Leaving on a jet plane. Are we there, yet?

Blame me! My little daughter is becoming a good observer of people and more. We were travelling through Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA, to its friends) yesterday. Airports are great for people-watching and seeing how people just mess up things. On the messing up, NMIA has the unfortunate distinction of being better known by its often misspelled name: check the entries under Normal Manley International Airport. As good an eggcorn as I need to read.

We like NMIA, though. It’s been upgraded recently, and we were enjoying its ‘deliverables’. We enjoy it, not least because it has the best food for travellers, coming from Jamaica’s own Island GrillIsland-Grill-Logo-700x352 chain: tasty, cheap, and filling are what most travellers want, and get there. We had come straight from school and were early for our departure, so she tucked into a fish sandwich combo with mango peach drink, and I ate a chicken fricassee yabba, regular, all for less than US$10 equivalent.

We had been waiting a while before we were allowed to board. As we stood at the head of the line, we read the large poster put up by the airport authority with ’20 interesting facts about Jamaica’. Interesting yes, but facts?

Hmm. We noted that it had been put up when Usain Bolt had only 3 Olympic medals. We wondered if updating was not part of the budget. Shame, we thought. We noted that it mentioned the Manchester Golf Club as having the ‘oldest hotel in the western world. Eh? Shamer. They mean golf course. Who did the fact checking? I pointed out to my daughter the fact about ‘it’s inhabitants’: that should be ‘its’, Daddy. (School is paying off.) Shamest.

As we prepared to board the plane to Montego Bay (MoBay), my child noticed two women standing behind us. “They’re twins…Both have the same weave. They have on matching leggings and tops,” my daughter stated, confidently. Children spot people’s physical features and clothing quickly. I pointed out that they were not wearing the same type of suede shoes: “But, they’re both wearing boots,” she retorted, quickly. We wondered why they were going to MoBay. As we moved through the first check, one of the ladies said to the other at the top of the escalator “Mek sure yu ha one foot pon di step,”; her friend was clearly stepping into new territories. The ladies proceeded to the gate, ahead of us, then made a huge fuss about the lateness of the plane’s departure. We were still ahead of time, but it seemed that we would not take off on time. A mechanic explained that the plane had come from “Up deh…an a ‘hole ‘eap a snow an’ ice deh ’bout.” The plane had needed to be washed down after being de-iced. Did the ladies want to fly with the risk of not making it? It had also been fully cleaned: “De peeple dem eat an’ leave all a dem nas’iness. You don’t want dat!” The ladies seemed mollified. As we went to the airbridge, one of the ladies was pulled over for ‘secondary screening’: welcome to air travel. We passed them, then pretended to complain, too, and raised a few smiles as we strolled onto the plane.

When we got to MoBay, the two ladies followed us from Immigration to the baggage claim carousel. A man then asked them how they knew this was the right one. They told him they didn’t know, they’d just chosen one with some people standing around. Again, clearly newbee travellers. As the bags began to roll around the belt, and were being cleared, I saw one of the ladies haul a huge cloth suitcase off, then haul off another. Higglers (vendors), I thought. If you’re not familiar with Jamaica’s street or market traders, get a funny insight by watching clips for a play.

I speculated about what they had in the bags. I presumed they were headed to MoBay to take advantage of the many visitors there this weekend for the annual jazz and blues festival, which has been running since 1996, and draws much attention from Jamaican and foreign fans. It’s an expensive event, by Jamaican standards–cheapest ticket is US$50 (and it’s to be paid in US dollars). But, that should mean some deep-pocketed potential buyers. The informal market at work on the island: where there’s a crowd, look for opportunities to sell your wares.

My wife/my mother was in Mobay for a work event and staying at one of the fancy north coast hotels. The hotel staff greeted us at the airport and arranged our ‘transfer’ to the hotel. “Have I been here, before, Daddy?” my daughter asked, as we left the airport. I told her she had, but when she was much younger. “It looks familiar,” she said as we drove on a piece of road on which she’d never travelled. The van driver told us that the city was busy because of this week’s jazz and blues festival, and that some celebrities may be staying at our hotel. My daughter was really enjoying her latest taste of good living and we joked that the driver did not realise that he had ‘celebs’ in the van with him 🙂 She took it to heart by trying out her impersonation of Jamaica’s PM, Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller, waving her hand in regal fashion and saying “My people…”, one of the PM’s signature phrases. I cracked up: it was pretty good. She kept on saying it as we reached the hotel, and were greeted by a bellman.

It had taken us just over 4 1/2 hours to get from her school to the hotel, by plane. I told my daughter that it would have taken about the same amount of time to have driven. But, we were not exhausted from the drive, which we could do another time when we had more days to play with. “No problem with tiredness on the drive: I’d have slept,” came the nonchalant reply. Therein, lies some of the fun of travelling a lot with children. We know how to make the time pass on journeys. Well, sometimes.