Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chikungunya and Dengue Fever - A Public Health Responsibility

Zapped Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
The small divisions on the scale are millimeters.
Nobody can tell me that I didn't have chikungunya, (chickV), although I'm not prepared to pay Ja$14,000.00 to confirm that diagnosis. Tests done on the a few hundred cases when the virus first appeared in Eastern Jamaica confirmed that is was indeed chikungunya. It spread quickly. It has got to the point now when we ask who hasn't had it, rather than who has had it. Nearly everybody on our street has had it.
     When it first arrived, it was made light of. "You'll have pains for about three days, maybe a rash, then you'll get better and will be immune to further attacks." Not so for many, including myself. Those of us over 45 may take 1 to 2 or more months to get over the acute phase. After that there is the possibility of the subacute phase with arthritis and the possibility of disorders of the blood vessels. Then there is the chronic phase, occurring beyond 3 months and persisting for 2 -3 years. The symptoms include prolonged and severe arthritis, fatigue, body weakness, and depression (no wonder, with the prospect of these symptoms for 3 years!) The chronic phase occurs in 13% of people who contract the disease. If 2 million people in Jamaica contract it, that means that about 260,000 will be affected for up to 3 years. More tragically, many people have died. Yes, they had other conditions such as sickle cell, hypertension and diabetes, or were undergoing cancer treatment, but without chickV they would still be alive.
     I think it is gross negligence on the part of WHO, PAHO and the Jamaican Ministry of Health, who were aware of this disease 2 years ago, to have done nothing. The least they could have done was to mount a public education campaign in the media, schools, churches and business places. The usual cry is that there is no money, but this outbreak has cost far more than a public education campaign would have. A public education campaign, at minimum could give the following information, which could be presented in simpler or more sophisticated ways depending on the audience.
1. Chikungunya is caused by a virus. What is a virus?
A virus is so small it cannot be seen with a regular (light) microscope, but only with an electron microscope. Viruses range in  size from 2 millionths to 30 millionths of a millimetre. What they lack in size, they make up for in numbers. We can have 100 trillion viruses in our bodies at the peak of infection.
2. How do viruses make us ill? 
Viruses consist of a protein coat surrounding a DNA (or RNA) core. The protein coat attaches to the outside of a cell in our bodies and the core is injected. It takes over the machinery of the cell and makes new viruses (about 10,000). Our cells burst open and lets them out to infect other cells. Each cell that is attacked dies. Different viruses attack different parts of the body.
3. What do our bodies do?
Our immune system manufactures antibodies to disable the virus. It takes about 5 days for the immune system to produce enough antibodies to get rid of all the viruses. After the viruses have been killed, some of the protein coats are still sticking to the outside of cells, so our immune system attacks these too, prolonging the symptoms.
4. How is the chikungunya virus spread?
It is spread by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. (Males do not bite.) Aedes is a small mosquito which can be recognized by its stripey legs and body. It is around all day, and lurks under tables, beds and other pieces of furniture. It moves quickly, usually flying off before you can swat it.  There are over 50 species of mosquito in Jamaica, but Aedes is the only one that can transmit the chikungunya, and also dengue fever. When an Aedes bites a person infected with chickV, she sucks up some of the viruses in the person's blood. She will then digest the blood meal and find some water in which to lay her eggs. After about a week, she is ready for another blood meal. By that time, the viruses have moved from her stomach to her salivary glands. When she bites the next person, she injects some saliva to stop the blood from clotting while she sucks it up. The viruses are then let loose in that person's blood. It can take 2 - 7 days of incubation, during which time the viruses are multiplying, before the victim shows any symptoms. The mosquito can live for at least 3 weeks and bite many more persons. It could take only one infected person travelling from the site of the initial outbreak to another part of the country to take it there, without even being aware that they have the disease. Also, an infected person could be bitten by many mosquitoes.
5. How can we stop it?
(i) Get rid of the mosquitoes, or stop them biting us -easier said than done. Adult mosquitoes can be killed by fogging, with malathion mixed with diesel oil,  which also kills other insects, including bees, and gives some people asthma. However, it is of limited usefulness, because the day after fogging, more mosquitoes hatch out. Using mosquito coils and vape - mosquitoes are becoming immune to these and they are not good for our health. Swatting them with a zapper - but you can't catch all of them.
(ii) Spray the skin with insect repellant containing Deet. I know people who have escaped ChickV this way, but surely it can't be good for you to spray yourself every day for months on end. It is good advice for tourists who are here for a few weeks.
(iii) Prevent Aedes from breeding. This should ultimately be the main form of control. In the limited public education we have had, people have been urged to check the following for mosquito larvae: flower vases, plant-pot holders, animal water containers, drums holding water for domestic use, old tyres, plastic bottles, styrofoam boxes and anything else that can catch water.
Careless garbage disposal leads to mosquito breeding.
Even if every householder followed these instructions, there are still too many places left where mosquitoes can lay their eggs - too many empty, overgrown lots in our towns and cities. There is one across the street from our house, and another one two houses away. Into these lots, people throw garbage which collects water in the rainy season. People living in the surrounding community are the target of mosquitoes which breed there, so it is really up to us to put pressure on the owners, or on Parish Council to get them cleaned up. Also, we need to be more responsible about garbage disposal. Business places shouldn't employ coke-heads to take away their garbage, knowing they will dump it on an empty lot or in a gully. We have an anti-litter law in Jamaica. Why is it not being enforced? Potholes in roads also fill with water in the rainy season, providing another suitable place for Aedes to lay their eggs.
"Too late now," we may say, as we've already caught ChickV, but there is the ever present threat of the 4 strains of dengue fever, including the life-threatening hemorrhagic dengue fever.
          A better long-term solution is to reduce the Aedes population significantly by releasing sterile males, which mate with females which then lay eggs which are not viable. Research into this by Oxitec has been going on for 10 years, and had now reached the testing stage. The method was successful in the Cayman Islands, just in time to spare them from chikungunya. They are now going on to test larger urban communities in Brazil. Their video is well worth watching.
     My final word is to those who work for WHO, PAHO, Ministries of Health in Caribbean countries, and governments who make the final decisions. We pay you. Without our taxes, you would not have the jobs you have. Jamaicans, already suffering under the IMF, now have to endure more pain as a result of chickV, when that pain could have been prevented. Is that fair?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Olive Senior: Colon Man and the Panama Experience

