Falling In Love With Jamaica

John Casey a retired American lives in Montegbay Jamaica and writes monthly for an on line Website. I felt that his article captured how many feel after a vacation to Jamaica, and wanted  to share. Here goes.

A Jamaican Love Affair
By John Casey  john_casey@cwjamaica.com


The lure of Jamaica is very powerful.  Who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives in such beautiful surroundings with such happy people.  The warm sun and tropical breezes are like icing on the cake.  Where else could you find the pristine white sand beaches with the dazzling array of colors of the Caribbean ocean where beneath the warm waters are countless varieties of tropical fish that swim among some of the finest coral in the Caribbean.  But, alas, could you really be happy with all that?

The initial feeling in your heart when you first see Jamaica is very much the same as when you meet an attractive member of the opposite sex.  Love at first sight!  As we all know, there is more to love than physical beauty.  Beyond what we see lies the unknown.  This is true of Jamaica, as well, both have to have a period of courtship.  In the beginning are the many dates with that someone special where each party begins to expose their inner being.  So too with Jamaica.  Time is needed to look beyond that first impression.  You wouldn’t marry someone after seeing them just once.  It takes several visits and lots of exploration to start to get to know this tropical paradise.  Sitting under an umbrella on the beach is not going to enhance that relationship.  True, you will meet the friendly hotel staff but this isn’t what all Jamaicans are like.  Those people are trained to be more than everyday Jamaicans.

The real Jamaican can be found just about anywhere else away from the resort.  There you will find people as nice as those at the hotel and some not so nice.  There are many different personalities out there which have to be dealt with on a daily basis.  The panhandlers and hustlers are not restricted to the tourist areas but can be found almost anywhere the public is.  The higglers you see in the craft market are similar to those in the produce market and haberdasheries.  Can you discern whether you are conducting business with an honest person or someone who is corrupt?  Do you know if you are getting a fair deal or not?  Is a taxi driver giving you a local rate or is it inflated because you may not know the difference?

As you begin to learn about that special person, do they have a small habit that bothers you like biting their nails or talking with their mouth full?  Surely all their idiosyncrasies are noted in the back of your mind where, at some later date, they come forth for you to decide if you can live with them or not.  The same is true for you to live in Jamaica.  If the young man at the traffic light washes your window whether you want him to or not, is that something you could deal with daily?  Also, patience is a virtue you would need if you had to do business at a bank or one of the utilities.  Standing in line for an hour is not unheard of.  You might think there would be a lot of pushing and shoving or even fisticuffs but just the opposite is true.  Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices can be an all day affair, appointment or not.  You may find these things very stressful in your life today, but in Jamaica, this is the norm.  Much can also be said about Jamaican drivers.  The taxi drivers take the brunt of the criticism for their fast and reckless driving but there are as many or more courteous drivers willing to share the road equally with you.

I have tried to compare courtship and marriage to living and adjusting to life in Jamaica.  The similarities are quite the same.  Each has to take its time.  You need time to learn about each other at each and every opportunity as growth of the relationship is strengthened.  Some things can be changed or  some have to be accepted as they are.  It all takes time and hard work but the reward is true happiness.

My love affair with Jamaica began on October 2, 1994 at Sandals Inn in Montego Bay.  It was a love that took several years and many visits to nurture.  That first year was spent as a typical tourist visiting several of the most popular tourist attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls.  The following was more tours but all of them helped me to get to know Jamaica.  Tours to plantations, historical buildings and sites, and deep exploration into the heart of this fantastic island further stimulated my longing to bring this relationship to a climax.  But I didn’t let my heart rule my head.  During those visits I spent as much as time as I could mingling with as many natives as possible.  There are some good long lasting friendships born out of those unions while others faded faster than a Jamaican sunset.  It was out of these newfound friendships that helped and guided me on my path to paradise.  Once my mind was made up that Jamaica was the only place I wanted to be, it took a couple of more years to find the right house and to take all the steps that led me to this tranquil piece of heaven I call home.

