I spent the month of July 2016 in Jamaica working through the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology. Once again, images do much better than words, Follow the link above to the video. Music by Eric Donaldson.
Last night brought a light thunderstorm to Kingston. According to many I talked with, this had been the first rain in months. The weather had called for light thunderstorms. At around ten o clock at night, I heard the steady sound of patter. Off in the distance, a quiet rumble. A light thunderstorm.
All of a sudden the rain intensified as if a hand had turned a tap to full blast, thunder boomed overhead and fork lightning began raining down from the skies. The wind picked up intensity and within minutes hard driving rain was being thrown parallel to the ground. Don, my Cap colleague who shares the apartment with me had gone to bed an hour earlier, and sleeps with his windows open. I toyed with the idea of waking him up to close his windows. All of a sudden the door opened and Don emerged from his room. He had a towel on his floor and had managed to get the window closed. Walking into the kitchen, I saw water streaming under the door flooding the kitchen. I wanted to capture some video footage of this event, and tried to force the back door open. No doing. The wind threw the door back at me with a bucket of rain to boot, and slammed it in my face. I gave up on that idea pretty quickly. The storm raged for 2 hours before finally blowing out. In the morning, trees were knocked down, and even better, the smog / sand from the sahara that has shrouded Kingston since I arrived had disappeared. For the first time, I can see the Ocean from our apartment up in the hills.
Light Thunderstorms indeed.
Today after class, I was supposed to meet up with some runners from VTDI to jog up Jacks Hill to the Marley residence and back. I measured it to be 1.8 KM straight up. At 5:30 I still couldn't find anyone, so decided to strike out on my own. I had to pass Mud Town on the way, a very poor area of Kingston, and home to the remnants of the Joel Andem gang. I realized that in Mudtown, the mechanic is at the foot of the turn off to Jacks Hill Road, the resting spot of many cars that died trying to make the ascent. It's a little shack tucked into the side of the mountain with a dozen or so cars haphazardly parked outside It is a twisty, steep, ascent with a lot of switchbacks. The fast gain in elevation is astonishing. It was a good challenge, and one I will definitely try again. I would like to link up with the running group the next time to pace them.
Training s going very well. The trainers are all fantastic individuals, and its wonderful to see how quickly they are progressing. It's nice for them to see that there are many potential career paths in animation. Even though this is primarily an animation workshop, I always try to throw a little something else into the mix.
Lunch is served hot every day. I am in heaven. Rice and Peas, Curry Goat, Jerk Pork, Jerk Chicken, Festival, Bammy. Yum.
We are fed breakfast in the mornings, usually some coffee and light sandwiches. I go for the tuna, which has pickapeppa sauce.
This weekend, we are going to the Jamaican Film Festival's closing day.
I had never heard of dub club until just last week. Dub Club was founded by Gabre Selassie nearly a dozen years ago and runs out of his home atop Skyline Drive. It being just a few hundred metres from our apartment, I decided to head out around midnight and check it out. I never expected to see 100 + cars parked along the precipitous edges of skyline drive. The entrance to the club is a simple walkway carved into the side of the mountain, twisting and winding its way down to Selaasie's house, where the party then splits off into an area for the selectors, DJ's and dub specialists. There is an area where books on black history are sold, and beside it an area serving up food, and various concoctions such as Ganja wine, Tonic root, and a variety of other specialties. There is no charge for attendance. The audience was surprisingly varied, with individuals from all walks of life present on the property.
6 Giant speakers produce what might be the loudest sounds I have ever heard emanating from a sound system. The bass shakes you, while simultaneously infecting you, and in very little time most of those who arrive are swaying and moving on the floor, or along the winding staircase and various ledges to the beats.
It was sublime listening to roots dub overlooking Kingston. The acoustics in the hills are phenomenal, and the vibe is very relaxed. It runs every Sunday night, and attracts some of Jamaica's biggest musical stars who come to try out their new hits. Chronixx, Usain Bolt, The Marley Brothers among others often show up to take in the sounds.
I returned to Jamaica on June 29th, 2015. This first week has been crazy, but has been as expected, as my teaching colleague Don Perro and I begin a month long training program at TVET in Gordon Town. The World Bank and the Jamaican Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining are involved in pushing an animation initiative over the next 5 years with an infusion of US $20 Million.
