Dale is a Trini-American who has been living in Kingston for the last four years with her Jamaican husband, who had a life long dream of moving back to the Jamaica after living in the US for over twenty years.
Dale now enjoys sharing her rich, lively Jamaican days and experiences with expats thinking about moving to Jamaica or Returning residents dreaming to make the trek “back ahh yard”
I do not recall the exact moment I realized I loved going to markets. As a child growing up in Trinidad, I knew exactly where to go on weekend mornings to view the largest variety of produce vendors, with colorful fresh goods for sale.
I remember how I would stare out the car window at all the buying and selling, to make sure I didn’t miss a single moment.
At some point, my Dad, who did the weekly grocery shopping, began to take me on these weekend food gathering trips. I was only too happy to get dressed, grab our market basket and get in the car. “Adventures would abound,” my kiddy brain told me, and for some reason I always wanted to wear these little white plastic boots I owned. I called them my “market boots” or my “pick mango boots”.
Fast forward to Coronation Market in Kingston, Jamaica some thirty years later. I knew this market sprawl existed as it is the subject of quite a bit of local conversation and newspaper articles. It is a market where vendors from all over the island come into “town,” which is Kingston, the city, to wholesale and retail all sorts of goods. This market has a reputation of offering goods for sale far cheaper than you would pay at the traditional supermarket or roadside vendors. In essence, Coronation Market is the venue for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at the most competitive prices.
I was ably warned by Liz, my mother-in-law’s helper, who was to be my escort to the market, “Mek sure yu doh wear nuttin fancy, doh bring yuh purse and we not walking de whole market.” This meant do not get dressed up, do not bring a pocketbook and that we would not be walking around the market like tourists or spectators – we were there to shop and then leave.
Of course, I was disappointed as she had ruled out two of my favorite pastimes – gawking and being a spectator. I wanted to walk around slowly and absorb the unparalleled ripeness of Jamaican culture on the faces and voices of the vendors. I wished I had a video camera to film it all that day, as I could have shared what I witnessed: people working very, very hard to make a living in daily tropical heat. Never in my life had I seen a marketplace quite like this one.
Firstly, this market had a life and energy all of its own, as men of all ages, pushed these very interesting, heavy, home-made pushcarts around. It seemed as if they were moving goods and products from one end of the sprawl to the other, a job that required skills and strength. The vendor “stalls” being utilized were small and tight, as higglers walked around shouting what items were for sale, “Hegg, get you ‘ard boiled hegg!” “Miss yuh wah scallion? Only seventy dollar ahh one.” “Soup, soup who wah ah soup for breakfast?” “Plantin, sixty fi one!” I was amazed as all the prices were almost 50% less than what I usually pay for any item at the supermarkets, and the produce was certainly fresher and more appealing to the eyes.
Music blared from corner to corner with multiple conversations going on in three dimensions. This market was far more exciting than what I remember of my kiddy days at a Trinidadian market place or any of the farmers markets I have experienced in the US, London, Paris or even South Africa. It was beyond exciting, and had a life of color and richness which represented an aspect of Jamaica I love seeing. In reality such a market would perhaps not exist in New York or Washington DC due to stringent health codes, as this market while colorful may not be the cleanest market.
I am indeed now eager for my second trip.
About the Writer
Dale is a Trini-American who has been living in Kingston for the last four years with her Jamaican husband, who had a life long dream of moving back to the Jamaica after living in the US for over twenty years. Dale now enjoys sharing her rich, lively Jamaican days and experiences with expats thinking about moving to Jamaica or Returning residents dreaming to make the trek “back ahh yard” through her website Transition Sunshine.