Jamaica no problem! Yah Man!
For our Spring Break, we ended up in Jamaica, and to be more specific in Negril, which is an oasis of calm at the western coast of the Caribbean. A mecca of Reggae, slow pace lifestyle, a spot where the hippies used to hang out in the 70s. Nowadays, it has become a more and more developing touristic area.
After having survived inconveniences of the transfer in Miami and customs clearance, having bought a visa resembling rather bribery of customs officers in a small airport room, we could finally feel and breathe Jamaican air, mainly filled with the smoke of marihuana, which is illegal on the island. However, only tourists might be arrested for using it, whereas for the locals marihuana is an indispensible element of daily rituals, from the sunrise to the beautiful sunset, just as a morning coffee or an evening herbal infusion. Certainly, there are no penalties for applying them, whatsoever. The very first question after our arrival concerned a drug supply, and there is no doubt that every single Jamaican would be pleased to make our wish come true but I can’t remember asking for it! The locals didn’t give up on insisting, though.
Negril is situated close to the 7 mile beach, a long white Long Bay beach, which is considered to be crowded and touristic. Although we skipped the peak season, the crowd consisted mainly of Jamaicans who monopolized the beach. The sell department could learn a lot from them, strategies and techniques of persuasion, just to name a few skills.
A typical example of their monologues: Italiano? No? Where are you from? Holland? Oh, Poland! What’s your name? I’m a farmer, I have my plantation back in the mountains, best staff, best quality, Jamaica no problem! Yah Man! No problem! Do you have a cigarette?
Jamaica’s landscape resembles stereotypical ideas of Africa – huts with thatched roofs, crowds staying in the streets up late, goats on the roads, palm trees, scorcher for 350 days a year with a break for rains, great sun, amazing moon, fruits in abundance, etc.
On the beach, Jamaicans were showing unceasing parent care by driving away all touts, but at the same time being a company for a tourist in their moments of relaxation; for example, by chatting up, persuading to something and eventually, by besieging. If someone was trying to find some peace, they could do it in 5-star hotels; however, we decided to take a more economical solution. Colours of the sea, hues of never withering flowers, mango trees growing around us, coconut palms, banana trees, aloes, bamboo alleys, seafood and fish, a reggae concert on the beach, amazing views, sensuous tastes and smells constituted a compensation to the touristic aspects of Negril. It didn’t take a long time to learn an expression in Patois – Why you bada bada me bout? (eng. Why are you bothering me?)
The music preferences of young Jamaicans are also worth mentioning – the worst Reggaeton with addition of DJ’s screaming and unsuccesful try of DJ’s mixing. Quiet night hours is an unknown term there…
Out of all the exquisite Jamaican dishes, it is worth trying the plentitude of local fish, for instance snapper or Jack fish in particular. Also, seafood such as shrimps, lobsters, conches in different variations: with curry, garlic, grilled, marinated, roasted, in coconut milk, or a goat in curry sauce. However, I didn’t have a chance to discover what was its taste as it consisted mainly of bones. In pubs and restaurants, it is common to be served a fish soup or a seafood soup to get warmed before the main course. Meat, fish or seafood is served in company of rice with beans, local dumplings or bammies.
A meal may be crowned with a fresh fruit cocktail of mango, papaya, orange or just coconut water. Not to mention the jerk chicken which is a marinated chicken served with hot spices. It is a dish that can be consumed almost in any place in Jamaica – on the beach, from street vendors, at roundabouts, in villages and cities. Jerk chicken is usually prepared in huge cylindric containers on the beach or street. The smell of grilled smoked chicken is the second one which dominates the island. Ackee, a national fruit of Jamaica, in combination with saltfish, is one of the most important dainties.
The coffee Blue Mountains is a divine drink, having its origins in these Jamaican mountains on the eastern coast, and brewed in an Italian coffee maker doubles its fantastic taste. The beer Red Stripes is a classic and important liquor, rums are such an obvious association that there is a very little need to mention them, as the cultivation of sugarcane on the islands is still one of the most essential elements of agriculture.
During one of our excursions in Jamaica, in a distance of 4-5 hours east from Negril, we had a possibility to taste fantastically prepared fish in Little Ochie in Alligator Pond. Generally, it is the client who chooses a fresh Jamaican fish or seafood, and shows how much one would like to have, then decides about the seasoning and side dish.
The final step is to choose the boat in which they will wait for the order and consume. Unfortunately it takes quite a long time, but it’s absolutely worth waiting! A well-prepared and fresh lobster can be tasted in Pelican Bar, three hours east from Negril. In order to reach this legendary bar, it is necessary to sail on a small boat an approximate distance of 1 mile from the Parottee Beach, and there, in a thatched hut, in the middle of the sea, away from the land, some of the tourists, inhabitants and pub owners are playing domino, curving their names in the wood, drinking rum or a Red Stripe beer and bathing in the sea. There are no such places that can’t be visited by a Pole, so the Polish flag couldn’t be missing in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
The final point of this story about this picturesque and exotic island, though I could include more memories and impressions, is one of the places out of a list of thousand that should be seen during the lifetime – the Rick’s Cafe. On the top of a very high cliff, close to Negril, a beautiful view of sunset spreads by the Caribbean Sea. At this time, daredevils jump into the water, some people sip Red Stripe, others cherish cocktails soaking legs in the pool, and the rest tastes local titbits in the restaurant.
Jamaica no problem!
Alexa De Coco
Coco Caribe ©