The first plan of the initiative is begin a process of training the trainers themselves. The animation industry in Jamaica is in its infancy, making it difficult to find qualified instructors with relevant experience.
In June of 2013, Don and I participated in Kingstoons and Next Genderation. It was and still is a project through the World Bank which sought to help train Jamaicans in animation, while simultaneously addressing the issues of inequality, gender violence with the goal of participating in the worldwide Animation economy as service providers to Studio work that needed outsourcing. It's a model that has been successful in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, India, Mexico. As these initial service providers mature, they begin creating jobs locally by building their own content. That is essentially the plan.
Don and I possess a combined 50 + years of 3d animation teaching experience and believe we can offer a lot to help this initial team of 3d educators. The plight of Jamaica with regards to youth unemployment is heartbreaking, with some figures estimating that nearly 40 % of Jamaican youth aged 14 - 24 are unemployed.
We are honored to be mentoring and training highly educated faculty with a great deal of artistic and scientific talent. I would say that in many cases, it is we who are being educated.
Our schedule is tight. One month to train instructors approximately one years worth of material. Don has been teaching mornings, and I have been teaching after lunch. He teaches 2d in the morning, and I teach 3d in the afternoon. We tied our schedule together so that I follow up with a 3d rendition of what focused on 2d walks, which I followed up with this afternoon. The continuity has been fantastic for us, and I have been able to reinforce a lot of points I make in 3d by referring to the earlier class.
One of the interesting aspects of this job in my opinion, is our duty to try and change the culture of animation in Jamaica, which in the education system at the moment is quite dogmatic based on a top down system. One example I can give arose yesterday when we were discussing the shooting of reference footage for animation. The value in this visual data gathering is immeasurable, yet is discouraged in the classroom, deemed unnecessary and declared an inappropriate use of class time.
I completely understand where this thought process comes from. Jamaica is heavily bureaucratic, and resplendent with protocols and forms. The very nature of animation is antithesis to the system in Jamaica.
We are spending the month up Jacks Hill just outside of Papine in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The school is at the bottom of the hill our apartment is situated on. We have an amazing view overlooking Kingston from our front balcony, and a breathtaking view into the Blue mountains from our back patio.
I love Jamaica. I love it's people, I love the food, I love it's geography, it's warmth. I love how things take just a little longer to get done, and how you may meet 8 extra people to see that thing get done. I respect and admire that no matter the hardship on the island, its people carry their heads high, are quick to welcome you into their homes or offer a hand and do so in about the most positive manner I have experienced in my 40 years. I am proud to be contributing to the country of my birth, and blessed to be spending a month in the city of my birth doing so.
A long trip from Vancouver started Saturday night in
Vancouver. I am excited about the return to my homeland. Arrived in Jamaica Sunday at noon. Carl Dias
picked me up from the airport and filled me in on all the goings on in Jamaica
since I last visited in 99. The dollar, which traded at 35:1 US back then has
slipped to a jaw dropping 100:1.
I am staying at the Mayfair, a last minute
booking as all the hotels in Kingston are booked solid for what I have been led
to believe is a massive religious convention. Apparently the Wyndham, a hotel
with 300 + rooms burnt down, so space is at a premium. The Mayfair has a nice
pool side, slow food service though. I ordered jerk chicken, rice and peas and
plantain for lunch when I arrived. Jerk came after 45 minutes, then the
plantain 30 minutes after that. I spent most of Sunday afternoon in the pool well
into the evening. Don arrived with Steven Umbleby of Bento Box Entertainment at
10:30. I was in bed at 10 o clock tired from my red eye flight. I think I may
be coming down with a cold. This is a shot looking out from the Mayfair towards the Foothills.
Monday: June 24
We met up with Fabio Pittaluga, Ivan Gonzalez, Federica Marzo,
and Althea Spence from the World Bank over a breakfast of
Saltfish and Ackee, festival, dumpling and coffee. What a great way to start a
week in Kingston. There are a lot of cats at the Mayfair, I think a couple of
them are trusting of me now. I'm a sucker for cats.
