Hidden Beauty: Our River Adventure in Jamaica!

Kingston, Jamaica has been hot… The kind of still, brassy heat that makes it difficult to breathe. The Sahara dust coming in from the Motherland has made things worse, and all over the city sits a haze that forces you to shield your eyes from the glare. We decided to escape one Saturday. We normally head for the beach, but the thought of sunbathing and splashing in warm water held very little appeal in our search for respite from the unrelenting heat of the city. It had to be a river. I envisaged trees along the side of the river and the icy cold water characteristic of our rivers. I created an entire picnic in my mind and I just knew how our day at the river would look and feel. We just had to decide on the river…

Continue reading Hidden Beauty: Our River Adventure in Jamaica!

Road Trip While Keto: Our Day in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Kingston… know what I mean? Like any major city, Kingston, Jamaica has its fair share of stressors: traffic, ongoing road improvement works, horrible taxi drivers that force your soul into your mouth with every drive, noise, searing heat especially now that they’ve removed what seems like every living tree all in the name of road network expansion and the everlasting presence of garbage. Everywhere. So two weekends ago H insisted on heading out of the city for the day. Who am I to fight against a drive out of town, that’s likely involve a beach stop and yummy food 🙂 Here’s what we did and how we stayed keto (and happily so!) on a perfect day on the road.

Continue reading Road Trip While Keto: Our Day in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

A fun Jamaica Vacation Itinerary…C’mon home! (Re)Visit Jamaica.

So I read a comment on my Cousin’s wall on FaceBook. It was posted by a Jamaican woman now living in the USA, married to a foreigner and they have two young sons. She was waxing nostalgic for her homeland. She spoke of growing up in rural Jamaica and she expressed a desire for Jamaica of old and a desire to share her heritage with her sons. But she countered that desire with a very real fear of the Jamaica of now. She compared us to Syria in terms of violence (gasp!) and immediately I knew that I had to do this post. You see, as my cousin correctly stated, I live here and I make it my point of duty to enjoy my homeland as often as I can within the constraints of my budget. So this post is in essence, a travel guide, aimed at both the average Jamaican now living overseas, eager to recapture the innocence and joy of childhood in Jamaica, as well as the adventurous visitor to our island. My recommendations are based on my own experiences and are bound by my own very real constraints of budget, security consciousness, keeping kids interested and engaged and an aversion to garbage.

Being Safe in Jamaica

Do NOT advertise the fact that you live overseas. Here’s where a local guide really helps. I’ll be available in a few years time 🙂 Until then, all the best! Unfortunately, once you are perceived as a foreigner, prices triple and unscrupulous scammers will take advantage.

Don’t be naive. Would you as a tourist in California tour Compton after dark on your own? Right. Don’t be silly. Move as you would in any big city anywhere else in the word. We are the Caribbean. Not the Garden of Eden.

Around Jamaica on a Budget

My recommendations are geared towards middle-class people saving and investing for retirement and college funds for their kids. Enough said.

Jamaica’s Garbage Problem

This deserves its own heading. Jamaica has a garbage problem which intrudes noisily in the enjoyment of our island. I hate it. I wish it were otherwise. My recommendations are based on things that we’ve been able to enjoy in spite of the garbage.

So here we go.

Jamaica vacation itinerary: start in St. Elizabeth

This southern parish marries rural Jamaica of yore with a little beach. It’s not the white sand of the Bahamas or Negril, and it’s not land-locked Mandeville. AirBnB is your friend in terms of finding suitable accommodation. I recommend Jakes Hotel or any villa with seaside access between Treasure Beach and Black River. In checking out accommodation ensure that WiFi  is available. It’s not automatic in St. Elizabeth.

Rent a car and go to:

  • Little Ochi for great seafood on the fishing beach
  • Lover’s Leap for a bit of history and fantastic south coast views
  • Black River safari for a historic tour up the Black River and crocodile sightings all along the river’s course
  • YS Falls for beautiful gardens and waterfalls with zip lining.

