Tourist Harrassment: Not in a Vaccuum

Published in the Daily Gleaner July 11 2017

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20170711/kelly-mcintosh-tourist-harassment-not-vacuum

Your July 7 edition carried a report with a damning headline: ‘Major cruise lines pull out of Falmouth Port’. The report went on to detail that three ships had decided to omit Falmouth from their itineraries in the upcoming season and that this would cost the town $5 million per month in lost revenues. Tourist harassment was cited as a major factor in their decision to leave us out. The mayor of Falmouth has said that he is working closely with stakeholders to address the issue.
I imagine that the harassment is along the lines of taxi drivers and tour operators and vendors trying to woo visitors off the ships to spend their money with them. Imagine that you are a visitor to this island. This wooing is likely to take the form of a relentless verbal assault, as it were, cajoling you to look and buy in an environment unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you don’t even understand what is being said, but the tone and body language and posturing have now converted what should have been a leisurely stroll into an excursion into hell, where all you want to do is get back to the relative safety of your cabin.
Now put yourself in the place of the average citizen who resides here driving to work in the morning. You stop at the red light, and one or two or even three windscreen wipers swoop down on you. They yank up your wiper blades before you cyaan even mouth a polite “no thanks” and insist on cleaning your windscreen, turning abusive when you indicate helplessly that you have no money to give them. The abuse is verbal (“Yuh too mean, Mummy!” or “Yuh a gwaan like yuh betta dan people!) and is sometimes physical, damage being inflicted directly to your car.
Or let’s say you commute using public transport. You enter the bus park (pick any one), and immediately, the ubiquitous loader man approaches you, verbally assaulting you with a running commentary on how nice you look, and he knows where you are going, and this is the bus you must take, all the while holding your arm and dragging you to his’ bus, literally shoving you into the vehicle.
The emotional and physical strain and the ever-present possibility of personal danger associated with anticipating and dealing with the harassment meted out by windscreen wipers and loader men are not insignificant, and many of us choose our routes specifically to avoid this sort of trauma. I understand the cruise ships’ decision. Too easy.
It is important to understand why this harassment happens in order to eradicate it. There will never be enough police to arrest every single harasser and keep would-be harassers in check. The craft vendors, tour operators and guides, windscreen wipers, and loader men all do what they do out of need. They are grabbing on desperately to the only chance they have identified to provide for themselves and their dependents.

SELECTIVE BENEVOLENCE

Their relentless assault, though, that aggressive push and determination to make you accept and pay for a service/product that you do not need, is directly linked to the culture of patronage that political leaders have fostered. This practice of selective benevolence, meted out to some of the many existing in a state of depravity instead of creating the environment that allows the collective to level up, has perpetuated the fight for scarce benefits and spoils.
Recipients of the largesse are envied by the overlooked, and the resulting resentment feeds a sense of entitlement. “Why not me?” I imagine that the harassers don’t see themselves as harassing, per se. I imagine that this is how they process the situation: “I need. You have. I ought to have. Take what I am offering you and give me some of your money in return.” The harasser’s need trumps any other variable in the dynamic.
Where development plans are crafted and executed, excluding and ignoring the very real need that exists in communities, rest assured that the justification that I have just outlined will prevail. Until patronage is replaced with enabling, until observing and craving are replaced by real participation, tour operators, vendors, windscreen wipers, and loader men will continue to do the only thing they feel they can do to survive.
It is late in the day to halt, and then reverse, these dysfunctional cultural paradigms that have formed and become entrenched through the years of our national development. But to give up now is to accept defeat. We need our leaders to craft and enact developmental plans in harmony with local communities. It can be done.

– Kelly McIntosh is a procurement manager. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and kkmac218@gmail.com.

Jamaica Road Trip Saturday: Lacovia & Treasure Beach St. Elizabeth

I needed to leave Kingston. I needed to see the sea. I needed to inhale vistas far removed from my normal life view. Ahhh…the magic of a road trip. So we agreed. Saturday, we’d depart home at 9am and head west. We’d take the kids to the Jamaica Zoo in Lacovia St. Elizabeth and then head south from there for sea, food and rum at Jack Sprat in Treasure Beach. We figured we’d return to Kingston between 8 and 8:30 pm. Fantastic. All we’d take is swimming things, drinks, water and snacks. Two stops for ice and cash before leaving Kingston were all that was needed. Off we went!

