Wow, it is amazing how quickly time passes! After I wrote the previous blog entry I began thinking about my trip to Jamaica so many years ago. Either things were different then or I was simply naive at the time. Possibly a combination of both.
I had just graduated college and was a member of a community ensemble that was headed to Jamaica to stage a production there. Things were a bit different then...no terrorist threat, no passports needed. When we arrived at the airport in Montego Bay there were so many people just hanging around. Our tour guide met us at the gate, so we didn't have the tense experience I had during my initial visit to the Santo Domingo airport years later. I have told that story already.
We were immediately bussed to Ocho Rios where we would stay for four nights in the Turtle Beach Towers. The bus ride was an eerie experience. First, we rode on the LEFT side of the road. Second, we were going much too fast on those narrow, winding lanes. Third, people and animals seemed to walk precariously on the roads edge, oblivious to speeding vehicles coming within inches of maming them or killing them. I eventually closed my eyes and kept them closed until we pulled into the hotel parking area.
Ocho Rios was a wonderful place. Too bad we were not there for vacation. We had rehearsals, service projects and performances. Not much time to be tourists. I enjoyed the open-air market. I picked up a few trinkets, but was advised to get most souvenirs in Kingston before we headed home. A few of the cast ventured off to the beach while others were shopping. When I returned to the hotel to drop my shopping bag I decided to check out the beach also. Our hotel was not directly on the beach. There was a path to the beach area. While I was attempting to find my way a Jamaican guy asked me if I was headed to the beach. A coy "yes" was all I could muster as I realized I was alone and had been adamantly advised never to be alone while on this trip. The guy asked if I needed anything. He could get me ganja, girls or whatever I wanted. I told him I was okay and did not need anything as I turned to head back for the hotel. As I walked away he told me he had Jamaican bamboo and inquired if I liked bamboo. At that moment all I liked was the idea of getting back to the hotel without being robbed or who knows what else. It wasn't until after the trip that I discovered what "bamboo" was and what the guy was implying. So, maybe being naive at that point saved my life. Or maybe I missed sampling a famous Jamaican delicacy.
It was in Ocho Rios that I decided to some day return to the caribbean. It was the spirit of the people. Many of the young men literally danced, bopped or sang as they walked down the street. People were always smiling and greeted you sincerely. The school children seemed so disciplined in their uniforms. We performed at two schools in Ocho Rios.
After our gig in Ocho Rios, we went to Kingston to finish our tour. We stayed four nights there as well. Again, not much time for ourselves. Special things I remember are a reception held in our honor on the lawn of one of the university faculty members. It was a beautiful home in the hills.
We had a meeting with the Governor General and also visited the Bustamante Childrens Hospital to take pictures with the patients and to do outtakes from our show. During a tour of the University Of The West Indies in Kingston we learned about the acuaducts and saw the magnificent mural that students created.
I really had a great time in Jamaica and have always wanted to return for a vacation. Hopefully the homophobic attitudes will change.