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why I sometimes feel that I live in a fraternity house




This is literally came out of the fridge and I couldn’t resist taking this photo once I put it on the counter.  And in case you don’t recognize this essential cooking item, it is piece of ginger.  Thought this would be a good posting for Father’s Day to honour all thing male.



Eric’s Convocation at University of Toronto

1 down, 2 and 1/2 to go.  Eric graduated today, Adam is 1/2 through his masters, Noah and Ryan have years left!

There was magnificent rainbow today, not just one but two! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures while driving on the Gardiner Expressway.    This makes it an extra special day for Eric’s convocation from University of Toronto.  The showers held off so that we could take photos after the ceremony.


Honours Bachelor in Arts majoring in Transnational and Diaspora Studies.

proud parents of our newest graduate



At St. Michaels College that Eric was enrolled in.




new dance studio & store opening

June 1 st, 2013

address of  new dance studio, down the stairs, south of Gerrard



speeches before the ribbon cutting ceremony


Noah, David RF (owner of RightFoot), Eric

inside RightFoot dance studio



live entertainment for the studio opening

inside NOZO Toronto’s newest store


and Eric’s office.  Yes that is a Triceratops head.

last day on Island, Jamaica, May 24,2013

For breakfast, we cleaned out the fridge.  We tried the Sorel fruit juice which is faintly of cranberries but since they add ginger to it, strongly of ginger. Local oranges and grapefruits are mottled green coloured.  It doesn’t get cold enough for them to develop the orange colour that we are accustomed too.  So this means that some of the citrus fruit from our local supermarket has had food dye applied.

This is our rental apartment and car.  We were on the 4th floor really the 5th, since there was a G floor.  British thing.  We are packing the rental car, a Corolla.  They prefer you always park face out, probably to avoid accidents.  Signs all over requesting “park face out”.

rental apartment, Kingston, Jamaica

It poured rain yesterday after work.  It came down in buckets and then stopped, then sunny again.  On Saturday, they are expecting a storm.  August is hurricane season.  This explains the potholes.

The white van is a NOAH car.  And drive on the left side of the road.  Another British legacy.

Noah car

I missed the chapel on my walk around the campus yesterday. K mentioned that he had wanted to be married there but it wasn’t available. I will definitely visit it next time.    There was an accident with a bus, good thing it didn’t completely block the lane but when you see the bus driver on the curb taking pictures with his cellphone, it is serious.


Into the office, just for the morning, drop by the classroom, back to the hotel to finish packing.  We are supposed to be out by 11:00.  Drop by the benefits office and then to airport. A lot of the buildings are stucco and brightly coloured.

The Red-Billed Streamertail hummingbird is the national bird also called the Doctor BIrd or Swallow-Tail hummingbird.  It lives only in Jamaica.


My feelings about Jamaica: since we weren’t in a resort,  never saw the beach and was downtown a lot and New Kingston, I probably got to see what real life is like here.  People are friendly, everyone acknowledges everyone else. Lots of security check points like parking lots, restaurants (campus KFC had a security cubicle), malls etc,  Probably have eaten more red snapper during this visit than in my entire life.  Local produce reminds me that our supermarkets have higher quality imported fruits & vegetables.

The local water is soft which is great for bathing.  I didn’t have to use any hand lotion.

The middle class has left the country.  Corruption is rampant such that you can sell your bank account.  There is poverty, violence, government inefficiencies.   But from K, I sense hope.  His family would move to Toronto if his wife had her way but he wants to stay and help build a better country.  He mentioned that he would be treated as 2nd class citizen if he moved to Canada.  Being Chinese and the 2nd largest minority group here makes us stand out.  All this makes you appreciate home more.

oxtail stew, Kingston airport

Last Jamaican meal was Oxtail Stew at the airport.  It was delicious since that it what I usually order from the local Caribbean restaurant at home.  However David thought it was too salty this time. It was served with rice and peas, and callaloo.

