Thursday, April 29, 2010

A feedlot vacation ---- Jamaica mon!

Now, I'm not the sort of person you'd normally find on a tropical beach.
I would hope by now that my readers would realize that given the choice I prefer cold, snowy, high, remote country.
Circumstances, a family wedding, forced me to Jamaica this past week.
The experience confirmed most of my prejudices about the place; miserable, poverty-stricken, crime-ridden.
When I travel I like to go to urban areas and sample the culture.
Jamaica doesn't lend itself to that kind of experience. Too dangerous. In fact, the U.S. State Department warns travelers about the country.
There is rampant murder. The island's dominant newspaper, the "Gleaner" runs a daily murder count at the top of its front page each day. On Sunday, the 116th day of the year, this small island of 3 million people, had already experienced 520 murders! It is well on the way to matching last year's 1,500 murders. It has the third highest murder rate in the world. On the Saturday we were there, the son of one of the Gleaner's editors was murdered in a drive-by.
When we ventured off the resort where we stayed we were accosted by numerous drug dealers trying to sell us weed and other drugs
We did not venture off much, although we would have loved to.
Besides the beach, one of the few outdoors things we did in Jamaica --- "climb" the Dunn River Falls

Katie looks good on the beach
I had in the back of my mind to try and climb the island's highest peak --- Blue Mountain --- a formidable 7,402 feet in elevation. We didn't make it; too many logistical problems.
We did experience Dunn River Falls, a tourist destination we shared with several hundred other folks. The falls cascade over a lava outcrop over about a half-mile. The attraction is that you get in the water and climb to the high point. You stop to look around much and you'll get pushed by the throng in back of you surging forward.
The resort, Breezes at Runaway Bay, about an hour and a half drive from Montego Bay where we landed, is a perverse place, as are all the luxury resorts that dot the coast.
They represent the scant wealth in this poverty-stricken nation. They are behind gates patrolled 24-7 by guards to keep the Jamaican residents away. Behind the fences you meet the poorly paid local help that serve the rich, international crowd that gorges itself on lavish buffets and fancy themed restaurants, and has as much free booze as it can suck down round the clock.
We quickly grew stir crazy and the first day wandered beyond the gates and were immediately approached by drug dealers, some of whom were shooed away by Jamaican police.
We walked by burned out, ramshackle huts that served as stores for the crafts the locals were hawking.
We felt we were driven back to the resort, which seemed to me like a combination of prison and feedlot for the rich.
When we drove the highway back to the airport and had a closer look at living conditions in the villages along the way we discovered more ramshackle houses and living arrangements intermingled with the resorts and an occasional mansion with a view of the Caribbean. Many scenes reminded me of poor African villages.
I would have loved to visit Kingston, but even the locals told me that it was unsafe for them.
Well, enough of the bellyaching.
It was eye-opening to see the poverty.
It was even more eye-opening to witness the over-the-top indulgences of the tourists behind gates, mere feet away from the truly wretched.
Depressing place.

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