Olive Senior
On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, Olive Senior, in association with UWI Western Jamaica Campus and the Institute of Jamaica, gave a Distinguished Lecture on “Colon Man and the Panama Experience”, in commemoration of the centenary of the opening of the Panama canal in 1914.
A prelude to the programme in the form of folk songs about Panama canal workers, including the popular “Colon Man Ah Come”, was given by singers from UWI led by Lilieth Nelson.
The chairman for the programme, who welcomed all present, was none other than Dr. Simon Clarke, a Colon Man himself, having been born in Panama of Jamaican parents. He was not resident in Jamaica until he went to Calabar High School. He gave us snippets of information about his life there: on racial segregation, he told us about the ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ cities, and newly arrived Jamaicans refusing to leave the ‘gold’ line at the post office!
Dr. Luz Longsworth, Director of UWI Western Campus; Mrs. Nicole Patrick Shaw, Deputy Director, Institute of Jamaica; and Mrs. Winsome Hudson, National Librarian/CEO of the National Library of Jamaica all brought greetings from their respective institutions which had organized the programme.
Ms. Kristen Laing, PR and Marketing Officer, NLJ, then read Olive Senior’s poem, ALL CLEAR, which deals with the large scale emigration of West Indian males to work on the Panama Canal and elsewhere in Latin America in the Caribbean.
The young lady who introduced Olive Senior, on behalf of Mr. Steffon Campbell of CARIMAC, confessed that if she were to tell us of all this award-winning writer’s  accomplishments, there would be no time for the lecture. You can read more about Olive on her website.
The highlight of the evening was Olive’s lecture, based on her newly published book, Dying to better Themselves:West Indians and the building of the Panama Canal,   published by University of the West Indies Press (September 30, 2014). Although Olive began her research for this book twenty years ago, revisiting the subject from time to time, meanwhile writing 14 other books, her presentation radiated the excitement of finding the Colon Man to be  "one driven by the need to improve his conditions; dying to better himself." She also mentioned the “neglected post-emancipation generation of the 1850's” when there existed poverty we cannot imagine today. From that time, Jamaicans have been migrating to Panama in search of employment. Because of the relative proximity of Panama, there developed a “pattern of circular migration that would transform our islands economically, socially and politically well into the twentieth century.” She emphasized the significance of the contribution that Jamaicans made to the development of Panama, as well as that made by Jamaicans who returned with their savings to invest at home. For a more detailed account of her lecture, I recommend you to the articles by Tanesha Mundle in The Daily Observer and in TallawahMagazine.
Better still, buy a copy of the book to read for yourself!
The evening closed with a vote of thanks by Mr. Aubrey Stewart, Campus Chairman, UWI WJC Guild of Students, followed by a postlude of Refreshments and Book Signing. Unfortunately, the first printing of this book has sold out, except for the few copies which had been kept back for Montego Bay, which were soon sold. I will edit this post with information about when books from the second printing become available.
With my 'beach-buddy' Olive before her lecture

