Monday, 23 January 2012

The wind in my sails

As you may have noticed, I appear to have a bit of a thing for boats.  And, as you already know, sailing boats are my latest favourites (with apologies to the kayak).  This weekend was a 4 (!) boat weekend and therefore equalled lots of fun.  I even remembered to take pictures this time, so pretend it is 30 degrees where you are and the wind is blowing across the deck. You might also want to lean slightly to one side in your chair, for the authentic sailing experience!

On Saturday a group of us went out on Diva, a boat owned by Phil, another sailor at the Yacht Club. It is a 39 foot yacht that was originally made in Sweden, so all the labels on the circuit panel are in Swedish, which I find amusing (and no, Phil is not Swedish either).

Diva is the one in the centre with the red stripes.
The fun thing about sailing is that there are no roads to follow - we just headed straight out to sea for as long as we felt like it.  When the swells got to be fairly sizable (probably around 6 feet tall), we changed course to lessen the rockin' and rolling. And then when we were ready, we turned the boat around and came back.

Carol, Jim's wife, and Joyce, her sister, sitting up on deck as we head out to sea.

Jim, who I race with, is on the helm on the right; Phil, the owner of Diva, is on the left, and Peter is behind him.

Getting sunburned and windblown, but having fun!
You can see the plane coming into land through the shrouds of the boat.
 When we were tired of sailing, we headed towards Doctor's Cave Beach and moored offshore. We took a break to go swimming and eat a snack.

View towards the beach.

Phil checking the bottom of the boat - and just cooling off...

What was once the glorious hotels of Montego Bay - now run down, abandoned by the tourists for the all-inclusive resorts further out of town.

On Sunday, it was back to racing - the first races since the regatta in December.  It was a good day for racing with not too much wind, but just enough to keep the sailors guessing.  It was a busy day in the harbour - a cruise ship was stopped for the day and its lifeboats were practising their deployment drills (as is surely happening of cruise ships all around the world this week). Also, in the middle of the race, the tanker ship decided it was time to leave.  Technically, a sailboat has right-of-way, but in this case "might makes right" so some of the sailboats scrambled to get out of the tanker's path.

Rigging the J22s for racing.

Some of the boats are kept out of the water and it is a bit of a process with the crane to get them back in!
After racing, several of us went from one boat to another, and we took Skedaddle out for a sail.  Peter, who was in one of the pictures above, is the owner of this boat, a trimaran.  The weather was perfect for the trimaran, and we flew out over the water, with lots of splashes to make sure everyone had a good time.

Waiting patiently for the fun to begin.

The wind in the sails (and some legs, apparently)

Oh, but I said four boats, right? Well, the last one was a dingy that went back and forth from the dock to Diva - no pictures, sorry, but I'm counting everything that floats this weekend!

Back to dry land today - happy Monday to you!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Things I've learned

I spent last week writing a report summarizing the work I've done over the past few months as a Cuso volunteer. It turns out that despite a feeling of everything moving slowly, I now have a contact list of 25 non profit organizations and government agencies working in Montego Bay, and have visited 11 of those in-person. Sometimes it takes looking back to get any sense of progress. Here are some of the highlights:

There is a dense network of organizations and agencies already working to make a difference in Montego Bay.  Many of them are connected to national organizations with head offices in Kingston.  There is some coordination, although there may be opportunities for more coordination to maximize resources.

I was told a story about the benefits of cooperation by a woman at a government agency - she was a field officer responsible for a particular community that had recently had an uprising of violence - there had been several shootings in the community.  So she invited representatives from the community to join her in multiple meetings to discuss what could be done, including the police, church leaders, other field officers from other social service agencies, and NGOs involved in conflict resolution.  The representatives met on a couple of occasions, with some success.  Then it was time for the woman who had organized the meetings to take her annual holidays.  She assumed the meetings would stop while she was gone. However, when she can back to work, she found out they had continued. She heard that the one of the members of the group had said to the others, "I am willing to risk going back into that community if you are willing to come with me."  The power of cooperation!

