As we settled into our temporary new home, the R_ Resort, the government was urging Jamaicans to store water and tinned food against the forecast fly-by of a tropical storm that is threatening to go hurricane.
Hurricane season is traditionally from July to October, as in the local rhyme I learned today:
July, stand by
August, come she must
October, all over.
However, statistics record some whoppers as early as late May and as late as mid-November. I have asked a few Jamaicans around the R_ Resort what they think about the potential storm, and most of them just shrug. I ask them if they are storing water and tinned food, or thinking about storing water and tinned food, and they shrug again.
“Me nuh know,” seems the most common answer, and has also become my new favourite expression. “Me nuh know.”
Jamaica is getting kind of excited and prettying itself up for its fiftieth anniversary of independence, celebrations to take place Monday all over the island. The storm is forecast to pass south of the island at the same time, with heavy rains accompanying it. A fear of attending the celebrations in the rain seems the most common worry. Something about not wanting to ‘wet up me head’. Apparently that is a common cause of severe illness. Not sure how having a shower is different. I’ll have to explore that one further, as I’m not sure that medical science is aware of the phenomenon. Thousands might be spared illness just by not going out in the rain.
Not all people believe that the approaching storm is a natural phenomenon, though. A copy of the Jamaican Observer had this quote in it:
“Well, if it reaches, I believe it is a sign of a very purposeful God and is an indication that Jamaica and Jamaicans should reflect on their past and past deeds,” said Mrs. J_ C_. “We started our celebrations and we did not include God.”
Now, I’m not exactly sure how you include God in an anniversary celebration. I think that if you imagine a God that needs to be included in this kind of event, He, She or It is probably quite capable of including Him, Her or Itself. But perhaps that’s what J_ C_ is worried about; God might be sending the storm as punishment of some kind for the above-mentioned lack of reflection?
Maybe I’m over-analysing. Perhaps this is just a call for public prayer.
If so, you run into another problem in Jamaica, which is how do you choose to pray? I’ve been doing a little research, and it appears that Jamaica is extremely well-endowed, church-wise; more churches per capita than any other country in the world! That would explain the urge to include God in your celebrations.
However, how to go about it when your population includes:
Church of God, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, Methodist, United Church, Jehovah’s Witness, Brethren, Moravian, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Rastafari, a handful of Jews, and a whole passel of Revivalist spiritual cults such as Kumina and Pocomania and a smattering of Vodouists from the Haitian diaspora. And a near-universal belief in Obeah, or black magic, no matter your religion.
Mrs. S_ W_ agrees with J_ C_. “We are a blessed country, but some of us take things for granted,” said S_ W_, who felt the threat from the tropical storm was a warning to Jamaicans.
A much more philosophical outlook was fatalistically spoken by Mr. S_ W_, who decided he wasn’t worried either way. In my first attempt to decipher Jamaican Patois on paper, it took me a while to figure this out:
“We nuh fear nuh storm enuh, because remember seh what to be must be.”
Got that right, S_W_.
God Bless Jamaica… but I think I’ll lay in some water and tinned food. Just in case. Because, what to be must be.