Another example of how life is here, I had the  airport washroom cleaner just ask if  I would give her 100JMD ($1).  I declined.  Since I was asked, I gave a bottle of water to a bank parking attendant.  Although they aren’t supposed to be asking for anything from the bank customers.

At the boarding gate, there was a sniffer dog.  It checked out the lady in front of us but the handler and dog just  ignored us.

Flight home: I watched 21 grams starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn.  I surprised that they would show nudity and sex on an airplane movie, I looked around to see if anyone else was checking my screen.  I could see that the passenger in front of me was watching The Hobbit and I was glimpsing .

Menu choice: I had spinach and ricotta cheese pasta. Had enough chicken, rice and peas.

airplane lunch, pasta

It was interesting to look out the window.  Flying over the islands was very pretty with the swirls of  teal, turquoise and infinite shades of ocean blue water. Some of the islands were so small, I couldn’t tell if they were inhabited.  Then just clouds and the brown and green squares of urban landscape.

New machines at Pearson.  For Canadian residents, you can bypass the customs line, just feed your passport and customs declaration into the machine.  It scans and spits out a copy that you show to an official as you pass by.    So much faster.

Once home, I was surprised to find rice and lentils in the fridge.  First I thought it was rice and peas.  I did bring home plantain chips (sweet version) and 2 cans of Red Stripe beer that had been made in the UK.

Temperature in Jamaica ranged between 27-32C.  It was refreshing to be back at home in cooler, refreshing air.

Labour Day, Jamaica, May 23, 2013

Today is a bank holiday so we are not at the bank  because it is closed.  However, we told the staff that since the trainer is here this week only, if they worked today, they could  take Monday off.  Traffic was light coming in and the campus is deserted.  Typically, you would spend the day off doing community service work.  K said that his community would be whitewashing the sidewalks.  We offered to write him a note explaining his absence.

My security pass and temporary office cubicle.

UWI office pass and my office

UWI office cubicle


Our building which is a new call centre training facility.


Since it was a holiday, E gave them chocolate and I had leftover pears that we passed out at morning break.

I got a chance to walk around the campus. David suggested that I walk early in the morning before it gets too hot.  I walked around for 40 minutes.


The Papine sugar plantation  originated here and some of the original brick structures such as aquaducts and buildings  are still standing here.  They are pretty much in ruins but interesting to look at.


The Geology department has a commemorative obelisk consisting of local rocks, oldest at the bottom to the newest at the top.


Nearby is a time capsule to be opened up on the anniversary.

Geology Dept time capsule

There are local departments that you would only see on a tropical Caribbean campus.

sickle cell unit

and another Tropical Disease

tropical medicine research institute

University Of West Indies, Mona campus has a mix of old, low storied buildings as well as some new buildings being built.  It is the best university in the Caribbean.  Usain Bolt trained here.

one of newer buildings

new Law Building and the new Medical Sciences building  new Medical Sciences building

We ordered lunch at the campus KFC.  Original, spicy and barbeque chicken, biscuits, corn on the cob, fries, coleslaw and champagne cola (orange) and Pepsi.

other campus sights

a building mural

the Physics department

Physics building, note the wind turbine and domed structure.

Kingston, UWI Mona campus

the campus KFC is across from the library.  Unfortunately since it was a holiday, buildings were closed.

floral sights:

pretty small flowers, fragrant too

pretty fragrant flowers

pretty blossoms but watch the bottom…thorns

look at those thorns...

UWI campus

tropical campus view


driving here is tricky, you have to drive on the ring road,

tyre damage warning

and a sleeping policeman is a speed bump

back inside:

EQ Technologies staff

Omar is missing from the staff photo since he left early.  EB is standing next to David.



Jamaica, May 22nd, 2013


For breakfast , I cut into the biggest avocado that I had bought.  Well it was big because 80% of it was the pit.  I guess it was a local heritage variety.  I also tried an imported pear which was small and not sweet or tasty at all.  The fingerling bananas are nice.  A lot of stuff is imported. I’m actually craving broccoli which isn’t served much since it is imported.  It was broccoli season at home since it went cheap in price.

