Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Geography Now! Jamaica

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Jamaican subscriber Ashlee P., sent me this book of Jamaican patois poems by Luis Bennett.

Here's a poem about a time a circus came to Kingston and a lion escaped from its cage.

Wat a magic, wat a mystery. Circus lion bus him boun'

and de crowd doan get excited, and de crowd is safe and soun.

Jamaica people gran me chile, Jamaica people bole,

Fe face dee king o' Beas, wit everyting unda controle.

De lion bus de cage door doun, de lion jump de wall.

An not a soul doan halla out & not a soul doan bawl.

De lion mingle wid de crowd an prowl from wes' to eas'

De people sidung calmly,

an salute the King o' Beas.

I love patois!

Everybody I'm your host Barb's Jah Maica.

Probably the most iconic Caribbean nation to ever hit international mainstream pop culture.

So many things to talk about, let's just jump in.

Ahh, Back in the Caribbean. Don't you just love this region of the planet? First of all,

Jamaica is the fourth largest island country in the Caribbean.

Located west of Haiti', south of Cuba and east of the Cayman Islands,

where all the billionaires hide those wonderfully offshore bank accounts to avoid taxes.

Jamaica is divided into fourteen parishes in the capital Kingston

in itself acting as a parish. The parishes are further kind of split into

Three historic counties that don't have any administrative relevance.

They are Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. Yeah, with names like that, you can almost smell the British residue.

The largest cities after the capital Kingston would be Spanish Town, Portmore both in the

St. Catherine parish; however if we're talking about outside the general Kingston area,

the next largest would be Montego Bay and Mandeville

with the three busiest and only international airports being Kingston

Norman Manly International,

Montego Bay, Sangster International and Bosco Belles Ian Fleming international

There was some controversy over naming that last airport because everybody was like "Why don't we name it after a Jamaican person?"

but Prime Minister Golding was like "Look, the dude kind of put Jamaica on the map", and if it wasn't for us

he wouldn't have had the inspiration to create James Bond

So suck it up, people!

Now despite being small, Jamaica still holds its ground under the disputed territory between them and Columbia, Nicaragua and the U.S

Over the uninhabited submerged reefs and bank areas of Bajo Nuevo and the Serranilla Bank.

Remember people, the second you discover even the smallest sandbag protruding from the sea,

you gotta claim it. That way you get an exclusive economic zone. WOO HOO!

Speaking of which, the country has about 30 smaller islands and islets and keys and sandbanks lining their shores.

The largest one being Great Goat island in the south across Mors pen. Now the one thing you need to know about Jamaica and its charm

is that if you come, you will notice some of the strangest place names Imaginable.

Each town has a little bit of a story and context.

So you'll encounter things like Broke Neck Gully, Rattrap, Betty's Hope, Rest and be Thankful, Old Woman, Savannah

See Me No More, Time and Patience Wait a Bit, and my personal favorite Me No Sen You No Come.

Jamaicans just like to call it as they see it. Simple, no need to overcomplicate!

Hmm, what should we call this place?

Drop Sandwich Lagoon!

Another interesting thing is that Jamaica has maroon villages,

which are inhabited by people descended from slaves that escaped and created their own free societies in the mountains.

These villages would eventually play a strong role in Jamaica's history and in a future episode

Sierra Leone! You will just have to wait like 47 years for that episode.

Today they kind of hold like a slight autonomous and separate role from the rest of Jamaican culture

as they live in secluded areas holding on to ancient African traditions.

Otherwise some top-level spaces of interest might include Hero Circle,

Glistening waters with Bioluminescent organisms that light up,

Windsor's fire spring; You can literally light it on fire,

Sunken Pirate City, Floyd's Pelican bar made of driftwood. Dolphin Cove, the Bob Marley museum and mausoleum, Dunn's River Falls,

Reggae Beach, Kool Runnings water park, mountain river cave with Taino and Arawak paintings,

Mystic mountain rainforest, bobsledding in Ochos Rios, Martha Bray River with wooden rafts and Ira Blue Hole and Secret Falls.

Yeah, I'm still kind of mind-blowing over that fire water and glowing lagoon place.

That's just proof that Jamaica is thriving with magical natural wonders, which brings us to

Jamaica may be small but it is definitely loaded with natural treasures.

