Sunday, December 20, 2009

Being a tourist

This is a different experience of Jamaica. My daughters arrived safely and we settled into a comfortable Freeport apartment loaned by friends.

I have found the role as tourist more difficult than settling in as a resident, and have to be aware of the potential of being taken advantage of at almost every decision. Already I have experienced two situations in which this has occurred. My pre-booked car rental did not materialise, and I had to scramble to find a car at the airport. Successfully achieved but not without its stress, and of course more expensive than originally planned. The second was yesterday when the girls and I had decided to adventure. Our plan was to go to Negril but we wanted to experience something other than beach along the way. We headed for Royal Palms Reserve and as we turned off we were told the reserve was closed and we should head to another, not far away. At the end of a lengthy drive and with the "kind" directions from a delightful young man, we arrived at Roaring Rivers. What we discovered was a local community that has taken the initiative to divert tourists to their mountain river village with hot springs, caves and lush flora. The place was interesting, the people pleasant, the fee negotiable but I certainly felt foolish about being conned so easily and wondered why all the deception, as we would probably have been open to the adventure anyway once we had seen our original destination. No harm done except perhaps to my pride and propensity to trust!
It is disappointing that spontaneity is probably not a great idea when one is obviously a tourist but the experience afforded an opportunity to see a local community off the beaten track, as well as a classic Jamaican tourist scam! Nothing like experiencing the country in its entirety!
The difference between being a volunteer and a tourist is that as a tourist one really is just a commodity, either for the Tour Companies (there are innumerable all-inclusives which have bought up and made inaccessible almost all the beach-front for miles at Montego Bay and east) or for the local hustlers who make every effort to acquire as much of one's holiday budget as possible. Having experienced so much kindness and caring during the first two months of settling as someone coming to contribute to the country, it is difficult to reconcile the difference as tourists do contribute but in a different way.

That being said, it is delightful to be on holiday, wonderful to have the girls here, and being able to drive and see more of the beauty of the country is really interesting, particularly as the girls' share their observations. Negril feels much more relaxed than Montego Bay, still reflecting some of the simpler times when hippies congregated there to enjoy the miles of beach, the rocky cliffs and caves and the gentle people whose life revolved around fishing. The next few days will be spent in Kingston, back to the noise and bustle!

Hard to believe the week will end with Christmas Day....

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