Monday, August 31, 2009

"Jamaica Farewell" is a magnificent production

See This Play
Basil Waine Kong

Last night, my wife and I were in Atlanta and took the opportunity to attend the fabulous one woman show titled: "Jamaica Farewell" staring Debra Ehrhardt and Directed by Francis McGahy. It is funny, it's original, well rehearsed and went off without a hitch. I could readily relate to the story line about a Jamaican girl who dreams of escaping to America during the Turbulent Seventies. Through many daring and hilarious twists and turns (Jamaican style), she averts disaster and achieves her goal. For good belly laughs and inspiration mixed with a great deal of back-home inferences, you will want to make every effort to see this magnificent production. I absolutely loved it and I am sure you will as well. Ms. Ehrhardt deserves an Oscar. To learn about play dates, please go to: Your soul will be enriched.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

USAIN BOLT: Our Dancing Star

The performance of Jamaican athletes including the ones who represent other countries at the Berlin Track and Field World Championships was the greatest week in athletics since creation. How could a country with a population of less than three million people place second out of 200 countries in the world in gold medal standing ahead of China, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, England and all of South America. Never mind that during the same week, there were seven murders in Kingston. Let us hope this phenomenal demonstration of athletic prowess will trigger some magic to bring us together as a society. We should never doubt that we are a great people.

According to Prime Minister Golding:

“The performance of our athletes at the Berlin Games and the victories they have brought to our country almost on a daily basis confirm that this is country is destined for greatness. We are blessed, our people are blessed and we now need to translate this energy, this determination, discipline and drive into all spheres of our lives. The athletes have outdone themselves bringing with them a nation that is busting with pride and joy beyond words.”

The superlatives about Mr. Bolt in particular are endless. The world is seven billion years old and some 70 billion people have walked the face of the planet. Mr. Bolt is the fastest human being that has ever lived. Usain is truly the GOAT---the Greatest of All Time.” One of the media people said: “He must be from another planet”. “Yes, he is from planet Jamaica.”

I love the fact that Usain is an all–Jamaica man who takes care of business but still does not take himself too seriously. You certainly can shake your booty and shake the word at the same time. To hell with all the old time, British oriented emotional cripples who criticize him for his exuberance. This is not the Jamaican style! I find very little about the British worthy of emulation. Let us develop our own values, expressions and personalities. Let us define ourselves and leave the English to define themselves. Jamaicans enjoy spicy food, great music, and exuberance for life; the English have manners, hot water bottles and afraid to show us how they feel---a stiff upper lip and all that! That does not work for me. So, enjoy yourself Usain. Do not let anyone steal your joy. I love you just the way you are. Great human beings never lose their exuberance and great Jamaicans never lose teir zest for life.

One thing for sure, the Jamaican National Anthem has been indelibly written on the souls of people around the world. It was played so many times on the world stage that non-Jamaicans can now sing it by heart. They at least can sing boldly the last line: "Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love!" We can all unabashedly bask in the glory of our athletic heroes. Can you imagine that Jamaica could win more medals that all the 200 countries of the world except the United States who came in just ahead of us because of the Jamaicans on the American team. In case you missed it: 7 gold, 4 Silver and 2 Bronze for a total of 13! The Mighty United States won 22.

Aleen Bailey, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Simone Facey, Shelley Ann Fraser, Michael Frater, Brigitte Foster Hilton, Delloreen Ennis-London, Shereefa Lloyd, Steve Mullens, Asafa Powell, Shericka Williams, Noviene Williams-Miles, Rosemarie Whyte, Kerron Stewart, Kalliese Spencer, and Malanie Walker are all Jamaican sports heroes.

Let us honour them! Let this be the beginning of a great transformation to end injustice, ignorance and poverty in our country.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Our Family Reunion

A Blessed Week with my Wife, Mother, all my children and their families
Basil Waine Kong

If you currently live in England, Canada or the United States and plan to retire back to Jamaica, this may serve as your “planning” guide. Just because you have decided to return to your birthplace, you should be acutely aware of how family obligations become a part of what must be considered. My four children and grandchildren live in Orlando, Florida, Portland, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona and Atlanta. Weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, birthday parties, major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, family reunions and other not to be missed family celebrations, should be anticipated. We schedule additional visits just because my wife and I want to spend quality time with the grand children. However, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

My wife and I celebrate our birthdays a week apart in July. It seemed like a good time to invite my 87 year old mother, my Aunt Madge, our four children and five grand children to spend a week together in Montego Bay.

The Columns Villa across from the Half Moon Hotel was absolutely the most ideal property for this initmate celebration. The Columns is a grand structure on five acres of land on a hillside overlooking the blue Caribbean. We saw the rising of the sun as well as bid farewell to it each evening in the midst of red, yellow and blue ribbons in the sky while our oldest granddaughter, Mackenzie and her brother Brooks serenaded us with violin concerts.