Another lesson learned that I included in my report is that Montego Bay faces some of the same problems of any urban centre - migration to the city by people from the country who are looking for work.  This migration creates a housing shortage, so people build slum communities, which quickly become hotbeds for crime and violence, and lack proper water, sanitation and other infrastructure.  There was a survey done in one of these communities in Montego Bay - North Gully - and they found that most of the adults in the community were not born in Montego Bay.

One particularly weird piece of information I learned about is the problem of "scamming".  You know those emails that show up in the spam folder that say you've won money in a lottery and you just need to send a little bit of money somewhere to claim your prize?  Well, it appears that Montego Bay is a prime location for developing and disseminating these scams.  And, to my surprise, people in the US and Canada regularly fall for these emails and send money.  The scammers can earn hundreds of dollars in a couple of days - big money here. Two problems arise - first, those who have made money have rush of conspicuous consumption, which often includes guns to protect their new house, fancy car, and other bling. More guns = more violence. Second, young people in the community are no longer interested in training programs that might get them a low paying service job when they can do this illegal work and make lots more money in a short time period. It is a difficult problem to approach, but one that came up over and over again as significant. As someone told me, "This problem won't go away until Americans stop believing these scams".

My next steps are to review this report with the Cuso office in Kingston, and we will discuss which organizations could most benefit from a Cuso volunteer, and how we will further deepen these relationships to the point of actual volunteers arriving for placements in Montego Bay.  I expect this process will be slower than I would like it to be as well, but I have a little more faith in progress than I did before!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The week that started and ended on the beach

Forget snow - this year I spent both Christmas Day and New Year's Day with good company on the beach! Below are some pictures from my holiday week, now that everyone has gone home and I have time to blog...

Mom and Dad arrived late on Christmas Eve.  We ate good food, sat around the Christmas tree, and opened presents, just like you are supposed to do on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day we went to the beach and had a lovely Jamaican Christmas dinner at my landlord's place (it included 3 kinds of meat - ham, beef, and chicken).
Mom and Dad dots in the water

Christmas Day chillin' (notice the lack of snow)

As the guidebook suggested, we did some of the hot spots in Jamaica, including Dunn's River Falls and Negril.

In the upper left corner you can see the congo line of people going up the falls. The route our guide took us on went straight up the middle!
Dinner at the Rockhouse in Negril

The requisite Negril sunset, right on schedule.

Dad's new found friend.
We had a couple of adventures that I wouldn't include in the guidebook, including the Royal Palm Reserve, which was essentially shut down but an opportunistic security guard took our money. We also paid the price for Jamaican crappy roads and less-than-stellar rental cars and got a flat tire.

The Royal Palm Reserve - would have been nice several years ago, I'm sure

The guard shook a bucket of nails, and the birds came flying in thinking it was the sound of their dinner!

You can see I contributed moral support to the tire change, but not much else - I was glad to have Dad there.

The post-tire-change beer was good, but the nachos were a little smaller than we had expected...
We also went to the Richmond Bird Sanctuary, always a fun experience. Even though Fritz, the manager, was disappointed with the Jamaican election results (new government!), the birds didn't seem to care.

Waiting for the birds to show up

"Don't mind me, I'll just sit here and have a drink"

Like a baby with a bottle - well, sort of...

Post-bird happiness with coffee.
.Mom and Dad left on New Year's Eve and I joined up with a group of other Cuso volunteers and friends.  We had a great dinner at my place, and then rushed quickly to get to the Yacht Club to ring in the New Year.  (We arrived with 5 minutes to spare.) There was drinking and dancing and fun all around. The week ended as it had begun - sitting on the beach on New Year's Day.

Chez Julia's, with meal made by Chef Helen.  L-R: me, Helen, Aziz, Audrey

New Year's Day - what a way to recover from New Year's Eve partying! L-R: Audrey, Aziz, me, Ann, and Helen

Squeezing the last bits of light out of the day - you can see that they had already taken our chairs to put them away. L-R: Audrey, Aziz, me

Photos are mostly mine, with the exception of Dad and I on the beach, Dunn's River Falls and the tire change, taken by Mom; New Year's Eve dinner at my house and the three of us on the beach at dusk, taken by Ann; and the 5 of us on the beach which was taken by the lifeguard at Doctor's Cave Beach.

I hope you all had good holidays too - now it's back to work!