Jamaica 2015

The story of my first world problems

Lets start from the end first. We both concluded that we would never come back to Jamaica. There was nothing there that we felt was worth our time and effort. The food was good, but the guy in Cleveland seems to do just as good a job as anything we had while were there. And if we were to pick a beach vacation, there are better options.

For me, this was the first time that I can remember feeling so unsafe. From the very first day I felt like I needed to be careful of where I was parking my car, how I was holding my purse where we were driving. Driving up to the local market (Charles Gordon Market) we kept on moving. Little outlets for food on the street, never once stopped. (And I live for this stuff.) Driving through the inner part of Mobay, wow. I felt like we might get car jacked.

Never before have I been scammed immediately. The first night we stopped at a strip of “bars” along the highway in search of food. There I met a seemingly helpful man. I was obviously out of place among the locals. He asked what I was looking for and was more than happy to help. He walked me down a couple huts, introduced me to his friend who sold me some dinner. Walked me out to the car and told me that the right thing to do for his help was to buy him a beer. Really? I hate that kind of crap. The next day on our drive to Negril the same thing happened. A man on a motorcycle starts pointing at our tire and tells us to pull over. (I had a bad feeling about it, but went ahead and did it.) There was no imminent problem, the hub cap was a little loose but was held on by zip ties. I said thank you and started to walk away, at which time he told me that the right thing to do was to buy him a beer. Uggggh.

Food, where do I begin. We had our list from the internet, we got a list from the locals and where the two lined up we went there. Seemed like a good plan, but nooooo. I don’t get this one. Usually when we arrive in a new place we find out where the locals go and it all works out. This time we were pointed to nothing but tourist restaurants.

*Scotchies, the number one place to go for jerk chicken in Mobay, why??? There were quite a few tourists there, but there were equally the same number of locals. We were a bit underwhelmed. Our guy in Cleveland does a better job without the fancy bbq and wood.

*Juici Patties, on the list of must haves for native Jamaican food. Meh, it was like any other pattie I have had in the Bahamas. This particular place was equivilant to any other fast food place in the US.

*Then came The Pelican, on the top 5 of every list. Highly rated. Why??? This equivalent to a Jamaican version of Denny’s. (I will say this, the spinner was very good. Basically a dumpling that was in with the oxtail stew. Did you notice I said spinner, not spinnerS? Yeah, about that. It about an inch long.) Mediocre at best.

*Chillout Hut, recommended by several locals, was on several top 10 lists. We were told we would pay more for the view but that was ok. We are always willing to pay for good food. We were on the hunt for good seafood. Again a place for tourists. The food, meh. Expensive for a whole lot of mosquito bites. Oh, they did not have conch or lobster, or oxtail, or curried goat. We had the fish, escovitched. The guy on the streets of Thailand with his little wok did a better job.

*Pork Pit, on several top 5 lists for jerk. Ok, so this is pretty local. Did not see any tourists there even though it was on the hip strip. If you stick to the jerk it was good. The shrimp tasted like left overs, the roti was unappetizing, they were out of chicken wings and corn.
*Lobster Trap, on several top 5 lists for seafood. On this last night we decided to take an early dinner and drive 30min to what should have been a great meal. For a place that was so highly rated with a website, it felt a little peculiar that the street leading to the restaurant was in such disarray. But why not right? It was supposed to be next  the water where the local fishermen had their boats, so I assumed it was like a little fishing village, seemed to make sense. Pulling, there were no cares nor people. Hmmm. So I went in to check it out. There were tables without chairs, I walked past and open kitchen, nothing on the stove, no one around. In the “dining” area I found a woman sweeping the floor. (She gave the look of, why are you here. I get the fact that I stick out like a sore thumb, but really?) Me: Are you open. Her: Yes. Me: For food? Her: Yes, but you need to call ahead. Me: huh? Her: You need to call and they bring. Me: Ok, I’ll go get my husband. On our return, Her: Do you have a cell phone, you can call. Me: No. Her: Ok, you can use mine. (She dials and hands me the phone.) Me: The operator says the number does not work. Her: (she tries again) Ok, it work now. Me: There is an answering machine. Me to Andy: Lets to Pier 1.

