Country #3 - Jamaica Day 1

What I want out of this trip… is days like today

My day started with a bang. Literally. I woke up at 3am to a banging noise and thought someone had broken into my room in Haiti. Turns out it was just my GoPro Karma Grip turning on randomly in the middle of the night and attempting to calibrate by banging itself into a table. After an already rough night trying to sleep, thinking that someone was breaking in did not help things. However, my day only went up from here. Way up.

After minimal sleep and paranoia induced by my hotel’s location throughout the night (tip: when visiting Port-au-Prince, pay the extra money to stay in the suburbs if you are concerned about safety) I gathered my things and went downstairs to find my wonderful guide from the day before ready to take me to the airport! One last drive through dust filled Haiti commenced, leaving me one last time to see the chaos and unfortunate reality of still destroyed Port-au-Prince.

I also realized, upon arriving at the airport, that I had not seen one other non-Hatian my entire time in Haiti from leaving the airport until returning. The airport itself contained missionary groups from the U.S., but beyond that I did not see one other obvious tourist like myself. Being so visibly aware of how much of an outsider I was and worrying about what the Haitians were thinking as I drove by was both scary yet enlightening.

After wishing my wonderful driver farewell I attempted to find the line for my airline. The arrivals hall emulated the city: it was a crazy mess. Haitians were lining the hall waiting with folders attempting to, from what I was told, get visas. While waiting in line I ran into two other young female American travelers (shout out to Danielle and Paige!). They were from Nebraska and had just come from Panama, spent four days volunteering in Haiti, and were now headed to Costa Rica. After going through security and a painless border control we ran into each other again on the other side and talked for quite a while waiting to board our plane to Fort Lauderdale. It was so great meeting them and I hope to meet up with them again in Costa Rica!

Before boarding the plane everyone had to go through security again, and this time everyone had to be patted down and have their bags searched by hand. I’m not quite sure why this is necessary as we had literally just been through security, but at least the line for women was shorter as there were so few on our flight.

On the plane I sat next to another American from New Orleans. He had been in Haiti working with a team for two weeks. I cannot even begin to imagine! He was so excited to get back to the U.S., where we have street signals and hot water. We talked for a while and then I attempted to sleep. Upon landing in Fort Lauderdale I had a quick and easy customs experience as I have Global Entry. I have had it for a few years now (ever since I went on a trip with family members who had it) and it had never really come in handy until this journey. I can only begin to imagine the amount of times that I will use it, but I am already glad to have it.

In Fort Lauderdale I ate at the Food Network branded restaurant again as it was the only sit down restaurant in my terminal. I had an overpriced club sandwich with “cheese fries” that were literally just parmesan cheese on fries - needless to say this cheese fanatic was sorely disappointed – and a really good orange juice. I then had about an hour to work on things before boarding my flight to Kingston, Jamaica.

The flight to Kingston was pretty bumpy but otherwise there were no problems. I arrived and went to customs, where I was a little confused because the immigration officer asked me if I had seen the nurse in the airport. I said no and that was that, but I have no idea why she asked. After clearing customs I was met outside by Graeme, the oldest son of the owner of where I would be staying, Neita’s Nest. He was driving me to Neita's Nest but along the way gave me a wonderful tour of Kingston. The drive leaving the airport and going into Kingston was breathtaking. The bay on your left with the mountains straight ahead and the sun shining – it was incredible.

We then drove through downtown Kingston where we rode past the National Gallery and I learned about how Kingston is attempting to revive downtown and make itself a center of business once again. From there we drove by Fleet Street. According to my guide, Fleet Street is a poorer area of town, but an area where the walls of the run-down buildings have been turned into immaculate art through painting, most of which were painted by artists from the local school of arts. We saw a soccer match being played on concrete amongst the buildings and walked a short bit to see some of the coolest art. 

From Fleet Street we drove some more and saw landmarks such as Emancipation Park, Devon House (the first large house owned by a black person in Jamaica -  it is described as looking similar to an immaculate plantation house), the Cricket stadium, and past the Bob Marley Museum. We then picked up a friend, Renée, before driving up into the hills of Jamaica to Neita’s Nest.

Upon arrival I met the wonderful owner, Michelle, and her youngest son, Duncan. The bed and breakfast style accommodation of Neita’s Nest sits in the hills of Kingston overlooking stunning views of the mountains. I want to say the biggest of thank yous to Michelle and her family for hosting me and sponsoring this night of my trip – I could not have had a better or more welcoming stay!

The original plan for dinner was to go to a local Jerk restaurant. Jerk is a type of pork (and now chicken as well) that originated on the island from its first inhabitants who ate it in the hills while hiding out from the British on the island to avoid becoming enslaved. However, the car battery would not start so Michelle and a few others went to the restaurant to pick up the food to eat on the balcony at Neita's Nest. While doing so, however, I got to spend more time talking with Duncan and met Joelle!

Joelle had read all about what I am doing and was such a joy to meet. She was so excited to talk about what I was doing and had so many questions! Amazing in her own right, she just graduated from high school in the Netherlands. It was so cool to talk about the world with her and to see a young girl so excited about what I am doing! It made me so happy – thank you Joelle!

Once dinner arrived, along with Joelle's uncle Nevada, we then feasted on the Jerk as well as conch soup, fried plantain, and bread fruit. Needless to say it was a night full of trying new things, but it was fantastic! I talked at length with Nevada, who attended college in the United States and has himself traveled to over eighty countries. He had some amazing stories, especially about his time in India, and great tips for my travels as well!

After dinner we had the most amazing dessert – dulche de leche ice cream with rum cake. So yummy. We all talked for about four hours and I had the most incredible time. I learned so much about Jamaican culture, from the dance to the history and everything in-between. There was even a well-intentioned push by Joelle to get me to try and dance, but alas that was a little too much for me (the worst dancer in the world) – so I just learned about it instead!

I had such a great night and I cannot thank everyone enough for making me feel so welcome. From the tour to the dinner and the discussions about culture and the world, it was such a fantastic night. I hope to have many more like it on my trip. It’s nights like tonight that make me so excited for what is to come! I hope to meet many more people who are just as incredible and welcoming, as I did throughout my day from the airport in Haiti to Neita’s Nest in Jamaica.

3 countries down, 194 to go. 

Read about my second day in Jamaica here.

To learn more about Neita's Nest click here.