Decided to get gas in Osbourne Store, Clarendon as that is one of the 3 cheap gas spots in the island. The other two are Heroes Circle and Portmore just as an FYI. Well the PetCom in Clarendon is apparently closed! I’m still peeved that NOBODY on my Twitter timeline knew and found it necessary to tweet this reality before hand! THIS is information that would really make Twitter useful! I knew that the closure of the PetCom would put pressure on the other 2 gas stations in the area. And sure enough, a stop for gas at the Total a few miles on, turned out to be a 20 min wait. And I had no alternative. I bravely (or stupidly) left Kingston with a quarter tank of gas ’cause I’m cheap and I wanted to fill up on Clarendon’s cheap gas. Anyhoos, I filled up (a mere $3,700.00 for my small car!) and we headed out. It was a beautiful sunny day, traffic was light, nuff Babylon was on the road, and motorists for the most part were behaving themselves. We made a pit stop at the top of Spur Tree – are male bladders smaller than female bladders? Then we pressed on west with the best of ’80s dancehall torturing the kids perhaps, but creating idiots of the adults in the front seat as we pretended to be Super Cat and Jose Wales and Johnny Osbourne. Good times!

Let’s back up a bit though… Years ago we attempted to go to Jamaica Zoo but when we got there they turned out to be closed. Control Freak that I was (am!) I had a melt down of epic proportions when I realized that my plan and schedule were completely derailed. I am better these days at defining a Plan B upfront and quickly moving on when plans go awry. Nonetheless, in making good on promise to my Bonus Boy made 2 years ago to take him to Jamaica Zoo, I tried to nail down a firm plan by calling ahead to verify opening hours and admission rates and so on. Zero luck. Their social media presence appeared dated and their listed numbers rang without answer or went straight to voice mail. I left messages. No responses. I tweeted the Jamaica Tourist Board account to find out if they were open and no response. Not one to back down, I told H that we’d still head there, and if they were closed we’d simply keep on plan and head south to Treasure Beach but look for fishermen fixing their pots and hopefully hauling in a catch on the fishing beach and turn that into a look-see lesson in Agriculture and Community for the kids. Fantastic.

Jamaica Road Trip: Jamaica Zoo Stop #1

So we get to the zoo. There were signs that ensured we wouldn’t get lost. Good. We pulled up to the huge signed entrance that let us know were had arrived. But the expansive parking lot was empty and overgrown. “Lawx dem lock again!” I groaned. I drove on still, just following the road through all the various opened gates. We drove past a kiddies play area with slides, swings and sea saws. Empty and overgrown. We pressed on and as we went round a bend I saw about 5 vehicles parked on a trimmed grassy area. Ok! Signs of life! We slowed down and pressed on. A smiling young lady with a signed shirt stepped out and welcomed us, confirming that they were open. Awesome! We parked and got out, we were escorted to the reception area where we paid $1,500.00 per adult, $1000.00 per child. This is where that cash stop came in handy as they don’t take cards at Jamaica Zoo.

We spotted a horse, a donkey and a llama from where we were. We saw about 6 beautiful parrots in a nearby tree. Nothing else. Empty stalls and half-finished infrastructural works were all around us. It is a beautiful, expansive property that has an abandoned, pop-down feel. But it was a beautiful day, and we remained curious and relaxed. Our timing appeared perfect as we were immediately invited to take a seat in an arranged area in preparation for what appeared to be a briefing about the zoo. There was a sound operator on a laptop who moved quickly through well chosen, all be they LOUD musical selections (she was on a high stool, completely visible to all) in support of our narrator, a tall, I think Cuban, who it turns out, was our guide to small animals that we would be allowed to touch. It was a catchy, high energy presentation that flowed well if a tad rehearsed, and the children in particular enjoyed the opportunity to touch and have their pics taken. Our group was about 15 in all, and you can imagine that after you’ve gotten your chance to touch and have your pic taken, it becomes a bit of a drag to sit in the church like arrangement while the others go through the same procedure again and again. There was a bounce about across the way from the show, so in between animals, I allowed Bonus Boy to go frolic. And I walked around looking at the parrots and llama and horse enjoying the breeze. That segment took at good hour. We saw and touched a snake, an iguana, a rabbit, a donkey, a crocodile and guinea pigs. The kids loved it all!

Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo
Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo: Waiting patiently
Where we sit for the interactive petting session

Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo
Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo
A matter scaling to fit…

Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo Bounce About
Bounce about at Jamaica Zoo
A bounce about which was a hit with the kids

Jamaica Road Trip Jamaica Zoo Petting session
Jamaica Road Trip: Petting Session at Jamaica Zoo
Our animated guide through the petting session

Jamaica Road Trip: Jamaica Zoo. Petting Session with Snake
Who’s afraid of Snakes? Petting Session at Jamaica Zoo.
I refused to look at the snake. Ugh.

Jamaica Road Trip: Jamaica Zoo Petting Session with Iguana
He’s not afraid! Petting Session with Iguana at Jamaica Zoo
Little Master completely at ease.

 

Jamaica Road Trip: Jamaica Zoo. Little Boy with Snake
Petting Session at Jamaica Zoo. I’m scared but that won’t stop me!
Not to be outdone by Big Bro, Bonus Boy eventually found the courage to participate.

 

Jamaica Road Trip: Jamaica Zoo. Man with crocodile.
Jamaica Zoo Petting session: If they can do it so can I!
Big Daddy got in the action having been inspired by Us.

El Director handed over to a smiling young woman named Paula who explained to us that she would be taking us on a walking tour to see their other animals. She was calm, pleasant and knowledgeable. The children very easily gravitated towards her. We saw 3 ducks, 2 crocodiles, 4 pigeons, the horse, the llama, 2 spider monkeys, 4 Capuchin monkeys, a zebra and 2 lions. It was a pleasant walk around a gently sloping compound and the kids got to feed the horse, llama, pigeons, ducks and monkeys.

I’ve deliberately told you the number of each animal so you can get a sense of the scale of the operation. It was obviously designed to be a grand affaire, but what obtains now is certainly not the vision at conception. The huge scale of the physical plant makes the actual small operation feel kind of derelict and abandoned in parts, and we quickly recognized that to retrofit the operation and bring it all down to a more cosy, controllable physical space would take money. Perhaps adding cabins and a camping site and converting some of the land to the cultivation of cash crops and having a monthly farmers market would inject life and energy and help to sustain the operation which truth be told, appears to be limping along.

We heard the lions roar as one of the groundsmen provoked him by banging on his cage with his machete. I didn’t like that part much. Neither did my Bonus Boy who hours after expressed concern to me and wondered if the lion had eaten the bad man teasing them. The lonely zebra in his enclosure made me sad. Who wants to be alone…  Lonely looking animals in cages make me saddish too. But as H said what do you expect at a zoo. C’mon. It is a beautiful site though, and one that I would spend time at, relaxing under the grand old shady trees that are everywhere. I am sorry to see any attraction on my island go underutilized and at risk of closure.  The staff at Jamaica Zoo are wonderful, pleasant and engaging people and I hope that something changes soon so that more people can make a living there, so the animals can live happily and comfortably, and so visitors and locals can have a real option for recreation and entertainment.

Road Trip Jamaica: Treasure Beach next stop!

Driving south was easy. Google maps told us it would take 25 min from Lacovia to Treasure Beach. It took about 45 min as the road was bad in spots. Not bad I-Need-A-4WD for this, but bad-lemme-slow-down-and-avoid-or-go-through-these-pot-holes-carefully. There were many many small plots of tobacco being cultivated in Burnt Savannah. Interesting! I’m accustomed to seeing plots of thyme and escallion and peppers and cabbage and melons and tomatoes growing all over South St. Elizabeth, replacing the front lawn in many, many instances. But never tobacco. Perhaps they are part of Carreras‘ new tobacco contract farmer programme, aimed at diversifying their product offerings…think “grabba” + ganja.

Peeping at tobacco growing in a front yard in Burnt Savannah

Jack Sprat in Treasure Beach

After a beautiful drive through rolling, cultivated landscapes we caught sight of the sea and soon enough, we pulled up at Jack Sprat, the restaurant affiliated with Jakes Hotel, run by the Henzel family. You can check out their cultural roots and history here. 

Road Trip Jamaica Jack Sprat Treasure Beach
Jack Sprat, Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Road Trip in Jamaica: The Food!