We arrived a little after 9 am for our first day at the University of the West Indies at Mona, which is about 20 Kilometers SE of where we were staying. UWI still features the ruins of old Roman style aqueducts, as well as Water wheels which represent the Sugar Works that used to occupy the site.
There were approximately 30 students in our class. There were a wide
range of animation talents in the class from none to people with animation
experience to a couple of individuals with production experience. All had some form of fine arts training
however. The goal was to produce an animation product based on the theme of gender
violence and inequality. Initially, we
broke into groups of 4 - 5 and brainstormed ideas for the themed pitches. It
took some time for the groups to feel comfortable enough with one another to
get the creative juices flowing. We
quickly narrowed the scope of the project to at most a 15 - 20 second commercial
length spot. The initial thought had been to produce 5 minutes or more of
Most individuals new to animation grossly overestimate the amount
of time it takes to produce animated content. This workshop was no different in
this regard. Once it was decided to shrink the scope of the projects, the
groups started to get the hang of what was being asked of them. Between the 5
or 6 groups, 9 ideas were generated. At that point, we broke for lunch, after
which, we re-visited the 9 ideas and whittled them down to 4 concepts.
1 1)Soap and Bleach – A female bleach bottle, and
male soap bottle come to an understanding regarding their roles an importance
in each others lives.
2 2)Intervention – A group of baddies from all walks
of life congregate at an intervention to talk about the harm their lifestyles
have caused themselves and others.
3 3)Bad man at cash register – Gun fingers doesn’t
realize that his actions cause fear and angst in others. A decent man in the
lineup at the cash register points out the errors of gun fingers ways, who then decides to change his approach and
4 4)Flowers in the garden – A group of flowers in a
garden are overseen by a mentor / guardian figure. The guardian talks down to
the young flowers, and one in particular who bears the brunt of the guardians
criticism and slighting. With each beratement, the little flowers lose petals,
and wilt. A sign placed in the yard blocks all of the flowers access to light, causing
them all to wither away slowly. The choice of one young flower to bend towards
the light creates a change among the rest of the flowers, and ultimately their
guardian, who was loathe to change in the first place.
The idea for these 4 projects was to give everybody a chance to contribute
to the project in a number of ways. I was very leery of the multiple idea
approach working well, given the widely varying experiences of the attendees. To
put our task in context, at Capilano University, we run group projects over 5
weeks at the end of first semester after students have been working with
animation for four months. At that point, groups of 5-6 create films generally
no longer than 30 seconds. The projects are designed to push students to the
edge of their comfort zones, and usually a group or two never quite manage to
That being said, we were here on behalf of the world bank so
I figured it best to follow their desire to see multiple clips borne from this
I think in principle, going with multiple clips, forming
small teams of 4 - 6 seems the right way to go, but in practice, I would rather
have seen us create one piece with multiple people working on the same clip.
This would have given us a chance to focus on a single piece of animation, and
allow us to choose the most completed clip of each assigned shot.
In hindsight, I wish I had pushed this harder.
We came up with a number of job titles that people would
have to assume the roles for on these projects, but they were largely just
titles. There was no real time to show everybody exactly how each department operated
on its own, while fitting together with the other production departments. Everybody put their names down for the
position they wanted.
Some of the positions filled up quicker than others, so
Althea spent a good bit of time, reshuffling names to other less desirable positions
and groups. At the end of the Monday by
5 PM we had our 4 stories, our job titles, our groups, but no board. That was
to be the task Tuesday.
We decided to use Adobe Flash, as it was already installed
at CARIMAC. One issue we ran into was that Don and I are PC users, and the
transition to MAC while not overwhelming, certainly took a little adjustment,
especially considering the mice were single button mice, and we really needed
the advantage tablets conferred with the 3 mouse button system. We were granted
administrative access to the Mac labs, however the next issue became one of
network access. The network was WIFI only, which caused problems when 30 odd
individuals were trying to access files simultaneously. To make matters worse,
we found that when trying to install drivers for the Wacom tablets Don had
brought down, only 6 machines could be connected to the network at any one
time. If this was not observed, the administrative password failed to work.