Now it’s up to you.  Come!  Come and see the real Jamaica.  Come and experience the happiness I have had for nearly six years.  Yes…come and fall deeply in love and experience all this “Garden of Eden” can offer you.

Do realize that living on the Island is certainly not like being on a vacation, and experiences vary depending on who you are and where you are arriving from.

Podcast: Tips On Moving To Jamaica

I was recently contacted by a blogger  from an on line forum called Jamaicans.com

He asked  if I would be interested in doing a 60 minute  telephone interview, about my life and tips to those considering a move to Jamaica.

I think this Podcast information may be helpful to those considering a move to Jamaica and may make  for some good listening!

I have been in Jamaica for abit over three years, and have a small business where I assist individual expats settle into Jamaica. I also provide assitance for Companies relocating staff to Jamaica for employment.

Listen when time allows.


Open Ackee Fruit

Learning Jamaican Patois

I had two very interesting conversations this past weekend with two different individuals about Jamaican patois, a language that is often discussed on the island.

One person, (a Jamaican) was explaining that many Jamaican children are not learning standard English because, many of them live in households where only patois is spoken and several more attend schools where many teachers also only speak patois. His point, is that by the time these children are required to take formal exams they may be in trouble, mainly because all of the standard examinations are written in standard English and the expectation is that school children will be able to respond in standard English.

The debate then, is where are these children to learn standard English. The second conversation was with an expat pal, who is currently trying to understand patois in the work place. She comes from a culture where Jamaica patois is described as ” they speak terrible” or “the Jamaicans speak badly.” I found myself explaining to her, “it’s not that Jamaicans speak badly, but they are speaking another language.” I found it all very amusing as I described this to her.This is a subject which I clearly did not fully comprehend  during my first year on the island.

Before  I moved to Jamaica, I was always aware that there were Jamaicans that I understood and some  that I did not, but I never knew the real reason until listening to the language while living here. My first experience with getting a haircut at a local barber shop in Kingston was interesting, as I remember sitting in the chair, closing my eyes and asking myself, ” what are these guys saying ? ” it honestly felt like I was in Haiti with French Creole being spoken around me. I remember asking my barber a question, and he responded by speaking very slowly in English for me to understand, but a few minutes later I could not follow his sentences. I have now come to learn that all Jamaicans are multilingual, and while some may not speak patois, they all understand it.

The switch back and forth between patios and standard English goes back to slavery days is what I was told, when the slaves were not allowed to use their native language.The rebellion against that was that the slaves simply used English when they wanted to be understood and used patois ( which has English words thrown in here and there) so passing listeners might assume the language being spoken is English.

I also remember thinking during my first year here, that women in the stores and shops were unfriendly,  because they would not respond to small talk. As I would walk into bakeries and ice cream shops, very cheerful and friendly asking ” so how are you, what is this made of, etc etc.”  I now realize  that often times, these women were not being mean or unfriendly but may have been dealing with several difficult day to day occurrences, and they would also need to respond to me by speaking English which could be a problem, so it was easier to not say anything, than to end up in a standard English conversation  with ” farrina and dem plenty questions” meaning foreign people who ask a great deal of questions. I found the following videos very interesting and wanted to share.

Visit when Time allows. http://www.jamaicans.com/speakja/talk.htm

The following vidoes are By Xavier Murphy http://www.jamaicans.com

Whose Mouse Are You read in Jamaican Patois

Dr Suess ABC read in Jamaican Patois

Jamaicans Concerned> The Haitians are coming

I saw the following Cartoon character in today’s’ newspaper ( Jamaican Observer Jan.19th 2010), in sunny Jamaica and wanted to share.

I strongly believe that the average Jamaican is very concerned and saddened by the recent tragedy which occurred for the people of Haiti,  but the following sentiment may also be on the minds of many.

Today’s Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon


Oh Boy!!!! was my thought.

