Jamaica Mon

I realize I didn’t post last night. We were slightly dazed all day and all night because of the art auction. I wrote in the last post that I wasn’t going to drink, since I was scared I might get a little bid-happy if I imbibed during the auction.

In hindsight, maybe I should have drunk something. Perhaps we wouldn’t have bought the seven friggin’ paintings that we bought if I’d been drunk.

We spent all day today in Jamaica. We went on a kayaking tour, zip-lining over the jungle, and dining on authentic Jerk chicken at a local BBQ right by the beach. I had several Red Stripes and Leigh had fresh coconut water with her meal. It was a good day, indeed.

Jamaica is an interesting place. It’s a country of inescapable beauty and heartbreaking poverty. The jungles are filled with glorious examples of flora””trees fifty feet tall filled with electric bromeliads; groves and groves of beautiful oranges””and all the while the ditches are filled with refuse. The remnants and cultural artifacts of Imperial Britain still remain, but the stately mansions are in depressing states of disrepair. The windows in them have been gone for decades, as have the doors, and some of the once beautiful buildings the Jamaicans now use as hovels, and the others the jungle is reclaiming for its own. It won’t be long before they’ll disappear under the vegetative canopy completely.

When we travel, I’m always reminded of the importance of visiting other cultures. We met some truly beautiful people today, and yet I’m so happy that I’m a United States citizen. Let me explain that a little further””our bus driver was rightfully proud that Jamaica has now made school mandatory for children. Unlike the U.S., school in Jamaica only lasts about four hours a day. He drove us by several schools that he was particularly proud of, and they were tiny little things. Basically brightly colored sheds. The biggest and most impressive one was an all-girls Catholic school, and it was smaller and less aesthetically impressive than a Best Buy.

Part of me wishes that we had time to spend several weeks here to truly connect with the culture, but I know that’s impossible, and I also know that it would most likely depress the hell out of me. I’m just thankful that I live in a country where education is so ubiquitous that we think of it as a right and not as a privilege.

Enough of that.

One neat thing about traveling and visiting different cultures is discovering that as people, we’re not so different after all. On our kayaking tour, one of the guides asked me if I saw the bird that was flying low by the river. I said I did. He told me that it was a Turkey Buzzard and it was a scavenger. I told him we have them in Texas, too. He thought that was pretty neat. And kayaking down the river reminded me of floating down the Brazos or the Guadalupe, except that we were surrounded by completely different plants and trees. It was differently familiar.

Tonight we’re eating at the five star restaurant that’s on the boat, but I have a nagging feeling that I’ll always remember the fourteen dollar meal of Jamaican Jerk Chicken, peas and rice, festival, and Red Stripe beer much better than I will tonight’s meal of haute cuisine.

Actually, it’s not a nagging feeling, it’s damn near a certainty”¦I’ve had this exact same experience before. I can’t tell you anything that I ate at the five star restaurant in Athens, Greece, but I can describe with vivid acuity what it was like standing on a corner in Monastiraki Square and eating a gyro from a street vendor. I can tell you what the meat tasted like, how sweet my coke tasted, and the bready goodness of the fresh pita drizzled with local olive oil. There were pan-handlers and tourists surrounding us, and that was one or the best meals of my entire life.

And it cost less than fifteen bucks.

Tomorrow we’re going SCUBA diving in Grand Cayman at eight in the morning, so I’m going to try to get a good night’s sleep.

To be continued”¦

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