Before the advent of Tupperware and fancy luggage, baskets were used for storage and transport. There are mass-produced baskets available, but basket weaving in Jamaica is a true work of art because it is completely done by hand and bears the unique signature of the person who made it.
Whether you use cattails, bramble willow, rush, grass, or soft bark, and your method is braiding, twining or plaiting, your heart and soul gets immersed in the craft and the results are stunning.
In as much as we have evolved, the beauty of this ancient pastime is still visible in the craft markets across the island and to a lesser extent on our street vendors. Almost every home has a handy basket stored in a corner.
Basket-weaving is one of the crafts our campers will be learning this summer. We can't wait!
Till den... walk good,
"Story time! Story time!" A long time now mi nuh hear dem words ennuh! Yuh memba dem time deh? No? Well, come. Mi 'ave a likkle story fi yuh!
The Jamaican tradition of storytelling originated with the African Griots who were brought over to the work on the island's plantations. Storytelling was a way to provide entertainment, pass on knowledge, teach morality, and so much more.
Elders would very often tell a story to a child in order to explain the consequences of particular actions. On moonshine nights especially, families would sit out under the stars or on their verandas, and the elders would have the undivided attention of the children as they recounted one story after another about Bredda Anancy'santics to outsmart his friend, Bredda Tucoman.
Life experiences were also topics in storytelling. History lessons were narrated as stories of what happen to Great Great Grandpa So-and-so. From how him used to buck aaf him big toe when him was a bwoy to how him used to deal wid him pickney when dem nuh have mannas.
Male elders, especially when they had a little “whites” (a drink of rum), would transition to duppy stories as the hour got later. These spoke of the supernatural - ghosts - and were (looking back) ridiculously embellished. Every time a duppy story was repeated, it got more dramatic. Children were both intrigued and terrified by these stories and would often report having nightmares and “seeing duppies" in their sleep.
As our favorite storyteller, Dr. Amina Blackwood Meeks would say, "I think human beings are wired for storytelling and in this age of techno-fascination it is an important up-close-and-personal irreplaceable tool for human encounter."
Wi cyaan wait fi di next story time.
Until then, Jack mandora... mi nuh choose none!
I asked my kids what they thought of whenever they bit into a piece a bun and cheese. One kid said to me that it made her think of rainbows... The other kid said that it made him happy. Then they started talking to each other and apparently bun and cheese makes them happy because it makes them think about rainbows and rainbows make them happy. Kid logic…
I recently watched a video where they were talking about bun and cheese (among other snack items). One of the commentators put forwards a sentiment that I totally agreed with; bun and cheese was "a warm hug of a snack." Now that I'm thinking about it, I can see where the kids came by their rainbow-happiness comparison.
Bun and cheese has a history steeped in the colonialism of Jamaica but for us kids, it was always about that snack that could both fill you up and feel like dessert at the same time. Whether at lunchtime or after school, you could always buy bun and cheese because it was both quick and cheap. The shopkeeper would just cut open a round bun right there in the plastic, slip in a thick slice of tin cheese, and send you on your way. If you were at home you probably had a loaf of bun that you would slice so that you could put the cheese in between. Which ever way you decided to eat it though, it always tasted so much better when you squeezed it down to flatten it. I never figured out what made it taste so much better when you made it dense, but it was always just so good.
If you're in an area with a significant Jamaican population, you might find that as we go into the Easter season, Easter bun is now on sale. Regular bun and cheese is available year-round, but nothing and we mean absolutely nothing compares to Easter bun. It could be the extra fruit in the Easter bun or maybe the fancy packaging, but whatever the reason, Easter bun was always worth the wait. Seeing as I just rushed into the store to buy some, trust me on this.
Walk good until next time,
by Wendy Iacobello
In today’s climate, diversity is not only apparent everywhere, but tolerance to diverse cultures is a must. There are so many amazing cultures all over the world. At Irie Camp Jamaica, all cultures and children are included in this special camp that strives to teach diversity and focuses on the appreciation as well as exposure of the Jamaican culture.
How can you teach diversity to children?
Metzler, Ph.D (2009) proposes that, “Children don't come with instructions, but they do come with open minds. Much of what they learn about respecting differences comes from their parents.” Teaching children about other cultures begins at home and parents today can find several opportunities to expose their children to the diverse backgrounds of people so they can appreciate and understand the wonderful traits of others who are different from themselves.
