, meditation, song, prayer...), we expand and grow closer to the Divine. So it makes sense to me to connect at the most basic level...the food we eat. Think about how intimate a connection that is! By consuming foods grown in a sustainable way...straight from the earth...you are placing Divine Energy inside your body! It's amazing!

And I will leave it at that. Thank you Joy! Thank you Mom-in-law! Jah bless!
Rae

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Name Game



I grew up in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania where almost every citizen and cow (or so it seemed) had a nickname. My dad's gang of friends included Big Red, Chief and Whitey. Most of his stories start with, "Well his name was Mike but everyone called him..." I never heard of a place that had more people with aliases...until I met Mo.

Jamaica takes the nickname to a new level. Most people have more than one and some have so many that their legal given name seems lost to all eternity. Specky, Crab, Wizbert, Busha, Dick-o, Short Don, Boss Man, King, Bamboo are just some that I've come to meet. It is the usual custom to be bestowed with the name from your crew of friends. Rarely does the bearer choose their own. And normally the name is a reflection of some character trait.

When it comes to given names, they can be just as creative. In fact, the radio station I listen to every morning has a name segment where they speak to a caller about how their unique name came to be. People have called in with names such as Luxembourg Salmon, Ronnique, Fennek, Picard, Dan-I and Tallamari.

In the spirit of our new home (and to protect the privacy of the children) I have used nicknames for all of us in this blog. However, I write this because of all the raised eyebrows I have gotten over Song's real name. It's really not that unusual and given some of the names I just listed above...pretty simple...two syllables...four letters...and it sounds like a song when you say it. Regardless of the raised eyebrows, I think it is a beautiful name for a beautiful baby and I hope she doesn't trade it in for another...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Baby Q Arrives!

At my last prenatal appointment on Saturday, October 9th, my doctor did all the routine stuff...checked my weight, measured my large round belly, listened to Baby Q's heartbeat...everything of course was the same as the last appointment the week before except I gained 1/4 pound. Good, good, good. Then she said something that made me stop in my tracks... "I'll write a letter to the hospital to admit you on Tuesday and induce." HUH?!!

My official due date was the following day, Sunday, October 10th, a date that I always questioned as being too early according to my calculations, but who am I to argue with the "magic wheel"? So I took a deep breath and tried to explain that Shine was 10 days past due and my midwife at the time said we would "talk" about induction if I made it to day 14. My midwife also said that any subsequent pregnancies would most likely go past due as well as that is the nature of these things. My doctor agreed that that was the common pattern. Then she asked a few questions about Shine's birth weight, Apgar score and labor. I explained that all went well although labor was long (28 hours to be precise!!) but that his heartbeat never wavered, he never went into distress and was born weighing an average 7lbs 4oz and swept the Apgar test with 10's. When I questioned her about the reasons for inducing labor only 2 days past what the magic wheel said was Baby Q's birthday, her only response was, "I don't like when women go past their due date." That's it??!! I asked for more time. It didn't seem fair to me or Baby Q to force an issue. She asked me to come to a second appointment on Wednesday and then said she would hold off on induction until the following Sunday, October 17th. I agreed to come in on Wednesday and revisit the topic.

At home, I was fuming. I didn't understand how this could be happening. I've never heard a happy ending to a birth story with induced labor. I got out my copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and poured over the natural birth section. When I finished with that, I took Yoga and Meditation for Pregnancy by Theresa Jamieson off the shelf and studied the labor meditations and the creative visualizations used leading up to labor. I called my mom and sister and found comfort in their support. Then I decided I would just focus on trying to communicate with Baby Q, telling the baby that it was up to us to have the kind of natural delivery we would both appreciate. I visualized Baby Q preparing for the journey. I rubbed my belly and encouraged the baby to come out and meet us. I saw myself sitting on my giant exercise ball doing the breathing pranayamas recommended for labor. I did all of this in the hopes that I would encourage Baby Q out before Wednesday's appointment.

