These were the first words spoken to me when I arrived in Jamaica two days ago. Which shouldn’t have been particularly surprising since I had been pre-warned that Jamaican men can be very forward. Except that it was a customs official who was saying it as he checked my passport – now that was a little surprising.
My chaperones and I stayed in Kingston only long enough to melt in the stifling heat and do a shop at Mega Mart, which was the second big surprise of my first day here. I had never been to such an enormous supermarket before, and I couldn’t believe the variety of different foods on offer. I had the luxury of a ute taking me back up the mountains, which may not happen again, so I knew I should take advantage. Plus, since the roads to the mountains are regularly closed off due to tropical storms and floods, they recommend stocking up with a good supply of tinned goods just in case. Nevertheless, the bill of $25,000 Jamaican was still difficult to comprehend.
And then it was on to the mountains. The road was bumpy but not anywhere near as bad as I had expected and the scenery was far more beautiful than I could have imagined. The house was more basic than I had thought but bathing in the crystal clear river surrounded by huge boulders and lush green trees was an incredibly peaceful and invigorating experience.
It will definitely take some time to adjust to this much slower, quieter, simpler way of life. I think it will also be a slow process of gaining trust and acceptance from the locals, although they have all been friendly and very curious. Many of our neighbours have heard about me through the lightning-fast Hagley grapevine and come to the house asking for “the Australian girl”. And others I have met walking around the village, each of them offering a “Morning”, even when it is in fact the evening (a little Jamaican humour). One of the older residents, walking stooped over and with a cane to push himself up the steep dirt tracks, said to me sternly: “You’re in my country now, mon!” For a second I wasn’t sure how to respond, and then he burst into laughter. I could only do the same.
Oh and by the way, tomorrow for breakfast my new housemate and I are going to make fried callaloo (a spinach-type vegetable) and banana. And this morning I had cornmeal porridge with vanilla and nutmeg. It was absolutely delicious.