By Jennifer Brunet
As I wrap up my 6-month internship here in Jamaica, I look towards the national anthem as an accurate and powerful one-line message. The land of Jamaica is a place I have grown to become particularly fond of. A place I will consider my second home. Each day has been filled with many lessons that will be beneficial beyond work. From the first day we arrived until the day of our departure, each day I continue to learn about working in sexual and reproductive rights, the delicious delicacies and fruits of Jamaica, the history and landscape of the island, the culture, and so much more. Aside from work, a few of my favourite things about Jamaica have been the beautiful mountainous views, the musical culture, and of course, the jerk chicken. So for my last blog post I have decided to write a little more about these said favourite things about Jamaica.
Firstly, the spectacular views that the mountainous island produces are out of this world. I am from a relatively flat part of Canada so to live in a place where mountains can be seen from everywhere on the island is incredibly breathtaking. During the day the green peaks are a true sight of beauty to the nighttime views of lights up all in the mountains. I never get sick of looking at this, despite the driving through the windy mountain roads that produces an alternate type of sickness (motion sickness). Recently, Georgia, Manal, some local friends, and myself hiked Blue Mountain. It was a truly incredible experience. It takes about 3 hours uphill at a decent pace and 2 hours downhill. The journey to get to the hike start point is a fun and interesting one in itself from local busses to a check in at the local police station to a ride slightly up the mountain in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Along the hike up there is coffee plantations for world famous “Blue Mountain Coffee” and different plants and wildlife to be seen. The coolest part of the hike to me was the fact that this hike crosses two different parishes. The Blue Mountain is spread across two parishes. I think of parishes as like the province of the island. It is said that on clear days that Cuba can be seen from the peak (2256m), although we have heard that is only possible one or two days a year.
My next favourite thing about Jamaica is the musical culture. From reggae, to dancehall, to SOCA, you can never go wrong. There is great music coming from sound systems just about everywhere. February happens to be Reggae month in honour of the legend Bob Marley’s birthday. It’s incredible to see how music brings people together here. It is also spectacular to see the incredible dancing abilities of Jamaicans. For reggae month, there are many live concerts and events that are often free. We were lucky enough to attend Redemption Live, which was a free concert in Half Way Tree (a huge transport center in Kingston) in celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday. Some of the artists that performed were Ky-Mani Marley, Beenie Man, Capleton, Richie Spice, Kabaka Pyramid, Garnet Silk Jr, Jah9, Tifa, Ikaya, and Devin di Dakta. The dancehall and SOCA music is extremely catchy and very hard to resist breaking out a dance move to.
Lastly, my most favourite thing about Jamaica is the jerk chicken. Jerk chicken refers to how the chicken is seasoned and cooked. The jerk is traditionally cooked over pimento wood fires. Pimento is a type of wood that gives it the proper jerk flavor. The jerk is often cooked in a big large drum cut in half and made into a smoker. These can be found on the streets all over and jerk chicken is never too far from reach thankfully! The spices that the chicken is marinated in are ground pimento, ground/chopped scotch bonnet peppers (this gives it the perfect spicy kick), thyme, salt, pepper, garlic, scallions, and small bit of brown sugar. Individual chefs have their secret ingredients, methods, and variations that they use when cooking which adds for delicious surprises here and there. All I can say is I have never had a bad piece of jerk chicken – it is always delicious!
Overall, 6 months in Jamaica has been an excellent experience. The life lessons have been wonderful and the work experience has been equally as beneficial. Although I am not Jamaican, I posted this picture in my first blog post but I feel as if now I understand this sign even more: “Proud to be Jamaican."
The things I have learned and the relationships I have built will be something I cherish forever and I am sad to be leaving.
Thank you Jamaica – Land We Love!
Jennifer Brunet is working as a Health Promotions Manager with Jamaica Family Planning Association/FAMPLAN in Jamaica.