On A lighter note;  Bob Marleys’ Memory

Life in Jamaicas’ countryside > A Single Woman Shares

Ever so often, I ask expats that I come in contact with who live in Jamaica to share five positive and five negative things that they would tell another person considering a move to the Island.

This has been my ongoing research since May 2008.

My research thus far has exposed me to mostly individuals who live in Kingston JA, with many of them  having moving to the Island with spouses for employment.

The following  however was shared with me by a  Peace Corp Volunteer, who lives outside of  the Kingston area. Most areas outside of Kingston I’ve noticed is referred to as “country”

She has lived on the Island for abit over 18 months.

People arriving from countries such as India,  Nigeria or Trinidad, rarely if ever notice or feel the need for personal space, as many are accustomed to individuals standing very closely together  in small spaces. Someone arriving from the Holland, Germany, Canada or the US may however view the need for personal space in a very different light.

5 positive things:

1. Working with kids!! My students (I work at a primary school) are my joy, and in a lot of ways children are the same everywhere – if you really want to teach them and love them, they respond with respect and enthusiasm.

2. The fresh fruit and vegetables!! I buy from the same locals so they save what they know I like, so I always get quality produce for cheap.

3. I’m in the Cockpit country, very far inland, and I’m still no more than an hour from a beautiful beach.

4. People from home can visit, and I can visit home if I need to, as plane tickets are cheap.

5. The food is great – from jerk chicken, to rice and peas, to Rastafarian I-tal food…..and very rarely is there food poisoning as Jamaicans cook their chicken so much.

5 negative things:

1. The amount of verbal harassment towards me as a white woman is intense. Then the disgusting, disrespectful, unrepeatable things said to me when I first arrived (before I was more integrated in the community, and realized I had to ignore the comments) made for a lot of bad days.

2. Jamaicans don’t have the same American ideal of “personal space.” I had to get used to people getting so close to me to talk, trying to hold my hand, etc. But it was a compromise, they got used to me sometimes telling them to move away:-)

3. The amount of MSG in snacks and food gave me horrible headaches at first.

4. It’s hard to learn to sleep with the sounds of dogs, donkeys, goats and pigs close by.  (I live way in the bush)
5. Men cannot understand why a woman my age does not have kids, or want to have kids with a Jamaican, or want to date a  local Jamaican, etc.  The harassment from not dating a local is still on-going.

Cultural Entertainment: Jamaica & England

The road has been long:Have a peep

Hol Yuh Han ( Jamaican version)

British  Yutes version

Sweet Jamaica> Video 1993

This video came to me via email this morning from a  Womens’ International club I belong to.  The email encouraged club members to enjoy  the time they would be living in Jamaica and  listen  closely to the words of this particular song.

The video made me realize that I now understand  patois a great deal better than I did two years ago. “Yippy” was my feeling, as I hummed along to the tune.

Jamaica may not be easy, but the warm weather, interesting people and incredible beauty is amazing.  Enjoy !!!!!

Lyrics: P. Barrett-G Smith

“Out Of Many One People”

Attached is a viewpoint about Jamaicans and heritage, which I felt may be a useful read for expats moving to Jamaica.

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2007


George W Graham @ AuthorsDen.com

Funny, I Don’t Look Jamaican

Sometimes a duck may not look like a duck, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it could be a duck.

LAKELAND, Florida – Foreigners are often startled when they hear me talk. The unmistakable lilt brands me as Jamaican, but my appearance does not fit their racial profile.

“Where are you from?” is nearly always followed by, “You don’t look Jamaican.”

So what does a Jamaican look like?

True, most Jamaicans have dark brown complexions, a combination of a West African heritage and the island’s sunny climate. And that brings us to one myth: people with dark skins tan, just like people with lighter pigmentation. You should see how much paler some of my friends became after living in Toronto for a while.

