The past two days of hearing steel gates clanging shut and the solid clang of steel bolts sliding home on front, screen and storm doors were really getting to me. This was supposed to be stress-free vacation.
I was not being locked away in some prison for creating some serious crime. I was just visiting elderly friends who made it quite clear that Jamaica was not the place it used to be and barring themselves in their home with triple sliding bolts and triple padlocks on each door was their way of protecting themselves from the bad people that came to rob, plunder and kill.
Every day, he said, he read in the newspaper where some elderly person was killed in their home. “Lawd, me havin a heart attack!” I thought, as I sat each night in the bed while depression and back pain took root, wondering if all the locks and bolts were in place.
Writing this travel feature I am still trying to take it all in …from the little old lady asking if I wanted to buy “some weed,” visiting a home that put Donald Trump’s billions to shame, to the street photographer who produced two US$20 passports with a picture of myself in less than two minutes using a soiled T-shirt as backdrop just so I could keep my visa appointment at the Jamaican Embassy.
There is nothing stress free about Jamaica unless you check yourself into a 5-Star, all inclusive hotel with hot spas, massages and rum and coconut water. I found this bit of paradise with rest and relaxation in the Altmont West Hotel on Montego hip strip. I felt safe; there were people roaming the streets and lots of action taking place. People passing said hello. A far cry from the suburbs where homeowners lived in fear behind bars.
I have heard the expression “Jamaicans are the hardest.” From the smiling Digicel sales clerk selling me the phone chip and a man stealing the code right “under me nose” to just saying hello and expecting to be charged a fee.
Not all of Jamaica is this way; it is a beautiful country with rolling hills, lush greenery, fruits, new airports, better roads, transportation, beaches and the best jerk chicken and pork I have ever tasted in my life.
Unlike my latest trip to Honduras of which I picked for its affordability and meeting new friends, my trip to Jamaica’s north coast of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril was meant to be one of rest and relaxation, there was to be no unsettling drama of misadventures. Just taking in the cultural aroma of Jamaica.
When I arrived back in Cayman the first thing my family and friends asked me was how was Jamaica?
I too was wondering the same question as I pondered how to relate the feeling of “yu safe man” to they will “kill ya and throw u in hole.” The older Jamaicans remember the good days of safety and less crime, the middle aged are trying to achieve what the older people did not and the younger ones seemed to me from the places I visited were just having a good time.
The fear of being targeted as a retiree with no means and double barring all doors from intruders; I too felt that fear as depression and a sense of cabin fever took over before I hastily packed my bags and bolted like a scared filly.
Crime is every place in this little world but I will never again take for granted the freedom of everyday living we so enjoy in Cayman without the bars on gates, windows and doors.
A vacation in Jamaica can be wonderful getaway. Evaluating your priorities, researching your destination, and deciding on where to go, what to do and what to see. Also expect the unsuspected, I did all that and still was not prepared for the things that came my way.
One thing I can certainly say about my trip to Jamaica, which was meant to be a stress free vacation … I am glad to be back home where I could feel the safety of home and how fortunate I am to be able to still leave the doors and windows open.
Though I may not consider myself a seasoned traveller, I have visited a few of our neighbour countries. The freedom and quality of life that we sometimes so take for granted even though we have our share of crimes is nothing compared to what lengths some people will go to feel safe in their own homes.
Cayman is peaceful compared to a lot of places in the Caribbean despite rising crime. Feeling like a caged pigeon in your home is not a nice thing.
If every one takes for granted that we have it bad in Cayman with all the crime and robberies taking place; one should take a vacation.