{January 29, 2009}   jamaica

Jamaica is beautiful. Relaxed, no pollution… things aren’t *always* as clean as I’d like, and service is iffy, but what surprised me is that the people look noticably clean. Lots of youth in crisp uniforms. Religion is quite obviously an important part of the culture over there. Prices are about the same as america, which is disconcerting because it feels like china somehow. Old buildings, perhaps, and the street vendors in the city, and people on the road always trying to sell something. There’s a strange mix in the city… I saw some stone walls that reminded me of ireland. lots of little remnants of britain there, too. They drive on the left. The driving reminds me of china, though. ;) I overheard something about a bus carrying 400 people, and another bus that hit a pedestrian and people got upset and shot the driver.
oookay then. moving on.
I found Jamaican accents really really hard to understand. Sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re speaking english. The cars talk with their horns, too… daskreech can tell you about that. :)

as for the conference… I can’t remember if I blogged about the talks, but other people have said enough there. no need to repeat it. unfortunately I missed most of till’s talks, trying to get homework done. In retrospect, maybe i should have skipped the homework.

I did get some hacking done, though… there was that post I made about the victory calendar, and I worked on keyboard shortcuts for a while. I really should have written something down sooner, because I can’t remember much about that now. just that I wish I’d started on it sooner, because it was so easy… oh, yes: keyboard shortcuts have changed in 4.3 – I think I’ll wait for the 4.2 celebrations before blogging about that :) I considered backporting, but decided that if I end up needing to change them again it’s best not to break everyone’s memory twice. by the time 4.3 is released they should be configurable, too, so it won’t be such a big deal.
there is one downside to this, though: 4.2 has no keyboard shortcut for “add widgets”. ctrl-a was causing conflicts too much, it seems, and nobody thought up an alternative when they removed it. finding unused keyboard shortcuts is hard, even more so when you don’t know what you’re sharing them with… this will be solved properly in 4.3.

something I don’t recall anyone else blogging about is our karaoke attempts in the evening… there was a karaoke place nearby, but their machine was broken that week. then daskreech got his hands on some home karaoke dvds, but couldn’t find a working mic. the next night we tried again, with some online flash karaoke thing. the karaoke played just fine… but the mic did not. sound from the mic went into the computer and never came out. nobody had one of those old crappy sound cards that echoes the mic (making skype unusable). :( nobody even had an option for that on their sound card. I tried arecord | aplay but there was far too much static. so, no karaoke :( we tried our best, though.
next akademy, there will be karaoke. somehow. it will happen. :)

there was also the rum tour on thursday… I’m sure other people have blogged about that in more detail – most of what I remember is drinks, sugar, more sugar, and more drinks ;) it was funny when they got me and ade to be the “ass” and crush sugar cane. mmm, sugar. the cane itself didn’t taste so great after it was crushed – not sure why the real donkey was so happy to eat it. :)

and the beach… the beach was unforgettable. :) I now understand why people go to such places for their vacations. fine sand, mild water, the relaxing atmosphere…
well, the water wasn’t always so calm ;) one night mid-week it rained, and the water changed… the rest of the week there was seaweed being washed up on beach, the water looked grey and choppy, and the waves were a fair bit bigger. daskreech persuaded me to go into the water anyways, and I’m glad I did. :) those big waves are fun! if you jump at just the right moment, the wave catches you, and for a moment it’s like you’re suspended in midair. :) or you can dive under the wave, which ade seemed to prefer.

not everything in jamaica was so wonderful, though. there was one thing that kinda soured it for me…

it took me a while to clue in. I’m pretty oblivious to social things – computers make far more sense to me. so I was at the airport, checking my bag, and the guy who took it wrote his email address and phone # on a luggage tag and stuck it in my passport. when I reached the front of the boarding line he was there again, and I can’t remember what he said, but I got a weird feeling… and about a minute later my brain finally started putting two and two together.
I realised that many of the guys in jamaica had been acting… not quite right. They look at women a different way. :/ If I’d realised it earlier I probably wouldn’t have been hanging out in just a bathing suit. even in such hot weather.
I remembered another odd thing… on the way back from the rum tour we stopped for coconuts. they chop the top off a coconut, you drink the juice, and when you’re done they chop it in half and give you a wedge of coconut shell to scrape out the jelly with. well, when I was done mine, our bus driver took it and had it cut up and scraped out the jelly for me. everyone else got to figure it out on their own. I was annoyed but didn’t make a fuss… I actually thought he was going to eat it himself or something, and was glad to get it back at least. but later that evening he wanted my phone #.
also, when we were on the bus, him and dmitri were surprised to hear that I don’t listen to R&B. I didn’t mention it then, but the reason for that is most of what I have heard of it is violent and/or sexist. or it just makes no sense.

