Saturday, December 29, 2012


A quick disclaimer for this post - it was written last night during our flight home from Montego Bay, before we were swept up in the joys of winter travel and ended up stranded in Toronto. We are now back in Fredericton and all is well.

After four wonderful months, our time in Jamaica has come to an end. I'm writing this while sitting on the airplane back to Toronto. It is always a very nostalgic feeling when something you have looked forward to for so long comes to an end, but our time away has been an amazing experience and I'm so glad we got to share it with so many friends and family.  Mom and dad, John and Maureen, Teresa, Patricia, Jen - thank you all for being part of this adventure. And a big thanks to the Robin Rigby Trust and Ecology Action Centre for supporting my work and making this whole journey possible.
I'm excited to go home, but I have to admit that I'm slightly terrified of being thrown into the depths of winter.  I had to put on pants and a long sleeved shirt for the first time in months and I'm not feeling particularly good about it. I can't quite bring myself to think about a coat, hat and all the rest of it. But, I'm going home to share the rest of my Christmas holiday with my family in Canada and that feels great. Caleb is also excited to see everyone and of course, to be on an airplane! I think he was been a bit worried yesterday morning when, out of the blue, he asked 'Do they have juice in Canada?'. I assured him that they do, and he has been happy ever since.

Christmas morning headbands and airplanes!
 We had a wonderful Christmas in Negril filled with sunshine, good food and not a moment of stress. Caleb was as excited as we could have hoped and although he didn't get much, he was delighted to find gifts in his stocking and under the tree on Christmas morning. He also helped to make 16 Christmas cards and we had a great time hand delivering them to all the friends we have made. Our entire celebration was set to the very popular Jamaican carol - We Wish you a Reggae Christmas.

There is so much I will miss about our time in Jamaica:

 - the warmth, constant blue skies and sunshine
- the beach - swimming, snorkelling, building castles, watching the crowds

- perfect sunsets every night

- the food (jerk, patties, coco bread, fresh fish, rice and peas, Ital and limitless fresh fruits and veggies)

- the spirit of the Jamaican people who have an amazing appreciation and love for life

- the Jamaican language spoken with a rhythm and intermixed with proverbs and wise words of wisdom

-  feeling almost like a local in a new country and embracing the term 'Janadian'

And of course there are a few things that I will not miss quite as much:

- the steady stream of ants that seemed to appear no matter what we did. They were small enough not to be a huge problem, but contant enough to be a nuisance

- random power outages (although the candle filled evenings were quite fun)

- doing four months worth of laundry by hand
- mysterious bug bites that I was never quite sure if they were from mosquitos, jelly fish or another mysterious organism

All in all, I'm very happy to be home and will always feel like Negril is a second home to my family. Thank you, Jamaica.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas vacation

I am officially on vacation - with my family in Jamaica! I now get to spend my days relaxing on the beach - building sand castles and sand tunnels, snorkelling, watching sunsets and sneaking away for afternoon naps (if I get tired from all the fun). The other members of the research team are leaving Negril today so we wanted to have a few adventures, and take advantage of our rental car, before they left.  

First up was our Christmas party on Sunday evening. Cale and I spent the weekend making decorations, singing carols while being accompanied by Alan on mandolin and getting excited about the holiday. I am happy to spend a year away from the overly commercialized Christmas in North America, but I still want to make it a festive and special time of year for Caleb. We invited the research team (from Jamaica, Trinidad and Canada) over along with our friend Octavius and his kids. We decorated cookies, made crafts, sang songs and let the children run wild. It was tons of fun and Cale was asleep by 7:00. Perfect. I really want to make this Christmas about giving more than receiving for Caleb, so we had a great time hand delivering tons of leftover cookies to people on the beach the next morning.

