Two weeks ago, my family and I visited Jamaica. This was my 8th trip to the island country, and it did not disappoint. I first visited Jamaica when I was 7 years old, by taking a cruise with my mother and sister. We visited Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. I remember all of the wonderful crafts back then, but was frightened by the pushy sellers of their crafts. It was terrifying to be pulled away from my mother and sister and then lose them in a crowd. Thankfully, it did not scare me away from the land that I love.
Five years ago, we visited Ocho Rios, Kingston, and the Blue Mountains for 10 days on a self-directed luxury tour of an old pirate city, coffee plantations, reggae heritage, and beach bliss. We arrived shortly after a hurricane blew through the island, so electricity was sporadic and the roads were a bit spotty, so we flew by helicopter from Strawberry Hill to Ocho Rios. Back then, I felt as if time had stopped for the citizens of Jamaica. Goats were tethered to the fence posts and mongrel dogs were wandering the streets. The craft market had the same feeling of pushy sales people, but the difference about it was my attitude. Now, I understood that the reason they were pushy was because if they didn’t sell their wares, they may not be able to feed their families that evening. Since many stalls had identical items, it was difficult to distinguish between the crafts that the salesperson made and those purchased in a distribution center, or worse, China.
On this trip, we stayed within the confines of the resort except for a quick trip to the supermarket. The biggest difference that we noticed was the relative affluence that has arrived in this island nation. The mom and pop grocery store has been taken over by a supermarket that rivals anything in the States, with the prices to match. There are shopping malls with international brands such as Harley Davidson and late model vehicles are everywhere. The roads are no longer pockmarked with VW sized holes and are easy to navigate. The craft markets are still there, but our resort at Half Moon Bay had lovely people working. They would bring out tables and fill them with the islands wares while creating baskets under the shade of a coconut tree.
My daughter and I had the obligatory braids put into our hair with pony beads dangling from the ends. We also picked up a doll for my 4-year-old daughter and a banana leaf basket that was made in front of our eyes.
The trip was only 5 nights long due to pressing business needs at home. Next time, we will extend the trip to at least 10 nights and explore more of what the Montego Bay area has to offer. We will ditch the all-inclusive meal plans and explore the jerk shacks and reggae bars. Hope it isn’t too far off, because even after 2 weeks, I have a Jamaican state of mind.