More to Jamaica than island fun

By Ross Salese
February 19, 2009

Poverty is blanketed by paradise. Tourists who visit the Jamaican beaches of all-inclusive resorts are deaf, dumb and blind to the truth.

Tall, barbed-wire fences seperate serenity and luxury from murder, drugs, shacks and half-finished homes.

Despite their dire situation, the people of Jamaica are some of the most high-spirited, fun people I’ve ever been around; people who are extremely proud of who they are and where they come from. So loose and stress free, they use their car horns to say “Hi,” instead of “Get out of the way,” like we do in Philly.

Whether it is the words of Bob Marley running through their veins or the great weather and blue skies calming their nerves, the natives of Jamaica seem blind to the state that their country is in.

Jamaica has an 11.5 percent unemployment rate which is very high. The jobs the natives occupy for the most part are roadside shack stands selling all different items: homemade food, homegrown produce, handmade crafts or even collecting money to cliff dive.

The main homestead of the average person is a very small, poorly-built shack. In the mountains that tower over the shacks, there are huge mansions that could easily fit 100 shacks inside.

The bus driver said they were the abandoned houses of foreign factory owners who left the country when the factories closed. About 10 miles down the road, we passed one of those factories.

Then another and another. “Hearing about all those people losing their jobs left a bad feeling in my stomach. Those jobs were helping Jamaica become a better place, they left without considering the effect it would have on the country,” the bus driver said.

Most of the companies left because they didn’t agree with the new government, which left a bad feeling in my stomach because I knew some of those companies were American.

As I was taking a dune buggy tour through the mountains of Hanover, I was really able to appreciate how beautiful Jamaica is; rolling hills covered with undeveloped land, crystal clear water and perfect beaches.

Part of the tour was going through a small town with a population of about 100. The small town consisted of shacks and an old Winnebago that occupied a small general store.

As we drove through the village, about 10 children came up to our vehicles wanting to touch our hands. One little boy with makeshift shoes that he turned into sandals and a pair of yellow sunglasses that he put on upside down came up to my vehicle. He grabbed onto my finger with an immovable grip that reminded me of a newborn.

I had an empty water bottle in the cup holder. The boy pointed at the bottle as if it was a gift from God. I gave him the water bottle, he then took his sunglasses off and gave them to me. He had nothing to give but he found something, a little boy that had almost nothing. That describes what Jamaicans are all about.

For all the countries in the world that need help, Jamaica would be the last to admit it but first to deserve it.

During my time in Jamaica, I heard no tales of distress, no pleas for substance. I heard no one implore for food or money and not one person had a sign asking for a job. People turned to assertive salesmanship, but not temptuos or intrusive, just people selling goods to provide food for their family.

I went to Jamaica to have a relaxing vacation; I left with an experience that will last a lifetime. I got to know a country’s culture and people that are vastly misunderstood.

Jamaica is known for Bob Marley and sunny beaches. What people don’t know is that the people are as beautiful and diverse as the landscape on which they live. Their positive attitude keeps their spirits high through bad situations. Any problem, big or small, can be solved. But as I learned in Jamaica, there is never a problem just a small situation.

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Ross Salese

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