Rudolph decorations! Alan even got into the fun and made his own! Can you guess which one??
Decorating cookies and ice cream cone Christmas trees with Dante and Gisele
We then decided to hit the open road to see some sites. Monday's stop was Mayfield Falls, a beautiful, remote area where a guide leads you up through the river and over (and under) several small waterfalls. Cale was literally squirming with delight the entire time. We were also followed by a site photographer who took some nice shots, but it was the incredibly cheezy shots that convinced us to buy the cd at the end of the trip. See below, and maybe, just maybe, I'll send out another cheezy one as our family Christmas card. 
This was probably the most serious photo shoot Alan and I have ever done, wedding photos included. He did capture some nice ones, but it also felt a lot like being chased by the paparazzi.  Cale loved it, however!
Warning: Squealing child with amazing hair ahead.
I can't quite find the words to caption this one!
Yesterday we headed to a 'sorrel and organic agriculture festival' in the small fishing village of Bluefields and although we were actually one day early for the festival, we got to meet some nice people, buy a few handicrafts, eat amazing jerk chicken and try our first sorrel juice - a red fruit juice that is very popular in Jamaica at Christmas time. We then drove on to Black River for the crocodile safari and stopped for a great Rastafarian Ital meal in a tiny, one table, roadside restaurant on our way home. Again Cale was soundly asleep at 7 pm after a day filled with wonderful adventures.
Now to rest on the beach. No plans are the best plans!

Crocodile nursery in Black River! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Coconuts and classrooms

Catch of the day in Orange Bay- Barracuda
My work in Jamaica is quickly coming to an end and my tropical vacation will soon begin. Over the past few weeks I have been interviewing fishermen and people involved in the tourism industry to understand the changes and challenges they have been facing. The environment in Negril has changed drastically over the years, and these changes are being accelerated by climate change. It is very interesting to talk directly with people who have been impacted by these changes and hear how they are adapting and what they think needs to be done to protect the future of their industries. If you'd like to learn more, you can check out the project's website here - Partnership for Canadian Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation (PARCA).
I've also been busy trying to do a few personal projects, like helping some inspiring locals I've met prepare grant applications, creating somes short films and giving a presentation to the local school.

Talking to the Environmental Club at Negril's All Ages School. We talked about the importance of a healthy coastline and ways to protect the beach in Negril.
Female Streamerbird resting on our clothesline
I've said this before, but one of the absolute best parts of my experience in Jamaica has been having the opportunity to meet locals and hear their stories. There are many people who have become familiar faces on the beach and through my interviews, I've had a chance to really learn about their lives. One of my favorite people on the beach is Gemma (who we also call Mama Fruit). I couldn't believe it when she told me that for the past 22 years, she wakes up at 4:30 am and travels over 2 hours to get to Negril to sell fruit on the beach to tourists seven days a week. It is not an easy life carrying a giant basket of fruit on your head and walking through the sand on days that are often incredibly hot to make a few dollars of profit. But she still feels blessed and thankful for her life and is always cheerful and singing when you see her. I didn't realize that the songs we hear her sing each day are originals! She was very happy to have me record a video of her singing one of my favorite songs - Coconut Woman. 

Now to finish decorating for our Christmas party tonight. The research team and a few local friends are coming over to make cookies and have dinner. Should be tons of fun and a great way to kick off the holiday season. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

West End Adventures

The 'Office of Nature' in Bloody Bay is actually a bar
Alan has been here for over a week and we finally found time this afternoon to explore some sites around Negril. First off, Cale and Alan joined me while I interviewed some fishermen in beautiful Bloody Bay. We then went to an amazing, organic restaurant in the West End called 'Just Natural'. With no advertising at all, word has spread about this out of the way place and it was recently named 'Top ranked restaurant in Negril' on Trip Advisor. The sisters who run the place had never even heard of Trip Advisor until they received the certificate in the mail! The tables at the restaurant are hidden away behind fruit trees (lime, ackee, orange, banana, breadfruit) and wild flowers which made for prime hide-and-go-seek territory while we were waiting for our food.

Reaching for bananas at Just Natural
We also climbed the Negril lighthouse, located at the Western tip of Jamaica, and made it to the top just as a helicopter was landing below! Unfortunately, my palms were sweating too much from the heights to really enjoy it, but as you can imagine, this was quite exciting for a two year old to witness. We wrapped things up by watching some cliff jumpers, who make a living jumping for tips, and were home in time for a sunset swim. Perfect family afternoon in paradise!

Karate chop!
Helicopter landing
The last time I took Caleb to a restaurant he suddenly realized that he had forgotten to thank the waitress for his pineapple juice. Feeling quite proud for raising such a well-mannered boy, I told him it was ok to walk over to the bar and say thank you. As Caleb sat back down at the table, the waitress came by to say that she would place his french fry order right away. Apparently, he did say thank you, but also thought he should take the opportunity to order himself some fries!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

He's here!

So wonderful to have music in our home again!

As Alan said, "I feel like I'm finally at home, even though I've never been here before!" It's so great to have our family back together. Looking forward to an amazing final month in Negril.