Remembering a special visit meeting locals in Jamaica

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Gorgeous Jamaican sunset
Gorgeous Jamaican sunset

Twice a day, 50 year-old Delta Spence totes two big jugs of water up Blueflields Mountain a mile and a half from Bluefields River to her rustic home on the mountainside above the town of Bluefield’s Bay in Jamaica.

She has no running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Marvin Furrest, the houseman at the Bluefields Bay Villa where we are staying has led us on an early morning hike up the mountain, past baby goats, cows, pigs and small villages with names like Belvedere, Retirement and Aldyr. We meet Dallas along the way and she invites us to see her home.

“This is a traditional old Jamaican home,” Marvin tells us. He is also a pig farmer and says like others, he walks up and down the mountain to work. We pass others leading donkeys with big jugs of water. Would Dallas want a donkey? “No,” says Marvin. “This is her way.”

We’re about as far away from a manicured resort as we can get. Jamaica has an interesting Meet the People program that enables visitors like us to experience local culture by spending time with locals who volunteer to share a meal or tour you around a market. You can meet up with locals who share your profession or hobbies. But I’m not sure this is exactly what the Jamaica Tourism establishment has in mind.

I can’ t stop thinking about Delta’s difficult daily life when we return to our Bluefields Bay villa overlooking the sea to be served breakfast—a traditional Jamaican concoction of salt fish with vegetables cooked in coconut milk called Rundown.

I’m here for a girlfriends getaway with my three oldest friends from grade school. It’s as relaxing as the most luxe resort –from my canopy bed and gorgeous views of the sea in every direction to the private beach and three-person staff that dotes on you from morning to night. What would Delta make of all this, I keep thinking.

A short walk away up the mountain, we encounter traditional Jamaican villages and a shy little girl named Martina who proudly was showing off the baby goats she cares for. Later, while my friends lounged at the beach, I opted for a massage overlooking the sea, the breeze rafting, hearing the waves lap.

A Bluefields’ nanny and her charge
A Bluefields’ nanny and her charge

The masseuse, Nicholas Ridguard was terrific. I try not to feel guilty, telling myself that our visit, in its small way, is helping to employ some of the locals. That’s what Wolde Kristos tells me when I visit the Peoples Community Association. Tourists need to get the message that it is safe—at least in this part of Jamaica– to venture out of their manicured hotels.

“You will really feel the love,” he promises, and here the crime rate is very low It’s a hard sell, I know, but we do our best..”

The secret to the jerk, Lloyd James, the jerk master tells us, is the pimento—he uses pimento wood, uses the leaves in the fire and also in his marinade. We passed Pimento trees on our hike and men toting the leaves to be used to make oil. And then go for a walk down the beach.

I’m still thinking of Dallas.

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