Monday, August 19, 2013

Drawing to a close


I should by apologizing for the delay in me getting around to writing another update. When I was at Silchester there was very little time to get on the Internet and write anything up, so I got a wee bit lax. Once I’d left Silchester I linked up with some friends from Perth (more on that later in this post), which also left me with precious little time. Nevertheless, I’m currently having a few days to myself in Berlin, so I’ve got loads of time to fill everyone in on what I’ve been up to over the past month or so.

I think my last post left me with three weeks to go at Silchester. These seemed to flash past even faster than the first although I had some really awesome times. Highlights include the Pirate Party, held at the local pub and the 9th Annual Insula IX Beer Festival. The beer festival was particular fun; even trying to organize the whole thing was wicked. We went on trips out to breweries and cideries out in the countryside, collecting all the necessary bits and pieces. On the day, there were 6 different ciders available (including Devil’s Device, an 8% nightmare) as well as 6 different beers. There was also a selection of cocktails for those who fancied something a bit different. Consider the archaeologically themed Sex in the Trench (Sex on the Beach), Site Brushin’ (White Russian) and Excavators (Aviators).
The bar, stocked and ready
I was working as staff at the event, which was really good fun, although due to the fact that the bar opened at 6, and most people didn’t start drinking until 7:30/8, there was an hour or so where the staff didn’t have much to do except drink. Needless to say the night got quite messy, summed up I think, by my getting lost on the way back to my tent in the middle of the night and casually hopping into bed with one of the supervisors, who was woken up noticing that her doona was being slowly edged away to her right. She looked across at her boyfriend, realized he was asleep on her left and then looked to her right to discover yours truly making myself comfortable. Thankfully she was a good sport about it. gave me a handful of jellybeans and put me to bed.

Hard at work
The archaeology was also pretty exciting for the past three weeks; we put a lot of work in on the late-Roman house we were excavating, uncovering some really cool stuff underneath the floor layers. Unfortunately I can’t divulge too much, but needless to say it was all very satisfying and if you want to find out more you can check out the Silchester blog here, which features photos (including some of me apparently) and updates, letting everyone know what’s been going on through the season.

As the season drew to a close I had to say goodbye to everyone on the 4th of August and headed into London to link with Michael Gunson and Mitchell Hawke, with Benjamin Simms joining us later that afternoon. The reunion was, as expected, heartwarming and pretty loose. Thanks to Gunson’s next level twitter game we managed to find a sick little night called Jamz that was running at a club in Dalston, called Alibi. The line up was pretty excellent, including Champion, PJam and Terror Danjah, and to top it all off it was free!

Reunited
Upon arriving in Dalston we were lucky enough to stumble across this tiny little bar/restaurant underneath a theatre (also right across from the NTS radio studios) that served amazing food while a jazz quartet provided some smooth jams. It was something of an interesting musical juxtaposition starting the night off with jazz before moving onto a grime night, but it all seemed to work out in the end. Jamz was awesome, although pretty empty for the majority of the night, apart from the DJs and the four of us, there may have been only another 4 people in the room for most of the night. Nevertheless it was wicked to catch up with the guys and go to a gig, something I’d been craving since I left Perth in March.
The jazz quartet
 The rest of the week was a chilled affair; we just did a lot of shopping and bar hopping throughout London during the day. Going record shopping with the guys was pretty heartbreaking for me as I don’t have the luggage space to accommodate any records, and I won’t have a record player waiting for me in Denmark unfortunately, so having to sit back and just browse while everyone else picked up some wicked tunes was something akin to torture.

Thursday night was another big one, we were headed to FWD to see Joker, Gemmy, Starkey and Darq E Freaker. On the way we linked up with some more Perth crew such as Dellity and proceeded to get extremely drunk and then go crazy up the front of the club for the majority of the night. Highlights include both Gunson and I rewinding tunes from in front of the decks, Gunson and Simmsy somehow managing to get up behind the decks to chill with the DJs and my daggering secret being let out of the bag.

