Archive for March, 2011

In America it’s called ‘passing’ but in Jamaica it’s called ‘overtaking’. Jamaicans overtake by beeping lightly and then passing the vehicle in front of them, either on the right or the left; it doesn’t seem to matter. On roads that are 2 lanes wide going each direction it can be tricky because of the many cars that are merging into traffic and the speed at which most Jamaicans drive. Overtaking is a way of life with Jamaicans but it gets tricky on roads that are at best 1-½ lanes wide or a very narrow 2 lanes (that’s going in BOTH directions).

I’ve ridden with all three of the special education lecturers at Sam Sharpe when we have visited student teachers all over the northwest portion of the island. Denise is known for getting us anywhere in record time and Sharon and Keitha are both a bit more cautious. Today I rode with Keitha.

I’ve wanted to visit the special education schools in Savanna La Mar since I arrived on the island so when I found out that my meeting for today was cancelled I quickly called Keitha and asked if I could catch a ride with her to Sav and see the student teacher’s final projects and portfolios. I was fortunate that she had not yet left Sam Sharpe so I high-tailed it to the college and met her there. I even found time to buy a beef and cheese pattie at the Tuck Shop at Sam Sharpe, the cheapest Juici Patties on the island, to eat on our one-hour drive to Sav.

Getting on the road after 11:00 meant that we were sharing the road with large trucks, tour buses, taxis and cars of every shape and size. Cars and taxis were doing their best to overtake the large trucks that were slowing down traffic and making everyone’s drive longer than they intended. For much of the way to Sav the road was a narrow one lane each way but there were several places that it was no wider than 1-½ lanes wide. Since much of our drive was through the mountains there were steep drop-offs and very few shoulders, as we know them in America.

After watching car after car overtake a large truck, Keitha decided it was her turn and there appeared to be no cars coming from the opposite direction. So she made her move and just as she was neck and neck with the truck we saw a large SUV coming straight for us. The truck would not slow down to let us in and the car coming toward us did not slow down to let us in either so Keitha laid on her horn and minutes before we had a head-on collision going 80 km the car coming toward us swerved into the grass at the side of the road and we were able to safely overtake the truck.

On the way back to Montego Bay we saw that the grassy area where the car pulled over was just about the only place to safely pull over on the entire way home. Keitha and I talked about our near death experience and we both had the same feeling- complete calm. For a split second it looked like today was the day that I was going to be reunited with Adam, Katy and Bethany but God must not be finished with me yet. I am here to thank him for another day of life and pray that I will live today and each one that follows in a way that is pleasing to Him.


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“The language of sign is not to be learned from books. It must be learned from the living, looking, acting model.” Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

In the history of deaf education in American there is a fascinating period when most, if not perhaps all, of the people living in Martha’s Vineyard, signed. History tells us that in the late 1600s a group of Englanders that were deaf landed in Cape Cod, later moved to Martha’s Vineyard and the hearing people that also settled there quickly picked up on sign language so that they could communicate with their neighbors. People tended to stay in the community in which they were raised and marry within that community so genetic deafness flourished for many years. In fact the community was so isolated that people rarely moved off of the island until the early 20th century. Some early Vineyard settlers carried a gene for deafness (the first known deaf was Jonathan Lambert, 1694), and over years of marriage, generation after generation was born with hearing loss. At one point, one in four children were born deaf! There were so many deaf people on the Vineyard (most deaf lived in Chilmark) that residents developed a sign language, Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL). MVSL later merged with mainland signs to form American Sign Language.

In Jamaica there are three types of sign language that deaf people use to communicate: American Sign Language, Jamaican Sign Language or Signed English. Many deaf Jamaicans use a combination of the three dependent on where they went to school. For instance, Jamaicans in Kingston are more apt to use JSL than Jamaicans living in other parts of the island.

I recently found out that there is a small town in Jamaica, the town where Maranatha Christian School for the Deaf is located, that is much like Martha’s Vineyard was in America in the 1700s. For years people living in this small community in St. Elisabeth, Jamaica used a village sign language known locally as ‘Country Sign’. Signing among this village population was first mentioned by Dolman (1986), where the author reported a very high number of deaf individuals. The sign language has since been in sharp decline due to people moving away from the village on the one hand, and deaf education being introduced into the village on the other hand. The local deaf school (Maranatha) uses Jamaican Sign Language, the dominant urban sign language that is strongly influenced by American Sign Language. Therefore, young deaf people from the village no longer use Country Sign amongst each other, preferring to use Jamaican Sign Language, and indeed, most young people only know bits and pieces of Country Sign now. It is currently not clear whether there are any monolingual users of Country Sign left, and how many people, in particular older deaf people, who are still fluent users of Country Sign in addition to being fluent in Jamaican Sign Language. The community is Top Hill and I’ve read everything I can find on this unique community. I’ve not yet visited Top Hill but it is quickly moving to the top of my list of things to do and see on the island.

