Weekly Photo Challenge: Winter

It’s difficult to think of winter – the topic of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge — when the temperature’s nearly 80 degrees and I’m looking at the sea. I’m glad that I had these photos in my collection.

Lately, with changes in weather patterns, winters are not as severe as they used to be. Sometimes, weeks pass without snow and we get spoiled by so -called ‘good’ weather. We experienced a period like this in March. Then towards the end of the month, we woke up one morning to some ‘white stuff’ — a dusting, really. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. It was still winter.

An unexpected dusting of snow, Harlem NYC
An unexpected dusting of snow, Harlem NYC

Now this is winter!

The third snow fall on January 27, 2011 brought total amount to 36″ and made it the second snowiest month in New York City.

Snowy trees, Harlem, NYC
Snowy trees, Harlem, NYC

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Until you have to go out in it. Especially when it starts to melt.

Snowy window, Harlem NYC
Snowy window, Harlem NYC

On December 29th, Jamaicans Elected a New Prime Minister

Yesterday, December 29th, Jamaicans went to the polls to elect a new prime minister. Former PM and Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson-Miller and the People’s National Party won handily – 41 seats to 22.

Jamaica's new PM designate, Portia Simpson Miller, photo via the Internet
Jamaica's new PM designate, Portia Simpson Miller, photo via the Internet

Only time will tell if the PNP will be any different than the outgoing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). No better herring, no better barrel, is the Jamaican expression that comes to mind. There have been allegations of corruption on both sides. It’s an open secret who’s involved in what, who’s doing what illegal thing. No one’s clean. I hope and pray the new administration will try to put the country first or at least above party or their own personal agendas.

What I hope the new government will do:

  • Continue to bring crime down – business will not thrive in an environment where crime and corruption are common and where ordinary people have no faith in the justice system.
  • Fix the roads – most of the roads, especially those just beyond the “tourist areas” are in deplorable condition. They need to be fixed.
  • Fix the tax system – the only way to get rid of the 17.5% GCT is for the administration to be able to collect income taxes from all working  Jamaicans, and corporations that do business here. A fair and equitable tax system is needed.
  • Fix the educational system – an educated population is one of the lynchpins of development. People must be able not just to read, but to think critically, reason and analyze.
  • Create an environment where business can thrive, one which will be attractive to businesses that want to invest.
  • Be open and transparent. No scandals – financial or other.

This list is by no means comprehensive…..


Sunset at Rick’s Cafe, Negril, Jamaica

Rick’s Cafe, in Negril, is one of the best places to watch the sun set in Jamaica. It’s an event I always look forward to see and I’ve done so on many occasions. Each time, the colors with which the sun paints the clouds as it falls behind the horizon look different, deeper and more intense – purple, orange, blue.

Boats getting into position, waiting for the sun to set
Boats getting into position, waiting for the sun to set
Sunset at Rick's Cafe
Sunset at Rick’s Cafe 
Sunset at Rick's Cafe
Sunset at Rick’s Cafe
Sunset at Rick's Cafe
Sunset at Rick’s Cafe
Sunset at Rick's Cafe
Sunset at Rick’s Cafe

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Cliff Jumping at Rick’s Cafe

Rick’s Cafe has been a fixture in Negril’s West End since 1974. That’s when Richard Hershman, after whom the bar is named, decided to put a bar on a slice of land with a beautiful cove. It was the first establishment of its type in the West End and soon became the place where mostly visitors meet, drink and watch the spectacular Negril sunset for which Rick’s Cafe is famous. To be fair, on a clear day, the sunsets any where on Negril’s west side, are spectacular but the vibe at Rick’s – the combination of the live band, the exotic drinks, the excitement of watching young men dive off high nearby cliffs, the happy, boozy people on land and in boats anchored a few years away, make watching it there, special.

When we arrived at Rick’s Cafe just after 1:00 p.m., only a few tables were occupied. By the time we finished our lunch and had a couple drinks, the place was crawling with people. Most came to watch the divers —  local guys who began taking headers off the cliffs and performing acrobatics at Rick’s as a way to make some money. I was surprised to see that visitors are now cliff jumping as it can be very dangerous for the inexperienced, and especially for anyone who’s been drinking. I wasn’t close to the jump area or watching those who did to see if they had been drinking prior to jumping. To their credit, lifeguards/divers warned people loudly not to try a hand-walking stunt as it could be dangerous.

