Last Days in Kingston

Looks like I didn’t quite finish up on the events of New Year’s Eve, so I’ll start with that.  Jade and Lacey came in just in time to celebrate New Year’s Day.  In the evening, we saw very little fireworks, but once midnight came, there were many fireworks displays from the people who lived nearby.  We had almost a 360 degree view from where we were, so for about an hour, we were pointing out to each other all the beautiful fireworks we saw.  Due to lack of funds, there weren’t official sanctioned fireworks by the government, but the private fireworks were beautiful just the same.

1/1/08, Missionaries of the Poor

In the morning, my cousin made us the National Breakfast of Jamaica, ackee fruit and salted fish.  The ackee fruit looked like scrambled eggs, but it fell under the “acquired taste” category.  I loved the salted fish.  After breakfast, we rested for a short while and then drove into the city again.  Because of the holiday, there were hardly any cars on the road.  We went to visit my cousin, Father Richard Ho Lung.  He is my mom’s sister’s son.  According to my mom’s story, his mother immigrated to Jamaica but stopped off in San Francisco to visit my mom when she was pregnant with me.  My aunt gave me a gold bracelet as a present, which I still have.  My aunt went on to have four children.  Father Ho Lung start an organization in Kingston called the Missionaries of the Poor in 1981.  They have separate facilities to care for disabled and abandoned children, homeless women and men, homeless seniors, and patients with HIV/AIDS.  We arrived to the church after Mass ended, and I was introduced to Father Ho Lung.  We spoke briefly as he had another meeting to attend.  After Mass, the congregation ate lunch that was prepared by the brothers who dedicate their lives to the priesthood and live out their days in helping people.

Father Ho Lung

Two brothers drove us to their housing facilities, and we shook hands and hugged some of the people we met.  There were people dying with AIDS and homeless seniors but yet were very gracious to us.  They live in dormitory-like facilities and have a family environment to live out their days.  We also visited the Bethlehem Home for children who are abandoned by their parents or are orphans.  Most, if not all, are disabled.  Almost all the children of various ages were in their cribs, but when they needed assistance, the brothers would help them, whether changing their diapers, bathing them, or providing them with food.  We saw a boy the size of a young child lying in a crib, but he was a 12 year old with a disability that affected his growth.  The brother explained that the children are cared for until they die, and the brothers take care of burying them.  There were many workers, brothers and volunteers, who assisted the children, so there was a lot of one-on-one attention.  All the facilities were clean, and the people were well-attended to.  There was a lot of interaction between the brothers and the people they served.

We returned to the church and had lunch.  It was a very good meal of potato salad, rice and red beans, and curried goat (or chicken).  All the brothers had their tasks and knew when and what to do.  After lunch, a group came out and cleared the tables and swept the floor while another group washed all the dishes.  Then it was their turn to eat.  A bell rang, and the brother from all over the church came and partook in the food.

One brother told us that several years ago, a sniper fired into their kitchen and killed two brothers with one bullet.  A group of brothers were washing dishes like any other ordinary day as part of their chores, and they were in various positions (standing straight, reaching over, hovering, etc.).  It is theorized that someone shot one bullet aiming at the brothers at head level; one bullet hit the first brother, came out and hit another brother in the same position.  The bullet was recovered, but the murderer was never found.  Both brothers died and were buried on the church grounds, and we stopped to pay our respects.  It is hard to believe that someone would kill people who are making a difference in helping people in need.

Before leaving, we said our goodbyes to Father Ho Lung.

Our next task was to find a supermarket to buy groceries for dinner.  Almost all stores were closed, but I felt that Chinese in Jamaica were the same as Chinese everywhere else and suggested that my cousin find a store owned by Chinese grocers.  Indeed, we found one store, and it was open!  She bought some foods, and that evening, we had a wonderful meal of beef stew, carrots, and potatoes.  I also saw firsthand how a pressure cooker works… I’ve got to get me one of those!

That evening was our last night in Jamaica, and I felt sad.  It is so different going on a vacation where you spend time living with the people there rather in a hotel and only getting the tourist’s view of the country.  I’ve grown close to my cousin and her family and really hated leaving.  Even though there’s a lot of poverty and things are far from perfect, I can see why foreigners choose to move to Jamaica; people seem to genuinely care about each other.  We packed up, showered, and watched a little TV before going to bed.

1/2/08, Leaving Jamaica

The night before, we decided to take the rest of the household out for breakfast in the morning.  My cousin had been cooking for us every morning, and we hadn’t had the opportunity to help out with the food cost.  It turned out that only she was able to go.  Before we left the house, we took photos all around her house.  We ate the breakfast buffet at the Courtleigh Hotel, a typical breakfast of fruit, yogurt, eggs, sausage, and omelettes.  Afterwards, she drove us to the airport.  While waiting for our flight, we found a store that sold patties and hardough bread, foods that we ate while we were in Jamaica, so we bought some to bring home.  While I was getting my pedicure on New Year’s Eve, my cousin and my family went to the bakery, Tastee’s, to buy some “patties,” which was a pastry item filled with meat.  In the middle of my pedicure, my cousin delivered one for me to try, and it was very good.  We had hardough bread every morning for breakfast.  It is like our white bread except it is very dense, so you can really taste the bread rather than all the air.

More on Miami later… there will be a surprise!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cz_scrap
    Jan 23, 2008 @ 07:15:00

    I am really enjoying these blogs-feel like I am there with you! Back in the 80’s, I worked in an institution that took care of children like you described. I think the Fathers did a much better job than the state!!! It is different touring with someone who lives in a place-when I was in college I lived in England for a year and became friends with several Scandinavian women. I went home with them on break-I never even thought about touring Scandinavia while I was there, always thought it would be Italy,France, etc. It was amazing and I got to really see how life was lived there!!!!


  2. jojohuck
    Jan 23, 2008 @ 11:45:00

    Wow, what a great vacation you have had. I have enjoyed reading about it. I think how meaningful your trip has been, because you have seen Jamaica from a different point of view.


  3. sez_who_sez_you
    Jan 23, 2008 @ 17:50:00

    I think that it was wonderful that you showed your daughter a culture that was not of her own, and that she could develop an appreciation of what she has now. (Definately NOT saying that she isn’t appreciative now or anything! ) Your trip sounded like a wonderful time!!!


  4. boltnut55
    Jan 23, 2008 @ 18:39:00

    Tracy – every night I would talk w/her about what she found interesting, her favorite part, etc., and after the first night, she asked, “Umm, why are most of the people African American?”  So then I reminded her that she studied about the Triangular Trade that she learned about a couple of months ago where one of the destinations was West Indies, and that’s where we were!  So it was great to see history in action, and the result of history (trading slaves).  I guess I hadn’t told her about this ahead of time, but I would bet that she wouldn’t be surprised the next time we visit a foreign country.    Good to expose things to them when they’re young, but I’m also blessed that she asks questions.  Definitely seeing in person the poverty was good.  It’s one thing to say, “Let’s donate your clothes to people who need it” but another to see that there are really kids who need clothes!
    Thanks to everyone for reading, by the way!  I appreciate the comments… think what I need is a counter of sorts!


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