Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy: the aftermath

It has been a wild week, not only in Jamaica, but in all the other coastal areas that were in Hurricane Sandy's path. I have spent the week watching the people of Negril's Seven Mile Beach prepare for, withstand and recover from the impacts of the storm. I would never have imagined how far-reaching the economic and environmental impacts of the storm have been - and we were not even in the worst of the storm. The many people who sell fruits, baked goods and crafts on the beach have not been able to work all week. The fishing and tourist boats also have not been able to work, at first, because the sea was too rough and now the boats have been blocked in the river after a huge sandbar developed at the river's mouth. We haven't been able to swim in the ocean for 6 days, but we are hoping that the water will be calm enough tomorrow.  I certainly have a new appreciation for the long-lasting and wide-ranging effects of a storm and am thinking of everyone who has been affected by Sandy.

Here is a short video showing what life in Negril has been like over the past few days.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Grammie and Grampie Jefrries arrived on Monday and were greeted by news of the approaching tropical storm Sandy - the first storm to directly hit Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Yesterday, everyone on the beach was talking about it. People spent the morning preparing for the storm - closing up shop, bringing tables and chairs inside, building sand bag barriers and literally battening down the hatches. By late afternoon the wind was blowing, the waves were building and the beach was empty. All the preparations seemed complete until our local lifeguard, Gary, came down the beach looking for people to help him bring in the ropes and buoys that mark the swimming area of our hotel. John and I both volunteered and as the waves crashed around us, we waded into the water to begin dragging in the gear. At one point we left John to hold onto a rope that was connected to a concrete anchor. As I swam back out to him, I didn't realize that Gary had also asked him to hold on the 2 ft machete that he had been using to cut the rope. It was an image I won't soon forget - my father-in-law, during a tropical storm, bobbing in the water with a giant machete in his hand!

Living on the edge. The morning after the storm.
We lost power for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, but it turned out the the anticipation of Sandy was greater than the storm itself. Other areas of the island were hit hard, but Negril was spared from the worst of it. We spent the rest of the day on our balcony, drinking rum and watching the palm trees blow. Caleb loved having dinner and reading books by candlelight and he is now a huge fan of hurricanes. 
We spotted some birds, including this red-billed streamertail, seeking shelter from the storm. This hummingbird is the official bird of Jamaica and is indigenous to the island. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Big news!

This week Cale and I were on our own. No visitors - just quality mother and son time. In Caleb's world this translates to hours of building lego rocket ships and airports interspersed with twice daily swims. I encouraged long naps so I could squeeze in some work and would try to pry the lego out of his hands long enough to sneak in some other games - like fishing at sunset.

Well, I have some big news. I have waited a long time to write this - but here it is - I think Caleb is officially potty trained!!  We have been slowly working on this for months, but Cale has taken this task very seriously since we arrived in Jamaica. He did really well the first 2 weeks, but then we hit a period of 'potty training regression' - a term I quickly learned from google. I began to get frustrated when he had an accident and I really wasn't sure how to get back on track with things. After doing some reading I decided to change my approach and follow some key potty training rules:

1. Never ask if it is time to use the bathroom, tell them when it is time. ('come on, it is time to pee now' instead of,  'do you need to pee?' ) This worked really well.
2. Don't make a big deal out of accidents. Just clean it up with little reaction.
3. Make a HUGE deal out of successes. Try a sticker chart for each accident-free day. I was a bit skeptical of this one, and I somehow felt he was too old to actually feel like receiving a sticker was a big deal. I was dead wrong. 

We now end each night now with a highly enthusiastic ceremony. Caleb gets to put a sticker on his chart as I (and any guests who are willing to participate which has been all so far!) sing 'For he's a jolly good fellow' and 'Caleb, Caleb, he's our man, if he can't do it no one can!' He BEAMS with pride, claps his hands, dances and comes running for high fives. We are now at 27 stickers, and although this doesn't represent 27 consecutive days, it does represent a huge step towards independence and probably my greatest parenting achievement to date. And no more diapers! (Except at night). And now my only problem is figuring out how to put an end to the sticker chart! I'm sure I can google some advice on this  when I need it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Captain Caleb

Negril sunset
My friend Jen is spending the week with us in Negril. Jen and I work together in Halifax, so it has been great to have someone here to talk about my project and bring new perspectives to the coastal environment here in Negril. 

