“Just for once, trust da black!” said Carlinton as he pointed to his skin and laughed. I had been smiling but stopped and said, “It’s not the first time I’ve trusted a black person.” He laughed as if I told a joke. He had just helped me find a way to get my luggage to me without being ripped off. I was expressing my gratitude as we were sharing the sweets I brought from Colombia.
I have not had a positive start to Jamaica. Immigration gave me a hard time because I didn’t have an address and the marina said my boat didn’t exist. That’s fair enough, but then to call me a child for not having a written contract to show them (these things are sparse in the sailor world!) and for going to a new country without the full name of my captain or even having met him, was a bit much. Adding insult to injury, I was accused of holding back the information and lying to them, when I made it clear I needed wifi access to gain the information and gave it to them when I could. I was told I was close to being sent back to where I came from. I did nothing wrong but cooperate and remain polite even when I was being judged for the “irresponsibility” of my job and life choice. It’s a cultural thing, I understand. I also understand the sailor’s way of life is difficult to understand if you’re not in it. You live your life, I will live mine and we don’t really need to judge the other’s.
Then my bags didn’t arrive because I was given the wrong information in Panama City. A nice man said he could help me tomorrow and took my baggage ticket. I wrote down the numbers, but as he wasn’t wearing an airline uniform, wondered if he was legit (I have since found out he is). When I called to ask for help, it was no one’s fault and I had to make the eight hour round trip or Collin kindly offered to take them half way for $100, which is ridiculous.
After an afternoon of being told no one could help me other than to deliver my bags halfway for a ridiculous price, I decided I would just wait until we went home and I could speak to Carlynton. He had helped me yesterday and was very patient and helpful. I told him the story and he said it was bullshit, the guy knew I wanted my stuff and he wanted to make money. He said most Jamaicans are out to get money and will take advantage how they can.
I have to admit, I am absolutely shocked by the way blacks are treated by white people in Jamaica. And vice versa. I am still trying to process what I have experienced in my very short time here.
My new captain comes from a high class society and has a lot of money. I don’t understand this world, but that’s another story. He throws money at people to do thing he doesn’t like. He hired Carlinton to help out with the boat and anything he needs while he is here. In fact, he drove to the airport to pick me up. I was not introduced to him and Stefano did not even acknowledge his presence. When we got to the apartment, Carlinton stayed around until he was dismissed and then asked what time he was needed the next day. The first thing that popped into my head was slavery.
Then we met some other sailors and they had hired a local man too. He was once again treated as if he didn’t exist, but he is older so had the respect for himself to introduce himself to me. Both Moses and Carlinton walk behind or far in front of us and sit on the side and wait until they are called. It reminded me of the behaviour of dogs, yet they are humans.
When I was at the bar watching Moses sit to the side waiting for orders, I couldn’t decide who was more at fault. The Jamaicans for allowing white people to treat them like shit or the whites for being so cruel and continuing to be afraid of non-whites. I just couldn’t believe that the Jamaicans allowed themselves to be treated this way in their own country. I suppose as Carlinton said, many Jamaicans are always out to make a buck.
I told Carlinton he was my friend and of course I trusted him, because quite frankly, he’s the only person who listens to me and doesn’t boss me around. We are both underlings of Captain Rich, it’s just that I am treated with more respect because of my skin colour. The first day we were out alone, I sped up or slowed down to walk next to him. As he stood off to the side waiting for orders I was never going to give him, I stepped closer and asked about his life and Jamaica. He seemed shy and uneasy at first, but today is only the second day and he now understands I see him as a nice human being, not someone that I order around. Of course I ask him for things because he is local, but I use his name, smile and say thank you.
Latin America was one of the most friendly and happy countries I have been to. My experience of Jamaica is the total opposite. However, I am not going to change just because people are grumpy. I say hi to shopkeepers and don’t always get a reply. I smiled at the artisan who tried to sell me things today. When he asked why I was laughing, I said your things are beautiful and I like to look, but just so you know, I won’t buy anything. He smiled back and said alright before leaving. Usually it’s an angry glance leaving me feeling slightly guilty.
Men do not call after me which to be honest, is a relief after a year. Hardly anyone smiles back and despite being one of the 10 white people in the town, it is if I don’t exist. I get it, white people treat locals like shit.
Just for their information, I am not everyone and I hope others like me will come and hopefully start to change the perception of the white folk. Whilst there is nothing wrong with hiring someone to do things for you, there is everything wrong with not treating them like a human being. I will continue to ask Carlinton questions about his life (he took me to his family’s bar/club work in progress, which was great!) and insist he walk next to me. I will continue to smile and be friendly even though it is not always returned.
Sadly, I know there are consequences and usually it is that people think I am sexually interested in them when I treat them nicely. I don’t, I just like to enjoy life and the people in it. The consequences may come, but I refuse to let the fear of them dictate the way I treat others. We are all humans and we all have rich gifts to offer those who cross our paths. Therefore I will continue to seek out the gifts the people I meet have for me.