The next day was something akin to a nightmare as we realized the truly monumental 48 hours we had in store for ourselves. Having barely recovered from FWD, we forced ourselves out to go to Fabric on Friday night. The lineup was pretty solid, including Kode9, Simian Mobile Disco, Route 94 and a NTS Radio takeover in room three. My personal highlight was the sound in room 2, which was absolutely massive, some of the tunes that Kode9 dropped occasionally stayed perhaps a bit too far into trap-esque territory for me, but on the whole everything was wicked. At 7am we made our way back to the hostel to collect our things, before we went to sit in a park and await our 10am bus to Amsterdam.

Post Fabric, pre bus
Words cannot describe the horror that was that 10-hour bus ride. To be honest its mostly a blur until about an hour before we got into Amsterdam, but I can remember at one point being driven insane by the loud chatter of a group of girls who got on the bus at Brussels and decided that everyone on the bus needed to hear exactly what they thought about every single detail of the current series of ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.’ Thankfully I could barely summon the energy to maintain my vital functions; otherwise blood may have been shed.  

Nevertheless, we made it to our hostel in Amsterdam ok and thankfully managed to find a Thai restaurant that would serve us at 10pm. Suffice to say I have never enjoyed a Massaman curry more. Amsterdam on the whole was a pretty chill experience; we were staying a little bit out of the centre so our hostel wasn’t too crazy. I also got some really good tips from Whistla as to some good coffeeshops to check out. We spent a lot of our time at Hill Street Blues, which I can heartily recommend to anyone who goes to Amsterdam, even just for the music alone. We heard some excellent hip hop, UKG and even jungle (they seem to love drum and bass in Amsterdam from what I can gather).

The line at the Grey Area
At the moment I’m in Berlin, staying in a nice hostel in Kreuzberg called the Three Little Pigs. I was lucky enough to get in contact with a promoter here who told me about a few gigs that are going on this week in Berlin, so I met up with him last night and we checked out a cool little local bar before going to a club called Gretchen to see the Low End Theory’s Berlin takeover. The gig itself was awesome, I got to see Daddy Kev, Kutmah, NoCanDo, DJ Nobody and D-Styles and each of them killed it. To top it off Mene was an excellent host and was only too happy to fill me in on a whole lot of aspects of Berlin’s music scene.

I unfortunately was unable to make it to Berghain during the time I was here. There was a great lineup on Friday, but the thought of trekking across the city by myself to wait in line for an hour to then get turned away was too big a risk. As it is, I’ve also found that bouncers for some reason take an instant dislike to me (for reason as yet unknown), let alone ones who are famous across the globe for not letting people in. Berlin has been a wicked city though, I definitely will be making it back here.

Mene on the decks, I had my first mix in 5 months here!!
Well that’s about all I can manage for now, I’ll try my best to write a bit more regularly once I’m in Denamrk. I’ve got Shambala festival and Notting Hill Carnival coming up in the next week, along with some reunions with old friends so expect anecdotes and shenanigans aplenty!!
Until then, I’ll leave you with this, a track off a record that saw in a charity shop and I dearly wanted to purchase but was unable to (although I will find this record again, mark my words)

 


Friday, July 12, 2013

Digging holes


Sorry about the delay in getting a new post up, the internet has been somewhat hard to come by during the last couple of weeks, for reasons that will be explained shortly.
Since my last post, I am (obviously) no longer in Jamaica, since I left I've been spending my time in the United Kingdom and so this post will pretty much be dealing with what I've been up to since then.

Having left Jamaica I got the opportunity to spend some time in what is definitely my favourite city in the world, London. After spending some time tracking down the key to a family friend's apartment in Chelsea I was free to go and enjoy myself. After treating myself to a new pair of shoes (my red nikes were donated to the shelter) I returned home to enjoy two things that I hadn't had the opportunity to enjoy in three months: an artisan brie and a bottle of Chilean red wine.

