Jamaicans.com columnist Kharl Daley writes about his recent return home.
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Flight 982 Return Trip To Jamaica – Part 1

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. In 5 minutes time we will begin our descend for landing at the Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston, Jamaica and I’m asking your co-operation to return to your seats, as the seat belt signs are now on and please have your window shades up. The weather in Jamaica is as usual, sunny and bright and the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We thank you for flying with Air-Canada and we do hope you all had a good flight, enjoy your vacation and please fly with us again, thank you.”

I immediately checked my watch and realized that the flight really took 3 hours and 40 minutes as stated on the Itinerary. Gradually the plane dropped altitude and looking from my window seat I could see the beauty of Jamaica with its shores caressed by the warm indigo blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, nourished by the vegetated peaks, slopes and plains, beaming under a radiant sky as its inhabitants goes about in different modes of transportation while ancient and modern designed buildings display a majestic scenery of a natural paradise amid blooming flower gardens.

As the plane descends, the air pressure in the cabin was giving me much discomfort and I chewed rapidly on some bubblegum in order to rid myself of the excess air filling my eardrums and at the same time stuffing both ears with pieces of napkin kept from my dinner servings. I must have been showing visible signs of pain and suffering for all of a sudden me hear nickering beside me, so me tun me y’eye look round jus fe see me two sons, four and two year old dem, a kill dem self wid lauf an a touch dem one anada an a point pon me. Me dis queeze me foot a groun and leggo me ears and pretend like nat a ting noh rang wid me and beg Masah Gad fe do mek de plane lan quick, quick. Clap, Clap, Clap and more clapping lakka wen Sistah Scully a church concert a get encore fe sing, “Hurry Up Its time to get ready to Go,” only this time the cheers were for the Pilot, whom had just touch down to a well deserving applause, if not from anyone else, sure from me as my ears are back to norm and I am home again humming this Christian Hymn, “Home once more, home once more, glory me to God I’m home once more.” I hurriedly grab my carry on luggages and headed for the exit, down the stairs and unto the tarmac, grasping at the cool yet warm and refreshing Jamaican breeze as my two rug rats Malcolm and Marlon strides ahead of me in great enthusiasm. The two had trodden Jamaican soil before, Malcolm twice and Marlon once but never as together.

Making my way down the Hanger Hall and to the Immigration Department with my two sons holding hands and jogging ahead of me, I could not help but notice the bright colors of the Airport, which gave it such a tropical feel as the sound of Folk and Reggae Music smoothly flow from the over-head speakers. It played songs I haven’t heard in a long time and they sure brought to me a very sweet homecoming. Songs such as, “Lang time gwal me neva see y’u cum mek we weel and tun” also “Come Misa Tallyman tally me banana day alight an me waan goo ‘ome,” and “Coming in from the Cold.” All of which created a sense of euphoria and nostalgia.

The faces of the Airport workers greeting my boys and me were all filled with splendor and sheer joy. Their ever-glowing genuine smiles were as if we were relatives returning from exile followed by these lovely reassuring words, “Welcome to Jamaica.” Never before had I felt so proud and full of grace in my entire life, (as complete as all human beings should) dignified and honored as to be returning to the Land of One’s Birth, accepted and cherished. Away now and if only for a short time from the constant scrutiny of a demeaning “steer” within a racist society, governmental cover-ups and marginalization.

Feted with such a cordial hearty welcome reaffirmed my long held beliefs that we JAMAICANS are a blessed People with true camaraderie and for my sons I became overjoyed to see them together in this rich cultural tradition of my civilization to which they are heirs.

The Male Attendants, Porters and Baggage Handlers were all “aggressively” friendly, some occasionally hailing out to me, “Yes Boss Mon, Lov fe see de man an him youth dem,” while the ladies had with them an irresistible charm, blatant beauty with fabulous femininity and polite mannerism. These gentle Beings poured their love, cares and courtesies at my sons so much so that I cheekily said to one, “Can you become their step-mother please?” My suggestive question was met by this answer, “Y’u gwan mon ur so funny, y’u waan dem mada cum here cum mash me up noh? Dem so cute.” I promptly replied, “Sure Madame, thank you kindly and they are just as cute as their dad, isn’t it?” this to the outburst of laughter from those listening to our chatter as she pointed me onwards to the Immigration and Custom Desk. “Gwan man, you sure have a way with words,” smiling as she bids me farewell.