Spend 2 days in St. Elizabeth.

Seafood spread at Little Ochi, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Enjoy Seafood at Little Ochi, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Incredible Food at Little Ochi

 

South St Elizabeth Coastal Scapes, Jamaica
South St Elizabeth Coastal Scapes, Jamaica
Vistas in South St. Elizabeth

 

 

Fishing Boats at the mouth of the Black River, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Fishing Boats at the mouth of the Black River, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

Black River, Jamaica.
Black River, Jamaica. Photo credit: Rachael McIntosh
The Black River Safari

Jamaica Vacation Itinerary: next stop Kingston City

Liguanea Club is central and budget friendly. Right in the middle of the commercial district of New Kingston, you’ll be safe within the enclosures of this hotel. They have a pool and tennis and squash courts. You are within walking distance of good jerk spots (Sweetwood Jerk), a beautiful green space where you can jog or people watch while licking on an ice cream cone (Emancipation Park) and patty shops (Juicy Beef and Tastee). Can it be any better? No need to rent a car on this leg. You can take taxis to the local attractions: The Bob Marley Museum Tour, Devon House for great food and souvenirs and the Little Theater where you can be entertained when the sun sets by the local pantomime or National Dance Theater company depending on the time of year you visit. Spend 2 days in Kingston.

Jamaica Vacation Itinerary: catch your breath in beautiful Portland.

Heal your soul in the beautiful eastern parish of Portland. Winifred Beach is a must. It is one of the few remaining beautiful public beaches on the island. Food and drink are reasonably priced right on the beach and there is an incomparable vibe right here. Be sure to spend some time at Frenchman’s Cove beach where a white sand river snakes into the sea. This white sand resort beach will have you thinking that you’re in paradise. And you’d be right. I recommend the villas at Goblin Hill. You will be directed by villa staff to local service providers who can ferry you around in Portland if you didn’t drive yourself from Kingston to Portland. The Knutsford Express bus company can transport you safely in air conditioned comfort to Port Antonio safely from New Kingston. A taxi can take you onwards to your villa.

Frenchman's Cove Beach, Portland, Jamaica
Frenchman’s Cove Beach, Portland, Jamaica
Can you tell how happy I am at Frenchman’s Cove?

 

Children playing at Frenchman's Cove Beach, Portland, Jamaica
Perfect harmony at Frenchman’s Cove Beach, Portland, Jamaica
White Sand River at Frenchman’s Cove

 

Winifred Beach, Portland, Jamaica
Winifred Beach, Portland, Jamaica
Paradise is Winnifred’s Beach

Spend 2 days in Portland. While it is heaven for us earth-weary adults, it’s a  bit too slow for kids.

Jamaica Vacation Itinerary: Negril, Babee!!!

Allow a full day to enjoy the drive along the north coast highway all the way to the other end of the island and end up in Negril. You’ll drive past good old Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.  Don’t get me wrong…I can recommend places to stay and things to do in either place, but not this trip. I recommend staying at the small boutique hotel of Negril Tree House Resort. Ask  for the 1 bedroom suite right on the ocean front. You literally step right out of your room onto the 7 Mile white sand stretch of beach. This resort is not fancy but you’ll be comfortable. There’s Wifi and cable TV and a great Jamaican breakfast is included in the price of the room.

Kids will enjoy the pool and the shallow calm waters of Negril beach. You’ll feel as if you’re in the Bahamas but with the incomparable vibe of JamDown. Negril is not as quiet as Portland but not as touristy and kitschy as some parts of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Negril truly is the other side of Paradise. Cosmos, LTU Pub and Kenny Italian Cafe in Negril are great dining options.

Pro-Tip: A small igloo filled with ice and your own Appleton and Red Stripe purchases at a local supermarket will keep you happy without breaking the bank all day long on the Negril beach.
Spend 3 days in Negril.

