Jamaican Cultural Experience

Hello, this is sai-goh.

It’s a very personal matter, but I’d like to write a bit about my trip to Jamaica with friends for two weeks in February this year. The following is mainly based on the diary I wrote while I was there. Please excuse the scattered content, as it’s just an amateur article.

Day 0: What? Jamaica, isn’t it far?

As some of you may already know, Jamaica is faaaar away. Yes. This was my first time traveling abroad, and it took me 34 hours to reach Kingston’s airport, with layovers in Paris and Atlanta. I should have just made it a trip to Paris. Seriously. By the way, Paris airport had PS5 and arcade games all over the place. It was so much fun. It was colorful and stylish, and I was amazed. Sorry for going in sweatpants.

Day 1: Jet lag, the tropics, and rooftop

Well, various things happened, but we arrived at our destination!! It was so hot. I later learned that Jamaica can reach around 28 degrees Celsius even in winter, which was crazy. I’d say to go in short sleeves and shorts, but there were a lot of mosquitoes. I recommend wearing cool long sleeves. By the way, even after three months, the mosquito bite marks I had at that time still hadn’t disappeared. Sigh.

Oops, sorry. Let’s move on. When we arrived at the airport, my friends picked me up (by the way, they had an Estima as their car. In Jamaica, 90% of the cars are Japanese and they drive on the left side. Prepare yourself to be asked by locals when the car says, “ETC card not inserted,” like, what is it saying? I had trouble explaining in English.) They took me to a food stall where they sold food. There, I bought and ate fried chicken, rice and peas, and mannish water. The fried chicken was just fried chicken. Yes. Rice and peas is a dish I explained how to make in one of my previous works, so please read it. It’s a dish of rice and kidney beans cooked in coconut milk. It’s super delicious, so I recommend it. And the most surprising thing was the mannish water!!! I later heard that it’s a soup made from goat organs (if I remember correctly), but it was incredibly delicious. Unbelievably tasty. It soaked into my tired body. (In Jamaica, there seems to be a tradition of eating soup when you’re tired. They served me soup, and indeed, when you’re tired, warm food feels comforting and soothing.)

After having dinner, they drove me to another room in the apartment where my friends were supposed to stay. It was incredibly spacious. There were two rooms and a 60-inch TV. I was impressed. Thank you so much. And now, let’s go to sleep! I’m tired!! But… I couldn’t sleep at all! Really, I couldn’t sleep! So, I grabbed some water and went to the rooftop of the apartment. It was cool because it was nighttime, the stars were beautiful, and it created a sense of openness. The scenery full of nature reminded me of my hometown, Iwate, and I was moved. I spent the whole night going back and forth between the rooftop and the room on this day.

Day 2: Sunrise and a Sore Back

On the second day, there are so many things I want to write about that if I continue, it might be morning soon. I’ll try to be concise. No, is that even possible? The day started with a scene of drinking coffee with friends on the rooftop. When I went to the rooftop to see the sunrise, it was more beautiful than I expected. The freshness of the tropical plants I saw for the first time added to my love for the rooftop. Ahhh… I want to go back to Jamaica.

It was Easter and supposedly a holiday, so I thought I could relax. But guess what! We started exercising in the morning. My friend (hereafter referred to as T), local friends (hereafter referred to as R, J, D), and even their friends, we all did a workout together. I ended up hurting my back. Yeah.

After that, we were moving around in the Estima as usual to find a place to eat, but I was so tired that I fell asleep. I’m sorry. We went to a restaurant near the beach, and while waiting for the food, R took me for a walk on the beach. It was super fun. It was at this time that I met J’s girlfriend for the first time, a beautiful woman from France. I have had the opportunity to go out with her and T later, but that’s a story for later. Oh, by the way, what we ate was a dish with a huge boiled fish. It was incredibly delicious. And what was more shocking than that was that the main staple of the meal was crackers. In Japan, crackers are usually considered snacks, right? But in the local Water Crackers (I think that’s what they were called, they were crackers soaked in various flavors), they were a staple food. In restaurants and such, there were many situations where you could choose crackers as your main dish, and it made me feel the cultural difference.

