Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's GROWN on me

**The following is all taking place in my mind:
TVJ Commentator: Mizz JohnBuptiste, Top 5 things you've GROWN to love about Kingston, Jamaica. GO!!
Me: (I immediately break out into a sweat because 1. I realize that I'm going to be on Jamaican TV and 2. that already seems like way too long a list.  Eeeek! But, like the trooper I am I collect myself.)
OK.  These are the top 5 things I've grown to love about Kingston:

1. Icy cold 'bag juices' that can be purchased from just about every vendor with something edible on either their stationery or mobile stall.  For those of you not familiar with what a bag juice is, it is just that- a bag of juice.  I purchase these on days when I am particularly hot because Negasi believes that 'girls must carry boys because boys get too hot under the sun.' Don't ask me where he's gotten this from- I'm working with him on improving.  When its 1-2 p.m. and you're standing in a crowded bus park in either downtown Kingston or Half Way Tree, you get a bag juice (I prefer the guava flavored one) and a bag of St. Mary's banana chips to go with it.  Not only does this cool me down, but it also holds me over until my next meal.
The young man pictured here is sucking away on a bag juice. 

2. Political and Social Consciousness among the common folk of Jamaica.
If there's one thing to which Kingston is a testament it is that poverty and adversity do not have to prohibit one from seeking and obtaining knowledge.  Some of the most intellectual and thought provoking conversations I've had have been with individuals of the lowest socio-economic class, many of whom do not hold a university degree much less have been privileged enough to have received an uninterrupted formal education.
In a previous post I spoke of the deeply embedded color consciousness that pervades Jamaican society.  However, I failed to mention the strong traces of Black pride among a considerable portion of the society.  No, I have not surveyed the entire country but when you walk down the street and are hailed as 'Empress' (a term of respect most commonly used by Rastas to address a woman; the term originates from the Rastafarian belief in the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen.) it becomes hard to deny the apparent respect held for this country's African roots.
Lastly, I guarantee you that it is possible to walk up to any Jamaican on the street-man, woman, young or old- and ask them about their opinion on Jamaica's political state.  The facts will be there along with justly formulated opinions.  For instance, while in downtown Kingston one afternoon, I asked a young man who looked to be around my age about the huge construction job that had the label 'Digicel' printed all over the fence that enclosed the site.  His reply was very insightful.  He explained that Digicel, Jamaica's leading cellular service provider, was building its main headquarters there in downtown Kingston.  It was just part of the government's scheme to turn poverty and crime stricken downtown Kingston back into a corporate center.  He went on to explain that this is largely why Dudus had to be 'removed.'  Had Dudus been around, he went on, he would've had a major hand (financially) in this scheme, as he was the area's 'don.'  Also, he added, the entire scheme was the government's way of performing ethnic cleansing on downtown Kingston.
3. Random Art.
Kingston is good for its random displays of artwork.  The city's poorest, richest, and in-between areas are adorned with murals with vibrant colors, social and political messages, and sometimes pretty intricate design.
An example of a street mural in Kingston.  Pictured in these two are Bob Marley and Jamaica's national heroes.

This carving rests on a tree outside of Negasi's school. I've admired it for months and finally took a picture to share.

4.  That there are chill-out spots within Kingston.  In other words, Kingston does offer some aspects of country.
Entryway to Hope Gardens, which I've mentioned in an earlier post.  Dope, no?
Some weeks after moving here, my faculty supervisor took me out to lunch to a spot a few minutes off campus.  The place is in Gordon Town and is referred to as 'Look Out Point' because of the view.  Upon entering this small community he pointed out two things.  The first was where one could get the best herb (gotta love UWI) and the second was where one could get some hearty and delicious ital food.  I think I fell in love with the restaurant even before I took my first bite from a plate of ackee, rice and peas, boiled whole wheat dumpling and yam.  I fell in love with its ambiance. This restaurant is pretty much situated off of a cliff and gives you a great view of mainly lush foliage and what I believe is the community of Hope Valley.  In addition to all this, Shanty Man, the Rasta who owns and operates the restaurant is always in the best mood.
5. Public transportation system.
When I first moved to Jamaica my biggest issue was transportation.  The situation has drastically improved, however.  Although it's still of utmost importance to be ever so cautious and alert when using public transportation here (and in NY. haha) I am ever so grateful for having several bus routes that stop just outside or minutes away from my place!  Shout out to everyone who I ride the number 78 bus with each morning to drop Negasi off at school.  This line runs from downtown Kingston to August Town.  Another lovely thing about riding the bus here is...well...the music selection.  I got on the 78 one morning and as soon as I took my seat Maxwell's 'Fistful of Tears' started to play.  Needless to say I almost touched the sky.
One downside to public transportation here- the drivers drive like madmen!! But, hey, I'm never late...
One of Jamaica's better (this means air-conditioned) buses.

Until next time, people.  Peace and Love.


  1. Well said. Very funny. For real? I love the art and I want a bag juice. I probably wouldn't stand more than two weeks if I had to rely on the buses in that heat. The icy men and women should get community service awards for entrepreneurial innovation. They realized demand and they work hard to supply their customers.

    That view from the restaurant is gorgeous. It probably enhances the quality of meals eaten there. I'm looking forward to getting a taste of the experience. Rock on!

  2. Da, I'll hook you up on the bag juice front, for sure. At J$20 it's probably the least expensive thing I ever buy out here.

    Oh, and I totally agree with you on the community service award idea. If not that, then some sort of 'Hustler of the Year' award is due. I didn't mention the songs they make up to market their merchandise..."twenty dolla gi yuh ah baag juice...and so on and so forth"

  3. On Friday, 10/12/10, Nicole, Negasi and I were on the #78 bus. The driver was playing a nonstop CD of Mary J. It sounded good. I have been on other buses, gospel, Christmas carols are played.
    BTW: this is Nicole's mom. I have been here in beautiful Jamaica since October. It has been quite an experience. My precious grandson, Negasi, has made my stay a "blast" also.

    One last thing, I found on one of my bus rides, the music helped me divert my fear of tumbling into one of the ravines. This particular bus driver was the "demon race car/bus driver" from hell. I am serious. I remember reading in one of Jamaica's papers, a beautiful young girl died as a result of a bus tumbling down a ravine.

    The bus speed limit should seriously be addressed here in Jamaica.

  4. Mom, you're awesome... Lmao!!!!!!!