Category Archives: Blog Posts
Now, if a young man from St. Ann, Jamaica, decided that he wanted to take himself as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could, and push himself to the absolute limit of his physical and mental endurance, what would he do? Oh, I know. He would become a dog musher, and enter the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, otherwise known as “The Last Great Race On Earth”.
This 975-mile race in sub-zero temperatures takes you through treacherous mountains, frozen rivers, dense forests and windswept coasts in unforgiving weather and long hours of darkness.
Starting in Willow, 50 miles north of Anchorage and ending in Nome, this year’s race commenced on March 1, 2014. The winner is expected to arrive at Nome in about nine days. It may take an additional week before the last contestant arrives at the finish. There are 69 mushers, most from Alaska, some from Norway, and others from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And then there’s Newton Marshall, the 30 yr old former tour guide who is currently working in security in Jamaica. Well, no. Currently he’s not working. Currently, he is traversing some of the harshest conditions on earth with a handful of dogs and a sled.
The race commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diptheria serum by dog sled to Nome. The mushers will travel in stages that vary between 18 miles and 85 miles. The participants will have spent the past year preparing for this event, training and fund raising for the purchase of equipment and supplies for themselves and their team of dogs.
Marshall has been mushing since 2005. While he was working at Chukka as a tour guide, the company started the Jamaica Dog Sled Team to run dry land dog carts for tourists. Which of course is just one small step away from doing dog sledding for real. In Alaska. Fighting frostbite in the mind-numbing cold. You can see how that would follow, right? Right.
This is actually not Marshall’s first run on the Iditarod. He’s done it three times before, finishing only once, in 47th place. This year he’s back with his sixteen dogs: Monica, Eric, Ghost, Ratchet, Palmer, Comet, Disco, Jumpy, Liesle, Chili Pepper, Relay, Trick, Daisy Mae, Willy and Ellie. His goal? Just to finish the race.
So what does it take to be run this trail really? You have to be fit, and not too tall or heavy, since every pound you carry makes it that much difficult for your team. You have to be prepared to face moose, caribou, wolves, buffalo and other wildlife that may be a threat along the trail. You don’t want the snow to be too icy, or too slushy, since both these conditions cause problems. You or your dogs run the risk of falling and breaking a limb, getting lost, suffering from snow blindness, frostbite, hypothermia or any number of other illnesses or injuries along the way. The dogs can get tangled or even strangled, and you or your dogs could fall through ice. There is a mandatory 24 hr stop, plus two more 8 hr stops but you must be prepared to deal with the fatigue. There’s no doubt about it; this sport and this race require mental and physical toughness in spades.
Newton Marshall is clearly up to the challenge. As he says on his website, “I want to show kids from Jamaica or anywhere in the world that if you want something you have to go get it yourself.”
You can show Marshall some love and keep up with the race from the warmth of your own home, by visiting his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MushinMonNewton and you can support him by purchasing t-shirts, books and other items, or even by sponsoring a dog, by visiting his website at http://www.mushinmonnewtonmarshall.com/
Wednesday, March 4th
I’d really like to encourage everyone to follow the race on Newton’s Facebook page as it is still in progress. Conditions on the trail appear to be unusually hazardous this year as several mushers have already had to drop out due broken bones, broken sleds and various injuries. Newton Marshall has stopped at least twice to assist his fellow mushers, helping one guy with a broken leg get to safety. He is really making us proud. He is an exceptional guy. https://www.facebook.com/MushinMonNewton
- Your best friend arrives at your house in tears. She tells you that her husband just caught her with another man and has thrown her out of the house. He has locked her out and she can not get in to collect any of her belongings, and he will not speak to her. What do you do?
a. Say “Hush mi dear. Come in and have some tea.”
b. Pick up the machete that is lying in the corner and say “Whey him deh?” with a wild look in your eyes.
c. Look up in the sky, and say unsympathetically “Yuh should neva mek him ketch you. Sorry fi yuh. Dog nyam yuh suppa!”
- 2. You are at the airport, and a young woman is gushing enthusiastically about the size of the airport, the beauty of the paintings on the wall, and the great food at Island Grill. What do you do?
a. Agree with her.
b. Pick up your machete and threaten to chop her if she doesn’t shut up.
c. Whisper to your companion “Neva si, come si.”