A huge bonus was the mango tree beside the swimming pool which delighted each grandchild and their Pop pop to no end as each had a never ending appetite for this sweet fruit from the gods. Like the story of the widow in the Bible whose oil supply increased with each act of kindness to her guests, each day everyone would eat mangoes to their heart’s content and each day I would replenish the basket with the fruit that had fallen during the night. During mango season, many households in Jamaica can turn their cooking pots upside down.

The family members ranged in age from 1 year to 87 years and were 16 strong. The cook at the Columns was feeding a football team every day and my wife swore we were going to eat and drink through an elephant in terms of tonnage.

On the first evening, we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a lovely dinner, cake and Champagne. The next day, we went by chartered bus to Woodlands District in St. Elizabeth where I grew up---my roots. I particularly wanted to show the grand children where I spent my childhood. We walked from house to house visiting people I know, visited the family graves and the Springfield Moravian church, where I worshiped. I particularly wanted the children to meet the children at Springfield All Age School where I attended but school was on summer recess. We barely survived the badly Neglected road from Moco to Woodlands.

Now, one of the purposes of going to “country" was also to buy meat, vegetables and fruits for the week. St. Elizabeth is not known to be the bread basket of Jamaica for nothing. We were offered a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and because I love carrot juice, I bought 50 pounds and enjoyed them at every meal. Carrot juice with stout and condensed milk is absolutely the best tasting and most nutritious drink in the world.

All of my family made prior visits to Jamaica. However, one of the things we like to do is to visit Dunn’s River Falls and for some of my grandchildren, this represented the first time they could climb on their own. Because of the large crowd, the safe route up the falls was not accessible, so we had to take riskier routes and as a result, had a few cuts and bruises. It was certainly an exciting day at one of Jamaica’s most revered attractions.

We tried to go rafting down the Martha Ray but while the river experience may be wonderful, of all the tourist attractions in Jamaica, I will readily rank this as the worse run and most in-hospitable. We gave up out of frustration and made our way back to the Villa for good food, good libations and a swim by the pool.

The next day, we got passes to the Water Park at the Hilton in Montego Bay. They also have a wonderful beach. The grandchildren enjoyed the inner-tubing and my sons and sons–in-law really enjoyed the pool bar. We all enjoyed snacks at the beach and an afternoon siesta. Just another day in paradise.

The best beach in Jamaica is Doctor’s Cave. It is gorgeous! White sand, palm trees, lovely restaurants and clear blue water. My wife and I love this wonderful beach. We were able to snorkel with our oldest grandchild and there was no end to the wonderful sea life available right on the beach.

During the afternoon of the same day, some of us went to play golf at the Half Moon Course and waved at our family sitting by the pool at the Columns when we passed the fifth hole. They did not bring us lemonade as requested. You cannot get good help these days. As the sun was setting, the children enjoyed running down the fairways, rolling down the hills and just had a marvelous time with the open space at the golf course. Throughout the week, we were busy, busy, busy with conversation, singing, playing dominoes, bid whist, gin rummy and board games. Frolicking in the pool was, however, everyone's favorite thing to do. To the delight of my grand children, I jumped into the pool fully dressed durng the last night's festivities?

The staff at the Columns is headed up by Mrs. Bernard (Ms. B), is a superb cook and we sampled every conceivable Jamaican dish---curry goat and rice, escovitch fish, curried lobster, bamie and fried fish, brown stew chicken. With the complement of staff at the Villa, a very memorable time was had by all; in fact one grand child refused to leave the Villa and wanted to stay with his grandparents. There were so many first memories for all of us to cherish as the weeks and months go by, one grand daughter learned to swim, two found sympathetic and enthusiastic audiences for their nightly violin concerts. We all found love—love for Jamaica, love for each other and love for God and our eternal gratitude for our health, prosperity in challenging times and for providing the opportunity for all of us to spend this quality time together. WE are family and u is half of us!

On our final evening together, in addition to my birthday, Stephanie and I agreed to renew our marriage vows with family and friends as witnesses. With the grand children in tow, we made the wedding arch from Coconut bows and the abundant flowers on the property and a May-Pole for the children to enjoy. A local disk jockey provided the music for six hours of dancing and we rocked the night away. As the Villa is not close to any neighbors, there were no noise issues. Taurus Riley was our favorite artist as I serenaded my wife to “She is a Queen” and she danced for me with Beyonce and told me to “put a ring on it” and indeed I did!

This was my pledge to Stephanie:

"You are so captivating, so breath taking, so glorious, such an independent woman of substance, so passionate and so powerful, and that is just the way I like you. Your eyes, your form, your voice, your spirit, your soul and the life you live profoundly encapsulates the definition of what is beautiful with exciting possibilities and mysteries yet to be explored. You are a lovely queen whose presence delights my soul.

