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A Colorful Stilt Walker

Stilt walker, Montego Bay Airport

I was waiting at the airport to pick up a friend when I saw this stilt walker.  With his colorful costume and height — he looked about 10 feet tall — he was impossible to miss in the crowd of people who, like me, had gathered at the arrival entrance of the airport.

Stilt walker, Montego Bay Airport

Colorful man

I’ve seen this particular stilt walker, or someone else wearing a similar costume, in Montego Bay several times since then. They seem to be part of the entertainment for cruise ship passengers.

According to Wikipedia, stilt walking has been traced as far back to 6th century Greece. Stilt walkers have been seen in countries such as France, Spain, Mali and have been used in a variety of situations from farming and jousting. It’s hard to imagine walking on stilts much less walking and jousting, a 600 year old tradition in Namur, Belgium!

Stilts can be hand-held, strapped on, or made with springs that allow the stilt walker to run, jump, and perform other activities. Stilt walkers are popular forms of entertainment, especially at circuses and festivals.

Hilton house

Hilton house

While I don’t remember stilt walkers being part of Jamaica’s cultural history or repertoire, I do remember that at one time, houses, like the one I grew up in, were elevated. Having a house built off the ground allows air to circulate freely and keep it cool. It also helps to keep out insects and other unwanted pests, and protects the house if there is flooding.

July 27th is National Walk on Stilts Day, an unofficial holiday.

 

Sept. 16th – Linking up this week with Travel Photo Mondays, which Noel of Travel Photo Discovery organizes. 

Pastor Brown’s Eye Catching House

Pastor Brown and Mrs Brown

The first time I saw Pastor Brown’s house, I had my friend stop so I could take a photo. It still is the most colorful and eye-catching house I’ve ever seen. My impression then was that an artist or someone equally comfortable with color lived there. Or someone who was absolutely not wedded to the conventions of design, or an eccentric.

Pastor Brown's descending the steps to his house

An Eye Catching House

My first photo was a quick shot, taken as the car rolled to a halt, the engine still running. My friend and I took off as soon as we noticed an elderly gentleman coming down the steps, his hand pointing in our direction. I was sure he would admonish me for taking a photo without his permission, or tell me I needed to pay a fee. And I felt guilty as we sped away. I felt I had invaded his privacy, something I’m very scrupulous about.

A year later, I was once again in Portland. This time, I was with a couple of my friends who I told about the house. I doubt they could imagine what I was trying to describe. It became one of those you’ve-got-to-see-this situations. When we got to the house, we knew we had to stop, and this time I was able to take it all in.

There was color everywhere, every inch of the house, every surface was decorated. There were also signs.

Pastor Brown's wall

Wall at the Brown house

Pastor Brown's gate

Gate to the house

Pastor Brown's sign

Sign and photos of Pastor Brown’s visit to Buckingham Palace

Pastor Brown's colors

Color everywhere

As we approached the gate to the property, a man waved and called out to us. “Come, come in!” he said, as if welcoming long lost friends.

The house is set back a good distance from the road. We walked down a grade, crossed a stream then walked up another grade to the house, which is set on the side of a hill.

Wall detail at Pastor Brown's

Wall Detail

Pastor Brown and Mrs Brown

Pastor & Mrs Brown

As we got to the steps, the man introduced himself as Pastor Brown. He called out and his wife appeared from behind a brightly painted door and joined us on the verandah.  Pastor Brown proudly showed us around his house. He was clearly proud of the work he had done over the years. He was even prouder to show us photos of his travels. Among them, his pride and joy, a faded photo of him standing outside Buckingham Palace. The way he tells it, it sounds like he actually met the Queen Elizabeth.

Pastor Brown's house

The house

For the record, Pastor Brown is a real preacher. He and his wife were so hospitable I even promised to visit the next time I’m in the area.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

5 Reasons to Leave the Beach and Explore St. James Jamaica

Tall ship, St. James

Most visitors to Jamaica arrive in Montego Bay, but I doubt many know that it’s the capital of St. James, the island’s fourth largest parish. Located on Jamaica’s northwest coast, St. James shares borders with the parishes of Trelawny (east), St. Elizabeth (south), Westmoreland (southwest), and Hanover (west). It got its name, in 1655, from James II, who was formerly the Duke of York.

Like the rest of Jamaica, the original residents of St. James were Taino Indians. Sadly, they didn’t survive Christopher Columbus’ landing on the island in 1494. Some succumbed to European diseases, others committed suicide instead of accepting subjugation to Spanish authority, while some died fighting against the Spanish. Remnants of their presence have been discovered in settlements along the coast of the parish.

Mobay Beach, St. James

Mobay Beach

Montego Bay is derived from Bahia de Manteca (Lard Bay), the name the Spanish called it because of the large population of wild hogs that they found there and which slaughtered for lard that was exported to Spain.

