What do you suppose is the biggest fallacy about Jamaica?
If you think it's that Jamaicans are lazy, you'd be right. They are the hardest working people I've ever met. Yes, they live in a warmer climate, hence a generally prettier country, but life is far from easy.
It's a shame young Canadians couldn't work there for a time. Upon returning home, maybe they'd realize how truly privileged they are. Jamaicans have had to become astutely aware of the tourist industry and the impact it has on their daily lives.
That's not to say I never came across anyone working at the resort who was unfriendly or discourteous. But out of 100s, I think I met only two.
On general, the staff were eager to make our stay as wonderful as possible. I overheard one guest asking the lifeguard to fret her a towel from the beach shop about a quarter of a mile away. While I was embarrassed for her, he didn't hesitate to fulfill her request.
The chambermaids began work each morning before eight and were often still cleaning rooms at dinnertime. The lady who made the towel displays took great pride in her craft and was even willing to teach me how to do it. I would have taken her up on that except it meant keeping from her family longer.
While some of their jobs seemed like great fun, the minimum wage is still $48 per week. How could you support a family on that? The security guard, on duty on the beach, lives with his mother, father, four brothers and one sister up in the hills outside St. Ann. On average, he worked a 12-hour-shift and usually more than 30 days at a time. He's currently the only one working in his family.
After the first day or so, having my every need catered to left me feeling guilty. I'm somebody's mother and wife, I'm used to doing for myself. But the first time I tried to collect my own water jug, the dining-room supervisor quickly reprimanded me. I obediently sat down and, from then on, searched her out before helping myself. Only when she wasn't nearby did I grab an extra napkin or utensil. It was clear that one did not argue with Janice. She had a strong yet gentle manner that commanded respect.
It made perfect sense to me why anyone falls in love with the country and its people. There is something magical about Jamaican, something I've yet to pinpoint. Other than it's as close to paradise as I can imagine.
Jamaican's love their country, but speak freely of its shortcomings. When I tried to describe Canada's flaws, one bus driver reminded me that at least our government was doing most things correctly. He said it was what Jamaican's needed: a decent government.
Another bus driver challenged us to ask him questions about Jamaica. He admitted things like, "If you're caught with marijuana cigarettes, not a big deal. But if you were stopped with a truckload, you'll definitely have some questions to answer."
He was an endless supply of knowledge. For instance, the ratio of men to women is 8:1. There are no school buses, and children are left to hail cabs to school; another burden for their parents. Banana trees produce fruit in 8 months, then die. At the ground near their roots are new sprouts that in turn produce fruit in 8 months.
And the reason you see so many unfinished homes is because Jamaicans don't believe in mortgages. They save their money and buy the land. They save more and build the house's shell. They save more money and build essentials like the doors, the plumping and the electrical. The house then stands as it is until they have enough money to add flooring, inside walls or paint the outside of their homes, etc. When their house is completed, they own it outright. There's no 25 year mortgage hanging over their heads.
I asked the lifeguard what was the hardest part about living in Jamaica. He said being surrounded by beautiful women. I suspect he's faced with more hardships than that.
Of course, when I told him that the average temperature during our winters was minus 30 degrees Celcuis, his eyes widened, and I know he was unable to phantom such cold.
Would I like to return to Jamaica anytime soon?