7 Mile Beach Negril, Jamaica
7 Mile Beach Negril, Jamaica

 

Sunset in Negril, Jamaica
Sunset in Negril, Jamaica

Jamaica Vacation Itinerary: fly out of Montego Bay

In  few days, you’ve tasted just some of what Jamaica offers. We haven’t explored the hills above Kingston where hiking in 70 degree temperatures (cool by local standards) affords you the opportunity to photograph surprise waterfalls and unusual mountain flora. We’ve stayed far from convenient all-inclusives (great when you have small children, ho-hum when you’re after authentic Jamaica). I haven’t introduced you to the luxury that is a real north coast villa vacation. We haven’t visited historic Port Royal or experienced Pelican Bar, right in the middle of the sea, accessible only by boat. You haven’t been to a street dance or a ritzy night club. You can do all of that next visit 🙂

Want more itinerary ideas? Hit me up here! I’d be happy to help!

When you subscribe to my blog, you’ll get a free copy of 5 different Jamaica south coast road trip itinerary options! Sign up below:

(Re)Visit Jamaica: Sunset in Negril
(Re)Visit Jamaica: Sunset in Negril

(Re)Visit Jamaica: Boys at Frenchmans Cove & scene at Treasure Beach
(Re)Visit Jamaica: Boys at Frenchmans Cove & scene at Treasure Beach

Road Trips and Keto Jamaica Style
Road Trips and Keto Jamaica Style

The Visit: Yes We Can Clean Up Kingston (apparently!)

President Barack Obama has inspired millions, not just in the USA but the world over. Mr. Obama symbolizes possibility, hope and change. President Obama and his family serve as the face for what family means, specifically, what Black Family means. The Obamas present an alternative to the reality of many and an inspiration for what can be.
Many of here in Jamaica watched with bated breath and crossed fingers as Americans voted for their first black president. His words during his 2009 inauguration inspired Americans, Africans and indeed citizens of the world, as he articulated a vision of a New America, one where everyone would have the same opportunities, of a world where America would co-exist with the other nations on the planet through diplomacy and a focus on mutual benefit rather than seeking to police and wield a big stick. He quoted George Washington: “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.” This was a timely and relevant message to me personally at a very low point in my own life. I kept on moving. I kept hope alive in my heart.

Jamaica welcomes him with open arms. I am so happy that we seem able to clean house and put our best foot forward to welcome this historic, inspirational figure.  I hope with all my heart that we make a significant impression on Mr. Obama. I hope that he will remember his visit to Jamaica long after he leaves the White House.
It is our own government that I take issue with. Daily we plead with our government for good roads, for garbage collection, for street lights to be repaired, for even an appearance of order. Literally overnight, our government has transformed areas of our city Kingston into oases of clean, orderly, beauty. What we have been clamouring for is apparently not impossibility! What has happened is more than mere clean up to receive and honour distinguished and worthy guests. This is a slap in the face of us tax payers who are forced to exist and live in squalor. To be very clear: it’s the absolute absence of any semblance of reasonable governance ordinarily that makes the preparation for The Visit so offensive.

Let us take pictures of “Kingston Face Lifted” as evidence of what can be done, literally overnight, if government simply makes a decision.

“All of Jamaica (that matters) is Here” Diner en Blanc, Kingston, Jamaica.

I haven’t spoken about Kingston’s Diner en Blanc until now. Shrugs. I simply haven’t felt the need to. It was just another party. The pictures I saw looked beautiful! Diner en Blanc was all about gorgeous people in white, lovely place settings, in the beautiful Emancipation Park.  Diner en Blanc is an international movement. 

Photo courtesy of Diner en Blanc, Kingston’s FaceBook Page 

Then I watched ER’s report on Diner en Blanc. A representative from one of our leading banks made a statement that has been bothering me since Friday night: “All of Jamaica is here”. No, Ma’am. Not at all. 900 people is not all of Jamaica. Did you mean to say “All of Jamaica that matters is here”?Think about it: All of Jamaica (that matters) is here. 

