Trip Reports

The Other Side of Tourism – Part 10

Chapter XVII


I decided that I would go to the beach party. After spending the equivalent of nearly JA$1,000 for the trip to Mandeville, which could have provided me with food for five days, I decided that US$45 was nothing, especially if I enjoyed myself.

I called Genevieve and asked her if there was still time to make a reservation (since it was that same evening). She said she would come over right away for the money.

She arrived within 10 minutes. I asked her if it would look strange me going there by myself, but she assured me that she would be there also. I felt better. I parted with my money and she gave me a slip of paper. I thanked her and she told me that the coach would be ready by 6.30 p.m.

I was excited.

I put on my sexy salmon mini dress, my ‘fish-net’ sandals and wore my ‘Halle Berry’ wig.

The bus arrived on time. I boarded and on looking around, everyone was in t-shirts, shorts and jeans. Dammit, I was over-dressed (as usual). It was too late to change.

“Do you ‘ave your receipt?” the driver asked.

“Oh, do I need it?”

“Of course you need it!”

Accepting that “gruffness” was a part of the culture I conceded.

“Please wait, I have to run upstairs to get it”

I ran upstairs, and pulled everything out to look for this piece of paper I had discarded. It took me a full five minutes to find it. Victorious, I ran downstairs just to see the bus driving off. [What was this? I pay my big-big US$45 and he is ready to drive off and leave me?]

“Yoh!” I shouted, unbefitting of a woman dressed the way I was.

The bus screeched to a halt.

‘Couldn’t you wait? You knew I was coming?” I snapped.

(But there again, maybe he didn’t know I was coming. Maybe he thought I was trying to con a free ride, or that I hadn’t really bought a ticket. It was possible).

The evening was already showing signs of mediocrity. Disparagingly, I walked to the back of the bus noticing loving couples all the way to the rear. I did not see Genevieve, either, I was the lone-ranger, sticking out like a parrot amongst a field full of angels.

To make matters worse, my command to ensure that the driver heard me, had labelled me as a ‘street gal’. Nobody reciprocated the series of smiles I administered on my way, in fact, they looked disturbed at the prospect of my participation.

“Mek sure yu get your bamboo cup because without your bamboo cup you will not be able to drink as much as you like”, the driver cackled.

The bus driver dropped us off about 5 minutes away (he could have waited) to a dingy beach (especially in the light). There was an old shed where a lady took our receipts and gave us the notorious ‘bamboo jug’ the driver had told us about, in return. [One half-dead bamboo cup for US$45!] The platform for the entertainers was being prepared. The food was just arriving.

“One word of advice… drink some of the hot pepper pot soup before you drink the liquor so that you don’t get drunk” the driver was shouting, as if trying to create a mood of festivity.

The tourists dismounted the bus and looked around. They felt ripped off but they dared not admit it openly, they would share their disgust for the quieter moments, or for when they returned to wherever they came from. I guess they were still hoping that the ‘eat as much as you like food and drink’ would compensate for their disillusionment.

Nearly everyone toddled off in the direction of the makeshift tables and chairs to secure a place by sitting down, or by leaving a part of their belongings on the table, and then got up to fill their bamboo cups. There was a choice of rum punch, rum punch or rum punch. It was a ‘drink-as-much-as-you-like-rum-punch’ party.

I sat there, watching two men lay down smooth planks of wood which would soon constitute the ‘dance-floor’. One thing I can say is that the people who were setting up the atmosphere for the evening, were very resourceful. Out of a few pieces of wood they had made a stage, a dance floor, tables and chairs and with the assistance of drapes and lighting they had transformed the beach into something almost magical.

It soon started getting dark, and we could no longer see the blemishes of moments before. Instead, we saw a white stretch of sand, calm clear water, coconut trees, people sitting at long tables with red tablecloths, drinking ‘wine’ out of sophisticated mugs.

The spotlight lit the stage, giving it a professional aura, and the band, that had been criticized for their ragged attire, started singing melodiously, songs of well-known artists, creating a feeling of warmth and passion, negating the urge to criticize.

I didn’t mind rum punch. Drinking it would help me feel less conspicuous. My light-headedness would eradicate any feelings of self-consciousness.

Another bus load came, and there were some welcoming black faces on it. I saw a couple of women (unattached) and I felt a bit more relaxed. They came and sat at my table.

It wasn’t long before the food was served (eat-as-much-as-you-like-until-it-done). The food was finished after one plate full.

The entertainment had been selected to both please and entice. A good-looking, well-defined, (greased-covered to enhance definition) man appeared, bearing a g-string. He was very provocative. The tourists were asked to “look anywhere”, but anywhere they looked they had to put ‘money there’. By the time he had finished, money was oozing out of his g-string, both at the front and at the back. I put $10 there.

A fire-eater performed, creating both tension and excitement, then participation was encouraged by the limbo dancers. A lot of people joined in; and then to round it off they had a competition. One of the tourists bared her breasts, another bared her thonged behind, a man exposed his ginger pubic hairs and another his tan-forsaken bum, in an effort to win a bottle of rum. The girl who bared her breasts won the competition.

It ended at 10.30 p.m.

Part 11 will be published next month….

About the author

Myrna Loy