Star Date: April
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Chilled out - Limin - relaxed - Rasta/Patois Greeting)
"Open your eyes and look within.
(Bob Marley (1945 - 1981)
Out of many, one people. Jamaica is a true melting pot. Looking out over a beach, the palette of colors range from blue-white newcomers turning red, to beautiful brown cultural mixtures to ebony black; the full spectrum. Christians, Rastas, animists, wealthy cruise tourists dripping gold, poor touts trying to make a dime, old ladies selling mangoes, young babies wailing, all side by side.
For everyone there is a flow to life. We just need to find it and jump in, with only trust as a life preserver. Opportunities open up. Life unfolds. Manifestation with right intent - Joseph and I each know this to be true and our life, our trip, often operates in this way.
Things looked bleak in the accommodation department for Jamaica. Lonely Planet Guide, usually well researched, was almost useless with rooms starting at $80-$100 a night. We almost never make reservations in advance. We find it limits our options. Sometimes we will book the first couple of nights after a flight just to give us somewhere to land, if it's a late night arrival and if there is an internet special. We had settled into our ocean front room in Ocho Rios for the first 4 nights but the 2nd day were out looking for the next place. After an unsuccessful morning of looking we stopped at a small local restaurant/guesthouse and made a deal for a month's stay. It was obvious that a long term stay was the best price. Their perfect little 'honeymoon suite' with kitchen was our home away from home for the next month. Friends owned a private beach 1 block down the hill and we enjoyed our daily swim, walk down the beach then along the river and back 'home', stopping at a little rum bar for a chat with the locals and a fresh coconut.
Having been invited to a 'Hash' in Malaysia I took a ride with Marion, our Guesthouse owner, to experience a Hash, Jamaican style. Hashers worldwide, often ex-pats and locals, gather bi-weekly to visit, take a hike/run, share a meal, then some drinks. It was a fun group and a challenging hike up the mountain.
Our monthly lease up, we kept our eyes open to where life would lead us next. While looking at a couple of cute puppies after the hike I started talking with the woman next to me. Hitting it off I gave her my number in case she knew of any places for rent. Within 18 hours we were moving to their 3 bedroom oceanfront home with a pool, as she headed back to the States.
Taking our daily evening walk from there, straight up the mountain from the ocean through the lush forest, we met the owner of Bob Marley's former estate. He invited us to stay 4 nights with him when our month was up down on the ocean. We enjoyed getting to know Richie and Miyu as we relaxed in the breathtaking surroundings, swam in the pool with a sweeping coastline view, and saw the recording studio where icon, Bob, sang some of his tunes. We could feel Bob's presence as "Buffalo Soldier" vibrated throughout the compound. We just never know where we will end up! Our way of travel is so much different than many people we meet. From home they book one hotel, then the next hotel in the next city and on and on; limiting any spontaneity or possibility of change of plans. We have learned to take care of the obvious necessities while on the road, but then just take one day at a time and let things unfold.
From Port Marie we took the route taxi
back into 'Ochy'. After
buying vegetables and a 'gelly' coconut at the market
we stopped for some tasty vegan Rasta food.
Getting Rasta food is a total experience. Not only
is the food tasty and organic but the interesting Rastas
we meet make it worth the visit. There we met
Kasta who walked us down to his good friend Dennis' hotel
on the ocean. A gorgeous view with a room. He offered to match the price of our
last accommodation. Three months in Jamaica, a
pricey destination, on a real budget. Life unfolds
as needed. Be grateful and open. Reservations with the Universe are
the only ones to make!
We all create our own Heaven, or more often our own Hell on Earth. When it gets all rolled into one package, speeding towards you like an avalanche, it is a real bewildering experience.
The perfect place, the 3 bedroom oceanfront home. Life on the road has it's moments, and a chance to hide away soothed by the ocean breeze and waves lapping at our doorstep was just what we needed.
Making friends with the staff and the 83 year old caretaker, Len, we settled into a month of "Heaven" The first night the 4 dogs barked non stop under our window. Corrosion eating away at our perfect bubble. The 4th night the neighbors had a party from 6pm to 6am with music so loud we couldn't use the pool for our moonlight swim or even sleep. Without earplugs it would have been a disaster. Awakening to a hell and damnation sermon at 5am vibrating through our walls we knew Hell was just around the corner.
Both loving animals, we knew a little well needed training would turn those useless barkers into good watch dogs. A combination of a surprise shower of water to dampen their yapping and tying them up at night, in turn, did the trick after about 2 weeks. Ahhh, uninterrupted sleep.
Sounded easy? Well along the ocean corrosion eats through even stainless steel. After over 9 years of travel we have developed pretty hard armor traveling on public buses, in the back of trucks and driving around Africa. Not much bothers us. It's all relative.