it’s hard to describe how I felt, sitting on the plane, as I realised that at least some of these guys saw me not as a person, but merely a woman. I’ve never felt such an.. uncomfortable, sickening feeling. it really shook me up. :(

it also bugs me that when people act that way, I don’t react. even though I didn’t see the meaning behind the coconut incident until the next day, I didn’t like it at the time… but somehow I didn’t react. perhaps my english/canadian upbringing has trained me to be nice and not make a scene. :P

I’m glad I live in vancouver. I’m glad nearly all the people I know, my friends in RL and the KDE community, are respectful and treat me like a person, seeing my code before my breasts. I’m glad I have guys who love me for my mind and want to talk to me as much as, ah, other things. :) I’m glad there’s a beach in vancouver where everyone is naked and it’s just no big deal.

I now understand, at least a bit, just how horrible it was for women before feminism became strong enough to change our culture… funny how strongly religious places tend to have such unhealthy cultures. Jesus tried to teach tolerance, forgiveness and understanding, and what did people turn it into? homophobia, sexism and oppression. :(

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t figure this out until I was leaving- it’d be awful to still be there and be aware of it. I feel pretty uncomfortable as it is, even now. I’m really glad the kde community is so mature (it is, right? I find a corner of my mind doubting all my impressions of people now), and that I have friends I’m comfortable with. I just want to be myself and relax, and I can’t relax if I’m worried about what people think of me, or if I’m wearing too much clothing in warm weather (my skin’s kinda weird, so sometimes too much clothing is really *really* uncomfortable).

sorry this blog post isn’t as happy as most of my posts, but… I had to write about this. for my own peace of mind if nothing else.

Dave Taylor says:

The reason why it reminded you of Ireland and the drive on the left is that it was still part of the British empire until the late sixties. Jamaica hasn’t industrialised or even built that much since it was given a faux sovereignty as it was soon to be integrated into the American empire.

ac says:

Well, i dont see it as sexism some boy wanting to impress a woman (or the opposite for that matter). That’s how i interpret the coconut thing at least.
And at least here in EU you see as much girls acting that way as boys. As about R/B music, that is just bad taste! :-))

Hey Chani. I also got pieces of papers with phone numbers from two different people, a man and a woman, both sellers working at different food stores at the Negril city center. I am not sure this is automatically considered an invitation to something more “intimate” in Jamaica: it might be that people were simply being nice, or they liked you for some reason and wanted to connect. In my case, I did not feel disrespected. I also did not call them, but it was nice to know I could call someone if I had a problem.
But of course, everything is subjective, and these boundaries shift between different cultures. People are different, and so are motivations and pieces of paper :)
I reallly enjoyed the hospitality of Jamaica (and jamaicans), but I can see how their more “relaxed” stance somehow can be puzzling depending on your culture. Luckily I am brazilian, so right at home there, with lots of shared heritage and more or less the same social structure.
Good luck with your assignments!

seele says:

Card/number giving in areas that rely on the tourist industry seems pretty typical. When you’re competing with everyone else for business or tips, making the customer feel special (read: flirting with them) can go a long way.

Your descriptions remind me a bit of India, where I was last summer with a (female) friend. Many Indian men are apparently perplexed when a white woman comes around, and my friend preferred beaches where there were mainly tourists, because otherwise the men would stare at her all the time. They’re similarly religious, too!