This took quite a bit of orchestration, and even three days into the workshop
was still causing us issue. I am sure the IT guys at CARIMAC were frustrated
with my having to summon them 5 or 6
times a day because the password would not work. I give them massive props for putting
up with us.
One other point to consider,
the choice to use 2D over 3D was a minor
issue as well. One third to a half of the students wanted to learn 3d over Flash, so there was that divide in the
classroom as well. I believe we were
best suited in teaching Flash for this introduction as the learning curve
allowed us to move ahead faster than if we had gone the 3d route. Still, it
would be nice to give a 3d workshop in its entirety to demonstrate the full
gamut of what animation means and what its full scope entails.
After school, Don,
Steven and I were driven back to the Mayfair, and had an hour or so to get
ready for dinner at Gauchos, to meet with Fabio, Federica and Ivan. I enjoyed a
Scotch Bonnet Pepper Snapper with Rice and Peas and Tomato slices. An Appleton
Ginger to wash it down. We all chatted, and had an opportunity to get to know
one another a bit more. The three have spent considerable amounts of time in
Jamaica with the World Bank attempting to engage support at every level of and jump start
this industry. The Kingtoons festival and this subsequent training week are
what I believe to be the culmination of this quarter of World Bank activities
regarding animation in Jamaica. I could be wrong.
Tuesday June 25th
Unfortunately, I came down with a cold over night, largely
due to sleeping with the AC blasting on me all through the night. It does not
help that the Mayfair happens to be the gathering spot for a lot of local
Kingstonians to down a brew at the end of the day and sit beside the pool
talking, drinking and listening to music late into the night. Finally, it
really doesn't help that my room is the closest to the poolside. Not the
best way to start off my week in the tropics.
After a long day at Carimac, we have settled on 4 scenarios
for the Next Genderation work shop. The students are eager to get started on
the animation phase. The four concepts we brainstormed on Monday need a storyboard
which we will tackle tomorrow along with design and character builds.
the students have expressed an interest in 3d animation We downloaded the Maya
30 day trial, hoping to extend the licenses. After digging around a little on
the Autodesk website, I figured out how to turn the trials into 3 year
licenses. The students were ecstatic about that, and downloaded copies of Max,
and Softimage as well. The University only has Mac, so there was no hope to use
Softimage for our projects. One annoying thing about the Macs here are that
they are one mouse button mice. The only way to work around this would have
been to get the tablets installed correctly so we could make use of their 3
button features. Unfortunately, the variety of tablets we brought down,
combined with the admin login issues conspired against us, and we were never
really able to get the Mac’s working properly with the tablets and Maya. All we
could do was to orbit our scenes in Maya. Fortunately, the students have been
very cool about the whole thing, and have been a lot of fun to be around. Their
demeanours are light hearted, open and warm. We truly feel welcomed here.
After the classes, Don, Steven and I met up at the Mayfair
pool for a red stripe and some water.
Don, myself, and Steven Umbleby from BentoBox Entertainment
in LA met up with Federica and Althea from world bank for dinner tonight at
Scotchies in Kingston, an amazing jerk house. We ordered one and a half jerk
chickens, half a pound of jerk pork, bammy and festival to round out our meal. It
was very tasty. Tomorrow morning, Don and I are having breakfast at the High
commission of Canada at their request. The commission is about a 5 minute walk
from the Mayfair.
Wednesday - June 26th
The bloody air conditioning finally got the better of me and
I awoke with blocked sinuses, and a head cold compounded with a bout of
vomiting from 3 - 6 AM. The thought of being in an air conditioned class room
all day with my coughing, nausea, hunger and sinus clog pressure was
To top off, Don and I were scheduled to meet with all of the
University and vocational heads from across Jamaica at the High Commission at 8
am. Doubt plagued me. Do I stay, do I go, will I throw up? Will I cough myself
into oblivion? Will I look like a Zombie staring straight ahead trying to hold
it together? Don thought I should stay,
just in case things went poorly for me. I chugged two litres of water, took a
couple of Advil cold and flu I had fortuitously packed in my luggage, and I went to the high commission. My thought was
to stay for the meeting, then walk back to the hotel and sleep it off. The
hotel coincidentally is only about 500 metres away from the high commission.
