When we still were miserable, sleeping on the floor, with no cutlery or personal things (you can read about it here), our new neighbours took good care of us. Some borrowed us plates, others pillow and mattress, we got a chair and couple of mugs. That sense of community and helping hand were like a light in a tunnel in those hard days. Something I thought was a one time favour later appeared to be our happy reality in this not very welcoming country.
I’ll stop right here because I’m sure many of you will say:
- Hey, I visited Jamaica and it was awesome, people were nice, place was exotic and I had a great time.
It’s true. When you are a tourist, you (and the money you bring) are perceived completely different than when you are an expat. Don’t forget you stay in a resort, usually with all inclusive service and you don’t experience the hardships of everyday life. So our realities cannot be compared.
But back to the topic. We were extremely lucky with choosing a house, as we do have the best neighbours you could imagine. As part of the help for the new nomad family who slept on the floor, one of them offered to take us on a boat ride on Sunday. We accepted the offer immediately as not only we had no things at home, but our car was also not cleared yet and we had no mean of transportation. Vision of spending a day on a beach was truly fantastic. I was thanking destiny that I packed one swimming suit to my suitcase just in case…
Also a day on a boat seemed like dream come true. However the truth is, when you live on an island, having a boat is not perceived as a luxury opposed to other parts of the world. When you are surrounded by water having a boat it’s a pretty normal thing. But for me it was absolutely amazing.
Anyways, I was extremely happy. First to get away from our empty house, second to get to know nice beaches in Kingston.
Imagine my surprise when I learnt there are none….. Kingston is a port city, there are no beaches here. You can find some stone beaches not far away from the city but they do not look like from google images. So the closest reasonable sand beach is around 80 km away.
Unless you have a boat. Because if you have one you can exit the port and sail a bit in the bay until you get to Lime Key.
It’s a small patch of sand in the middle of water but I swear to you it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life. Completely empty, little tiny island that you can access only with a private boat. The sand was so clean, water blue and absolutely transparent. It was breathtaking! Suddenly I forgot about all the unpleasant experiences we’ve had so far in Jamaica. The beauty of nature was overwhelming. And when you sail a bit further you can find even smaller patch that is called a starfish island, because it’s a habitat of starfish. They are so beautiful and it’s a blessing to see them in their natural environment.
It was early morning, so we were the only ones there in the beginning. But when time has passed more boats and yachts came. They anchored around the island and instead of admiring this unspeakable beauty they started something that looked like a contest on who has the louder speakers. From 6 boats you heard 6 different songs, all in maximum volume, with subwoofers on. I could not understand it.
Today I know that people are very different, they have different cultural backgrounds, they spend their time in different way. I should have known it before as I married a latin guy and we deal with big differences on a daily basis. But somehow I was still judgemental and talked a lot about the lack of appreciation for the nature in Jamaica. However within these three years that I’ve spend there I learnt my lesson. It’s me who is a guest and it’s not my place to tell the locals how to live their lives.
I can only enjoy mine and appreciate everything that this unconventional life of a modern nomad gives me. And I have to say, that I’m pretty lucky.
It was late summer of 2016 and we were ready to go. Being Polish I am proud to be well organised, although my husband makes fun of me all the time because of it. Yes, I do have a spreadsheet or at least a to do list for everything I plan, and it saved us many times.
As everything else, I planned our moved to the smallest details. I knew how long will the ship with our life packed in one container take to get to Jamaica. In my company we deal with transcontinental deliveries on a daily basis, so I calculated natural delays (storms) and human delays (bureaucracy). There was no place for mistake. Our belongings should get to Kingston and be cleared around the 20th of August the latest. My husband went first, just with one suitcase to look for a house to rent and for school for my daughter before we got there.
All the rest of personal belongings was for us two to bring. So I ended up traveling with 10 year old kid, 6 suitcases and 4 carry ons… Don’t even ask me about my language when I was packing all of it into airport strollers. However we were still positive and in good moods.
We landed in our new home with big grins on our faces ready for a new adventure. It started pretty quickly. The immigration officer was not very kind to say the least. Later I learnt how many Jamaicans don’t like foreigners, especially with a different skin colour.
