A great article by a Jamaican visiting from Europe and rediscovering the warmth of Jamaicans.
Trip Reports

The Warmth & Spontaneity

Spontaneous applause broke out as the British Airways jet carrying my family and I from London touched down on Jamaican soil. It was obvious that many others onboard shared our feelings of happiness at finally making it “back home ah yard”, plus relief on having a safe landing.

We could not wait to make it through immigration and customs, which both turned out to be smooth sailing. The porters were friendly as usual, and one of them recognized my husband from the days when he used to live in a certain eastern parish of Jamaica. “Wait, ah you dat? How you doing, man?” “Alright, man, alright”. My father and sister-in-law were there to meet us, as we stepped out into the very warm Jamaican sunshine. In a matter of minutes we were driving into Kingston, past the new highway leading to the airport road, which was under construction. Our first stop was the bank to change some foreign exchange into local currency. And no sooner had we got out of the cars in the bank parking lot, then I saw an old high school friend approaching in a car. It was just like old times.

Next it was on to see my husband’s relatives in Portmore, in the parish of St. Catherine, and that was another warm reunion. The next three days were spent recovering from jet lag, and calling friends and relatives. Afterwards it was time to start visiting the many relatives we had scattered around Kingston and its environs.

I learned that Jamaica now boasted 12 radio stations and three television stations. What with the liberalized and expanded cellular telephone market, it seemed the communications field had literally blossomed overnight! My husband took advantage of the quick convenience now being offered, and bought a Digicel telephone then later bought telephone cards to make daily calls. This meant independence from borrowing telephones or using telephone booths. It also meant friends and relatives could quickly contact us wherever and whenever we happened to be.

Being there at the time of the annual Independence celebrations meant savoring cultural items such as Independence street dances, Festival celebrations, Jonkanoo and the National Dance Theatre Company. We won’t even mention the amount of jerked pork, escovietched fish, ackee and codfish, jerked chicken which was consumed and washed down with my favourite sodas… kola champagne or ginger beer. Of course, no visit to Jamaica would be complete with just a stay in Kingston… we took off for Ocho Rios, St. Ann for a week of relaxation and fun. The people there were fantastic and helpful. The highlight of our time there was a visit to the fairly new attraction called Dolphin Cove. There we observed nurse sharks and manta rays, and could swim with the dolphins. We handled the iguana, macaw birds and Jamaican boa snake (I should point out that they have no poisonous venom). They were all used to human contact and the birds performed a few tricks like saying hello and taking sunflower seeds from our lips.

Another great part of the trip was when my husband’s friends and relatives gathered at a friend’s house on a beach for three days in celebration of his birthday. It was fantastic being able to party for three days non-stop… and right on the beach too! The food, drinks, dancing, games and good conversation flowed like a river.

All during my trip, one fact was brought home to me – the coldness of Europe and most Europeans are no match for the warmth and spontaneity of the average Jamaican.

About the author

Gillian Lewis Whylie