We walked, and when we arrived, a line had already formed. Like
good Canadians, Don and I got in line behind the rest.
The consulate feels a lot like a fort, which I guess in
essence it is. Triple screened security gates, concrete slabs on hydraulic
presses to prevent vehicles from breaching the compound gates. 15 – 20 Foot
high fences surrounded the buildings. After about 10 - 15 minutes, of nothing
happening I decided we were in the wrong line, and went to the front and buzzed
the guard. We were in the visa line, and
told to go round front to layer of security 1. ID checks were carried out on Don and I. Like an airport, all metal was removed from
our person, bags were screened through x ray machines. Cell phones were taken
away from us and put in a safe. Dons lap top which he was to use for a
presentation caused some consternation, but in the end he was allowed to take
We finally meet Celia Champagnie, our contact with the high
commission office, who officially
welcomed us to the compound . We had to clear a second round of security, and
then pass through a double set of doors where one had to first close one door
in order to open the next.
We met with the various University and Vocational heads, who
seemed eager to jump right in talking about marketing, course offerings, infrastructure etc. They were very excited
about bringing this type of training to Jamaica, and determining how best
Jamaica could service the animation industry. There are still so many issues to
consider, this meeting was really just a first step, introducing ourselves, and
getting to know the various players we would be working with. Many of the individuals present were
interested in our curriculum, our knowledge, and wanted us to come back in a
month or so for a whole month of development and curriculum building. The cold
and flu tabs I had taken allowed me to hold on long enough to make it through
the meeting. To be truthful though, a lot of the content of the meeting eludes
me as I was really just trying to keep it together for 90 minutes. At the beginning of the meeting, I realized I
had made the cardinal mistake of business travel; forgetting to bring business
cards. Lucky for us, Don had his, and all was good.
Don has had the opportunity
to help set up animation programs in Malaysia, India, Mexico and China. It was
great to work with him during the trip. During the meeting, it dawned on me
that I needed to clarify exactly what these Educational heads meant when they
envisioned animation programs running in their schools. . The word was being
thrown around so much, that I wanted to be sure we were all referring to the
same thing. Were we talking, Flash / ToonBoom, Cell animation, Stop Motion, Cut
Out, Roto, 3d Animation, or Visual Effects? Were they taking into account the
accompanying disciplines that must be considered when offering these types of
courses? This would include things like lighting, rendering, Compositing,
Modeling, Scene Building. Animation really is a Pandora's box, and without
focus, I believe these Institutions will have a hard time succeeding.
Following the meeting and promises to keep in touch, the Senior Trade
Commissioner, Rick McElrea along with Celia Champagnie, drove us to UWI, with he and Celia talking
some more about the future of animation in Jamaica, and explaining the
situation between all of the universities, vocational colleges, and the
competing interests in this whole venture. Most of the trip was a bit of a blur
to me as the medication started to wear off.
Somehow I made it through the day, came back to the hotel,
walked directly to the Mega Mart, bought
some night time cold meds, and lots of fruit and water. I hadwanted to take out
some Jamaican currency, and thought the Scotia Bank would be a no brainer to
grab some cash. After all, it is a Canadian company. My Visa did not work, not
did my debit card. So I took my chances with my credit card at the cash
register. A rant about dealing with credit cards in Jamaica. As a visitor, credit
card purchases must be ID verified, with the ID information being written down
on the receipt, and a supervisor visually inspecting the transaction and
approving it. Since the pharmacy is in a slightly different areas of the
supermarket I had to endure this painful ritual twice. By this time, whatever
bug I had picked up was romping around inside of me giving me chills and
sweats, so I was grateful to leave the Mart and head back up to the hotel. Steven and Don went off to dinner with Rick,
Celia and Fabio along with the winners of the Kingstoon contest. I stayed
behind, chugged and pounded fruit, took
my night medication and went to bed at 7.
Thursday June 27
Today I woke up not feeling any better. I made the decision
to stay behind at the hotel and rest up, which mainly meant staying outdoors
and away from any air conditioning. I made sure to walk around and attempt to let
the air and heat heal me. I walked the 15 minutes to 30 hope road to see the place where my mother’s
family had grown up and where my Uncle Steve had run his antique dealership.
