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The Island of Jamaica

Jamaica is the largest English speaking island in the Caribbean: 600 miles south of Florida and less than two hours by plane from Miami. It is 146 miles long, between 22 to 55 miles wide and has considerable variation in landscape from the coral sands and ironshore cliffs of the shoreline, through coastal wetlands, plains and highlands to the misty peaks of the Blue Mountains. It has a maritime tropical climate. 

The warm trade winds that blow by day are called "sea breeze" or "doctor breeze". The average daily temperature varies according to elevation from a high of 86F at sea level to a low of 63F in the mountains. The average annual rainfall ranges from 300 inches on the eastern slopes of the Blue Mountains to 230 inches in some parts of the south coast. During the cooler months, December to March the island sometimes experiences northerners: chill winds and high seas associated with a cold front to the North. July to September are the warmest months, May and October are traditionally the rainy months and there was a time when you could set your clock by the afternoon rain during these months. Currently, the increasingly erratic weather patterns are attributed by some environmentalists to deforestation and global warming. The hurricane season is demarcated by the cautionary rhyme:

June too soon
July standby
August come it must
September remember
October all over






THE LANGUAGE



The language of Jamaica is English though you may sometimes find this difficult to believe. Students of dialect maintain that the patois varies from parish to parish and even from yard to yard. Jamaica Talk is a synthesis of several influences: Old English and nautical terms such as "breadkind" and "catch to"; Spanish as in "shampata" from, zapatos (shoes); Irish dialect as in "nyampse" (a fool); African as in "duppy" (a ghost) or "nyam" (to eat), and American slang such as "cool" elaborated as "cool runnings" or "diss" as in disrespect. Rastafarian "I-dren" (brethren) have their own language and one word that you will hear frequently is "Irie" meaning good, happy, pleasant or high. The traditional Rasta greeting "Peace and Love" is giving way to "Respect due". Dance-hall, Jamaica's latest musical phenomenon, has its own ever evolving language. Though influenced by American "rappers", much of it is entirely indigenous, for example "Browning" which describes any light-skinned girl; to "big-up" a person means to praise or advertise them, and "flex" meaning behaviour or deportment.