Tell Me How You Really Feel, Jamaica
Two years ago, I went to to Jamaica on a spiritual inspiration vacation. I stayed in a Barbie-pink hut on a farm with cows, goats, chickens, kittens, gators, pigs, bunnies — basically the entirety of Noah’s Arc lived on that farm. It was a lime farm, and at the bottom of the mountains, through the lime tree trails, was a monstrously wide, rapidly flowing river. This river was popular for bamboo rafting. Every day spent there with Kim and Geoffrey (my two hosts) was a magical day. After my time on the farm, I relocated to the Harley Davidson down on the hip-strip at the heart of Montego Bay. This trip was one of the most humbling, yet cleansing, trips of my life thus far. I learned how to take care of myself, by myself. My perspective has almost completely shifted on the way that I view all things health related in our country as you will read. I see through the predictive programming and cultural grooming now.
As I would watch the sunset slice over the equator illuminating the turquoise waves that were slowly breaking as they came to shore each and every night, I felt as though I was lightyears away from home. I was on a completely different planet, as far as anyone else was concerned. Reconciling with the cruel reality of endless possibilities of things that could’ve gone wrong taught me that I no longer feared death. The fear I once had suddenly meant nothing to me if it was an exchange that meant a life full of missed opportunities. So, I sent it. Lived it. Breathed it. From the culture to the food to the people… everything! I mean, I didn’t really have a choice. I was already there. Meredith Jane was a lot stronger down there anyways, so she kept me safe at night. Sometimes she even read me a book about the brothers and sisters of the world after she would tuck me in. I truly love Mary, she is the best.
I met up with the friends that Sophia and I had met the first time we were there so that I wouldn’t be alone the entire time. Plus, it was great to see them all, to visit, and to learn much more about the true native Jamaican lifestyle. What intrigued me most about these wonderful people, aside from their tender-hearted, free spirited ways, was their pristine health conditions. People in their fifties look like they’re in their thirties…naturally! It blew my mind. So what gives? What’s the secret? Is it the island breeze, or something in the water? Well, I’ll tell you what it is — but first you need to rid your headspace of any negative connotations about these people in relation to the luxurious private resort you stayed in, or the cruise you went on five years ago when you got to spend eight hours tops on their island. The people you met aren’t the true locals. Meaning they were either putting on a huge show for you to spend money on something they’re selling, or they’re being told what to do and say to make the paying guest as comfortable as they can possibly be during their stay. If these are the only people you’ve really met over there, you’re not getting the full cultural experience. That would be like someone from another country thinking that all of America is just like Las Vegas! It’s all a show if you let it be.
Spending time with the locals means you’re not a tourist anymore — you’re one of them at that point. They’re going to take you to places without another tourist in sight. Toto, we’re not in the U.S. anymore… You’re going to see and hear things you never would’ve imagined. You’ll hear what they think about Americans from our dating, career paths, and our health. I seriously wish I had been vlogging back then but since I wasn’t, I plan on sharing some of these eye-opening stories that I have never forgotten. This trip really woke me up about a lot.
When I first arrived in Montego Bay, a few friends picked me up and we headed to the market to get my Barbie-hut stocked up. I noticed how healthy everyone was shopping, so naturally I wanted to fit in! I already ate pretty healthy back home, but one thing that stuck out to me was that almost everything was organic. We have organic options here in America, but there isn’t much emphasis put on the importance of choosing them opposed to the regular options. Regular meaning preservative-packed and sprayed with pesticides to preserve them so they look pretty in your pantry. Every time you are buying mass-produced and processed “food” you are making the choice (whether you’re aware of it or not) to feed you and your family not only genetically-engineered poisons and chemical additives, but a plethora of other toxins as well. So I did what the Jamaicans do and grabbed healthy, organic, raw fruits, veggies, and nuts. We would eat fresh jerk chicken and jerk pork out at local stands. By the second day, I needed bread, a biscuit, or SOME type of carb. Now when I look back in retrospect, I don’t even think it was necessarily carbs I needed, because I would sometimes eat rice with my jerk chicken. I wholeheartedly believe I was having sugar addiction withdrawals. Even if you think you’re eating healthy over here in the states, there is most likely still a little fake sugar in your diet.
As I was going through this withdrawal at the jerk stand, I asked my friends, “So is there any type of like bread or biscuit we can order too, as I side? I really need a little substance.”
They all looked at me strangely and one replied in a confused tone, “Well, we have festivals. It’s like a cornbread stick or maybe a dumpling.”
I was so excited! I replied “Okay amazingggggg! How many do we want? I’ll get a bunch for the table!”
They looked at me now even more confused (while laughing under their breath a little) and responded with “Noooo mon, we eat festivals for festivals. Lots of sugar in there, so we save for special occasions only.” I was flabbergasted, to say the least. Completely taken aback, and honestly a little embarrassed — I felt borderline fat-shamed, even though I know they meant no harm! It was all just really odd to me, considering most Americans would've never turned me down if I offered that! I still ordered five for the table. I ate three of them myself, and saved the other two for later — because, as I’m sure you can imagine, none of them were planning to eat it!