Caleb has been eagerly awaiting our long list of new visitors and has adopted the role of tour guide. He was really excited to show Jen all around our apartment and introduce her to friends on the beach. He was most excited to show her  the  guest bathroom which we had decorated with shells. Cale kept saying "When Jen sees this she is going to say "Whaaaat??? Who did this! And I'll say it was me - Caleb!" 
Bathroom decor

Some highlights of our week with Jen:

 - glass bottom boat tour up the Negril River through Jamaica's second largest freshwater wetland, known as the Great Morass. We were surrounded by mangroves, giant ferns and egrets flying overhead. Cale loves boat rides, especially with Captain Raymond, one of Cale's absolute favourite people we've met so far.
Captain Raymond and Captain Caleb
You are never too young to drive in Jamaica!

- Dining out: eating dinner of steamed fish and rice while watching the sunset at the '24 hour cafe' (and no, it is not open 24 hours!).

- Snorkelling: Caleb's daily swims have paid off - he now is not only swimming - he is actually snorkelling! Mask on, snorkel in mouth, deep breaths, eyes open! He only keeps his head submerged for 5-10 seconds, but it is still pretty amazing and almost unbearably cute. 

- Jamaican cook off: We invited our friend Octavius, who sells carvings on the beach, and his two kids to our place for dinner. Octavius taught us how to cook a traditional Jamaican meal - snapper with rice and peas (red beans). One of my favorite quotes of the evening was when we asked how long we needed to cook the beans for and his response was - "Jamaicans don't have time. We just cook them until they are done." Makes sense somehow.

Snapper with tomato, onion, garlic and thyme
Dinner time on the patio!
I'm also extremely happy that Alan and I are half way through our time apart. 8 weeks gone, 8 weeks to go. He is now on his tour of Saskatchewan and British Columbia with the David Myles Trio. He'll be flying straight here when the shows are done and I can hardly wait. 

Monday, October 8, 2012


Singing 'Twinkle Twinkle' on the beach with friends Dante and Gisele.
Caleb and I are on our own this Thanksgiving. After spending the day on the beach, Caleb is napping on the couch while I heat up some Jamaican patties and prepare a big salad for our dinner. We'll follow it up with Cale's favorite part of the meal - chocolate digestive cookies for dessert. 

Greg left Jamaica yesterday after spending the past 5 weeks with us. Sharing this adventure with my parents has been a really fun experience. It was amazing to watch their comfort level grow each day until they both reached point where they didn't want to leave. My parents love to travel but they usually opt for the all-inclusive resorts, rather than the more do it yourself type of accommodation. I was a bit worried when my mom wrote to her friends on her first day here that we were staying in a two star at best, and that she greatly preferred Mexico. However, during their time in Negril, they learned to embrace the chaos of living in a developing country- they enjoyed shopping locally, trying new foods, meeting new people and they quickly became integrated into the local scene.   It made their travel-loving daughter very proud!

Here are a few of my favourite photos taken by Greg over the past few weeks:

Mommy, Scuba Steve and Kayla. Her dad has a small souvenir shop on the beach that sells towels, t-shirts and jewellery.
Greg with one of his many friends on the beach - Mama. She sells fruit and you know she is coming up the beach  when you hear her call out 'Fruuuuuuuit!'. This inspired Caleb's latest knock-knock joke:
Knock knock!
Who's There?
Fru who?
Caleb joins a beach band
Sunset cruise

The caves and cliffs of Negril's West End and the most beautiful shade of blue. 
Catch of the day - flying fish and triggerfish. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rainy day fun (on a dime)

We are in the middle of rainy season. It sure didn't feel that way during our first three weeks here as we didn't even see a cloud in the sky. We've had heavy thundershowers each day over the past two weeks so many afternoons have been spent inside. I didn't pack a ton of toys for Caleb, as I was really looking forward to living with less for a few months (and I was afraid to go over the 50 lb weight limit on luggage at the airport). Thankfully I packed a bag of lego (used every day since), some modelling clay, crayons, scissors, glue and a few trucks. These toys, along with a few activity books that my mom brought, have done us amazingly well.

 Lately I've been looking for a few other things to do with Cale and since I have no interest in spending money on plastic toys down here,  I've had to get creative. Here are a few things I've come up with:

Balloon toss: We've discovered the best way to teach a toddler how to catch - use a balloon!

Rocketship: Made by Greg using on old cracker box. Decorated by Caleb.

Marble drop: An idea from 'Made by Joel'  using a cereal box. Mine doesn't look nearly as good as Joel's, so I'd check out his blog if you want to attempt this one. Caleb really had fun racing the marbles down the 'track'.

Scoops: Made with plastic juice jugs. An idea I found when googling 'toys made from trash'. I didn't have an appropriate sized ball, but we found a rolled up sock worked just fine!

Knock down the people: Classic bowling game from my childhood.