This is a response to a question I was asked on a JA b board. I don’t think I’ve thought about it much, and honestly I don’t normally need to as I rarely spend time in the major tourist areas of Jamaica where thinking about it is a regular thing.
Anyway, thought I’d save my response here.
On the vendor/hustler/gigolo/drug dealer thing…I do greet them first, that’s true (unless I’m in a hurry) but when I greet them, I do not stop to chat and I assume something in my body language must communicate effectively to them that I am friendly but I am not a good target for whatever they might want from me, if that is a sale or whatever.
(Obviously I happily deal with vendors who do have things i want, mostly these are food vendors!)
I have been visiting Jamaica for almost 30 years now. I certainly had my run-ins early on, made my mistakes (let someone walk with me, or put a bracelet on me, etc etc). It may just be that they can tell I’ve seen it all before.
Up on the west end we walked from Catcha Gardens to Catcha Falling Star frequently. There are a few guys who we passed regularly. Some security guys from the various hotels (always gave them a huge wave and smile!), a jewelry vendor, a guy who rides around on a bike and will ask for money if you let him (been there done that 5 or so years ago, I think he remembered), some guys who just live and hang out there.
I bought a bracelet from the jewelry guy the second day. They were cute, inexpensive, and I noticed he was there late at night, when I was often walking back and forth. Why not make a purchase from someone who is on the road late, who might be inclined to be helpful if I had a problem?
Some people test you, too. Sitting by the road eating a meal a couple of guys were hanging out where we ate. One in particular wanted to tell me all about his crime racket – “protection” of businesses for a fee, if you know what I mean. Bragging, lying, who knows, but I just bantered with him, and laughed, and agreed with what he was saying, what of it that I did actually agree with. Like that when you do get shot in the course of business you don’t want to be buried in a nice casket because someone will steal it! I could tell he was looking for me to be shocked or afraid and I was just…me.
IDK. I enjoy these interactions, and when I am tired of them I relax with my friends in a private place.
I am also often on a scooter or in a taxi, so have less direct interaction when I don’t want it.
I hope this doesn’t sound like nonsense….it’s hard for me to explain how I move around in Jamaica. Everyone who returns over and over finds their rhythm, I think. Some find it immediately, first trip. My friend Michelle who is gorgeous and young and spent time in Ghana “got it” right away. My friend Max intuitively knew how to bargain, and even said what I consider a uniquely Jamaican way of getting someone’s attention : “Listen, listen” with eye contact. Both seemed to enjoy every interaction. But they are that way in general, all the time, always wanting to interact and enjoy people and experiences.
As I said, a few others were really bothered by the people they met on the beach. They’re cool people, maybe just not the right personality for the place, I don’t know.
Continue reading this series:
Birthday at Blue Cave Castle (Teddy’s Hideaway)