My means for getting around are very limited and unreliable, which makes for the entertaining predicament of trying to put together any sort of work schedule. Public transportation is comprised of route and charter taxis, mini buses, coaster buses and city buses. While I have many options for types of transportation, Jamaica runs on "soon come" time which means that I could be waiting at a bus/route taxi stop for, at times, up to an hour. Route taxis are my most common way of getting around. They are gathered together at all the major city stops and depending on where they are parked determines their route and destination. Red plate taxis are the legally certified drivers but those only make up about half of the taxis on the road, with many private cars picking up passengers for a little extra cash. The mini bus is one of my favorite and least favorite parts of transportation in Jamaica. It's pretty much a fifteen passenger van that manages to seat up to over twenty people with market bags and babies on their laps. "Small up" is the fun game in mini buses of seeing how many people can fit into one row or seats. During my first ride up the Blue Mountains above Kingston to my site in a mini bus I was warmly welcomed to the community by a baby spitting up on my arm and the mother beside me quietly giggling and wiping it off. But even with all the sweat and the noise of the mini bus, it's become such a fun part of my day traveling to and from town because of the interaction I am able to have with the people living in my community and the surrounding areas. I've met most of the schoolers on the bus and gotten music lessons from most of the drivers. I can't wait til someone gets to visit and see how wonderfully hectic transportation on the island can be. My trick so far: window seats!
The first song I heard coming through Customs in the Kingston airport was not some local reggae or club song from the States like I expected, but Dion's "That's the Way It Is". It's been a fun way to strike up conversation with Jamaicans and other volunteers alike by asking what it is about Celine that has the country so crazy about her music. The culture here is very expressive and passionate and I think that's a big part of why she gets so much airtime. I swear a visit from her would cause more chaos than that from the Pope. Now I finally get to show off what all those hours spent practicing my performance of the Titanic song during sixth grade were really for.
One of my favorite new foods here is a hot pocket type thing called a pattie. They are found at almost every street stand and a couple of Jamaican fast food chains are dedicated to them. It's a folded over bread/pastry outside stuffed with either chicken, beef, cheese or my personal favorite, veggies. The rastas mostly make the veggie patties at the roadside stands because they are vegitarians under the rastafarian movement. Not quite sure where the name came from, but the veggie patties made by rastas are called yatties. This name has a certain touch of humor for personal reasons, especially when the sign reads "hot yatties".
One of the favorite pass-times here is playing dominos. While it's mainly groups of men playing on a make-shift card table street side, I've had many oportunities to learn how to play the proper way with family members and other volunteers. In my first community, it became a nightly routine to walk over to another volunteer's home and learn the tricks of the trade from his crazy host dad. So much more technique and strategy are involved than I would have ever thought. The Jamaican version of the game is, as most things are here, very passionate. One cannot simply place down a double number card - slamming it down so that the game is almost completely destroyed is the only way to go about it. When passing a turn you say "git on" and "droppin love" is what occurs when you win six games before the final person has won any at all. And to think, all this time I thought they were only good for knocking down.
Jamaican men are very, um, complimentary. I say it like that because I don't think "harrassment" is the proper way to describe it. While the comments directed to me on the streets may be very forward, and at times a bit lewd, the are mostly harmless and are simply made to offer a compliment. I've got to give the men on the street a little credit though - some of the things they come up with, beyond the typical "hey sexy", are quite creative! I thought at first that this would be one of the bigger issues I would have a hard time dealing with, but I've been learning ways to cope with the unwanted attention. I stand out. They know it and I know it. So it's knowing how to respond as the random white girl walking around town in a way that acknowledges their comments without disrespecting or aggrivating the situation. One of my favorite lines that has been suggested from my host sister to brush them off is "You got money?". They always have a good chuckle with that one, knowing that it's something local girls would normally say and it's amusing to here a foreigner throw it out there. The boys definitely have it easier here, but being a girl has it's perks too: everyday walking down the street is like a mini ego boost.