Welcome to Jamrock (driving in Jamaica)

 

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Driving (and life) in Jamaica can be hectic. The roads are often built to be two lanes wide, one in each direction, but with three or four lanes of traffic moving on them. There are potholes or sinkholes deep enough to swallow cars that are marked with nothing but a thin stick placed into the hole, like a toothpick in a sandwich. No cones, no signs, just a brach from a tree or a spare piece of wood. In the mountains, you can have a cliff on one side and a person’s home on the other. If a car breaks down, they just put it in park and get out. Taxis stop in the middle of traffic and holler at people to get in, regardless if the person is interested (or if there are already three passengers inside the taxi going somewhere else). Goats and wild dogs wander between grassy medians and grassy curbs, kids walk along the road on their way to school because there are no sidewalks, and window washers ignore your furious attempts to wave them off as they squeegee your windshield and ask for payment.

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At almost every intersection, venders roam the streets, walking between lanes of traffic holding up bananas, sugar cane, toilet seats, electric fly-swatters, or welcome mats for your porch. These people are called higglers. Instead of being illegal to peddle goods on busy highways, it is a form of assault under Jamaican law to interfere with these people. For many, higglering is their only way of making money.

Jamaica isn’t all bad. The country is beautiful. I won’t ever take my view of the Blue Mountains for granted. The people are warm and adore children. Jamaicans look out for each other. This extends to driving. Cars will often stop the flow of traffic to let cars who have a stop-sign enter. While this willful disregard for right-of-way is maddening when you are sliding on wet asphalt and weaving between goats and taxis to avoid rear ending the “good samaritan,” it is nice when you are the one at the stop sign. When I turn down a visa request, 99% of the applicants thank me for my time, take their passport from the slot under my window, and exit the building. It costs $160 to apply for a visa. That is as much money many applicants might make in two weeks of full-time work. The ability of Jamaicans to deal with adversity sometimes stuns me.

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I am glad we ended up in Jamaica. We ranked it high on our list of potential landing spots. If I could go back in time, I would probably rank it the same place. My coworkers are great, the work is interesting and challenging, and we are finding our place in this hustling city. I wish we could get back to Utah easier (it is quicker, and often cheaper, to fly to London than Salt Lake City). I wish we could safely take a walk around our neighborhood. I really miss fast food drive-thrus. However, I already see the world in a different lens. Spending four months in a new culture with a different approach to living has helped us grow. Our family life is the same as it was in Idaho. I come home to Jen and Allie playing in the living room. We sit down and eat dinner as a family. We watch football on Saturday, go to church on Sunday, and spend long weekends at the pool. I really miss home, but every morning I walk past the flag at the embassy and think how lucky I am to represent my country.

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Bonus video: our drive from getting massages at a holistic eco resort in the mountains down to the city.

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