A much more "native" Jamaica.

Trip Start Mar 15, 2003
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Where I stayed
Piper's house - Sav La Mar

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Saturday, May 24, 2003

May 2003

This entry is about my 2nd trip to Jamaica, all made possible by a Jamaican police officer (Piper is his nickname) I met on my first trip 2 months earlier.  We stayed in contact after my first trip and he offered to let me stay at his house in Savanna La Mar, Westmoreland.  Without this offer the trip never would have been possible since I couldn't afford to fly and pay for accommodations.  I was also looking so forward to staying more in the country and seeing more of the "real" Jamaica.

Just as it was 2 months ago, as soon as I entered the immigration area at Sangster Int'l airport in Mobay, the singing ladies were there welcoming the tourists with a song called "Welcome to Jamaica".  Its such a pleasant way to pass the time while standing in line for your passport stamp.  It was much more pleasant than the following 30 minutes.  First of all I had issues at immigration because I didn't know Piper's home address to fill out on the immigration card.  So they wouldn't let me through until they could reach him on the phone to confirm.  Second, I had brought down a computer to donate to a school (on behalf of someone back home).  There was some debate on whether I'd have to pay duty to bring it in but they finally decided it wasn't worth enough to worry about.

It was pouring rain when I stepped outside so I was hoping Piper was ready and waiting.  The only problem is I kinda forgot what he looked like since it had been 2 months and I didn't know him that well.  But I guess I wasn't that hard to spot because he found me.  He loaded up my bags into the car and I took a minute to inhale the Caribbean air once again.  Its so good for the soul.  For the split second I was actually in the rain before getting into the car, it managed to saturate me.  But the air is so warm its never an issue.

I have to say that out of all my trips, this one is the one that I got to see the MOST regular Jamaican things and people.  I HATE to this day that a digital camera wasn't a part of my life yet because I missed out on so many pictures that I'll never get again.  But I'll post what I have anyways.

First stop on the way to Sav La Mar was KFC (still in Mobay).  We hit the drive through to last through the 2 hour drive to his house.  This would be the only time I ate fast-food on this trip.  Next stop was a little roadside place that didnt even look like a place LOL.  During the week I discover these "non-places" are quite common.  We entered the small wooden structure where I found a bartender with a full selection of beverages and a couple TV's with the day's cricket game on.  We each had a Red Stripe, chatted with a couple locals and started back on our drive.  The rest of the drive we talked about how my flight was, he played tour guide and explained everything we were seeing (most Jamaicans take it upon themselves to do this), and tried to plan out the week around his job.  It was just before elections at this time so Piper advised me he'd be really busy at work, as a police officer, since election time can get very heated in Jamaica.

Piper's House

I was charmed to death to see where he lived, where regular Jamaicans live!  Driving up to a fairly large, gated house only to find out he occupies one room in the house.  Down the hall a single mom and her son occupied another room, and they all shared a kitchen and bathroom.  The other side of the house was occupied by a couple and their daughter.  Its so cool that this is normal, and it makes me think instantly of how fortunate we all are in North America.  Piper told me that most of this housing scheme is occupied by police officers. 

In the photo's, the room I'm in is his entire space.  There's a bed, dining table, television, fan and a fridge...all in one square room the size of a bedroom.  The hallway you can see leads to the bathroom and the kitchen that he shares with the single mom and her school age boy, who seems to come and go as he pleases into Piper's space.

There was a large back yard where they handwash laundry and have a burning pile for trash.  The bathroom was a pretty good size and as I found out through my stay, having a shower is hit and miss depending on water pressure.  Some days its a slow drizzle....in which case they put a basin under the faucet all day to collect the drops, then use the full basin to bathe at the end of the day.  This is so cool!!  I love learning this stuff.

Across the street there is a house that looks half built and uninhabitable.  Piper tells me that the way they build in Jamaica is they start the house and live in it before completion.  As they get more money they add on when they can.  There are also random animals grazing in the yards, such as goats or donkey families.  Throughout my trip I find that its normal to see random animals in the streets.

It gets dark around 6:30pm every day in Jamaica, which is when it cools off (barely).  Piper had to work my first night there and I was glad to get an early sleep from my long flights.  So he says goodnight, backs the car out and locks me behind the giant iron gates surrounding the house.  I couldn't go anywhere if I tried, and I didn't try to go anywhere but bed.

Trip Highlights

* I spent a day at 7-Mile beach in Negril, alone, while Piper worked, however he gave me a cell phone to use and his friends worked at a beach bar where I hung out.  Sun Beach bar.  I spent most of the afternoon getting free drinks from an older American tourist who knew I was alone LOL.  But I knew I was safe and what time my police man was coming to pick me up.