It must be a cultural thing where everyone acknowledges any one that you see, including strangers.



Driving out of  University of West Indies campus.  There are some old ruins of aquaduts and forts.




we are in a new part of the campus called Mona Technology Park not in this building  but across from it.  note the coloured windows.  


a department that you wouldn’t see at home


jamaican money

I’m rich! not after but you  move the decimal points 2 places.

Morning at the classroom then to the office, will be going back to the …bank and then meeting with a benefits consultant downtown.  We have spent so much time 10.5 hrs, at the bank, 1/3 of time is just waiting with our queue number.  We have even asked to speak to the branch manager to speed things up.  The problem was not having supporting documents to open up an account.



hookahs in Jamaica, May 21st, 2013

You have to read further about hookahs, I put it in the title just to ‘hook’ you in.

For breakfast, I had leftovers for breakfast.  I had red snapper and they also serve it with Carr’s style crackers.


Morning at UWI campus, Business Management building.  It was hot and dry today.


Even Kenny who is a local, complains about having rice and peas all the time.  He just wants a tuna sandwich!  And I started to feel the same about Jamaican so it was a nice surprise when we found a middle Eastern restaurant instead of  the intended Mothers which has ice cream as well as patties.  This looks like a new strip mall with a supermarket  too.   The middle Eastern restaurant was called Aladin.  Though it wasn’t full of treasures, it did have a lot of hookahs for sale.  I ordered Fatoush Salad, beef Shawarma and David had a falafel sandwich.  The table had a bottle of hand sanitizer too which I don’t know if the restaurant supplied or left behind by another customer.  I used it.  The server came and wiped the table before we ate so maybe they are focused on cleanliness too.  The food was good  but the pita bread was thinner than what we have at home.


this was the Fatoush salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, parsley, mint, lemon & pomegranite juice) which had pita chips in the middle.



left: David’s falafel and my beef shawarma

After lunch, I went to the supermarket to buy plantain chips.  Most were not made in Jamaica.

Back to the bank but at least this time, we got the accounts opened.  We had to wait an hour before getting served and then another 3.5 hours to complete forms.  Once again, we were the last car in the parking lot and had to get the security guard to let us out.

We bought E back to Aladin so that he could order dinner there, dropped him off at his hotel and then went to get our dinner from Chelsea Jerk.  We ordered 1/2 jerk chicken, leg and thigh and 1/2 lb of  jerk pork.  I think the jerk pork is better.  We had leftover rice, callaloo, green beans.  We had a mango which was quite stringy, guess its the local type.  And mango carrot juice which also has orange and banana in it.



Finally jerk food.  Which was flavourful and spicy.  My mango carrot drink, note the frozen cherries used as ice cubes.  Jerk pork on the left and jerk chicken in the box. At the restaurant, you go to one window to pick up your chicken and then to a different window for your pork.  We noticed that they used a Chinese style meat cleaver.   Most of the restaurants that we have eaten at are close by.  This is down the street from the apartment.  callaloo.

Watched Men in Black 3 which had a hilarious reference to Andy Warhol and a tear jerker reveal ending.





Jamaica, May 20th, 2013

Due to some sort of buzzing,  I woke up while it was dark, showered.  Then David tells me that it is only 4:30 so I had to decide whether to go back to sleep with wet hair or stay up and blow dry it.  I tried going back to sleep but without flattening my wet hair.  Then the real alarm went off at 6:00am.  Don’t get up until the sun gets up.

Breakfast fruits: sugar cane, rose apple and fingerling bananas.  I asked a staff person what the proper name for the fingerling bananas and she said just small bananas.

breakfast fruit


For breakfast, I cut open the rose apple.  It is pear shaped, soft flesh and I didn’t eat the peel since I thought it was a bit sour.  The flesh is mild taste probably like a guava.  I heated up the rest of ackee and salt fish and had that too.

a rose apple

Back to the office on campus.  We are in a different building Business, since we needed a larger classroom.  It is much cooler here.  But then the air conditioning broke down.