During sugar’s heyday, several plantations dotted the parish making sugar and rum the main exports.  Many of these plantations and great houses were burnt to the ground in the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, one of the largest slave uprisings in the island’s history. The revolt was lead by Sam Sharpe, who was born on Croydon Plantation. Sharpe was hanged and now one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation, St. James

Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation

St. James has developed much in the last several years, due in part to its location and its legendary white sand beaches, which began attracting visitors to Montego Bay and the north coast since the 1940s. Commonly referred to as the Second City, and the tourist capital of the island, Montego Bay welcomes nearly half of the approximately 3 million visitors the island sees each year, making tourism the parish’s main industry and largest employer.

Most visitors who travel to Montego Bay never leave their all-inclusive hotels. If you’re one of them, here are five reasons to get out and discover the diversity of activities that St. James has to offer.

Ahhh...Ras Natango Garden & Gallery, St. James

Ahhh…Ras Natango Garden & Gallery

Ahhh….Ras Natango Gallery & Gardens – A rock garden, art gallery and the best ecotourism spot in St. James. Ahhh…Ras Natango is located about 20 minutes from Mobay, in the small community of Camrose. Entrance $30, includes shuttle pickup. Lunch is available on order for an additional fee.

Greenwood Great House Pub, St. James

Converted Pub, Greenwood

Greenwood Great HouseNear the border of Trelawny in a community named Greenwood is Greenwood Great House, which was once owned by the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. Greenwood has the Caribbean’s finest collection of musical instruments, antique furniture, china and rare books, which all belonged to the Barrett family. Guided tours are available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. US$20. 876-953-1077

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary – With more than two-dozen endemic birds, Jamaica is a bird lover’s paradise. If you love birds and are in the Montego Bay area, head over to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary where you can spot up to 17 species, including the humming bird, Jamaica’s national bird, and feed them too!

Rows of pineapples at Croydon Plantation, St. James

Fields of pineapple

Croydon Plantation – Croydon Plantation owes its reputation to pineapples and coffee, as well as its connection to national hero, Samuel Sharpe. Sharpe was born a slave at Croydon. He became a Baptist preacher who organized a peaceful protest in December 1831 that turned into the largest rebellion on the island. Plantation tours with pineapple tastings are conducted on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Cost $70 includes round trip transportation and lunch.

Drummers at the Rastafari Indigenous Village, St. James

Rastafari Drummers

Rastafari Indigenous Village – If you’re interested in learning about the Rastafarians, how they live, what they eat, their philosophy, head to the Rastafari Indigenous Village, a small community of Rasta bretheren, and some sistren too, who’ll give you the 411 on Rastafari beliefs, show you some drum moves and give you a tour of their village. An ital (purely vegetarian) lunch is also offered.

Bonus Option:

Rafting on the Great River – Nothing relaxes more than river rafting. This one-hour excursion down the Great River includes buffet lunch and drinks.

I’m sharing this post with Wanderlust Wednesday, which Dana at Time Travel Plans organizes.

Foodie Tuesday: Codfish Fritters (Stamp and Go)

Codfish Fritters

I love codfish fritters – tasty bite-size morsels of cooked codfish enveloped in light flour – but made them for the first time only last year. Cod or salt fish fritters are very popular as appetizers or snacks and are made by adding flaked codfish to a batter, which is then deep-fried.

Codfish Fritter batter

Batter

Also called Stamp and Go, apparently after the command (“Stamp and go!”) that was given to 17th century British sailors when tasks had to be done in a hurry, codfish fritters are sometimes referred to as Jamaica’s first fast food. They are relatively easy to make, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to make them. Codfish fritters can be eaten by themselves or accompanied by a dipping sauce.

Codfish Fritters

Fritters

How to Make Codfish Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted codfish (deboned) 
  • 2 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks escallion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Soak codfish overnight in water, or bring to a boil twice (for 12-15 minutes), draining and adding fresh water after each boil.
  2. Drain and rinse the codfish under running cold water.
  3. Using a fork or your fingers, flake the codfish into small pieces, taking care to remove any remaining bones.
  4. To a small skillet, add oil and allow to get hot. Add onion, garlic, tomatoes and escallions. Sautee until soft about 5 minutes. Add black pepper then combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  5. Add codfish to the seasonings. Stir to combine.
  6. In a medium bowl, add flour and baking powder. Stir to incorporate.
  7. Add codfish mixture to the flour and stir to combine.
  8. Add water gradually, mixing by hand until a firm but loose batter is achieved
  9. Pour oil into a 6-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 2, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Using a tablespoon, drop rounds of dough into oil, and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes; repeat until remaining dough is finished.
  10. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fritters to paper towels to drain briefly.
  11. Garnish with tomato or lime wedges, chopped scallion, etc., and serve.

Recipe adapted from Enid Donaldson’s The Real Taste of Jamaica.

Although I’ve only used codfish, I’m sure other meats can be substituted. Fritters are not only about meat. Bananas that are very ripe can also be used, though the recipe is slightly different.

 

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