Fifty four years ago, in September, my parents decided to leave Jamaica, and try their luck with work in England. The following August, Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain. Did we make such an impact on the minds of the British that they wanted to let us go on with our national lives ourselves? I think not, but it’s a fun thought. Two years ago, I had to come back to Jamaica, because my wife took a job here. That’s one of life’s ironic merrygorounds–and I have been on many. But, that circle isn’t my focus, today.
Today, we are into the anniversary of that Independence.
Quite by coincidence, my in-laws are in the process of leaving to return to their Bahamian homes, after a week in Jamaica. For some of them, this was their first visit to this island; for others, it was an n-th trip. None had ever had an extensive tour of the island, especially its rural areas. So, I was glad to try to let them have that experiences, running the risk that they would find the journeys long and challenging. In the end, we touched all bar 2 of the 14 parishes, and saw much water that was not sea. We sampled mountains from on high and from the ground, and travelled the roads enjoying the lush vegetation that is all over the island, including Bamboo Avenue and Fern Gully, but also the rich bamboo clumps of the Blue Mountains.
Nassau is flat, and much less well adorned with vegetation and natural water, and is more like a drive through downtown and New Kingston, offering little by way of dense vegetation or changes in elevation.
This morning, I took the first wave of departing visitors to the airport, at 4am. Oh, what a wonderful time of day that is! I’m a morning person, so getting up at 3.30 didn’t really bother me. I love dawn.
We left calmly and I decided at the last minute to drive via New Kingston, though I’d had in mind the route through Mountain View. My wife has that route on her ‘barred’ list, but I always love to go the simpler, straighter route. But, off we went towards Devon House. I had to laugh as we approached a police road block, and were asked to stop. “Everything all right?” asked the officer. I said we had no problems, and off we went.
Not surprisingly, we saw a good flow of cars to get those early morning flights to the USA. My wife’s brother, who’d spent most time in the past going off the beaten track in Jamaica, commented how nice it was to see the city at this time, with its lights marking its contours in ways that were more notable than during daytime. It was also good to see the contours from sea level, as opposed to on high, which we’d done at the weekend, during a drive to the Blue Mountains.
The family had sampled well: jerk food from Scotchies, fried fish and bammy from Whitehouse/Border, patties, ice cream from Devon House, Bridget’s sandals, Red Stripe in light and original form, ‘Grand Market’ on Hope Road, a trip to UWI, the vistas of the north coast seen from White Witch Golf Course,
the thrills and spills of Dunn’s River Falls, and more.
That they should leave on our Independence Day is fitting. I’m never ashamed of what Jamaica has to offer: we are not a perfect country, by any stretch of the imagination. But, we are unique. (I’m almost tempted to use that awful ‘very unique’.) The past few days have seen a string of ideas under the theme #OnlyJamaicans, and they pointed out some of the things that we love and loathe, but make us what we are. I added that ‘OnlyJamaicans leave a pile of mangoes for you to enjoy on your trip away for a few days’, after we’d come home to find about 25 Hadens on a table, left by our gardener. The speed with which they were dived into could only be understood if watched in slow motion. Nom, nom!
When we have to deal with explaining the problems that we have created, such as our crime and our faltering economy, we often look to make excuses. But, I think we can go further if we accept what we are, and work to correct that, knowing full well that those who don’t want change for the better are at least as strong as those who want to see things get better. As I’ve said, when one looks in the mirror, it’s easier to deal with the reflection if it is ourselves than if it is someone else.
We can only change ourselves.