If some come to watch the divers, the overwhelming majority visit Rick’s Cafe to watch the sunset. And it’s breathtaking. It’s always amazing to watch the sun color the skies and water various shades of orange, browns, burnt orange as it seems to just drop behind the horizon. I’ve promised myself that the next time I’m at Rick’s, I’ll just sit and watch the sun set instead of catching glimpses of it between shots.

Once the sun sets, the house reggae band takes over the stage and those who want to, can dance or just vibe to the music. Rick’s Cafe is available for weddings, reunions and corporate retreats for up to 300 people.

Rick's Cafe's cove
Rick’s cove

Seeing Rick’s now, it’s hard to remember what it looked like back in the early days. Harder still to imagine that this bar has been destroyed by hurricane twice (Gilbert, 1988 and Ivan, 2004) and rebuilt, bigger each time.

Nighttime at Rick's Cafe
Nighttime at Rick’s Cafe

Getting to Rick’s Cafe

Rick’s Cafe is located in the West End of Negril, about an hour’s drive from Montego Bay. Open daily it serves typical seaside and bar fare. In addition to beer, it also serves drinks with suggestive names like Sex with Rick, which is recommended for women and Front End Lifter (for men) 876-957-0380. No entry fee.

The Poinsettia

Few flowering plants say Christmas (or December) the way poinsettias do. I found this beautiful one a few weeks ago at Devon House in Kingston.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Pointsettia, maynefoto

The Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, wrote the following poem, Flame Heart, in praise of the poinsettia. It sums up some of my feelings since I returned home — there’s much that I’ve forgotten about this place but I haven’t forgotten the poinsettia. Now, in addition to the traditional red, there are white, pink, variegated ones.

Poinsettia, maynefoto
Poinsettia, maynefoto

Flame Heart

So much have I forgotten in ten years,

So much in ten brief years! I have forgot

What time the purple apples come to juice,

And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.

I have forgot the special, startling season

Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;

What time of year the ground doves brown the fields

And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.

I have forgotten much, but still remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


I still recall the honey-fever grass,

But cannot recollect the high days when

We rooted them out of the ping-wing path

To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.

I often try to think in what sweet month

The languid painted ladies used to dapple

The yellow by-road mazing from the main,

Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.

I have forgotten—strange—but quite remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.


What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year

We cheated school to have our fling at tops?

What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy

Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?

Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days,

Even the sacred moments when we played,

All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,

At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.

We were so happy, happy, I remember,

Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.

December 26th is Boxing Day

In Jamaica as well as several former British colonies, December 26th is known as Boxing Day. I celebrated Boxing Day for many years before I heard an explanation of its origins. Surprisingly, it isn’t about boxing.

According to the story, Boxing Day got its name from the practice by wealthy British landowners from the Middle Ages of giving their servants, who had to work on Christmas Day, boxes of leftover food and gifts on the day after Christmas. I’m not sure if that tradition was exported to Jamaica during slavery — more than likely it did — but we inherited Boxing Day, which is also a public holiday.

Here, Boxing Day is an extension of joy and revelry of Christmas. Since Christmas Day this year fell on a Sunday, Christmas will be observed on Monday and Boxing Day will be pushed to Tuesday, December 27th.

On Boxing Day, the beaches are crowded, people go from house to house visiting family and friends and sharing Christmas cheer. Typically, large amounts of fruit cake, sorrel, rum, beer, goat soup, curried goat and ham are consumed.

Scene from Pantomime, image from the Internet
Scene from Pantomime, image from the Internet

Boxing Day here is also the day when Pantomime, a tradition 70 years old, opens. Pantomime, which was also inherited from Britain, has been totally Jamaicanized and incorporates local folklore, culture and everyday issues.

So, in the true spirit of Boxing Day, I’m off to visit a few friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the beach.

Happy Boxing Day!

Can We Go to the North Pole?

For the last few days, Norad has been tracking Santa Claus as he makes his way from the North Pole. It’s pretty cool to watch the videos they’ve posted of the most recent location where St. Nick’s been spotted. Take a look at this video of Santa as he gets on the road.

So while I was watching Santa circumnavigating the world, I started thinking about the North Pole and I realized I didn’t know much about it. Where is it exactly? Can we go there? I decided to find out.

Where is the North Pole?