The next day I had the opportunity to attend FWD, which was awesome, but more importantly I also managed to catch up with an old friend (we've known each other for around about 20 years) that I hadn't seen in a log long time. The actual meeting itself came about quite innocently, following a facebook on the bus that went a little something like this:

Luke: Mate where are you?
Me: London at the moment dude, how about yourself?
Luke: Motherfucker. Where are you staying and what are you doing? I'm here too!
Me: Oh shit no way!!!
Luke: Way.
A well stocked tent
Needless to say, the night was pretty messy. Highlights included the bouncer at FWD being presented with about 7 or 8 WA drivers licenses at once (out to Dan Arrigoni, Rhys and Dellity on this one), meeting Zinc, Skream and Sgt. Pokes, some fantastic kebab bread, and, hearing what sounded like the Newham Generals over a house track (which, by the way, I still don't know. Anyone who wants to help out with that, please get in touch).

The next day was an absolute joy as well. I got to link with anoher group of friends I hadn't seen in a while, one of who was also quite unexpectedly. It was such an awesome feeling being on the other side of the world but at the same time feeling totally at home because of my wonderful friends. In addition I also got to go to pub that had the same decor it had in 1888, meet my first Bassett Hound (which are massive and very excitable as it turns out, not at all like Fred) and see RIP Productions DJ, which was definitely one to tick off the bucket list. Huge thanks have to go out to Whistla and Shannon for their hospitality as well.

So after some extremely awesome times I headed out of London to do what it was that I had actually come to the UK to do: Archaeology. For those who don't know, my actual job/passion involves digging very old things out of the ground and trying to understand them. To this end I returned to an excavation that I spent some time at in 2009, at the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum. To be honest, I can't actually write up too much about it here as it's still a (relatively) unpublished site for the most part and it's not really my place to be revealing too much. If you'd like to find out more about the town and the history of the excavations there however, as well as some of the things that they've brought up, you can check it here.
Tools of the trade
The dig has been fantastic so far though, I've had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends (something of a theme so far), do some amazing archaeology, and also do a lot of drinking (again, something of a theme). Living in a tent has been something of a challenge I guess, but at least this time I don't have to deal with any crabs. The whole Silchester experience is actually really amazing, and to be honest it has probably ruined archaeology for me as no dig will really ever come close to what it's like working in Insula IX. monday nights are usually quite quiet, although we had Morris dancing at the local pub last week, Tuesdays are quiz nights, Wednesday is ultimate frisbee in the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, Thursday is loose party night, Friday is recovery, Saturday is another loose party night and Sunday, much like Friday, is a recovery day/evening. It perhaps sounds a bit lame when related through text, but being able to spend my days excavating a Roman town and then party with like minded people in the evening for 5 weeks straight is just such an awesome opportunity and I'm so lucky to be able to indulge my passions in this way.
Excavation at Insula IX
On that note I might wrap things up as its getting a bit late here and I need to curtail my bar tab. I'll leave on a tune that I heard on Tuesday night at a wine and cheese party that we had to celebrate the birthday of one of the supervisors. Suffice to say disco was the soundtrack of the evening and if you haven't yet had to opportunity to indulge in fine wine, artisan cheese and disco music while sitting in a tent outside the ruins of a Roman town, I would highly recommend the experience.
Until next time!
            

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Post-Jamaica



Sorry this one took so long to put up, I’ve had a fair bit to come to terms with and think about regarding the the past three months and it’s taken a wee while to sink in. Thankfully I’ve found that writing helps with the process, so sit back, relax, and enjoy a rare glimpse into the inner workings of my mind over the rest of this post.

I suppose I should begin with an insight into my first thoughts, reactions and recollections of the beginning of my time in Jamaica. It’s hard to speak about my first impressions upon arrival, landing as I did late at night, but I can definitely relate my impressions in the days that followed.

To be honest it’s hard to say what I expected. I had no real idea what kind of a country Jamaica was going to be like and whether or not it would meet these unformed expectations. The poverty, however, really came as a shock to me. I’m going to tread a thin line when dealing with this topic, as I’m very aware that there is the potential to sound preachy in the following paragraph, nevertheless I’ll do my best to avoid anything like that and just relate my own thoughts on the subject.