First of all, Jamaica lies below the Cayman Trough on the Nicaragua rise an area in the Caribbean Sea

that is elevated giving Jamaica shallower waters and richer biodiversity. This also gives them the seventh largest natural harbour in the world: Kingston Harbour.

The country is also about 146 miles long (235 kilometers)

And at its widest only about 52 miles (84 kilometers) wide. Basically Jamaica is made up of

nice valleys and plains in the West and center sometimes referred to as "Cockpit country"

with a small Mocho and Dry Harbour mountains in the centre and finally the tallest range, the Blue Mountains with the tallest peak:

Blue Mountain peak in the east starting around Kingston. The longest river being a black river on the west side

and Wally Wash Pond being the largest body of water inland. Now just like we studies in Dominica episode,

Jamaica is also home to natural mineral and hot springs, such as Blue Hole, Bubbling Springs, Milk River, Rockford Mineral Spa and the Blue Lagoon -

Not this one - this one. Although much of the island has been stripped for agriculture, wildlife is also quite prevalent

especially in the undisturbed force in the north and blue mountains. Animals like bats,

Hutia, boar and the indigenous Jamaican boa and freshwater Jamaican slider turtle can be found. Speaking of agriculture,

Jamaica was primarily used by the colonists for sugar plantations. However today, all sorts of crops are grown. The most notably the ackee fruit

which actually tastes salty not sweet. Ackee is used in the national dish: Ackee and saltfish.

Otherwise other notable Jamaican dishes might include: Rice and peas, jerk chicken, chicken foot soup, mannish water,

steamed callaloo and gizada. And I know what half of you are thinking: Yes, let's talk ganja.

Yes, we all know it.

Cannabis is pretty internationally recognized as a part of Jamaican culture.

It was actually introduced from India by indentured servants from India

which is where the word "ganja" comes from. It's weird because for the longest time, growing marijuana

and even possessing it was illegal even though you can literally just find plants in the middle of the forests.

It wasn't until 2015 that the country voted to decriminalize and amend strict laws. Today,

you are allowed to have up to five plants legally

more if you have a cultivators license. Possession up to two ounces or 56 grams is legal.

Rastafarians are allowed to use it for religious purposes. And the Rastafarians are a whole other story.

Jamaica's people are few but incredibly world-renowned and unique in so many ways.

Looks like a great time to discuss that in

Jamaica lives by the motto: Out of many, one people.

Attributing the unity to all the cultural pieces that have made them who they are today.

First of all, the country has about 3 million people and is the third largest Anglophone nation in the Americas.

The vast majority of Jamaicans identify as black at over 90%,

about 7% are mixed and the remainder are actually mostly made up of Asians, not whites, like the Chinese and Indian Jamaicans

with whites following after, mostly descended from British colonialists and other people groups following.

And the coolest thing is: They all speak in a Jamaican accent.

Here's a white guy and a Chinese guy both born in Jamaica

I come from Jamaica. Come from the west side...

Can't really tell you where we come from...

I'm Jamaican. What people don't believe me. They don't believe I come from Jamaica because I'm Chinese.

Yeah, that was pretty cool, wasn't it? They used the Jamaican dollar as their currency.

They use the type A,B American style plug outlets and they drive on the left side of the road.

Now even though they have a small population,

Jamaica has probably made the biggest global impact for Caribbean culture out of all their neighbors. In the quickest way I can summarize their history:

Tainos and Arawaks, Christopher Columbus comes in and calls it Santiago, Slaves come in from Africa, Brits come in calling it Jamaica,

Slavery abolished in 1838, The Brits were like:

"Dang we need cheap labor since the slaves are free. Hmm

Oh, yeah, let's do the same thing we did with Guyana!" Come on Indians and Chinese, Finally Jamaica gains independence in 1962 however

However, they still fall under the Commonwealth as a constitutional monarchy, but Queen Elizabeth still remains the technical head of state

but nobody really sees her as like the "Head head of state".

Now due to Jamaica's relative isolation from the rest of the Antilles, Jamaica had to kind of develop their own unique style of customs and traditions.

For one, Christianity has played a huge role in Jamaica.

