A car swooshes by. “Y’all wanna buy sum Bob Marley?!” the driver shouts at us, while uniformed police hang out just a block away. Welcome to Jamaica.
Knowing that we had a conference to attend in Kingston on Monday, we decided to fly to Jamaica already on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend there and get a feel of the country. We flew over to Montego Bay on the northern coast of the island early Saturday morning – and got two days in the beach town. The water was clear as glass and people were generally utterly friendly. We had heard so many bad stories about how rude people are in Jamaica, how racist and insulting they can be and how dangerous it is to walk around as a tourist – but we got none of that. People were curious to chat, kids were confident and eager to play, strangers were smiling, and everybody wanted to share their Mary Jane. We kindly declined the offers and only stayed within the safe areas after dark – at most times we were the only foreigners around – and it was completely fine.
We spent our days playing on the beach and in the water, and the evenings having nice dinners. On Saturday night we danced, which was an experience in itself. Little did I know that many of the Dancehall songs have specific steps to them that the entire club does together, and at first I didn’t understand why the people would get all ecstatic, jump in the air and then pretend to “shoot the DJ” when a new song came on. I later got the explanation that “pra pra prra!” with a pistol-formed hand in the air is an expression of joy rather than aggression. “We show the DJ that we like the song, that we appreciate his work!” That’s how normalized the relationship to fire arms is in Jamaica. It’s sad and it’s scary – but nobody seems to mind.
I bought Red-Yellow-Green rasta juggling balls in Montego Bay. Six years ago a beautiful clown taught me how to juggle but I lost the skill as I fell out of love. I decided to learn again, thanks to Jamaica. A bit cheesy, a bit symbolic, it will be a practice in juggling and combining pleasure with responsibilities. Celebrating life and professionalism at the same time. Finding time to disconnect, but continue loving my job and giving it the time it requires.
It will remind me of all the emails sent and the one-hour work related Skype call I had just a moment before taking the photo above. And how I enjoyed it all.