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Suggestions for books for 3-6 year-olds

Following my post of Sep 23, 2014, on How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers, I'm making suggestions about appropriate books for children to choose from. They can learn to love books from as early as Kindergarten/ Basic School. The purpose of this post is to be a guide to parents, teachers and well-wishers of Jamaican children aged 3-6 in Basic Schools and Kindergartens, who would like to buy books for children but don't know where to begin. See also my blog of March 1, 2014 for books by Jamaican authors for young children.  I used the list of books recommended by children, on CTL's website to find many of the others. Because most of the authors listed live in the USA, and have a bias towards that culture, I haven't recommended books about baseball, football, or the seasons, especially winter and snow which Jamaican children are unlikely to have experienced. I've highlighted one book per author, but together they have hundreds of other books in print.
A comment here about reading: reading means gaining meaning from words and from pictures. The illustrations in children's books are equally as important as the words.  Children build some key reading skills when they read wordless books, or books with very few words. These include comprehension, sequencing, inferring, predicting and reading from left to right and top to bottom in English.  Many of the books listed are for fluent readers to read aloud to children. The importance of reading aloud,  and for the children then to have the books in their hands, cannot be overemphasized.
Authors are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Atinuke and Lauren Tobia: Anna Hibiscus Series, set in modern Nigeria. Delightful books for the enlightenment of people not living in Nigeria, and for the entertainment of those living there.

2. Molly Bang:  When Sophie Gets Angry . Sophie gets really angry but has her own way of calming down. Minimal text, but the pictures also tell the story.
There are several other titles by this author.

3. Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In this children's classic, the caterpillar eats his way through the book.  A teacher or parent would need to read this to younger children, but there's plenty of room for discussion along the way. Eric Carle has over forty children's books in print.

4. Donald Crews: Flying Minimal text. Children would need guidance the first time they look at this book, but afterwards would be able to 'read' the story on their own by looking at the pictures. Donald Crew has many books about transport, including Truck which is a wordless book. Useful in Jamaican basic schools, except for the setting which of course is in the USA.

5. Lois Ehlert: Top Cat . Top Cat rules the house until a new kitten arrives. At first he doesn't want to share but then finds that 2 can be more fun than one. The text is in large print but the vocabulary is beyond most basic school children. Suitable for read-aloud and discussion.
Lois Ehlert has written and illustrated more than 25 children's books, many of them about the natural environment in the USA, so the birds and plants she mentions would not be familiar to Jamaican children.

6. Ed Emberley: Go Away, Big Green Monster! Kids can turn the pages and watch the monster grow then disappear. Pictures provide clues for the simple text.
 Ed Emberley is the author and illustrator of over 80 books.

