Jamaica Bitter and Sweet

Now that I’ve been here for close to two months, Jamaica is slowly revealing its flaws to me. It wasn’t long that I accepted that some days I’ll have to bathe with cold water; but I did not anticipate having to bathe from a basin. This was not in the travel books. I not only had to bathe from the container of water, I also cooked and washed dishes from the kettle. Who knew that one could use so little water to do so much?

Jamaica, I felt was a little insensitive to me this week. I had to accept the realization that Jamaica does things differently; not like what I was used to. I have been chasing the digicel representative (the phone company here) who is never at their workstation when I visit. It’s either close in the middle of the day or they are out to lunch. I walk away puffing everytime. Finally, early this week I caught them and for the most part received great customer service; they did not have sim cards in stock, but promised some would arrive by the end of the day. Since other pressing matters came up, I postponed my return until the following day; which left me playing cat and mouse again. The next day, I reiterated my concerns to a another rep. She can only do pay-as-you-go, and not a monthly plan at this location. I rested my elbows on the counter and rubbed my fingers on my forehead. I pulled out my new NCB debit card, deciding that I would take the pay-as-you-go plan.

“We don’t take cards” she said.

At that point, invisible steam was blowing out of my ears.

“I’m leaving now” I said. And I stormed out. I walked towards a bench overlooking green grass and open space underneath a tree; and sat down. It was a minor problem, but overwhelming because Jamaica could not grant me my very small request- usage of my own phone. The Jamaican sun dried up my tears and I accepted that not all my requests will be granted and although I had been patient for the past month, more of it is required.

In spite the minor unkindness I felt this week, Jamaica surprised me over the weekend. I had a chance to walk along the beach in moonlight; and sat at my favorite ice cream garden, Devon House. I was hoping for more of these romantic events, but I guess I can’t always get everything I want. Still, I love you Jamaica.

Finding Balance

Finding Balance For a second, I was loosing myself in all this studying. In the past three weeks I loss focus of what I’m here for, “to rekindle my relationship with Jamaica”. That was the slogan that pulled me here on this island in the first place; yet I go from classroom to apartment each day. At the end of last week, I had enough. I turned down my books, shut the laptop lid, and found ways to spend time with Jamaica.

Walking around in Halfway tree was a delight. I stepped into one of the most famous and long standing restaurants, Tastees. I remember it as a place that sells Jamaican Patties, but as I was observing the menu, I see they have varieties- from chicken and fries, to ackee and saltfish, to calalloo loaves. After ordering my chicken and fries combo, I walked towards the sitting area and scanned the room. There were not many choices of empty tables, so Andrea and I took the only dirty one available. A rasta man was sitting at the table close to us and with the limited space it was hard to make ourselves comfortable.

It was not the way I would like to eat lunch in the city, so I decided it would be best to head back to campus. The two of us, Northamerican girls made our way back by taxi. We had gotten directions earlier, but were still having difficulties finding the Halfway tree square. We asked the hilgars and bus drivers for more direction. Once we found it, we listened intently for our location to be called out by a taxi driver, “Papine, Mona campus”. We hurried inside the taxi and felt safe. The experience took my mind off math and instead, I was focussing on getting to know Jamaica.

The following day, I set my books aside again. This time I went grocery shopping and stopped at the mall to purchase festival and red peas soup. The combination may be odd, but those were just what I was craving. I sat quietly in the food court and a feeling of appreciation and contentment came over me. Jamaica, I see, is revealing itself slowly to me with no signs of wanting to hurry the process. I gazed up at the other levels and reminsced on my experience only a year ago when I was touring the mall for the first time. I no longer felt stressed.

On the third day, I decided I would wake up early to study the day away. But, again, Jamaica requested my company. Early saturday morning, I was drunk with sleep that I did not hear the knocking on the door til seconds later. I jumped out of sleep to open the window next to the door. The voice said, “Good morning” and I opened the door ajar, feeling inappropriately dressed for visitors. “Are you coming to the river with us?” It was David. He had given me a weeks notice and I had declined because I knew I would need the time to study for the math exam.

Still, I closed the door and debated in my tired mind what to do. Study or go swim in the river? I dragged myself around the room, complete my morning routines and hygiene. I saw myself reached for the razor and the shaving gel. Then I saw myself picking a bathing suit and then throwing a sundress on.

“Are you coming?” David called out from the opposite side of the door.

“Yea! Give me a second” I shouted.

I grabbed my purse, filled it with a bottle of water, sunblock lotion, and my math study notes. Yes, I decided I would do both- swim in the river and study while I’m there. The moment I arrived, I torn my dress off and proceeded to walk to the deeper part of the river while holding David’s hand for support. The water was frigid, but in no time I was used to the temperature. While the other girls were sitting on rocks enjoying their morning, I was swimming like a fish. Sometimes, I was floating on the water and observing the scenery, rich with green trees and blue skies. The stress and anxieties I was feeling, floated away. I had forgotten about Math and school and I was enjoying my company with Jamaica.

It’s such a gift to be on this island and I simply can’t get enough of it. Over the pass month, I’ve felt deprived of seeing Jamaica but this past weekend has changed that completely. It’s funny how the simple experiences can make life such a blessing. Jamaica gives me that each day, and I can’t help but fall head over heels for this island.