I don’t think anything I had seen in Australia could have prepared me. Even in Bali there was definitely a lot of poverty, however during my time there I never got the opportunity to go out of the tourist areas, and thus it might not have been so obvious. There are a couple of points that I would make about the whole situation, that I think can kind of give an idea of what I was faced with.



Firstly, although the work I was undertaking was working with ‘homeless’ people, to look at some of the homes that people lived in around Port Antonio and Boston, by all accounts they would be considered ‘homeless’ as well in Australia. Quite often what passed for a house was a few bits of wooden board nailed together with a corrugated iron roof, held down by cement bricks. This leads on to my next observation that Jamaica, while a poor country, is not as bad as lot of other places on earth. This of course made me think about what life must be like in those places?

At times it was extremely confronting when I visited the houses of friends that I’d made to see where they lived. I won’t lie, it made me feel quite guilty or ashamed that I, as a volunteer, was living in conditions that were far better than what people who were living in Jamaica and working would experience.

I suppose what it revealed to me was how much I’d been taking for granted which, I think, is the biggest thing I’m going to take away from my time there so far. I won’t descend into a patronising diatribe about how the Jamaican people made me realize how happy I could be with very little, because that would be a lie and I think it would cheapen the actual struggle that so many people I met had to go through. What was significant for me was the realization that I was actually so very lucky and that I don’t even realize it. My barometer in this regard was often looking at the ABC news website and tearing my hair out in frustration at some of the issues that were brought up in the news as things to complain about.



At the moment I’m starting to stray a little too far into the preachiness that I’d promised I’d avoid, so I’ll end this particular thread by stating some simple facts. The minimum wage in Jamaica is roughly $50 Australian a week, and the staff at the shelter would sometimes make less that that. I received, on average, 21 meals a week, each worth around $5 Australian (based on the prices for similar meals in the Great Huts menu), and my accommodation was valued at $50 Australian per night. It’s kind of hard to take things for granted with those figures in mind.

Of course, this paints a pretty bleak picture regarding my stay, and writing a wrap up of the three months you’ve spent anywhere should focus on the positive things as well, but I just felt that it was necessary to relate some of my experiences regarding what was such a phenomenal shock for me. I’m not suggesting in any way that I’m a saint either, of course there’s going to be a selfish element involved in any endeavor like this, but I really would like to think that in addition to the help that I gave while here in Jamaica, its changed me enough that in future I will continue helping people. I’m reluctant to use showy, self-congratulatory terms like ‘life-changing experience’ or ‘once in a lifetime trip,’ but I sincerely feel that the past three months have left me a different person.



I met some wonderful people through my work; the staff at PRM just blew me away with their dedication to their job and their tireless efforts to help the people staying at the shelter. I feel so lucky to be able to call them my friends. The same can be said for the other volunteers: Danielle, Ifechi, Imani, Jackie, Lindsay, Sophia and Steffi made my stay so enjoyable through their friendship, and I’m sure that we will remain friends for a very long time.

I was lucky enough to make a large number of Jamaican friends while I was there and I felt so privileged to be welcomed into the communities surrounding the area where I was working. Gayleon, Kevin and Thea made me feel so welcome and I can’t thank them enough for the hospitality and care they showed me. Whether it was Gayleon organizing for me to DJ with his soundsystem or Kevin coming and checking up on me in the morning if he wasn’t sure I had made it home safely, it made me feel at home even though I was on the other side of the world.



I’ll finish by saying that if you can, please take the time to check out the Shetlter’s website at www.prmhomeless.org you can donate there and I can say with my hand on my heart that the money will go directly where it is needed, and your donation will make a genuine difference to the life of someone. I’m going to keep this blog up as I have a whole load more travels ahead of me. However, expect a slightly more archaeological them for the next 5 weeks at least, as I’m going to be living in a field excavating the Roman town of Silchester with the University of Reading.



