Kingston Jamaica makes a great first impression. Perhaps not for physical beauty – the visible poverty and the city’s industrious nature make that difficult despite fertile mountains and a generous climate, but in its heart, in its people, in its placement Kingston Jamaica makes a great first impression.

I wanted to track these scattered thoughts while the impression is still fresh:

The friendliness of the Jamaican people was NOT over-promised. My landlord, Yvette our security woman, the guy who would really like to sign me up for Internet just as soon as I can prove I’m deserving, every service person in every store or restaurant – they’ve all made me so thrilled with my choice to spend 5 months here.

It is steaming hot. That too was to be expected. I’ve been following Kingston on my weather map every morning for a month. The heat, and the humidity, is undeniable. But so is the refreshing breeze, and the currently daily but brief afternoon rains (everything from light showers to thunder storms) that damp down the dust and the temperature.

Kingston is a hard-working city. The port is full of ships and cranes and factories. It is also, apparently, a crime-laden city – every building I’ve seen is behind some sort of gate/fence/wall combination that actually makes it somewhat difficult to identify landmarks and get your bearings. But I feel like there is hope here – I suppose that’s down to the people, not the infrastructure.

Also – OH MY LORD THE FOOD! Again, the friends who told me about Kingston did not over-promise. I haven’t even been to a real sit-down fancy restaurant, and I’ve had jerk meat of every description, fresh salads, delightful cocktails, and not even a hint of gluten. It turns out I love breadfruit, and that groceries are reasonable to buy if you buy local brands (that was an expensive but quick lesson).

I must not have paid much attention to the water situation in Cuso’s briefing notes. Due to a combination of a recent drought and failing infrastructure it’s not unusual for neighbourhoods to be briefly (knock wood) locked out of the water supply now and then.

Pretty simple solutions, mind you. I have a large container of safe drinking water in the fridge; three 5 litre bottles of tap water under the sink for cleaning/cooking, and a 4 litre jug of water beside the toilet for manual flushing. And if there’s ever a morning when I can’t shower, the pool is just outside. Sure, I might be a bit chloriney, but at least I’ll be fresh.

Today we attempt to get Jamaican bank accounts. In order to combat fraud they have quite a demanding enrollment system, but I think I’m adequately prepared. I sure hope so, since my credit union debit card has yet to work here. I thought sure it would at the ScotiaBank ATM (ScotiaBank was the first [foreign] bank in Jamaica … remember that next time you play Trivial Pursuit World Commerce Edition). Anyway, I’ve been getting by so far with my MasterCard and should have a Jamaican account (and my first Cuso paycheck) tomorrow.

Kingston has made a great first impression on me. I hope it can say the same of me – maybe once I learn a few phrases of patwa and get a handle on all this sweating.

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