by Suzy Williams
The trip to Jamaica was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I decided to write about the trip and how the Rastafarian culture can be seen in everything that we took part in. The Rastafarian culture was really experienced while visiting the Bob Marley Mausoleum. While there, “Crazy” Curtis explained what the three colors, red, gold, and green of the Rasta flag represented. Curtis explained that the red represents the common color of blood that runs through every person, gold represents the sun and the wealth of the homeland, and green represents the vegetation and everything living. There are many ways that the Rastafarian colors are spread throughout the island.
I see red as the common color of blood, and how cultures are different despite something that we have in common. One could see the red color of the Rastafarian movement just by exploring Jamaica and interacting with the people. The first interaction we had with the locals was with Mr. Keys. Mr. Keys was the bus driver for the entire week and was constantly telling us information about every structure and place that we drove by. Before leaving for Jamaica we heard that Mr. Keys loved to tell jokes and one of his favorites was, “Who is the king of Jamaica? ... The Burger King!” Unfortunately, he never told us that joke. However, Mr. Keys was an interesting character. He informed us that he was not allowed to hold the microphone while driving, even though he was texting the entire time instead. Mr. Keys was also a life saver when we went into the market at Ocho Rios. He explained that the prices of the items would be expensive and that we should bargain and cut our price in half if we wanted to get a good deal. Well, I listened to him and basically racked up while shopping. I bought a wooden giraffe for $20, a wooden mask for $20, Blue Mountain Jamaican Coffee for $9, a Bob Marley shirt for $11, and a shot glass for $2.
Another way the common bond of blood can be seen was through interaction with the children. When we arrived back to Hunny Bay from the snorkel trip to Drax Hall, there were about six Jamaican children standing on the beach while Captain Rico was anchoring the boat. The children seemed so excited that there were outsiders on the island to mingle with. Other locals that we had the pleasure of interacting with were Chris and Steven, who were 15 and 5. Steven was the son of the owner and Chris was the son of Debbie, one of the cooks. Steven was an exciting part of the trip because he loved the attention of everyone that was around him. Steven also turned 6 on the last full day that we were in Jamaica and his mom told us that he insisted that we join them for his birthday and the cutting of the cake. Chris was not a big talker at first, but he eventually warmed up to us and began to interact and join into the conversation, mostly because he thought we were Germans at first. By the end of the week Chris joined our class when we went out snorkeling on the last day.
Cultural differences can also be seen when it comes to the group that was there while we were also there. They were German. There is nothing wrong with being from Germany, unless you carry yourself like these folks did. I mostly did not like the German group because of their people skills, or lack thereof. Most days when we were waiting for the meal to be served, especially during breakfast times, the German group would completely bypass all of us that had been patiently waiting. The German group also decided to hijack some of the organisms that we found over the course of the week to freeze and take back to Germany.
One of my favorite experiences was with Errol. Errol was amazing and I would give anything to experience two days at the top of the mountain living the way he did. I would also give anything to have the knowledge that he has of plants and what they can be used for. When we first left Hunny Bay, Errol pointed to some trees that seemed out of place at the top of a mountain in the distance. He said, “You see those trees?” I responded with, “Yes, why? What is up there?” Errol laughed and just said, “My house.” I just remember looking at Carrie and we gave each other a look that said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” As we traveled up the mountain Errol talked about the children that he has and how long it took to walk down and back up the mountain each day. Errol said that if he jogged it would take him an hour and a half to get to his house, and that if he just walked it was about two hours. When he has a class or a group that he is showing plants to it takes him three hours. While we were going up the mountain we had to hold a wire and climb down the bank to a creek and cross the creek. After crossing the creek Errol mentioned that the creek is where he bathes every day. The most impressive part of the hike was when we arrived at Errol’s house. Errol’s house had been built with his own hands 21 years ago and had with stood all of the hurricanes that had come through Jamaica and was only damaged once. While Errol’s house has a television and a radio, he does not technically have electricity. His power source is an extension cord that has been rigged to the light pole about 100 yards from his house. He also has no running water. I know I have said it once, and I will continue to say it-that man and his lifestyle is amazing.
Another part of the culture that was memorable was Venice. Venice was 11 years old and came to the resort one day. While at the resort she braided some the classmates’ hair and talked about her school. When I met Venice she had cut her foot on some rocks because she was walking barefoot because her shoes were broken. We got a band-aid for Venice’s foot and then we found some tape to fix her shoes the best we could. Venice then sat down and we asked her what she liked most about school. Her favorite subject is math, so we sat there at the picnic table talking for 30 minutes about math and how much she likes it and how I was hoping to be a math teacher one day. I love doing service work for those who are less fortunate and I had often thought of teaching in another country-Venice made me realize that teaching in another country is something that I actually want to do one day. One day while we were out exploring the island, Venice gathered enough bok choy for Debbie to fix us for breakfast one day.
While gold is supposed to represent the sun, I personally feel that it is also a representation of all the vibrant colors on the island. I have been to Jamaica before on a family vacation, but it was only for a few day and we were unable to fully explore the island. On the ride from the airport we were only able to get a glimpse of what was to come later that week.