Jamaica also has more churches per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. Contrary to popular belief,

Rastafarianism although started in Jamaica in the 1930s only makes a small minority of somewhere around

5% of the population. if you don't know anything about Rastafarianism, basically,

it's an Afro Centric belief system that takes inspiration from the Christian Bible as certain rituals and doctrines

like the one we discussed in the Ethiopia episode, in which they believed that Haillie Sellasse was the messiah,

Yada yada yada, if you're interested in learning it, just Google it. I wish it was that easy.

I wish I could just do that for every episode. Just Google it, "Jamaica". Done. Second,

we all know the biggest source of global influence for Jamaica would be no doubt the music. Starting in the 50s,

Jamaica's ska and Rocksteady "Precursors to the Sixties" reggae and dancehall melodies

not only became super popular in themselves

but also paved the way for other branch genres like hip-hop and EDM. In order to really appreciate Jamaica's music though,

it might be wise to brush up on the part I personally find most fascinating: patois.

Now although in a legal sense, the official language of Jamaica is standard Jamaican English

Or SJE. Many will say that technically there are two languages: The other being Jamaican Patois,

which is basically like an English Creole much like what Haiti did with French. The thing is

Jamaican Patois is kind of like a loose-feel-it-as-you-go type of language.

It doesn't have an official standardized format.

But there are certainly universally used words such as:

and of course everyone knows the classics:

However when they want to emphasize something, they like repeat a word twice like:

and they always use like filler words, which don't have any meaning, but it kind of illustrates the story better. For example:

Okay, Jamaican geograpeep Daron wrote this.

I'm gonna try to see if I could do it.

I don't know how I did. That was either incredibly offensive or kind of acceptable.

Oh if you make a Jamaican friend, chances are.

you will get a nickname and its usual based off of anything they noticed from you.

Yo man ya, what your name?

Uhh... "Keith".

Nah, man you like to broom your name "Broomey". Ya eat the cupcake your name "Munchie".

You're raising three daughters and a host in San Francisco meet Juan Collier, Bob Saget. Like that!

Anyway, we could go on explaining more about the various festivals, traditions, dances

or how they are the only Caribbean nation with an active hockey team even though all the players are like literally Canadian Nationals

but that'll take too long. For what it's worth, some notable people of Jamaican descent might include:

Michael Lee-Chin, Dr. Thomas Phillip Lecky, Oliver Samuel,

Sprinters Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce and Asafa Powell, Merlin Ottey,

Dustin Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, Shaggy, Mona Hammond, Grace Jones, Sanya Richards-Ross,

Mary Seacole, Damian Marley, Sean Kingston, Portia Simpson Miller, Marcus Garvey, Naomi Cambell, Notorious B.I.G,

Patrick Ewing, Louise Simone Bennett, and the most iconic Jamaican maybe of all time the master himself, Robert Bob Nesta Marley.

All right, now we've got to move on and see who else likes to dance the reggae beat with Jamaica.

If you ask an Jamaican what Jamaicans are best at, they'll probably say something like

"Knowing how to slow down and take it easy when life needs to".

Therefore, it's not hard for other countries to like Jamaica.

First of all, Jamaica has close ties to Cuba as they have been giving scholarships and medical help for decades.

Treaties and business deals have always been active.

They have a funny little rivalry with Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados though when it comes to dominating the tourism industry

And sports competitions. But when they meet up as people, it's like they're brothers all over again.

China keeps an eye on them considering that they already have a noticeable Chinese minority

by the way, Tessanne Chin who won the voice in The US Was like a huge deal

and they have been investing like crazy for the past few decades. Jamaican see this as kind of like a

suspiciously nice gesture because they like the business, but they don't want to be taken over by excessive debt.

Also like mentioned in the Ethiopia episode, Jamaicans love Ethiopia especially Rastafarians. In terms of their best friends though,

the Jamaicans I've talked to have said most likely their fellow Anglophone Nations:

The USA, Canada and the UK.

These areas have the largest Jamaican diaspora communities and remanence money makes a huge part of their economy.

Visa-free entry is allowed for each nation and each country places to make a high on tourism publicity

which in return gives them huge global popularity.

In conclusion, Jamaica is like the little island that could and music was its fuel.

People all around the world now put this tiny landmass in high regard all because they have that certain

talawa charm but with a laid-back life that everyone admires.

Stay tuned, Japan is coming up next!

The Description of Geography Now! Jamaica