Needless to say, it worked!! It was late afternoon on Sunday, October 10th (10-10-10), when I started to feel regular contractions. I told Mo that we should probably call his Aunt L who volunteered to come stay with us during labor and for the first week to help out with Shine. He made the call and also phoned his friend who lived in our neighborhood who said he would come stay with Shine until Aunt L arrived. He told them not to rush, that things were just getting started and it would be hours before we were ready to leave for the hospital. In the meantime, he took a shower and got himself ready while I sat on the exercise ball and watched Scooby Doo cartoons with Shine. When Mo was ready, he called Shine into the bathroom to give him a bath and get him ready for the night. By this time it was 6pm and the contractions were getting more frequent and stronger. I told him we might have to go sooner rather than later. He made some more calls and we both realized that neither Milo nor Aunt L were going to get here in time so Mo took Shine upstairs to our neighbor's house. When he got back, he called my doctor and then a cab. I remember glancing at the clock on my way out the door and noticed it was 7pm.

Thank goodness for the understanding (and fast driving!!) cab driver!! We arrived at the hospital (which is only 10 minutes from our apartment) just in time. The nurses scurried me into a delivery room, quickly checked Baby Q's heartbeat and then my doctor was there telling me to push. I remember saying, "Really? It's time for the baby to come out?"

At 7:54pm we said hello to our new baby girl! Song was perfect! She weighed 6lbs 6oz and measured just under 20 inches in length. She also aced the Apgar with a 9 and 10. They placed her in my arms and I thanked her for working with me to have the best natural delivery ever!

When we were both cleaned up, we settled into our room. I was brought some tea and crackers and Song, wrapped tight and cozy in her blanket rested in her bed by the window. After some time, Mo said good night to each of us with promises to call in the morning. The next morning, I awoke to the dawn light coming in through the window. More tea and crackers arrived and Song opened her eyes to say good morning. As day broke, I noticed the gorgeous view of the mountains. They were so green and beautiful. Breakfast came and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a vegetarian version of the national dish, ackee and saltfish. Instead of the saltfish, it was peppered seitan. There was also cornmeal porridge, a roll, more crackers and tea, juice and fruit. A wonderful feast! I devoured it! I felt like I was at a mountain retreat. The nurses were wonderful, the food was plentiful, fantastic and 100% vegetarian and Song was just beautiful! It was a really pleasant experience.

When we got home on Tuesday morning, after another lovely breakfast, I thought about how different the experience could have been if I allowed my doctor to have her way. It just reinforces that when you believe in something so strongly, you must stand up and fight for it. It is always worth it in the end!

Many blessings,
Rae and Song


Song Arrives!





Adoring Mommy and Daddy



At home with Big Brother Shine

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Consciousness Raising

Mo and I are legally married. However, I never took his last name, instead I kept mine in all of its monosyllabic-Germanic-confusion inducing-glory. It's my name and I happen to like it. Not to mention that I have spent 30-odd years building an identity around it. To be honest, I was always ambivalent about marriage. I envisioned sharing my life with someone but it wasn't ever important to me whether or not we were a legal union. As one of my heroes, Joni Mitchell sang, "We don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall, making us tied and true..." but a legal union was important to Mo and so off to City Hall we went for that piece of paper.

And in hindsight, I'm happy we did it. I love Mo very much and it was wonderful to celebrate our love with everyone close to us. We had a beautiful private ceremony with the city clerk and a few family members and close friends at our actual wedding. Then the following year on our anniversary, we had a big party at a neighborhood bar.

Mo's surname though never interested me and he was fine with that. In fact he respected my right to choose whether or not to take his name. Although excited to share a life with Mo, I just wasn't willing to give up what I had already created on my own, with my own name. I thought about hyphenating both our names like so many of my friends, but adding any more syllables and a hyphen to boot just wasn't appealing. Plus he wasn't interested in adding my name to his, so we just kept them as is.