- 3. You hear in the news about a man who is suspected to have been in a dispute with someone over a piece of land. He has been off the island but his wife and children were attacked and their family home was set on fire. You…
a. Shake your head and say sadly “Poor man”.
b. Pick up your machete and threaten to chop the tv.
c. Say wisely “Cyaan catch Quako, cyatch him shut(shirt)”
- 4. You are visiting a friend in Canada in the winter, and have never experienced winter before. However, he offers to teach you how to ice skate. What do you do?
a. You decline, because you are afraid of falling.
b. You pick up your machete and chop up the ice skates.
c. You agree to give it a try, saying “If you go a tump-a-foot dance, you mus’ dance tump-a-foot.”
- 5. You go to the store to buy a pair of shoes. The one you like costs $150. You decide to buy another one for $50 because…
a. You don’t care what you wear.
b. You threatened the sales man with a machete and he ran you out of the first store.
c. Every mickle mek a muckle.
ANSWERS: If you answered mostly
(a) then you are a sweet, kind individual who can’t mash ants. If you answered mostly
(b) then I know of a nice, clean room at a lovely place called Bellevue waiting for you. If you answered mostly (c) then you are an expert in Jamaican proverbs, and probably come from ‘country’.
Dog nyam yuh suppa (The dog ate your supper) basically means that you are in big trouble.
Neva si, Come si (Never see, Come see) is used to indicate a person who is behaving in a naïve and overly enthusiastic manner.
Cyaan catch Quako, cyatch him shut (Can’t catch Quako, catch his shirt). Quako was a runaway slave. The proverb means that if you can’t get a hold of a person (usually not with any good intentions), then you take out your anger on those close to him.
If you go tump a foot dance, you must dance tump a foot. I’m not sure what tump a foot dance is, but this proverb is similar to the English proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Every mickle mek a muckle. Don’t ask me what mickle and muckle is, but this means that every little bit adds up. Another similar Jamaican proverb is “One-one cocoa full basket”.
Bellevue is a mental institution in Kingston, Jamaica, a suitable residence for a machete wielding individual.
So we are back on the world stage again! This time it’s Winston Watt and our bobsled team who are flying the flag high. (Is it bobsled or bobsleigh? Apparently they are both correct.) The world has been fawning all over Jamaica recently, whether it is cheering on Usain and our impressive sprinters and trying to find out if the secret is in the yam, or imitating our colourful accent in an effort to sell more Volkswagens, or it’s the Toronto Mayor demonstrating his quite impressive grasp of the Jamaican vernacular. I understand that many a foreign journalist was desperately calling their Jamaican contacts in an effort to translate his tirade. “Could you please tell us what exactly are rasclawts and why they are offensive?”
By virtue of our country’s diminutive size and financial challenges, we are the perpetual underdogs. The odds of a country as small as ours producing so many prominent and successful citizens is tiny. And yet we do. Bob Marley. Grace Jones. Merlene Ottey. Usain Bolt. Shaggy. Sean Paul. Tessanne. The Reggae Boyz. The Olympic bobsled team. The list goes on. Jamaica’s name has reached every corner of the globe.
Because we do beat the odds. A lot. And somehow we always capture the world’s imagination because we are like David against Goliath. And watching David slay the giant never gets old. Of course there’s lots of bad news coming out of Jamaica too. But consider this. Could it be that it is because of the daily hardships that we face, and not in spite of them, that we have achieved so much success?
Recent studies show that many smart children who breeze through school have a difficult time in adulthood when faced with serious challenges. They are so accustomed to things coming easily to them, that they become daunted and give up when faced with their first real obstacle. On the other hand, children who are used to slogging through failures and difficulties are better equipped to navigate the real world, because they push through to reap success.
Now as we know, life in Jamaica is synonymous with frustration. We face it daily. We are confronted with red tape and bureaucracy in conducting the simplest affairs, whether in applying for a birth certificate, paying our taxes, or starting a business. We are ignored by store clerks, are forced to navigate potholed, rutted roads alongside reckless fellow drivers, and we deal with overworked, underpaid and harried doctors and nurses at our hospitals. Practically every single aspect of our everyday life is fraught with problems. If there is a way to make a simple process difficult, we’ll find it.