It took about 15 minutes then I was finally cleared. Upon reaching the Arrival Waiting Area, my sons took off like freed birds to the outstretch arms of my Parents whom they’d spotted before I did among many other people awaiting their loved ones.

“A salaam Alikum!”

“Greetings to you my son,” was the response from my father as we shook hands while my mother standing next to my brother muttered, “A wey dat Garnet jus say?” while holding a fixed look on my Muslim headwear.

I immediately turned by attention to her and said, “it’s Arabic Mom and it means peace be unto you,” as we embraced.

The drive home was full of questions and answers between laughter and excitement for all the occupants of the car. Malcolm my older son perched in my Father’s lap and peering through the window had an advantage view point over Marlon whom cuddled in my Mother’s arms. The side walks along the Airport were very clean and all sorts of vegetations grew along its path as different species of multi colored birds flew, fed and pollinated their petals. Poles bearing the National Flag all fluttered in the soft sea wind and Jamaica the so-called Green Isle of the West Indies with its full glair of sunrays humbled me with pride.

As we journeyed home, I could recognize some of the buildings along the way that were there ever since I was a child. Many still in usage while few are dilapidated and abandoned yet defaced with freshly painted slogans of the preferred political party within that constituency. The General Penitentiary situated on Rockfort Road with fortified walls and barbed wire fencing was still there and served as a friendly reminder of a justice system for offenders of the law. Groups of inmates dressed in khaki pants and shirts watched over by armed warders chopped the shrubs to the prison fencing, the sight of which brought to my mind the song of the Drifters, “That’s the sound of the men working on the chain yea ye yea .”

Passing Ray Town brought back memories of its famous weekend’s Oldies Street Dance and I was told that it was still been held. I’d say that anyone claiming they are from Kingston and don’t know of Ray’s Town Street Dance must have arrived that same day in Town on a Country Bus or a Market Truck. Harbor Street, Pichon St, down Marcus Garvey Drive, on to Three Mile, over to Spanish Town Road, on to Mandela High Way were all jam pack with vehicles, as the driver, a friend of my brother maneuvered his way to Mc Vickers Lane, Spanish Town.

The roads leading to Spanish Town were extremely clean and beautified by well designed landscaping with trees and flowers planted in the median. Riverton City once a dump site where poor people lived in squalor, searching the garbage to salvaging for things to sell was now a community of modern houses, a school, a clinic, a community centre, good roads, street lights and commercial enterprises. The people of Riverton City are now with the highest inspiration of hopes and great accomplishments. This I was told came about from a project partly funded by the Jamaican Government and a Charitable Organization called Friends of the Poor.

We passed The White Marl Arawak Museum a preserved Ancestral Site of Jamaica’s Native People in Central Village and the Rio Cobre River like so many other rivers that has added great economic value to Jamaica. Spain Town as Spanish Town is widely referred to, and once the Capital of Jamaica from 1534-1872 and the place from where the Proclamation of Emancipation was read in 1838 to end Slavery in Jamaica is where I grew up and so I could map my way out even blind folded in pitch darkness let alone a bright sunny day.

Places like the Spanish Town Hospital, Police Station and Prison Oval that are all great historic places in the pages of Jamaica’s history were still at their original locations. I’d noticed several new commercial industrial developments in Greendale going up and the same held true along the main roads in Spanish Town. The construction of new roads and houses and other buildings were visible in every area. Spain Town given so many informal commercial hagglers occupying its sidewalks was well kept and many commuters and taxis lined the streets. Kentucky Fried Chicken, MacDonald’s and Mother’s Patty with their magnificent buildings are Eateries along the route with small Cook Shops and Restaurants pouring out the smell of Jamaica’s delicacies.

Jamaica known to have the most churches per capita in the world as surly added to the number as each road driven on seems to have new ones either completed or in its building stages. Phillippo Baptist Church erected from 1827 and also Spanish Town Cathedral shortly built by the British in 1655 after their conquest of the Island from Spain is the two most notable churches in Spanish Town.

The entire drive from the Airport must have taken about an hour due to the traffic but I was finally home, my sons both asleep, no doubt from the heat and the early 4.am start of the trip from our Toronto’s residence to Pearson International.

About the author

Kharl Daley