Trip Reports

The Other Side of Tourism – Part 2


The driver put my suitcases down and stood loitering. I hated the way he stood there obviously waiting for compensation when it was clearly written in the contract that all service charges to and from the airport were included. I resented the fact that people like him were always successful in appealing to the softer side of my nature. I gave him a US dollar and went inside.

“Yu room no ready yet” the receptionist said.

“When will it be ready” I asked, exasperated.

Not answering my question she said:

“The management offers a complimentary drink, what would you like, Rum Punch or Fruit Punch?”

“I’ll take the Rum Punch, thank you”. I needed it after so much of my time had been wasted.

“By the time you finish your drink your room will be ready” she said smiling.

(She obviously underestimated my ability to consume quickly – it was down the hatch in two seconds flat). Concealing her repugnance, she said:

“Would you like to go and sit over there, ma’am?” pointing to some wicker chairs decorated with floral cushions, in a dimly-lit corner next to the entrance of the restaurant.

“Maybe you would like something to eat?”

I walked over to the large menu propped up against a divider. Ackee and Saltfish – US$5.00? Why were they quoting in US Dollars when we were in Jamaica? All the prices were quoted in US dollars. I went and sat down on the soft floral cushions, determined not to entertain their prices.


I sat around for about forty-five minutes. In half an hour I was supposed to meet that woman, what was her name? “Genevieve”.

I was directed to my room by a foolish-grinning individual who must have thought that he’d struck lucky, me being single, and him being my first encounter.

“My name is Tyrone!” he volunteered proudly.

“Really?” I said, without exchanging my name.

He put down the one suitcase I had brought and proceeded towards the television.

“You have cable television, but there is no remote control”, he explained with a professional spirit.

He approached the air-conditioner.

“You ‘ave air-conditioning, too, yu wan’ me fe tun it on?” raising his eyebrow as if to signify that he had the ability to please me.

I nodded. He left it off.

“Room service is me, extension 349”. His mouth widened as he beamed with anticipation, exposing missing teeth at the back and disclosing what was left of the few he had in the front — whittled discoloured protrusions.

“I won’t be needing room service, thank you” I assured him.

I looked down at his shoes… shoes told me about the man. He failed miserably. The dust-covered shoes had obviously been donated to him by someone much larger, since his feet leaned indeterminably inside them. Wanting to get him out of my sight as quickly as possible, I grudgingly gave him 1 US dollar. [24 Jamaican dollars is a whole heap of money — it can buy him one soda if him lucky with change left.]

I put down my things. The hotel was situated right next to the renowned Pelican Seafood Restaurant. I had heard about ‘the Pelican’ from my sister, so I was happy that it was so close.

I looked around the hotel room… I was not impressed. Someone had practiced a make-shift plastering job on the ceiling; the carpet had stains on it; on examining the sheets they had tears and holes in them, but my consistent evaluation, despite its seemingly unkempt appearance, was that everything was clean.

I turned on the television… HBO? I switched it off. I turned on the air-conditioner, it sounded like frenzied rats hurling their constipated stools at each other, but missing every time. The air-conditioner did the job; the cool air greeted me in a cordial manner. I went out onto the veranda and watched the ocean seduce the naked beach with envy, in out, in out, it thrust forward against the bank and then retreated into itself in easy gliding motion.

My observations were interrupted by a woman carrying a large basket of fruit and vegetables on her head. Innovative, I thought. I raced to my bag for the camera, but then realized it was not loaded with film. By the time I had put the film in, and fumbled with the instrument, the lady was out of focus. I would be prepared next time I thought, but opportunity knocks but once.

I could see a beach from my window, a counterfeit, designed to fulfill the promise advertised in the brochure of a ‘view overlooking the beach’. At night, the imitation was obscured by the evening mist and enhanced by the new moon; it looked beautiful. No one, except those walking barefoot, would realize that the light brown colored soil was dried grass and not soft sand. The large white rocks, caressing each other, leashed the waters, separating one beach from the other. I went back into the hotel room and took my clothes out of the suitcase to hang them up. I noticed that the hotel had provided deformed wire triangles for this purpose. It was just as well I had brought my own hangers.

Part 3 will be published next month….

About the author

Myrna Loy