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Jamaican me happy: Ochi

It was our seventh day in Jamaica. We had traveled to the north coast of the country to visit Ocho Rios, another very popular tourist destination, when we were told there was going to be a carnival. The said carnival, however, wasn’t the typical people-dressed up-dancing-on-floats carnival, but rather a crowded concert mostly attended by locals, half of whom – regardless of the minimum age for admittance – were in their teens.

There was one, and only one police officer at the entrance door to make sure no underage kid entered the concert. He seemed to be doing a good job. I was there when a couple of teenagers were sent back home after failing to show their IDs. So, it came as a big surprise when I bumped into drunk teens staggering through the crowd during the concert. How? If the police officer had been there. I saw him… I didn’t get it! This behavior reminded me of my country, where people are very good at finding creative ways to break the law. They’d found a lower part of the fence, very suitable for jumping over if you are agile enough. At least, the police weren’t bribed as I had initially believed. It turns out the underage kids had snuck in!

Fashion

Something that caught my attention during the concert was the non-glamorous footwear trend/movement called “tourist sandals” Jamaicans seem to be following. When this trend first came out, I remember thinking: Does this mean I don’t have to make an effort anymore? Should I just wear my laundry day outfit to parties? Who would wear such a thing? Well, to my amazement, many people would.

If you want to know more about this fashion, click here.

Twerking

Not only did this eccentric trend being followed catch my attention, but also the dancing did. I had been told about the Jamaican twerk. I had seen videos, I had heard about Twerk Fest Jamaica, I had discussed it with my fiancé, who had more information about it since he’s half Jamaican, but it was still shocking to watch young teenagers twerking at the concert.

I am trying – so far unsuccessfully – to see this with objective eyes. Maybe my conservative upbringing is preventing me from seeing this as part of a cultural expression, but I have mixed feelings about twerking. I agree and disagree on twerking depending on how it is done. For example, seeing these girls twerk on their own – to my eyes – shows a talent, or just women enjoying themselves and their bodies without men present. However, seeing them twerk with a guy behind them changes the panorama completely. It’s pretty much porn with clothes. How can you not see a woman as an object when having her twerk in front of you like that? All you see is her butt; I mean, unless she turns around a little, you won’t get the chance to see her face (or unless a man is “dancing” lying on the floor on top of her with blender-like movements from the waist down). What’s the real purpose of twerking? Is it really the rhythm of the music that is being enjoyed? I find it very hard to believe that twerking doesn’t sexually objectify women although I defend twerking (on your own) as a display of enjoyment.

 

Route taxis

Many countries have this transportation system where taxis run a specific route for a set price, picking passengers up and dropping them off along the way. I’ve never used this kind of transportation in Peru, where route taxis are called colectivos; nonetheless, as many other things I don’t and wouldn’t do in my country, I decided to give it a try. I don’t know why, but getting around Jamaica in route taxis just felt right.

In Peru, colectivos are illegal. Even though taxi drivers offer this service to meet the high demand of unsatisfied commuters, there isn’t any sort of license to offer this service legally. There are informal colectivo stops, where lines of ten plus taxi drivers take up one entire lane to wait for passengers causing unbearable traffic.  They charge between 4 and 6 soles (around US$ 1.5). In Jamaica, they are legal and can be distinguished by their red plates. In Negril, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay we paid between 120 and 140 JMD Jamaican dollars for a ride (around US$ 1.00).

Important tip!

Because chartered taxis also have red plates, the only way to distinguish a chartered taxi from a route taxi is by asking the driver for the price, and this is a must! If you don’t ask for the price, the driver might purposefully not pick up any passengers along the way and say that, because he didn’t do so – and you did not specify you required a route taxi – the fare will be 5 times higher. Thus, you could end up paying US$ 10.00 for a ride that would have cost US$ 1.00 with a route taxi.

I have to be honest and admit that, at first, I thought they would be unsafe. The only reference I had was the route taxis in my country where I’d heard of people getting robbed or even worse, so I was skeptical. However, the rides in Jamaica were safe, and I got the chance to experience commuting like the locals do, not to mention the fact that we saved a lot of money on transportation. Had we ridden only chartered taxis, we would have spent at least 5 times as much.

In spite of not having had any negative experience, I frankly wouldn’t have jumped in a route taxi if I had been traveling solo. I would recommend it for people traveling in pairs or groups. It makes sense to think it would lower the risk in case something bad were to happen.

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