After this, well… I’m really sorry, but I was mostly asleep and don’t remember much. I apologize. But we did things like having a bonfire by the sea and paying rent, spending the day. (When traveling to the Caribbean countries, not just Jamaica, it is recommended to bring US dollars in addition to the local currency. In situations such as paying rent and making payments at tourist sites, US dollars, which have more stable value than the local currency, are often preferred.)

Oh, and on this day, I tried rum for the first time. It was coconut rum, and it was incredibly delicious. Sweet. I recommend it.

Day 3: Why are there no pedestrian signals in this country?

I woke up at 6:30 again today. It’s healthy, isn’t it? (Even though I went to bed at 6:30 today…) As usual, I had coffee while watching the sunrise, and then we went to the Bob Marley Museum on this day! It’s all about “One Love” because we live in a challenging modern society. Really. We don’t have many opportunities to experience reggae in Japan, but reggae is truly amazing. The upbeat rhythms of redim make you feel like you’re on a trip just by listening to them. Give it a try and immerse yourself!

Afterward, I tried Jamaican Pattie for the first time. To give you a rough idea… it’s a food where a curry or empanada-like filling is sandwiched between coconut-infused bread dough. (I apologize for my poor explanation. Please look it up for more details.) In Jamaica, there were numerous pattie shops as common as seeing McDonald’s in Japan. Even in relatively expensive Jamaica, you could have lunch for around 300 yen, so it felt like a great deal. It was super junky and delicious. Really.

Then we went to a place like a shopping mall and I worked at a café. It was a café similar to Starbucks, and I was thinking that cafés are pretty much the same in any country when… surprise! The frappuccino-like drink there had rum in it. Can you believe it? And it had quite a significant amount of rum. It was truly a frappuccino with the taste of rum. You could even say it was a frappuccino in the shape of rum. It startled me. The taste was incredibly delicious, though. Also, when I went to the supermarket attached to the shopping mall, I was impressed to see vending machines for gum, where you insert coins to make a purchase, just like in Japan.

Afterward, we went back home and started playing with kendama, which we brought from Japan. I thought it was adorable to see my Jamaican friend, who was a big and strong guy, playing with kendama and saying, “That’s like Olympic!” while returning to his childlike innocence. By the way, it seems that the difficulty of kendama is universally challenging.

At some point, I must have fallen asleep and didn’t get to eat any dinner. What a shame… (Going back to the title, in Jamaica, there really are no pedestrian signals. I probably saw them only a few times during the two weeks. And since the drivers don’t use their turn signals much, it was scary. That’s the story.)

Day 4: Blue Mountain – Perfect Score (Couldn’t come up with a better title.) On this day, we went hiking in the Blue Mountains. Wait, the Blue Mountains? Yes, that’s right! The Blue Mountains. Actually, the coffee we’ve been drinking since the second day is also from Blue Mountain, so we were curious and decided to visit.

We leisurely hiked, took a dip in the river along the way, and had a picnic like an excursion. (By the way, we had patties for lunch again this day. They were incredibly delicious.) It was all about nature! Nature! Nature! It felt really great. There were green bananas growing by the roadside, papaya trees, and the vegetation was completely different from Japan. It made me quite happy.

We climbed up to the top of the mountain and visited a coffee plantation. It seemed to be owned by UCC, and being Japanese, we were warmly welcomed! It’s not often that you get to see unroasted coffee beans in their red state (right?). It was extremely fresh and the coffee was superbly delicious.

Afterward, we came back and took a stroll around the university campus where R is interning. Although it’s called a university campus, it felt more like a small town had formed. There were dormitories, supermarkets, and even a hospital. Once you enter, you probably wouldn’t need to leave until graduation. It seemed like a very comfortable place. For dinner, we had jerk pork. Due to religious reasons, Jamaicans don’t eat much pork, but we happened to come across it this day. The spicy flavor was absolutely to my liking.

So, I’ve sent you one-third of the story so far, and it has already exceeded 3,000 characters (laughs). If it continues like this, it will become an excessively long piece that even I, the writer, wouldn’t want to read, so I’m thinking of making it a trilogy. Stay tuned.

This is translated by chatGPT.
Please excuse any grammar mistakes and such in the translated text.