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Jamaica 2012

The Jungle

Feb 24, 2012

Quite a bit has happened and has been observed and reflected upon since my last post. Most significantly, in my mind, are the events of last night.

The story starts a few days earlier, though. Sunday was Mr. Brown’s send off party. He’s touring several universities in the US to speak about community development and his experience with his organization in Jamaica as well as its Village Tourism program (which is part of the Amizade study abroad program). Amizade and many universities have been begging him to come for a while now, is my understanding. At our last meeting he told us that he got a very warm welcome everywhere he went. I also learned that Jamaicans truly value obtaining a US visa and are quite proud if they can get one. Mr. Brown’s visa lasts for ten years, so maybe I’ll invite him to a certain sacrament I might take part in later in my life. ha

Anyway, the point is that Mr. Brown, my caretaker and guide, is gone for the rest of my trip here leaving the rest of the club to organize things and make sure I’m safe, etc. Overall, they’ve done a great job, and my newest host mom has been especially accommodating. The main problem, however, is that most Jamaicans don’t respect time like they should in addition to a communication breakdown.

With Mr. Brown out of the picture, the club members have lost a central spoke. Most organizations would just select a temporary replacement, but unfortunately the AOC has selected three different replacements. Keisha, Mr. Brown’s secretary, has been planning activities for me and failing to inform me of them in a timely manner and/or ask for my input. Ms. Fenton is the AOC President and works at the Galloway E.C.I. school where I’ve been teaching 6-year-olds computer basics. She is my POC for any doubts I have while Mr. Brown is away. She seems to be the most informed and can quickly contact those with information she lacks. Finally, there’s Mrs. Wright, my current host mother. As a host mother, she expects to have some time to plan herself, i.e. I should have some free time on the weekend or in the evenings to do stuff with her and her family. She’s also the person responsible for getting me to places on time, so she needs to be informed about my daily schedule ahead of time since she works during the days. This responsibility is a bit more difficult for her because she doesn’t have a car, where my other host families could rely on Mr. Brown’s truck as a last resource.

Ms. Fenton planned for me to be at the school every day this week from 9-noon, possibly including next Monday. However no one told me these details. I was only told I’d be at the school all week, no times, and no one told me what would happen on Wednesday (a national Jamaican holiday). You can imagine that this omission caused a bit of confusion. Ms. Fenton also has a car, so we’ve been relying on her to get me around quite a bit.

Keisha made plans for me during the day, but luckily I finally forced some details out of her and was able to rectify that collision. She also wouldn’t give me details, even when pressed for them on multiple occasions. “When are you picking me up today?,” I asked Wednesday before going with Keisha and others to the beach. “Soon.” “That’s not good enough. I need more details.,” was my response. “How about 20 minutes.” !!!! What!!! When was she going to tell me this?? And how was I going to get all the way to Ms. Fenton’s house from Mrs. Wright’s in that little time while also getting ready!? Mrs. Wright called Keisha back and told her I’d be waiting at the road and to call when she was on her way. An hour and a half later Keisha shows up in a van full of people. Let me stress that again, cause it really frustrated me. 1.5 hours later. 90 minutes later. Enough time for me to shower twice. A long time. OK, OK, maybe I shouldn’t be frustrated. Keisha just comes from a different culture. But still! I had to wait by the road for a good thirty minutes. Mrs. Wright and Mr. Brown agree with me that punctuality is a virtue for which one should strive. So that’s my rant on that issue.

Poor Mrs. Wright is just going with the flow, trying to do her best to keep up with the ever changing plans. There were problems on Mon, problems on Wed, problems on Thurs, and now problems on Fri. All of them had miscommunication, or lack of communication, at the root of it.

So now let me get back to the main story. While at the beach on Wednesday (super crowded and sea full of that ocean grass that creeps me out), Keisha informed me that I would be going to a club in Negril called The Jungle the next day. I apparently would be leaving straight from the AOC meeting that night. Sounds good, except I don’t have anything to wear! *grrrrr* So I know it isn’t a huge problem. I know that it’s far from the end of the world. But I expect a certain level of professionalism from the people I work with and she just was not exhibiting that characteristic. Had she mentioned it the week prior, I could have found a solution to what I saw as a problem.

Of course, everyone who knows me well, knows that I rarely show my anger or frustration. It’s mostly just smiles and “No problem”-s from me. I try my best to be polite and understanding, at very least at the surface. So off I went to Negril with Patroy (Ms. Fenton’s son), Shaunalee (one of my AOC students), and Omar (a friend of the others) on Thursday night.

The cars and gads of vendors with jerk chicken grills and tables full of drinks for sale gave the place away, if the sign alone didn’t do the job. The place is very large, with a room for pool, and several bars throughout the two story club. The top floor is a wood balcony/porch type area—very large and plenty of space for dancing. The bottom floor has the pool room, an open lounge type area, and a DJ platform paired with a dance floor. There is plenty of room for dancing everywhere, but the designated dance floors were especially interesting to me. They have all sorts of lights, like those cool green lasers you see at rock concerts, and those nifty colorful lights with different shapes that Jason showed me when I used to hang out with the tech crew at my university.

