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Today is International Coastal Cleanup Day. Along with hundreds of people in Kingston, my family and I headed to Rocky Fort Beach to join the organized efforts of the Jamaican Environment Trust to try to remove garbage.

The Inter-American Development Bank and its Corporate Social Responsibility team had us marshaled in New Kingston for a 7am departure. I’d been up hours already, written, practiced some golf, and played with our puppy by 6, when my family came downstairs. By 7, I was nearing my lunchtime. I was saved by a platter of Subway sandwiches, which were laid out on a car bonnet. Cookies I saw, but never sampled. Our team leader told us our assignments and we set off for Palisadoes.

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Kingston Harbour, calm and still in the early morning.

The early morning calm is always a joy in Kingston. We saw lots of joggers, and the regular group of bikers, who head to the airport before dawn and were on their way back into town. A few fishermen were on the shore. But, a convoy of buses and cars was unusually headed towards Port Royal.

The roadside was jammed when we reached our work area. We headed to the sand and waited for our leader to get our bags and tally sheets. She grouped us for a photo. I took some selfies with my daughter.

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Ready like Freddie

Our family was split over three different teams, which headed off to find trash. My team of four headed back toward the airport, planning to work back to the assembly area. We walked about a kilometer. Then, we started picking up. Well, one of our team had felt the urge to start earlier and lagged behind us as she filled her bag.

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The usual suspects: plastic bottles of all shapes, sizes and colours

Our team leader was our tally woman. PET bottles went into a clear bag. Other garbage went into black bags. We picked up plastic lids (lots), plastic bottles, plastic scraps, odd shoes, pieces of styrofoam (surprisingly few), pieces of wood.

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Sea urchin shells, left undisturbed

We left urchin shells, corals, stones, sea fan, and other natural products of the sea.

Walking on the sloping sand was tiring, and as the sun came up fully the heat beat us hard. We met others, smiling with bags filled with PET bottles, carried like hunted game. We met groups, headed in the opposite direction, who begged for some of our PET bottles to add to their measly tally. I wondered if they realized that they would be carrying their loads both ways. The black bags were fuller, and heavier, with their mixed content.

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Warriors of the beach cleanup. Now, homeward, we go.

Many groups were there. Schools. NGOs. Corporate teams. Some sang. Some danced. Some seemed like work gangs. Many were not picking up much.

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They seek it here. They seek it there.

One girl just crushed urchin shells with her feet. A lady found what looked like a young swordfish, which flapped in her hand as she urged her friends to take a picture. “Put it into the water, before it dies!” yelled a young woman. Into the water it was thrown.

I saw several girls digging up a large, black plastic bag. They joked about whether it might have a body inside. Some young men vied to look coolest while collecting.

We were glad to find ourselves back to our start, about 80 minutes after we’d begun. I was drenched as I deposited our bags, and was headed for refreshments. I went to the water truck to wash my hands. A young man was complaining how his chivalry kept him waiting on women passing him. He got his turn. He then let the water fall on his sparkling white sneakers. “You all don’ tek cyare o’ you clothes…” He explained that he only wore dirty old shoes for playing ball or kicking around in the dirt.

I noted a few ‘celebrities’, Diana McCauley being interviewed. Duty Berry, sporting a ‘Jamaica nuh dutty’ tee shirt. I begged him for a selfie.

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Dutty Berry and me

I headed for my JP bananas and some WATA. I know the value of sponsors.

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Jelly coconuts, enough to serve all. Should have been a field day for the vendor.

People lined for fruit, water, and porta potties. Young children snickered because girls used the ‘male’ cabins. Our full group found cover under a tent. Fatigue and sweat were evident, but also smiles.

I saw a drenched face I knew well as my daughter hovered by the jelly coconut truck–her regular Saturday treat.

We all headed out for home. It was just past 10. I was looking forward to a shower and some football. My wife was tempted to buy fish in Rae Town.
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It’s our daughter’s birthday on Sunday, and dinner would be stuffed baked snapper.

The fruit of the sea seemed a good reward.

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