To finish, I thought I’d share the following with all of you. It’s a mix that used to play pretty regularly in my friend Thea's bar and thus its pretty much the soundtrack to my whole trip in Jamaica. I don't know who it's by as the the CD just had 'MixMaster' written on it and there were no track titles but please feel free to listen and enjoy.

http://www.mediafire.com/download/m222wwtc9e4uhpo/MixMaster.zip

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mo'Bay

Although it's my last night here as I write this, I've decided to hold off a final sum up of my time in Jamaica until tomorrow, probably when I'm in Miami, to give it a bit of time to sink in. This means, of course, that I need something else to write about. Thankfully I've had a blast over the last four days in Montego Bay and it's supplied me with a whole swag of stuff.

My arrival in Montego was pretty standard, although I got more of a sense of scale of the place this time, I also saw a massive cruise ship which was pretty impressive and gave an idea of the numbers of people that must pass through there. Of Montego Bay town itself I didn't actually end up seeing a lot. The place where I was staying was a little bit out of the main town but this, as with the Judy House in Negril,  made it so much better.

The Bird's Nest

On the bus ride from Negril to Montego Bay I had been thinking a bit about my plan to see Ocho Rios and the accommodation I had booked there. It was going to cost me a fair bit, almost twice what I was paying in Montego Bay, and for all I knew it could just be me staying there by myself. The hostel in Montego Bay had at least one person staying there (Susanna, a Swedish girl I had met in Negril) and I was actually craving a bit of hostel time, as it was the first time I've had the chance to do so alone since I left Perth. As I result I starting thinking more and more about just staying in Montego Bay for four days and chilling out.

When I first got to the hostel I pretty well immediately decided that this would be a good idea. It had its own pool, a fair few guests (who were all really nice) and the first Australians I'd seen in nearly 3 months, surprisingly enough (although that wasn't the reason I decided to stay). So once I'd settled into my room, where my top bunk had the most amazing view, I wandered down to the nearby supermakret to buy supplies for the next four days. It was actually bizarrely exciting buying things to cook for myself for the first time in 3 months, although perhaps my shopping list (baked beans, bammies, 2 minute noodles, rum and assorted snack foods) could have been a little more highbrow.  For the rest of the day I chilled out, chatted with the other guests, had a few drinks, read a book, swam and enjoyed my dinner of bammies with baked beans (I should point out that bammies are small dumplings made from cassava that can be fried or boiled).

Some of the crew at the Bird's Nest

The next day I had absolutely nothing planned except to do whatever came to me. After breakfast the owner offered to take me to the beach where she and a couple of guests would be kitesurfing, so I tagged along with the intention of chilling out at the beach, reading, writing and whatever else took my fancy. It turned out to be a wonderful day, there was a really nice little bar where I spent the day chilling out in the shade and doing precisely what I'd intended.

Friday was set to be something of a different beast. Susanna had informed us that Friday would be midsummer, which is apparently a really big holiday in Sweden. As a result we all decided that we should have our own midsummer party at the hostel. Although we were short on a number of midsummer essentials (schnapps and strawberry cakes) we made up for it with our stick-to-itiveness, senses of humour and rum. Later on after partying heartily in the hostel we headed to the famous club Pier 1 and continued the party there. The following picture may give some idea of the kind of night it was.

Saturday was my last night and after the escapades of the previous evening I had planned to take it pretty easy. On the advice of Jordan I had made plans to check out the jerk restaurant Scotchies, and Saturday night seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. We got there pretty easily and the food was actually quite affordable, I had been expecting it to be a bit pricier as it was a pretty touristed place, but the prices were comparable to Boston. I had some jerk pork, festivals, sweet potato and roast breadfruit, all washed down with a red stripe.

Dinner at Scotchies

Once again, things took a turn for the worse. It was soon revealed that we still had a goodly amount of rum left over from the night before, also that a whole load of new people had arrived in the hostel and wanted to party. The same group of people were also handing out free shots. This night was not as out of control of the night before, although it did offer some of my favourite memories of my time at the Bird's Nest.

I was slighlty less than impressed at my choices the previous evening when I woke up and had to start packing and check out. This increased to extremely unimpressed when I had to start carrying my pack down to the main road in the blazing heat. Here, however, I had a real stroke of luck. A guy was driving past in a massive truck and asked if I needed a lift to Montego Bay, I gratefully accepted and arrived a head of schedule at the busport, all the while in air conditioned comfort. To top it off when I pulled out money to pay the guy, he didn't want any! A nice little send off from Montego Bay I thought.

