Trip Reports

The Other Side Of Tourism Part 12


The second week was when everything started happening.

I met Valerie, a middle-to-upper class English lady, of mixed parentage, (her class seemed to matter) who had arrived with her two well-spoken and well-bred sons (twins) to Jamaica. Her husband had deferred their vacation so many times that she decided to leave without him. They had hired a bus for themselves for US$100 a day. It had fifteen seats and they had used it for sightseeing.

“If only we had met before, you could have come with us.” she said sincerely.

“Well, I have run out of money now, anyway, but it was nice of you to ask. I am so glad that I gave them the deposit, at least I will have some money when I leave.”

“They tried to get the deposit from me, I wouldn’t give it to them though. I told them that I wasn’t going to make any phone calls..”

“And they accepted that?”

“What could they do?”

Maybe I should have been more assertive, too. But it didn’t really matter that I had paid it, it was just that I thought it was a ruling of the hotel. I didn’t realize you could just refuse to pay it.

I also met two German women, (an aunt and her niece) who were at loggerheads with each other for economic reasons and moral reasons. The aunt (Helga – still living in Germany and aged about 47 years) had a nice figure and wanted to show it off in a bikini and stand naked by a window, while the niece felt it was inappropriate behaviour. Helga also wanted to talk with anyone that spoke to her. The niece (Maria – now living in California and aged about 34) felt that she was too old to wear a bikini (albeit the aunt had a magnificent and flawless figure) and that it was immoral to stand naked before a window (“You don’t know what types you might attract.”) Maria also felt that you had to be careful with who you spoke to.. you could be taken off and raped. Helga was convinced that nothing bizarre would happen to her while Maria felt that her fears were justified.

I couldn’t help asking Maria about the deposit. She hadn’t paid a deposit either. She had told them that she had only come with US$100 and there is no way in the world she was going to give it to them.

The grape-nut and cherry ice cream successfully wooed me into submission, an interaction that proved very fulfilling. I met my sister Sonia and spent my last evening with my brother, Winston.

I felt much better, things were falling into place. I picked up my book and started reading it again. I was in a calmer mood now.


Sonia picked me up from the Hotel. She had warned me about the mosquitos and I had shown my hesitancy about going to her place but she had insisted and her son seemed eager for my company too.

“It’s alright” she said, “I’ll put out the ting fe kill dem for you.”

I brought my long nightie with me, wore my trousers, my long-sleeved blouse and a jacket. If necessary, I would sleep with them on. I had only been bitten twice so far and I only had two days left to go before I left the island. It would be a pity to go and visit Sonia and come back with all mosquito bites.

“I don’t travel with all these people you know” (pointing to a line of disquieted and unseemly females) “They are too noisy and we have to wait too long.” Her voice was verging towards arrogance. “I have to charter a taxi.”

“Charter a taxi? I thought people only chartered planes.”

“Oh, no, my dear, we charter taxis out here and it will cost me $60 but it drops me off at my gate.”

We went around the corner and jumped into a ‘taxi’. A beaten down piece of tin that rumbled along like it had a stomach ache. Ever so often we would be pitched from our seats as the driver swerved to avoid a large hole in the road or drove over a ditch that he did not see in time.

Sonia’s apartment was at the side of a large house. We had to walk down some steps and over some pipes and around some bricks and under some stairs before we reached it. But we reached and faced a grilled door locked by a large padlock. I immediately sensed the presence of mosquitos and started scratching.

The humidity was unbearable and already my body started itching. I kept hitting myself. (Sonia should never have reminded me about the mosquitos) I was paranoid.

As soon as we arrived, we caught up on old times and had quite a few laughs before resigning to bed.

She turned out the light and it was pitch black. Not dark, pitch black. You could not see anything. I was in bed with my long nighty and my jacket. I had covered my head with the sheet and still through all this, I imagined the mosquitos, bellicose in the unmerciful darkness.

I tried to free myself from imagined and real insects. I could not sleep. I was slapping my legs, my neck, my arms, from things that were not there and missing those that were.

Morning could not come soon enough.. I jumped up at 6:00 a.m. with two red bumps — one on my shoulder, the other on my back. The mosquitos had successful penetrated the silky barricade. Sonia had woken too and was in the kitchen making breakfast (liver and breadfruit). I ate breakfast and watched her get dressed for work.

The phone rang.

“Hullo Julian… what time will you be ready?”

[He must have said 8 o’clock]

“O.K. I will be ready by 8:00.”

Sonia looked at me. “That was my ride. He takes me to work every morning. I meet him down the road.”

I looked at my watch. After washing up, eating breakfast and washing the plates, it was 7:30. Sonia was combing her hair. She seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time considering she had not put on her clothes yet or eaten her breakfast. She was picking her hair with the comb, stroking it, pampering it where it didn’t need it. Her hair looked perfect to me. It had been ten minutes and it had reached a stage where stroking and petting did not seem to make any difference.

“Sonia! you should be putting on your clothes now.. it is 7:45 and you are supposed to meet Julian at 8.00. Your hair looks fine.”

“Stop rush me man!”

I remained quiet. I didn’t understand it. She was dependent on someone for a ride and she was just taking her time as though it didn’t matter. Besides which, she started work at 8:30 — if she missed the ride she would be late.

She lifted the hair spray and sprayed her coiffure.. then she dipped her fingers in some gel and patted it on the side. Took the sharp tail of the afro comb and drew designs on the side of her head. I couldn’t believe she was doing all of this, while in her bra and panties, with 7 minutes left! But she was.

Finally satisfied, she put her blouse and skirt on and placed a multi-coloured scarf about her neck. Somehow the scarf didn’t look right to her… she twisted it and spun it and took it off and put it back on, tried it one way and then another..

“Sonia! it’s 8 o’clock.”

“Hush man, you making me nervous… I don’t like to rush you know.”

“But you have someone waiting. You should allow yourself enough time.” For a moment I felt guilty, after all, she had got up early to make me breakfast but she didn’t have to spend so much time on her hair and her scarf!

She seemed satisfied with her scarf at last and then it came time for the belt. The belt that was made for the skirt seemed to match pretty well, but no, Sonia needed a contrast.. so, rummaging in her wardrobe (8:05) she looks for an alternative and finds another one and puts it on.

“He’s probably gone by now.” I mumbled, seeming more worried that she was.

“Me ready, man, me ready.. I don’t even have time to eat my lobster. I’ll have to take it with me.” Unstressed, she found it appropriate to be humorous.

“When you come to America, Sonia, you will have to learn to be on time, otherwise you’ll be without a job.” I remarked, agitated.

“Yes, Myrna man, I will deal with that when I reach.”

We walked out of the door and towards Julian’s house which was about two houses away.

“See. you deh a rush me and de man don’t even ready yet.”

It was true, he wasn’t ready. So why give a time? He might as well have said, just come when you’re ready. We didn’t have a long wait, maybe five minutes but I a kill up meself for nothing and I had also succeeded in flustering Sonia.

Part 13 will be published next month….

About the author

Myrna Loy