To begin with, there are two North Poles – the geographic (or True) North Pole, which is the northernmost part of the Earth, and the  Magnetic North Pole, which is where the magnetic field lines are oriented vertically and plunge into the surface of the Earth. Magnetic North varies annually based on changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and is located generally in the Arctic Ocean.

With two different places for him to locate his workshop, is it any wonder that only Norad can track Santa?

NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory found the location of the 2011 North Pole. Photo from the Internet via wjla.com
NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory found the location of the 2011 North Pole. Photo from the Internet via wjla.com

Can we travel to the North Pole?

So I go to Travelocity and put in my departure city and my destination as the North Pole. Right away, the destination defaulted to Oslo. We’re getting somewhere! But it doesn’t tell me how to go from Oslo to the North Pole.

A check of wikitravel found several companies that offer different packages to the North Pole, some are not as expensive as you’d imagine.

If you’re a runner looking for your next big adventure, consider entering the North Pole Marathon. (Just thinking about it makes me want to return to running.) Check out the 2010 video.

Lastly, from the Mail Online, I discovered that airlines operating in the South Pacific can now take a short-cut over the North Pole. It means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide. So why didn’t they do this sooner?



A Jamaican Christmas – Reggae Carols, 2

Most of the Christmas carols we learned over the years mention things like snow, mistletoe, stockings, chimneys, etc., that we don’t see here in Jamaica. So after years of singing these songs, several performers began Jamaicanizing the carols, adding a reggae beat and substituting items that local people could relate to.

Here now are a few more reggae carols, by John Holt, The Tamlins and Toots & The Maytals.

Holly, maynefoto
Holly, maynefoto

The Tamlins – Carlton Smith, Derrick Lara and Junior Moore – began as a nightclub act in 1970. By 1972, they had won the Most Outstanding Group award. They’ve recorded a string of hits and backed up performers such as Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, John Holt and others. Here’s their song, This Christmas.

Singer/songwriter, John Holt, was the lead singer for the rocksteady band, The Paragons. He wrote the hit song, The Tide is High, made famous by Blondie. Take a listen to Happy Xmas.

Well-known ska and reggae group, Toots & The Maytals, also marked the season with Happy Christmas.

Hope these carols will have you singing along or shaking your feet as you bake your cookies, wrap gifts or decorate the house.

Happy Holidays!

Who Sends Christmas Cards These Days?

A few weeks ago, I went to buy a few boxes of Christmas cards for a relative. As I strolled the Walgreen’s aisle, searching for the appropriate ones, I was surprised at the variety and selection that was there. I couldn’t help wondering in the age of online greeting cards, digital cameras and the Internet, who sends paper cards for the holidays anymore?

According to greetingcard.org, 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas and holiday cards are sold in the U.S. annually. They are the most popular of the seasonal cards and account for a whopping 60% of sales. That’s a lot of cards.

Each year, I receive about 20 cards from relatives and friends, and I love getting them. Cards typically reflect the tastes of the sender and I find it interesting to see how my friends’ tastes have changed over the years, whose greeting is to the point or whose needs the blank side.

My taste runs from artsy to irreverent and fun and my favorite place to find those kinds of cards is at the gift shop at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Some I love so much, I hate to part with them. As a result, my stash currently numbers between thirty and forty.

What do you do with your cards at the end of the season?

At the end of December when I’m taking down the Christmas decorations I also put away the cards I received, usually in large envelopes or empty shoe boxes. Every year, I promise myself to make something with them – collages or scrap books – but so far, I haven’t. I hate the idea of not knowing who sent me what.

Paper or electronic?

Approximately 500 million ecards are sent annually and according to greetingcard.org, their popularity and availability have expanded card sending overall. Ecards are fun and spontaneous and mostly free and if you’re concerned about the environment, they are the perfect alternative to paper.

In years when I haven’t been organized enough to write and mail the cards in time for them to reach their destinations, I think about sending ecards instead. It’d be much simpler and easier, I tell myself. And although I’ve sent ecards for birthdays, I can’t bring myself to do so for Christmas.

Turning ecards into photo cards

If you’re like me and have lots of photographs, consider turning some of them into cards. Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak, etc., all have instructions to help you make your photo cards. Here’s one I’d use.

Crown of Thorns, Maynefoto
Crown of Thorns, Maynefoto

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Kwanzaa!

Merry Christmas!