The image that we have of any place and its people is built up from the little pieces that we see of them over time. Sometimes, we get only one view, and our image is cemented.
When I move around Jamaica, I try to see as much as I can, knowing that I’ve only glimpsed parts of the whole. With no clear conclusion to be drawn, it’s sometimes all I can do to share the images. I take a lot of pictures of every day activities to help my memory. Sometimes, I cannot record visual images and have to rely on my memory of sounds, tastes, and incidents. Sharing that is sometimes all I can do.
The boy who did not cry wolf. A few days ago, my daughter was at the National Aquatic Centre in Kingston for one of her regular practice sessions. A boy came into the office, where I happened to be standing. He was holding his goggles and trying to say something, but it was muffled by his sobbing. His eyes were filled with tears. I asked him what was wrong. “I have a cramp, sir,” he told me, “But coach did not believe me. he said I was a liar. I’m not lying, sir.” A lady in the office asked him for which club he swam, and he told her. I took a look at his leg. It was stiff, as if the hamstring had pulled. As I tried to move the leg, the boy screeched in pain. I eased the leg a little to see if the knee was damaged. He yelled. I sat him down and told him to relax. The lady asked the boy for a parent’s number. He gave his mother’s work number, then made a call. “No, Mummy. I’m not lying!” the boy said, through muffled tears. The lady in the office took the phone and spoke to the boy’s mother. She tried to explain what had happened and that the boy was in pain and distress. From what I heard, the mother was not having any of that. However, the office lady said the boy would be in the office for the next hour or so, till he was collected. The office lady then went to speak to the boy’s coach. Suffice to say, she went back the office. The coach never moved. When my daughter had finished her session, I went to the office to see if the boy was still there. He had just left, I was told. Make of all that what you will.
Directions, anyone? People have a lot of fun mocking the way that Jamaicans give directions. It’s the result of living in a rural society that often has things that don’t change too fast. I was just on the phone with a man with whom I’m due to partner tomorrow in a golf tournament. We’ve never met, and were planning to hit some balls together today. However, he decided to get a jump-start and make the trip today, instead of tomorrow morning. I told him I was not sure about where I needed to go, but would look it up on the Internet. “It’s easy man. Once you go into the town, you’re going to go past a gas station. Look for the fruit vendor, then turn right,” he told me. “Ask anyone, you can’t get lost.” That was a shorter version, but you get the gist. Let’s hope the vendor is not having his day at home, tomorrow.
Home delivery. A friend was very excited when he found out that I really enjoy Jamaican country food–yam, bananas, dumplings, callaloo, salt mackerel, etc. “Next time, my house keeper prepares something, I’ll call you,” he promised. The next day, he sent me a picture with the message “Yours is waiting”. I replied that I would pick mine up later, and if I did not have it for lunch then the next day’s breakfast was set. I set off for my school pickup; he lives adjacent to the school. When I near to his house, I saw his son on the road with a cell phone. He hailed me. I got to the house and my friend asked if I liked curry. I told him yes. He was waiting for some to be delivered and I could grab a bite, too. Meantime, my salt mackerel ‘breakfast’ was packed for me. “What?” I heard my friend shout. “Where? You’re joking!” He then told me that the food delivery man had gotten a puncture and his son was trying to locate where he was–hence, the boy walking with the phone. We figured out where the delivery man was; it was not far. I suggested, I take my friend to find his food, and we jumped in my car. We drove about half a mile and there was the delivery man–so near, but yet so far–on the roadside, with his bike parked and his food box ready for more deliveries. But, no chance of doing that till he got help. We collected our food and paid the guy. I have to say the curry goat was a knockout, with some really nice roti. It’s from a restaurant called Moby Dick, in downtown Kingston, which I understand is famous, and been around since 1900.