Last night was very subdued, just having one last night with everyone in Boston and doing some reminiscing. Tomorrow I fly out so tonight I think I'm just going to take it easy and get an early nights sleep. I'll finish off with this mix that I've been hearing all over Jamaica at the moment, its by that guy I posted about a bit earlier on, Chronixx. Enjoy!

    




Friday, June 21, 2013

A Quick Note

(I wrote this in the half hour I had at the bus terminal until my connection to Montego Bay arrived)

I thought I'd write up a little wrap up of my time in Negril

I mentioned it before, but the touristy nature of this place is really overwhelming. I understand that this is a tourist town, but even so I was really unprepared for what it was going to be like. To be honest, part of me wonders whether I would have been better served spending my first week or two travelling Jamaica and then starting work in Port Antonio and not the other way round. 

Perhaps I've turned into something of a 'Jamaica Snob?' After having such a great time in Port Antonio and really immersing myself into life there, maybe nothing was going to measure up. 

That's not to say that it's been all bad here of course. I had such a wonderful time with Lindsay, Danielle and Imani, and although we had a few sketchy experiences, the whole trip was really good fun (although the fact that the water park was closed on Monday and we couldn't go was pretty heartbreaking).

In the same vein, staying at the Judy House hostel over the past two days was a really positive experience. The owner, Sue, was such a lovely lady and very willing to help out showing you good places to go and such. I also met some really lovely people there and we had a great trip out to see Mayfield Falls yesterday. It's a pity that perhaps we didn't all book to stay at the hostel from the beginning, but you live and learn I suppose.

I'm looking forward to Montego Bay, apparently the hostel I'm staying at is very nice and it turns out that one of the girls I met at Judy House is going to be there too. My plan on the whole is probably just to chill out, do some reading and write some beats. I also promised Jordan that I'd go to Scotchies Jerk Centre so that will be on the cards too I think. After that its on to Ocho Rios for another couple of nights, before I head back to Boston and then onto Kingston and the UK.

I don't know that I'd come back to Negril to be honest, maybe it seems like paradise to some, but it's just not really my cup of tea. That said, I think that its definitely made me realise how lucky I've been to be a part of the volunteer program and the side of Jamaica that its allowed me to see.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Coming to a Close

Sorry about the delay in getting this post up, the past few days have been pretty crazy with travelling, visits to waterfalls and a bunch of other stuff.
At the moment I'm staying at the one for the road hostel, just enjoying the evening, listening to this mix by Dave Harvey and Christophe and contemplating the past week or so while being eaten alive by small insects.

Friday was my last day at the shelter, and it also turned out to be the day that we took the clients to Reach Falls with the money that had been raised in the cake sale, so it turned out to be a really nice send off as well. Reach Falls was really spectacular, and we had such a good time there. There was a picnic and then we spent a while swimming in the falls and jumping off rocks and things of that nature. After that we had a little group session where everyone said goodbye to me and it was quite sad, I was particularly moved when one of the clients told me that he was really glad that I was his friend now.

Reach Falls
I think I'll save my big introspective look at my time at the shelter until I leave Jamaica and write it up as part of my overall experience, but I can definitely say that my time there was so rewarding and really affected me in ways I didn't realise at times. There were a large number of challenges but I think it was so much more valuable for that reason. Things like having to deal with some serious mental illnesses for the first time, or even just the communication barrier that really thick patois created for example, really made an impact on me, although one that I think is definitely positive.

Anyway the girls and I came to Negril on Saturday (leaving at 3am in the morning so we could catch a 7am conecting bus) and I've been here since. The girls left earlier this afternoon, but I'm staying for two more nights, before I'll head to Montego Bay and probably Ocho Rios. Negril has been a very interesting experience so far, we've had some very good times here, but at the same time there have been a few lowlights too.
Underwater antics
The biggest thing that really threw us was just how touristy it is here. Prices are so expensive and there are so many really average restaurants selling 'western' food for extortionate prices. It really boggles the mind sometimes when you think what people will happily pay lots of money for and consider it good. The level of hustling that you experience is also out of control. Obviously I try to step back and understand that for a lot of people its the only way they can feed themselves, but sometimes it can really wear you down.

