Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Jamaica - part 14

On the day of departure, quite a few of the guests were also checking out of the hotel. One German-speaking family was transferring to the exclusive Round Hill Hotel outside Montego Bay, and I thought, that's the way to travel -- a week at one great hotel, to experience the west end of the island, then another week at another hotel to experience the other end. Jamaica is a large island and to experience the whole thing properly would require at least two weeks and two locations, so as to minimize those long, bumpy rides. For now I am content with having seen half the island.

The bus to the Montego Bay airport wasn't too bad since I knew what to expect. In contrast to the ride to Negril, the weather was clear and sunny, and there were no traffic jams. We passed Round Hill, where my parents stayed in the 1950's. That was unquestionably a very different time on a very different island; Negril wasn't really developed until after the hippie era. The whole island was probably more pristine; decades of modern tourism must certainly have taken a toll, and from some angles the place looks tired and worn-out, much in the same way New York and much of the eastern US has a haggard and time-worn appearance -- giving the impression that the infrastructure is just barely holding things together. On the positive side, the hippie era enhanced Jamaica's demographics, evolving them beyond the old neo-colonial model of affluent white tourists and their servants. Among other things the Rastamen, who existed for decades underground, came out of the woodwork.

The duty free shops at the airport were buzzing with activity. Reggae CD's were certainly not less expensive than they are at home, so I passed them up. Blue Mountain coffee on the other hand came in many sizes at decent prices, so I got as much as I could cram into my bags. The final piece of business was the bottle of Myer's rum I promised to get my Mom. The only bottle was quite large -- 750 ml's. A lady explained that not only was it the only size available, but that there was currently a shortage of the stuff due to a change in distributor, or some such thing. So I went ahead and bought it.

As a rule, L and I pack lightly so as not to have to check bags, and thereby make flying that much easier. Unfortunately, once we landed in Atlanta, the bag with the rum had to be checked in. So I carefully placed the bottle in the center of my bag and surrounded it with clothes. We then somehow missed the baggage-check counter, entering security a little too soon. To make a long story short: my shoes, jacket, belt, plane tickets and wife had already passed through security when I was sent back to the baggage-check counter and its very long, slow-moving line. There I waited, in socks, not even certain that I was in the right line, while the woman in front of me talked non-stop -- alternately in Georgia English and Central American Spanish -- about how difficult it was to travel with kids. My vacation was officially over.

The moral of the story is this: you can save a few bucks by buying rum in Jamaica, and then pay for it in other ways.


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