Trip Reports

All Around Jamaica…Day 15 – March/April 2003

Written by Liz Maher

Day Fifteen, Wednesday (Treasure Beach – MoBay – US)

The last day. The day we leave, not even the last full day. I always hate it but this year, it’s not so bad, we’ve had over 2 weeks and I feel I’ve gotten a good dose of Jamaica this time. I also miss my kids :).

…and it’s my birthday! I didn’t mean to schedule our trip home on my birthday – yuk – but that was how it worked out, unless we wanted a much shorter trip. So I’ll take it.

We come downstairs at Mar Blue to breakfast. Breakfast is included in the rate at Mar Blue and I really appreciate coming down to a set table, coffee and fruit already out. As he did yesterday, Axel asks if I’d like an egg, some bacon, anything – he’s ready to cook. He’s always ready to cook, it seems…this is the perfect combination of breakfast without waiting and a hot fresh meal, best of both worlds. The table in the breezeway is as cool as ever, and I plunk down to start the caffeine flowing and chat with Andrea and her sister and the older couple that is also here. P makes his way down. I wish we could explore TB a little more but we’re supposed to be at the airport by 12:30 and though the ride is 2 hours, we feel we should leave a little time to get lost, hit traffic and check the car back in. We take a quick swim in the pool, check out the beach one more time, shower and head out at 10AM. We say goodbye to everyone, collect our carving (Mar Blue gives a little wood carving to all guests, different ones if you are a repeat visitor. Very cute idea and a nice way to support local carvers) and pack up the car. We talk about when we might return, that we’d like to bring our kids…Andrea says she knows several villas she can help arrange if we do (I think this is her very kind way of saying they don’t really do kids at Mar Blue, though it would be very nice for a family there, it’s probably not so nice for any other grownup guests I suppose…maybe we could take the whole place sometime).

We hit the road, and don’t get lost at all this time. We stop for a drink and photo op at a guesthouse just before Black River. There are a bunch of guesthouses and small hotels along this strip (which is the strip on the 11 mile beach we passed by boat yesterday) and I’ve not heard of one of them. This area needs a little recognition, the beach here is beautiful and the feel is very relaxed.

Back on the road, P gets a coco bread craving. This has happened probably 4-5 times this trip, P suddenly feels the urge for coco bread with cheese and we must go searching. I’ve been calling it the “quest for coco bread”, we’ve laughed about it all trip long. Another craving P gets is for cheese puffs. Every little shack by the road has cheese puffs and P points out early in the trip that you rarely see a Jamaican kid after school without a bag of cheese puffs in his hand. This earns P the nickname “Puffy” for the whole trip, and makes us look at every kid we pass to see if it’s true….if you aren’t looking, cheese puffs may not seem like much to you but watch for them next time, they’re everywhere :).

Normally finding coco bread is not difficult, most any bakery or shop has it, but we stop at 3 in Black River before he finds a place that hasn’t sold out. He really wants it for the plane this time so with a full bag of coco and patties, we turn towards Sav-la-Mar. Just before Sav is Ferris Cross where we will turn north and cut through the mountains to MoBay. We do all this without any difficulty.

The ride over the mountains is beautiful. Since the coast road to Negril has been finished, we have not gone this way, and I missed it. We pass through many little towns and wind up and around mountain curves as I make every effort to finish up the batteries in my digital camera.

At one point, we drive through a literal flock of dragonflies. I’ve never seen so many. I am wearing a dragonfly necklace that a friend made for me, she is a beader and it has red, yellow and green for rasta and a dragonfly for a hookah song by that name. I felt like I was channeling these dragonflies or something, like they came just to say goodbye to us. The only time I’ve ever seen that much of anything was in Oregon a few years back, we passed through literally thousands of monarch butterflies heading south….again, a cloud of them, they were everywhere. I’ve never seen dragonflies like this though. (wish you could have been there Ed).

As I read my notes now, I see my handwriting is pretty messy on this part, that’s because we were driving when I wrote. Which brings me to an interesting fact: the longest straight road in Jamaica is in Sav-la-Mar and it’s a mile long. So….if the longest straight road is a mile long and this is remarkable enough that I, a tourist, have learned this, then you can imagine that roads in Jamaica are generally not at all straight. In fact they all push the boundaries of your likely idea of “curvy”. Hence the bad handwriting.