7. Ian Falconer: Olivia Have fun with Olivia, dressing up, singing songs and wearing people out. Pre-readers can 'read' a story from the delightful pictures, and, with some help, the text is manageable for emergent readers.
Ian Falconer has written and illustrated 10 more Olivia books.

8. Denise Fleming: In the Tall, Tall Grass  - what a caterpillar would see. A few words of simple text in large letters on each page. Children would soon learn to recognize these words. I would like to see this book in every basic school in Jamaica.
Denise Fleming is the author and illustrator of 15 picture books.

9. Mem Fox: Koala Lou A delightful book for parents or teachers to read aloud to younger children and for older children to read for themselves.
Mem Fox had written dozens of children's books and promotes literacy. She gives good advice in her 10 commandments for reading aloud.     

10. Kevin Henkes: Chrysanthemum Text good for reading aloud and discussion.
Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of close to 50 picture books.

11. Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Peanut Butter and Jellyfish - a story of friendship. This is another read-aloud book, but non-readers, after hearing it, would be able to tell the story from the pictures.

12. Bill Martin, Jr.:  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - the letters of the alphabet race one another to the top of the coconut tree. Another book I would like every basic school to have. The rhythmic text would soon be memorized by children. It is available as a board book which would prolong its life when handled by
children. I also recommend Chicka Chicka 1 2 3, by the same author.

13. Jerry Pinkney: The Lion and the Mouse and The Tortoise and the Hare  Children who are struggling with letter recognition can successfully read well-known fables in these two beautifully illustrated wordless books.

14. David Shannon: No, David  I say 'yes' to this book, which highlights all the things David mustn't do. "No, David" is written on every page. There are other suitable books by this author illustrator.

15. Rosemary Wells: Yoko  Yet another read-aloud book, but I included it because of its cultural diversity. Although Yoko is disguised here as a cat, from her name and the text she is unmistakably Japanese. Rosemarie Wells has written other books
about Yoko which would also be well-worth purchasing.

16. Mo Willems: Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus  Teachers, when you read this book to children, they will answer the questions! As children become more fluent readers they will be able to read the simple text for themselves. There are several more pigeon books.

My final comment is a plea to make more books available to Jamaican children, especially in Basic Schools. If you are Jamaican, living abroad, paying a visit to Jamaica, why not purchase a few of these books to donate to a Basic School near to where you will be staying?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Help Kids become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers

You don’t often hear of a non-fiction book being hard to put down, and pulling at your heart strings, but that was my experience with “The Reading Zone – HOW TO HELP KIDS BECOME SKILLED, PASSIONATE, HABITUAL, CRITICAL READERS ” by Nancie Atwell, which endorsed for me what I have always taken for granted – the value of reading.
My mother used to read to us from as far back as I can remember – Beatrix Potter stories, Alison Uttley’s ‘Little Grey Rabbit’, The Wind in the Willows, Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series. But she had a harder time turning me into a skilled, passionate, habitual, critical reader. Unlike my sister, I wasn’t too keen on the titles my mother picked out for me. I suspect that they were above my reading level at
My mother read this to me!
the time and that I wasn’t interested in the content. I liked to read stories by Enid Blyton, whom my parents regarded as sexist and racist. I was oblivious of this, although I knew they didn’t like her books. They weren’t in favour of comics either, probably sharing the view of The 
Reverend John Marcus Harston Morris who “decried the violence and sensationalism of American crime and horror comics and their effects on British children”,  and who started his own comic, “Eagle”, which they allowed us to read. I don’t remember being captivated by Dan Dare or space travel as a result. I’m still not keen on books about exploring the universe. The books that turned me into a reader were C.S. Forester’s “Hornblower” Series. I also enjoyed historical novels for children by Geoffrey Trease. I have a vague recollection of his making a visit to our school and being disappointed by his appearance and lack-luster presentation.
When it came time for me to read to my own children, many more titles were available than when I was child. Favourites were the “Ant and Bee” books and “What a Mess” by Frank Muir. I started Lucea Prep School in 1982, when there was no internet or Amazon, but that didn’t stop me from getting books. Because of the limited range in the local bookshops, I chose books from the Scholastic catalogue to build up a school library. I encouraged parents to buy books, too, but there was often a distressing delay in getting the books by post. I also borrowed books from Hanover Parish Library to read to the children.