* My second day alone at Piper's house I met the family that occupied the other half of the house.  They were taking their little girl to the beach in Negril that day and knew I was trapped in the yard alone, so they offered to take me.  Such nice people!  The daughter seemed think I was cool and she chatted me up the whole time we were out.  I spent the day with them and went out for dinner with Piper that evening to a spot in his neighborhood.  Judging by reaction when we came in I don't think they see many tourists there. 

*Piper managed to take enough time off work that we headed into the country a couple days.  I managed to drive through the following parishes:  St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, Trelawny.  My favorite stop was at his aunt's house in Mandeville, because it's so high up in the mountains that the air is extremely cool.  I was actually too cold in my shorts up there, mind you it was raining.

* We visited a school in St Elizabeth where his uncle is a teacher.  The children in their uniforms were adorable!  I later learn that all schools are uniformed...I love it.  It seems to show much more respect.

* We spent a day in Falmouth, Trelawny where a Canadian friend of mine (Erynn) was living and volunteering.  So me and Piper visited with her and a Jamaican friend of hers, who also had a newborn baby.  Then Piper, Erynn and I went out for a drink and to play some pool before our long drive back to Sav in the evening.

* My absolute favorite stop on the whole trip, I can't even remember where we were.  But Piper stopped at a roadside wooden hut that was apparently a barber.  While he was inside getting his hair cut I just sat out in the street watching the people.  One little Jamaican boy walked through the street and just stopped and stared at me a while.  I'm assuming white people NEVER come to this little place.  He ran off, only to return about 5 minutes later with 6 of his little friends.  They all just stood in the street and smiled at me.  Amazing....it still melts my heart to think about it.

* Throughout the trip we made several stops at several roadside bars to hang out, have a beer and listen to music.

* I met his aunt, uncle, mother and sisters.  I also met several of his friends.  All of them were very welcoming.

* Piper and I spent one evening at the beach after dark, I can never get enough of the ocean.  We walked a long way, stopped at a restaurant for some food and a couple drinks, listened to reggae that seems to play everywhere, ALL the time in Jamaica.   The beach in Negril is charming at night.  You can hear the constant rolling of the ocean, yet its so dark you can't see it.  The beach is lit with many little bars and different sized restaurants.  You can see 8 billion stars in the sky.  The odd couple or group of people walks up and down the beach after dark, but for the most part people stay in the lit areas where the bars are.  Its the most peaceful feeling being at the beach after dark.

* If you remember Scott the cliff diver from my first blog entry, I had contacted him and made arrangements to go out one night while Piper had to work.  Piper took me to the Jungle nightclub, made sure I connected with Scott and then left for work.  This was my 2nd experience at the Jungle only it was much different!  The first time 2 months ago it was a tourist club night.  This time it was locals night!  What a trip that was....not many tourists but packed with Jamaicans!  Scott and I hung out, danced and drank all night!  The clubs don't close til morning in Jamaica so it was a long night.  By the time Piper came back to get me I was falling asleep in the car on  the way back to his house. 

* My last night, unfortunately Piper had to work again.  I had the choice of staying at his house and doing nothing or finding something to do.  I remembered the night I was with Scott he mentioned a reggae night at Alfred's on the Beach in Negril.  So I opted to get dropped off there.  I hung out by myself listening to mellow reggae mixed in with the ocean waves since Alfred's is right on the beach.  I never did find Scott that night but enjoyed a relaxing evening with rum and music.  Piper picked me up relatively early.....2am.

*****

On the day I was leaving Jamaica, we woke up early so I could enjoy part of my last day.  Once I was dressed and packed we just spent time sitting on the verandah talking about the week and speculating when I would come back.  We laughed about lots of things we did and saw during my stay, I learned more about Jamaica, and I promised him I'd mail pictures of the trip when I got back.  While Piper was bathing I wrote in a thank-you card I brought with me to give to him.  I kind of gushed in the card because he was the reason I was able to experience everything I did in that week, and I was so grateful.  After signing it, I slipped some cash in there, sealed the envelope and left it under his pillow.  It was the least I could do.

Sitting in the parking lot at Sangster airport, listening to reggae in the car, was the crappiest thing I've had to do!  Oddly enough it rained the day I arrived and rained again when I was leaving.  That just makes the sadness WORSE!  We sang to the music a while, then it was time for me to check in.  Ugghh.

Oh did I mention in the last entry about the crying when the plane takes off?  LOL....

Jamaica soon come......AGAIN!

To be continued........



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