A tale of two dumps

The first is Martin’s Hill dump, two miles outside Mandeville, in central Jamaica; the reason is the grisly week-long search over Christmas by police searching for the remains of the elderly couple, Richard and Julia Lyn, missing from their Mandeville home since 10 December. Sadly on New Year’s Eve, two corpses were found.

The case has had an unusual amount of media attention for two reasons: first, the couple were so obviously not linked to any criminal activities or associates, and second, it occurred in a town most often qualified as “sleepy” by lazy journalists. True enough, it is, or was, a very pleasant place, popular with returnees seeking the cooler, wetter, more English weather to which they had become acclimatized while working “a farrin”. The combination of these two reasons strikes even greater fear into the minds of many Jamaicans — after all, if an elderly, inconspicuous couple in a country town get murdered, who’s to say I’m not next?

Babylon burning

Riverton landfill on fire
The second dump is closer to home: the Riverton landfill in southwest Kingston, burning for over a week now, allegedly the result of scavengers looking for scrap metal. In this respect, the landfill is the inheritor of the infamous “Dungle” dump of West Kingston that was a source of income to generations of recyclers, and around which rose Jamaica’s homegrown religion: rastafarianism.

The scent of collie weed has been replaced these last few days by foul smelling smoke that covered most of West Kingston and blew northwards to us hillhuggers. Think of burning rubber and plastic, and you’ll have an idea of the smell. Sinusitis is already a surprisingly common illness in Jamaica, and those sufferers under the cloud have had an extra miserable time this week.

According to the landfill management, the fires were put out the same night they were started, that is, one week ago … so how come there’s still so much smoke?! And while it may be my first experience of Riverton burning, it is apparently quite a regular occurrence (Read more …).

Just below where I took the photo of the burning landfill, I chatted to a local resident. He was twirling his machete and listening to “Perkins Online”, my favourite among the many great Jamaican procrastinators. Perkins’ stand-in was lamenting the spike in violence since the beginning of the year; by the end of today, there have been 20 26 murders in the last four days.

Shack, Armour Heights

I remarked to the man that the smoke was still pretty bad, but he disagreed, saying that yesterday had been worse.

My feeling is that he’s just become used to it and no longer notices the cloud hanging over him. The same could be said of many other unacceptable conditions here.

P.S. I am a diehard optimist!

5 thoughts on “A tale of two dumps”

  1. I was in the Riverton landfill region a few weeks ago. You’re right to say the place is a dump, I’m surprised the residents of the area don’t seem to be complaining. I suppose when you live in a particular environment you grow accustomed to it. So although Riverton may seem like a dump to a guy coming from LA, to the Riverton folk it seems no different to what LA seems to me.

Over to you!