Seven years ago I traveled to the beautiful island of Jamaica for the first time. Then it was the old Sangster airport, so there were no jetways. They would roll the steps up to the plane and you walked down them onto the tarmac. When the plane door opened, a blast of warm air drifted through the plane. It was like the breath of a sweet goddess.
I remember walking down those stairs that first time, seeing all the airport workers scattered around the place. I saw my own people (I am Black). As I was processed through, a feeling of "home" started to seep into my soul, mixed with a healthy dose of pride. This is OUR country. I was not in exile in someone's else's land anymore. I think it was the dawning of that reality that started my love affair with Jamaica.
Your first time out, you likely stay in an all-inclusive. It was no different for me. The one I chose was not one of the big conglomerate chains. It had charm and character, and the atmosphere among the people working there was like a family. Sadly, it has since been sold to the Sandals chain. The changes they made are appalling. They fired all the workers. The workers then had to reapply for their jobs; most were not rehired. I visited the place on one of my trips; I was almost brought to tears.
In all the times I have gone back and back and back again, I have found that Jamaica always has something new for me. I still have a long list of places I have not seen, things I have not gotten around to doing. Jamaica always entertains me; it never lets me down. I can feel free there. Jamaica does not judge me – not my age, my complexion, my habits. No one is running around worrying about what you are doing and then having an opinion about it, at least, not that they let you know.
What I envy the Jamaican people for the most is their culture. They have preserved the essence of Africa, unlike African Americans who had their precious life source systematically changed, over generations. I have a friend who travels to Ghana. She told me that if you close your eyes, you would swear you were in Jamaica. As I learn more and more of Jamaica's culture, I fall deeper and deeper in love with the country. No one knows how to party like the Jamaicans.
In a way, I feel that I am missing out. I really don't travel to too many other places. My dollars are short, and I like to spend them on a sure thing. For me that is Jamaica. How many times have I been since April of 2000 – twenty five! That's right. I don't know how I do it.
As often as I've gone, you'd think I'd want to live there. No way. The politics are awful; crime rate is high. I'd rather keep it my little get away than have it become my reality. Right now I know I won't be back until March, but in the meantime, I have my memories.
If you are familiar with the works of Damien Jr. Gong Marley, you will recognize my story title from his hit song "Welcome to JamRock."