"Verdant isle -- first and 2nd encounters" Jamaica by melosh

Jamaica Travel Guide: 2,502 reviews and 4,982 photos

Jamaica Green

The mountains are clothed in exuberant growth. There are white and black sand beaches, and some of the finest resorts money can build. With perhaps the exception of Kingston, this is not a bad place for a vacation away from the hustle of urban life.

Even though Jamaica is a small island country, neither a trip to the resort hotels or a trip into the mountains doing medical work will give an answer to the question is what it may be like for ordinary Jamaicans. Jamaica is a country with a complex culture and involved history. It seems one visit often leads to many more.

I have made two medical work trips to Jamaica with a group that has made trips through the last two decades. The participants are hard working, well organized and their experience shows. In a week about 1000 people see either dentists or doctors for free and receive treatment when appropriate. (Over a quarter of million doses of medications were distributed this year.) What makes this program so successful is that it is made in a partnership with a ecumenical organization in Jamaica.

Upbeat

Love the music, the fresh food with Jamaican spice, the tropical breeze, the mountainous vistas and the sandy beaches.

Also the proud national identity, distinctive cultural mix and, of course, the many friendly open people.

My first visit was mostly limited to the mountainous area around Black River. My second visit was through Kingston to the Portland area. Therefore I can not be of much help to first time resort visitors, but I will try to give a few tips and share a few pictures.

The downbeat

If you are just going for a resort vacation, I doubt that you will or even should be effected by the poverty of the countryside. You can relax and enjoy the great beaches, facilities and service. But if you travel out and about you may notice that there seems that there is a great divide between wealthy vacation Jamaica, and the struggling farmers and urban unemployed.

In towns you will see a fairly large number of grown men lounging around not doing much at all. I heard that this is partly because it is much easier for women to get jobs at the resorts than men. I suspect that poor education and language is a large part of the problem, but this does not explain the untended look of the fields in the countryside more evident in the Black River area than the Portland area. So much seems to grow in this rich soil it would seem that it would be uniformly a land of plenty. I did not see much evidence of malnutrition not associated with worms or bleeding, and people denied the existence of a "hungry season". Still, there was a lot of evidence of poverty. Oddly in the Black River area I saw a wild mix of fine houses (many under construction) with abandoned houses, and with occupied poor hovels. This was often surrounded by what appeared to be neglected and unused land.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Jamaica has flavor, rhythm and style --and pride.
  • Cons:The rich-poor gap is an ugly fly on the jerk chicken.
  • In a nutshell:In many ways a rich country, but still with high poverty
  • Last visit to Jamaica: Jun 2009
  • Intro Updated Jun 22, 2009
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Comments (1)

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Nov 22, 2008 at 2:40 PM

    Wonderful page , photos & tips on Jamaica-Being a Bob Marley fan, I have always been attracted to this country!

melosh

“If you have not been, you can not know.”

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