Irie Camp Jamaica is a perfect place to experience the Jamaican culture with children from all over the world. According to Metzler, “Teaching our children to accept differences may require that we use the power of the internet to learn about differences, that we seek out cultural activities that are out of our community and explore the strength and value in diversity.” There are many ways to expose children to other backgrounds that will influence them to better understand the concepts of diversity. Another strategy is to “Try to create opportunities for children to interact and make friends with people who are different from them. As you know, children learn best from concrete experiences” (Gonzalez-Mena & Pulido-Tobiassen, 1999).
When children can be proud of their own heritage, they are more likely to be open to learning about others. Teaching diversity to children also allows room for them to be open about their own culture. Gonzalez-Mena & Pulido-Tobiassen explain that, “The more that children have a solid grounding and understanding about who they are and where they came from, the more they learn to move with grace and confidence among communities different from their own, and the closer we get to building a world of respect, curiosity, sharing, and humanity.” Learning to respect and appreciate different cultures is an important concept and life skill. Teaching children openness and sensitivity to other heritages different from their own begins at home. There are numerous activities that can reinforce these concepts and Irie Camp Jamaica is one that will leave a positive and lasting impression on those who attend.
Metzler goes on to say that, “Rather than teach children the correct labels or names for people, let's teach them that differences are only a part of who we are. It is not the total of who we are.” Teaching about diversity is not only important for many of the reasons mentioned above, but it can also help children find similarities beyond the physical differences in the many cultures of the world.
Gonzalez-Mena, J, & Pulido-Tobiassen, D. (1999). Scholastic.com. Teaching Diversity: A Place to Begin. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/teaching-diversity-place-begin-0/
Metzler Ph.D, C. (2009, February). PBS.org. Teaching Children About Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/archive/2009/02/teaching-children-about-divers.html
Wendi Iacobello has been an Army wife for three years and part of military life for five years. She has spent the last nine years as an adult educator, has a Master of Arts in Educational Media, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Her teaching career includes; Middle and High School Special Education, Correctional Education, and Community College Instruction in Early Childhood Education, Compensatory Ed, as well as Adult Basic Education. Currently, she is a blogger, freelance writer, instructional designer, aqua cycling instructor, and avid volunteer. In her free time, you can usually find her volunteering at USO’s story time, outdoors in the garden, exercising, or enjoying time with her husband and their adorable Beagle, Daizi. Wendi is extremely passionate about helping others find their inner strength by sharing her experiences, insight, resources, and inspirational stories on her blog Strength4Spouses.
We've heard your questions about payment plans, so we've made it super easy to save your camper's spot and then make your installment payments. This is a brand new way of getting your camper all set to be Irie.
We now have two payment plans available: ICJ Plan 25, where you pay in increments of $25, and ICJ Plan 50, where you pay in increments of $50. You won't see these in the regular Camp Store though. Get started by Saving a Spot for your camper. Final payments are due by June 1, 2019.
There’s something very special about my island home. You can’t help but be happy when you’re surrounded year round by sun, sand and sea. My childhood was filled with great food memories, and summer was always the best part. All the Jamaican fruit were in season and I looked forward to indulging in mangoes by the bucket load and the sweetest pineapples imaginable. There’s never a need to force a Jamaican child to have fruit; not when they taste so good.
As I transitioned into adulthood, I took pride in giving my goddaughter both fruit and candy; (because what’s life without balance?) One day I gave her a blue raspberry candy and her quizzical expression after reading the wrapper sent me down the rabbit hole of entrepreneurship.
You see, with all the fruit varietals in Jamaica, we don’t have raspberries. And we certainly don’t have blue raspberries. I wondered where were the candies in the fruit flavors she already knew and loved like guava and pomegranate. Having searched high and low in Jamaica, I discovered we were importing almost all of the candy consumed on the island.
I resigned my corporate job to make candy in Jamaica my goddaughter could recognize; and four years later, here I am. I own and operate Jamaica’s only commercial candy company. We aim to satisfy the sweet tooth of Caribbean people and Caribbean people at heart.
It’s been an enjoyable journey. Experimenting with textures and flavors and seeing the faces of children light up when they guess the flavor of the candy they are eating. It’s been fun to open the factory doors for school tours and family visits, showing people how Jamaica’s only candy gets made. And of course they get to taste.