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Student teachers at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College must pass many hurdles in order to receive their education diploma. Three weeks ago teams of two lecturers from the college evaluated each student teacher and then went back again the next week to reevaluate each student teacher, looking particularly for improvement in areas discussed the week before. Then the student teachers met as a group to discuss what would be expected of them when the external reviewers from the department of education came for their third evaluation, which occurred last week. This week the evaluations continue as lecturers are again going to each school to evaluate the interdisciplinary project that each student has been working on with their students throughout their entire student teaching experience. In addition to this, their portfolios (books filled with lesson plans and other important artifacts from their student teaching experience) will also be evaluated, and then on Friday, it will all be over.

Evaluating the student’s projects today (and tomorrow) is an amazing experience. The student’s choose a theme, write the rationale and objectives for their project and then highlight student work in all subject areas that support their theme and objectives. It is important to remember that each student teacher is working with deaf students or student with moderate to severe impairments. The work that the students have been able to accomplish under their tutelage is awesome! Kudos to the Sam Sharpe lecturers who have worked so hard to get each student teacher to this point, ready to end their formal education and take over their own classrooms. What a joy it was to be able to see the student teachers throughout this entire semester, moving from novices to true special education professionals.

Some of the student teachers were even able to add a service-learning component to their project. Pictures of some of my favorite projects follow…enjoy!















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One of the first courses I had the privilege of teaching at Trinity Christian College was Introduction to Teaching Exceptional Children, the introduction the special education that is taken by all education majors. I have been fortunate to be able to co-teach this same course at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College with Sharon Anderson-Morgan.

One of the reasons that this course is so much fun to teach is because students have their first exposure to many disabilities and occasionally see that they in fact have an undiagnosed disability that they discover as they learn about that disability in class.

This happened today. It was as if a light bulb went on for one of my favorite students. She was sitting at the back of class near me as a group of students was giving a presentation on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). She looked at me and said, “That’s me!” After class she asked me if I would speak to her outside of the classroom. She confided in me that she was self-medicating by smoking cigarettes and marijuana and wanted to stop but there were times that the only way she could concentrate on schoolwork was by smoking something.

This was creating havoc in her life because of course there was no smoking allowed in the dorm so she was forced to leave the dorm whenever working on schoolwork. She was open and willing to listen to some ideas that I had including being tested for ADHD, trying something such as Mountain Dew instead of cigarettes and trying some behavior modification techniques.

I was so proud of her and her willingness to face this difficulty in her life, listen to ways to deal with the issue and attempt to conquer her challenges. I assured her that once she gets through school, life would become so much easier for her since ADHD and school generally do NOT go well together. I reminded her of the many well-known, successful people that have ADHD, and I asked her to get back to me after she had attempted some lifestyle changes as I am anxious to support her as she attempts to make major changes in her life.

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This week the Hope College work team is at CCCD Montego Bay during their spring break. Since it is a student from Hope College who was subsequently my assistant leader on several trips to CCCD, I wanted to meet Steve Smith, the team leader, Hope professor and soccer coach. Today was the day that the CCCD students put on their presentation for the work team so I spent the morning meeting the Hope team and loving on the CCCD kids.

The program was outstanding as usual and the new Hands in Praise team had a chance to perform several of the songs they will be using when they leave for their US tour tomorrow. They will be traveling to Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois so they will have a very busy 17 days in the US.

For all of this year’s and past year’s Trinity Jamaica Interim participants, I’ve included several pictures for your viewing pleasure. I know how fortunate I am to be able to stay in touch with the students and staff and am taking every advantage of that opportunity. It is extra special that I have three Sam Sharpe student teachers at CCCD so I get to see them as well when I visit the campus.

