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12 April 3 , 2020                 


We arrived back from Australia a week early on a trip that took us three days.  This is what happens when you have to change previous arrangements at the last minute at a time when thousands are trying to make it back home simultaneously .  I had considered staying because Australia was well set up to deal with the virus and we could locate in an isolated area.  The trip home was always the problem because you have no control over aircraft seat spacing and other factors during connections.  I also felt that staying probably would mean a six month time frame at the minimum and there were important things to deal with at home within a month that didn’t involve a softball mitt. 


Our routing through the US was not a good option because we were unsure of US policy regarding Canadians and Westjet, our carrier out of Los Angles, had stoped flying internationally.  LAX is always a mob scene at the best of times so we rejected other carrier options. 


We returned early from Noosa in Queensland and went back to Wagga Wagga NSW.  There we booked Air Canada from Sydney through Vancouver and home. 


This was not the first time while travelling internationally that I faced emergency evacuation. 


In 1969 I was teaching school in Brown’s Town Jamaica, an agricultural centre located in the Dry Harbour Mountains about fifteen kms inland from the North Coast beaches.  At about 500 metres elevation, the school had a great view and a nice daily breeze and went by the name of Hillcrest.  It was a private school and students came from all over Jamaica and other islands as well as Central America.  There was also a few from the US and Europe. 


Black Power was gaining some influence during the time I was there aided by the publishing of a radical newspaper out of Kingston Jamaica called ABENG.  The newspaper was against the deals the multi - national resource companies had made with the government of the day and the merchant class which was made up largely of ethnic people.  


ABENG published weekly and started putting pictures of “US Spies” on the front page.  These people sometimes were Peace Corps workers who were doing their thing in Jamaica just like CUSO (Canadian University Students Overseas)  workers were doing their duty. The exposure and accompanying story usually meant that the identified person left the island, sooner rather than later.  


The Canadian Ambassador in Kingston took note of the situation and because there was a contingent of Canadians around Brown’s Town they decided to show the flag.  Hillcrest School was to be the meeting place between the Embassy delegation the the handful of young workers from Canada. 


I remember the big black limousine with the Canadian flag prominently  displayed on the hood rolling up the winding driveway.  The meeting was conducted at afternoon tea and went on for some time.  In the end it was agreed the the situation would be closely monitored and appropriate action taken when necessary.


Complicating the situation was the fact that an election was going on which in Jamaica usually means aggressive social behaviour.  As election day approached, you would hear gunfire at night, not all of it directed towards the sky. 


The Headmistress and one of the female teachers (who would later become my wife) shared an apartment at the school and they took to putting their mattresses on the floor to sleep on.


I stayed in a house down in the hollow owned by a Kaiser Bauxite engineer who rented to a CUSO worker and myself.  The house was located next to a cemetery. We rarely had visitors especially at night because the locals feared the duppies (ghosts or spirits) that could rise from  the  dead buried there.  The Duppy Patrol did its work and we were never bothered by political or social agitation.


As time progressed, the drought that had gripped the area began to take hold and the cisterns at the school that stored the water went dry.  The school closed for two weeks and the students were sent home or to alternative accommodation.. The rainy season did start within the two weeks and everything went back to normal.  Election day happened and the torrential rains seemed to wash away almost all of the other problems of the day.  ABENG ceased publication a few months later due to to internal problems and financial difficulty.


In Ottawa, we now sit in fourteen day isolation and count our blessings.  So many people in the world are suffering because of ill health and/or economic deprivation.  I see people and dogs in my neighbourhood out walking that I’ve never seen before.


We need to get the garden in shape and prune the grapevines and apple trees.  Ornamental plants have to be restored to growing mode.   These are all chores that I have increasingly approached with less enthusiasm over time 


But not this year. These activities give one some purpose as time passes.  On the recreational and nutritional side there is wine to bottle in the cellar. 


Life still goes on and we are lucky to be in this place we call home.


All the best from Left Field

                      


   

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           #1 March 21, 2019
           
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#10 January 8, 2020
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