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The Journey Begins

Fishing boats at Little Ochie, St. Elizabeth

For quite sometime now, I’ve nursed a dream to return to Jamaica, the place I was born. It wasn’t one I shared easily as many people, my family included, worried. They questioned how I’d manage, how I’d deal with a place I haven’t lived in for more than 30 years. But I knew it was something I had to do. I knew Jamaica was somewhere in my future. That future is now.

Like me, Jamaica has changed but not always for the better. With a population of nearly 3 million, its rate of economic growth is estimated at only about 2.5%, inflation just under 12% and unemployment stands at nearly 12%. And though it recorded its lowest crime rate since 2003, it is still at worrisome levels.

One doesn’t need an advanced degree in sociology or economics to explain why this is. Whenever the gap between those who have and those who don’t becomes an ever widening chasm, there will be consequences.

Fishing boats at Little Ochie, St. Elizabeth

Fishing boats at Little Ochie, St. Elizabeth

The reality is that the Jamaica that a visitor sees is not the one I will live in. But reality becomes secondary to what the soul wants.

What I know is that Jamaica is the only place on earth that grounds me, makes my heart sing and makes me feel whole. It grabs my heart, infuriates me and makes me scream sometimes. But it is where I feel I have a voice. I can’t easily ignore the problems without wanting to do something about it, though I have no idea what.

As I wrote on my About page, I’ve longed to explore this place, touch its heart and find its soul. So for the next few months, I’ll be writing almost exclusively about Jamaica and sharing my experiences with you.

On August 6th next year, Jamaica will celebrate 50 years of Independence from Britain. I mourn what we’ve lost but I’m curious to see how we’ve grown, what we’ve accomplished, what we’re proud of. Most importantly, I want to be there to breathe it, to see and hear it, because Jamaica is more than a country, it’s a clash of contrasts. It’s an experience.

Travel Photo Thursday – Table Mountain’s ‘Tablecloth’

Table Mountain
Table Mountain

Table Mountain

The day after we arrived in Cape Town, a spectacularly beautiful day, with few clouds, our guide, Ian, insisted that we visit Table Mountain. We had other ideas but eventually decided to follow his advice.

The following day, the day we wanted to go, puffy, white clouds blanketed the mountain. Ian said it was its Tablecloth.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

A Wordless Wednesday

Elephants and Cape Buffalo
Elephants and Cape Buffalo

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park

10 Places to Eat Near Times Square

Screen shot 2011-09-27 at 10.46.21 AM

I’ve created several lists to help Tony plan his trip to New York City this fall but I hadn’t come up with recommendations for places to eat until today.

Since Tony plans to return to the same Times Square area hotel he stayed at before, I’ll focus on the restaurants in the 9th Avenue corridor, arguably one of the best areas to dine in the city.

What I love about this area is that the ethnic diversity of New York City is reflected there. There’s Italian, South African, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Caribbean, American, Middle Eastern, African – you get the drift.

Another thing I also love is that you can have a delicious meal for under $20 per person. And if you only want to have a drink, you have a choice of bars and pubs there as well. So, if you’re in the Times Square/Port Authority area, the only reason for you to be hungry is if you’ve run out of money.

Tapas

  • Five Napkin Burger: It’s no joke, you will need five (or more) napkins to wipe your face and hands while you eat at Five Napkin Burger. The restaurant is always full so make reservations or try to get there outside of dinner and lunch hours. 630 9th Ave, 212-757-2277
  • Ollies: Ollies (Sichuan) has another location near Lincoln Center which I used to go to before I went to this one. I feel the food’s better here. 411 W 42nd Street, 868-6588
  • Chenab Indian & Pakistani*: London is well known for its Indian restaurants. I’d love to hear what Tony thinks of Chenab. 540 9th Ave, 212-947-3282
  • Sergimmo Salumeria*: I rarely order lasagna when I go to an Italian restaurant but I did here and loved it. 456 9th Ave, 212-967-4212
  • Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery*: Ignore the set-up and just go to the back and order your tacos. You won’t be disappointed. 695 10th Ave, 212-397-5956
  • Thai Select*: There are several good choices on their menu but if you want to stick with the usual, they make a good pad thai. 472 9th Ave, 212-695-9920
  • Meskerem 47*: Ethiopian – Any of their stews, some couscous and injera will be enough to fill you up. No utensils needed. 468 W 47th St, 664-0520
  • El Papasito*: Dominican – I was introduced to this restaurant by a Dominican colleague and have been going there for over 10 years now. The food is tasty, fresh and filling. Love their chicharron de pollo (fried chicken), mofongo (mashed plantains), tripe soup and lemonade – 346 W 53rd Street, btw 8th & 9th Avenues, 212-265-2225.
  • Churrascaria Plataforma: Because I don’t buy or eat much beef, I’m always surprised to see beef so proudly displayed, as you’ll notice at this Brazilian all-you-can-eat steakhouse. Thankfully, beef isn’t the only thing on the menu. It’s a little pricier than the restaurants I’ve listed above but it’s worth experiencing. 316 W 49th Street, btw 8th & 9th Avenues.
  • McQuaids: My pub experience in London didn’t leave me very impressed so I’m introducing Tony to a New York pub. I’ve not been to McQuaids but two friends have recommended it. I hope Tony’s able to go and tell me what he thinks. 589 11th Ave, 582-6359

* $10 Entrees available.

Bon Appetit!