I have always prided myself on my independence and my identity. I went to an all woman's college where on the first day I was given the latest edition of "Our Bodies, Ourselves". At a reception with the Dean later that day, she read us the poetry of Adrienne Rich and emphasized the importance of being a collective of women, not girls, but women. I joined the woman's group on campus, marched in countless "Take Back the Night" rallies, went to marches on Washington to protect women's reproductive rights, signed petitions to stop the stoning to death of women in the Middle East, had brunch with Gloria Steinem who was also our commencement speaker. I surrounded myself with liberal, progressive women and men who felt that women's issues were a basic human rights issue. I married a man who views me as his equal and who is not above helping out around the house that we share and who respects me and my beliefs.

So, now I'm here where there hasn't been the same kind of Woman's Movement to shape the consciousness of the culture. I admit to writing this post out of some frustration. After a third trip to the bank to try to get my name added to Mo's bank account, we've run into more obstacles. Because we do not share a surname, we have to produce our marriage certificate, so back to the bank we go for a fourth time. Even after providing them with our marriage certificate they will still list me as "single" in their files because I do not have any identification with my "married name" on it. When I attempted to explain that I never changed my name and that I will not ever have identification with Mo's last name on it, the teller just raised her eyebrows and said, "As I said, we'll just use your maiden name for now until you get some identification with your married name." I was surprised by her total disregard for what I was saying. I thought if my name were going to cause a stir anywhere, it would have been at the Immigration Office. But they never even questioned the different surnames and issued my Alien Registration card with my name in tact. I even brought this card with me to the bank which the teller took and photocopied as I.D. But I guess here, as in the States, the Banks trump the Government?!!

I give most people credit in that they try to refer to me by the proper name even though Mo's is much easier to both remember and pronounce. And I try to be patient. I wonder if I need to be more flexible. I wonder if I'm being selfish. I wonder if it's my "first world privilege" showing itself. I wonder if in the larger picture it matters whether or not someone puts a Mrs. in front of my name. I wonder all of these things while trying to be patient and gracious but I just can't help but cringe when I'm called by the wrong name. We have lived happily for 7 years with Mr. and Ms. and I like it that way.

I understand that this country has been marred by illegitimacy. There are so many people, particularly women, who are looking to legitimize their existence. Many official documents and government benefits can only be obtained through paternity or marriage. So having that proof such as a shared surname, provides the woman with a certain amount of status and security. She is not just a "baby mama" or a "matey" but she is someone legitimate and deserving of a proper place in society. It is a lingering effect from a culture built upon slavery and colonialism. But if Jamaica really wants to move ahead and be competitive in a wider global community, a broader view must be taken. The women I have met here so far are very independent and self sufficient. Many female professionals are choosing to hyphenate their surnames although I don't know them well enough to ask whether their legal documents contain both names. So I find it odd that these formalities still exist in the bureaucracy. The same bureaucracy in which most of the employees are women (with hyphenated names)! Mo saw a firetruck pass him the other day with a woman suited up on the truck! We would never have seen such a sight in Brooklyn for all its other liberal views! It is also quite common to see female bus drivers and female road construction workers. So again, I'm confused by the persistence of such archaic customs of delineating everything through the male. I really want to have a good old fashioned consciousness raising where we come together as women to highlight our strengths and work towards positive change. The mainstream culture here is still one that objectifies women through song lyrics, billboards and ads painted on local establishments. I feel like I must stick to my gut which says, "I'm a Ms.!" and join with others who feel the same way so that we can begin turning the wheels of change.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Celebration Time



We have been celebrating! The past few weeks have granted us many gifts and we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Parties and family gatherings, birthdays and milestones have all been welcomed, cheered, shared and enjoyed. Please join us in our happiness.

The Matriarch's Birthday

87 years young! The birthday girl looking beautiful in blue!

Family.


Food.

Fun.

Baby Q's Shower

Sitting pretty before the festivities begin.

Earth Mother smiling big.

The Cheese Face! So that's where the family trait comes from!

The watchmen.



Playing games.

Baby Q enjoying some Ting.

Laughing hysterically. We ladies did a lot of that!


Loved the cake!


