Shortly after landing stateside, we jetsetted down to JA to visit the fam. Generally, our objectives in Jamaica are to spend quality time with family, enjoy the culinary delights and natural beauty of the country, and spend as much time as possible outside of Kingston. 😉 However, this time around Kingston seemed much more gracious and not as crude. The days passed with gentle ease, and we left feeling refreshed.
Day 1: Grandma’s 84th Birthday
My grandma is a sweet soul, and it’s an honor to spend any moment with her- whether watching tennis matches, picking mangoes, or sitting quietly on the porch. Lil’ Z had so much fun with her and affectionately referring to her as “Chin”!
Day 2: Friday Prayers at the Islamic Council of Jamaica
In contrast to the heavy traffic and urban hustle on Camp Road, you can find a beautiful mosque and Islamic school nestled in the mix. Over the years, we’ve watched this humble community grow since our first visit together in 2005. With slow and steady growth, the community raised enough money to build an institution that you can’t help but admire. A mixed community of young and old, native and immigrant, the community seems to be growing strong.
For years I’ve witnessed an elder sister who sits quietly in the back and during this visit, I finally mustered up the courage to ask her about her story. Her and her husband embraced Islam after a single invitation to the mosque in 1982. Following the community from Spanish Town to Kingston, she maintains a humble life of quiet devotion where she worships alone. Sitting at her feet was such a humbling experience because she’s wholly Jamaican and wholly Muslim. At times, being in Jamaica reminds of how Jamaican I am and am not at the same time. Though born in New York, my roots run deep but contemporary Jamaica is largely foreign to me. To see a steadfast elder persevere in her faith and watch it blossom around her was very touching.
Days 3: Drove to Negril
I’ve been wanting Urbndervish to see Negril for years. My fondest experience of the beach is in Negril but as everyone knows Negril is a tourist haven. Not just any kind of tourism but rather the not-so-family-friendly type! So, to steer clear of the vices and enjoy the scenery, we adopted a simple strategy: go to bed early, rise early, and swim early! Sounds boring but that’s the way to do it if you want to escape the “flesh fest.” We slept during peak party time and rose to serene, warm waters while others where hungover from the night before. Also, visiting during the off-season was to our advantage.
We stayed at Foote Prints, a Jamaican-owned and operated hotel on Negril’s main strip.
The grounds were vibrant and well-manicured and the staff was hospitable.
The beach was wonderful and well-worth the nearly four-hour drive from Kingston. 😉
For dinner, we dined at Sea View House Chinese Restaurant. We were all thoroughly satisfied with the offerings and the food was so good that my carnivorous dad couldn’t help but give the Curry Tofu a chance!
We watched the sun set and turned in early as the bashment (loud-speaker) systems started their sound checks.
Day 4: An early swim and back to Kingston
When I stirred from my sleep, I knew the morning by its silence. No “booga-yaga” in the soundscape meant that the partying was over. We enjoyed swimming in water so clear you could see through to the sea floor several feet beneath you. Lil’ Z was a little fearful of the tide but enjoyed playing in the sand and splashing around when held her father’s arms.
For breakfast, we looked forward to a hefty, Jamaican breakfast- callaloo, fried dumplings, boiled green bananas, and the like but had to settle for fresh fruit and hash browns instead. Fueled for the road, we set out for Kingston stopping for fried bammy (made from cassava flour), soy patties, and water along the way. Just before stopping for patties at Juici Patties in Santa Cruz, we were surprised to look up and see a sign for Masjid Quba. The number of mosques and Muslims seem to be growing across the country, masha’Allah (as God wills).
Day 5: Spent the day with Grandma
We walked the grounds of my family’s home with Grandma, recalling fond memories of the past. For dinner, we went to Market Square for more delicious Chinese food. The ambiance was stunning with Chinese art, an indoor wall fountain (complete with goldfish), and stained-glass light fixtures.
Day 6: Souvenir shopping at Sun Island and Preparing to Go
After buying souvenirs at Sun Island, we wanted to buy patties for our travels the next morning but desperately needed a break from soy patties. Delivering us from TVP, New Leaf Vegetarian in Liguanea had tasty offerings of Lentil, Ackee, Pumpkin and Callaloo, all wrapped in whole wheat patty crusts. While Mother’s and Juici Patties offer soy and veggie patties in that traditionally flaky, yellow crust, we started to get into that blurry “vegan, but not necessarily healthy” zone. Thank you, New Leaf, for a deliciously wholesome alternative and for inspiring me! I’ve got to learn how to make lentil patties of my own! More on that to come…