It has been turned into a radiology /
ultrasound / imaging center. I took some pictures, and chatted with the workers,
then walked next door to Devon house.
Took some pictures, and a couple of
panoramics with the camera I had brought along from Capilano U. I met a couple
of ladies who worked the gift shop and art gallery at Devon House and chatted
with them a long time.
In some ways, Jamaica is still a backward country. The
recent decision by the United States to legalize gay marriage in some states
was a big topic of discussion while I was down there. Homosexuality is an
offense punishable by up to 10 years in jail in Jamaica. The Next Genderation
campaign that has been entwined into our animation training, includes a focus
on tolerance, acceptance, equality, anti-discrimination, awareness etc. Some of the conversations I had with various
workers around the city made the campaign feel somewhat moot, but I suppose
everything has to have its beginnings.
Afterwards, I walked home, and relaxed by the pool with my
cold meds. Later that evening after Don
and Steven returned, I was feeling a little better. I had a beer with the two
of them. Fabio stopped by to chat quickly with us about the possibility of
continuing the training a few months from now on a larger scale.
Don had a fantastic day, finding a groove, perhaps I was
just slowing him down all along, He covered pose to pose animation, lip sync,
showed storyboarding examples, breakdowns among other things. Don had prepared some flash files that
illustrate the principles of animation, that he shared with all of the students
to give them a working animated reference to work from.
Don also started up a Kingstoon Capilano Facebook group to
allow us all to stay in touch after this workshop had completed.
With the Kingston portion of the trip coming to an end, I
made the decision to forgo a bus ride on the Knutsford express up into Negril
for the last 3 days of my stay, and instead hired a driver named Calvin, who
had taken us up to the University a day prior. For 170 dollars US he agreed to
to cart me up into the country after classes on Friday, instead of the bus
doing so at 5 Am Saturday morning. I was
a little nervous as driving through the country and mountain regions at night
are quite dangerous with the poor roads, lighting conditions, live and dead
animals, washouts and ‘confident drivers’. I chose the taxi route simply
because the thought of bouncing and jostling on a bus for 7 hours on mountain
switch backs mad me sick just thinking about it.
Friday June 28th
Our last day in Kingston. The reality of creating a full
production in five days, long behind us, we sat about helping students
finishing off the little scenes they had built, or to work out some of the
kinks they had come across in the five days we had been at this. It was
pleasing to see some of the students achieve small victories begat by
frustrating hours working away on the computer. Shantai pulled off a
bubble effect for her Bleach and Soap group. It's always wonderful seeing the
look of satisfaction when a student completes their first animated work. Many
of the students had worked on little side projects during the week, and they
spent the day asking questions that would allow them to complete The students were finally starting to
understand the nuance needed when animating, and were starting to put into
practice some of the anim ation principles Don and I had been talking about.
Many of the students are quite gifted designers; seeing their drawings
translated into Flash was pretty cool, especially seeing their understanding of
working with layers, symbols and instances grow over the week.
At lunch, I went and captured some HDRI panoramics of UWI. I
came back from my small shoots and we took a few class pictures out in front of
the CARIMAC building.
After lunch, the
students worked on their projects a
little more. By 3, we needed to start winding down the workshops and
pull together all of the work the students had done. With the network being a
little flaky, we settled on moving from machine to machine copying the flash
content onto a portable hard drive. While Don was doing that, I handed out
certificates, we took some more photos, and Don and I collated a list of web
sites that the students could peruse for tutorials, forum help and plug-ins
after we had left. A few of the students
insisted on giving me a good library of Jamaican music to accompany me on my
trip up country. We did some outtake
testimonial videos as the students were wrapping up. The idea is to edit
together a compilation of these testimonials to help secure future funding for
this great project.
Calvin picked me up at 5:30 and we were on our way up coast
We took the toll highways through Maypen and Mandeville up
over Spur Tree, through Santa Cruz, Bluefields and Savanna la Mar. What a ride.
Jamaican drivers are risk takers, but they are very good for the most part. The
margin of error on those unlit, pot hole ridden, washed out, narrow roads is
slim. Storm downed trees across the
road, dog and goat populations just hanging out on street corners as we flew by.
