Submitted by April D. Thompson
So it didn’t quite go down like the title suggests. In fact, I didn’t even tell my mother I was moving to Jamaica until after I actually arrived. Not that I don’t love her, but she, like many others, just wouldn’t understand. I’m a firm believer that it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission and I’d rather have her just deal with what I did than spend weeks giving me a million reasons why I shouldn’t go.
So why Jamaica?
For a while, I neglected the Caribbean. In my mind, it was nothing more than a bunch of islands with crystal blue water and white sand beaches. Once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all (so I thought). So after numerous trips to Puerto Rico for work, Christmas in the Bahamas and a visit to the Dominican Republic, I gave the Caribbean a break.
It wasn’t until I received an invitation to a good friend’s wedding that the Caribbean was back on my radar and this time my sights were set on Jamaica.
I brought my mother along for the 5 day wedding events held at the RIU in beautiful Ocho Rios. Outside of the ride from Sangster airport to the resort, I felt like I had been transported from Jamaica to some other destination. Yes, there was the beach and crystal blue water, but it just felt sterile. It was so crazy to see the hordes of visitors dressed head to toe in green, gold and black, but complaining about the accents, turning up their noses at the already very limited Jamaican food on the buffet among many other complaints and proud to not set foot outside of the resort walls until their transfer to the airport.
On the third night, I finally broke free and took a 15 minute ride to a beach party recommended by a new Jamaican friend I met through Couchsurfing.org. I hung out on the beach, ate the best fried chicken with rice and peas ever and enjoyed the vibes. The DJ was doing his thing and despite the numerous requests from guys vying to be my “Winston” or offers for me to take hit of their spliff, I had an amazing time and didn’t want to go back to the confines of the resort.
The next morning, I awoke my mother and dragged her down to the center of Ochi for breakfast: Ackee and salt fish, boiled banana, dumpling and yam. Instead of heading back to the RIU, I asked the driver to take us around for a bit. I rode around and walked Ochi, drove up to Fern Gully and neighboring communities and talked to anyone who didn’t think I was crazy.
In just those short hours, something just clicked. I don’t really know how to explain it. I’m not sure if it was the friendly smiles and conversation, continuously being called empress, queen and princess or maybe I was just delirious from a lack of blood from the mosquitoes feasting on my poor little legs. Whatever it was, something about Jamaica was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so a few short months later, I came back to do Jamaica my way.
I dragged along one of the homies and we crashed at a friend’s guest house for the duration of our stay. No room service or wrist bands, but probably one of the best trips I’ve ever had. We rented a car and drove along the north coast sampling a bit more of what Ochi, Mobay and Negril had to offer. Over the next 18 months, I continued to return, again and again for quick trips and even a 3 week stint.
This time, I’m happy to be here a little longer. For the next three months (maybe longer), I will call Jamaica home; Kingston to be exact. I moved into a quaint apartment a short walk from the busy Half Way Tree transportation depot and look forward to my new life. So far, so good. Christmas went off without a hitch and I look forward to checking out all of the events I typically miss on my shorter trips to the island, like Jazz and Blues, Maroon Festival and so much more. I’m dying to explore the south coast and head east to Port Antonio to explore the more of the other treasures of my new (albeit temporary) island home. I can’t wait to really dig into the live music scene… and then there’s the food ….*Homer Simpson drool*….So much to do, so little time.
I’m incredibly grateful for all of the posts and stories on Jamaica My Way and Chronicles of a Shipwreck in Jamaica for confirming that for one, I’m not crazy and two, that I can really make this all work with a little thought and planning. I just had to.
If you are in Jamaica and want to link up, let me know. I would love to connect with the JMW crew because it is truly the people I’ve met in Jamaica that have made this little island one of my favorite places on earth!
Cheers to the next adventure!
**You can read many more of April’s world travel stories on her blog called Absolute Travel Addict**