This goes to the heart of what is wrong. It reveals the thinking of many of us. It explains much of what we see around us. “All of Jamaica (that matters) is here.” Us and Them. It informs the dispensing of justice, provision of health care, why some things happen in some communities and not in others. “Us and Them”. As long as those with means continue to pretend as if Those Others don’t exist, the chasm between Us and Them will grow wider. Then guess what happens…Resentment foments. Decisions are compromised by conditions conducive for The Next WillingNigger.  Us and Them. 
Diner en Blanc was never an issue. It is the thinking, betrayed in a relaxed moment, perhaps shared by others there that illustrates Jamaica’s fundamental issue.

Dis ya Jamaica? People mortgaging themselves to the hilt to drive the right car, while living in rented accommodations. People who beg in secret for invitations to the Right Occasions. People racking up debt to look the part. People making these choices simply because appearances matter so much in today’s Jamaica.

The bank’s corporate presence at Diner en Blanc illustrates another reality and underscores the point I am trying to make about decision making being driven by the importance of appearances rather than firm principle in support of growth and development. Fact: It is easier to get a $7M loan to buy one of Mr. New Car Dealer’s new It cars than it is to get $2M to retool a factory. 

Appearances > Productivity.

“All of Jamaica (that matters) is Here”. Stay woke, Jamaica. Remember the Tipping Point.  

the Back Story

I was tired.  I wanted to get home.  I had struggled for the past couple of days with thoughts of my role on the team…of feeling like I don’t fit in…of feeling under utilized.  These are heavy themes for a forty five year old woman who is facing up to the possibility that she is not being all that she can/could be.  I was always the youngest and brightest in the room. Now I’m just another middle aged woman in middle management. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.  And sure, the story is far from being over.  But in the meantime, this place that I am in sucks. And I am ready for a change.  But am I really? Will I have the courage and energy to make the change happen?  Because I KNOW change is possible, but I also know that I have to be an active participant in it.  Indeed, I may have to play the lead role in making it happen.  But I repeat, that’s a whole ‘nother story. 
So I was tired.  I schlepped me and my knapsack and my handbag down the aisle to 18F and sure enough, there she was sitting in 18F. I mustered a smile and said: “I think you’re in my seat”.  She flashed her cheap, long, jet black weave, batted some long, obviously fake eyelashes and clicked her long, bejeweled, multi-coloured tips on the arm rest: “Eeh hee? A your seat dis? Bwoy, mi just grab a seat enuh. A weh mi fi sit now?” I prayed silently: “Baby Jesus give me strength, because mi naw gi up mi window seat, and mi nuh have di skills fi tek on dis gyal yah now.”
 