Trucks and cars with no lights, Overgrown trees and bushes poke in through the
windows as we pass is amazing. I don't know how we arrived intact, but in the
same breath, the sure handedness of Calvin driving without stopping once along
the way was comforting, and I never really felt in danger along the way.
After some searching for the Tree house Resort where I would
be staying, I got into the hotel in Negril at 11 PM after a 252 k drive over 5
hours. Exhausted, I went right to bed.
Saturday June 29th
I awoke to paradise, feeling much better; still a bit
off, but far better than in the week. I
went to complimentary breakfast at Gail’s
, had a massive amount of fresh fruit and a good cup of coffee, then walked the entire length of the 7 mile
beach. I was higgled and haggled all the way.. At the end of the beach as it
happens upon the little town in Negril, I had a couple of rums in a rum shack
with a spliff smoking Rasta, then jogged it back to the hotel on the beach
barefoot. A few of the boy started to run alongside me, as if they were
competitors in a race, but they dropped off as my pace picked up, or they just
thought I was foolish for wasting so much energy under the midday sun. I Got
back to the tree house, put my stuff on a
deck chair, and jumped into the water
where I stayed on and off for most of
the day. I am pretty content just hanging out indefinitely in a body of water. A storm was brewing, and I could feel the
weather change around 3 PM when dark clouds appeared on the horizon. Droplets
started splashing down around 4, and a light rain shower around 5, which was
welcome in helping cool off the heat of the day. The real downpour occurred
when the last light of the day disappeared.
For about 4 hours, the hardest rainfall I have ever been a part of beat
down mercilessly. It was a great way to fall asleep, to the rhythm of the rain.
Sunday - June 30
I woke at 5:50 to shoot some panoramics of the beach and
some clips of the little shops that dotted the strip of beach. I still have a
desire to shoot some more footage, and gather some texture reference. I had
Saltfish and Ackee for breakfast. Once again, I walked 7 mile beach, then swam
the entire way back. I leave for home tomorrow on the 2pm flight. I have loved
my trip immensely, and really feel the deep connection to Jamaica I had felt
more than a decade ago. I had thought some of that connection lost with the
years and with a new family, but I am so happy to note that it is still
there. It is sad to see the state of the
country, but beneath all of the negativity around the decline of the dollar and
Jamaica’s infrastructure, there is a sense of freedom, and vitality, and
openness that you just don’t get in a developed, privileged North American
city. I would love to return with the family on a next trip. I love Negril, a perfect place for a family
vacation. It’s very low key.
Monday July 1
I am leaving shortly, Flight leaving Montego Bay at 2 PM.
In Summary, I felt very good from this trip. I felt like I picked up right where I had left off the last time down. I loved the enthusiasm with which our students participated in the workshop, and the professional way they worked with us through some of the technical issues we encountered. I will miss those wonderful accents and the mannerisms of the people I had a chance to run into. I hope this is the beginning for our involvement in Jamaica. I would truly love to return and pick this initiative back up. Of course, a final few days up country on the coast will have to be factored in.
I'm excited to have been invited down to Jamaica at the end of June to host an Animation workshop with Don Perro on behalf of Capilano University.
The Kingstoon Animation festival runs June 20 - 21 at the University of the West Indies, which will be followed up by Don and my workshop June 24 - 28. Fabio Pittiluga of the World Bank has a great blog which outlines the current and future opportunities Jamaican youth have in the animation industry.
Our goal over the week is to generate an animated advertisement campaign to highlight gender inequality and violence towards women. Don and I will be conducting the workshop over a 5 day period, after which we will leave the country, and the students to finish off the project over the following weeks.
This venture is particularly dear to my heart, as my family and I left Jamaica when I was a small child. Jamaica's infrastructure has taken a real hit since its heyday in the early half of the 20th century. With rife unemployment, its encouraging to know that there are opportunities ahead for the youth of the island.
I will attempt to blog from Kingston during what will be a busy week. I've managed to sneak an extra few days into the trip to head up to the North Coast for a couple days of R&R before the long haul back to Vancouver.