Starting my candy company, Sweetie, I feel embodies exactly who we are as Jamaicans:-
If every you’re in Jamaica, come stop by my sweet spot on the island.
Jamaicans are resourceful by nature. In the good old days – at least in my childhood – the word “bored” was not in children’s vocabularies. What we lacked in handheld electronics, we made up for with youthful energy and a repertoire of games requiring nothing more than each other. A favorite pastime was ring games: games played in a circle with a group of friends.
Ring games were fast-paced, interactive, and fun for all. They started spontaneously whenever enough children were in one place for a period of time: break time (aka school recess), wash day by the river, or catching water from springs or stand pipes were some of the best opportunities. We would play Dandy Shandy, Bull Eena Pen, One and Twenty, Farmer in the Dell, What Can You Do Puncinella Likkle Fella, Brown Girl in the Ring, and Bend Down Stucky . While variations abounded, the rules of each game were simple and easily communicated, encouraging participation from the very young to adults. Let’s play a few.
What can You do Puncinella Likkle Fella: This game has one player in the middle of the ring, always given the name “Puncinella.” While everyone else claps their hands singing “What can you do Puncinella lickle fella,” Puncinella stops in front of a random member of the ring and performs an action of his or her choosing – a gesture, dance move, or feat of coordination – which all the other players must mimic while singing “We can do it too Puncinella likkle fella…” The person Puncinella stops in front of then takes on the role.
Farmer in the Dell: A ring is formed with one person identified as the farmer. While the ring sings (“The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell, high ho the dairy-o the farmer in the dell”) the farmer slaloms between the members of the ring, darting into and out of the circle. As the ring sings “The farmer takes a wife,” the farmer takes a member of the ring by the hand and continues to zig zag, with the “wife” in tow. As “The wife the takes a child,” they form a line of three. The child then takes a nurse, who takes a dog, who takes a cat, who takes a rat, who takes the cheese. This line then loses members in the same order, to the tune of “The farmer runs away,” and so on. After the rat has rejoined the ring, “The cheese stands alone” in the middle of the circle. The children in the ring then sing “We all take a bite,” as they collapse the circle and crowd around the cheese.
Dandy Shandy: This game is a bit like a cross between dodgeball and monkey in the middle. Two players stand on either end of a group of players who are standing in the middle. The end players use a ball to hit player(s) in the middle. The ball is usually made from tightly crumpled paper and tied with a string or an empty juice box stuffed with paper and then pounded into a roundish shape. Anyone hit is eliminated, and the last player standing wins the game. This can be a long process as some center players are experts at dodging the ball, often producing spectacular gymnastic moves in the process.
It was common place for children to wind up with a good lickin' (spanking), for taking too long to fulfill an errand because they stopped to play and got so caught up in the moment that time slipped away. Fear of corporal punishment was often overcome, though, by the immense appeal and fun of ring games.
Walk good 'til wi ketch yuh next time.
For many in Jamaica, Christmas Eve is a big event. As a child growing up on the island, I could always feel the Christmas spirit in the air once December hit. There was just a kind of excited buzz. The adults would be making all the food preparations for Christmas Day while my siblings and I offered "guinea pig" services, happily testing everything to make sure that the flavors were just right. We lacked the constant visual and musical reminders of the season that I now experience in the States, so while there was a palpable feeling of anticipation, Christmas cheer took its time coming.
Once school closed for the holiday, however, it was on. In our home, we would redouble our efforts to get everything done before Grand Market Night because to us kids, that was the climax of the season. Other families in other towns participated in events during the day as well, but for us, it was all about the night of Christmas Eve.
Come evening time, we'd dress in our finest clothes and head into the city with all of the pocket money we’d been saving. It always felt so liberating to go out and choose the gifts that “I” could purchase to give to the people I loved. When we arrived at the town center, our parents would tell us where to meet them and at what time, and then we were set free in little groups to go be consumers.
There was a lot happening. I remember walking around in Twin Gates Plaza, The Springs, Tropical Plaza, and sometimes King's Plaza. The higglers (street vendors) were everywhere, haggling with frenzied shoppers vying for the best deals. Street dancers were out dancing to reggae and dance hall music, and sometimes if we were lucky, we might even see Jonkunnu performers. This was Black Friday, Carnivale, and Christmas celebrations rolled into one night.