You are tender but also a beautiful determined warrior. And when you fight for us, we win. I stand in awe of you. I am amazed. Like a gorgeous Jamaican sunset, you bring beauty to the world. Your alluring charms invites, inspires, comforts and nourishes with the promise of the Heaven to come. You are a vast wonder to be enjoyed. I accept the invitation that your beauty extends. I want to enter, explore, partake and feast upon it. You are food for my soul.

I want to be worthy of your great love. You inspire me to be a better man and awaken my desire to be your hero.

We are building something grand and I need you desperately. You belong in my arms and on my arm. You will be forever precious to me, desired and wanted as my wife. Our lives are meant to be with each other. There is nothing that inspires me so much as you. Your beauty is so deep; it haunts and pierces me with longing when I am not with you. You are the source of my great joy today. I promise to love, honor and cherish you.

Beyond the blue horizon and the beautiful Jamaican sunset is a brilliant rainbow curling above signifying a great adventure and an even greater love story for us. As I renew my vows and take you again to be my lawful wedded wife, it is time to say good bye to hurt, pain and everything that was ever imperfect between us.

With this new ring, I hereby re-commit myself to be your lawfully wedded husband. I will love you, comfort you, honor and keep you in sickness and in health; forsaking all others and keep only to you from this day forward and for as long as we both shall live.“

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Letter to the Gleaner

PM's lame force majeure excuse(Published: Tuesday | August 4, 2009)

The Editor, Sir:

For Prime Minister Bruce Golding to assert force majeure as an excuse for our financial crisis, he must show that the JLP took reasonable steps to minimise this crisis.

Prime Minister Golding recently used 'force majeure' to explain that there was nothing he could have done to prevent our crime, unemployment, housing and particularly our economic crises. Is this a reasonable claim or an excuse for poor planning and even more importantly, poor performance?

Force majeure is a French term that that literally means "greater force". When this term is found in a contract, it excuses a party from liability if some unforeseen and overwhelming event beyond the control of that party is the cause for non-performance of the contract.

Typically, force majeure clauses cover natural disasters or other "acts of God", war, or the failure of third parties - such as suppliers and subcontractors - to perform their obligations to the contracting party. It is important to remember that force majeure clauses are intended to excuse a party only if the failure to perform could not have been avoided by the exercise of due care by that party.

The Golding administration is attempting to explain, excuse and free his government from fault, explaining that the extraordinary circumstances caused by the global financial meltdown just over-whelmed Jamaica and prevented our government from fulfilling its obligations.

What I think Golding is forgetting is that this clause cannot be invoked as an excuse for negligence, as his party could have reasonably avoided the degree to which the financial crisis has impacted Jamaica.

Before we were able to predict hurricanes, ships lost at sea could have invoked the force majeure excuse, but now if the Government does not warn seagoing vessels of an impending storm, or if the captain does not check the weather before taking passengers to sea, the predictable disaster could not be said to be an act of God. Clearly, our current weather forecasting technology should have predicted the impending disaster if procedural or reasonable preventive steps were followed.

In the old days my grandmother blamed a crop failure on the will of God. Now that we have so much more information about what will ensure a good harvest, a force majeure excuse cannot be invoked if the planter did not select the right crop, planted the right time of the year, watered the plants, fertilised and sprayed for insects and disease. It does not mean that we should pray any less but we should apply the knowledge that experience and science have provided - praying as if all depended on God, but planning, implementing and working as if all depended on us.

From my perspective, in order for government leaders to invoke a force majeure excuse, the citizens of Jamaica must judge whether the problem could have been helped or avoided. Did our government contribute to the crisis or was this crisis unavoidably caused by external forces? If the crisis was foreseeable, could the sitting government have taken reasonable steps to mitigate the crisis?

Running the government like a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Borrowing and spending our way out of debt is madness. We cannot solve our debt crises by more borrowing and spending recklessly like we drive. This will only lead to bankruptcy and the further ruination of our country.

In our hearts, each of us already knows this and no amount of wishing will make it go away. Common sense should tell us that rather than providing a better and brighter future for our children, we are saddling future generations with this humongous debt that will effectively enslave them to our creditors and place our country into economic servitude.

For Prime Minister Bruce Golding to assert force majeure as an excuse for our financial crisis, he must show that the JLP took reasonable steps to minimise this crisis. Was this foreseeable, and did the Government appropriately give us data so we could have mitigated our losses? This is like not exercising, living on a diet of patties, jerk pork and doughnuts and then claim force majeure when the inevitable heart attack strikes.

My sense is that our sitting government has no substantial plans in place to address our financial crises other than to borrow more funds to pay debts. If Mr Golding did not look both ways before he crossed the street, could he use a force majeure excuse when a truck runs him over?

I am, etc.,