Thursday, December 15, 2011


More meetings should be held in the backs of the van, during a rainstorm in Central Manchester, in the parking lot of a row of shops specializing is roasted yam and fish. Or in said van while driving dangerously fast up a mountain road with no guard rail and huge potholes. Although it poses a challenge for the junior officer tasked with taking notes of the meeting.

It's Jamaica, and election season is in full force. Candidates vying for their seats in whatever Parliamentary constituency are usually willing to indulge us for a quick meeting, but on a day like today it means they meet us in the parking lot of a KFC, jump in the back seat with us as we follow the wrecklessly driven campaign vehicle to his next campaign stop, and they jump out and get back to winning hearts and minds.

Travelling around the countryside and the major cities is probably the best education a Political officer could ask for, and the fact that these politicians are so preoccupied with their campaigns that they are a little less worried about putting on the shiniest sheen for us means that we have a chance to get a little better insight into what all is going on around here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Having the day off, I actually have some time to post.

So, some more Tropical Storm Nicole related material, to celebrate the bringer of destruction (and free time...).
The bridge at Harbour View Ford washed away in a previous storm related catastrophe several years ago, and from what your faithful correspondent gleans from conversation, the government of Jamaica decided to begin reconstruction right in the middle of this rainy season. The result, portrayed in this cartoon from the Jamaica Observer newspaper, is that the half constructed bridge washed away in the flooding of the recent tropical storm.

Deadly Stormin' in Jamaica

The US Embassy closed early on Wednesday, as the flood waters on the street began to threaten the commute home. And the US Embassy stayed closed all day Thursday, barring emergency services for American Citizens in the country, and PD contacted local media asking visa applicants to stay home and stay safe.

Staying dry, however, is not an option for some Jamaicans this week. The rain was combined with intense wind last night, and that was after more than two days of heavy rain had already overwhelmed Kingston's poor drainage infrastructure.

According to a BBC report, the death tole from the flooding had reached five victims by Thursday afternoon. This is easy to believe - the rivers running through some of the major roads in the capital city were carrying coconut sized boulders as if they were beach balls. 

Tropical Storm Nicole, which grew out of Tropical Depression #16 over the past few days, appears to remain stuck over Jamaica, despite earlier reports that it would be on its way to wreak havoc in Eastern Florida by this time.

According to the Jamaican Weather Service, a flash flood warning remains in effect through Friday.


September 30, 2010 – 5:00 p.m.
The Meteorological Service has extended the Flash Flood Warning for low-lying and flood prone areas of all parishes until 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.
A FLASH FLOOD WARNING means flooding has been reported or will occur shortly. Motorists and pedestrians should not attempt to cross flooded roadways or other low-lying areas as strong currents are likely. Residents in low-lying areas should be on the alert for rising waters and be ready to move quickly to higher ground.

Although Tropical Storm Nicole has dissipated there is a broad area of low pressure that extends from the Bahamas, across Cuba, Jamaica and sections of the western Caribbean. Radar reports and data collected from weather stations across the island indicate that throughout the day scattered light to moderate showers and thunderstorms, which were heavy at times, affected most parishes.

The broad area of low pressure will continue to influence weather conditions across the island for the next 48 to 72 hours. The forecast is for continued showers and thunderstorms to affect Jamaica for at least the next two days.

Due to the gusty winds and above normal wave heights north and south of the island, fishers and other marine interests are being advised not to venture far from port.

The Meteorological Service will continue to monitor the progress of this system.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From the Nurse

A little reminder from the nurse here in Kingston.
In short, don't get dengue.

Reminder to Staff Re: Dengue Fever…..

Reminding all staff that if they think they have dengue fever it is important to see their doctor to have a blood test done to confirm the sub-type of dengue fever. Many viral infections have similar symptoms – so one cannot assume that they have dengue without the confirmation of a blood test. It is also important in order to know the type you have been exposed to as your risk of contracting hemorrhagic dengue (the more serious type) increases with each exposure.

Dengue Fever:
This is an infectious, disabling mosquito-borne fever. Dengue is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, usually A. aegypti, which also carries yellow fever.