And so we have cut our teeth on struggle and frustration. Little surprise then, that our citizens manage to achieve so much. After all, after living in Jamaica, what challenge is too great for us. What odds can overcome us? So there is no snow? And we want to be an Olympic skier/bobsledder/ice skater. No problem! So there is no money and we need US$80,000 to get to the Olympics? No problem! So we are at the Olympics with no sled? No problem!
Whatever mountains are put in front of us, Jamaicans will find a way over, around or through it. Because that is what we do every single day. Tell a Jamaican it can’t be done, then step back and watch them do it. There’s no rule that can’t be broken, no roadblock that can’t be removed, no hurdle that can’t be conquered. Our particular brand of determination, and the creativity which we employ to achieve our goals is truly admirable.
So our brave little team from the land of sunshine and beaches has donned their winter gear and taken to the Olympic bobsled track for the second time in history. They say that there is small chance of us winning. That may be true, but I wouldn’t count us out too soon. We got to Sochi against all odds, and we are accustomed to beating the odds. Winning may be a long shot, but we thrive on challenges. Because we are a people born and raised on hardships. And this is what we do best. We fight and we conquer. You say it can’t be done? Just watch us.
1.Developed the ortanique
2.Developed several breeds of cattle that now thrive in the Tropics
3.Created Canasol, a ganja-based eyedrop for glaucoma treatment
4.Won the Nobel Peace Prize
5.Created the JaipurKnee, an affordable prosthetic knee
6.Was the first person in the Caribbean to create a bio-engineered fruit
7.Discovered the cause of the disease Kwashiorkor
8.Identified the Aedes Aegypti mosquito as the carrier of dengue fever
9.Created a formula that will eliminate prostate cancer
10.Isolated a compound to fight several types of cancer such as melanoma, lung and breast cancer
Everyone knows that Jamaica is the land of Reggae Musicians and Olympic Sprinters. But fewer people are aware that Jamaica is also home to several notable scientists and inventors. This list introduces just ten of the remarkable creative achievements that Jamaica has produced.
Have you ever tasted an ortanique? This citrus fruit, which is a cross between a tangerine and an orange, was originally developed in the hills of Mandeville, Jamaica by David Daniel Phillips, JP, in the late 19th century. Phillips, who happens to be the grand uncle to the current Minister of Finance of Jamaica, Dr. Peter Phillips, originally decided to call the fruit a ‘tangelo. This name was later changed to ortanique, which is the name it is known by today.
Most ortaniques are still grown in the parish of Manchester in Jamaica. Since this fruit thrives in altitudes of 100ft or more, the cool climate and bauxite rich soils are ideal for the growing of this crop. Efforts to grow the fruit elsewhere have failed to reproduce the distinctive flavor of Manchester grown ortaniques.
2 Cattle – bred for the Tropics
The Jamaica Hope, the Jamaica Red and Jamaica Black are three breeds of cattle specifically developed to live in tropical conditions. They are the work of scientist Dr. Thomas P. Lecky. In 1925, Lecky noticed that the cattle being raised in Jamaica were slow to mature, produced no more than 4 litres of milk per day, and had little meat around the haunches and ribs. On the other hand, they were strong, excellent for hauling carts, and were also resistant to tick fever and other tropical diseases.
It was at this time that Lecky decided to develop an animal that was better suited for Jamaican needs. After migrating to study animal genetics at McGill University in Montreal, and Animal Husbandry at The University of Toronto, he returned to Jamaica to begin his cross-breeding experiments. Finally, in the 1950s, after twenty years of work, he produced the Jamaica Hope.
This breed, the first to be developed, was small enough to navigate the hillsides, could produce as much as 12 litres of milk per day, was resistant to diseases and adapted to the tropics. Lecky’s work revolutionized the dairy industry in Jamaica and caught the attention of scientists from around the world who came to examine his work.
