Jamaica Stories and Tips

Why Jamaica DIDN'T Feel Alright

As you might suspect, my humble abode is filled with momentos from travels through Europe and the Caribbean. Yet I need to look no further than my immediate surroundings for confrimation of the negative slant this journal takes. The only thing visible from Jamaica is a poster-size enlargement of one of my colorful sunset shots. Otherwise, there's nothing...and even the photo album is lacking since opportunities were limited, or I felt too intimidated to pull out my camera when they weren't.

Perhaps I should've accepted and succumbed to resort life and all the amenities you pay for, but it's not my style. Nor is it within my nature to embrace feeling vulnerable and intimidated when I rather pride myself on facing and conquering those elements daily where I live. My travels are to get a break from the stresses of everyday life, but so far Jamaica's the only place I didn't find relief since conditions were actually worse.

Certain unspoken, yet very real expectations for so-called quality of life in NYC were quickly trampled here largely due to the poverty of their general public. But whether you hail from a large city like New York or small town anywhere, I can't imagine anyone feeling comfortable with what ensues at the very places tourists are taken to when leaving the resort.

The saturation of locals' crafts markets are hard to avoid without never leaving the security provided by the resort fence. You'd expect the desperation of need to make a sale amidst countless other vendors all basically selling the same stuff. What you wouldn't expect, and need to prepare for, are the tactics in which they went about things.

Once the buses unloaded, or in some cases where the only exit from an attraction led thru one of these markets, the vendors were congregated and waiting for the "fair game". Insistance AND persistance is one thing, but when they start blocking your way, grabbing you by the arm and pulling you, and all but fighting with the other vendors over who's potential customer you are - something is VERY wrong!

Forget violation of personal space! I found these actions highly offensive which not only prohibited the freedom to at least leisurely browse, but obviously ability to make a purchase, too! And for those who didn't have experience dealing with aggressive big-city street vendors, they were sitting duck prey...just as I comparably witnessed in Tangiers' Kasbah. Yet I couldn't help but noticing even while skirting through as quickly as I could, those who had been apprehended were still subject to vendor squabbling over who would give them the better price, and ridicule for trying to pay with the local currency.

I bought nothing at any of these places, though I found it rather interesting that the locals can't be totally oblivious to how rudely and ineffectively they conduct theirselves. There was a "tempting" t-shirt being sold everywhere with bold letters which said: "NO, I DON'T WANT: any weed, a ride, my hair braided, a tour guide...and the list went on covering the entire front of the shirt based on all-too well known offers the touring sect is bomarded with.

Another incident, that I feel compelled to share based on potentially educating the traveling public, involves a well-known set-up I allowed myself to play into based on immediate need...and without even thinking. My Dunn's River Falls entry describes how we were dropped off in Ocho Rios for lunch and I opted for the local dining counter in lieu of the typical restaurant everyone safely filed into. When finished with my meal, I was looking for a restroom and this one young man pointed me to a park which was visible a couple of blocks away. I thanked him and set out.

The facility had a long hall before you turned to the right onto a shorter hall and entry into the bathroom. The door was locked. I walked back down the hall and had barely cleared the exit when I was surprised to suspiciously find the same young man who'd directed me. I told him the place was locked, yet he insisted we need to go back and check again. I declined and started to leave when he made a big scene about my not paying him for this information service to begin with. Again, I felt I held my own in not backing down, but he followed making threats all the way back until I boarded the safety of my tour bus. He then continued to circle the bus yelling at the windows.

So maybe you're thinking I should've just given this guy a couple of bucks to shut him up. To have done so would have not only exposed where I kept my money, but also to how much I might have had. Your guess is as good as mine to if he'd actually taken everything or done me harm, but I know these tactics all too well...just like directing me to the closed bathroom and leaving me trapped in a dead-end hallway. Unfortunately, this happens all too often to unsuspecting tourist in NYC who are pointed down side-subway entrances that are padlocked shut. Then, they're taken for all they've got from the helpful individuals who purposefully directed them there to begin with!

It is no wonder why they have justified tightened security at the resorts which are further fortefied with their insistance about not venturing out alone. My comfort levels were definitely challenged by these incidents which occured while on supervised excursions and as described in the entry about the day I went walking around unescorted in Montego Bay. But feeling intimidated, unsafe and vulnerable is not my idea for time spent anywhere.

I'm sure there are many who can argue these nightmarish encounters based on wonderful experiences they've had...and beyond the boundaries of the resort's protection. I'm glad you were fortunate enough to find them. But for the rest who are looking to "Come to Jamaica and Feel Alright", I could not or would not guarantee it.

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