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Travel Photo Thursday: Noni

Noni

A few years ago, Noni was all the rage. Everyone was buying and drinking the juice for its health benefits. When I returned to Jamaica on vacation during the heights of its popularity, a friend pointed it out to me — I had no idea that it grew wild here. Locally, it’s known as “Duppy Soursop.”

Noni

Noni

In Jamaica, a duppy is a ghost and since the Noni does look a little like a soursop, another tropical fruit, but in a weird and unusual way. It stands to reason that if it looks like a soursop, something people are familiar with but is weird or strange, it must belong to the other world, hence duppy soursop.

Soursop, courtesy rarefloweringtrees.com

Soursop

Noni is said to contain nutrients such Vitamins A and C, niacin, iron and potassium. Like in other countries where it’s grown, in Jamaica, the Noni fruit and its juice, leaves and root are used for a variety of ailments from diabetes to menstrual cramps.

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!

 

Can I Leave the Person I’ve Become Behind?

From the garden

One of my uncles in Florida always reminds us whenever we travel to Jamaica that we must leave the US behind. By that he means that we have to remember that many of the things that we’ve become used to – service and its efficient delivery, the availability of certain items, etc., will be irritably slow or sometimes non-existent.

But is it really possible to leave the person I’ve become behind?

We are the sum of our experiences. When I left Jamaica for Canada in the early 70s, I took with me all that I was then. I saw and experienced Canada through the prism of that person and it, in turn, shaped and prepared me for my pretty near seamless transition to life in the U.S.

Travel has also provided indelible experiences that I’ve added to my reservoir of knowledge. These too inform and dictate how I view the everyday, and the world.

The person who’s now returned to Jamaica is the same and different. I fall back on my Jamaican-ness but my foreign-ness sees the glaring contrasts, sees what’s missing or what can be done better, faster, more efficiently.

From the garden

Flowers from the garden

Like the day I went to get my phone. As soon as I walked into the store, an agent, who was on the phone sorting out an issue for a customer in line, mouthed that she’d be with me in a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting this level of attention. Clearly, she took her training in customer service to heart.

However, when I wanted to add minutes, or “top up” – pre-paid phones are very common in Jamaica – I was surprised by the antiquated method that was used. The agent pulled out a clipboard with a sheet of paper, asked me for the number, wrote it in one column, then the amount of minutes I was buying in another. (Sometimes, the customer is asked to write the number instead.)

When I handed her the money, it was just put in a drawer, the change returned to me. My number and amount of minutes I purchased were then keyed into a machine that looked like a small cash register. Immediately after, I received a text acknowledging the top up.

There must be a more efficient way to do this, I thought, as right away, I spotted several different ways in which mistakes could be made.

A few days later, I discovered how easily. I had purchased an international plan (1,000 minutes for about $15 – a steal!), and approximately $5 worth of local minutes. I was surprised, when during a local call, I got a message that I had only a minute left.

Where did my $5 go? I called the store but got nowhere so I went in person to sort it out. When I saw the clipboard for that day, my phone number and money were recorded but the confirmation number they would have received after the amount was keyed in was not there.

I’m glad I got the money credited but I shouldn’t have to spend my time chasing $5. I could have used it to do something else.

In the end, none of us can totally leave who we are behind. My hope is that a little of me will rub off, that my being here will be of benefit.

Staying Connected While on the Road

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Montego Bay Convention Center

One of the issues we face as we travel from developed to developing world is matching the ‘always on’ level of connection we’ve come to expect and enjoy. It becomes particularly critical if you plan to be away for longer than a week and you’ve committed to post everyday.

Prior to leaving the US, I researched connectivity options available through the major providers in Jamaica – Digicel, Lime and Claro – and felt confident that the only difficulty I’d have is deciding which company to use.

Last Monday, I set out to get a new phone and SIM – I had misplaced my Jamaica SIM and the professional I paid in London to unlock my Nokia phone damaged it instead.  Getting the phone was the easy part.

When I told the sales person that I wanted to purchase a wireless modem, she asked where I lived. She might have seen the look on my face and quickly added that she had to check to see what service was like in my area. I was surprised. According to Digicel, their 4G service was available everywhere.

She tried the modem on their laptop and it fired up instantly. I’d learned from previous experience that getting anything done with a Mac in Jamaica was problematic so I had her try it on my laptop.

Just as I thought, the modem failed. She recommended another, which at about $100, was almost twice the one I wanted to buy.  I was ready to buy but they had none at her location.

We drove to the store she said would have it. When I got there, I decided to check with computer technician at a computer store what modem he’d recommend for the Mac. It wasn’t Digicel’s, the one I was trying to find, but Claro’s, the Mexican company that is reportedly eyeing Digicel for purchase.

Luckily for me, Claro was on the floor below but their Mac expert was out and the modem resupply had not yet arrived. It’d be here in about an hour, I was told.

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Montego Bay Convention Center

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Montego Bay Convention Center

Since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was getting closer to 2 p.m., I decided lunch was my priority. After lunch, I called – the modem and technician were both there. But he was doubtful their modem would work properly in my location. The signal would most likely fade or drop entirely, he said, so he advised me not to buy.

I thanked him and made my way to the Digicel store. The modem was in stock. The sales person (and Mac expert) to whom I was directed was there. Again, the modem that was supposed to work with a Mac, didn’t. She tried three different devices and called their technicians to assist but no joy. I left the store near 5 p.m. — no modem and no way to get connected.

When I told my cousin, she said I should use her DSL service. I was able to hook my laptop up but the connection is so slow, it drops every few minutes.

So, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to be online long enough to keep up with all your posts. I do hope to get this sorted out soon as I do miss my ‘always on’ connection.

I guess the best part is that I’ve been reading more and getting to bed earlier!

A Taste of Jamaica in Photos

A medley of local fruits and vegetables

The Taste of Jamaica, a display of local foods and culinary contests, was held over the weekend at the Convention Center near Montego Bay. Here are some photos of the event.

A medley of local fruits and vegetables at a Taste of Jamaica

Fruits and vegetables

Ackees at Taste of Jamaica

Ackee, the National Fruit

Sample meal from the chef's competition at Taste of Jamaica

Sample from the chefs’ competition

Taste of Jamaica - Beverages

Beverage samples

Beverage samples from Taste of Jamaica

Beverage samples

Attendees at the Taste of Jamaica

Part of the crowd

Taste of Jamaica Ice sculpting contest

Ice sculptors

I’m still trying to sort out my internet connection, which is spotty at best. As a result, I haven’t been able to spend much time online. Please bear with me, I promise to get to your comments and catch up on all the posts that I’ve missed.