3 Canasol, a ganja-based eye-drop for glaucoma treatment
Canasol was developed through the hard work and scientific research of two notable Jamaicans: pharmacologist, Professor Manley West, and ophthalmologist, Dr Albert Lockhart. It was an important breakthrough drug as it was the first glaucoma eye medication in the Caribbean to be developed at UWI, Mona, and it does not induce the negative side effects that similar synthetic drugs are known for.
Professor West remembers being told by country folk that washing their eyes in ganja water made them see better, and fishermen claimed that drinking ganja tea improved their vision, particularly at night. Meanwhile, Dr. Lockhart noted that his Rastafarian patients who used ganja, had few incidences of glaucoma. From these observations, the two men became interested in working with ganja in order to discover its potential medical benefits. Ten years later, Canasol was the result.
4 The Nobel Peace Prize for Work against Climate Change
Were you aware that a Jamaican has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? In 2007, Professor Anthony Chen was part of a group that received The Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US Vice President Al Gore. The group is the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), and they were recognized “for their efforts to spread information about climate change, and to lay the foundations for counteracting such change.”
5 The JaipurKnee, an affordable prosthetic knee
In 2009, Joel Sadler, who was only 25 years old, along with his American teammates Eric Thorsell, Ayo Roberts and Angelo Szychowski created an affordable artificial knee that is being used in India by thousands of amputees. The JaipurKnee costs only US$20, as opposed to high end titanium joints made in the US that can cost anywhere upwards of US$10,000.
The prosthesis was developed by Stanford University in collaboration with the Jaipur Foot Group, which is a charity that provides prostheses to Indian amputees.
The young men developed the idea while working on a class project in January 2008 as part of their Masters Degree Program. On a trip to India, they met amputee, 17 yr old Kamal who inspired them to make a low cost artificial knee containing just five high performance plastic parts, and four nuts and bolts. It was built to last a minimum of 3 years with normal use.
The JaipurKnee was rated number 18 on the Time Magazine 50 best inventions of 2009.
6 The Solo Sunrise, a disease resistant papaya
The Solo Sunrise is a strain of papaya that is resistant to the devastating Ring Spot disease. This fruit was developed by Dr. Paula Tennant, Jamaican plant biotechnologist.
When the Ring Spot disease threatened to wipe out papaya crops across Jamaica, the Jamaican government solicited advice from Cornell University, which set up a lab at the University to study this problem. Tennant was selected to go and work in that lab. She was able to identify the features of the Jamaican strain of virus, which was a mutated version of the strains seen in other countries. The usual solution to the problem, if unable to cure the disease, would be to find a resistant fruit, or develop an immune papaya through cross-breeding, Efforts in this area were proving unsuccessful.
Through Cornell, Tennant then successfully learned how to manipulate the genes of the fruit to create a genetically modified, disease resistant strain. She is the first person in the Caribbean to develop a bio-engineered product.
7 Kwashiorkor identified as a protein deficiency disease
Most of the developed world has never encountered, Kwashiorkor. However, this disease was the cause of a great deal of suffering in Africa in 1929, when Jamaican medical doctor, Dr. Cicely Williams, first identified its cause, and set about educating persons on how to prevent it.
It was while working in Ghana, where she spent seven years, that she first encountered this disease, which the locals had named kwashiorkor. She learned that the name meant ‘the sickness a child gets when the next baby is born‘. Through her investigations, Williams was able to determine that kwashiorkor was caused by a lack of protein. She began to treat patients with a mixture of beans and grain. Her discovery of the cause of this disease, and her treatment of it, was one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century.
8 Aedes Aegypti discovered to be the carrier of Dengue fever
If you are aware that dengue fever is spread by the aedes aegypti breed of mosquito, then you have benefited from the research of Jamaican microbiologist, pathologist and medical doctor, Professor Louis Grant.
In the 1940s, a strange fever began to present itself in Jamaica. Grant was able to identify it as dengue fever but no-one knew how it had arrived in Jamaica. His research led him to conclude that it was being spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, the breed responsible for spreading yellow fever. Through a public education campaign he was able to control this disease and greatly reduce its spread.
