An Unexpected Gift

An Unexpected Gift

Sunday, December 15, 2019

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You are presented with a gift, a surprise gift to boot! The surprise gift can be the most splendid and appreciated of all gifts, presented to you, though you have not requested it or feel deserving of receiving it. These were my exact sentiments...

It was a very hot summer day. I began the vehicular journey along the Old Hope Road axis from the town of Papine to Liguanea in Kingston. Though seemingly so direct, the journey can be quite arduous. I mentally prepared myself to navigate the buses, taxis, vehicles and pedestrians that ply this busy route daily.

Papine shows some semblance of a system created for the minibuses that traverse this route, as they line up adjacent to the park awaiting passengers. Lay-bys designed for the larger JUTC buses are continually filled and vacated as the buses pick up and drop off passengers.

The Papine roundabout must be approached carefully as there are several intersecting roadways connected to residential areas and entryways to shops, plazas and the Papine market. Pedestrians, with a large population of primary, high school and tertiary students, workers and business people are dangerously interwoven with the vehicular traffic. Taxi drivers bore through two lanes of traffic to overtake several vehicles and arrive at the head of the line at the traffic light. The town of Papine is constantly busy, congested and sometimes chaotic. Garbage overflows at designated garbage disposal points and the sound of roaring engines and honking horns creates a cacophony of noise.

Once I successfully navigated the Papine town centre, it was with relief that I approached the gates of the University of Technology (UTech), albeit cautiously, as two pedestrian crossings are encountered before arriving at the light that helps to control traffic exiting the UTech gates and traversing Old Hope Road.

Old Hope Road onto Hope Road forms the strongly defined axis that directs the traveller from the nodal points of Papine, Liguanea and Half-Way-Tree, major commercial districts within Kingston and St Andrew. As I drove along Old Hope Road I experienced the complete urgency of the taxi drivers to “fill up” their vehicles with passengers. I reminded myself of the taximan's rule numbers one and two in their unique road code. Rule number one: “Stop and pick up passengers whenever you see them, wherever you see them.” Rule number two: “Blow your horn as loudly as possible, and as much as possible to attract passengers.” The driver who is not accustomed to our Kingston streets will have to be warned that vehicles bearing the infamous red plates will stop at any time without notice, no indicator, no hand signal, and sometimes not within any specific lane.

Once I navigated that tricky snake-like corner that swirls its way to the intersection of Old Hope Road and Munroe Road I anticipated the congestion and traffic that would greet me in Liguanea. The traffic slowed and luckily inched its way into the Liguanea business district.

Liguanea greeted me with outstretched arms, a smile and an unexpected gift. Amidst the noise of the speeding buses, taxis, cars and trucks, blaring, thumping music and loud shouts of children engaging in the “going home street rituals” of play-fighting, teasing, shouting and laughing, the tall, statuesque and erect, bright elegance of sunflowers, so aptly named as they tilt their heavy, bobbing heads toward the sun and gloriously embrace the sweltering heat of a hot summer day. They soaked up the rays that we would have cursed as wretched.

Sunflowers are not native to Jamaica. So, perhaps there were persons who had never experienced this spectacle. Our native bougainvilleas are often seen in colourful and vibrant display throughout the city of Kingston in our hot, summer months, but large sunflowers are a very rare treat of magnificence.

Someone had sourced sunflower seeds, watered, fertilised and nurtured them and placed them along the fence line of a busy commercial street, as a gift. This was a delightful surprise, a gift to our city.

Trees, landscaping and flowers remind us of the exquisite beauty of nature, bring a feeling of calm and serenity and help to balance our ecosystems on earth. Aesthetically, flowers and greenery provide the much needed contrast to the hard surfaces of concrete and asphalt in our built environment. Nature provides us with the inspiration to slow down and observe our surroundings.

Our city is in need of gifts. Our naturally beautiful city should be enhanced and adorned. The gift need not be judged by its size, but rather its impact. Those of us who own small and large businesses, those of us who live in small and large neighbourhoods, we all can gift our city. These could be gifts of nature, landscape, architecture, works of art, positive images and quotes of motivation that serve to enrich our minds and connect deeply to our souls to affect our values and attitudes.

True gifts are selfless, they seek to share, to show appreciation without the requirement for reciprocity. Our city is in need of gifts. On humbly receiving the gift from the owners of Liguanea Plaza, we graciously say thank you.

Our city is in need of gifts... Our world deserves our gifts.

Jacqueline Douglas Brown is an architectural and urban designer and lectures at the University of Technology, Jamaica, Faculty of The Built Environment, Kingston, Jamaica.


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