Patroy asked if I wanted a drink, so I followed him to the bar. I asked for his recommendation and ordered Magnum – a wine liquor (or something like that). I expected him to pay, since my caretakers pay for everything, and that’s what a gentleman would do, but I waited about two seconds before pulling out my card. I don’t know if you remember, but I ran out of Jamaican cash several weeks back. Little did I know that I had to spend US$10 before using my card. Luckily I have some US cash left. I could only hope that the US$4 drink was any good. FYI it tastes like cough syrup. I don’t like wasting, so I downed the whole thing, over a very long period of time mind you.

I spent most of the time watching how people danced and then imitated some of them as inconspicuously as I could. Hundreds of bodies in a single room tend to make it pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly, so around 1am or so I went outside to get some air and cool down. It was mostly empty outside, so everyone I saw when I first got to the club had clearly moved inside. I found a railing to sit on and enjoyed the cool air and my personal space. As Jamaican men do, a man came by and we began to chat. It’s nice to know that I can still get some attention even when I’m not trying at all and am all gross and sweaty. ha IDK tank top and dirty old jeans don’t really spell sexy in my opinion. ha

When I went back inside, Shaunalee and Omar were sitting on a railing, so I joined them. Chair dancing is always more fun when you don’t have someone to dance with. And not that I’m complaining, but these guys weren’t exactly engaged. Yay chair dancing! The guy from outside showed up below me and we sort of danced, I guess, for about 30 seconds at a time (lol, sorry, inside joke. I’m looking at you mom & sis). For those of you who are confused, allow me to explain. The rest of you should skip to the next paragraph. Imagine a large room. Now put a raised area towards the center with enough space for maybe four tables and only a single stair. Next put a railing on one side of it and pillars on either side of the railing. Behind the railing was a walk way to the second-floor stairs . Now I’m gonna paint you a picture. Woman sitting on railing, moving torso, etc. to the beat. Man standing on the floor behind railing, also moving to beat. Tada! Hybrid chair dancing!

So my tally for the night was about five. Shaunalee, however, was dressed super nice and can move her tush like it’s nobody’s business (ah, the joy of clichés ha). Her tally had to be three times my own. I was fairly embarrassed watching how people dance here. Shaunalee’s dancing was tame compared to the dancing of others on that mini-stage. I’m talking straight-up crazy sex moves sans nudity. Girls with their legs around a man’s hips bouncing up and down, being passed from one molester to the next. I’ve seen people practically have sex on the dance floor before, just like anyone else who’s been to a frat party in the last decade+, but these moves really top the list. I mentioned my discomfort on the ride back, just to be berated about how rude I am and the fact that people are wearing clothes makes it all completely different followed by extremely personal questions about my own love life. Yeah, so getting out of that was uncomfortable.

But before we left, I decided I wanted to play pool. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of that earlier in the night, but you know what they say about hindsight. I found the slot where you pay, but I couldn’t tell what sort of coins it took. I suppose my confusion made me seem intoxicated or ditsy or somehow otherwise vulnerable, and several men approached me. The first I just casually dismissed. Then one showed up and asked if I was Jamaican. Wait no, that was someone else. Anyway, one of the guys who came up was a Jamaican-American from NYC. So I enjoyed speaking with him given the few things we have in common. I like to think I’m part Jamaican now that I’ve lived here for nearly six weeks. I’ll let you all judge that for yourself next time you see me. 🙂 But yeah, this guy works for a photography company and does most of his work in Connecticut and Joisy. I told him about the sea weed in the ocean and how to avoid it by not going in the afternoons, and he told me he was born in Jamaica and visits regularly. Foot-in-mouth-experience number five million for Moosette (or maybe that’s the wrong phrase, but you get my gist). ha He introduced me to his brother who will be getting married on the beach there in Negril. I would have liked to chat with them more, maybe even play a game of billiards, but my posse was literally waiting for me and looking quite bored out of their minds. Too bad. It probably didn’t help that I denied that I have a Jamaican phone (Ms. Fenton gave me one at the beginning of the week) and said I was busy Sat. He asked these questions prematurely! *grrr*

On the way out of the club, it was past 4am and everyone seemed to be doing well. It wasn’t until Patroy had been driving a while that I realized he was clearly buzzed. I’m always making assumptions that get me into uncomfortable situations! *grrr* I assumed he would be responsible and not drink more than one alcoholic beverage, given that he was responsible for my safety and all, but I guess that’s just one more difference in our cultures. His blurred state wasn’t a problem until we got to Sav and he went the wrong way around an island straight into oncoming traffic on a one way road. I freaked out a little. He stopped for coffee at that same island (there just happened to be vendors). I got back to the house in one piece. Praise the Lord!, as they say in church here. It was about 5am. I felt guilty for waking Mrs. Wright, but she was very kind about the inconvenience. I would have to wake up at 7:30am to get ready for my work at the school.

Needless to say, I didn’t wake up. In fact, I completely missed my work at the school. I’m freaking out a little because I’m supposed to give a presentation at HEART on Monday and now also make up the lost day at the school. I’ll have to reschedule the presentation at HEART, but I need a phone number first. Time is ticking, though. I’m going to Roaring River today and might not get a chance to call. Of course, I could just do business like they do and cancel at the last minute. That’s actually what the government establishment did to me on Thurs after I spent all night working on the presentation and carried my laptop with me all day. *grrr* No, I think I’ll rise above as best I can.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with recently. It’s been fun, and I appreciate everything the people here are doing for me. Please don’t take my ranting and venting the wrong way! 🙂

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