The big game winner and the Hostess with the Mostest!

Shine's First Day of School

"Cheese!" "I'm ready!!"

Through the gate.


A Citizen and A Legal Alien!

We're official!

Mo Designs a House


His first original design to be built, a gorgeous bungaloo in St. Mary

A Lovely Birthday!

My birthday bouquet made with love by Mo and Shine. It was supposed to be a surprise along with breakfast in bed, but Shine was so excited that he woke me up to say, "Mommy, Mommy, me and daddy and grandma are picking flowers and putting them in a pot for you! Come and see them!! Hurry, Hurry!"

After a ladies day of shopping with Earth Mother and Mom-in-law, Mo and I had a date night! He took me out for a fabulous dinner! We stuffed ourselves silly with yummy food!

Miss K's Christening


Looking adorable after being sprinkled with Holy Water.


With Mommy and Daddy waiting for the water.


And then there was cake!



We are family.





Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Introductions

I feel like I have been writing a lot about us, but not really about us. Meaning, I've been relating anecdotes about our move and our adventures, but I've written very little about who we are and what we do. So I thought I would take some time to introduce us. I'm an artist. I love making things...whether they are art things or food things or other things. I have an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn which is where I met Mo, who is an architect. He makes things too. BIG things...like houses and hospitals. And he is my resident physicist and art handler. When I have a conundrum about one of my sculptures, he always has the right answer! I like to say he creates the space and I fill it. Recently, I got a book the collaboration between artists and architects. It is a very unique dynamic. We have only truly collaborated once on a sculpture, but I look forward to future work together. Our approach to our works is both ecological and socially responsible. We attempt to use recycled or sustainably managed materials to make our work.

There are a couple of places where you can view images of my fine art as well as the fine craft and jewelry that I create:
www.raestudios.etsy.com
www.raestudios.net
www.thecreativecenter.org

I've also added a direct link to my etsy shop at the bottom of this page. Mo is still working on his website so we will share it soon.

Until then,
Peace and Wellness,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Positive Vibrations



When I first sat down to type this entry late last week, the only thing on my mind was the terrible day I had spent at the immigration office trying to sort out Shine and I's migratory status. But after re-reading what I had typed and of course allowing some distance from the experience, I realize that retelling the negative details serves little purpose. Instead, I would like to focus on the positives that came out of the experience.

First, Shine is now a true Jamaican through and through. We were able to finish up his citizenship application and we came home with a certificate and letter stating that his citizenship has been granted. The certificate is huge and very official with a little (and very adorable) picture of Shine at the top. He spent the rest of the day practicing his Jamaican accent. I was in hysterics.

Second, Mo has a dear family friend who upon hearing about my debacle, has taken it upon herself to call on her connections working in the various administrative offices to help us navigate the system. She has really gone out of her way to assist and I couldn't feel more blessed to have her help. After a few phone calls, she has straighten everything out and given me the correct procedure for filing all the paperwork for my own citizenship application.

Third, after we left the immigration office feeling very hungry (and I admit to feeling quite defeated), we decided to head to Juicy Pattie to celebrate Shine's new status. It was packed of course because it was the lunch rush hour. I feared lots of whining because we would have to wait a good while to get our food and we had just spent 3+ hours waiting. But the cashier who took our order, either saw the look of hunger and desperation in my eyes or was just plain considerate and nice (because that's how most people are down here), ran to the back and came out with a tray filled with our order. I thanked her repeatedly for her kindness while Shine made his way to his favorite spot by the fish tank. He was happy as a clam chomping away on his patty and slurping up his cherry juice. He found everything the fish did laugh out loud funny and was excited to talk like other Jamaicans. His spirit soon lifted my own.

Administrative hurdles such as what I experienced last week are expected when making such a huge move. I'm sure I could exchange horror stories and show off battle scars with fellow expats across the globe. Immigration is not an easy process no matter where in the world you live. So I'm over it. I've chalked it up to experience and lessons learned.