The classic symptoms, following an incubation period of five to eight days, are high fever, which includes extreme joint pain and stiffness, intense pain behind the eyes, a return of fever after brief pause, and a characteristic rash.

Convalescence is sometimes prolonged, with weakness and low blood pressure.
There are four strains of virus;   Dengue 1, 2, 3 and 4.
A person infected with one type of dengue will subsequently only be immune to that type. They will not be immune to other types of dengue and will, in fact, be at risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract another type of dengue.
Infection with one type does not confer immunity to the remaining three.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a severe form of the disease, can cause hemorrhage, shock, and encephalitis. It occurs when a person who has acquired immunity to one of the viruses that cause dengue fever is infected by a different dengue virus. There is no specific treatment for dengue fever except good nursing care. Dengue can be controlled by eradicating the mosquitoes and destroying their breeding places.
Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Patients should be isolated during the first three days, when mosquitoes can pick up the disease from them. Prevention relies on mosquito control.                                                                            

 Dengue Fever Treatment
*       See a doctor / general practitioner (GP) immediately.
*       Please do not self-diagnose. The only way to confirm that you have dengue fever is to have a blood test. This is also important in order to confirm the sub-type.  Many flu viruses have similar symptoms and people may assume they have dengue when in fact they are suffering from a viral infection.
*       Stay Isolated for 3 -4 days after symptoms appear
*       If you have dengue fever, mosquitoes that bite you may pass dengue on to other people.
*       Medication.
*       Drink plenty of liquids and take Tylenol/Paracetamol (acetaminophen) for fever and pain.
*       Do not take aspirin or ibuprophen because it can affect blood clotting.
*       Wear insect repellent.
Dengue haemorrhagic fever treatment
All patients with dengue haemorrhagic fever need to be hospitalised for fluid therapy and monitoring.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good Morning Jamaica

Dawn can make almost any place a little magical, if only for an instant. Especially when you have a balcony to observe it from...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meager Belongings: Shaw to Caribbean

One of the very beneficial benefits of working for the State Department is that I get help to move my most precious (and useful) belongings, so that I have my french press and my favorite lamp as I start a new life in Kingston, Jamaica.
The movers were professional, and usually nice, as long as I kept out of the way.

"Oh, books, great..." The movers were not overly enthusiastic about having to help pack up my piles of bizarre things and heavy books. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Labor and Media in China

spent the past five days meeting people and learning the conventions, practices, international agreements and organizations, etc that are consequential to the duties of a Labor Officer. Part of my portfolio when I arrive in Kingston will be labor issues, which includes reporting on labor conditions in the countries, the government's compliance in enforcing international labor standards (as agreed upon within the International Labour Organization), major strikes or organized labor movements, etc. The US foreign affairs community is interested in labor issues on several fronts, and the "Decent Work" agenda is supported by the government, the business community, and of course the national labor unions.

Today we had meetings and heard presentations at the Solidarity Center, where the focus was on the international labor movement, especially how labor activists in the US were not only forging and maintaining bonds with communities of workers in other countries but how they American unions are supporting and helping to develop labor movements in countries where labor standards are not well enforced.
China was always an interesting caveat in these discussions, since the government controlled union is one of the world’s largest and because it is illegal to form private unions. While this poses challenges to the broader community of workers seeking solidarity with the workers of China, that is not to say that labor plays a small role in the country. On the contrary, despite the controlled nature of much of China’s news media, labor activists that I talked to today said how prominently workers issues, working standards, and worker actions against unacceptable work conditions were featured in Chinese media.

Even Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping remarked recently on the importance of labor unions in the country – see “China’s labor unions play unique role: Vice President” in The People’s Daily, a national English Language news source from China.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finally, an Ambassador for Jamaica

"New US ambassador will be extremely valuable to Jamaica"

Well, almost... but not quite yet. The Jamaica Observer, among other publications, speaks of Amb Bridgewater's nomination as "pending." The US mission in Kingston has gone without an ambassador for 18 months.