Anyways, I think this post was very interesting, nothing to be sorry about. (Even if it’s not all happy… but one can’t be happy all the time, no?) I’m just kinda surprised that you never encountered these issues earlier, especially in the traditionally “hostile” free software communities and given your status as best-looking female KDE contributor :P

Eduardo says:

Looks like there’s some idealism in your worldview. When you say “I’m glad nearly all the people I know, my friends in RL and the KDE community, are respectful and treat me like a person, seeing my code before my breasts”, at least it looks that way. But you need to realize that both the great code you produce and the breasts are parts of yourself, aspects of yourself.

About all the not-so-subtle hints and invitations, you can always say no…

But you’re right, the best place for you to be is the place where you feel respected and accepted.

Giorgos says:

(OK, I do not know if this will make you feel any better, but…)

I have been reading your blog posts for some time now and I had not realized that you are a woman until this one (oh, yes, even after seeing again and again that picture of a girl at top-right :), so rest assure that not everybody pays attention to you because of that but for what you have to say.

As for the Jamaicans’ behavior to you, I think they just wanted to impress you/get your attention. And I agree with seele, this happens a lot in tourist areas, such as here in Greece. :-) Nothing to feel bad about though…

Tod says:

I was about to suggest that that sort of testosterone fuelled behavior was most prone in hot countries (carribean, italy etc..) but Japan, mid east noth Oz have not so much bothering.

necaris says:

@Jakob: In India, it’s not seen as rude to stare, so people do it all the time. I suspect they were staring at you nearly as much as at your friend, white people being something of a novelty!

Chani: as others have said, I would think the Jamaicans were just trying to be nice and get your attention a little bit (as seele points out, it goes a long way) — and maybe in a couple of cases trying to be a little chivalrous as well. I don’t know if it’s religion as much as the lack of industrialization that has that patriarchal effect on the culture there, but like Giorgos it took me a while to be sure of your gender so rest assured that on the Internet you’re definitely a coder first.

Dan says:

Jamaica is the #1 sex tourism destination for American women visiting the Caribbean. Some estimates put it at 80,000 women per year… Likely you were being prodded for interest.

I once thought of moving to Jamaica and setting up an off shore development and software customization firm but upon finding out that in 2005 it had the highest murder rate in the world… Aiee, no.

How did Phil put it? “Kingston is the big shitty.”

Dave T says:

I am a little bit concerned that you see some one offering you their phone number as anything other than flattering. You must remember that people who don’t know you will not know you as a person but that doesn’t preclude a person from wanting sex with you and being fliratatious isn’t hostile nor disrespectful it’s merely an innocuous, and between adults, innocent offer, nothing more nothing less.

Apologies, I see later on that you are religous so your views may be dogmatic rather than considered (I also apologise I find it hard to phrase my point more tactfully).

Chani says:

@dave t: you’ve got at least two false assumptions there (and I’ll try to ignore the lack of tact since you’re aware of it ;).

offering or asking for a phone number can be flattering, or creepy, or insulting, or many other things depending on the context. you can’t say it’s “nothing more, nothing less” without knowing the context. people are rarely that straightforward, unfortunately.

oh, and I’m not religious (I was just raised anglican). the point I was making when I mentioned jesus was that religion is part of the problem.

@everyone: this is something that can be kinda hard to understand until you’ve experienced it. I didn’t really get it myself until now.
perhaps some of it was simply a cultural misunderstanding, and most of the things, taken on their own, weren’t so bad… but that doesn’t change the way it made me feel as they all added up. :( nobody should be made to feel that way.

just because something is part of a culture, doesn’t make it right. I can’t be 100% certain I haven’t misjudged jamaican culture, since I was only there for a week, but I know that there have been and still are places in the world where women aren’t considered people (even worse, we’re considered *property* in some places!) and now I know how it feels to .. not feel like a person. and it’s horrible. it’s wrong. I want to make it not happen any more… but I don’t control the world. all I know I can do is try to tell other people and make them more aware of it.

Kelly says:

Yes. Jamaican men are not shy about showing their interest in a woman but it does not follow that they think you are their inferior. If one such man gives you his phone number you are free to use it or lose it. I found it strange that you were offended by the bus driver preparing your coconut. Seemed like a simple, generous act to me. Why you assume that he thinks you are incapable is beyond me. Jamaican women (I for one) are always lamenting the death of chivalry and here you are the recipient of gentlemanly behaviour and turning up your nose. Do you realize you could have simply said, “No. Thank You.”

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