The Jamaican Traveller

I’m sure I speak for most Jamaicans when I say, the airport is the worst place to be as a Jamaican!

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Firstly, I hate travelling but that hate is heightened by my nationality and the type of treatment we’re often subject to in an airport. While everyone else may be greeted with warm smiles and welcome home embraces, we’re greeted by dogs waiting to sniff our luggage… I kid you not.

I remember my first time travelling to the United States from Jamaica, I was in a hurry to get off the plane to make it through the hustle and bustle of the Miami International Airport. Little did I know that my greatest fear was awaiting me as I stepped foot on American soil… a HUGE Alsation being told to “Go get it!”. Well, this was me frozen with fear hollering for the dog to back up, luckily he’s well trained and apparently I didn’t have “it”, whatever that may be. Now, comparing my experience coming from Jamaica to my experience on a trip from Trinidad, I must say I thought the airport had been modified or the route for incoming passengers had changed because to my surprise there were NO dogs and I was fortunate enough to end up on the route via the skytrain, compared to the long walk I had to do on my first trip. So is it a coincidence that I wasn’t hassled as much coming in on a plane from another country besides Jamaica?… I doubt it!

Speaking of Trinidad, believe it or not, our Caribbean neighbours aren’t exactly the friendliest of hosts when it comes to the segregation in the airport either. If you’re coming in on a trip form Jamaica, you’re 100% guaranteed that your bags WILL be scanned. If you’re coming in from anywhere else in the world “allyuh” will be warmly greeted and allowed to go through without hassle. Coincidence again? I doubt it.

Another of our Caribbean neighbours (St. Vincent) saw it fit to hold a Jamaican hostage in the airport while drilling him with questions of why he’s visiting and how long he would be staying etc. So much for Caribbean integration!

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re hassled by our international ‘neighbours’ then if our neighbours in our own backyard wish to treat us like yesterday’s garbage that was forgotten.  The most terrible experience that has ever been related to me was that of a woman who was strip searched while she was menstruating. Honestly, that was just disgusting and totally unnecessary. I would sue!!

The irony to this whole hullabaloo however is that as soon as you touchdown and you make it beyond the airport, you will be greeted with the familiar sound of dancehall and reggae music blasting in your ear 24/7. You will be bombarded with requests to “speak Jamaican” while your audience awaits with baited breath. You will be asked about the Gaza and the Gully (even if you know not what either of them are). You will be asked if you know Usain Bolt personally or if Vybz Kartel is your neighbour. You will be bombarded with requests for patties, jerk chicken and Jamaican souvenirs. You will see many persons sporting locks while jamming to the sound of Bob Marley (you may even be asked for some of “it”, whatever “it” may be 🙂 ).

The point is, although we get hassled in the airport and get treated like animals and escaped convicts, at the end of the day, these very same people who seem unwelcoming are very much in love with our culture and our people. So the next time you’re hassled in the airport, try not to be too frustrated, just speak in your most eloquent Jamaican accent and flash a smile.

Walk good!