Sunday, December 18, 2011

A View from the Land of Wood and Water

Lovers Leap. The beautiful sunset, reggae music, farm animals and delicious foods. The soothing sounds of water rushing over the rocks at Noisy River; The lively sounds of Lititz and Junction; The laughter and chatter of farmers from Carish Brook as they reap their peanuts. Now, stop day dreaming about the places in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica and read Mattie’s important letter.


Dear Mattie,

Good day! I write to you from under the biggest mango tree at my niece’s home. Or, with due respect, the people from back in the day would have written: Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and soon coming King. I hope when these few lines reach you, they will find you and your family in his tender loving care and the best of health. Gosh! It was always a treat to read their sincere salutations. Today in our society people just go straight to the purpose of their missive. Having mentioned that, I guess by now you must have heard that I am in the land of wood and water, yard, the rock or little paradise otherwise known as Jamaica. My 78 year old sister has been ill so I decided to take a trip down here to see her. It’s better to see her alive than in her death. No use saying I love you when the body is lifeless.

First and foremost the airline carrier is now Caribbean Airlines. No more Air Jamaica. It has been sold. Caribbean Airlines, according to the news, is making a lot of profit but to me they are no grand prize. The flight was good but the landing wasn’t up to par at all. The pilot put down the plane with one big thud, just like when a big ripe breadfruit falls from the tree to the ground. I feel like cussing now because it wasn’t a bunch of orangutans sitting on that plane. Mattie, this is no joke because the landing rattled my heart, not to mention my nerves especially now that I am up there in age. I had never experienced anything like that when our lovely Air Jamaica was around. The pilots were great. As a matter of fact they were the best. They landed those airplanes without a flaw. I wonder if Caribbean Airlines has given any of them employment? Mattie, I would do anything to fly with those pilots. I really miss them now. My granny would have said “cow doesn’t know the use of its tail until it cut off”. They are of the highest caliber and are wanted all over the world. It is my understanding that a few of them are living in Dubai and flying planes in the United Arab Emirates.

Mattie, looking into the situation my little bird brain has figured that Jamaica is suffering from all kinds of drain: brain drain, money drain, land drain every drain except politician drain. I wish some of them were the ones leaving the island. Let them go wreck some other place. Back-in-the-day leaders such as Bustamante and Daddy Manley would be very disappointed at the political arena and the fanfare that comes with it now. Frankly, I believe that majority of the nowadays politicians sit in office and spin around on swivel chairs all day until they become dizzy rather than go into the communities to meet and talk with the people who had voted for them. Mattie, inasmuch as you may have a low tolerance for lazy people please note that it wasn’t my intention to stir your anger. It is also possible that unscrupulous behaviors have a hand in the economic and financial decline of our beloved island. Look at the rapid rate at which Jamaica is being sold. Bit by bit and piece by piece. Can you imagine! I wonder how much of Jamaica really belongs to Jamaica. Soon enough Jamaica will be documented as All that parcel of land named Jamaica which is located in the said country is now owned and operated by small island governments and other foreign countries. Mattie, do you see what I am seeing? Rumor even has it that Dunns River was on the sales list. Ahahahaa this is the biggest joke of the year and I hope it continues to remain a joke. It would appear as if the decision makers are out of their minds. Dem lick dem head! I can’t believe that our good-good Jamaica is going, going until it soon gone because of mismanagement and arrogance. I feel so ashamed. Tell me, what is left to gloat about?

Mattie, to tell the truth I don’t even know how well the country is faring from tourism. So-so sea and sand cannot rectify the situation, according to the people who are voicing their opinion openly. I sit and listen to them daily while I move around town and rural areas. They have expressed that we Jamaicans should exhibit our culture in a more laudable manner, especially now that we have so many champion runners and bobsled on our credentials. Also not to be forgotten are the late Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, great musician and renowned ambassador of reggae; Louise Bennett-Coverly, Miss Lou, who took our local language, patois to high places. Sadly today it has no honor in its country. How do we expect to go forward if we don’t know where we are coming from? There should be no fear because we Jamaicans are a versatile and unique set of people. The use of Standard English, our official language, is not a problem among us. We always rise to the occasion whenever it is necessary. Take for instance since I arrived here in Jamaica I have observed the heavy use of the American “Yeow” when calling out to someone. Follow fashion is overriding our heritage. What has become of: Hey deh, Oye deh, or Psssst. Many of us will remain ashamed of our dialect until strangers snatch it and put it to good use. They are so hungry for knowledge that they will go through any means to research the Jamaican culture especially if they have a keen interest in Cultural Anthropology. Yes, Mattie, Cultural Anthropology. It is a mouthful and a great field of study these days. In the end a book or a documentary will be produced much to the detriment of our pretentious behavior.

Mattie it is about time that we Jamaicans accept who we are and pump up the volume on the songs Peel Head John Crow and Carry Mi Ackee Go a Linstead Market as the visitors arrive. Let us use our Otaheite apple in the hotels instead of granny so and so apple or so and so delicious apple from foreign. Do you agree? Our wide farming community has more than enough foods and fruits to entice the visitors to our shores. Natural vitality beverages are also produced by the locals. I have heard of one such beverage which is called the “front-end lifter” an alleged miracle worker for the men who are involved with several women at a time, poling them, according to the old timers, until their manhood is damaged. Mattie, I can see you rejoicing at the demise of the womanizers. He who feels it knows it. We will talk when I see you because this letter can get into the wrong hands. Eh-eh! Mattie, it is getting dark and the mosquitos are swarming me under this mango tree. They are out to eat me raw. I haven’t even updated you on the medical progress of my sister as yet. It’s hard to believe that venting about a not-so-pleasant plane landing could have led to so many things.