Atwell’s premise, I had seen in other writings before, is that
“frequent voluminous reading is the single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance in standardized tests of reading ability.” She follows this up with real life examples of how frequent voluminous reading is achieved in her school, Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Edgecomb, Maine, where “teachers hope that along the way students will become smarter, happier, more just and compassionate people because of the worlds they experience in books.” Doesn’t that describe what we would like our students to become in Jamaica? Atwell says “The only surefire way to induce a love of books is to invite students to select their own.” And “…free choice of books should be a young reader’s right, not a privilege.”  “When kids are reading stories that are interesting to them, when books are written at their independent reading levels, comprehension is direct, they understand.” They don’t have to be taught ‘comprehension’.
Most of Atwell’s compelling argument critiques the system in the US, but the methods and outcomes are equally applicable in Jamaica. Unfortunately, very few children here see any books apart from what is supplied at school. Only a small percentage of eligible children actually use the Parish Libraries. School libraries vary, but few of them have a budget and depend mainly on donated books. Class libraries are few and far between. Most parents cannot afford to buy children’s literature. They are hard-pressed to buy the expensive workbooks required on school book lists. Effectively, by failing to provide a choice of books for our children, we are denying them the opportunity to become skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers. Two things must happen for us to turn this situation around:
1.     Convince teachers and parents that children who read for pleasure do in fact perform better at school than those who don’t.
2.     Increase the supply of books in parish, school and class libraries.

My book for 9-13 year-olds 
What I suggest is that, at every opportunity, parents request books for their children from friends and relatives, and that teachers and schools request books from organizations. There is then the question: “what books?” I recommend a selection of books by Jamaican and Caribbean authors, in addition to titles by authors from all over the world, which can be purchased on Amazon, if they are not available in local bookshops.
The problem is to select appropriate titles from the avalanche of available children’s books. Nancie Atwell’s book directed me to lists of books recommended by children who attend her school . As she says, the field of children’s literature changes very quickly, so she herself doesn’t recommend books. The children’s recommendations are updated annually. I have begun to go through this list and in subsequent blogs I will highlight my findings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Books by Jamaican authors for children 8-12 years (Updated)

This is an update of my post of October 2012.
Children who read for pleasure improve their word knowledge, grammar and reading comprehension far beyond what is taught in formal classes. This holds true whether they are reading stories about children like themselves or different from themselves. Why then should we be concerned that books about children like themselves are available for their reading pleasure?
In a blog post in October 2012, Diane Browne wrote 
 “But where is the embracing of the Caribbean literature by the education system so that we may read about ourselves more often than we do, not only in set books, but just in the library at school? Do we think that our children can learn anything from the books being written now? Have our adult gatekeepers read the books and recognized their worth, not only as entertaining stories, but also as self validation, points from which discussion may arise in a young people valiantly searching for themselves, as all young people do? Books allow them to work through their fears, their sources of joy, their experiences, to try on various selves. It would seem a good thing if these selves could be related to their own lives.”
Summer Edwards said in a 2012 blog “Now that I am older and have had a chance to read children's literature from many cultures, I realize that the children's books that have truly made a difference in my life - both my child life and my adult life- are the ones where the stories were set in West Indian places, with characters that talked and looked like me and knew the same things I did.”
In her Reflection on Jamaican children reading  Curdella Forbes wrote “Access to fiction written specifically for Caribbean children and teens is still extremely limited for most Jamaican children…Jamaican fiction outside of the school curriculum is unknown to many children. Some parents who would love to purchase nonschool books for their children cannot afford the cost. Those who can, have extensive options offered by the distributing giant Scholastic. With multiple outlets in the Caribbean, Scholastic leaves its local competitors far behind.”
To help those who would like to purchase books by Jamaican authors, I have updated  my list  and added some links. 