We had lunch catered in from the Social Welfare department which is the training program for people at risk.  I ordered sweet & sour chicken, rice and peas with a yellow triangle.  I had to ask to identify it, a yellow yam.  And since I asked for natural juice not fruit juice, I got pineapple with ginger.  This is really nice combination since the ginger cuts the sweetness of the pineapple.  Some of the other drinks didn’t arrive since our class order was placed late.  Apparently the coconut water was left out to thaw and thus forgotten.  David had stewed beef.

campus lunch, sweet & sour chicken

We left campus.  To Jampro (trade & development) and back to lawyer.

Then off to another afternoon at the bank.  The parking lot security guard came inside to find us since we were the last car in the lot.  Aside from being Chinese, he had watched us trying to park the car, face out.  They seem to always want the car parked face out, signs everywhere for it.  Best sign, watch out for sleeping policeman – speed bumps.   He asked for a bottle of water which confused me but I didn’t have one.  David said he said that he  was really asking for a tip.

Back to campus office to pick up E.  We went to MegaMart which is like a Sam’s club for water and groceries.

Then we went to Dragon Palace chinese restaurant.  It is upstairs at a mall, bigger and fancier with decor and tableclothes. It is the first time that I have seen other Chinese and heard spoken Cantonese.  Even Chinese opera music was  played.  We order beef noodles, black mushrooms and vegetables and beef fried rice.  E doesn’t eat chicken, pork or oyster sauce.  And its the same crunchy Chinese vegetables: bok choy, cabbage, carrots and baby corn, green onions.  I am thinking there isn’t much variety in food here.

another picture from Emancipation Park

Emancipation Park

Jamaica, May 19th

Woke up early which happens if you go to bed early.  However with the office closed, lawyer closed and bank closed, we are working at the apartment.  I’ve learnt how to add photos to my blog so that it should be a lot more interesting.

So the cherries are Acerola cherries.  I decide to freeze them as ice cubes since they are too sour to eat.

This is what is in our fridge here>

left to right: June Plum (has ginger), soursop, cherry, sorrel with ginger and mango carrot. And the supermarket has just as many Ginger teas as a Chinatown.

local fruit juices

We had lunch using up all leftover sides and making egg omelets.

We had to go to the airport to pick up someone E. from the airport.  Guess what I saw on the way to the airport as well as a huge pig grazing on the side of the road?  More goats except these were all  black.  I should mention that the road to the airport goes through a poorer part of town and then its a long causeway to the airport.  People are finishing along the water with long rods.

We picked him up and we all went out for dinner together.  It was at So So seafood restaurant.  The waitress showed us the fresh fish that you could order.  It was in a cooler in the back.  There was some parrot fish, very pretty and some snapper.  David ordered conch in oyster sauce, not spicy.  After discussion about parrot fish being better fried, I settled for snapper steamed in coconut milk, with okra and pumpkin and 1/2 fried not steamed bammy.  It was a little bit spicy but too spicy for E. He had to settle for steamed rice.  The fish entree came with  Irish, meaning white potatoes not sweet.  No photos since I left my data card behind.  Unfortunately, the music was so loud playing Whitney Houston that it was hard to talk.




Jamaican lingo

As I left on Eric’s birthday, I sent this message for him with some of my new vocabulary.

as they would say here on the island…Big up, all fruits ripe, hope you were treated as a ginnygog yesterday. sure you don’t want me to bring you back some whites or some trash ‘n’ ready? skin teeth, DY

translation: Hello, everything goes well, hope you were treated as a VIP yesterday, sure you don’t want some white rum or something trendy, smiling, DY otherwise everything wouldn’t be legal. belated birthday happies

Sometimes I don’t understand what they are saying here, especially if they are speaking fast. It all English but sounds different.

