a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Jan, 2008

Jamaica: part two of a few

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

With notes written Monday January 21

On Monday morning Kristina and I woke up around 6:30, dressed, and went out to the terrace where a breakfast buffet was being served. The food was half Jamaican and half “American.”

Normally, I am open to try new things but the thought of eating a fish dish (it was ackee and saltfish – see wiki) so early in the day turned my stomach. So I stuck with bacon, toast, fried plantain, and a serving of corn flakes … which for some reason tasted absolutely delicious.

The coffee was good, but Jamaicans generally don’t drink coffee, so I think our intense craving for the stuff was seen as pretty humorous. (Crazy, I know, since they grow the stuff there.)

Kristina left for work around 7:30, leaving me to my own devices. I went out to the pool area (see pic) with a book, water, sunscreen and stayed there… alternating between swimming, reading, and staring off into space. It was bliss. Birdsong and trickling waterfall drowned out the sounds of traffic and the occasional car alarm.

I had the place all to myself. It was my own private pool. But there is only so much lounging one can do. I wrapped it up at around 11:30 and went back to the room. I had a shower, got dressed and decided to go to Devon House. It’s one of a few popular tourist attractions in Kingston.  It was close enough to walk. So that was my plan. (pic here, here, here)

I’m still amazed I wasn’t hit by a car. I’m used to the traffic being on the right side of the road, so crossing the street or even crossing a driveway was a challenge because I was always turning my head the wrong way. This, a lack of pedestrian crosswalks, combined with the fact that signalling seems to be optional, guaranteed that I stood at each crossing for at least 20 seconds … looking left, right, then left again, then right, behind, and ahead. Repeat.

Parts of the walk were pretty enough. The mountain looks over everything (see pic) but generally, the walk stank. I mean that literally. The sun was boiling hot, and the heat radiated from the road. The sidewalk was narrow in some parts, and ran alongside four lanes of streaming crazy traffic. It was loud. I observed a great amount of driver one-upmanship. Motorcycles seemed to be honking at nothing in particular. In fact, a lot of vehicles were honking when there was no clear traffic violation whatsoever.

Whenever someone honked, by eyes automatically sought out the driver. The first 20 times this happened, my eyes automatically went to the wrong side of the car (remember, the steering wheel is on the right, they drive on the left) only to catch an empty seat.

After awhile I realized that some of them were actually honking at me. What tipped me off was the number of male cyclists who made comments as they passed by.

Instead of having lunch, I returned to the hotel lounge and ordered a pina colada. I thought I might regret this later, but I couldn’t be bothered eating. I just wasn’t hungry. This non-hungryness affected me for the rest of my stay.

A smart plan would have been to pick up some small thing at the grocery store the day before, but all we bought was a couple bags of plantain chips and some bottled water (see pic), because that was our main concern at the time and we didn’t realize there wouldn’t be a store near the hotel.

My drink was cheap (something like $3.75 for a drink that could have cost $12.00 anywhere else), and delicious. They served it with a cinnamon stick. I wondered if the wedge of pineapple and the maraschino cherry counted for anything.

I had to go through quite a bit in order to get this drink.

First, I sat expectantly at the bar. Then, a pretty girl approached and asked me what I would like. i told her I wanted something fruity and yummy. She called the bartender, who was followed by another fellow. They were both pretty young, perhaps in their twenties. They engaged me in idle chatter, 80 per cent of which I did not understand. They told me I have an accent. I told them they had one too. Har har. 

Like many of the people we met here, these two spoke rather quietly and didn’t look so directly at me when they’re speaking. They spoke English, sure, but it was dotted with a lot of Patois, which is way beyond me (see the wiki about this). That, coupled with the low volume, I was unable to pick up on spoken cues which (as in normal conversation) would normally (a) turn the conversation to me, (b) help me realize that the conversation is about me.

I must have said “pardon me,” or asked them to repeat themselves about twenty times in the space of time it took the bartender to make my drink. At one point the other guy (the one not making the drink) said something to me. I asked him to repeat it, which he did. I still didn’t understand what he was saying. I asked him to repeat it again and I still didn’t get it, but it was something about women, specifically married women, and I was wondering what he was getting at … so that’s why I asked him to repeat himself so many times. 

In fact, I was so embarrassed, that I made up a hearing problem on the spot. I had just been telling Kristina that I had had my hearing tested because I had difficulty hearing multiple sounds at once (i.e. multiple conversations at a party where the music is playing really loud).

So I motioned to my ears, blaming them for my inability to understand. “Too much loud music, you know!”

God, I feel like an idiot. I don’t think for a minute that they believed me. And for the rest of my stay at that hotel I believed I was known as the “deaf woman who takes photos and reads by the pool.”

I am likening this language thing to British English. You have cockney, which is almost its own dialect, spoken by the working/poorer classes. The more educated you are, the “better” English you speak. (My Fair Lady comes to mind as I type this.) It’s the same here.

Monday afternoon was spent reading Jane Eyre.

Dinner was early by Jamaican standards. 5:30 was still technically the lunch menu. I was eating alone. I ordered the hotel’s signature rum punch, thinking it would be akin to the rum punch my inlaws make in the summer. PUNCH indeed. I was WALLOPED. And it became the running joke. The drink must have been 85% rum, 15% something else. I mashed the cherry with my straw… a feeble attempt to pulverize it and dint the heavy booziness of the drink. It didn’t work.

Dinner was a club sandwich with fries so hot I could hardly touch them. I was drunk when I stood up and went back to our room.

Kristina returned partway through Catwoman, for which I was grateful. It was at this point that I realized I was hung over from my one drink. I popped an Advil and waited for the headache to go away.

[tomorrow: I am attacked by a wild Jamaican animal]

7 Responses to "Jamaica: part two of a few"

1 | porter

January 30th, 2008 at 11:51 am


I’m sorry to laugh…I’m laughing with you (I think…I hope) but faking a hearing problem is hilarious!

2 | Mark

January 30th, 2008 at 12:55 pm


That’s nothing. I once accidentally went into the women’s washroom at the Ottawa Airport (I didn’t even realize it until I noticed high heels in the stall next to me)…how does this relate to faking a hearing problem ? When I left the washroom…I faked being drunk ! I thought it would give me a visual excuse. I even waited until noone was in the washroom and then of course the minute I bolted for the door…two women were coming in, so I staggered a bit for effect. Pathetic.

3 | Natalie

January 30th, 2008 at 1:03 pm


Oh Andrea I am going to relish reading your stories about Jamaica. Thanks for the laughs.

4 | Jen_nifer

January 30th, 2008 at 1:34 pm


It really seemed like you were leading up to something bigger with the conversation at the bar. I anticipate reading more about these three as you reveal the rest of your stay…?

5 | andrea

January 30th, 2008 at 2:10 pm


Bigger than faking a hearing problem? And then actually admitting it to the world? ;)

6 | porter

January 30th, 2008 at 9:35 pm


Mark, that is hilarious….

7 | Chantal

February 1st, 2008 at 9:46 am


My work has multiple contracts with countries in the Caribbean and I have had the same experience you had. Although it has been in an office environment and the people around me thought it was pretty funny. Me? Not so much!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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