NOTE: I wrote this a long time ago….LIKE A LONG TIME AGO…and forgot to make it life…so HERE YOU GO!
It’s been three weeks since we were in Jamaica. If you’ve followed any of our posts from Facebook, you probably already know we had a wonderful time. It was such a relaxing trip with enough adventure in there to make it fun.
We arrived in Omaha late Sunday night, after our wedding. Monday morning, at 4:30 am, we woke up and headed to the airport. Nearly 12 hours later we were in Jamaica and at Whitehouse Sandals resort.
Here is video of our journey on Day 1:
When we got the Montego Bay Airport and made it through customs, we were escorted to a lounge. We immediately poured a beer and sat down. A few minutes later we boarded a bus and took an hour and a half ride to our resort. Within 30 minutes we were out of Montego Bay and into the heart of Jamaica. I found it to be a lot like Haiti actually. Scattered through the hills and windy roads were homes of all different kinds. Some were basically sheds or shacks. Others were grand and luxurious.
The further we got away from Montego Bay the more I felt as though we were entering a very poverty striken area. It turns out, this journalist, didn’t do much research before we left, so I had no idea what we were getting into.
It turns out, it was a very poverty striken area. Those homes were all some people had. People were bathing in the streams and selling goods on the sides of the roads. Children were walking without shoes, many people didn’t have anything. There were a lot of unfinished homes, metal rods sticking out from the tops of them, first floors finished but no second floor.
I really was starting to feel guilty. Here I am this relatively well off person, driving on a charter bus, to a big resort off the southern coast. It felt wrong.
When we arrived on our resort and finally got settled into our room I had the chance to talk to our concierge representative. As he was walking us to the resort shop he told us that without visitors like us he would not be employed and would not have a way to support his family. He explained that Jamaica’s economy relies heavily on tourism and that it gives his people jobs. He was extremely grateful for our visit and wanted us to feel at home.
That conversation made me feel a lot better about things, though I found myself wanting to do more. Which, let’s be honest, I couldn’t do while I was on my honeymoon with my husband, enjoying the vacation.
As the week went one, we ventured off the resort. First stop was a Black River Safari. Our tour guide was great, we got to see crocodiles up close (he even kissed one, see the video below). Then we visited YS Falls, where we jumped off a rope and into the waterfall. It was great. The people working there were very helpful and worked off tip money from tourists like us. Everywhere we went we tried to tip a good amount. But it’s hard not really knowing what is good money there. Friday we went on the canopy tour. WE ziplined through the rainforest. It was amazing and we got to know our tour guides well.
Day 3 (Black River Safari, YS Falls)
But venturing off the resort taught us a lot about Jamaica. Each time we did, our drivers would tell us about various parts of Jamaica. One driver explained why so many houses were unfinished. He told us the interest rate is very high and it’s hard to pay for a mortgage so sometimes it takes 15 years to build a whole house. People build and pay as they go. Another driver told us about the Sandals Foundation and the schools they build and operate through out Jamaica. He said they provide an educational opportunity for kids who might not get one. We even passed by a few schools. The journalist in me really wanted to stop inside and chat with students and teachers. I wanted to see what it was like.
On our 4th day we learned of a trip you can take to one of the schools. It’s two hours off the resort, reading to children. We didn’t know about it in time and it was full but if we had known we would have loved to visit a school. Good to know for the future.
Day 5: Canopy Tour
All in all, Jamaica was amazing. The food was great, the drinks were great and the people were so nice. It made me realize how important it is to be aware of what’s going on around you and around the world. I know we can safe everyone, solve all the worlds problems, and I am by no means saying that us going to Jamaica saved anyone or anything. What I am saying is that when we meet people and learn about their culture and their background, it’s an opportunity to get a better understanding of life outside our own little world.
Jamaica reminded me that it’s all a matter of perspective (as it was when I visited Haiti too). Things may appear one way and be completely different.
Bottom line…live a little, learn a lot.