Over 200 Canadians infected with ChikV – News – JamaicaObserver.com

OTTAWA, Canada (CMC) – Canada’s health agency says more than 200 Canadians have been infected by the chikungunya virus that has affected thousands of people in the Caribbean. On Tuesday, Health Canada reported that 201 Canadians have been infected with the mosquito borne virus. Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for Health Canada, said the cases have … Continue reading Over 200 Canadians infected with ChikV – News – JamaicaObserver.com

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Côte d'Ivoire forwards Gervinho and Didier Drogba - Côte d'Ivoire 2 vs 1 Japan

The World Stops for 2014 Fifa World Cup – June 14 – 15, 2014

This weekend, my world stopped and I was lazy Jane for 48 hrs. The clothes were washed but not packed. Breakfast and Lunch became Brunch. The bed was stripped, but barely made. I skull a date or two and chatted with like minded, female shorts watching fans; who swooned over the Swiss and French men. … Continue reading The World Stops for 2014 Fifa World Cup – June 14 – 15, 2014

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

Jamaican Lifestyle: One Love – A Jamaican Story of the life and sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada – Part 3

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

Article first posted on Live Beyond Yourself:

I have shared a bit of the history of how our church reached out to the Caribbean farm workers in our community, and how that led to my recent visit to Jamaica (http://timarnold1.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/one-love-a-jamaica-story-part-one-of-two/).  I also tried to explain the highlights of my Jamaican adventure – the awesome country and incredible people (http://timarnold1.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/one-love-a-jamaica-story-part-two-of-three/).

The last chapter in this story needs to focus on the workers themselves.  Who are these men that we see walking down the aisles of the grocery store on Friday night?  The guys we commonly see biking down the road weighed down with their shopping bags? The ones who are out in the fields picking fruit while wearing a heavy sweater and a toque in the middle of the hot summer.  What kind of lives do they lead?  Do they have family back at home?  Are they happy to be here working in Canada?

Thanks to Jane Andres for the photo

A year ago I wouldn’t have had a clue how to answer any of these questions.  Thankfully, through some unlikely friendships that developed throughout this past year, I have been able to grow in my understanding.  My recent time in Jamaica however, provided insight at a whole new level.  By living in their homes, spending time with their families, and having the men tour me through their communities, the picture became much more clear.

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

They Are Barrington – I was able to talk to Barrington while on my trip and learn of both the extreme highs and devastating lows in his life as of late.  For over 20 years he has been coming to Canada, each year with the main objective of allowing his daughters to experience the benefits of education and the opportunities it would provide.  Now both of his girls are young adults and one had just accepted a job as a medical doctor in the States, while the other is about to finish her university degree.  No man could be more proud of his girls.  At the same time, he is grieving.  The past year was the year that his wife lost her battle with cancer; and with him spending the majority of each year working in Canada, he primarily had to love and support her from afar.  Now he was trying to adapt to his new reality – a world where his girls had left the nest in such an awesome way, but this meaning that he had no one to come home to each year when the agricultural season in Canada was over.

These men experience real joy and pain.

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

Jamaican farm workers in Canada

They are Bunny – Bunny…“like the little rabbit,” as he always explains with a grin…has been coming to work in Niagara for 22 years.  He is a father of 3 and a grandfather of 5.  He drives cab when he is back in Jamaica each winter, and when I was there he took me everywhere I needed to go. Within no time it became clear that this man was known and loved in Jamaica!  We would be hours away from his house and he would still be constantly waving to men and women on the street who would respond by yelling, “Wah Gwann Bunny!” as we drove by.  He would just chuckle and say, “Everybody knows Bunny.”

Each day he would explain to me that we would depart in the morning, “after he dropped off his kids.” And every day around 3:00pm, he would leave me at his house for about an hour, explaining that he “had to pick up his kids.”  I assumed this was one of his actual children or grandchildren who needed a ride to work or to town.  But I was wrong.  One day, due to some ongoing car trouble (which is a whole other story), he told me he didn’t know how he was going to be able to drop me off in time so he could pick up his kids.  I told him that I’d be happy to go with him.  To that he laughed, and with a playful grin, asked me if I was sure…I wasn’t sure how to answer.  It turned out that “his kids,” were not his children or his grandchildren, but a mix of local kids from his mountain community who had to walk many miles each day to and from school in the hot sun.  He would pile them into his Toyota Camry hatchback – 14 of them in all – to save them the long, hard walk.  It was an experience I’ll never forget!

When I asked him if the neighbours paid him for this service, he almost seemed offended.  He explained to me how important it was that these kids get to school, and how he really enjoyed helping get them there each day.  This was something he did on his own dime and out of a good heart – every day without fail.