*Pier 1, on several top 5 lists for seafood (probably number one.) Having looked at the menu and reviewed it online, it was clearly another tourist restaurant, but we don’t care. We want food and are willing to pay for it. We pulled in behind the chain link fence which went around the parking lot of the restaurant (there is a reason I mention this). We are approached by a security guard, who asks us, “are you here for the restaurant?” (Well no shit Sherlock, there ain’t nothing else here!) Me: Umm, yes. (politely) Him: I’m sorry but the restaurant is closed for a private function. OMG!! Nexxxxt…

*Jerkies – on several lists, suggested by locals. We had driven by several times and knew
where it was. It looked really busy with locals. Me: I’ll take the brown stewed chicken. Her: Sorry, no more. Me: Ok, I’ll take the curried goat. Her: Sorry, no more. Me: uhhh, I’ll take the curried chicken. Her: Sorry, no more. Me: Fine, I’ll take the jerk chicken. I’ll also take the conch, grilled. Her: that will be an extra 30min. Me. Ok, I’ll take the curried conch. Her: that will take an extra 15 min. Me: Fine.
In the end, this would be the best jerk we would have and the curry was amazing. We ordered more for lunch the next day. We were not about to let go of this one for sure thing.
It was exciting and disappointing to find out that the Jamaican restaurant in Cleveland was about as good as it gets. Now we know.
Our trip did not have a good start and hindsight is 20/20. (We should have cancelled.) 36 hours before the trip we received notice that our Airbnb reservation was cancelled. The host stated that she was in a dispute with her husband over the property. Oy. But after some hustling, I found another unit at the same location, for about 30% more chaching. What are you going to do? Right. So off we went.

The flight was a quick reminder that we were going to a third world country. I guess I had forgotten and was not quite in the mindset for such a trip. But reality is a like a slap it face wake up call. And there it was, I rented a car to drive in a third world country on the Other side of the street. Holy cow. All I wanted to do was pee my pants. What??? What was I thinking. Oh, that’s right, I had not done ANY research about this trip until the night before and had not gotten that far because I was busy trying to get a new reservation. The stress of driving on the opposite side of the street was amazing. The entire time, the only thing in my mind was left, left, left. The honking, the reckless passing, the pedestrians who don’t like the sidewalk, the motorcycles, the constant honking, oh, and the cars arbitrarily stopped on the street. I know it is far worse in China, Thailand, and many other places, but the difference was I was driving. Driving is in NYC is less nerve racking than this was. At least in NYC I didn’t have pedestrians walking in the middle of the street, cars passing illegally come right at me, and cars just stopped all over the place. Never again.

We reserved a condo on a property called Palmyra. I had read a little about the property but its reality did not hit me until we were there. Palmyra was built over 10 years ago with the intention of being a 5 star resort. The property is made of 3 buildings over 100 units per building. But construction had stopped on the third building at about 75% to completion because the money had dried up. It was such a shame because whoever designed the property did a fantastic job. The only other place that I have been to that was so well designed was the Ritz Carlton in Marco Island, FL. And even then I would argue that this was far superior. It was very well thought out. Unfortunately, at only about 40% sold and no income, all of the services had disappeared. The pool bar, the restaurant, the spa services, all unavailable. The place was like a ghost town. (Perfect for us.)

As you talk to the locals, they seem to all know the story and how sad it was that it is just rotting away. This story was unbeknownst to us until the last day. Which then explains everything. The wear on the carpeting, the peeling paint, the lack of employees.

So what about these first world problems I am speaking of? The truth is, we still have options and we are going back to a roof over our heads, food on the table and the option of taking another vacation. How bad could our lives be? My take away from Jamaica?  I have a lot of first world problems that can should only be viewed as comical. Going home I get to reflect again on my life and put it all in perspective. But just for fun here is the rundown of our first world problems in Jamaica man.

First world problem
The bright side

The pool was closed every day we were there.

We got to sit by the pool and was able to go in the shallow end one day.

The electricity was shut down during the day for maintenance. There is no elevator.

We were moved to the first floor.

We never got really good food.

We had one great meal.

We no longer had an ocean view.

We had a room.

The mildew smell throughout the unit.

I did not get sick.

The A/C was so loud that we could not open the window.

We had A/C.

The internet never worked properly for any length of time.

We were on vacation and shouldn’t need the internet.

We had to move rooms.

We got to move rooms.

We did not have enough towels. It took them 24 hours and 3 requests to get towels.

We had towels.

The rum cake we bought was moldy.

We had other things to eat.

It rained 5 of 6 days.

We got to go to be in the sun. It did not rain all day. Just a lot.

Driving on the left side of the road.

It is not permanent.

I almost hit a truck full of goats.

I didn’t hit a truck full of goats.

The safe had no batteries.

Nothing was taken.

The daily sacrifice of blood to mosquitos.

Not nearly as many as in Peru.

Went to the bank to exchange money, it was closed. Went to a second bank, they don’t exchange money.

Found a cambio.

Went to the market to buy bread. They only had Wonderbread.

We bought English muffins.

There were no services available on the property.

We did not need any services.

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