Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Sunday afternoon in rural Jamaica

Men gathered at a bar hut, tucked off the roadside, with its own patch of grass for parking. Some hold hot Red Stripe or Dragon Stout in hand, others hold a glass of white rum, ice and water. Two domino tables resound with the sound of tiles being slammed; then quiet, then tiles are shuffled. Jamaican dominoes has its theatrical style (see link), and one man poses as he crashes his final tile on the table. The dialogue at the tables is fast and furious. " Me nah 'fraid fi you! A no six-blank you gwan beat me! Cho' man, you can' play wid man; you is a bway!" People eye newcomers to see if better partners are arriving: "Watch dat man deh. 'Im dangerous wid de cards dem. Mi did play wid 'im since we dey a school."
Pretty girls adorn the calendars of the wall, and one serves at the bar. That's as close to equality as the genders will get here.

A man tends a small wood fire outside the bar. He stews a pot of pork from a pig killed by the bar owner yesterday. He is also frying fish. Cornmeal and plain flour stand ready to be mixed into dough, for dumplings. "You a'right boss? You can 'ol' you pork yet? Or is fish you want?"

Meagre-looking dogs wait their turn for any scraps. While waiting they sleep; the nights are rough barking at strangers walking by. They need no pedigree for their work and the rougher their background the better.

One man, dressed all in green (JLP colours), proudly yells "Fi mi gobment gwan change dis ya country. Me is Bruce Golding. You all gwan change." He proudly shows a photo of himself and Edward Seaga taken several years ago. He adds "We mus' bless di bar. Even di rum we a drink need God blessin'. Listen to dis ya CD. Is pure upliftment." The girl at the bar quietly changes the CD playing Sean Paul and puts on 'Bruce's' selection of revivalist tunes. Everyone continues to rock to the beat, even though the lyrics have switched from night to day.

A man so drunk that he can hardly hold his glass starts to argue with another man who had been so drunk he messed up the play at a dominoes table. The two of them sway in front of each other, grasping at and missing each other. No one cares about their argument, which is about who can throw whom out of the bar. Both would be sad if the owner arrived and threw them both out.

People pass in their cars and hail the crowd at the bar. "Is wha' you a keep up?" some ask. "We gwan nyam pork an' fish. You wan' grab some?" they get in reply.

The best seats are at the bar counter. Chairs have to be brought from a nearby house. Standard seating outside is the carcass of a car long forgotten, whose bonnet also serves at a preparation table for the fish fryer.

Some more women arrive. They start to organize: beer is repositioned on the bar shelves, tins of soda are counted. Men's eyes start to drift from the dominoes. Hunger is beginning to bite and a few drift off to get some of the sweet smelling food. There are other distractions: cell phones keep ringing and men break away for more than a few minutes to deal with the calls. The games break up a little.

The bar owner arrives with several cases of beer. He also bring a few car loads more of men. Spirits revive and the afternoon looks set to stretch into night. Those of us with other responsibilities make a move to eat the pork, fish and boiled dumplings; something needs to push down that beer. We make a brief farewell visit to the sugar cane bush at the side of the bar, and leave without fanfare.

The country roads are quiet but we decide to take a shortcut across the land being mined for bauxite. The red earth and white marl make a sharp contrast to the lush fields of yam, corn, and cassava. The roads are pot-holed and we have to drive slowly but we reach the highway again quickly. The town centre is almost empty when we get there; most people are resting at home as the hustle of the week takes its toll. Sleep and rest are now the orders of the day. Sunday is indeed a day for rest.

1 comment:

BarbadosInFocus / PictureInFocus said...

Nothing like country life...what a joy...