These men are kind-hearted and caring.

Marks House

Mark’s house…17 years and almost compete.

They are Mark – I stayed with Mark, his wife Janice and their three daughters for 3 nights while I was in Jamaica. What I experienced while living in their home was both humbling and inspiring.  Mark had been coming to Canada for close to 17 years.  The first year that he came, his oldest daughter was only a few months old.  Since the beginning, Mark has been crystal clear that “he won’t be one of these guys still coming up to Canada in his 60’s.”  He is determined to have his goals accomplished by his 50th birthday – his wife and three girls will all have college education, and he’ll renovate his house so that he can rent out the mail floor and live in the second.

Seventeen years into this plan, his wife is one credit away from her university degree, his 18 year old is in college, 14 year old is in the honour role at high school (and competing in track-and-field on a national level), and his 7 year old is thriving in elementary school.  He is also “one season” away from finishing the upper floor of his house with plans to move the family upstairs as soon as the 2014 agricultural season is over in Canada.  He’s doing well – or I should say “THEY” are doing well.

Mark’s family – Kimona, Chantoya, Janice & Latoya

He will tell you that the decision for him to come to Canada was made by both Janice and himself – as a long-term plan to change the future of their family.  He’ll also add that it’s been a team-effort ever since, saying, “every single morning I spend in Canada begins with a phone call to Janice.  She encourages me and helps me to stay focused.  I couldn’t do this without her.”

And it’s not like Mark takes a break during the three or four months that he’s home each year.  Beyond driving a cab and overseeing ongoing renovations in the house, he is deeply involved in his kid’s lives.  Each day the entire family wakes up at 3:30am and spends two hours studying.  They then gather for a time of “family devotion” where they read from the Bible, pray, and even sing together.   This leads to a quick breakfast and they’re out the door (before I normally even wake up).

While staying with Mark, I mused that if I took the opportunities and social privilege I have here in Canada and mixed it with the same amount of dedication and sheer hard work that this family exhibits every day – I’d be a millionaire many times over.

These men are hard working, focused and determined.

They Are Kevin – Kevin was one of the first workers I met last year, and has since that time become a good friend.   Both of us are 40 and both of us have two children, although his two are in their teens and mine are barely out of diapers.  He’s been coming to work in Canada for 14 years, each year to the same farm.  As you would expect, this has made his marriage very challenging at times, yet he’s still together and committed to his wife Sandra, who takes care of the household and the family farm while he’s away for 6 to 8 months each year.

Kevin on his home farm harvesting yams.

Kevin on his home farm harvesting yams.

When I arrived to his small-town called Wait-a-Bit (for real), and showed up to the door of his small cinderblock home, his son Orlando greeted me.  He was a 15-year-old Kevin; so similar in looks and stature, it was shocking.  Throughout the year, I had heard about his boy’s soccer games, school projects, colds and flus, and other things dads talk with other dads about, so to meet the family was quite special.

Kevin told me that for the last few years the boys get very upset and depressed when he has to go back to Canada, so he no longer tells them.  He just quietly packs his things after they are in bed, and heads to the airport without making a sound.  He says it’s easier for everyone if he does it this way.  I told him that I don’t know how he does it – that I find it hard to be away from my family for a few days – but Kevin is clear that this is the only way his boys can get an education and have opportunities that he never had.  That makes the 12-hour workdays, the 7-day workweeks, and even the loneliness, worth it for him.

These men make huge sacrifices.

One Love – Scripture would suggest that beyond loving God, the most important priority in life is to love our neighbour.  This isn’t too hard when our neighbours are a lot like us; when they come from similar backgrounds, watch the same TV shows we like to chat about, and share in things like church, kids sports, or book clubs.  However, the more ‘different’ our neighbours are, the easier it can be to ignore this commandment.  In fact, knowing our neighbour can be a challenge, much less loving them.  As a result, those in the neighbourhood who are the most different, often live in the margins.  They become ignored, excluded, and left out.

Thanks to Jane Andres for the photo.

One Love (a term often associated with Jamaica), refers to a universal love and respect for all people, regardless of race, religion and colour.   I believe that God put this “One Love” in all of our hearts, but as the years go by and we grow in our comfort, become content in our tribes, and are less aware of our fears, we lose touch with it.  It’s amazing – almost miraculous to me – how quickly we can reclaim our “one love” through the simplest of things:  By saying “hello” to the stranger walking by in the grocery store, offering a ride to the guy on his bike weighed down with shopping bags, or walking out to the field to take someone a glass of lemonade.