That's not to say that we haven't had good times, we've found some amazing little gems of restaurants and we've had some really cool evenings too. Saturday night we went to a club called Jungle, where entry was inclusive of all drinks, and girls got in for free between 9 and 10. This meant that by splitting the price of my entry, the four of us managed to have unlimited drinks for close to 5 hours for the price of $4 each.

Things got pretty loose, and then got really weird as well. We ended up going to an afterparty at a massive club with strippers (not to be confused with a strip club) which was cool, but on leaving the guy who had taken us there got really upset with one of the girls because she had refused to dance with him. What followed was an extremely awkward five minutes as we sat in the car outside of our hotel and this guy ranted. Eventually we just had to get out of the car, because it didn't look like he was going to stop. Last night was also a lot of fun, drinking in the hot tub in the place where we were staying and just generally drinking a large quantity of rum.

Reach Falls
Tomorrow I'm going to be going to check out some other waterfalls, which should be pretty awesome, then its on to Montego Bay for a couple of days. I'm hoping it won't be as hectically touristy there, but I guess we'll just see. I'll end on this video of a group of guys from the UK called The Oddysee that I was introduced to by a friend, they make some seriously wicked UK hip hop, enjoy!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Movement

So, after nearly 10 weeks, I'm finally fulfilling (at least what I imagine to be) the blogger/traveller stereotype and updating this blog from an internet cafe. The primary reason for this is what's going to take up the majority of this post.

The smallest lizard I have ever seen (although it's not the reason I'm writing from an internet cafe)

I'm no longer staying at Great Huts. 

I'd love to be able to give some sort of scandalous reason as to why this may the case, elicit love affairs, crazy parties or wanton nudity for example, however I'm afraid I must disappoint you.  The reason for this is not a scandal, however it does contain scandalous elements. Basically the resort has been fully booked by a group that is composed of university students who practice music as therapy for people with mental illnesses and other issues.

They've been visiting Great Huts for about six years apparently, and it's within the reports of these earlier years that I heard from the staff that is where the story gets scandalous. Most years the group is supposedly composed almost entirely of 18-24 year old female university students. This year for example, the group of fifty contains only two guys. Now, as you can imagine with a group of young university students (who all of sudden can drink legally as well I'll point out), shit gets crazy loose.

I'm not joking when I say crazily loose either, apparently last year girls were climbing the resort's fences  to go out and drink and see guys because they were padlocking the gates at 7pm. Also apparently a whole bunch went home pregnant!!! Staff at the resort apparently aren't even allowed to talk to the group members, much less hang out with them. So on the whole it sounds like some sort of musical prison camp.

As a result, as the only male volunteer, my presence at the huts is entirely unwelcome. I'm told as well that even the presence of the other volunteers is only just being tolerated by the people running the group. There is something of a bright side however, I've been given my own house to stay in! No more crabs, no more lizard poo on my clothes, and tiles on the floor instead of sand!!

My new home
There are some drawbacks, notably that getting my meals becomes a bit more of an effort, requiring taxi trips and such. That said, I found a really good cook-shop up the road that will actually sell me a meal for less than the price of my taxi fares to and from Great Huts so I may just go there. The other downside is the lack of internet. It's not the biggest loss in the world, but the inconvenience of now having to go to internet cafes and plan my internet time is a bit less appealing.

Other than that, things are going well, I'm busily planning my travels here in Jamaica, with all my accommodation booked for the places I'm going. The plan is to head to Negril on the 15th with Lindsay, Danielle and Imani, where I'll stay until the 19th, before going to Montego Bay for a couple of days, then on to an eco/spiritual retreat run by a girl I met in Kingston, before one last night in Boston, then Kingston for my flight home.  