Until soon...
Peace and Wellness

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stuff

Our shipment from Brooklyn has finally arrived! After months of waiting and Mo (with the patience of Job) spending 11 hours at the wharf and numerous fees paid, our stuff is again, ours. I know I wrote not too long ago about living without so much stuff but there is a certain comfort in being able to eat off your own plates and view familiar faces smiling at you from picture frames. In all honesty, we really didn't ship much. 90% of our things consist of books and papers associated with our careers as artist and architect. The other 10% are sentimental items collected over the years whether they are photographs, works of art or bits of ephemera and memorabilia plus a few essentials for Baby Q and our kitchenware. Our tiny space is starting to feel more like home. Mentally, we are feeling less like we are on extended vacation and more like we are living here. The place is a mess with mounds of books and boxes everywhere, but it will all get sorted out soon enough. I'm feeling the nesting instinct kick in so it is actually enjoyable to open each box, unwrap the contents and think about where its new place will be.

Peace and Wellness,

A Few Things to Remember about Our New Home, Part 2

13. Before setting off to a Bureaucratic Office, remember to ask if there is a dress code!

14. After checking to see that you are attired properly to go to a Bureaucratic Office, remember to pack snacks because you will be there all day and if you leave, you give up your place in line.

15. Exceptions will sometimes be made for a very pregnant woman ignorant of the above.

16. People are always willing to help, but you must ask. And sometimes the answer will be so vague that you will have to ask a second, third or fourth opinion...but again, people are eager to be of assistance.

17. There is a huge difference between getting documents stamped by a Justice of the Peace and getting documents notarized by a Notary Public!

18. A Justice of the Peace does not perform wedding ceremonies. Nor do they keep "office hours" at a court house. They are elusive, upstanding citizens of the community that have a stamp which you need to prove a document to be official. But only certain documents.

19. Opening a bank account is akin to having a root canal...or at least I imagine it to be so. And will require multiple trips to the bank with various stamped and notarized documents.

20. Going to the post office is a bit like going to the circus. There is music and vendors and taxis and buses and dancing children and the occasional dog roaming around. The clown act is the only thing missing.

21. Booking a room at the hospital to deliver a baby is less hassle than opening a bank account.

22. It is true, the best place to eat an ice cream cone is on the lawn of Devon House.

23. Ants will invade the faucet in your shower of all places!

24. A 4 year old will quickly pick up the less savory local vernacular.

25. Repair people will give you a time frame for service and then come after the appointed time frame...just like in Brooklyn.

26. Music created by the band Chicago from the 1980's gets heavy air play on the radio.

27. Freshly squeezed orange juice on a Sunday morning is HEAVEN in a glass!

More to come, I'm sure...
Peace and Wellness,

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Spice of Life

Mexican food is hands down my most favorite cuisine. I could stuff myself silly with black beans, tortillas, guacamole, jalapenos and tomatoes. In fact when I was pregnant with Shine, I couldn't get enough of anything made with black beans. (Perhaps I over did it as now he absolutely refuses them!) And Baby Q says bring on the tomatoes! Lucky for me, both babes enjoyed spice in utero so I did not (do not) have to back down from the hot peppers!

During my college years, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to live in Chiapas, Mexico. On my way to and from school, I had to pass by the farm market where they sold avocados by the buckets! And the tortillaria was two shops down from my house! For those who have never experienced a fresh tortilla, it is a little bit of heaven rolled in your hand. Top it with fresh avocado and tomato, perhaps a squirt or two of lime and ahhh, just thinking about it is making my mouth water!

So, how happy am I to be living just a few hundred miles as opposed to a few thousand miles from Mexico! In my naive little mind I was thinking,' with such close proximity, similar climates, certainly the same foods, there must be some cross over in the cuisines somewhere.' But alas, Jamaican food, albeit excellent, is a far far cry from my beloved Mexican comida. There is but one "sort of" Mexican restaurant in all of Kingston! And although, I have yet to try it for myself, I've been warned that I will be sadly disappointed.

