Jamaica Magazine

"Goodbye 2009" by American Retiree in Jamaica

This was yet another good year for me in Jamaica.  As I look back over the past twelve months, I’m reminded of all the different things that have taken place in my life in Jamaica, most of them very positive.

 The year started off with a wedding.  Barrington and Claudia were joined together in holy matrimony to the delight of the more than fifty well wishers.  It was the first and only wedding I have been invited to in my seven plus years on the island.  I have witnessed scores of weddings on Sandals’ properties around Jamaica but none of them were Jamaican couples.  Such is the romantic magnet of this tropical island.

 The next month showcased an often neglected need of controlling the dog and cat population.  Too many of these animals are abandoned on the streets of cities and towns all over the island.  Those who survive the frequent fights over food and territories are mating with the females which compound the plight of survival.  During the year there were two spay/neuter clinics, one in Kingston and one in Montego Bay.  Veterinarians from the U. S. in conjunction with those in Jamaica along with local agencies successfully spayed or neutered hundreds of strays.  Many of the animals also received medical attention for a wide range of ailments.   

This was followed by an in depth look at how to become a permanent resident.  So many people ask about this procedure.  It always generates the most questions of my readers.  It is one in which I know a great deal about having gone through it several years ago.   

Easter week is Reunion Week at the entire Sandals’ properties.  It is always a very special week with sumptuous meals, exciting field trips, and many other activities.  It is also a time to renew acquaintances from years past.  This year we chose Sandals Dunns River in Ocho Rios for the first time.  The festivities were fantastic as ever but were dampened for us by the passing of one of our friends on his very first day at the resort.  The good that came out of that tragedy was the bonding of his widow and my wife.  To this day, there is weekly communication between them. 

June had me describing my life in this warm and friendly community.  When I think of the differences in this community and the one I left in the Boston suburbs, I find I miss social interaction that is nonexistent here.  On the other hand, my Jamaican neighbors are much more genuine.  Perhaps there is a relationship between the stressful life in the suburbs and the carefree life here.   

One of my favorite topics is food shopping.  As the cook in the house, I love combing the aisles looking for new things to try.  This probably all stems from my ten or so years I worked as a salesman calling on supermarkets.  I have a hard time dealing with one aspect of Jamaican shopping.  That one area is the frequent lack of certain items on the shelves for weeks or even months at a time.  I have had to compensate for these outages by keeping a month or two supply of many of these essential items like boxed milk and popcorn. 

Next I gave you a glimpse of my health care.  Some people question me about the quality of services here but I find them to be very adequate.  First of all, public health care for residents is free.  I have chosen a private health insurer which costs me well under U. S. one thousand dollars a year for the two of us.  The best thing about this insurance is not only have the rates remained the same for six years but the exchange rate has nearly doubled during this time thus reducing my costs further. 

Then there was the saga of my wife getting her driver’s license compared to how easy it was to get mine seven years before.  The strangest part of the process was the required backing through a series of cones shaped like the letter “s”.  I would sometimes wonder in high school why I would ever need algebra.  I feel the same way about backing through cones.   

My cataract operation came next.  I always felt I didn’t care what medical procedure was done on me as long as it didn’t involve my eyes.  Just the thought of putting contacts in my eyes sends shivers up and down my spine.  That is all in the past.  The surgery on both of my eyes was like a walk in the park.  My sight has been restored to the point that reading glasses are something only I sometimes need to wear.   

Perhaps the most exciting event of the year for me was attending the finals of the Sandals/Beaches talent search dubbed “Encore 2009.”  The talent on the stage that Friday night was as good as it gets.  From dancing, singing, and modeling, it was all highly professional.  It’s hard to believe that all that talent is hiding behind housekeepers, dining room staff, or groundskeepers. 

I ended the year by telling one of my favorite stories about “Roping a Cow.”  It was quite a shock after only one month on the island to find a cow tangled with a chain around its leg at the end of my driveway, not to mention the incredible amount of cow manure all over everything including the cow.  Then when I reached out for help to the police department, they further shocked me by insisting I call my butcher.  Only in Jamaica!   

This wonderful island of Jamaica has been such a blessing to me.  I have often thought about what my life would be like back in Massachusetts.  I’m sure I would be still working to pay all the taxes levied on me and feeling the stress of everyday living would be taking its toll on me.  Instead, I am living my dream of sunny days and tropical breezes while sipping Pina Coladas on the veranda.  Later…. 

About the author

John Casey