List of books by Jamaican Authors
1. Flying with Icarus  by Curdella Forbes                  2003 (Walker Books)

Carlong Sand Pebble Series  available in Sangsters Book Stores
2. Jojo’s Treasure Hunt by Cherrell Shelley-Robinson           2003 (10-12)
3. Freedom Come by Jean Goulbourne                                  2002 (10 -12)
4. Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne       2011 (10-14)
5. Bernie and the Captain’s Ghost by Hazel Campbell          2010 (10-12)
6. Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi by C. Shelley-Robinson et al            2008 (10-14)
7. Every Little Thing will be All Right by Diane Browne 2003 (8-10)
8. Little Island - Big Adventures by Maria Roberts-Squires 2007 (12-14)
9. Jenny and the General by Jean D’Costa                 2006 (8-10)
10. Miss Bettina’s House by Hazel Campbell                        2004 (8-10)
11. Ash the Flash by Hazel Campbell and Nattalie Gordon   2014 (10-12)

Published by LMH,  available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading.
12. Juice Box and Scandal by Hazel Campbell
13. Tilly Bummie by Hazel Campbell
14. Ramgoat Dashalong by Hazel Campbell
15. Goat Boy Never Cries by Hazel Campbell
16. Be-All-You-Can-Be: Yalena and the Spelling Bee by Lil’ Island kids
17. Fly Away Home and other Caribbean Stories by Andy Mead
18. Project Climate Change by Petre Williams-Raynor
19. Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis
20. Saving Joe Louis by Isabel Marvin

By Diane Browne
21. A Tumbling World - A Time of Fire
22. Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune. Now available as an ebook
23. The Ring and the Roaring Water

By Linda Gambrill (Beenybud Stories)
24. Miss Tiny (7- 9)
25. A Boy Named Neville (7 - 9)

Island Fiction Series (Macmillan Caribbean 2009) available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading and on Amazon.
27. Delroy in the Marog Kingdom by Billy Elm  2009 (9-14)
28. Night of the Indigo by Michael Holgate  2009 (12-15)

29. Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai 2009 (8-12) 

By Cedella Marley
31. One Love (2011)
32. Every Little Thing (2012)

33. A Jamaican Storyteller’s Tale by Lorrimer A. Burford ( 2005)

By Suzanne Francis Brown
34. The Mystery of the Golden Table (Arawak Publishing)
35. Searching for Pirates. A Port Royal Adventure (Arawak)
36. Marcus Garvey. (Suzanne Francis-Brown/Jean-Jacques Vayssieres)(Ian Randle Publ)
37. The Mermaid Escapade (E-Published, Kindle, 2013) 

38. By Helen Williams ‘Delroy and the Marog Princess’ (self-published e-book sequel to Delroy in the Marog Kingdom).

The following stories were written longer ago (‘70’s,’80’s and ‘90’s). They are probably better known than more recent publications, because many of them were on school book lists.
By James Berry
40. Ajeemah and His Son – Harper Collins1993 (8-up)
By Everard Palmer
41.  A Cow Called Boy 1972 (6-10)
42. The Sun Salutes You (Republished by Macmillan Caribbean 2007) (8-12)
43. My Father Sun-Sun Johnson 1974 (8-12)(Republished by Macmillan Caribbean 2012)
44. Cloud with the Silver Lining 1987 (8-12)(Republished by Macmillan Caribbean 2011)
By Jean D’Costa
46. Escape to Last Man Peak
By Andrew Salkey (all reprinted by Peepal Tree Press 2011 in the Caribbean Modern Classics  Series) (12 - up) 
47. Drought (Oxford 1966; )
49.  Riot
50. Hurricane
By Vic Reid (1913 - 1987)
51. Sixty-Five (1960), London: Longman.
52. The Young Warriors (1967), London: Longman.
53. Peter of Mount Ephraim (1971), Kingston: Jamaica Publishing House.
54. The Jamaicans (revised edition 1978), Kingston: Institute of Jamaica.
55. Nanny Town (1983)
56. The Horses of the Morning (1985)
57. The Leopard