A year ago I didn’t know a single migrant farm worker, much less where they were from or what kind of lives they lived.  So much has changed in a year, and my life has become so much richer by having these unique neighbours as part of it.  Now I’m privileged to know that the man walking towards me in the grocery store on Friday night is Barrington, the guy biking down the road is Kevin, and the men out in the field are Bunny and Mark.  My neighbours and my friends.

One love,
We get to share it.
Leaves you baby, if you
Don’t care for it

–U2

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Let’s get together and feel all right.”
Bob Marley

Live Beyond Yourself

I have shared a bit of the history of how our church reached out to the Caribbean farm workers in our community, and how that led to my recent visit to Jamaica (http://timarnold1.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/one-love-a-jamaica-story-part-one-of-two/).  I also tried to explain the highlights of my Jamaican adventure – the awesome country and incredible people (http://timarnold1.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/one-love-a-jamaica-story-part-two-of-three/).

The last chapter in this story needs to focus on the workers themselves.  Who are these men that we see walking down the aisles of the grocery store on Friday night?  The guys we commonly see biking down the road weighed down with their shopping bags? The ones who are out in the fields picking fruit while wearing a heavy sweater and a toque in the middle of the hot summer.  What kind of lives do they lead?  Do they have family back at home?  Are they happy to be here working in Canada?

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One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

Jamaican Lifestyle: One Love – A Jamaican Story of the life and sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada – Part 2

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

Reblogged from Live Beyond Yourself:

As last year’s agricultural season came to an end and I had to say goodbye to my migrant worker friends who were returning home to Jamaica, it became clear that I needed to visit them.  There was an element to our friendships that seemed uneven – they’d gotten to know me by spending time in my home, hanging out with my friends and family, and taking part in lots of typical things we do here in Southern Ontario.  I, however, had only been able to see half of their life; the other half that included their home, culture, and families had only been relayed through stories and pictures.

My hope was that by taking advantage of a few of their countless hospitable offers, and staying in their homes as well as having them drive me from Point A to Point B (and points C through Z as it turned out), I’d be able to even out these friendships somewhat.  I’d be able to learn what could only be taught through experience.

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

This certainly happened, but the significance and impact of the trip would eclipse anything I could have imagined.

Let me start with just a few interesting things that stood out to me during my time in Jamaica:

Jamaica is Beautiful – no surprise here, but there is no that way my words or pictures could come close to doing it justice.  The royal blues and emerald greens of the ocean; the lush mountains and rolling countryside; the unimaginably perfect climate; and the people with hearts as big as their mile-wide smiles.  It’s beauty is extraordinary and everywhere.

Eating was a Very Dickens Experience:

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

The Best of Times – Even if a worker has a postage-stamp sized piece of land, they fill every square inch with trees, bushes and vines that produce fresh food every day.  When it was time for a meal, you just walked outside with a basket.  The mass array of exotic and tasty fruits and vegetables was amazing.  Beyond that, some of the stereotypical Jamaican foods like jerked chicken and meat patties were enjoyed at a whole new level when they were prepared and served on home-turf.

The Worst of Times – I really tried, but the local classic, “ackee and saltfish,” just didn’t work for me as the Jamaican breakfast of champions.  There was one other breakfast that involved a lot of fins, tails and bones that I’d prefer not to elaborate on as well.

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

Jamaicans Have a Cure for Everything – We were often in local markets and I was surprised that there seemed to be just as many vendors selling roots, spices, and herbs for medicinal purposes, as there were food vendors.  I learned that most Jamaicans don’t have easy access to a doctor and few can afford medical treatment even if they did; so they strongly rely on Mother Nature.  As the week progressed I learned of home remedies for nearly everything, and rarely a day went by that didn’t end with a cup of “fever-grass tea” as some preventative medicine.

Driving Caused My Faith To Grow – I heard stories all summer about the crazy, narrow, and winding roads of Jamaica, but I didn’t factor in the mach-speeds that they drive.  I’ve been carted around some pretty wild places from Ecuador to India, and I’ve only been car sick once in my life…until this trip.  I was graciously taken all over the island by a few of my friends who were cab drivers (when not working in Canada), so I had full confidence in them.  I had a little less confidence in their vehicles – all boasting around 500,000km of wear and tear (and quite a bit of duct-tape and rubber bands).  The highlight was a two-hour drive at night through the mountains, where despite my friends best attempts, he could not get his headlights to work.  It was two hours of my friend honking the horn, “just so they know we’re coming,” and two hours of me getting closer to God!

