Thursday, May 03, 2007
48 hours in Jamaica - PART 1
In April I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica to represent Wycliffe USA at Americas Area leadership meetings. People gathered at the YWAM facility there (BEAUTIFUL LOCATION -- we slept in dorms on bunk beds, brought our own linens. You can see in the photo that our meeting room was spacious with lots of windows providing light and breeze -- and from the other photo that the view from the property was extraordinary. I spent a good bit of time in that swing.)
After the meetings, I stayed a couple of days on the island. I wasn't really interested in "tourist" things so much as I wanted time to pray and think and listen and sleep and just BE with Jesus. Away from email and schedules and meetings and yardwork. This is part of the story. It begins after I've moved from the YWAM facility to a "hotel" in town.
First, I walked down the lane and crossed the main street to the public beach area which is the size of my back yard (okay...a bit bigger, but as beaches go, pretty darn small) and stuck my feet in the ocean. I was frustrated that there was no where to "walk the beach." I'd so wanted to do that. It was part of my plan. My agenda for the 48.
I headed back down the main street (my hotel was at one end of the "Hip Strip" in Montego Bay -- shops, clubs, casinos) and was barraged by people wanting me to ride in their taxis, see their stores and buy their stuff. People wanting to have conversations that were supposed to lead to my purchasing some service or stuff from them.
Passing an ATM that was in use, I popped into one store that looked "upscale" to avoid the crazy, pushy sales people. Then kept walking. No ATM and maybe a place for lunch in site. Then this woman came and asked me the same question I'd heard a few dozen times "can I show you my store?" "Where is it?" I asked, seeing no store ahead (we were nearing the end of that part of the strip and only clubs and casinos were in front of me. "At the old fort Montego, on the other side of the park." I think my will was weakened. I said "yes." I was watching all along for an ATM, knowing that if we got there, I could not purchase anything without cash.
We walked and walked. She told me about the things we were passing and introduced me to people along the way -- taxi drivers and water vendors who she passed many times each day as she made her trips into town to fish for customers. The sun was bright and hot. I'd not put on sun screen for what I expected to be a 10 minute walk to a place for lunch and then the walk back. By the time we got to the fort and every vendor between the entrance and her booth (all of them selling exactly the same stuff as the ones on either side) asked me to come back to their stores when I was done with shopping at my "hosts" store, I was HOT.
The store was a small stall. Dark. Filled with things. Dreadlock head carvings smoking "weed" and pot ash trays, baskets and bags, shirts and shawls, man-woman statues that made me a little uncomfortable, beads and bangles, wooden animals and wooden bowls. All of it I'd seen dozens of times before.
And there it was, the Gideon Bible, sitting open and looking dusty on top of the wears. The shop owners all seemed to have one. They all seemed to ask about religion -- she had. Oh, yes...she's a christian and believes in god. One big god for everyone.
I chose a couple of items and then told her that she'd have to walk with me back to town to find an ATM so I could pay her. "No Problem, Mon," of course. She told me about her friend who is an actress and who moved to Minnesota -- to work doing the strip dance -- something she seemed to find admirable.
The ATM she found closest to the Fort was in a Casino. People working there knew her. The community of shop owners and taxi drivers and club bouncers all seems to know one another. I got the money, paid her and we parted ways.
I found a place to eat where I could look at the Caribbean and had a jerk chicken wrap. I drank LOTS of water. I'd gotten too hot and was feeling the effects of the sun. I sat a while and then headed toward the hotel.
Along the way I stopped at a place with t-shirts and trinkets and "groceries." They sold beverages and snack foods mostly -- and booze. I got a 2-liter of soda for my fridge and some t-shirts for gifts and tried to pay with the same Visa I'd just used to get cash. It wouldn't go through. She tried again...but no. I paid cash. Now I was back down to $10 US and a little Jamaican money ($4 US equivalent) and knew I had to probably pay a driver for my airport run on Sunday. I had 40 hours left in Montego Bay with $10 and a non-functioning credit card.