…(Our Seven Jewels)
by Dr. Waine Kong
Last week, Stephanie and I were enjoying dinner with friends when the gentleman asked: “So Basil, tell me seven things you really love about Jamaica.” I responded that I could name a thousand, but he insisted that I limit my response to seven. Here is the list I shared from my status as a retired returning resident.
1. Our people
Jamaican people are my people, the people who nurtured, loved me and taught me manners, our songs, our stories and gave me a substantial culture. We are long suffering people who are genuinely engaging, industrious, generous and fun loving. No other people can charm each other with our expressions. Everyone else can more or less say: “I haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you?” In Jamaica we say: “Long time now me never see you, come mek we walk and talk.” Isn’t that beautiful? And speaking of beautiful, it is no accident that we have so many gorgeous people. Do you remember how Stella got her groove back? When the British went to Africa to bring back slaves to work the cane fields, they were heartless, but let’s give them credit for being shrewed businessmen. They didn’t bring back diminutive, ugly, handicapped, weak, sickly people; and even if they did, they would have perished during the crossing. In order to get the best return on their investment, they selected and brought back handsome, strong and intelligent people. That is our gene pool. Now add a little sprinkling of the Scots, the Irish, the English, the German, Dutch, Chinese, Syrian, Indian and Jewish blood and what do you get? You get some of the most intelligent, talented and beautiful people on earth.
2. Our weather
I often joke that the weatherman in Jamaica has the most boring job. Other than hurricane season when a few storms clean the air, the weatherman can make a recording and don’t even have to show up for work; “Just play it again Sam.” i.e. “Ladies and gentlemen, today is just another day in paradise, sunny and 80% Fahrenheit with afternoon showers followed by a glorious rainbow from one horizon to the other. The ocean is 90 degrees and the cool breeze will be blowing at a mild 20 miles per hour. The sunrise was just magnificent and the sunset will colorful and guaranteed to inspire the poets in all of us.” Who wouldn’t want to be in paradise? One of my passions is playing golf which because of the weather is available to me any day of the week without having to make a tee time. I love walking the course with my caddy who has become a very reliable friend. I often enjoy playing with the caddies who give me five a side and still beat me. In the United States, I am robbed of the opportunity to walk the five miles as golf carts are now mandatory.
3. There is always something going on. You cannot be bored living in Jamaica. Whether it is a play, Carnival, Bacanal, Brukins, Jazz fest, Independence celebrations, there is always something exciting and wonderful going on at local live theatre, Sabina Park and the National Stadium. Christmas is an absolutely wonderful time on the Island. My wife and I enjoy going to a friend’s house for soup on Saturday afternoons, church on Sundays mornings and hanging out with family on Sunday afternoons. Beenie Man or some other great entertainer is always performing in a neighborhood close to you. And because we are a tourist destination, we can partake of what we show off to the tourists. Most resort hotels offer a wide range of music including jazz, mento, calypso, reggae, country and classical. Jamaicans are very diverse in our taste. Obviously the food is unparalleled. Whether served in someone’s home or at a restaurant, Jamaican cuisine is one of the jewels of the Caribbean. The list of options is much too long for this brief discussion but we are creating a food sensation around the world. If you like hot and spicy, you will love Jamaican cuisine. Scotch bonnet pepper is the most flavorful of all peppers. I can “nam” Jamaican every day.
4. Excellent Education if you can afford it. I really wish my children and grand children could have a Jamaican private school education that is based on the British model. Why don’t we bring some of this excellence to the public sector? How do you explain why so many world class athletes come out of our University of Technology or that a little girl from Jamaica can win the Scripts Spelling Bee?
5. Economic opportunity. With an in-expensive talented labor force, sunshine, good soil and rain, what’s to prevent us from producing our own energy and competing on world markets for agricultural products? The world wants our coffee, spices, ground items, fruits, jams, sauces, honey, nuts, flowers, and the many others, so why haven’t we fully exploited this sector? It pains me to see how many of our mangoes, almonds, oranges go to waste and how much of our land remains fallow when we could be the new bread basket for the world. I believe food will be the bauxite of the future.
6. The place is very international. We get visitors from all over the world and have more trading partners than most other countries. I met Jamaicans who speak fluent German, Chinese, Japanese, Swahili, Russian, Hungarian and Spanish. Jamaicans live in every corner of the world and the world comes to Jamaica.
7. Opportunity to Serve. Jamaica offers a myriad of opportunities for every citizen to serve the people and the country. Doing very little can go a long way. I am surprised by how much can be accomplished just by calling on my relationships to improve housing, enhance employment opportunities, computers for classrooms, sports equipment and promoting my seven steps to good health. I get a great deal of satisfaction from meeting some of the unmet needs in rural communities that actually have measurable impact on the lives of many. I am convinced that this kind of advocacy is doing God’s work. According to Martin Luther King, we can all be great because we can all serve. Volunteering and giving generously is a very worthwhile mission, especially for retired people like me.
Yes. Jamaica is a brand. I dare say that if you place the names of all the countries of the world on Tee shirts, the Jamaican shirts would sell out first. At this point in my life, I am where I want to be.
Bullet Columnist Dr. Basil Waine Kong has written several pieces for this journal and especially likes to expound on his favorite subject; his beloved homeland Jamaica. He is a former Atlien (resident of Atlanta GA), former Cardiologist and former President of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) who now practices law (passing the Georgia Bar Exam in 1990). This article is reprinted with his permission from his website