Guilty Pleasures of Vacation

Over the last few days I have had time to reflect back on the wonderful family vacation we just took in Jamaica. The property was beautiful, right on the Seven Mile Beach. The food was delicious. There were multiple activites and entertainment to enjoy and all of the staff were extremely friendly. We felt so welcomed and relaxed- no worries, mon! It was only the presence of the security guards at each entrance and the ones patrolling the beach, keeping solicitors in check, that reminded us we were in a third world country.

This man must have paid a fee to sell his wares at Beaches.

I decided to support him by buying a few pieces of deco art made out of coconut shells. There were musicians travelling from resort to resort to eek out a living. I enjoyed listening to their music from my balcony.

This marching band performed at the resort, probably to raise funds for their high school.

There were also women offering to braid hair and men peddling cigarettes and ganja or rides on a wave runner. We declined all of those options.

For one day, we hired a driver to take us to some tourist spots. First we rode a pontoon boat in the Black River where we saw crocodiles and egrets. The tour guide threw scraps of meat into the water so we could snap shots of them. Then we visited the YS Falls where a guide escorted us to the rope swing, walked us out on the falls and snapped many photos with our camera. Finally we took a boat out to the Pelican Bar. It was a beat up old motor boat but the captain was still able to use it for the short ride out to the reef.

Everywhere we went, US dollars were the accepted currency. Normally we have to exchange money in foreign countries so this is a sad statement about how much the Jamaican economy is supported by tourists from the US. But even more revealing was what we observed as we drove around the end of the island near Negril. Many of the houses were formed from concrete and scraps of tin. They were smaller than the family room in my house and obviously had no running water. Sometimes there would be a separate outhouse in the backyard. We saw children fetching water in buckets to carry back home and women washing clothing in the creeks. It made me feel guilty using extra water during my shower so I could shave my legs. I began throwing bathing suits in the shower with me to do laundry without wasting extra water.

None of these observations were missed by my kids. While I did not feel the need to emphasize the differences in our lifestyle, my husband did ask them a few questions to confirm that they knew what they were seeing. I think they were most disturbed by the story our driver told us about his deprived childhood, eventually running away from home and trying to create a better life for his own children- especially one that included school. He pointed out a prominent building behind a barbed wire fence which he said was a very expensive school and only select students could attend. Even though it was fancy by local standards, it must have made my kids appreciate the quality of their own public education. When we returned home I heard no complaints from them about attending school the next morning.

I am glad that we were able to take that day to see parts of the island and the people who live there.  I am not going to allow myself to feel guilty for enjoying my vacation, served by people in a very poor country. However, it was a  good reminder to be grateful for what we have as well as to be charitable and help others when we can. On the last night we were there, Beaches held a fundraiser for the Sandals Foundation. They were taking donations to improve schools and hospitals on the island and my kids immediately got in line to purchase a token paper lantern. When we lit ours in the name of some family members, my son added under his breath, “and to world peace” as we watched it soar high into the sky. It seemed like an appropriate ending to our otherwise fun vacation.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. themanwhodoesntwork
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 11:52:46

    beautiful images!

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    • themiddlegeneration
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:34:58

      Thank you. I wish I had some of the houses or people we had passed on the road, but we were on a schedule and didn’t have time to stop. I hope my descriptions created enough of a picture in your mind. The amazing thing was that no matter how modest the houses, they were usually very colorful. You could tell the owners took pride in the upkeep. I saw people out painting the posts in bright, cheery colors. I guess it shows they appreciate what they have.

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  2. Trackback: Life through Rose-colored Glasses « themiddlegeneration

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