We’re making great time and I tell Puffy so, but right after Anchovy our luck changes. Not sure why, if it was an accident or what, but we sat in traffic for close to a half hour, miraculously maintaining the zen of vacation and not worrying too much about missing planes and things. We happen to be in traffic right next to some old train tracks…these must be the ones that used to run from MoBay to, I think, Kingston, but service ended in the 80’s or thereabouts. I snap a few pics of the traffic jam. After awhile, as mysteriously as it came, the jam eases and we’re on our way again, in plenty of time. We give back the car (Vernon’s rep is waiting right where we park to go into the terminal), thank him and check in.

I won’t bore you with the airport details, mainly I shopped for all the stuff I didn’t feel like shopping for while we were freely roaming. I always shop at the airport because I hate to shop and there isn’t much else to do in the two hours they want you to get there before the flight.

We get on our plane and go home, full of ideas for the next trip, which will include our kids. I think we’ll split our time between the east coast and Treasure Beach with them, doing 2 weeks if we can, and maybe spend 2 nights in Negril….or if we bring relatives with us, P and I will go to Negril solo for a night or two :).

Post-Trip, Home

I feel like each trip I take scratches the surface of Jamaican life. Each trip goes a little deeper. This trip was a good deep one. I’ve seen parts of the island I’d never seen before, visited people who are quite different from people I know, gotten to know acquaintances and friends a lot better. Found some ways to save money, found out we like having a car.

My knowledge of patois is a lot better now too. I rarely speak it, I feel like an “eediat” when I do, but I understand a lot now. I’ve heard people say that Americans can understand Jamaicans speak “when they want us to understand”. While this may be true, I had an insight this trip about that. Sitting around listening to Jamaicans speak to other Jamaicans, I could understand some of what they said but not a lot…it’s fast, lazy speech, and full of slang and shortcuts. Was this intentional? I doubt it, from what I picked up….it was just talk about what was going on.

Sitting at 3 Dives one night with our friends from the US, I listened to *us* talk for a bit, and watched Lloydie and Eddie not understand what we were saying. Why? Certainly not because we were talking about them or didn’t want them to understand. Because we use the same slang, shortcuts, lazy speech and references to people and places we know that they do! This is completely unintentional, but it’s just natural. I made an effort to slow down and be clear from then on…and it helped tremendously when we traveled.

Often Jamaicans will, I found, “yes” me. Meaning they have no idea what I just said to them but say “yes, mon” anyway. Often this works out fine, occasionally it leads to great confusion and misunderstanding, as you might imagine. This trip I made sure I was understood. Jamaicans may learn English in school, and listen to the radio and TV in English, but I know none – not one – that speaks it when talking to another Jamaican, family or stranger.

English truly is a second language for Jamaicans I have met, especially as you leave the cities and go into the country. I have learned now to respect that and either speak English slowly and clearly or use the patois I know. I’ve traveled in Europe and elsewhere and I never speak English if I can help it out of courtesy, I make a real effort to learn the language of the place I’m in. Now I see that I should be doing the same in Jamaica if I want to communicate with any depth. This is a tip I hope some first timers take with them….Jamaicans are very friendly but you have to meet them halfway if you want to really talk.

The standard Jamaican greeting is not “hello”. It is some form of “yes”. As in “Yesss….”. Or “Okaaay”. Or “Alllll Riight”. I mean you walk up to someone you know or don’t, and just say “yes” and nod, and you get that right back. Pretty fun once we got used to it, P started using it on me when he felt I was talking too much in the car :).

I may have more reflections on this trip as time goes on, but I’ll end the trip report now, exactly one month after our return. Thanks for listening…..

Places we stayed, ate, visited, etc links:

Dream River Villa: http://sealawncoralbeach.20megsfree.com/catalog.html

Sea Lawn Coral Beach: http://sealawncoralbeach.20megsfree.com/index.html

Fern Hill Club: http://www.fernhillclubhotel.com/

3 Dives Restaurant/Bar: http://www.maherconsulting.com/3dives

Beach House Villas: http://www.jamaicanegril.com/

Mar Blue Domicil: http://www.marblue.com/

Salomon Kerr (driver/guide): http://www.geocities.com/talkofthetowntours/

Chef Thompson (driver/guide): http://sealawncoralbeach.20megsfree.com/photo3.html

Carolyn and Errol Barrett: http://www.barrettadventures.com/

Vernon’s Car Rental: http://www.car-rental.com.jm/

…and for good info on travel in Jamaica:

Jamaicans.com b board: http://www.jamaicans.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?category=3

Treasure Beach info: http://www.treasurebeach.net

PS: “Puffy says “WHAT?” on the boat!”

About the author

Liz Maher