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Archives for November 2011

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A Visit to Roaring River

I grew up in a community close to Roaring River in the parish of Westmoreland but discovered its underground cave when I was in high school. Back then, it was a local secret. Now, it’s a well-known tourist attraction called Roaring River Park.

For long as I can remember, Roaring River has been known as a very close-knit community. Many of the residents have lived there for generations; some are even related. Visitors go because of the series of limestone caves, mineral springs, blue hole and the river, which supplies water for much of the parish. Even during the dry season, a deep green carpet of wildflowers and grass blankets the area.

Munching goat

Goat in field of wildflowers and grass

Roaring River is located on lands that were once part of the Roaring River Estate. Before sugar lost its importance as Westmoreland’s main crop, much of the lands surrounding the community belonged to the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO), formerly a major employer in the parish. Now that sugar is no longer ‘king,’ many residents earn much of their income by leading tours of the cave, springs and the blue hole.

Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland

Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland

We traveled to Roaring River a few weekends ago, not to visit the cave or the blue hole but to see a man (Robbie, a relative) about a goat for a friend of the family. As we drove down its narrow dirt road, the only one into and out of Roaring River, we were greeted warmly by everyone we passed.

Once the goat was purchased and was being prepared, we walked down to the river. The water was so crystal clear, we could see the stones at the bottom. We sat at the river’s edge, watching children frolicking in the shallow part. At one point, three young girls, round 8 or 9 years, raced each other to the edge, stripping off their clothes and jumping in, oblivious to the adults, including a young man, around them.

Walking back to the car, a little boy with two buckets, one almost half his size, caught my eye. I looked around but no adults or older children were nearby. He headed to a spring, caught some water in one of his buckets then with it spilling every which way as he struggled to carry it, he plunked it down in front a horse that was tied nearby. Someone said the horse belonged to his father. When he thought the horse had drunk enough, he splashed the rest on its body, to cool him down, I guessed.

Boy and horse

Boy and horse

As we were loading up to leave, Robbie came running towards us. Don’t leave yet, he said. They’ve gone to get you some bananas and breadfruit. Shortly after, a few of the older children that we had seen, returned with a bunch of bananas and several breadfruit.

Robbie with breadfruit

Robbie with breadfruit

Random photos of Roaring River.



Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

I was thrilled to see this Doctor Bird, our National Bird. He flitted from tree to branch while I fumbled with my camera, hoping he’d sit still long enough for me to take the shot. Thankfully, he did.

Doctor Bird

Doctor Bird

Roaring River warning

Roaring River warning

Wattle-and-Daub shop

Wattle-and-Daub shop

Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell, from Wikipedia

A 1778 Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell - from Wikipedia

Wattle-and-daub, an old tradition of building that used to be quite popular in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas. Here the wattle, interwoven wooden strips, has been set up. Later the daub, which could be made either from a paste of soil, animal dung or sand will be applied.

I will post a follow up when I visit the cave and the blue hole again. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the blue hole at Roaring River from YouTube.



We’re Celebrating!

Today, InsideJourneys, is celebrating its first anniversary. A year ago, I wrote my first post. Since then, I’ve written many more and most importantly, made several friends, who stop by everyday.

It’s been a fun year. Thanks for your support and encouragement. So pull up a chair and have a slice of this delicious cake. No, I didn’t bake this one but I can tell you it’s great.

InsideJourneys' Blogoversary

InsideJourneys' 1st Blogoversary

Stories from the Road

“Are you African?” The security guard asked as I waited for my cousin and her husband at the hardware

African dress

My African dress


I hesitated for a moment not quite sure what to say. My eyes searched her face for a clue to what prompted the question that hung heavily in the air, separating us. We are both black, and therefore African, but I couldn’t tell what that meant to her. Nothing about her round, pleasant face gave her away.

The moment and the tension lingered.

I smiled. Yes, I’m African.

She twisted her mouth describing a semi-circle, an expression I couldn’t read. It was as if she were struggling to make sense of me, of what I had just said. I waited as she digested that nugget of information.

You live here now? she asked eventually.

I nodded.

I leaned closer to see if her eyes would reveal something, anything. They were soft, almost smiling. Sensing she wouldn’t give me more, I asked why she thought I was African.

Your wrap, she said as if I should have known.

I laughed. I’d forgotten what I was wearing, a gift from my African family.

We’re all African, I said, whether we’re born here or there.


The Wrong Side of the Road

My cousin had left already when I decided to go into town. As I arrived at the end of the street to wait for a taxi, I noticed a young girl, maybe 18 or 19, standing a few yards away.

She looked around and I stopped instinctively, as if I had disturbed her territory. We locked eyes but she turned away before I could nod my acknowledgement.

Unknown flower

Unknown flower

I surveyed her furtively from the corner of my eye: shorts, strappy sandals, blouse, and dead straight hair that she stroked frequently, as if it were the smoothest silk.

Suddenly, my auntie jeans, sensible shoes and hair caught up in a ponytail make me feel frumpy and unfashionable. I tried to recall the girl I was at that age but my mind couldn’t seem to find her.

A car approaches. The driver slows down long enough for the driver to survey the young miss then speed up as he reaches me and refocuses his eyes on the road.

One day she’ll understand, I say to myself. All that fades in time.

Another car rolls by and snaps me back. I’m standing on the wrong side of the road. I cross sheepishly to the other side to wait for the taxi. It’s cooler here, I say to myself, as if in response to the question I imagined she’d ask, that is, if she’d even noticed.

Soulful Sundays: The Folkes Brothers

For a long time, I had no idea who The Folkes Brothers were but I knew every beat, every drum lick of their 1960s hit song, Oh Carolina. It was the song that once you heard it at a party, you knew two things: it was late (or early morning, depending on your point of view), and it was time to go home. I’m really not sure how it got that designation.

Oh Carolina, The Folkes Brothers

Oh Carolina, The Folkes Brothers

The Folkes Brothers, John, Mico and Junior, were a group that played mento – Jamaican folk music. Oh Carolina was written by John Folkes and produced by Prince Buster, the first hit record for him. Oh Carolina is regarded as pivotal in the development of ska, rocksteady and reggae music. Prior to the release of the song, Jamaican musicians copied Rhythm & Blues music from the U.S. Oh Carolina was the first to depart from what was the norm. By incorporating African drumming and chanting, done superbly by Count Ossie, a legendary Rastafari drummer, it  created a new Jamaican sound.

In 1993, Oh Carolina was re-released by reggae singer, Shaggy. It goes without saying that I prefer the original version. After Shaggy’s version became an international hit, Folkes and Prince Buster went to court over its authorship – Folkes prevailed.

Take a listen to Oh Carolina.

Oh Carolina,

Oh Carolina honey darling,
Oh, honey, don’t you cry.  

Oh I’m so lonely

Yes, I’m so lonely
Oh, I’m so lonely, Carolina.  

Carolina, my darling,

Oh I wanna talk to you
Oh Carolina, my honey
You know I love only you.

Oh Carolina,

Tan bonita (so beautiful),
Come back and make things right. 

Carolina, my darling,
Oh how I love you
Carolina, my honey,
You know I love only you