Jamaica Magazine

Jamaica Through My Eyes – American Retiree in Jamaica

Written by John Casey

Over the years I have written articles on a wide variety of subjects which have come from my personal experiences in Jamaica.  I have either lived them myself or was close enough to make keen observations.  It was very seldom that my personal feelings were revealed in any of the subject matter.  There has been a lot of criticisms on my views on different subjects over the years.  Some people assumed I was making statements that were contrary to what they knew or thought was the situation.  I assure you that everything I have written in all my articles is exactly the way I saw it with my own eyes. 

This month I will try to give you my opinion on several matters which may or may not be how you, the reader, feel about the subject.  And that is fine with me.  How boring life would be if everybody’s opinion was the same.  Many years ago I learned that, “feelings are neither right nor wrong.”  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Having said all that, here are my thoughts on a number of issues.  I love most Jamaican people but there have been times I haven’t.  I believe most of these people are honest and sincere but I have learned, sometimes, not to be too complacent because some of them will take advantage of you.  Before I moved to Jamaica, my wife and I got very friendly with a crafts lady at the resort who also used to braid my wife’s hair.  She seemed very sincere and friendly towards us which built up our trust in her.  We always brought things from the states for her on our semi-annual vacations.  All of the items we carried were those she requested such as clothes for her kids and carving tools.  The relationship became closer upon each visit.  One time she took us to meet her mother and kids.  Things remained the same with her every year until we moved here.  Now that we could no longer do her shopping for her in the U.S. we weren’t as much value to her except for money.  She called us on many occasions asking for money to send her kids to school.  We finally agreed to, “lend” her some money which she promised to pay back.  Calls to her cell phone went unanswered because she probably recognized the phone number.  This experience left a bitter taste in our mouths for reaching out to help people.  They all seem to want as much as they can possibly get from you.  I felt very compassionate for the street people begging for money at the traffic lights or on the downtown street corners but once you give them money they hound you every time they see you.

The problem with giving them money is wondering whether they are going to buy food or drugs with it.  There was one homeless man who I saw on a daily basis and who I refused to give money to but decided on giving him a pair of pants and some t-shirts.  When I handed him the bag of clothes he said, “I don’t want clothes, give me money.”  I will admit that these situations are common worldwide but it seems more open here perhaps because of the economy.

On the other hand, I have become friends with a man who lived in the neighborhood when I first moved into the community who has done many things for me over the years without accepting any more than a thank you.  That’s him on the ladder. I have done things for him too but the scales are definitely balanced in my favor.  Professionally he has done several projects in and around my house where he has given me the neighborhood discount price for services.  I, in turn, have assisted him on some of these ventures and have given him full access to the house to complete his work without my being at home.  I totally trust this man.

While I realize that there are good and bad people everywhere in the world I have never run across so many people who would do everything in their power to take advantage of you as there is here in Jamaica.  Thank God there are more good, loving, caring people in this country than the opposite.  I see these friendly faces every day whether in the community or about town.  From the clerks in the post office where I pick up my mail weekly, to the tellers at the bank or the vendors in the market, they all have a friendliness I’ve never seen in the U.S.  It is more than a, “Good Morning.”  I guess the best way to describe it is they are being more personal than just being polite.  This is the friendliness that brought me to Jamaica in the first place and still keeps me here. See two pictures of the produce market on an off day.

Another major draw for me to uproot 60 plus years from New England to move to this little piece of Paradise is the island itself.  While I have not been to every island in the Caribbean, I have traveled to many of the other islands, but none can compare to Jamaica. 

I have always enjoyed working the land ever since my father introduced to me the art of weeding carrots at the tender age of seven.  From that time on I have always wanted to, “Grow a ting” usually with good results.  That is, until Jamaica.  Trying with all my common knowledge is not enough to produce much of anything except Scotch Bonnet Pepper and Callaloo.  I came to Jamaica with a 8 hp roto -tiller to prepare the ground but with all my effort, including cow manure, chicken manure, and compost, little if anything poked its head above the nice rich soil.  Several people have given me helpful suggestions for my failures such as poor soil, not enough water, too little sun, not enough sun, and the list goes on and on.  Therefore I have resigned myself to bushing the yard and managing the trees which grow quite well with or without my help. 

There is one trait or gift that Jamaicans have that I have not seen anywhere else.  This is the ability to recall peoples faces in particular and often their names.  It is really a big ego boost to have that recognition even when it may be months or years between seeing these Jamaicans.  Now that I live here, the recognition extends past the friendly Sandals staff to the many places of business I frequent.  For instance, at the post office, I see most people in the line to collect their mail having to give the clerk their name and sometimes an address but not me.  I have to admit that part of the name recall is due to the color of my skin.  But, hey, my ego isn’t choosy as to why I’m being recognized. 

With all its pluses and minuses, there is still nowhere else in the world I would rather live than in Jamaica.  “Jamaica, Jamaica, Land I love.”  Later….

About the author

John Casey