9 Cure for Prostate cancer
A cure for prostate cancer is already in the making, and Jamaica scientist Dr. Henry Lowe is responsible. In 2010, Lowe announced that he had created a cancer-fighting formula from the main ingredient in the plant known as Ball moss, and that this formula would eliminate prostate cancer. In February 2012, Lowe made the product available in nutraceutical form. The product is called Alpha Prostate Formula 1 and it is made under the Eden Gardens Brand. The product has been certified under FDA approved guidelines and is certified for export to the USA and other countries.
10 A Cure for a range of cancers.
In 2010, Dr. Lawrence Williams announced that he had been awarded an international patent on a compound isolated from the Guinea Hen Weed. The Jamaican Scientific Research Council says that this complex has the ability to kill a wide range of cancers including melanoma, lung and breast cancer.
Williams has already dedicated more than 13 years to this research. The next stage involves conducting clinical trials of the compound and development of a pharmaceutical agent. Rights to the patent are shared by Dr. George Levy, a Jamaican-born doctor living in the United States.
Johnson, A. (2001) Great Jamaicans, Book II, Scientists, Kingston: TeeJay Ltd.
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I am late dropping my children to school today. And when I get to my daughter’s school, there is a taxi ahead of me. There is nothing in front of him. He has come to a dead stop in the middle of the road. He is not at the school’s drop off point, and no-one is entering or exiting the car. He is not speaking to anyone which, though annoying, would at least explain his behavior. So I wait a few minutes, and then, I blow my horn. (Oops, not supposed to do that, right? School zone and all.) No response. He makes no move whatsoever. So I wind down my window to try to figure out what the heck is going on. And I realize that the National Anthem is being played over the school’s intercom.
Now they do this every morning. So if you are late in dropping your child to school, and you are caught in the corridors during the Anthem, it’s like being caught in a freeze flash mob. You, know, like in Showtime’s Shameless. You don’t watch Shameless? Never mind. Everybody stops whatever they are doing and comes to attention until the Anthem is over. Now you have to admit that it is slightly inconvenient, while hurrying from one place to another, to be forced to stop and stand still for 5 minutes. OK. Maybe not 5 minutes. Maybe 3 minutes? But I accept that it is a good thing for the children to be familiar with the correct protocol for listening to the National Anthem. So I set a good example and accept this as the norm.
However, I have never heard of being required to stop driving your car when the National Anthem is being played. I can just imagine driving on a busy street past a function where this is occurring, and seeing all the cars screeching to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Sounds like madness to me. This guy has got to be the most patriotic taxi man in the country. And this is not the first time I have seen this happen at school. So can someone please tell me. Do I have it wrong? And would you stop your car for the National Anthem?
If you have not heard of Tessanne Chin, the Jamaican songstress who rose to fame by winning the last season of The Voice, then you clearly have not come into contact with any Jamaicans within the last five months, since that is all that we’ve been able to talk about since the season began airing last September.
Although she was already a well known singer at home, particularly famed for her signature tune “Hideaway’, her appearance on The Voice allowed Tessanne to make a meteoric rise to international fame, and put every Jamaican at home and abroad, in a four month long euphoria of national pride. It was like watching Usain Bolt win the 100m at the Olympics every week for four months!
Since then, the two main newspapers in Jamaica, The Gleaner and The Observer, continue to herald her every move. We know when she gets on a plane and when she lands. We can tell you that she had patties and oxtail when she got home (not at the same time). We saw her participate in the famous Rose Parade, watched her on every television appearance and interview in Jamaica and the USA, and read every article that has ever been written about her. We follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and hang adoringly on her every word.
She is every Jamaican’s little sister, daughter and friend. She is Jamaican. And as such, her successes are our successes, and her triumphs are our triumphs. More than a few of us literally cried tears of joy week after week at each stage of her victorious ascent. We hung on every word of the judges, and every comment made on the internet about her. We defended her roundly at the least hint of disrespect. “How you mean she nuh have di best voice inna di worl! You mussi too fool fool and deaf. You nuh know nutting bout nutting. Don’t even open yuh mout’, yuh ignorant like wha'”
But the cool thing about Tessanne’s rise to fame, for me personally, is the fact that she is of Chinese descent. Why? Because I am also a Jamaican, of Chinese descent, with the original surname of Chin. So I get to pretend that I’m related to her which makes me pass as cool. So whenever someone asked me (and many have) if we are related, I can say ‘Yes man, she’s my cousin, you know! I’ll hail her up for you!” Anyway, according to my dad, every person with the last named Chin can conceivably be traced back to the same small village in China. So Tessanne could quite realistically be my fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh cousin. (Hear that, Tess?)