This unpleasant man told me that my visa is not valid and he will not let us through. I couldn’t believe it! After all the effort to get that visa it was not valid?
You have to know that even getting to Jamaica was complicated. When my husband arrived he was advised that as a Polish citizens me and my daughter don’t need a visa to enter the country, so we should apply for our resident visa after our arrival. Yet 5 days before our flight they told him that it’s better if we have our visas before entering. The closest consulate was in Germany. We had to really wrap things up to go to Berlin and back and make it on time for our flight to Jamaica. And after all that effort the officer at Kingston’s airport informed me that the visa is issued with a mistake and he will not let me in! I couldn’t’ get it as it’s not me who issued the document but their own consul! But when he started making very bad sexual comments I was done. I pulled out my phone and called my husband. The officer started shouting at me that it’s prohibited to use the phone at immigration but I didn’t care. I knew I can’t just stand there and listen to the guy insulting me in front of my daughter. After another 10 minutes of arguing and calls to supervisors we were finally good to go. What a relief. And what a nice welcoming to our new home…
But it was not all yet. What my husband didn’t tell me, because he didn’t want me to freak out, was that the ship did arrive on time, but the customs didn’t release our container. So we arrived to our new house having nothing but the content of our suitcases. And the situation didn’t change for the next 21 days!
Those three long weeks were filled with hope, fights with the customs, tears and resignation. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. We managed to borrow a mattress from neighbours that we barely knew and slept all together covered with towels.
We didn’t have cutlery, plates, chairs or table. We basically spend three weeks on the floor in an empty house. Our customs agent assured us everyday that our goods will be released the next day. And then the next, and next.
When I saw the truck with a container on our driveway I cried like a child. I couldn’t believe that the nightmare is over. I also was completely fed up with Jamaica and the island pace although my life here haven’t really started yet.
However though life on this island is not easy, it did bring us a lot of joy. So don’t be discouraged by the gloomy beginning and keep on reading.
Before I start writing about all the crazy and strange things that happened to us when we moved to Jamaica I need to tell you the story of how we got there.
My husband is a diplomat, I am a business owner. When we met I guess none of use made any plans, really. It’s so much easier to date and dream about common future when you are in your twenties…. You are flexible and idealistic. A decade later you have your own career, often kid or kids and your life is pretty much arranged. But destiny sometimes has different plans.
So fast forwarding the story: we dated, fell in love, moved in together and started thinking of how to find a solution from this unusual situation where we both want to pursue our careers. The problem was Ernesto’s requires moving from country to country every couple of years.
After long discussions and considering all the options we decided that I will try to hop on a new age management wave and will try to operate my company from the distance. In the end it’s trendy to tell that you follow 4 hour workweek routine and it should be doable. Well, reality is a bit different, but it’s not a post about that. I did manage to rearrange the operations of my small company in a way that I could work from anywhere in the world, assuming there is an internet access.
When the day came that we had to make a decision if we wanted to leave Poland, my home country, in terms of career I was ready. Emotionally not so much. But Ernesto spread a vision of all that fantastic places we could go to. His final argument was to bid for Orlando. Tempted by a vision of visiting Disneyland every weekend I said yes.
Unfortunately the Foreign Ministry had a bit different concept for my weekend plans.
About 3 months after we bid for a transfer Ernesto called me from work.
- You better sit down, I have news.
I knew the transfer order has arrived and for a split second I thought that maybe it’s even better than Orlando. Maybe it’s New York or Milan. But the joy didn’t last for long.
- Hope you like reggae. We are going to Jamaica.
I was speechless, and believe me, it doesn’t happen often. But I really didn’t know what to say. That is definitely not what I had in mind imagining being a diplomat’s spouse. But the decision was made. We had a month to wrap our life up, pack our clothes, furniture, throw a goodbye party and close the door.
I started googling and reading everything I could about our new home. I skipped the holidays pictures but read everything I could about expat’s experiences. Apparently everyday life in Jamaica was far from paradise. Instead of beaches and drinks there was poverty, sexual harassment, danger and drugs.
In that moment it hit me. This life that could be an amazing adventure, might also be difficult and challenging.
If you want to know how Jamaica welcomed us, click here.