Many Jamaican stories go untold.
Canada has had a long and positive relationship with Canada. For many Jamaican families that is evidenced by connections with the agricultural work program, or through education in Canada, or through banking and finance. Many Jamaicans have met visiting tourists from Canada, some of whom may be family relatives, after waves of migration.
I bumped into a piece of that connection, yesterday. I was in Montego Bay, having offered to drive a group of caddies there to play in their national golf tournament. Before that started, a friend and I played nine holes and had a good chat. His son is a budding pro and is trying to make it in Europe. My friend and his wife are trying to support that from afar, but with some efforts the involve travelling to Europe. Along the way, we played some decent golf. We saw a few groups of tourists playing, one set seemed to be in a competition.
After we had played, the caddies were about to set off, at noon, a bit behind schedule, but mainly due to the tourists needing to clear the course.
As we wandered around the course watching those I knew well perform, W
we noticed a group of people driving around in a set of golf buggies. That seemed odd. First, they were white men, watching a group of black Jamaican golfers. Second, they had no golf clubs on their carts. Third, they did not have cameras, so did not appear to be media doing a PR event. They did not look like scouts, but… They were keenly paying attention, and I assumed they knew some of the players.
I then took a break, when my friend got hungry and decided to head home to his wife and lunch. A group of the tourists came by, all hot, sweaty and thirsty. We got chatting. They were visiting from Canada. Our tourism season is getting back into gear and ‘snowbirds’ are a common sight at this time of year. They all looked as red as maple leaves in autumn. They were playing golf every day in the mornings. We shared a few jokes and a few pleasantries, then they headed off in their bus.
Another Jamaican member of the club, whom I had played with before, came by. He was dressed for golf. However, he was not playing, having taken his car in for repairs and now waiting to hear when it would be ready. He lives in Canada and comes down for the colder months…one of ‘our’ snow birds. He wanted to watch the tournament, so grabbed a buggy. Off we went.
We caught up with the groups and took up a good viewpoint to see several of them playing. Along came a group of the ‘followers’, one driving a refreshment cart, that looked empty. “Pity that doesn’t have any drinks,” I noted. The driver puffed on his cigar. “It does. We have beer,” he said with a smirk. Voila! Not so cold Red Stripe was in one side. We took gladly the bottles offered and got talking. They told us they were the sponsors of the tournament and we’re just offering some good cheer to the players.
They went on to explain that they were part of a bigger group, and a bunch of them were golfers and had played earlier, but had gone back to rest. I said that I had met some of them, earlier. We parted company as they went to watch others play. We stayed with our groups for a while longer.
But, I was getting hungry and also needed to meet a friend who was going to travel back to town with me. We headed to the club house. Up rolled the beer wagon. They were very generous because they were ready to just put the remaining beers on the bar for whoever wanted them. They saw me sitting on a bench and came over. They asked if I wanted to go with the to their house for a chance to cool off. They also offered the same to the tournament director, whom I know. He’d just bought his lunch, so declined. I presumed that their relationship with the club meant they were less likely to kidnap me, so took up their offer. I drove my own car and we went to a large house near Half Moon. Nice, I thought.
A large tanker with gas was pulling in as we arrived. I could guess the house needed a lot of fuel. We entered and I thought I was in a frat house, as men were everywhere–in the pool, on laptops, smoking cigars, drinking beer, eating chips. I recognized some of those I’d seen earlier at the club. My host did the introductions. Life went back to normal.
My host explained that his family has been visiting Jamaica since the 1950s, and his father had begun the caddies tournament. Over the years, they’d gotten to know many of the caddies and the relationship was close. I explained that I’d brought some players up from Kingston.
I could confirm that the players were appreciative of the opportunity they had to play. The caddies who work on the north coast can do well from their tourist visitors, who predominate; those in Kingston have a harder time, with local members being the bulk of the players. The flow of US dollars can be liberal from the pockets of the tourists, as I’d seen first hand earlier in the day. But, that wasn’t my issue, now.
We talked about Jamaica and how tourists from North America often see little of life and culture on the island. My host took the opportunity to change that by driving around and showing his friends sides of the island less seen and experienced. He had gotten comfortable over the years, and understood how that was not an instant change. Curried goat? Plantain porridge? Mannish water? Steamed fish…with the head still on? Things we may take for granted, but high on the list of bizarre food for many foreigners.
It was a cozy hour. My friend called me and told me she could not find me at the club. I explained what I was doing. I thanked my host and scooted up the road to Cinnamon Hill. My friend had come up to watch the Reggae Boyz on Sunday, and had spent time with a cousin eating fish. She brought me a large fried Escoveitch fish, wrapped in foil. It was still piping hot. I decided to try to eat it and take her to see some of the golf. I explained my little diversion. The fish was great. It hit the spot, after seven hours without a proper meal. We followed the final holes of our good friends.
The tournament ended and the golfers trailed in for their late lunch. The Canadians rolled In, with more beer and cigars. They went around slapping backs and laughing. We met up, again. The caterers had made sorrel, and my friend and I were enjoying a glass. We explained to some of the Canadians what it was. “Sarin?” one said. “Sorrow?” he asked. They were having trouble with the syllables and the and the sounds. But, they liked the taste. They liked the idea of it being sampled with rum, white or dark. They called over their group: “Try this!” They sampled and sipped. They smiled and drank more.
The prize giving started and my host from earlier took centre stage. He was brief, though, and handed over duties to his group of friends to hand over the prizes.
Hail fellows, well met.