We like our space. Renting a 3 bedroom home, with an arrangement to show up for cleaning once a week seemed easy. The help got paid for staying away. We thought they would be happy. In a territorial dance, like cocks crowing, the two maids kept just walking through the house at all hours, making tea, hanging out front talking. We spent time with them, showed our pictures, baked cookies, bent over backwards to be nice. First the dog chains disappeared. Next we caught one maid taking the collars so we couldn't chain up the puppies from 10pm to 7am. (Part of the training). She started yelling and swearing at us, as we stood there drop jawed at the display in front of us. We requested that the owner in the States tell them to stay off the property until we leave. Easy, we thought. The next day we locked the gate, one of the workers broke the lock with a hammer, and after yelling and swearing refused to leave. She was very angry and totally our of control once again, showing her mental instability. At that point it would have been best to walk back in the house and call the police, but hindsight is always 20 - 20. When Joseph asked her to leave the property we were renting, she threw her hammer at Joseph. It hit him in the chest, which was bleeding and two weeks later still had black and blue marks and a bump the size of a walnut. Thank God it hadn't hit him in the eye!
Yelling, which immediately attracts a crowd of otherwise bored Jamaican onlookers, is a common occurrence we were told. There were by this time at least 20 onlookers. We felt this needed to be reported to the authorities to avoid reoccurrence, so we called the police. 45 minutes later the keystone cops arrived. Amazingly the yelling lady and her mob had disappeared minutes before.
Off Joseph went to the police station to file a report. This process was delayed for almost an hour because it was the weekly religious revival, with all police and on lookers preaching, singing and joining in. Bizarre. With the mountains of hand written ledgers in the station documenting crimes, we hope that all the hallelujahs do their trick.
Looking bad with her actions, this 'lady from Hell' compensated by starting lies against us. "Joseph had yelled racial slurs at her, we were stealing from the house" (yes and stashing it in our 18" suitcases), etc., etc., etc. She made the political mud slinging in the U.S. presidential campaigning look like a walk in the park. We let her sweat it out until the court hearing and then, considering all the lies with neighbors swearing to it, Joseph just dropped the charges. Enough energy wasted. The owners in the Midwest were informed and we hope there were consequences to prevent anything from reoccurring again. It was a weird, bizarre look into the high spirited local life in Jamaica, where an eye for an eye fills the courts with domestic charges. This was just another learning experience as we travel, one that needn't repeat itself. The court was ripe with fodder for a Jamaican 'Judge Judy' reality TV show. Seems that you only go to jail if you kill someone and charges gain importance if blood is drawn. That day the guy who stole a laptop had his Mother pay the cost of it to the cashier on the spot and he walked free. A wife of 40 years was sick of the abuse from her husband when drunk, so she threatened him with a machete. No blood so no problem. The same old tale where someone says "Sorry" and all returns to dysfunction in the land of "De-Nile". We thought we were in Egypt.
It's still like a bad dream fading away as we sit, relaxed along the ocean, letting the waves soothe our souls. From Hell back to Heaven.
We love Jamaica and the smiles as we walk through the forest, through small villages or along the ocean lined with fishermen. Life seems simple and anger such as we encountered, as in every country worldwide, is usually taken out on the poor family behind closed doors. This anger is often fueled by a hit or two or 10 of the local "white rum", one step down from aviators fuel.
"Reggae is a music that has plenty fight. But only the music should fight, not the people."
(Bob Marley (1945 - 1981)
One thing balancing this small island nation are the peace loving Rastas, quietly spreading their goodwill and non violence to those around them.
After meeting hundreds of Rastas in our 3 month stay we could quickly pick out the look alike 'rascalfarians' from the real thing. Dreadlocks, just called locks, are a popular hair fashion and don't mean the person is a real Rasta. Dressing in red, yellow, green and black is popular worldwide but true Rasta is in a person's heart.
Rastafarianism is a belief system started in the 1930's in the ghettos of Kingston, following the teachings and prophesies of Marcus Garvey. The poor enthusiastically embraced the ideals. Ras Tafari, the pre coronation name for Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, had fulfilled a prophesy unbeknownst to him, and became King of Kings and Conquering Lion of Zion. Haile Selassie was baffled by his role as 'Rasta Messiah' and when he stepped put of his plane, on his 1966 visit to Jamaica, and saw thousands of herb smoking devotees he immediately retreated to the 'safety' of his jet until he could be guaranteed personal protection through the crowd. Ethiopia is referred to as Zion, the Heaven on Earth. Rastas believe they were taken away by 'White' or 'Pink' people as slaves to Babylon and shall one day return home. A NGO worker in Ethiopia told us that there are thousands of Rastas in Ethiopia but the bewildered locals tell them not to come. Life in the Promised Land is far from ideal.
