Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Cat in My Pyjamas!

I am halfway home. Arrived in Toronto last night at about 8 pm and by 10 pm I was ensconced in the Travelodge at the Toronto Airport.  Why, you ask, did I not take the connecting flight to Vancouver, which left at 11 pm?

Some of you know, but others may not as I have not blogged about them, but I adopted two Jamaican kittens from the Jamaica SPCA.  They were emaciated and would likely not have survived as kittens in Jamaica are valued less than throw-away dogs.  They have been wonderful friends to me and to my friends. Usain and Veronica are now fat and ready to become Canadian cats - I keep telling them to grow more fur.  They will either have a new family or join their older brother and and sister, Whittington and LizzyBetty, who I cannot wait to have back home with me. 

Yes, I am fulfilling by family's fears and becoming the crazy cat lady. I simply could not abandon them: cannot save all the cats in Jamaica, but can save two. Also will continue to support the JSPCA and Animal House Jamaica.

Back to the Travelodge . . .  Could not make the connecting flight because Canada Customs requires a four hour window for inspections and that means I miss the last flight to Vancouver.  Also, Toronto Air Canada Cargo no longer has overnight services. So, after two hours of paperwork at both Air Canada Cargo and Canada Customs - fortunately it was all in order, with appropriate health certificates, export permits, import permits -  and a taxi fare that we do not even want to discuss, the three of us arrived at the Travelodge. 

Kittens were unsure and a bit spooked, though arrived healthy and alert.  And they were happy to explore hotel room, using the "facilitates" (I brought a cat box and litter in my luggage), eating and drinking water.  We were all tired, so had a good sleep: me on the bed, they under it. 

After getting the coffee going and turning on the TV news this morning, I opened the hotel room door to see if there was a newspaper out there. Usain bolted. I immediately went after him and easily picked him up a few doors down: he must realized it was a false start and no sense going any further. I quickly realized that I was standing on the 5th floor of a hotel hall, room locked, no key, and a cat in my pyjamas. (Please excuse the misplaced modifier, but if you know your Groucho Marx you will understand . . . )  Fortunately, and unusually, I was wearing pyjamas.

Do you have any idea how busy an airport hotel lobby is at 7:30 am?  Everyone is checking out and heading to their planes. There I was, barefoot with a Jamaican cat under my arm. The clerks were all busy and I simply got in line.  People were very polite but they were not too ready to engage - hey, I am back in Canada.  Wondering if they thought I had confused the coming Christmas season with Halloween?  Or if I was the one who had escaped, not Usain. 

The Travelodge does not have a concierge, etc. However it is pet friendly and I got a seniors discount, so I was okay to wait.  Finally, I spoke to the gentleman at the counter and explained the situation.  With neither pause nor humour he asked me if I had identification. Really. I momentarily thought of explaining that if I had had the forethought to go back in the room for my identification, I would likely have taken the key instead. I just as quickly reconsidered that this would not be a fruitful dialogue. How often does this hotel experience a women, complete with bedhead, standing at the counter with a cat in her pyjamas? Anyway, they found a spare person who escorted me to my room and I showed him my ID. Veronica was pleased to see both of us safely returned from our morning adventure. 

Soon to start our next adventure and last leg on the trip, Toronto to Vancouver . . . stay tuned.

Did not take Veronica long to be her curious self.

The bolting Usain.

Tired after a long trip . . . 

Nothing like a good wash from your brother to settle things down :-)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Good Night, Jamaica

This is my last blog from Jamaica. I leave in the morning . . . 

There is no list of what I will miss most; as there are too many too list.

There is no list of what I will miss least; as there will be few.

There is no list of regrets; as there are none. 

Good night, Jamaica. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Faces of the Homeless

Four sleeps before I leave Jamaica and return to Canada. Technically I have finished at work, though going to an early morning meeting on Tuesday :-)  However, I very much wanted to finish my work here with the 7th annual Day of Care. I participated in this last year - check out blog in December 2011 - but this time was much more involved.  I did a report after the 6th annual and I think we made some progress on the organization end this year.  These events can always be better and I trust that the Council of Voluntary Social Services and the National Volunteer Centre will make the 8th even better.  

This day is always held on the Saturday that culminates the International Day of the Volunteer, December 5th.  It is held in Saint William Grant Park in middle of "Parade" in downtown Kingston - not a place we white girls would go alone in the daytime and never, even in groups, at night. However, this is where the homeless live. So we were there today.

