Right after I brag about my unbroken record, I go ahead and break it. Sigh. Sometimes life intervenes. You learn to go with the flow and in my case, that meant sacrificing the blog for that day. But today is a new day and with every such new day, you have an obligation to yourself to let any misgivings, upsets from the previous day set with the sun.
While I was pondering over how to make today better, I remembered Louie, our perpetually happy Jamaican cab driver. We were at breakfast at our resort on our second day in Negril, and decided we needed to venture outside and get a feel for the culture. What better way to do it than ask a native or better yet, have a native show you the ropes…plus we also had reservations about venturing out alone, after being followed home the night before by a Rastafarian who wanted us to buy him dinner. Took us a couple days to figure out most people there were harmless….just poor and very chatty!
We asked our cook, Colette if she knew a reliable cab driver that we could charter for the day. She made a call and 30 minutes later, announced that our driver was here. As I turn around and my gaze falls upon this rotund, potbellied man with a toothless (well he has a few teeth I admit) grin, headed our way. If you can imagine love at first sight! 🙂 Louie is one of those people you instantly like..period! From there on began our week-long courtship. He’d show up every day at 9 AM JST (Jamaican Standard Time) which really is 10:30 AM, to take us around the city to spots the natives hung out at. A hole-in-the-wall place that served the best escoviched fish on the planet, jerk pork (a mandatory try!), Tastee patties (a Jamaican staple) and then there was the local arts market with the shops that sold everything from paintings to clothes to jewelry to beautiful wood carved sculptures. Louie knew everything and everyone. He never met a person he didn’t know and you could tell all his friends loved him. He was also a master negotiator…not only did he know the best places to find anything, he also knew how to haggle. A one-stop-shop cabbie!
The entire time being out and about with him, the theme that made itself apparent was of a population that was content just being. Now while some of this can be attributed to the highly potent and actively consumed weed and grass, 😉 most of it is predominantly the natural disposition of the people.
Negril’s economy is driven primarily by tourism. Yes, there are sugar farms owned by a few rich farmers, holiday resorts hiring local help, haberdashery stores and the revered Appleton dark rum factory. (side note, I prefer Blackwell rum). Those that don’t belong in these above categories though, do odd jobs here and there to supplement their meager income. This means that most of the locals live at or below poverty line. Yet for people that have such little, they are happy – happy to see you, happy to share what little they have with you, happy to regale you with folklore and anecdotes. Made me realize how shallow we are…we have so much to be thankful for, yet I was annoyed it was so hot that my shirt was clinging to me from all the sweat or that benches at all these local watering holes were covered in a thin layer of dust or some trivial matter. Watching these people simply enjoy whatever life sent their way was a refreshing change. I returned back to mainland US with the intent of imbibing this mindset. Time passed by and I forgot this promise I had made to myself.
Yesterday as I moped and bitched over all the injustice and cruelties (dramatic flair intended), I was suddenly reminded of how entitled and spoiled I was being. How in Jamaica, I saw people with far more to worry about and far less to fix their worries with, still smiling and keeping their faith that all will be well in the end. That was a sharp wake up call. I’m not saying I won’t slip into my old ways anytime soon (after all I’m not Jamaican and I am female, so bitching is my birthright 🙂 ) but I hope every time I do, I can pull up the picture of Louie, Colette and me standing at the bar, grinning at the camera and tell myself all will be well!
As a parting note, on our last day there, we gave Louie a 6-pack of Red Stripe beer (the Jamaican real deal!) and instead of taking it all home for himself, he handed it out to the resort gardener, the resort security guy and a poor fellow sitting outside. Such is the generosity!