This is where I really exhaled, and truth be told, was the real aim of this road trip. Jakes and Jack Sprat are one the pioneers of Community Tourism, and their patrons are those who seek an experience that allows them to be a part of the community and true local vibe. Located right on the sea, you enter and place your order at the bar. The menu is written on the board and prices are fair and reasonable. A pleasant staff member took our order and told us just pick a seat anywhere and she’d find us shortly with our food and drinks. There’s a covered seating area adjoining the bar and kitchen area looking out into the garden area. There are tables and benches scattered under the lignum vitae trees all over the garden. There are seats in the sand in the small cove that you walk down into from the garden. There’s a jetty-like area that’s covered where you look out and over into the serene, beautiful Calabash Bay. That’s where we sat. Heaven. We spotted, much to Bonus Boy’s delight, crabs scampering over the rocks right below us. Gentle sea breezes cooled us and the sound of gently lapping waves perfectly synchronized with tasteful reggae musical selection pumping through strategically placed speakers at the right volume hugged us, cloaked us and reassured us. We were in Paradise.

Our drinks and last minute order of soup soon came out. The very pumpkiny conch soup with tender chunks of sweet conch went down real good. Fresh, simple and clean flavours and ingredients are all that’s really needed. Then our lobster and vegetable pizzas and fried chicken and fries for Bonus Boy came out. (He doesn’t like pizza). Jack Sprat is famous for their pizza and rightfully so. Fresh ingredients straight from the sea and farm feature: lobster, pineapples, tomato, onion, peppers make their appearance on the pizzas. The crust is thin and crisp and delicious. 100% yummy! Picture this:  the sea and breeze and the music and the rum going down oh so smoothly, and fresh, delicious, made from scratch food… That was us at Jack Sprat.

Road Trip Jamaica Calabash Bay St Elizabeth
Calabash Bay
Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach

 

Conch Soup

 

Road Trip Jamaica Food at Jack Sprat Pizza
Pizza at Jack Sprat: Their specialty!
Lobster and vegetable pizza

Bonus Boy and Daddy went and had a dip. Other patrons were doing likewise too. There are restrooms and an outdoor shower for your convenience. Scotia Bank has installed an ATM at the restaurant too. The restaurant takes cards as well as cash, and prices are quoted in both $US and $J. The three of us had two large pizzas and we were stuffed. The soups, pizzas, chicken n fries for baby, rum and water came up to under J$7,000.00

At about 5ish we slowly packed up, small cups of Devon House ice cream in hand (I had the stout ice cream of course), also bought at Jack Sprat, and headed east, back towards Kingston. By a little after 8, we were back. Everything went according to plan and a great time was had by all.

 

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

Dear Jamaica: We have a garbage problem.

I’m heartsick. I’ve been putting off this particular post for two years now, but no more. So here goes.

Dear Jamaica: We have a garbage problem. We are nasty.

We’ve perfected the art of the road trip. We can now turn on a dime and head north, south, east or west. Easy: keep vehicles properly maintained, stop at the grocery the night before or on the way out, procure water, juices, rum and chasers, nuts, cheesy snacks, granola bars, keep the igloo clean at all times, keep one bag clean and packed with cups and ground sheet at all times, and at the word go, load up and head out.

View from Black Hill, Portland

And so we explore our island at any and every chance we get. Portland’s beaches and hills, St. Ann’s beaches, Trelawny’s beaches, rivers and beautiful vistas in its center, Negril’s beach, St. Elizabeth’s rolling landscapes and St. Andrew’s rivers and breathtaking mountainscapes.

Driving from St. Mary into Portland

Beautiful Duncan’s, Trelawny

Abandoned tunnel in Portland

Paradise, aka Negril

Black River, St. Elizabeth

View from New Castle, St. Andrew

I’ve been very selective in my picture taking, choosing to overlook the nastiness that coexists with the beauty that abounds everywhere.

Yesterday we drove through St. Thomas to Long Bay, Portland. Long Bay is one of the best kept secrets in Jamaica. There it sits, part of the main road through east Portie. There are no huge hotels, no fancy famous restuarants, no “attractions.” But there are always tourists there, walking on the road, sleeping in one of the many BnB’s that you can find on the internet, rolling a spliff, sucking on a cold red strip or swirling a plastic cup with ice, White rum and Ting. Heaven. The surf is rough but the water is blue and the sand is white. And it is all mere steps away from the main road. There are no loud sound systems. And tourist harassment… what’s that in Long Bay?

