Friday, August 10, 2012

Jamaica: Yam Country Day 1

It’s almost midnight here at what should be a quiet mountaintop in Wait-a-bit, Trelawney, known to the world as the yam growing hometown of Usain Bolt. But, as I lay here typing, the steady bass from a nearby dancehall invading my room is likely to last all night. Perhaps it’s the leftover nationalistic pride from Monday’s 50th independence anniversary or the excitement from watching Shelly Ann grab her 2nd medal in the 200 meter or maybe it’s just Wednesday.

Wait-a-bit, a town that should win a gold medal for its name alone, is a little farming community miles high up in the Jamaican mountains. Travelers are almost guaranteed to find religion before getting here; the 2 hour drive upwards along a winding, treacherously narrow road full of blind spots and cliff-edge turns without barricades will make an atheist find Jesus quick. Here in Wait-a-bit it’s harvesting season and the only thing anyone seems to have business with is the Olympics and yam. The world’s supply of Jamaican yam comes from right here, and since Usain credited it for his record breaking run in Beijing four years ago, it seems to be in high demand. Walk down the uneven winding roads and all you see is yam: donkeys carrying yam, people weighing yam, machetes chopping yam. And with all this yam you would think the town would be whipping around faster than NYC but no, things move maddeningly delightfully slow here.

Born and partially raised in Falmouth, Montego Bay, I can tell you that the mountains and the rest of Jamaica are as different as Manhattan is to Kentucky. The pace is slower here, we don’t eat the same foods; things like red beans and rice are rare thing to come by and you might be blessed to see rice on Sunday, the air is clean and cold here while the rest of Jamaica is muggy and hot and the patrois here is a mumble and a drawl opposed the quick sharp tongue of the city slickers down at sea level—but these are just my Americanized observations.

Two weeks in wine yam country visiting my grandma. What’s a buji Americanized girl to do? Eat and blog! I’ve decided to do what everyone else not occupied with yam is doing, drink my time away at a rum bar and keep up with the races. Jamaican rum bars are everywhere. You can’t throw a stone in Jamaica without hitting a little shack with a red stripe sign on the door. So today I decided to “go up a shop,” or walk to my uncles rum bar, to rub elbows with the locals, catch some Olympic events, and polish up my rusting patrois.

The rum bar campaign was a success. I quickly turned from patron to bartender, churning out the moonshine rum with a flourish and a smile, rum so strong it practically eats a hole through the counter when you spill it. It was easy to get into the rhythm of bartending; the patrons mainly asked for moonshine, a cigarette, or a phone card (probably to call a ‘wurl of girls’ as the billboard suggests). I may have gotten a little bit ahead of myself by asking for tips. The idea of tipping a bartender hasn’t reached Wait-a-bit  yet. But, after getting a few sharp (woman I’ll kill you) looks, a few of the patrons got into the spirit and I left with $200 Jamaican in tips tonight…too bad that can only buy me a red stripe and pack of gum, but hey, baby steps. Tomorrow I’ll make enough to call a "wurl of girls" for sure. ;) 

Alright sleep for me! The hamsters churning the internet wheel are getting tired and so am I.
I leave you with the best damn Jamaican commercial I’ve seen so far:



Ebony said...

Aww, i'm so jealous! Wish I could be there. Sounds like you are having a ball. Bring a pint of that moonshine in your suitcase for me lol

Lish said...

Lol are you trying to get me held up at customs? Lol Jamaica is definitely an amazing trip. I'm enjoying getting back to my roots and watching everybody go crazy over the olympics. Thanks for the feedback :)