In response to comments, I have added the following:
By Geoffrey Philp
58. Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories   There is also a Kindle edition 
59. Marcus and the Amazons (an e-book)
60. The Christmas Dutch Pot Baby (an e-book)
By Renaee Smith
61. The Great Compost Heap

If anyone reading this post knows of, or has written other stories for 8 -14 year-olds, I would be most grateful if you would let me know.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Visit to Rastafari Indigenous Village

Montego River
I’ve been hearing about this for a while and recently had the privilege of visiting there. Arthur Newland greeted us in the Montego Bay River Gardens and led us across the Montego River at the fording.
After crossing, we walked beside the river, then through the trees, up a steep path which led us to an open, grassy area with a fire in the centre. This fire is not used for cooking, but is a symbol of change.
Tebah playing drum at A-dZiko's book-reading at Fontana
   Along with other visitors, I was introduced to Rastafarians busy making drums, Golden Ankh and Tebah, whom I had met at Adziko’s book launch, when he played the drum before she read from “All Over Again”.
   Firstman then told us some of the history of and symbols used by the Rastafari. The movement began in the 1930’s after the coronation of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia. Leonard Howell was among a group of men of African descent, who, from their study of certain passages in the Bible, acknowledged Haile Selassie to be the Messiah. Howell’s followers came from living conditions unsuitable for human beings, but they did not demand that the British provide better conditions. Rather, they sought freedom of spirit and had the intention of returning to Africa. In spite of this, they came into conflict with the law. Howell organized wide-scale recruitment and became the head of a communal society at Pinnacle, near Sligoville in St. Catherine, which is even now, in 2014, under threat of being taken away.   
The Ankh
Although Bible passages are the source of much inspiration for the Rastafarian movement, not all symbols of the Christian Church accepted. The cross, being a symbol of death is not embraced.  Firstman showed us their symbol, the Ankh, used in ancient Egypt to signify life. The loop at the top represents the womb, and the part below it the penis. The crossbar represents children.  The trinity in various forms, such as mother-father-child, heat-air-water, and sun-moon-stars, is another symbol. The Rastafarian colours are red, gold and green, representing blood, the sun and life respectively.
We were treated to delicious fresh fruit - pineapple, papaya, banana and orange - served on a bamboo plate. Firstman told us that Rastafarians are vegetarians, and showed us some of the vegetables they eat, which are grown on land around the village. They also avoid salt.
Rastafarians take pride in their life-style to maintain healthy bodies, minds and spirits, but, like all of us at times, they succumb to illness. However they do not treat themselves with Western medicine; rather they rely on the healer’s knowledge  of medicinal plants and how to use them. The healer of the village showed us the herb garden and told us about their healing properties:  Aloe Vera is used to alleviate sunburn, and is made 
Aloe Vera
into a drink which cleanses the kidneys and the intestines; Broom Weed is a diuretic and is used for heart complaints; Sarsaparilla (known as an aphrodisiac), is used as a blood purifier and for gout; Fever Grass is useful for colic, flatulence and diarrhea as well as for fevers; Noni boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation and is useful in the treatment of arthritis; Marigold is used in the treatment of colds, fevers, coughs, wounds, and infections. Ginger, Rosemary and Basil are popular seasonings which also have their medicinal uses. Ginger is anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. Basil lowers cholesterol. Rosemary is good for digestive and circulatory problems.
About the Labyrinth 
The Labyrinth
For spiritual well-being and meditation, there is the Labyrinth. It represents a partial journey towards our core, step by step, breath by breath. We walked between the bamboo posts, seeming to retrace our steps, but in fact being led to the centre. Although Marijuana is used by Rastafarians for meditation and to bring about a feeling of spirituality, it was not mentioned, as it is still against the law in Jamaica to be in possession of it.
      Following our walk through the Labyrinth, we returned to the meeting place where the drummers played and sang for us. They made this an interactive experience, instructing us in how to play the drums. 
Our final stop was at the gift shop, where we could purchase jewelry and other craft items handmade by the Rastafarians in the village.