 Shelter-wise we have a big excursion planned for the clients using some of the funds raised by the cake sale which will also be on my last day at the shelter so that should be a really nice send-off I think. We're going to go and check out Reach Falls, which are a really impressive set of waterfalls about an hour out of Port Antonio.

An on that note I'll finish, however, in an attempt to establish a kind of regular thing, I'll leave you guys with some more music. This one is a really nice track by an artist called Chronixx, who is supposedly being touted as the next Bob Marley. I was introduced to him at my friend Thea's bar, by the leader of the local community group, who bought me a drink before insisting I watch his dance moves which, he claimed, he 'didn't need to go to university to get.' I hope you enjoy.

   

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Downpours

As I write this, the sun is finally showing its face for an extended period of time for the first time in a nearly a week. It makes a really pleasant change as the past week has been the first time that I've ever experienced tropical rain (we never really got storms that bad when I was working in the Pilbara), and I've got to say that it can be pretty epic. Imagine the most torrential downpour that you've ever experienced in Perth, then multiply both its intensity and duration. Several days in a row I needed to put my shoes in the clothes dryer after getting home from work...

One of the biggest issues that the rain caused as well was a real disruption of the cake sale that had been planned for Wednesday last week, to raise funds for the shelter. Steffi, Lindsay and Danielle had planned a whole stall set up thing, as well as cruising around town in a van selling the cakes, as well as dropping off cakes to people who'd bought tickets previously. Unfortunately it rained all day on Wednesday, meaning that the stall idea went totally out of the window and it was nigh-on impossible to sell cakes to passers-by on the streets as everyone who was out and walking had only one thing on their mind: getting where they were going as quickly and dryly as possible.

I was on duty at the shelter to keep an eye on things while the girls tried to sort out the cakes, and I made it my duty to boost morale by reminding that their day could be going a whole lot worse...

Which leads me to my next point/the other significant event that was occurring that day, the culling of some of the shelter's chickens. They're actually know as 'broilers' apparently, which I guess gives some indication of their prospects in life. If you're named after a method of cooking, you probably don't have a lot of hope. Thankfully I didn't have to to take part in the actual killing/plucking/de-gutting however the task that was designated to me was the skinning of the chicken's feet.

Now I have to admit that his was a new task for me, I didn't even realise that chicken's feet needed to be skinned before consumption (although to be honest my knowledge about chicken's feet both culinarily and biologically is quite limited). I will say that it was definitely an experience however. The hardest bit was probably getting the skin off of the actual leg, you literally had to scrape and scrape with your fingernail to remove the outer coating(?), although once you got down to the toes it was definitely a lot easier. I would also like to point out that preceding sentence was one that I never thought I would need to write. Ever.

But to return to the cake sale, my motivational techniques for uplifting the girl's spirits were thus, repeated reassurance that "I know today is hard, but there are definitely some chickens out there that are having a way worse day than you guys."

Jokes aside it did make me think a fair bit. Ever since seeing a few scenes in the films Baraka and Samsara that dealt with chickens and chicken factories I've been questioning whether or not I want to subscribe to that industry. Certainly the small chicken coop that is run by a homeless shelter to provide food and some funding is a different kettle of fish, but even seeing the chickens themselves that are used, they don't really look like normal chickens compared to the egg laying ones. If I'm honest with myself I don't think I bring myself to join in on the culling of the chickens. So I don't know, I guess I've got to do a bit of soul-searching, but in the end I suppose there's already been a bit of that on this trip so a bit more probably won't hurt.

It's also starting to hit home that I'm going to be finishing up here pretty soon. I've booked some accommodation for Negril for next Saturday (at a guest house that includes it's own clothing-optional beach) and from there I'm going to spend 10 days or so travelling around the parts of Jamaica I haven't been yet, which basically means that this is my second-last week at the shelter. That said, I've still got a lot to look forward to over the next few months so I think that will temper my sadness at leaving a bit.

I think that's it for now, I'll leave on an album that I've been listening to and enjoying/absolutely loving over the past few days so as not to end on a sad note. If you don't know about the Dub Side of the Moon, get to know....