Okay, no problem, I think, because Mexican food is also my favorite thing to cook. I'll make my own, all the ingredients are available here: beans a plenty, tomatoes to die for, peppers that are beyond spicy, rice of course, even tortilla wraps (although not fresh from a tortillaria, but nor were they in Brooklyn)...oregano, basil, cilantro, parsley, chili pepper, lime, onion, garlic...yup all here...except...CUMIN!! The spice!! The one flavor that brings it all together and shouts, MEXICO!! I scoured every shelf in every grocery store and health food store I came across. One shop had a whole wall of herbs and spices 3/4 of which I had never heard of before, but do you think they had cumin? I devoured the internet thinking that maybe cumin was called by another name and I was just overlooking it, but no. It seemed that it just didn't exist here.

Mo was patient with me and kindly waited while I 're-searched' each time we were at the market. It soon became a half-hearted quest. I resigned myself to asking whoever was coming next to the island to bring some with them. My shelves would look like a 1950's bomb shelter with hundreds of bottles of "provisions" lining them.

Then, on our last trip to JoJo's on Saturday as I'm standing in front of the spices, Mo grew weary of my quest and commented,"We've already looked here three times and even asked if they carry it. Time to move on Rae, time to move on." But then wait, the clouds parted, the heavens opened, trumpets blared...

The most gigantic bottle of cumin I had ever seen!! I took it in my hand and held it high above my head like a trophy. (I swear Eye of the Tiger started playing somewhere in the background...Adrianne, Adrianne...) Mo hung his head and started laughing. My smile was from ear to ear!

When we got home, I took out the tortillas, chopped some cheese, sliced tomatoes and peppers and got out the lime...it was quesadilla time!

Peace and Wellness,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emancipation and Independence

August 1st, 1834 marks the day that the British monarch declared the Abolition of Slavery in all of its colonies across the globe. With the Abolitionist movement in full swing in Britain, declining sugar production and slave revolts in the Caribbean, the British made into law the Emancipation Act. Jamaica, in particular, was notorious for its rebellious slaves. (One such revolt was led by a female escaped slave known as Nanny who is revered as a National Hero and featured on the $500 JA bill.) It is said that the night before Emancipation Day, slaves gathered across the island to celebrate the approaching midnight hour. Singing and dancing and festivities of all kinds took place leading up to the day they could be free. A contemporary version of Emancipation Day happens pretty much the same way. Dances or "sessions" raging through the night, community fairs in towns all across the island, families gathering to eat large meals, shops and businesses closed.

We spent our Emancipation Day weekend in Mandeville where we enjoyed the company of Mo's extended family and attended a fair in the town of Maidstone which Mo's mom helped to organize. There was plenty of food, live music which included traditional folk songs as well as some contemporary dancehall music, games and rides for the kids.




More than a hundred years later, on August 6th, 1962, Jamaica again had cause to celebrate as it gained its independence from Britain to become a self governing nation. This year marked Jamaica's 48th birthday. As a young nation, it continues to struggle to find the balance between doing things "the colonial way" and doing what works best for its resources and people. Listening to Mo's father talk about how far the nation has come in 48 years is amazing. With its vivacious culture and gorgeous landscape, it is sure to strike the right balance in the near future...as long as it can stay true to its self. (A brief but interesting history of Jamaica can be found here.)

We again set off to Mandeville to relax on the farm for the long weekend. Enjoy the photos.


Until soon...
Peace and Wellness,

Emancipation Day Breakfast: Roast breadfruit, fried plantain, ackee and saltfish and tea

Shine and Earth Mother bounce themselves silly while Warrior stays cool.

Mo's mom in front of her display.

The marl pile...hours of entertainment.

Cheese.

Must be a family trait...Cheese.

Relaxing by the waterfall.

Laundry knows no holiday!

Wheeee!

Gathering mint for tea.

Coffee.

Warrior.

Moonrise.

Baby Q.

Bringing in the goats.

Looking for Fuzzy.

Found her.

Fuzzy.

Green lizard.

Capturing the feeling of the holiday.