Tonight I’ve been invited to eat with the Hope team so I think I’m going to take them up on their offer and get to know them a bit better. It was amazing how many people we knew in common. Of course Steve and his wife knew Kendra Maloni Linde who went to Hope and was my inspiration for taking a Trinity team and was then my assistant leader. They also remembered Bryant Loomis, my daughter-in-law, Sarah’s brother, who went on several spring break trips to CCCD with the Hope team. There was also a student who knew several Trinity students since Trinity has so many students from Holland Christian High School and there was also a young woman who has fallen in love with sign language so we had a great talk about potential careers for her.  Steve knew of my sons, Josh and Aaron, who both attended Hope but had never gotten to know them personally.

I felt so at home today at CCCD and loved being able to pray with my dear friend Ms. Russell one last time before she leaves on tour tomorrow. Please pray with me for the Hands in Praise team as they travel and minister in song and sign to many in the US who need to hear the message they bring so beautifully and artistically.

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“Down the way where the nights are gay, and the sun shines daily on the mountain top, I took a trip on a sailing ship and when I reached Jamaica I made a stop!”  So goes the old Jimmy Buffett song and how apt it is to my experiences in Montego Bay.

There is many a night that I go to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 pm to the sounds of reggae and dance hall music drifting to my condo from the street below. It is not unusual to be awakened at 3:30 or 4:00 am to that same music, the party still going on. The nights are definitely ‘gay’ on the hip strip.

Every day, and I mean EVERY day I have awoken to bright sunny blue skies over the Caribbean Sea outside my front porch and the Jamaican hills outside my back door. There have been a few occasional bursts of rain but only one storm that sent me inside. The rest were truly ‘liquid sunshine’ as the raindrops fell from a smattering of clouds in a otherwise sunny sky. Do I tire of the sunshine and ‘gay’ nights—NEVER! I love hearing reggae music blaring from the cars going down my street and the bars and restaurants that line the hip strip. The beat is tantalizing and the words understandable, not over powered by an excess of instruments. Every day I spend the last hour or two of my day before dinner enjoying the sunshine and cool breezes that come off the sea every afternoon. I will NEVER tire of slipping on my swimming suit and cover-up, heading over to the pool with a good book and a bottle of water and reading a chapter or two before I drift off into nap-land for an hour or so—pure heaven!

I’ve met many Jamaicans who grew up on the island, moved to America, Canada or England to make their living, but then moved back to the island in their retirement years. After all, they tell me, it is home. And in a great sense, it is home to me as well.

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“Di reggae beat originally come from di Africans we se’em weh—African music—and from African scattered abroad. So it come as a kinda rebellion.” The Wailers

Wa mek reggae music di bess?
(Why is reggae music the best?)

“One ting ‘bout music is dat when it hits, yu feel no pain.” Bob Marley and the Wailers

Yeh, mon, a True. Mi can see dat. It all about di feel and di vibration. Right?
(Yes, that is right. I can see that. It is all about the feel and vibration. Right?)

Wa mek di real Reggae inspiration?
(What makes the real Reggae inspiration?)

Lissen wa di big mon a seh.
(Listen to what Bob Marley says.)

“Well, our music has always been music inspired by what we believe in, what we know, and that is happening, which we experience everything. Reggae music is news. Is news about yu own self, yu own history, tings dat you wudd’n really—dem wuddn teach it to you inna school, yu understand? Becaa dem wuddn tll yu dat Rastafari is God! Yu na’ mean? And yet di bible tell you dat with in 2000 years Christ shall return and when ‘im return ‘im gwann be King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion in the Tribe of Judah. Chruu di line is a King Solomon and King David. Now dat is the reality.” Bob Marley

The Rastafarian religion has roots in the Bible, juxtaposed with history from ancient Ethiopia and Egypt. It begins with God’s covenant from Abraham and the twelve tribes of Israel and then focuses on where Rastas believe the black race began (Noah’s son’s Shem and Ham and/or Joseph marrying a black women begetting Ephraim and Manasseh). Rastas base their religion on their reading of the Bible that Christ promised that he would return within 2000 years and actually returned as Emperor Haile Selassie-I of Ethiopia. Rastas believe Selassie-I is a direct descendent of both King David and Christ. Many important historical Jamaicans including Marcus Garvey and Preacher Leonard P. Howell organized the masses and began the Rasta movement. Important aspects of the Rasta movement are wearing dreadlocks (“His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. Song of Solomon 5:11), Ganja (the Holy Herb and Weed of Wisdom), drumming and chanting, and avoiding meat.

I hope to visit a Rasta village before I leave the island of Jamaica in May. It is such an important part of the fabric of the island that I want to experience it.

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