There are 3 different sects of Rastas but most don't cut their hair and instead wear dreadlocks - often put up in turbans or multicolored crocheted hats. The hair let down often touches the ground. Ganja or marijuana is considered the holy herb and is used in religious rites and as a means of getting closer to their inner spiritual self, Jah (God) and Creation. Herb or marijuana is consumed worldwide. Chill 'mon. There has not been a single death or violent crime related to the herb, unlike tobacco or alcohol, yet 48% of all drug arrests in the US. are for marijuana possession (medicinal or personal use). Almost 900,000 arrested for possession in 2007, 3 out of 4 under the the age of 30. Sad. Rastas often also work with the land and study natural medicinal herbs as alternatives to western medicine. Life goes on without the F.D.A. or pharmaceutical corruption.
Ital food means
it is natural, pure and clean food. For a
Rastafarian it means no salt, no chemicals, no
flesh, no blood, no whites (called white blood:
refined flour and sugar), no
alcohol, no cigarettes and no drugs (herbs are not
considered drugs). Women ('Queen', 'Empress' or
'Sista') play a secondary role in Rastafarianism with
their prime role being to raise multiple children
and serve their King. This is quickly apparent
as scores of male Rastas are seen hanging around and
very few women Rastas are seen. True Rastas are
non-violent with respect, peace and love for those
around them. Finally inter racial marriages
are being accepted and white (pink) Rastas or those
sympathetic to the cause are called "African at
Heart". We were told many times that we were "Rastas
in our hearts" and left many good Rasta friends
'Soon come' means it'll happen when it happens. 'No Problems' 'Zero Problems' 'Irie' 'Chillin' 'Limin'; that's what it's all about in Jamaica. With places like the "Tek it Ezy Bar", the "Drunkin Squid" and "The Juicy Jerk Centre" it is easy to hang out and have a really happy hour. One night, swear to God, we even saw Elvis! With ganja smoke wafting on every breeze there is something for everyone. Or better yet have fun, be social but just get high on life. Leave your stress filled life behind. Remember to take a little Island Irie back in your suitcase. Life is too short to waste it being up-tight or living anything but the life you want to be living.
And so it goes.........................................Next month discover new little jewels; as we visit more precious islands of the Caribbean. Until then let's open our eyes and look within. The answers are waiting. Get rid of the fear. Stop making excuses and start living the life you want. Keep in touch - we always enjoy hearing from you! Take care!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = 85 Jamaican dollars
Business is chilled and although shops say they are always open it usually means that the shop is open when the owner isn't busy. Hours may vary greatly. Markets are open Thurs/Friday/Saturday and most shops, even some of the more modern stores, close on Sunday.
When thinking of Jamaica tourists often think they can smoke marijuana wherever, whenever. Even though its use is widespread with locals it is technically illegal and it can bring on a big fine if a tourist is caught smoking in public. Beware also of sale set-ups.
Reggae Pot Rastaurant: 86 Main St, Across from the Hibiscus Hotel. Phone # 422-4696, 296 3591 Right side towards Pt Marie just up from the Ocho Rios Market in a little plaza. Bom Don and Deamo - brothers cook up some excellent authentic Rasta food daily M-Sat. Friendly Paulette and family serve you with a smile as you hang out with local good soldier Rastas. Only 300-350$J for a overflowing plate of stew, chunks, ackee, vegetables, beans and yams. Yum. The atmosphere and genuine kindness shines through. After an early dinner walk through the Hibiscus Hotel, down the steps to watch a stunning sunset from the wooden dock below.
The Lion House: email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.thelionhousejamaica.com, phone # (876) 917 0356 or (876) 485 0330, A magical surprise awaits you up in the hills behind Ocho Rios. Lizzie, Mahlon, and staff will welcome you warmly into their newly built restaurant, with gorgeous views overlooking the lush Jamaican hills below. Tasty, reasonable, healthy Rasta food that will give you an experience not to be missed. A full bar, art gallery, WiFi, and local organic produce are a bonus. Lunch 9-5 or dinner by reservation (mains 400-500$J). Spirited Lizzie can also arrange walks, cultural encounters or eco-experiences on near by organic farms. Take the route taxi up the hill from near the clock tower (KC Super) up to Breadnut Hill/Colgate. 120$j p.p.
Calabash Ital Rastaurants: Hang out with the local Rastas while enjoying good authentic food in an ire shack in the back of Ocho Rios Market. We were the only 'white' travelers we ever ran into. (400$J large plate) Another cafe is upstairs at 7 James Avenue (down James Ave from the clock tower on your right). Phone # (876) 570-5565. The friendly talented cook, Junior, (570-5565) at the James St location makes the walk up the stairs worth the effort. Modern surroundings for a little more (440$J) Try a refreshing tub of "Soy Scream"when available.
Long term of 1 month or more
578-8024 far in advance for a modern kitchenette in the
west end ($35 per night or less for 3 months or more -
regularly $75 a night Unit 14) 100j$ for a
taxi to the beautiful but crowded 7 mile white sand beach. Peach colored units near Moon
Dance Hotel in the west end.
Budget places recommended to us $50-60