The next evening after bamboo rafting, I was taken to the coolest spot to watch the sunset with a ton of locals, all smoking joints listening to Vybz Kartel. It was complete and total euphoria. We all danced and mingled until the last sliver of sun sank down under the water. We then began to converse about dinner arrangements, and as I’m sure most of you know — hanging with Meredith can make you feel like you haven’t eaten in a decade. They all catered to me, since I technically was the guest. I wanted so badly to fit in, but I put my foot down when someone suggested we eat at KFC.
I said “Ew, no! We have that nasty shit at home! I came here to try new stuff!” I was repulsed, to be honest, especially since that’s part of the reason I ran away to Jamaica by myself in the first place. I wanted to get away from all of the things considered “norms” to society back home, and fast-food chains were definitely on my list.
Another friend, Norman, turned to me, laughing through his words and replied “No no no mon.” Shaking his hands back and forth, “Our KFC isn’t the same as yours, ours isn't packed with preservatives and chemicals. Ours is more fresh. That’s why the menu is limited, and you won’t see some of the same tings as you see back home on it!” I was so confused, but also eager to try! “Dope! I’m down then — and I’ll be the judge of that!” I jokingly replied back as I giggled all the way to the car with Mary. You guys…When I tell you that was the best damn fried chicken and biscuits. My mouth is watering just typing this. I can still hear the crackle from the first bite when the juice drizzled down my lips.
“It’s not gloss baby, it’s chicken grease!” I would say after a big bite, while everyone laughed, conversed, drank their Ting — similar to Sprite, but a Jamaican version. We were all just a bunch of happy-go-lucky little clams, munching on some Jamaican KFC. These are some of life’s most precious moments. Coming together with our sisters and brothers of the world over a dank meal! What Norman said, however, was still in the back of my mind as I ate my chicken, wondering how it could taste so different and so fresh. I wanted to know more about our food in comparison to theirs, and what their take was on everything.
At the time, I had a friend whose dad was had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer back home, so I asked “Is cancer prevalent here in Jamaica or do you often hear of any other health concerns that are life-threatening and detrimental? Because back home, ya know, we have a variety of people who are diseased and it’s so sad.”
Norman responded, “No, you never really hear of anyone having cancer down here. Maybe once in a blue moon and it’s usually someone very, very old.” I couldn’t believe it!
They could hear the shock in my tone as I said “What?? You’re kidding, right? That’s so crazy! What the heck! There really is something in the water down here, or maybe it IS the island breeze!” They all began to laugh — almost like aww poor little naive American girl.
Still chuckling a bit, Norman responded with “No, it’s because your country is trying to disease you guys, so you’ll spend more money in healthcare each year.” I was shook. They all continued laughing, and it wasn’t very funny to me. It was my health and the health of my loved ones back home. I felt unintentionally attacked. It was honestly a little sad to hear that this is how they perceived us as Americans and our health. They see us as indulgent, glutenous Dodo birds being fooled by the predictive programming on television and popular ads. On a lighter note, they do also see America as the place to go if you have a bigger scaled dream you wish to bring to fruition! Also to make big bucks of course, but most of them are so very family oriented and aren’t interested in moving away. If I were from there, I wouldn’t be leaving either!
As my curiosity had intensified, I began to ask questions about other differences regarding health relating to the different cultures. “So what about drugs? Like pills, hard drugs, etc.. Seems like weed is really the only popular thing down here, and by no means am i complaining — it’s just different,” I asked curiously. I had been offered ecstasy, molly, heroin, and acid more times than I could count, but never saw or heard of the Jamaicans themselves taking those drugs. I live in a port city that is directly the halfway point between Miami and New York, and that has made Wilmington one of the worst in the nation for opioid and drug addiction/abuse.
Someone responded “No, mon we don’t put anyting in our bodies that doesn’t come from this earth. But we know you guys do and you’ll pay for it. So the bad ones sell it because they know lots of Americans will buy it.” I was yet again surprised, but not really at the same time. One thing is for sure though — these people are much more woke than we give them credit for.
I said “Well, you know, in the state I live in, it’s actually still illegal to smoke weed.”
They all bursted out laughing, exclaiming “How do you guys even call yourselves the United States?? None of your states are United!” I didn’t know how to answer that because they were right. I had never really thought about it like that before. To this day it’s something that I can’t stop thinking about.
The next day, I headed down from the Harley Davidson and walked across the street to Doctor’s Cave beach to grab lunch at the tiki bar before sunning my bum.
I’m enjoying my fish tacos and minding my business at the bar working on my CBD sales when a local walks behind me and whispers, “Hey girl, I got acid, heroin, and marijuana for you special girl, give you special price.” Anyone that knows me knows that my mouth can shoot off like a little gold glock if I feel disrespected, and whoever is standing in front of it better dodge my fire if they know what’s best for them.