Ackee and Salted Fish Breakfast, Jamaica May 18th, 2013

Its Saturday morning and we slept in! I’ve stopped taking Reactine since I’ve left my hayfever behind in Toronto.

a typical Jamaican breakast:

Jamaican breakfast


We decided to go out for breakfast at Fish Spot to order ackee and salted fish for breakfast. Ackee looks like scrambled eggs, onions and the salted fish. Its a very salty dish and the restaurant ran out of dumplings so we substituted festival instead. Festival is a fried donut with cornmeal and sugar and its really tasty. I enjoyed the festival more than the salted fish. I think if it was a smaller ratio of fish to ackee I may order it again.

from the fruit vendor

David wanted to buy more bananas from his favourite fruit vendor which is in a parking lot at strip mall. We could smell pineapples when you got of the car. He said that I could pick anything. I choose some fingerling bananas, some cherries, 2 large Alfonso type mangoes, 1 rose apple, 1 pear that looked like an avocado and a small pineapple. I only wanted a handful of the cherries but the vendor insisted that he top off the bag to half a pound. Some of the fruit was an experiment. The cherries turned to have a ridged pit and were rather sour, bad experiment. I guess that what they make the local cherry drink out of. The pineapple was fine, small and the crown was crooked, probably locally grown.  And what I thought was a guava is a neice?? berry.

Since food is rather cheap here, and the kitchen isn’t air conditioned and fully equipped, we are eating out a lot more. Since I spend a lot of time cooking at home, it is offset by the time going to the restaurant, ordering and driving back. There is no dishwasher here either. Howeve r, it seems to be either fish or chicken entrees that I’m picking. Cuz I’m a wimp for spices.


For lunch, we droved to Tastee. David ordered curried mutton and I ordered stewed beef and a beef patty. I found the stewed beef too spicy so I preferred his curried mutton. The mutton wasn’t strongly curried. I am getting fond of rice and peas. The peas are not green but pigeon peas. I liked the beef patty, somewhat sweet and a slow burn and of course flaky pastry.

Dinner from Island Grill, which is a big chain known for their jerk dishes. I ordered fish in brown sauce again.  But the plantains are in the back.  They were soft and delicious.  I’ve tried cooking then at home but I guess they aren’t ripe enough to be this delicious.

island grill, plantain

Every day, I look for the herd of 6 goats again but haven’t seen them since. We had the landlord Mike drop by so I asked him about the goats. He said that you are allowed to keep livestock in your back yard if your neighbours don’t complain. Mike said that on his home farm, the goats over 100, go out in the morning, range for miles, come home when they are full and find their way back by themselves.

We are renting an apartment. The building is brand new, 1 bedroom, has stacking washer/dryer but the air conditioner is only in the bedroom. We open the bedroom door so that cold air flows through. There is gated parking coming it. I haven’t checked out the gym on the top floor yet. From the balcony, I can see the coast. Rain showers off and on.

highlights recap: ackee and salted fish, too salty. Beware of ridged cherries, they are sour cherries.

Emancipation Park, Kingston May 18th

Finally some time off.  We drove to Emancipation Park to walk around.

Emanicpation Park

Trick was to find parking since the parkade wasn’t opened.  Like England, you can park your car in any direction. There is a famous sculpture featuring a naked couple looking at the sky, it is nicknamed Penis Park for that reason.  i am standing in front of the naughty part. Lots of families walking around. We watched some table tennis players since they have outdoor tables there. Music speakers disguised as rocks. lots of flowering yellow, pink and purple shrubs. It was nice orderly park with security guards to enforce the rules of no vending etc.  There is a jerk restaurant where you can see them shovelling wood to cook the meat.  Bumper cards and a ride.   Just a typical Saturday evening.

Emancipation Park, Kingston

Then to Sovreign Centre, mall to walk around, look at the food court and there are movie theatres upstairs.

Picked up dinner at Island Grill , a local chain. We both ordered fish in brown sauce. The fish is snapper. Instead of plain rice, its callaloo rice which I think is better. Chinese vegetables (more bok choy) instead of coleslaw and most delicious, ripe plantain. You can choose green or ripe. I think the fish is spicier here.
Back at the apartment,I tried the fresh sugarcane. Its hard work to peel back the outer skin and the juice wasn’t particularly sweet    .

highlights recap: Emancipation Park walk and      cooked ripe not green plantain, yummy!