The one downside of this breathtaking ride, was that it had to end, leaving everyone wondering what they ever did on a Monday and Tuesday night, and what could possibly replace our weekly Tessanne fix. So we continue to comb the papers and the media and follow her every move, because whatever else Tessanne is, she is OURS. And we well proud a har.
So go forth, my long lost cousin, Tessane, and conquer the world. We’re with you every step of the way!
This week I did something that I had no idea how to do a week ago. I set up a blog. Within a very short time, I learned how to purchase a domain name and choose a reliable host for my blog, as well as how to set up and configure it to my satisfaction. Luckily, I got help every step of the way. I was assisted by countless persons who held my hand, answered every question, and gave me excellent advice. And all these people were and continue to be strangers to me.
Upon reflection, I have come to realize that people have a natural inclination to help each other. I know that there are many who are using cyberspace with malicious intent, but I believe that there are a far greater number of persons who are just happy to assist, advise and uplift, by sharing what they have learned, and what they know.
Each time someone creates a how-to video on youtube, writes a review on a product, creates an inspirational blog, or uses the myriad of other methods available to share their knowledge, expertise and opinion, I see someone helping someone.
If I decide to purchase an item online – say, a lamp – there are innumerable persons who will steer me to the best deals, the most reliable supplier, and the highest quality lamp, as well as warn me away from a potential scam. Now, in the grand scheme of things, buying a lamp is not a terribly significant activity, but this wholesale inclination that people demonstrate of looking out for each other’s best interest gives me hope for the world.
I have encountered my share of thieves, liars, cheats, and people who are just plain out to get you. I have been overwhelmed with awareness of the vastness of suffering and cruelty that exists in the world. But I still believe that the world is tipped towards the positive, and that those with good intentions do outweigh those with bad ones.
When we share what we know, it gives us all a chance to learn from each other’s mistakes, and only good can come from such a thing. So thank you to everyone who helped me build my blog, and here’s to us all making the world a better place.
You’re sitting in your car at an intersection, and the person in front of you won’t go. No, they are determined to let every car on the road go by before they creep timidly out of the intersection, then just as you are about to push down on the accelerator, they stop again to wait for the next vehicle to travel a mile and cross in front of them before they finally go. And so you blow your horn like a crazy person and then they slow down and look at you confused, and then continue driving slowly just for spite.
And after that, a bully just speeds out of the side road ahead of you, head held straight like they don’t see you. And you have to jam on the brakes. Suddenly you feel like you’ve just turned into a raging lion and you just want to get out there and shake them up and give them a good few pieces of your mind. Ah! Road rage! Well, for the sake of peace and my own blood pressure, I’ve come up with a way to defuse my anger when I’m on the road.
First of all, just imagine that you do drive up to pass that bully, and you realize…. it’s your Uncle Joe! Haha! Crazy Uncle Joe. Now are you still mad? Of course not! That’s just how Uncle Joe drives. So you shake your head and wave and go your merry way. It makes a big difference when the offender is someone we know rather than some random stranger, isn’t it?
So what you do is this. Just pretend that every slow moving driver out there is your relative. So there, it’s just your sweet old grandma who smells like Vicks and used to sneak you biscuits before dinner. There she is in her silver hair, hunched over the wheel, peering into the windshield, just trying to get to the supermarket while those scary drivers rush by. “OK, grandma.” you say. “Don’t let anybody rush you, you hear? Take your time and drive. I will follow behind you until you are OK.” Right. See how much better that feels than cussing two bad words? After all, that person in front of you, really is probably somebody’s beloved grandma, you know.
And then, when a bully squeezes ahead of you, just laugh and say “But see my crazy Uncle Joe there! Always in a hurry. What we going to do about him. Don’t let police stop you, Uncle Joe!” And just like that, the road rage has vanished. Because if you think about it, we are all connected. That pain in the butt may not be your Uncle Joe. But he is likely somebody’s.
Seriously now. Try it!