The colors of the creatures we found and just the water itself was the most amazing assortment of colors. When I go to the beach here in North Carolina I am used to seeing a sandy mess when I look down into the water, but when I first got into the water at Hunny Bay I was amazed at how crystal clear it was. I was actually able to see my feet. Then I got skeptical thinking that it was only so clear because of the shallow depth of the water. However, when we went snorkeling the next day at Drax Hall and then at Puerto Seco, all skepticism was washed away. I was able to swim in water that was at least 15 feet deep and still able to see everything on the ocean floor. Here are some of the “colorful” creatures from my notebook:
- Cushion Sea Star (Oreaster reticulates): Some are burnt orange in color with lighter orange spots, others are light orange in color with darker orange/red spots.
- Brittle Sea Star (Ophioconia echinata): Legs are prickly while center is soft and spongy to touch; legs are tan and black in color while the center is brown with a green undertone.
- Fuzzy Chiton (Acanthopleura granulate): Segmented body, colored is almost marbled between dark brown, tan, and green/blue, the part under the segmented shell has fuzzy “hairs” that are white in color.
- Queen Conch (Strombus gigas): Shell is brown and cream in color, fuzzy algae is also growing on shell, two distinct eyes and a mouth protruding from shell, the eyes and body are spotted black and tan.
- Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis): Small in size, white in color, but turquoise when light shines off of scales, yellow at top of body with distinct vertical black stripes extending down body from eyes to tail fin.
- Flamingo Tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum): Pink in color with orange spots covering body, orange spots are outlined in black, very bright in color.
- Spotted Sea Hare (Aplysia dactylomela): Looks like a snail; color is yellow and brown with noticeable black spots covering entire body.
- Slate-Pencil Urchin (Eucidaris tribuloides): Body is cream and brown in color, spikes look like wood of a pencil with a dark brown color, reminds me of the bombs in Finding Nemo.
- Sea Pearl (Ventricaria ventricosa): Reminds me of a shiny marble, type of green algae, green and silver in color, when I tried to pick one up at Drax Hall it disintegrated in my hands.
On two of the mornings that we were in Jamaica we were required to attend bird watching. At first, I was not excited. Then we were able to see all different species of birds that were also vibrant in color. Some of the multi-colored birds that I recorded in my notebook include:
- Great Blue Heron: Mainly grey in color with a pale yellowish bill.
- Royal Tern: Black “cap” on head, bill is yellow-orange, wings are grey while chest and underside are white.
- Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron: Black head with white cheeks, top of head is bright yellow with tuffs of feathers protruding away from head, black bill and yellow legs.
- Doctor Bird: Small hummingbird, bright green body with black forked tail, bill is bright red with a black tip, tail reminds me of streamers at a party when Doctor Bird is flying around.
The green vegetation of Jamaica was one of the most interesting things to learn about with Errol. Not only was he a man of the mountain who lived off of the earth, but he also knew what every plant could be used for if he were to ever need it. On the way to his house we walked down the main road and then cut off onto a dirt part that led us into an area that was covered by trees. As we kept walking we came to an open field that was used to contain cattle. That open field then led us to an old settlement with stone walls and once working water wheel. Errol then led us deep into the woods where we came upon a creek. To get across the creek we first had to climb down the steep slope that was about 12 feet high, which required us to hold on to… an old telephone wire. Once over the creek we continued to hike further up the mountain until we came to some steps that looked like they had been done by some man and his shovel. That was a correct guess because Errol told us that he has dug out each and every one of the steps that led up to his house with his own hands when he first moved to the mountain and built his house. Some of the memorable plants that Errol described along our journey include:
- Devil’s Horse Whip: Weed that is used to make tea for colic and colds. Can also be mixed with Mimosa to make tea for infants who are not of full health.
- Hoq Plum: The bud can be chewed and swallowed or can be boiled in a tea for coughs, fever, constipation, gonorrhea, tapeworms, stomach troubles, and lotion.
- Soursop: Pulp of the fruit is used for drinks and ice cream. Also used for nervous ticks.
- Black Sage: Used in tea for colds and tightness of the chest.
- Dog’s Tail Sage: Used to make tea for colds and stomach aches. Also used as an eye wash.
- Cerasee: Widely used in Jamaica for multiple medicinal purposes. Tea is used for colds, stomach aches, constipation, and a general tonic. Also used for menstrual troubles and as a form of birth control.
- Fever Grass/Lemon Grass: Used for the lemony smell. Used for colds and fevers.
- Spirit Weed: Used for colds and fits in children. Can also be rubbed on the body for fainting spells and seizures.
Around Errol’s house there was also an abundance of fruit trees including a banana tree, a small coconut tree, sugar cane, and naseberries.
The green color of the Rastafarian culture can also be seen at the Circle B Fruit Plantation. While we were at the fruit plantation we were able to see and taste many different fruits right out of the tree and bush. Our tour guide, Ricky, was interesting enough himself so the fruit that we were able to taste put the tour over the top. Seeing how the fruit is grown and being able to taste it immediately after being harvested was amazing. The fruit that we were able to try included coconut, Jamaican apple, naseberry, grapefruit, starfruit, papaya, and banana.
The trip to Jamaica was an amazing experience and something that I will never forget. Having been once before I felt that I would have already experienced the majority of the things that we were planning to do. However, going a second time allowed me to experience Jamaica in a totally different way. We were able to explore the land and the water; all while discovering wonderful things about the culture and the people as well.