I’m Starting To Understand Wah Gwaan – Although all Jamaicans speak English, my friends normally converse in Patwah.  It’s a pretty fascinating language created in the 17th century when slaves from West and Central Africa were exposed to and learned of English spoken by their masters, and from this created their own language that they could use that their slave owners couldn’t understand.  The cool thing about it is that if my friends would slow things down for me, and you could actually hear what they were saying, it often wasn’t too hard to understand.  For example – “dah bredda (deh) mout ah massy eeh!” obviously means, “ that man (right there) is talkative, isn’t he?”OK, I got a bit of on-line help with that, but within a day or so I did find myself naturally greeting everyone with a “Wah Gwann” (what’s going on?), and ending our conversations with a “Lata” (later).

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

Jamaican Time is not Canadian Time – Although, in the end, I got everywhere I had hoped and was never stranded; I did quickly realize that “I’ll pick you up around 8:00am” actually means, “I’ll pick you up sometime.”  The first village I stayed in was called Coffee-Break Ridge.  The next place I visited was called Wait-a-Bit.  Enough said.

Jamaican’s Go To Church! – We went to church on Sunday…three times.  Actually it was pretty much all we did on Sunday.  It was a lively, active and expressive time of worship that I felt joyful and privileged to be a part of.  Word got out that I worked in a church, so to my surprise, I was asked to “come and give a word to the congregation.”  I preached three times that day, more than I’ve ever preached in my life :)

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica's Farm workers to Canada

One Love – A Jamaican Story of the sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada

Jamaican Houses are Homes – Most of my friends start out with a small one or two room cinderblock house.  They are built with rebar coming out the sides and the top so that they can continually add on…and they do.  Most men could show me how they had added to their homes each year with the money they brought home from Canada.  All the homes I stayed in had electricity but few had running water or any of the luxuries of home.  I did start out with a bit of Olympic-TV withdrawal, I missed getting my internet updates, and it took me a few days to get skilled at the morning sponge bath (using about 3 inches of water); but it became very clear to me that although all these houses were small and simple, they had what really mattered – hospitality, laughter, fun, family and love.

I had planned on this Jamaican story being two parts, but as you may have noticed in the title, it’s become a trilogy.  There is still a huge story to tell – the stories of my friends – their lives, their families, their struggles and their achievements.  These are the most important stories to tell and I feel that it would be irresponsible to rush or abbreviate them.  So I’ve decided to live in “Jamaican Time” and give the third and final blog the time it needs.

Until then…Lata!

Live Beyond Yourself

I’m sitting on a plane, flying over Cuba, on my way back to Canada.  My week in Jamaica has exceeded any expectations I could have had.  I am so full.  I think if I had to sum up what I’m feeling, it would be best described by a term I heard one of my Jamaican friends saying the other day – “pure good.”

kitsA year ago right now I didn’t know a single migrant farm-worker in Niagara; I didn’t know where they came from, how they lived, or what they were like.  I could have never imagined the significance of that cold evening, late last March, when a friend took me out to the back of a local fruit farm.  Our church had packed some “welcome kits” and we were there to hand them out to some farm workers who just arrived from Jamaica.  I remember how nervous and anxious…

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map of Jamaica

Jamaican Lifestyle: One Love – A Jamaican Story of the life and sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada – Part 1

Article first posted on Live Beyond Yourself: I’m sitting on a plane, flying over Cuba, on my way back to Canada.  My week in Jamaica has exceeded any expectations I could have had.  I am so full.  I think if I had to sum up what I’m feeling, it would be best described by a … Continue reading Jamaican Lifestyle: One Love – A Jamaican Story of the life and sacrifices of Jamaica’s Farm workers to Canada – Part 1

Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson: The Dirtiest Race in History

Reblogged from: That 1980s Sports BlogRichard Moore's account of the 100m final at the 1988 Olympics is perfectly planned, painstakingly researched and brilliantly toldWhen I started writing this blog eighteen months ago, there were numerous sporting events that immediately sprung to mind when I considered which topics to cover. One certainty was that at some … Continue reading Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson: The Dirtiest Race in History

Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012: Taking a closer look at the Displays

By: Denise N. Fyffe. Copyright © 2012, Poetess Defy, Denise N. Fyffe The  Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012 was kept for four nights, from the June 28 to July 1, 2012. It was hosted at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Polo Field inside Up Park Camp. The event was repeated each night to accommodate the large crowds who showed up to … Continue reading Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012: Taking a closer look at the Displays

Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012: Canada, Guyana, Bermuda, Trinidad, England, China, Jamaica Military and Constabulary displays

By: Denise N. Fyffe. Copyright © 2012, Poetess Defy, Denise N. Fyffe Jamaicans were in for a treat when they showed up in their thousands to experience the Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012 taking place at Up Park Camp. The visual and musical feast provided a plethora of cultural and military displays; including sea rescue, fire rescue, hostage … Continue reading Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012: Canada, Guyana, Bermuda, Trinidad, England, China, Jamaica Military and Constabulary displays