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  • Writer's pictureCleo A

Life in a Pandemic Paradise - 365 Days+ in Jamaica

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Welcome back to my musings on life. This time I will not promise any posts after this one as I don't manage to keep my online promises.

I have been living in Jamaica for approx. 390 days, depending on when I actually publish this post. I came to Jamaica with the plan of staying 3 to 6 months, perhaps finding a job and experiencing a country of which I hold a passport.

I had lived a lucky and relatively privileged existence in Europe, living in London and Paris and working to finance trips around Europe to build a wider 'global view'. Yet due to money and environmental costs I had never ventured far beyond Europe's borders.... Morocco and Beirut are the two bordering nations which I had been blessed to visit and learn from - so hardly "deepest, darkest Peru" as Paddington Bear would say.

Jamaica was and is a big deal for me. A step into a complete unknown in terms of culture, people, climate and long-haul flights that I knew the environmental impact of but had never actually experienced. The closest I had got was living the diaspora Jamaican experience in London and Bristol. A look into island life, through my grandmother's cooking of rice and peas, eating mackerel and dumpling for breakfast and being cussed in patois as she began to lose her memory. However, in truth, I knew that it would be a warped reflection of life actually on this Caribbean island.

Now, I'm over a year into my experience. I've experienced scuba diving, a Covid-19 pandemic, passed my driving licence and accepted 2 jobs. With all of that under my belt, for someone who was planning 3-6 months here, I've been seduced and enraged by this island. Perhaps even more I've been challenged on my world beliefs, and hardened my own resolve in others areas. I hope I can document a few of the positives and negatives in later posts around food, politics, TV, fashion and so much more but as I said earlier, I can give no promises.

To cover a few of those in brief. Jamaica like nearly every corner of the earth has been touched by COVID-19. We have had (and continue to have) curfew which has been as extreme as 3pm-5am to 11pm-5am. As of writing, curfew is 9pm but as with many things on this island, those with money and connections can easily go around these rulings......

A small island with big dreams, and even bigger corruption, it's a fact of life that if you know someone you can get in, get around, or get whatever you need. From a driver's licence to ignoring curfew, everything has a price.

But it would be unfair to characterise this island nation solely in this way. Jamaicans are also forthright and protective. They are both extremely patient and unruly which causes both pandemonium and peace. Considering the life of those poorest in Jamaica, social distancing is impossible to practice when life is tightly packed taxis into town. Yet, you look around and Jamaica has embraced masks and hand sanitiser. You can't enter stores without it and every level of society is acutely aware of COVID-19, which seems a world away from the mixed messaging of Number 10, Downing Street.

It's one of the reasons I have stayed over a year in Kingston, other than literally being stuck here for the first month or so. I have managed to navigate this crazy place to be working in my desired industry, and experiencing many career highs (and. lows!). Moving from one apartment to another and looking to purchase my first car all in an unprecedented new normal.....Many assume I've spent my days lazing on beaches and diving into rivers. Unfortunately, I'm not even close to this life. Just like London, I am restricted to weekends and the very little I have left over from my monthly wage and/or savings. BUT, the fact that I have access to it - at all - and can make decisions to go and experience these tourist paradise spots proves the (perhaps privileged) possibilities of Jamaica.

I feel like I can't fully 'get into' the complexities of Jamaican life in this post right now, so here's hoping I continue and can give some much needed context. Until then feel free to reach out to me and ask me any questions you may have on my new life in 'Pandemic Paradise'.

Perhaps you'll read a few more of my musings in another 390 days.... until then.

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