Historians tell us many Jamaicans are from such tribes as the Ashanti, the proudest and fiercest of West African warriors. And it stands to reason that prisoners of war would make up a large part of the captives shipped in chains to work on Jamaican sugar plantations. It was customary for prisoners taken in battle to be enslaved. The Egyptians did it to the Jews, the Romans did it to other people all over Europe, and somewhere in the world someone is probably practicing the same heinous form of human exploitation right now. We just don’t hear about it.

Many owners of Jamaica’s estates were not Jamaican but British – absentee landlords. They spent part of the year in the island, but their homes and hearts were back in England or Scotland. In the days of the tall ships, a journey across the Atlantic would take months, and a land owner would be reluctant to spend all that time getting to Jamaica only to turn around and sail right back. They would spend months in Jamaica before heading home. And men being what they are (most of us, anyway), some of these landowners would establish second families in Jamaica. Their mates were invariably slaves.

To protect their children from being sold into slavery, they would declare them legally “white” – hence the expression “white-by-law.” Landowners could count on their offspring to protect their interests in Jamaica during their absences back in Britain.

That would account for at least some of today’s “Jamaica white” islanders. Others, of course, are descended from colonial civil servants who came to Jamaica and founded families there. And a few came from America and other countries as clergymen, missionaries or businessmen – or for some other reason.

A significant part of Jamaica’s heritage is Jewish. Sephardic Jews fled from Spain and Portugal to escape the Inquisition, and remained in the island after the British drove out the Spanish in the mid-1600s. You can see this heritage in many Jamaican surnames. One of my great-grandmothers was a Miss Salomon, a distinctly Jewish name.

With the abolition of slavery in the 1800s, large numbers of indentured servants came from India, with a sprinkling from Ireland and other parts of the British Isles. Traders from China, Lebanon and Syria (and from other countries) also migrated to Jamaica in search of business opportunities.

It’s no wonder that when Jamaica achieved independence in August 1962, our leaders chose as our motto: “Out of Many One People.”

On this, the 45th anniversary of Jamaican Independence, I would like to propose that we declare the existence of a Jamaican race. Not “black.” Not “white.” Not Asian or Middle Eastern. Jamaican.

My late mother had blonde hair and blue eyes. My cousin, Kathleen, has tawny skin and black hair. Her father, a distinguished schoolteacher, had chocolate-colored skin. His ancestors were from West Africa. It would be preposterous for me to think I belong to a different race from Kathleen or her children and grandchildren. They are my flesh-and-blood.

Another cousin’s married name is Chin. Is her daughter Chinese? Of course not. Her daughter is an American of Jamaican descent.

Yes, Jamaican. We are a race apart.

We might look European or African, Chinese or Indian, Jewish or Syrian, but make no mistake: we are Jamaican. We share the indomitable pride, the intolerance of injustice, the irrepressible spirit that distinguishes Jamaicans wherever in the world our destiny sends us.

My Jamaican brothers and sisters, I embrace you on this, the month of our Independence, whether your skin is the darkest dark or the lightest light, whether your eyes are blue or green, brown or black, whatever your facial or physical features might be. We know what it is to be Jamaican. And it has nothing to do with the color of our skin.

Funerals and Glass Caskets In Kingston Jamaica

Up until moving to Jamaica almost three years ago, I had attended only four funerals in my entire life: my grandfathers’ funeral which occurred when I was perhaps six or seven years old, my mothers’ less than six years ago, a good friends’ father’s funeral in 2005, and my own father’s funeral in October of 2007.

Burying both parents in less than six years rates very high on my difficult experiences chart, and it’s my belief that the only people who may understand this pain are people who have lost loved ones or parents. I told my husband recently that attending my parents funerals were the two longest days of my life. He is forever thankful to have both his parents living fifteen minutes away from and in good health.

Tears are still hard and sharp for me when I have the desire to telephone them, to share experiences of what life is currently like for me now living in Jamaica. Oh well, I tell myself,  life goes on and I simply deal with my  thoughts and feelings until they subside.

