The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jewel Resort

Our stay at the Jewel Resort in Runaway Bay was very eye opening. What struck me most was the contrast between the resort and the surrounding areas. There were a lot of people walking on the side of the road as we drove out of the airport in Montego Bay. This was odd for me because I expected more people to be inside cars. This was my first sign that average Jamaicans were far less wealthy than I had expected. I also saw many people sitting in roadside carts by the side of the road, selling everything from fruit to shoes. I had seen media portrayals of this phenomenon, but it was far more widespread than I had thought. We also passed a sobering number of shantytowns on the way in. Americans tend to have an image of third world nations as a giant collection of wooden shacks with corrugated tin roofs; the shanties on the north side of the island fit that image exactly, and it was very strange to think that these people may well be starving, but that I was headed toward an all-you-can-eat resort. Once we had arrived at the resort, we were greeted with blue drinks of some kind that tasted very sweet, given to us by a hotel employee. We were escorted to our rooms by a different employee who pulled our bags around for us. After getting settled, we went down to the beach, which looked like an Epicurean dream. Platters of food were everywhere, and we never wanted for food or drink. The resort was compeltly walled off from the surrounding areas, so we were in our own bubble for all intents and purpose. A nice bubble, but a bubble nonetheless. What made the scene all the more surreal is that a reggae band was playing. They played a song called “Too Many Guns”, because the lead singer said that gun violence was a huge problem in Jamaica. But his desire to bring awareness to his audience fell flat. The small children present there were too young to understand and simply danced along to their rhythm, and their parents were too drunk to even walk straight, let alone comprehend what the singer said. It made me feel slightly unnerved, because the singer was right. While I was sitting on a beach at a buffet, someone else in Jamaica was crouched down, hoping to avoid getting struck by a bullet. And things may not be getting any better. Romayne, a 20 year old bartender at the Jewel, told us that Vybz Kartel, an incarcerated dancehall star, was getting an appeal soon and might get out of jail. This also coincides with a revival of Kartel’s renewed feud with Mavado, another artist. The first Kartel-Mavado feud made blood run in the streets as fans of each artist fought each other with guns in the streets. Romayne said that “things will get crazy” because Romayne thought that Vybz Kartel is bigger than Bob Marley was.

I will say that the resort was beautiful, the food was fantastic, and that it was a wonderful experience all-around. But something just didn’t quite sit well with me at the Jewel. I was appreciative of the amenities I stayed in, but I was ready to head into Kingston. It made me realize that tourism is not nearly as helpful for Jamaica as one may think. The real problems, like gang violence, that affect everyday Jamaicans get walled off from the tourists, who gorge themselves without knowing what happens only a few mikes away from the resort. Tourism dollars need to go toward public works if it will have any significant impact on everyday Jamaican lives.

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