Around this time last year, I embarked on my first trip out of the country. This trip took me to the poster-child of paradise, a place of lush greenery and exquisite beaches. But I learned an important lesson on this trip to Negril, Jamaica- I learned that no matter how pretty a place may seem, it is not without its faults.
See here, I am not trying to imply that Jamaica has some sort of hidden identity, though it might, I don’t know. Simply, what I am trying to say is that Jamaica has been a place my parents have been to many times and absolutely adore. They painted it as some dreamlike paradise where problems don’t exist (I later learned “Jamaica, No Problem” to be a common phrase among the locals, something they want tourists to believe) and everyone is happy.
This is somewhat true, but Jamaica was very different from what I thought it would be like. Sure, it was stunning, full of aesthetically fascinating and jaw-dropping scenery. The water is that ideal oceanic ombre of aqua to deep blue. The mountains, though distant, are lush with deep green/blue forests. Goats and chickens are as prevalent as the fish and aquatic life surrounding their coral reefs. Case in point, Jamaica’s looks did not disappoint. In fact, contrary to my family’s beliefs, Jamaica was not disappointing at all; just different from what I was led to believe. But allow me to elaborate.
I’m sure the portrait of Jamaica I just painted for you was what you might also have come to believe about Jamaica whether you have traveled there or not (maybe not the goats, but you get where I was going). Instead, I found Jamaica to be a cultural pantheon, in ways unexpected. For instance, I was at the craft market in Negril, which is an outdoor market comprised of stalls where different vendors are selling their wares, generally paintings, jewelry, clothes, Jamaican musical instruments etcetera. The vendors are desperately dependent on naïve tourists falling prey to their sales. While shirtless children went running around the alleys of the craft market, I realized there were higher stakes for these vendors. In this relatively poor country (monetarily speaking), these vendors have mouths to feed. No matter where you go in the world, everyone has some sort of responsibility, someone to take care of. I also snuck a glance at the front cover of a newspaper it seemed every vendor had. All I remember was that President Obama was on the cover, suddenly understanding how wide-reaching the US might be, and a headline about the revolution going on in all of Jamaica, but most ubiquitous in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. I could see the pride the locals have in their country, but also the concern of what is to come.
This was just a glimpse of my eye-opening trip to Jamaica. One of the greatest lessons the Jamaicans can instill within their tourists is how beautiful it is to be in a place where so many people are proud of where they come from and what they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t. It turns out the colors of Jamaica truly are black, yellow and green.