Well, Mattie the venting is over now and I give God thanks that my sister is no way worse than when I had arrived. She is home from the Black River Hospital and continues to be in her right mind although on one of my visits to the hospital I thought she was travelling, you know what I mean, going to her end. The eyes looked distant and her conversations weren’t sober. She mentioned that some ugly people next door to her were making a lot of noise. Don’t ask me why she described her imaginary people as being ugly. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe as a child she used to call people ugly. Who knows, Mattie? Some behavior is hard to escape even on the sick bed. Or, it could be that the saying “Once a man twice a child” is really true. Mattie, my friend, you can tell the world that Black River Hospital “little but it tallawah”, great. It is tops when it comes to patient care. My sister was brought back from the brink of death. The doctors, nurses and porters are excellent. They are true professionals, deserving of many medals.

Luckily her husband and children didn’t take her back to Mandeville Hospital where she was first. It is a very modern hospital and would have been good but it is very far from her home in St. Elizabeth. Thank God Black River proved that they are capable because if that D word had taken place it would have caused an immense eruption. Everyone close and dear to her, including me who had just purchased plane fare, would have to fork out money in these hard times to send her “home” in style. Hard times have become a worldwide crisis and so are the medical bills. My sister had taken x-rays, blood tests and all kinds of scans which took a good size of money from her savings. The family should be grateful for the little farming that she had done alongside her clerical work at the Post Office. With this insight my sister should have been a politician, having displayed this impeccable sense of planning. Mattie as a matter of fact, pause right here, grab a glass with some special water and mek wi toast Black River Hospital and staff. My glass is always in a toast and cheers mode especially when I am in Jamaica. Yes, it is true. Hick! Ooops! Excuse me, please. It seems as if I am drinking too much.

Mattie, I know that you are curious to find out if I am having fun in Jamaica. Girl, I sure am. The sun has been in a brilliant mood which has put more pep in my step. Ahahahaha. I am eating all the good foods and seasonings, nothing artificial. The foods and fruits are gathered from the trees or dug from the ground in my presence. I visited a few sorrel fields and I am having a daily fill of sorrel drink. Steamed fish and bammy are also on my menu. For relaxation I visited the river yesterday, sat against a stone and let the water caressed my total being. People were at the river washing and cooking. I also saw a man with his pig walking along the banks. Mattie, the Jamaican people are still filled with laughter regardless of the hullabaloo that is taking place about an early election. There are no changes in my fellow Jamaicans’ styles of walking: slow, not so slow, hardly going and walk and stop. It is a pleasure to watch them compared to the movements of the people in New York City. The laidback behavior of those who constantly sit around tables placed under trees, playing dominoes, drinking beer and listening to music reminds me that there is more to life other than work.

Mattie, nature never ceases to amaze me, especially among lower class of animals. Two days ago I saw some goats trying to get frisky, you know what I mean, and by the time I reached for my camera the performance was finished. I felt so disappointed because capturing a picture of them in the act would have been good for wild life documentary. Ahahahaha. Liza’s wattle and daub house is still standing, from the eighteen hundreds. It is stronger than some of the modern homes. Girl, most interestingly, mongoose is still alive and rampant here, lots of them. They are very boldfaced. One almost bit a little girl. Mattie, it is such a great feeling to be here in Jamaica. Maybe one day soon I will be back to live and with the hope that I will be able to keep up with the lifestyle. Believe it or not, the Jamaicans are trekking off to China and Japan as if they are going to their backyard. They have come to realize that America is not the only place on planet earth to visit, go to school or live. Talking about that, Mattie, do you recall the days when Chinese were rampant in Jamaica, doing business. Well it is happening again. I guess we are learning to “foster relationships between countries”. I must say that regardless of all the bad decisions Jamaica has come a long way. Adding to that, last week I heard one of my nieces speaking Chinese language. You should have heard her: Ching fong ding don dung dung fuk do. Don’t ask me the meaning because I write according to the sounds I had heard.

Finally, Mattie I have lots of pictures to show you. Among them is one that was given to me by Ms. Holly. It is a picture of me at a wedding more than fifty years ago. I have enclosed it and others. I was the lead flower girl who sprinkled the flower petals along the aisle of the church while the bride walked behind. I am the tallest of the flower girls. The picture is fading but if you look good you will see me holding the basket of petals. How do you like my hat? My hairstyle was drop curls. Mama had combed it. See how pretty I looked then, and still do to this day. To prove it I still get wolf whistles from the males. Aahahahahaha. I bet you are laughing as hard as you can. Laughter is good medicine.

Hope to see you soon.

I remain your best friend,


Tah-tah! Show some love every day. It will make someone happy.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2011

1 comment:

  1. Oh my God this was so good. I will forward it to all my Jamaican friends. I recently purchased a Jamaican story book online and it was nothing compare to this letter, i definitely got more laughs and the words carried me right back home. Love it - it nice bad!