I felt like I had one over on him, and already knew his game thanks to my friends. I replied, loudly, with girth in my tone and said “Now why in the fuck would I ever want to put that nasty shit in my body if I know that you wouldn't even take it?” Everyone on our side of the bar looked over — the locals, the tourists, the bartender…everyone.
The bartender came over and asked, “Ma’am, is there a problem here? Is he bothering you?” The drug solicitor, with the astonished look across his face began reassuring the bartender to avoid conflict.
“No no no mon, no problem here!” he said as I chimed in “Yeah, we’re all good here, no worries.” I didn’t want him getting thrown out because you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take, and now was my chance to ask him some of the compelling questions I had, or I’d have to forever hold my peace and question the unknown.
“How did you know that I wouldn’t do acid or heroin?” He asked me suspiciously.. as if I was the one who should be getting questioned.
“Because I know you would only put the one that came naturally from this earth in your body… the marijuana. So why would you treat me any differently? I don’t like that shit, man, really rubs me the wrong way when i’m trying to enjoy my food,” I responded.
“How you know that? You friends with people here or someting?” he said, fiercely confused now.
“Yeah I am, actually..” I said feeling high and mighty, “So I know all about these games that you guys play with tourists. You should be ashamed. You could be the reason someone dies. Someone could lose their child because of you” I said in a disgusted tone.
“It’s just business mama, don’t take it personal. The pen doesn’t make the mistake on the paper either,” he responded nonchalantly. I use that metaphor more often than not now, and always think about this encounter. He continued, “The rich business men in America and China are my biggest customers. The Chinese business men really love the heroin,” he said softly.
In my kindest, most encouraging tone, I replied “Can’t you do something that doesn’t risk people dying?”
He then says in an optimistic tone, “I do! That’s my convenient store down the street! So would you like any weed then, mama?” He asked hopefully. “Already got some, thanks. I’m going to finish eating my tacos now.” I replied.
I never saw him again, and to this day I really can’t even remember what his face looked like. Just one of those life conversations in passing that happen so quickly, but you will ponder the words exchanged for the rest of your life.
As my trip came to an end, I began to feel depressed, but remembered everything that I had to look forward to at home waiting on me. I felt so blessed to be leaving there with such interesting new insights and perceptions about the place everyone knows as home to the legend, Bob Marley. I did what I do best at the end of any trip — try and sabotage my flight home so that I miss it and am forced to stay in paradise with no one to blame but the universe. Because everything happens for a reason, right? You have to just trust the process right? Well, the process and the universe have always managed to get me there on time despite all of my efforts to be late. My poor Jamaican friends were probably all so confused by my efforts. I told them we were in no rush at all, and that I needed more time with Meredith before heading back to the lands where my sweet green girlfriend is frowned upon.
Norman kept suggesting we all stop for a “natural fruit smoothie” — with extra emphasis on the “natural” — before getting to the airport. I didn’t know or understand why he couldn’t just say smoothie. That’s what we all say back home, so I asked him!
“Well we have smoothies back home! What about another Jamaican breakfast? Now that I’m going to miss everyday! Ohhh and the Jamaican coffee too!”
He replied, “No mon, ours are actually natural. Most places put fake sugars and preserved fruit in your smoothies back home. Ours completely natural, mon, very good for you and they have herbal tea, too.”
Once again, something I couldn’t even argue with because he was right, and I felt dumb for not having figured it out for myself by this point. That was one of the best smoothies I’ve ever had, to this day! I even drank the rest of one of our other friend’s.
You know how that goes. “Hey so you know.. I was just uhhh, wondering are you going to finish that…? Because if you don’t… I totally will. Ya knowwww there are people starving i’d hate to waste food…”
Goodbyes were nostalgically exchanged, but it’s never truly a goodbye just a “see you later!” I hope reading this has sparked a little curiosity regarding your own health if you live in the United States! It sure did mine, so drastically that I am in the best shape and health of my life and truly couldn’t be any happier these days. Not to say I am perfect by any means, but my diet and lifestyle tremendously changed for the better after this trip. There is no “end game” for your health — you can always learn and grow from new material and studies. Your health is a part of you, and you are what you eat. Take care of yourself now, so that you’re not indebted to your health conditions later in life in turn being indebted to big pharmaceutical companies. I highly recommend reading the book “Eat Pretty” by Jolene Hart. This is the diet and lifestyle I try to mirror on a daily basis. I stick to the book 85% of the time, and the other 15% I use to cheat and am still only human! (or American, I guess you could say). I’m working on bumping that percentage up to 90% this spring and leaving only 10% for cheat days!
Whether you’re looking to change your lifestyle or not, you MUST take a trip to Jamaica! It is one of the most spiritual and euphoric places in the entire world and I cannot say enough good things about it.