Being homeless in any country is not good and fraught with multiple problems.  We think that being homeless in Canada is bad - and it is - but at least we have services to provide. And, of course, homeless in other countries will be worse. I can only speak from where I work. here in Jamaica. While there is assistance for the homeless in Jamaica, it is minimal and mostly provided by wonderful volunteers and many ecumenical groups. 

The Day of Care provides a one day shopping stop, all donated: clothes, snacks, lunches, hygiene bags (toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, wash cloths, sanitary supplies for women), eye exams, medical exams, diabetes testing, foot care for the diabetic, blood pressure testing, HIV testing and information, and even hair cuts and shaving!  And lots of care, understanding, and - yes - loving. 

It is a lot of organization and we had 75 volunteers running off their feet to support about 650 homeless who came through the park today.  I cannot individually thank all the volunteers here - you are too many!  Though please know that I saw each one and what you offered and I will ever hold those memories close. 

Faces to remember . . . 

Volunteer briefing as the day commences.

Homeless registration was busy from 9 am to 1 pm. We had wonderful volunteers, including three of my Cuso colleages (Brianna, Erin, and Kate) and even Kelly who was here on a week's holiday - she is here for a holiday, is a social worker in Calgary, and spends a day with the homeless in Jamaica.  How wonderful is that?!  What all the volunteers said was how polite everyone was and that almost all the homeless said thank-you for the meagre provisions we could provide. Gulp.

Waiting in line for registration, where they receive vouchers for food, clothing, and hygiene bags. I love this man clutching his "red Christmas ball".  The Christmas tree in the park was lit two nights ago and, methinks, that is now one red ball short. He was not selling it or flaunting it: only holding it closely.  I spoke to him later, still cradling the red ball, and he said all he wanted to do was to keep it for Christmas. I think that the ball is in good hands. 

Says it all.

The clothing distribution was a busy place and the volunteers were amazing!

Just because you are homeless, does not mean you cannot dance for the camera :-)

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were there to help and support. Thank you, JCF!

This chap had his clothes and lunch and wanted to show me the "new" shoes he received.  They are my hiking boots!  They have seen me through many hashes (hikes) in Jamaica and  I thought they might be a better contribution to the Day of Care than an addition to my luggage. He was so delighted with them.  What a serendipitous moment.

This rasta was trying to explain to me that he could see distances, but could not see to read anymore.  We soon got him over the eye clinic. 

I don't know his story.  It is in his face.

The Diabetes Association provided testing.

"Children First" provided HIV information, testing, and condoms.

Mickel - my boss! - and Scrappy, who provided transportation for supplies and lunches, sponsored by the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.

Diabetes Association also provided foot care, a very critical and necessary support for people who live rough. 

A most caring and hard working volunteer (on left) escorting a homeless lady to the services she needs. And giving her hug along the way.  Sometimes the hugs were more important than anything else. 

So much history in this face . . . it would be interesting to know the story. Sad as it might be.

This frail gentleman collapsed in a chair, in the sun, and we thought he was near death.

Fortunately, we called a doctor over from the medical services and his vital signs were stable.  He was exhausted and starved, so he had some juice and then soup. The young girl on the left, a volunteer from Hand of Hope, stayed with him all afternoon until he was able to move on his own. The great sadness is that there is no shelter nor hospital to care for this man - the JCF could not even call an ambulance as it would not come for such a case.  He is 70 years old. I don't know where he went.

Haircuts and barbering!

A rag on your head, new clothes under your arm, and a pattie in your hand. Not much, but the best we could provide. 

Volunteer happily engaging with homeless in the lunch line.

A man with many serious challenges, a face full of sores now covered with cream from the medical clinic, shows off his bag of clothes and hygiene supplies. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

One Week to Canada

It is one week today that I will be leave Jamaica, returning to Canada after almost 18 months of volunteering, working, friends, experiences . . .  

Much to do and I have serious lists. Seems that as soon as I cross one thing off the list, several others appear.  Somehow it will all resolve itself and the list will self-destruct on December 12th. Usain and Veronica had their veterinary inspections this morning, all pronounced "fit for air travel".  I keep telling them to grow more fur, but difficult when it is always 30 C outside and inside. 

For those who think of me as a rather organized person, think again.  My wee Jamaican home looks like a war zone and getting worse.  Kate was here this morning to bring bags, clothes, stuff, etc. - all adding to the chaos.  Kate will take over my lease in January upon her return from Christmas holidays.  Coincidentally, she is on the same flight as me on December 12th, then transferring to Ottawa. 

It will, however, be perfect on December 12th -:)

Proof . . .