Long Bay, Portland

Yesterday we simply turned in off the road, parked under some coconut trees, unpacked our igloo and grill, turned up (just a smidgen…) our music, and enjoyed a few hours in Paradise. Easy. But when we looked to our left and then to our right, there it was: garbage: styrofoam, plastic, latex, glass…ugh.
I averted my eyes quickly and kept my focus front and centre. As we left and were heading back, the garbage deposited where it ought never to be all along the coast was inescapable. I said to H: “Can you imagine if we kept Long Bay EXACTLY as it is now: humble BnBs, rustic cook shops, roadside bars, but cleaned up the garbage?”

Deep, white sand right off the main road, Long bay, Portland

There is a lot of talk about our tourism product, creating visions of more rooms, more high prices attractions, orchestrated, pre-packaged tours, all things shiny and new. But simply cleaning up the garbage would result in a step change in what is our current vibe and what we offer to locals and visitors alike.

We visited Jackson Bay, south Clarendon about a year ago. This is way off the beaten track, winding south through wetlands. And there was garbage here. How? Styrofoam and plastic as well as scrap metal in the form of old vehicle chassis and discarded appliances. God.

Almost any hillside in upper St. Andrew is a potential dumping site: check out spots in Irish Town and Red Hills for example.

When last was garbage collected? 
When last was garbage collected?

So how do we fix it. Huge sigh. One perspective is that leadership in Jamaica has lost the art of implementation and has become preoccupied with speeches and box-ticking. It further posits that those in positions of influence and power have managed to insulate themselves from certain Jamaican realities and therefore expend nothing on fixing those ills besetting others; think private schools, private education, private security, gated communities, vehicles that shuttle them from A to B, high off the ground in air-conditioned insularity. They vacation in exclusive locations, out of the line of sight of road side dump sites, and in all-inclusive, created experiences, totally separate from the speak-easy that exists beside a pile of garbage uncollected in two weeks. Out of sight, most definitely out of mind.

And so priorities are set based on a particular skewed perspective and outlook by the powerful and wealthy. And those who see and know and feel The Other Side of Things, in their quest for the Great House quickly adopt the priorities of those who are where they want to be, eschewing the urgent and real needs of our present context.

Dear Jamaica: we are on the cusp of an environmental crisis of humongous proportions. The garbage in and around us is piling up. 

I’m unwilling to relinquish my safety, health and peace of mind so easily though. Community Action has to step to the front of the line now. Local leadership: YOUR TIME NOW! I have latched on to grass-roots activism as one of the first steps towards making our present system of governance redundant and shifting the current paradigm towards one that is more proactive and relevant to us. Yes, I know nothing can really substitute for national policies that are framed and resourced and enacted by central government as we seek to move from here to there. But I cannot wait. Jamaica cannot afford to wait.

Imagine this happening at the Community level:

1. Education campaigns about improper garbage disposal. Get a local company to sponsor a poster competition in the community schools. Tell them to include actual pictures of what is wrong in their community.

2. Again get a local company to sponsor the printing of dozens of the winning poster and then commission local groups like the 4H Club, Scouts, church youth group to strategically, and with permission place these posters in central areas.

3. Set a small goal of creating a garbage free zone in a public area enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Make noise about it. Use social media to spread the news of this success story. Replicate this in another area.

4. Get the Councillor and MP on board: THEY have to pressure NSWMA to cart the garbage away regularly and reliably. KEEP UP THE PRESSURE! Use social media to shame and congratulate. Because make no mistake, there are those who make every effort to bag and discard their garbage properly, but their best efforts are thwarted by the non collection of their garbage! There’s no reliable schedule of collection and public skips seem to be a thing of the past.

I think one clean area, one locality doing the right thing, made visible, will result in spread of ideals and practices. Naive? Maybe. But I’m not ready to give up. And current leadership practices have resulted in Jamaica being buried and drowned in nastiness.

Dear Jamaica: We can do this. We must do this. Get Jamaica clean and keep Jamaica clean.

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