Vehicular traffic was restricted to make way for the throngs of pedestrians, so crossing multiple streets to get to the different shops was never an issue. We kept up with the crowd, bobbing and weaving from shop to shop, stall to stall, and to the occasional jerk stand or food vendor peddling the last of the day’s portions. It was always a thrill to furtively buy a gift for one of the siblings I was shopping with, and hiding it before they noticed.
No matter what we bought, we always saved a little money so that we could buy our favorite fire crackers: Starlight Rockets. After all the shopping was done and we were home again, we would sit out in the driveway, light our firecrackers, and set them off. We weren't the only ones.
Even though I moved away from the city and haven’t been to a Grand Market Night since I was around 12 years old, it left an indelible impression on me, and gave me many enduring, vivid memories. Life and I have both changed since then, but a scene, smell, or recollection can bring me right back to Grand Market Night. Those who’ve experienced one probably know what I’m talking about, and those who haven’t should jump at the chance.
It’s all well and good to discuss transportation, security, food, and healthcare, but everyone knows the boss sets the tone for the camp experience. That’s why we want you to meet Bobbi Rossiter , who founded the camp and has nurtured it from concept to reality . Here are the answers to a few questions you might have for her:
1) Why did you start Irie Camp Jamaica ?
I needed a place like it and found that none existed.
Living abroad, I found that my kids weren’t getting much exposure to Jamaican culture. They were missing out not only on many of the experiences I valued growing up as a kid, but also on their own heritage and identity.
I researched and asked around for opportunities to put my kids in touch with their roots and thought a summer camp would be the ideal way. There wasn’t one that fit the bill. I’m a problem-solver by nature, so I started one.
A guiding principle in designing the camp was “Out of many, one people.” I want to bring people together – locals, diaspora Jamaicans, and other people with an interest in Jamaican culture - from across the world and give them a hands-on experience with what makes Jamaica great. For my kids, it was a matter of giving them a taste of my childhood, and an appreciation for where I came from.
2) What should we expect when we arrive?
Your children will be immersed in something authentically Jamaican, exposing them to things they’ve forgotten about or never knew existed. Kids from overseas will experience a Jamaica they wouldn’t have believed existed, while those from the island will gain a new appreciation for what they see daily. Both sides will quickly come to understand Jamaica through the eyes of their peers .
3) Why are you limiting camp to two weeks ?
We’re very excited to get Irie Camp Jamaica going, and wanted to make it extra special by running it during the Independence Day and Emancipation Day celebrations. In our inaugural year, in addition to giving our campers a great experience, we wanted to build a foundation and raise awareness for future years. We’ll try new things, incorporate campers’ and parents’ feedback, and spread the word about the camp so that we can attract enough campers to increase the number of available sessions in years to come.
4) Why is attendance at your camp so inexpensive ?
Because of my two kids, I have a pretty fair idea how expensive it is to find quality activities after school or over the summer. So it wasn’t difficult for me to see the world through the eyes of parents wanting to help their children learn more about Jamaican culture.
I wanted to make sure that prices for this camp would never make parents with multiple children feel like they had to choose which child to send to camp. And by making our camp so affordable, it’s an easy reach for families abroad, as well as for families "a yaad" who are looking for quality summer activities for their children.
5) Have you ever lived in Jamaica?
Oh yes! I’ve lived half my life in Jamaica and the other half overseas. I spent my formative years in Jamaica, including a few years at St. Hilda’s Diocesan High, the site for Irie Camp Jamaica’s summer sessions. Jamaica is the one place in the world I’ve lived the longest, and is always my first choice of where to return to. In fact, no matter where in the world I go, Jamaica will always be my home.
6) Will your own kids be participating this year ?
My youngest is a toddler, and isn’t quite old enough yet to be a camper at Irie Camp Jamaica. However, I have a feeling I won’t be able to keep my 5-year-old out of some of the activities this summer... especially since her older cousin will be there as a camper.
7) What does the future hold for the camp?
We see this year as just the beginning of a long, grand, and glorious family reunion for children. Irie Camp Jamaica is destined to be a global beacon, serving as a bridge between island culture, kids on the island, kids of the Jamaican diaspora, and children of parents who value cultural tourism. We’re inviting the world to come learn about Jamaican culture and pride, and want you to be part of this adventure.
Hi, I'm Bobbi and while I'll generally be posting here, I'll occasionally invite others to share as well.