In Jamaica, “big ups” is an expression used in the same way as “shout out” or “give yourself a pat on the back” in the US. A big up is a welcomed boast, with a more positive connotation than a humble brag.
While the Peace Corps experience has put me out of my comfort zone and causes me to feel a lot of weird emotions (as it should), I wanted to take time to write a post about some things I like about Jamaica. Because after all, this is a gorgeous island in the Caribbean…which leads me to number one:
The beaches: I live less than a half hour from the beach. One of the fantastic things about living here is that I can visit lesser-known beaches, and popular ones during the off-season and not have to deal with any crowds. Not to disrespect the Northern California beaches I grew up near, but it sure is nice being able to swim in warm ocean water!
Professional Appearance: Teachers and students here look sharp every day. Students must adhere to a uniform dress code. Teachers have this prestigious air about them and in rural communities, like mine, are often the only professional industry workers in town. The women wear skirt suits and heels, the men wear pressed button ups and dress pants. I also admire their ability to do this in the heat. Those synthetic fabrics don’t breathe well…
The Verandahs: A verandah is a porch. Nearly everyone has one. I’ve seen shacks with verandahs. They’re an important gathering place and hang out spot. Passers-by shout “hello” at you from the road when you’re on your verandah. Many homes here are made from cement blocks- which don’t provide great ventilation- and the verandah is often the coolest part of the house. I like to eat dinner and read on ours, but I often get distracted due to the excellent people-watching possibilities.
The taxis: Most people in Jamaica do not own a car, and thus rely on taxis to get places that are too far to walk to. Taxis here run routes, similar to bus routes in the US. Also similar to our buses, you just hop into one along with strangers (or you might get lucky and see a few friends in them). They’re pretty straightforward and inexpensive, plus the drivers are good friends to have. In Jamaica we say “small up” in reference to loading into a taxi; in order to maximize the profits on a run, the drivers try to cram as many people as possible into one car. So far, the fullest car I’ve been in was a 5-person sedan with 9 people in it. NINE! We had to drive for about 35 minutes like that. These guys might win though….
Coconut Shirley Biscuits: I feel like everyone who stays in Jamaica for a time will have a period of obsession with these. Shirleys are little cookies that come in a pack. They’re great with tea, peanut butter, or by themselves. There’s a general prevalence of coconut variety snacks here and I love it.
Irie FM: “Irie” is a Rastafarian term meaning “alright,” as in “everything is good.” This radio station is based out of Ocho Rios, but you can pick up the signal island-wide. It’s a reggae radio station and they have this weird chicken theme song they play in the morning as a wake up call. Gud vibez man. Check out their live stream here.
The rain: I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself later for saying this, but I love the random rainstorms. When I was living in St. Thomas parish, I would pray for rain to come cool things off (it’s really hot there). Everything’s green after a good rain. Sure, it usually knocks out my power, but I guess that’s what my emergency candles are for.
The Patwa: It’s strange to sometimes not understand what my students, host brother, taxi drivers are saying. But I love hearing sweet little kids shout things like “’im tell unu fi come dung now!” There’s something awesome about this language and I really hope to master it.
The nighttime sound: For anyone who enjoys white noise, I’d urge you to come here. There are so many creatures outside of my window making all sorts of noises; this country breathes music.
I’d like to end by sharing another song. Jamaicans seem to all be listening to the same 20-song playlist simultaneously, and they don’t seem to have an issue with playing said playlist on repeat. When a song is popular here, you’re painfully aware. Christian music is often worked into that mainstream audio track. This song’s really made itself comfortable inside my head:
Until next time! -Dom