     Since people all over the world are interested in the Rastafarian Movement, the opportunity given to visitors to go to the Rastafari Indigenous Village is a welcome addition to slate of activities that tourists can choose from. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Making solar energy a viable option in Jamaica

The high cost of electricity continues to afflict every business and individual in Jamaica. Failing to encourage solar solutions because they would affect the bottom line of JPS is a short-sighted approach. In my letter to the Daily Gleaner, (below) published on June 5, 2014, I recommended net-billing as a win-win option for JPS and customers. However, it didn’t recommend how we could solve the peak demand dilemma.   I’m now suggesting that peak demand for electricity could be reduced by the National Water Commission using more solar generated electricity, produced by individual customers with net-billing, who send electricity to JPS during the day.
NWC is the single largest consumer of electricity in the public sector, accounting for approximately 47% of public sector energy consumption. The average monthly electricity consumption for the NWC is approximately 15,000,000 kWh, and it spends approximately J$280 million per month on electricity. They have the option of pumping water to tanks situated on higher ground during the day, which would flow by gravity during the night. In other words, they can convert solar energy into potential energy for use at night, so they wouldn’t have to use electricity during the hours of peak demand.
Not being an engineer, I don’t know about the practicality of turning pumps on and off, but since it is done in times of water shortage, it must be possible. Where NWC doesn’t have storage facilities, individuals could be provided with black tanks, which many people already have, if that would be a more practical option than building new storage facilities.  The inconvenience of having reduced water pressure during the hours of peak electricity demand would be offset by the lower cost for both electricity and water.

The rationale for net-billing is set out in this letter:
Dear  Sir,
With reference to your headline article, “Solar Power Risk” in the Daily Gleaner of June 3, I think that our policy decisions in relation to electricity should be based on long-term considerations, such as the amount of foreign exchange spent on fossil fuels, and the threat of global warming, rather than on return on investments.
My initial observation is that we have failed to capitalize on the opportunities provided by solar energy. Neither JPS nor OUR have educated the public on the win-win situation which is possible with net-billing. More people might be interested in applying for net-billing if the application process were quicker, and the steps involved, detailed instructions for which are given on JPS website, were less onerous.  Most people are unaware that you do not need batteries to run a solar system if you have a grid-tie with JPS. In fact, going that route is more environmentally friendly and less expensive as shown by the calculation below.
On the whole, companies selling solar systems encourage purchasers to buy batteries. Their pitch is that you can cut your electricity bills and even get off the grid entirely. They also tell you that JPS pays you only half of what you pay JPS per KWH, which is true, but they don’t tell you that batteries would cost more. Also, most people use more electricity in the summer than in the winter. To get off the grid entirely, one would have to install sufficient panels to supply one’s summer needs and then one would have excess in the winter. It would be better to be able to send the excess to the grid in the winter and draw from JPS if necessary in the summer.
      My calculation is based on a monthly average of 200 KWH being sent to JPS in the day, and drawn from JPS at night. (It does not include the excess amounts being sent or drawn). Nor does it take into account escalating costs. I make the optimistic assumption that a battery bank will last for ten years.
Without solar panels
200 KWH x Ja$40 = $8000 monthly x 12 = $96,000 annually x10 years = $960,000.00
With solar panels and net billing (cost corresponding to half of $40.00)
200 KWH x $20 =    $4000 monthly x 12 = 48,000 annually x 10 years = $480,000.00
Savings: $480,000.00
With batteries, no net-billing, cost would be $0, but
Cost of 16 batteries @ $40,000.00 each with life expectancy 10 years max = $640,000
In contrast, as Mr. John Kistle states, JPS would be faced with the challenge of providing everybody with electricity at peak hours after sunset, or on overcast days. Some of that generating capacity would have to be turned off at peak sunshine hours, thus reducing the return on whatever investment was made in a new power plant.  However, solar power would cut down on the amount of fuel needed to run the plant.
Given the importance of the cost of electricity to all of us in Jamaica, perhaps there are some other things we can do. Could there be a consensus, for example, on turning off our fridges during peak hours? Or JPS charging different rates at peak hours?
I think that all stakeholders need to be involved in making these hard decisions.

Yours truly,
Helen Williams