June 7, 2009

Ice Cream and Friends at Devon House

Sunday, June 7, 2009

After a lazy morning at the house, I convinced the girls to turn off the Internet and TV and venture out to Devon House, an old mansion with gorgeous grounds. They sell delicious ice cream there, and it is just four blocks from our house.

Sunday afternoons at Devon House are very popular among Jamaicans; the place was full of families sitting on the grass, enjoying the relatively cool afternoon. After eating ice cream, we went over to the small playground they have there. They charge JA $50 to enter – less than one US dollar, but probably enough to deter some families from entering.

I have not yet developed the ability to read class status among Jamaicans. Some people are obviously upper class, and others obviously impoverished. But, I can't read all of the signs of class status like I can in other societies I am more familiar with. So, I can't say whether Devon House is mostly frequented by well-to-do families or not. But, the parking lot was full of cars, many of them quite nice. I heard a few American accents, indicating many people may be visiting from the states.

After paying the entrance fees to the playground, I found a bench to sit on and watch the children play on one of the four pieces of playground equipment made from metal – a see-saw, a set of monkey bars, a swing set, and a slide. My kids had just as much fun as they normally do at fancier playgrounds. Tatiana and Soraya befriended a girl a couple of years older than them, and they took turns on the see-saw. Raymi played with her younger sister. It so happens I was sitting next to the mother of their new friends, so we began to chat.

I asked the woman if there were any other playgrounds around. She said that there weren't. Close by, there is Hope Gardens and Emancipation Park. Both have ample lawns, but no playground equipment. She pointed out that there are playgrounds in some schools, but they close those after school – even to children that attend those schools. She said that she has suggested at PTA meetings that they open the playgrounds, but that the school has not agreed to do so. It made me think of how many playgrounds there are in the US, and how we often take it for granted that there will be a high-quality playground nearby. Actually, when we lived in Little Village in Chicago the playground was a bit far away, so the kids would squeeze under the gate to go to the church playground. But, there was a great playground in Douglas Park, just six blocks from our house.

Back at the playground in Kingston, when it was time for the girls' new friends to leave, I asked the mother, Nicky, if we could exchange numbers. She agreed, and we took down each others' numbers. So, I may have a new friend! It would be nice to get to know people here, to be a bit more sociable.

There are a few families with children in our apartment complex. But, we only see them in passing. Perhaps when the swimming pool is fixed, we might meet more people. They have been working on the pool. Last week, they chipped off the entire floor, and put a new layer of cement on it. So, progress is being made.

After Nicky and her three children left, we stayed for a bit in the playground area. Tatiana and Soraya organized a sort of race for the children. Each child ran to the other side of the playground, did ten push-ups, and then ran back. They changed the rules each time, but the other children didn't seem to mind. They all seemed to be having a blast. At one point, they all ran out of the playground. I used that as an opportunity to steer the children away from the playground area and towards the gates. It was nearly 6pm, and would be getting dark soon.

As we approached the gate, the girls asked if they could play in the grassy lawn area. I agreed that they could, and they set about playing with some of the children they had met at the playground.

It is amazing how easy it is for children to make friends. Tatiana, Soraya, and Raymi played with the kids at the park as if they had known them for years. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon at Devon House.

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