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Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Saturday, December 01, 2007 1:40 PM (Eastern)
I recently returned from Jamaica; it's been my third time going there. It's odd, but it's hard for me to imagine any place on Earth I'd rather visit. Living there would be difficult, there's no doubt about it, yet it is a place that becomes a part of you, or else it's that you leave part of yourself there every time you go.
Americans particularly would do well to add Jamaica to their vacation possibilities list. Not only is English the official language of Jamaica (never mind that no one there speaks the Queen's English, since we don't either): Americans will instantly recognize a fresher version of the same former-English-colony hangover.* As far as the weather: the American South is hotter and comparably humid. If you can survive that, Jamaican weather is something of a reverie. (Okay it isn't like that all year, check before you book.)
There have been improvements over the past three years...much more new construction, a renovated airport. The people you see on the street are better dressed, year by year. There appear to be more primary education students (noticeable, since they wear uniforms). Overall there is less formality, more of a driving energy.
The photos in travel brochures really don't do the place justice. They're hopelessly airbrushed; you're left with a bizarre impression of a high-gloss resort, where rich people sit and scrutinize your shoes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jamaica is a fabulously hot, sweaty kind of a place, where you spend much of your time in the sea. Artifice isn't a big component here...makeup melts or washes away, you live in a bathing suit, your hair is beachy, only in the literal sense. You need bug repellent and sunscreen, but you don't feel like sitting wearing a hat. At night it cools off and people dress up, but it's tropical dressing up. There isn't a corresponding style of dress here; it took me the three times to suss it out. But I like it.
Here is the view from my room. Someone comes every morning to take the boat to the water sports part of the beach. I got to snorkel almost every day...and this is a really cool boat, it's got two outboard motors in the back and a glass bottom...snorkeling in Jamaica is otherworldly. You'd think it would become humdrum, doing it every day, but it's unique each time, a different set of fish and corals, large bright starfish one day, a ginormous fish with jaws the next (okay I didn't stick around to investigate that one too closely).
Here I am looking kinda wasted...sorry about that...but everything they say about Jamaican rum is true; it's excellent. They also make a decent beer (Red Stripe).
Even if you don't consider yourself the greatest reggae fan, reggae music is omnipresent, only here it's alive and breathing. Its rhythms belong to an island nation...the one accurate aspect of those airbrushed travel-agency pics is Jamaica's exquisite turquoise sea.
Debated a bit as to which song to include here...so many good ones, from Three Little Birds to Stir It Up to Pressure Drop :) Can't beat this one though.
Bob Marley Is This Love
Here I'm leaving...you can always tell who's arriving or leaving, because they're the only folks wearing anything other than bathing suits. I didn't go for a deep tan, but I can say this was the first time in...years, easily...that I didn't always feel bone-tired. In fact I didn't feel tired at all.
Edited: ahahahahaha! Just going back over my previous posts on Jamaica.
You do need two bathing suits, because how well the day's suit dries out depends on the given heat and humidity (some parts of the country are considerably hotter than others).
This time I went, I saw dental floss suits, some toplessness...more sophisticated, but it will depend on your resort.
Still, skip the short-sleeved tee shirts, socks, etc. Again we brought one of those travel steamer/iron things; again it languished in the suitcase.
Do research something called a "no see um". Think DEET, in the highest safe concentration.
Hopefully there will be more choices in coral reef safe sunscreens soon. The lone one I saw in shops (stateside) was Ecolani, at nearly $20 for 4 oz. That would amount to a c-note's worth of sunscreen for us.
And what's up with all these expensive sunscreens lately anyway?
I got to sniff two Jamaican scents, White Witch (by Parfums Jamaica) and Forget Me Not. There's little information on the Net about either.
White Witch smells kind of neat, it's spicy...I'd like to say ginger and cinnamon...with an overlay of a narcissus-like flower. On me it wasn't that great, but I did smell it on others; it's a young scent imo. The staying power didn't impress me much, considering I'd tested the eau de parfum, but then it is reasonably priced, so I can see applying it fairly lavishly.
Forget Me Not was an old-fashioned blended floral perfume, like Creed's Fleurissimo. The staying power here was pretty good.
* Jamaica attained its independence in 1962.