Jamaica May 17th, 2013

our rental apartment livingroom: David works at the dining table, I’m working at the coffee table. And there is a big flat screen TV.

Strathairn  Ave, Kingston

Friday: This is a working vacation for me.  I’m up 2 hours than my Toronto schedule.  I’m accompanying David to the office, lawyers and banks.  I am  using rubberstamps but not the art type but the seal type since all signed signatures need to be stamped.  All documents have to filled in by hand so everything takes longer. Banks open at 8 and close at 2 except for Fridays at 4.  We were there for so long (4 hours) that  the parking lot was locked so David had to walk back to get the security guard to unlock the gate for us.  Work stuff is rather boring so I will give more details about my meals.

We are eating breakfast in the apartment.  From the supermarket, I bought cheese, but it was New Zealand cheese.  Its not that I didn’t want local cheese but I didn’t see it.  I had local June Plum juice, which tastes faintly like a lemonade, very thick creamy consistency, best over ice and has ginger  in it.  They seem to add ginger to all the fruit drinks here, probably to cut the sugar taste.  The water is safe to drink but at the restaurants, they ask if you want bottled. I’ve been using tap water but then I also already had Twinrix shots from my trip to Japan.

Yesterday, we went to the Coconut Marketing board.   It is a small building.  David was asked to bring back some coconut drops which is sugar ginger coconut pieces.  It was the only item that I liked there.  I ordered a small bottle of coconut water which is okay to try but not to buy again.

coconut marketing hut

Today at the office, I handed out the cubicle signs.  I noticed later in the day, that the staff had put  them up.  It is there first week working together so Fo I noticed that not everyone remember names including me.  There is no printers installed yet so I made these signs by hand and coloured the logo with pencil crayons.  But this is not why I’m travelling with art supplies.

We had lunch downtown at a Chinese restaurant called Gourmet Gardens or Dragon Phoenix.  We wanted some place to sit down, quiet and cool.  We had passed by other fast food places that had lineups since it was lunch hour so this was further away. We ordered wonton soup that was made with eggroll wrappers,  they are much thicker than wonton wrappers but it had no shrimp in it and some bok choy.  And beef chowmein with extra vegetables.  It was a huge serving.

then for dinner, we had takeout Chinese food  for dinner at an upscale mall, Barbican.  I had sweet & sour chicken.

White House, Jamaica May 16th, 2013

First day at office. It is in a new building at the University of West Indies (UWI) Car pass to get on to campus. Sign in at lobby, record laptop ID, get visitors badge, pass security, pass receptionist, lots and lots of security checks. Meet staff.


White House, Kingston

Went for lunch at the White House restaurant which is a big white house featuring Chinese food. I asked if the curried chicken was spicy so she gave a me a small dish of it. Yes it was tasty but spicy. I chose the fried chicken instead and was asked light or dark meat.  The chicken was battered with a light tomato sauce, it reminded of Hong Kong style pork chops.    David ordered curried goat,  beef soup, and stewed vegetables that were green beans and carrots.   We chose to sit inside because its cooler and it open terraced.  Some of the tables were wood and some were plastic patio but all with cloth table clothes.  There was a huge downpour that didn’t last long.

Back to the lawyers.


Dinner at Fish Pot.  I ordered the grilled shrimp skewers this time.  Each shrimp had a piece of green pepper next to it.  Pumpkin rice has tiny pieces of pumpkin in it and gives the rice a yellow tinge of colour.  David had a large fish tea which is soup.

After dinner, there is a TV in the livingroom and the bedroom.  Satellite stations.  We watched Mindgames which has a lot of stars like LL Cool J, Tommy Lee Smith.  It is a psychological thriller, unique deaths, red herrings and a surprise ending.  And Moneyball

I packed art supplies  hoping to make some greeting cards but David suggested that I make cubicle signs for the staff so that they can learn each other names and for when on Skype with the Toronto team.  And tent cards for the classes with the trainer next week.  There goes my cardstock supply.