Anyhow, my experiences with funerals since living in Jamaica have been extremely different from those earlier experiences, as I have now attended three more in 2008 over a period of less than three months.

The funerals I have attended in Jamaica can be described as an entire community involvement experience, as they’re rarely ever private services for immediate family and close friends only, that begin at 10am in the morning, where you are back home or at your office for lunch by noon.

Firstly the sheer crowds are amazing, with standing room only in each of the three different churches where the services I attended were held. The first two I attended, were held in Kingston in Upper St. Andrew, both being extremely formal  services where most people were immaculately dressed. I could have been at a wedding, a graduation reception, or even a Grammy award ceremony, had it not been for the presence of the casket at the front of the church.

I could have forgotten that I was at a funeral, as the atmosphere was more joyful than I remember earlier experiences to be. The heat of course stands out, as air conditioning was non existent at of these funerals, so the buildings were extremely hot.

The third funeral was probably the most difficult, as this was for a 19 year old cyclist friend of mine. His name was Alden Clunis and he was from an area called “Above Rocks” up above the Stony Hill area in Kingston. Clunis as we called him, was an extremely disciplined, polite, mild mannered funny young man, that I met since living here. He died after succumbing to head injuries after being hit by a bus on a 5am training ride.

His sidekick Shane is another funny character, who usually stayed with me a great deal on long training rides, as I often times was at the rear of our group. I now worry about Shane as those two were inseparable and nobody has seen Shane. Clunis usually greeted me at the beginning of a long training ride and then at the end, checking to make certain that I was okay.

He worked at a bicycle shop I frequent here in Kingston, and that was were we had some of our more recent chats about his future. My husband and I will miss him a great deal, as my husband even teased me some days that these young men behaved like ” I was their mother” since after each race they would come over to our vehicle knowing I would give them drinks, sandwiches, and warm, caring support. Rarely could I follow all those early conversations with these young energetic Jamaica cyclists, and now I wish I had caught more of what Clunis told, but oh well.  Read about dear Clunis at


I cried throughout this funeral, as Clunis is what many would describe as young and gifted. He even recently qualified to represent Jamaica in the upcoming Olympics.  His funeral was attended by the top brass from  Jamaica’s cycling federation and cyclist colleagues from all over the island, many wearing cycling clothing and some even parking bicycles outside the church.

This funeral started at noon, and as you drove into the town you saw people dressed up all heading in the same direction. We stopped to ask this elderly lady who looked like she was heading to a funeral which direction was the church, before I was finished asking, she was trying to open the vehicles’ door for a ride with me to the funeral. ” Leh mi show yuh miss,” she said.

I left the funeral at 5pm and they were not even half- way through the program, which was extensive. I left only because I had another evening function to attend where I was the host. I really hated having to leave as I was curious to see how it would all end. I was amazed by it all, as a woman walked around the church yard, shouting at the top of her lungs “A who wah buy a bag juice, mi have wata. ” Some shooed her away yelling  “tek weh yourself!!”  I was speechless as I had never seen such drama at a funeral. Even the local “mad man (mentally ill derelict)” attended the funeral peeping through the church windows during the services. Community event indeed I said to myself.

I later heard it all ended at around 8pm when my dear pal was finally buried in the ground in the back of his church home. What an experience; as I drove away with a friend, trying to understand it all. I knew I would never see my smiley, face pal Clunis waving at me ever again. I last saw him a week before he was killed.

While the above video does not reflect any funeral I have attended here in Jamaica, both my husband and I have witnessed at least three different occasions where glass caskets with dead persons being taken for burial were seen being pulled on the road, by trucks with a glass hearse attached to the rear to accommodate the glass casket. The first time I saw this, I was speechless, as I saw several mini- buses trailing behind a vehicle pulling a glass hearse and glass casket, with a body bouncing around as the vehicle hit one pot hole after the other in road. I saw one as recently as this past weekend, with an elderly lady’s body moving each time the lead car hit a bump.

“Amazing!!!!” . “Only inna Jamaica” .