Rural Jamaica: Long Hikes, Good Food, and Fast Bikes
A number of students will be dropping us notes from around the world as they participate in Ripon College’s Liberal Arts In Focus program at the start of this summer. Andrew Leshner ’16, an Educational Studies major, is writing from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, where he is enrolled in “Peace Studies in Jamaica” with Professor Joe Hatcher.
Many friends looked my way for advice throughout preparing for this trip, considering I visited Jamaica once before. Unfortunately, the skills I developed through tanning, swimming, sight-seeing, and scuba diving at an FDR resort in Montego Bay would not translate to my experience in Hagley Gap, one of the two rural Jamaican Blue Mountain communities we are visiting during the In Focus program.
Like Ripon, Hagley Gap features kind local citizens who will always smile and say hello as you cross paths. This friendly atmosphere makes transitioning to extremely different living conditions significantly easier.
In terms of accessibility to technology, I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding technological availability among local citizens. Interestingly enough, I started noticing many individuals owned and relied on cell phones to a similar extent that I did. My host mother explained that her cell phone was integral to how she ran her successful shop. Her shop is similar to a convenience store, providing customers with snacks, water, cigarettes, alcohol, and assorted personal hygiene items, such as rags and toiletries.
On the flip side, only some individuals in this community rely on cars as a means of transportation. My host mother walks to and from her shop every day, which is approximately two miles up the mountain from her home, which is near a river. All cars I have seen and ridden in are stick shift and seem to be primarily used for the owner’s occupation. Many cars are used to transport fruits and vegetables from farms higher up on the mountain to homes and shops which are lower down the mountain. Individuals who do not own cars can easily take a bus to Kingston for 250 Jamaican dollars, approximately $2.50 in U.S. dollars, and the bus is available every other day. Many males in the community own motorcycles that seem to be for pleasure as well as feasible transportation up the steep mountainous community.
Running water is not very clean the further down the river you live, and there is no hot water available in the community. Sometimes showers, sinks, and toilets do not operate properly, so manual techniques are used to access water, including bathing and gathering water in and from the river. There are no washers and dryers, so all cleaning is done by hand, and clothes are hung up to dry on clotheslines outside of the homes. The hot Jamaican sun assures that clothes dry quickly.
Nightlife and commerce are different here compared to many shops in the United States. In the United States, many shops and businesses have set opening and closing times. Here, shops and businesses are often open until the last customer leaves and operate under seemingly no set schedule.
Although there are several differences between many American communities and Hagley Gap, there are also many similarities as well, which makes transitioning to a new lifestyle and culture both comfortable and fun.
This post would not be complete without mentioning the delicious, organic home cooked meals that are available around every corner. Many popular dishes feature freshly picked fruit (specifically bananas, mangoes, plantains, and oranges) mouthwatering chicken, and flavorful rice.
A trip to Jamaica is not complete without experiencing the fresh and delicious cuisine, as well as the friendly attitudes that radiate from people every corner you turn.