By Michelle Natasha Johnson
Wafting authentic smells of jerk chicken, roast breadfruit, sweet potatoes and juicy salt fish, and beef patties scented the air. White sand and bluest water, colorful buildings of pink, yellow, and the purple and of course the classic, red, yellow and green lined the streets of the vibrant Island of Jamaica. What makes Jamaica so special? The people and the sound of Reggae music heard coming from every other house.
I can remember my parents taking my two older brothers and I every summer vacation (6-7 weeks) to Jamaica to visit our grandparents. As ungrateful as children can be, after three to four times of spending our entire vacation there, we wanted a change, why? Our school friend’s parents did not send their children to Jamaica; they spent their summer vacation in the United Kingdom usually to a caravan site in Wales. We had to catch a nine hour return flight from the UK. Do not get me wrong, it was fun once we arrived; visiting family and going on different excursions, but the problem was that we were away from our school friends.
My parents, originally from Jamaica, had been living in the UK for as long as I can remember, even before I was born. They never left their culture, traditions and way of cooking behind. I may have been born in the UK, but I was raised as a Jamaican child. My home and community which consisted of uncle’s aunts and cousins was my little Jamaica. My parents still speak with their Jamaican patio accent today. Visiting Jamaica it seemed like a home away from home, I found it very easy to adjust. The only thing that gave me away as a person born outside of Jamaica was my London accent and my infamous walk. Jamaicans tend to take life easy and generally walk at a much slower pace than I am accustomed to walking in London.
Well here I am all grown up, living in Kuwait and wishing my parents would kindly send my airfare to visit them in Jamaica where they have been living for the past 10 years. My parents like, so many Jamaicans living in the UK, had enough of the cold English weather, and decided to retire early and return home.
The airfare from Kuwait to Jamaica during December is astronomical and never encouraged me to want to break my bank account to pay for it, not including the presents I would have to buy the whole village…However as you know there is only so much putting off you can do when it comes to family and parents. So I closed my eyes and booked the ticket and off I went to visit my Island in the Sun and to re- connect myself with my people, the sounds, smells, food and rhythm of the land.
On this trip I decided to book myself a few days at the Tamarind Great House, a jewel I found on the internet. This is where my story begins and my reunited trip to my homeland. I arrived in the evening completely exhausted from the flight and was welcomed by Fenton, the driver sent by Jillian and Brian, the owners of Tamarind Great House to collect me. I arrived late and was surprised by the warm welcome. Gillian had prepared something light for me to eat and a hot drink. Her care and personal attention to a tired traveller was well appreciated.
The next morning I was greeted by a concert of sounds (frogs, chickens and of course, far away in the distance, reggae music). I stood on the balcony and took in the magnificent panoramic views of the mountains, the gardens and the swimming pool below. The charm of Tamarind Great House lies in its amazing location and beautifully decorated rooms. So much taste and thought had gone into each area from the amazing staircase, the antiques and locally made furniture. Pictures of old Jamaica could even be seen on a few of the walls. Breakfast reminded me of what I used to eat when I was living with my parents. Fresh ingredients from Barry and Gillian’s garden were served on the veranda which consisted of salt fish, breadfruit, festival, fresh fruit and juice.
After a fabulous 5 days I arrived at my parent’s home and was greeted by huge speaker boxes, loud music, family and friends of all generations celebrating in the street. In much supply was my favorite sorrel drink, and coconut ice cream. Smells of all fragrances filled the air as everyone seemed to be having a good time. I greeted my parents whose eyes were filled with tears. What a welcome! It was great to be around family and friends. I was truly thankful that I got to share a piece of paradise.