Why is this teller staring at me? And what’s with that smirk on her face? Could she be amusing herself with my frustration? Here I am patiently sitting in the bank enjoying the air conditioned building and reassuring myself that this is the way it is in Jamaica. It’s natural to wait. But here is this woman smirking at me. I walk away to discuss my agitation with no other than my cousin. He walks up to the woman to learn about what’s causing the hold up. Is it a coincidence that less than a minute later, I’m called to the counter to retrieve my money?
Maybe she is laughing at what she knows awaits me outside. Bustling in the hot heat in downtown Kingston. I’m going to Port Royal to spend the day, or so I had planned. I stop at mother’s restaurant to buy a patty not for myself but my chaperone, already I’m getting tired of patties. I pull out my bright yellow umbrella to block out some of the sun. What’s puss-puss? These boys standing by the door of mothers blurted out the term in a sentence, I assume in reference to me. I walk on, thought out of mind. Now, I’m faced with a crowd of people all pushing to get in the 98 bus after waiting in the hot sun for some time. A woman ask for $20, she’s not homeless, but may need money to make up her bus fare. I give it to her. It’s a large sized yellow bus, with the Jamaican colours printed at the front in the shape of three diamonds. Wouldn’t a line make things easier? All these years, and people haven’t learn the effectiveness of lines. I made it in, my chaperone blocking some of the crowd away from me. I got in and bypass the driver and found two empty seats next to each other in the middle of the bus. My chaperone finally enters, pays our fare and sits next to me.
Upon arriving at Port Royal, what was once the richest city and the wickedest in the world, the reality of this town did not come close to my expectations. Yes it is filled with history, from the design of the compound which is in the style of a ship to the “giddy house”, a small room that makes you dizzy when you walk through it, to the canon or rifle that sits at the back facing the sea. Those had to be created as a result of the earthquake that created more land space which left the real compound with the canons ineffective to shoot invading enemies. Still, it is far from aesthetically appealing. In fact, it should be removed from the list of things that tourist should do. I brought beach clothes, but then was told the beach is not recommended for swimming. In the end, I was not interested in doing anything in this town but get out. It was too desolate, and too isolated for me. I was back on the bus by 5:15pm and off to downtown Kingston we go, again.
By the time I arrived home, I felt stressed. The day took a toll on me and I felt the need to isolate myself. Was this a sudden feeling of homesickness? I felt teary eyed at a few instance but quickly found things to occupy my time to avoid the sad feeling.
The next morning, I had a talk with my good friend also living in Jamaica in Runaway Bay. She had much to say: “When I tried to open a community school, the people made it crash. “Its raining today, I’m not coming to work” employees would say. Banks close at 3pm, so when employees need to leave work to go to the bank you have to let them. Also various businesses close at 4pm, as such everyone leaves work to do business. This is expected. This also impact tourists because they have nothing to do after 5pm. They need to change stuff. The tellers stop to greet each other and have conversations. The Kingston experience might be different from the country experience, but I don’t know because I’ve never been.
In Kingston, I went to Burger King during the week and by 6:30pm the security officers told us they will be closing shortly. Maybe this is how it is everywhere, I think. I encountered very long lines at the banks and the service takes forever.
I travelled around the Kingston area because I went to see another cousin who lives there. She had tons of errands to run from afternoon to night. On the drive, I see pockets of parties going on everywhere. People selling jerk chicken/pork in large drums, panhandlers are still out requesting to wash the windshields for money. Some are relentless. All my cousins are straightforward about not giving them money, even when they insist on cleaning. At one point, I thought one panhandler would stretch his hand in the passenger side and slice my face with a knife.
So it has been a busy week. My conclusion is this, one week alone would not have been sufficient for me to reacquaint myself with my first home. I have only touched the surface of learning about Jamaica so I still have 13 other parishes to tour, will this be possible?