Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Today's entry is technically about October 19. However, I want to share a short story from this past week (December 10 or so) before I forget it. I was walking around an island when I saw a guy and girl pull out of a parking lot on a scooter they had just rented. Luckily for them, traffic had just stopped to let some pedestrians by, as the guy looked to the left and pulled out of the lot as he would in the States. Watching the panic-stricken rental guy tear out of the parking lot running after them, screaming to drive on the left, was almost as funny as the look on the guy's face when he turned his head back to look in front of him (at the oncoming head-on traffic). :) It is a problem with pedestrians too. They say to look both ways before crossing the street. However, next time you cross a street pay attention to what you are doing. On a busy street most Americans look left as they actually step into the street, then look right to see if they can cross completely. On most of these islands, that causes a lot of traffic issues . . .
I went on a shore excursion to see the whole Bob Marley compound. Now, I have to be honest, I am not a reggae fan. I can listen to about one reggae song. It doesn't really matter which one it is, as long as it is only one (although after being in the islands quite a bit, and every SINGLE place playing the same exact 9 songs that come on the "island music for every occasion" CD, I'm even starting to retract THAT rule). They all sound the same to me, even though they each have a totally different message. It is background music to me, kind of like jazz. However, since each and every song sounds exactly the same (and very repetitive) in the background . . . one a day is about my limit.
However, it is something to do in Jamaica, it was possibly going to be my last time there, and it is one of "THE" things to do here. I had a bit of trepidation, knowing that it is the one place in Jamaica that you can smoke weed. One of the things that I desperately hate (and ranted on for a bit in another entry) is the fact that every other person either offers you drugs or a taxi, and tend to be really insistent upon both. For a country where drugs are illegal (including weed, contrary to popular belief), they are painfully easy to get. A bust would be SO easy, just walk down the street in jeans and a t-shirt and pick up every other person. Technically (also contrary to popular belief), it isn't legal there either. However, the police, the government, and everyone else have mutually agreed to turn a blind eye as long as you are in the compound. It even says on the shore excursion sheet (at Carnival, but not at all of the ships) that you have to be 18 or older to go, but it doesn't say why.
Jamaica is mostly poor, although this clock tower on the way really stood out as everything around it was really crummy. The mountains and vegetation there (once you are out of Ocho Rios) is gorgeous, and looks a lot like Kentucky. If you look close in the valley, you can see the rain-catchers that a lot of houses have rather than public water.
We stopped along the way to visit a small, traditional school. All of the kids wear uniforms, and seem really happy. All of the schools are pretty much Catholic, so that when the kids grow up to sell drugs they will at least know that it is wrong. A lot of the funding for this school comes from the tours to the Bob Marley compound. As there is on a lot of the islands, there are people on the side of the road who sell carvings, some who carve really well, and one who was awfully ambitious . . .
I really thought that there would be a ton of people who were just wanting to go light up, but surprisingly only one couple on the whole bus did so. Also interesting was that, while they sold reefer brownies and tea, they did not sell it to smoke in the actual compound. They allow the drug dealers to sell it, with (what seems to me) some odd rules. They cannot come inside the compound . . . but "inside" seems to only apply to the ground itself. They can sell it to you under the fence, they can sell it to you over the fence, and they can climb the fence and stand on the bottom board, as long as their feet don't touch the ground.
I should mention a couple of interesting things about the man himself before I go any further. Keep in mind that it has been two months since I was there, so I don't remember everything. He LOVED soccer (futbol). In fact, it is indirectly how he died. He had a foot injury on the field, and refused to see a doctor about it. I am sure the weed made the pain bearable, and then death ended up taking the pain away altogether. He was high an awful lot, and at all of his performances (I'm sure that most people know that), but it definitely wasn't frowned upon by his family. His mom still smokes regularly, although she spends most of her time living in Miami now (where weed is almost as easy to get). He definitely practiced the "love" that he talked about so much in his songs. He had around 11 kids (that are known), seven of which came from his wife (keep in mind that he died in his early 30's). Maybe he should have written some songs about birth control . . . but of course that wouldn't be Catholic. I know of people who don't bother with birth control because they smoke weed (it does, medically speaking, cut down on sperm production), but I think that this is a case that strongly shows that it isn't a substitute.
He was a Rastafarian. Without going into details, a "Rasta-man" basically does whatever he wants as long as he is intrinsically "good." He shouldn't use anything body-altering or chemical like alcohol, caffeine, a real job, or any hair product (including scissors, and often shampoo). However, you can have as much weed and sex as you want. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be black, but the religion did start in Africa. You also don't have to smoke weed, although it is what a lot of people find the most appealing. You also don't have to wear "dreads," although it is considered symbolic of your dedication (and of a lion). Most white people have long, silky "dreads" and look pretty silly. You merely live a life of peace, making a living with your hands (on nature, preferably, like carving or woodworking).
While his mother was Jamaican, his father was English. Eventually his father moved back to England (partially because it was REALLY frowned upon in Jamaica for his mom to have had a child with someone white and non-Jamaican), and he spent some time in England while growing up.
After entering through the obligatory gift shop (which is where the pictures of the paintings of him (above) came from, you walk onto a really cool courtyard. I have seen parking lots similar to this, but not paths. The courtyard is a lot of small, flat rocks with a tough grass growing between. Since your weight is held up by the rocks, the grass doesn't get crushed. There were much bigger rocks on the trail, but it is a beautiful effect.
The house which he grew up in (and which his mom supposedly still visits from time to time) is still there, and is VERY tiny. They make you take off your shoes to walk into it (as well as the mausoleum) for "respect," although I doubt that the dirt floor would get much dirtier. He had a kind of nifty chair carved out of one piece of wood. I have my doubts that the room had all of the posters of himself up when he lived there, though.
The mausoleum was really pretty on the outside. You couldn't take pictures inside, but it was a 2-tier sarcophagus with him on top and (I believe) his wife on the bottom. It was completely covered in colorful cloth, and had tons of pictures and mementos scattered around it. The building was very small, and has incense burning all the time. On one hand you sense a real sort of reverence and dedication to him. On the other, the inside was really crummy, the ceiling was coming down and was just sheets of plywood, and the trim paint was extremely sloppy. You get the idea that the person who maintains the inside doesn't give a crap.
Outside the house was the rock that he would sit on and use as a pillow when he was thinking/smoking. He writes about it in at least one song. He apparently would smoke out there because he would fall asleep with the lit roach in his mouth, dropping it. I think that the guide really likes his job, he just hangs out and gets high all day and gets paid for it. He had a painfully annoying fake laugh that he used throughout, if I had been around him much longer I think that I would have needed weed to keep from killing him. Apparently all the guides have it, and it symbolizes something (perhaps that the tours should be really short).
In the field next to the compound was one of the rain-catchers, many have a large funnel like this to catch more rain (as well as funneling it off of the houses at times).
After leaving there, we stopped at a small stand that sold turnovers (I assume for people with the munchies). I had the beef, and I have got to tell you, they were the best that I have ever had. It was spiced ground beef. It was cooked just perfectly, wasn't dry, was really spicy but not very hot. The breading was really thin, and they were large. They came in a small paper bag that you just peeled down as you ate. I had two (they were just snacks, as they were soon serving us a late lunch on the way back). I wish that I had bought another ten, though. They were just fantastic, and a hundred times better than the jerked chicken and pork at lunch. Normally jerked chicken is really good in Jamaica, it just wasn't that great at this place. Normally they would have only been ten times better.