“Let me see what seat you got on your boarding pass den nuh?” I said in as friendly a manner as I could. 
“Mi get 18D”.
“Oh, cool!” I chirped brightly.  “You’re in the aisle seat right here.”
“Mek me come out so you can come in” she said side-eyeing me. “Yuh look like yuh need di space fi come in yah so”.
“Bitch, watch your mouth” I chuckled silently, knowing full well that Latisha, Laquanda, Ladasha or La-SUPN LIKE DAT scored 100 with that reference to my, ahem: “full bodied physique”. LOL! “Yes, thank you. I need all the space I can get”. 
I squeezed in (yes I did) and Miss Thang placed her narrow, blinged out behind in the 18D. She kept looking at her phone. She kept jumping up out of her seat, looking towards the front of the aircraft as if she was expecting someone.  She kept rummaging through her bag.  She kept clicking those acrylics.  She fingered the huge gold plated, crystal encrusted 3D heart thingy that hung from a cow chain around her neck. She made a call and I heard references to late flight, missed earlier flight, di bag dem, blah blah blah as I tried to tune her out, wishing that we about to land in Kingston rather than just taking off from Miami. By this time, she had now taken her seat and was keening back and forth with her arms around her belly, head gently bumping on the seat in front of her.  I paid closer attention to my kindle and pressed as far as I could into my seat.  Lord.  This was going to be a long flight.  Sigh.
18E arrived, and he slid into his seat with ease.  Miss Thang and 18E struck up and easy conversation.  She was so hyper and looked as if she needed to just talk.  She couldn’t keep still. He borrowed her phone and made a call. Turns out that he saw a pic of his woman come up on her phone when he entered the number and he was positively mystified. Well I confess, so was I!  See, by this time I knew that they didn’t know each other and I too wanted to know how come! She explained that: “a one app me download, and once di person yuh call deh pan Facebook, dem pitcha come up and dem location too…even if yuh and dem ah nuh fren!”  Well, at this point, I was positively mystified!  So mi just join in di niceness too and start probe Miss Thang for information about the app.  So we’re all now friends.  We cuss the attitude filled flight attendant girl who refused to make eye contact when giving out di likkle free drink dem. She says that if she copped an attitude like that on her job at the nursing home, she wouldn’t have no work.  “When me ah clean up di old white people dem, and dem stinkin shit, yuh tink me can skin up me face? Hell naw! Me haffi grin an’ bear it! If dem old people could look afta demself and nuh shit up demself, den I wouldn’t have a work!” Me and 18E nod sagely, and agree that customer service is critical and that Miss AA could stand to do a refresher course.  
So we’re all getting cozy and bonding and then Miss Thang makes an announcement. “Mi ah go see mi Baby!”
“Really? When last were you home?”
“Four year now since me come home”.
“Wow! So how old is your baby? Boy or girl?”
“She a 6”
I quickly do the math. “So that last time you saw your daughter she was only 2! A baby! She couldn’t even talk! Dang, Gurl!”  Yes…I said “Gurl”. We were like that now.
Tears filled her eyes. 
“Yuh haffi do wha yuh haffi do.  Mi miss har. Mi di have a likkle problem wid mi green card but mi just pay one lawyer man fi straighten it out, and see mi yah now.  Todeh ah har birthday too!”.
At that point, we were simply two mothers. Two women with children that we loved.  I said to her: “I bet yuh never sleep last night.”
“How yuh know?” she looked at me with incredulity.
“Because I have children too.  And I can only imagine how you are feeling”.
By this time the tears were right there. And we looked straight at each other. Listen. We do the best we can for our children.  That best looks different mother to mother, situation to situation. But the motives remain the same.  She described that she was surprising her daughter and her sister and how she felt nauseous. How she hadn’t slept for the past two nights, filled with anticipation, anxiety and joy all mixed up together in one complicated mass of emotions. How she missed her earlier flight because she had to repack her overweight bags, filled with birthday gifts and clothes and stuff.  How she paid American $350.00 to carry all her stuff. How she is so grateful to finally be able to do this.  How she missed her daughter’s father’s funeral due to her green card issues when he was shot and killed last year. Her jumpiness and skittishness all made sense to me now.
I was sincerely moved.  I noticed her gorgeous smile. I was drawn in by her unpretentiousness. I was made comfortable by her frankness.  I connected with her authenticity.  I looked into her eyes and understood. Mother to mother.  Woman to woman.
“There are the lights of Kingston” I pointed out to her, wishing that I had let her keep the window seat.  After all, seeing your home after 4 years is something to get excited about. She literally jumped out of her seat, leaning across 18E and we both bumped heads looking through the window, squealing loudly with joy.  I saw a few heads turn in thinly veiled disgust.  But at that point, it really didn’t matter to us.  
We knew the back story.  And that’s the thing.  There’s always a back story.  Assume that.  Don’t let’s be so quick to rush to judgement. To label people.  To need to put them in box before we decide if we can let them into our space or not.  Perhaps we should instead suspend judgment.  Simply accept until the person provides a valid reason to do otherwise.  The back story counts.
“God is good” I said to her. “May God go before you and smooth your path and may your reunion be more that you imagined it would ever be.  May God grant you the Perfect Two Weeks back home”.

That was it.  We said goodbye in the Customs Hall.  I was anxious to get home too.  I hope she’s hugging up with Baby Girl, flashing her hair, dressed up to the nines and unapologetically letting her joy hang out.  This is Chapter Happy of her Back Story.
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