For most people, Jamaica is a vacation destination, a Caribbean island with famous beaches. For others, it represents the motherland of reggae music; a place where musicality and spirituality are untied as one. If you go deeper into your research you’ll find that most of the information available online is about gang war over drug trafficking, especially in the capital city, Kingston. Everything mentioned above certainly represents part of the reality for tourists and for some Jamaicans. But, let’s move past those clichés.
When I was offered the opportunity to work in Kingston, I instantly said, “Yes”. I have been fortunate to work in Europe, Africa and North America, and I know quite a lot about the status of women in those regions. However, I knew little (not to say nothing) about womens’ rights in Caribbean societies. Although most of the people in my entourage were saying, “You’re going to Kingston, that city is tough!”, for me it represented a great learning opportunity. And I am not going to lie, it was also a great time to flee the Canadian weather.
So far, so good!
It has been two weeks now since I landed at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and the city didn’t make a great first impression. The city’s industrial focus makes it difficult to appreciate the surrounding mountains and the generous climate.
Moreover, the Mercer’s Quality of Living ranking, which was released two days after my arrival, ranked Kingston near the bottom (199th out of 230). The survey ranks cities based in part on personal safety as a determining factor. This data can be a bit intimidating but I haven’t felt insecure when walking on the streets. Of course there are no-go neighbourhoods in Kingston (like in every big city in the world), where unemployment and extreme poverty have trapped people in a cycle of violence, but the city is not limited to those areas.
What I’ve experienced so far is the authenticity and friendliness of the Jamaican people, always smiling and happy to welcome new people in their country, the land of wood and water. Kingston is a sprawling cosmopolitan city with influential art, architecture and culture on display. From the incredible colonial architecture, the vibrant street culture, and the wealth of dining options, there is a lot to see and to do here. Kingston is a city with a diverse mix of past and present. The business section of downtown is home to many international corporations, consulate offices, banks, insurance companies, etc. However, most Kingston travelers spend their time in New Kingston, north of the downtown area.
Finally, I am here by choice. I am laughing, smiling and happy and I’ll do my best to make the most of this experience:
to accomplish the work there is to do,
to see and experience all I can of Jamaica, and
to take on the learning and growth there is for me to experience
Jamaican proverb – “Tek kin teet kibba heart bun” (Laughter is the best medicine)
Take care – DBA