American of Last Resort

How, I find myself asking on this the eve of my separation from the Duty Phone, shall I fill the void left by the brief but intense week of constant vigilance as Duty Officer for the Embassy here in Kingston?

Bearing the burden...

Yes, just because the Embassy is closed does not mean that some American citizen on the island is not going to have an emergency. In the same vein, just because it is 3:00 in the morning doesn’t mean that someone out there doesn’t think it’s a splendid time for an anxious mother in Kentucky to call the Embassy’s emergency line because their 22 year old daughter, on spring break, isn’t answering her cell phone, and her pet hamster back home might have a cold…

Circumnavigating: the Eastern bit

The eastern nub of Jamaica seems to reach past Haiti and Aruba, straight through the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, as if it were trying to break through the Lower Antilles and escape to the vast Atlantic Ocean beyond. While firmly planted south of Cuba and west of Port Au Prince, however, this eastern side of Jamaica is nonetheless a beautiful and pleasantly unfrequented part of the island.

Saturday was a perfect opportunity to pile into someone’s car and take a meandering voyage along the coast and through the mountains, from Kingston to Long Beach to Annotto Bay, and back over the Blue Mountains and Stony Hill.
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The sights and smells of the island, from the sugar cane plantations to the seemingly constantly grilling of Jerk chicken and lazy old Rastafarians smoking their spliffs, never leave the senses, and they certainly give the area a character of its own.

Change your elevation, change your mood

Sunday, in Jamaica perhaps more than most places, is meant to be a day of leisure, rest and family. This week, Sunday was an opportunity to escape from the car horns and anxious crowds of chaotic Kingston and breathe the fresh air atop Strawberry Hill – if only for a couple of hours.

If life can be summed up by the totallity of our collected experiences, the afternoon excursion added a few especially relaxing moments to the long and not entirely memorable MLK Jr. weekend. While it may not have stood out at a life-altering experience, it was most definitely a reminder of the natural beauty of this island, of my appreciation for cold air, and it provided an opportunity to learn a little more about Christina, whose story is as interesting as anyone’s. She reecently learned of her next assignment with USAID, and she is not overly excited about the year she is going to have to spend in Afghanistan.

Rollover – A new year. Carry on.

The streets of Kingston erupted in patches of chaos as the countdown neared zero, the crescendo of bottle rockets, revving motor bike engines, and dancehall music from street parties reaching a rather lustful climax around midnight. The dancing and drinking, sweating and loving and fighting surely proceeded through the dawn, but contentment for me was in the solitude of my spacious apartment here in Kingston 8, consuming media and embracing rest.

As individuals make their New Year Resolutions, pundits and politicians, journalists and commentators struggle to carve out a fleeting moment of media presence as they evaluate the past year and make predictions on the one to come. Optimism and predictions of doom seem to go hand in hand this year – I guess we, the public, get to choose which one we want to buy, like so many cereals in the grocery store. A worst case scenario, in my mind, mediocrity, seems to be all too acceptable by too many people who, I suppose, figure it could be much worse.

The first weeks of this new year, however, present me a rather unambiguous challenge: to overcome the often frustrating restrictions imposed by a broken collarbone.

One month after my dramatic motorbike crash, medical evacuation, and subsequent return to this island to work at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, I am still frustrated by the expenditure of so much energy on the healing process, energy that would otherwise prove quite useful in facing the demands of a normal day and energy needed to go above and beyond those demands.

For indeed, this new year, like the last, presents those kinds of opportunities nearly every instance, an opportunity to not only meet challenges head on but to do it in a new way, to turn the challenge inside out and create something whose impact reaches beyond.

So, for 2011:

Heal broken bones

Conquer the world

In that order.