In October 2005, I wrote this somewhere.
Jamaica is just so depressing. Everything about it. I am miserable everytime I come back here.
Early November is when I leave again, and I am hoping that I don’t come back here for a long, long time. I’m going to take my Caricom Certificate of Recognition and roam, roam, roam.
This island is doomed. I don’t know why anyone would choose to move back here.
Today I had to go to Duke Street to get a Police Certificate. A couple of incidents today made me feel not too different from that 2005 opinion. True, there are lots of great things about Jamaica, but there seems to be some things which have seeped into our DNA, that I don’t know how they will be exorcised.
Just opposite the Police place is a car park. Great. A man directed me to park. I got out and asked what do I pay, where and when. He said I pay after, and it is $100 to park, $50 for the first hour and then a tip for him. What??????????????????????????????????? Watch me and him when I come out.
Inside the packed Police place, we moved up along the brown chairs. There was barely a few seconds in between us moving, that my legs got a workout. Up down. Up down. Quads and hamstrings called in to work. Note: I had just come from the gym :(.
The man I sat beside held the blank paper in his hand for a while. I knew what was coming next. This farmer from St Elizabeth cannot read. Yes, I will fill out the form for you and I won’t make you feel awkward. He was most grateful. I continued filling out mine and then the other thing typically Jamaican happened. He touched me with his hand folded up in a fist and said “buy yourself something.” I glimpsed at least a $100 and a $50 bill. I heard myself raising my voice saying “NO, NO, NO!!!”
I was saying that for two reasons.
(1) It is probably not his fault that he, as a nearly 55 year old man, cannot read. Blame it on successive governments. Green and Orange.
(2) Jamaica has become the land of “so what you can do for me mummy.” It has been my experience that in Jamaica, when somebody does something for you, the expectation is that you are going to leave ‘a smalls’ with them. As a single person living in Grenada, I often need and get help. In a total of 12 years living there, and an additional 6 visiting a couple times annually, I had one person behave like they are not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart. (I asked an employee to break open a dry coconut for me and he asked me for EC$5. I had a stern word with him after. He said he was joking). I have offered people money, because that was what I was coming from in Jamaica, and they reacted like I reacted to Mr St Elizabeth today. In Grenada, I think they take that as an insult.
Back to the bench. When I reached close to going to do the fingerprint, I told Mr St Elizabeth and the other fellas sitting after me that I was going on strike. Ah not moving up no more. Three chairs were empty in front of me and the place had sort of emptied out. No one would notice. Oh dear. Mr Fingerprint man came outside and ordered me to move. Cho.
I looked around at the bare basic office. Why. Why. Why. There was an empty water cooler. Can’t afford electricity? Ok, so there are vendors outside so you would be helping somebody to support their family.
I was pleased that I got through within an hour. It didn’t look like that was a possibility when I first entered. A positive. The employees were generally friendly. However, I listened to how one lady was giving instructions to the persons waiting, and then how she spoke to me and inside, I shook my head. We all there for the same reason. Speak from a point of compassion to everyone. No special treatment for nobody. Cho.
After you do the fingerprint, you wait in one of three areas, depending on when you paid to get back your certificate. I chose the 5 day service. There is one which is longer and there is an express next day service.
My name was called, I got back my receipts (which you have to pay for at a tax office) all marked up with codes only they will understand and given a date to return.
Now to stand my ground with the Car Park man. I walked by the lady at the entrance and asked if I was to pay now. She said no, drive up and pay. I walked up to the man and said “so that’s $150, right?” Him look on me and didn’t say anything. Then afterwards he said “you’re right, $150.” I was not having it. I was not pandering to the typical Jamaican way. Cho.
Back to Mr St Elizabeth. He is applying to go on the Farm Work programme. I am sure he would rather stay in Jamaica, especially if he has a family. But, (and I am assuming here, yes), because some body at the basic and primary school didn’t make sure he went to school, his options are limited. His birthday is in a few days. I told him I hope he gets through. I asked him if he was going to be picking oranges. He said he didn’t know. His options are limited and he probably has a future in picking oranges, strawberries or some other fruits and vegetables, because in typical Jamaican fashion, the keepers of the purse strings have not learnt in 53 years, which priority areas they should spend money on. Cho.