The view from the other side


I have had an interesting view of Jamaica from the other side of the fence.  I’ve been taking the bus for about the past two weeks while my car has been in the garage, and, sorry to say it, but I can see why Jamaica is so unproductive. I have been exhausted! I have wasted HOURS just standing at the bus stop and waiting for the bus to come. I have wondered what this is doing to our children who are expected to learn at school after experiencing this in the mornings and do homework after surviving this on their way home!

I understand fully that other people are more used to this than I am, I understand that their bags are probably not filled with school books, though the truth is that some of them look just as heavy to me, and I will concede that I’m not physically fit, but for all that, this has been an experience that has changed me. Indeed, I have thought of two poems to write about my experiences on the bus, but I’ve been too tired to type them up and I suspect that I may not capture them as I had experienced them.

I won’t deny it that I want my car back NOW! Yet, despite this, I am very happy that I have had this experience. This has been an education for me. It has helped to make me a more civilized person, in that I am not so uncomfortable to be around some of my fellow Jamaicans as I was before. I have seen how members of the most impoverished groups in the society operate… I have had hours of standing at the bus stop and just watching people…and I realise that they are even better, more resilient people than I am.

I don’t want to sound condescending, but I will admit that it surprised me yesterday to see three women cleaning up the area in which they worked selling fruits on the sidewalk. It surprised me because the garbage that I see on the streets sometimes would not have led me to think that the people who vend on our Kingston streets had such civic pride. I have seen how much they (both MEN and women) loved their children… again, that surprised me because of the tales of child abuse from actually hitting children to simply having many more than they can afford to mind well. I have seen the magic of childhood play in their children that is no different from the children in my family. I have watched, with many smiles, how older children care for and take responsibility for younger children when away from the home, I can bear witness to how members of the community still correct children if they see them going off the rails, despite the prevailing myth here that that no longer happens in Jamaica. I have seen kindness and caring among the various bus drivers. I did not expect that. I expected, I don’t know why, that they would be impersonal.

To be sure, I have seen ugliness in the Jamaican character in the past two weeks also. I have seen the impatience of other drivers when the buses stop to collect passengers. I wonder why that is? They are only doing their jobs in taking other people to their jobs and homes, and the minute or two spent waiting cannot be that important to every single person who has blown and shouted at the drivers. I have seen the Anancy mentality among the drivers of the smaller route taxis – they watch when the large buses move off and then speed up to get in front of them and advertise that they are going in the same direction. I have actually seen them laughing at the drivers of the bigger buses… BUT I have seen that I am not the ONLY person who has noticed and taken exception to that and I have heard other passengers say that they would rather wait for the big JUTC buses. God bless them!

The view of Jamaica that I have been afforded in the past two weeks has been invaluable to me.  I shall use it in my academic life and in my artistic expressions.  The truth is, my friends, Jamaica is not as ugly a place to me as it was two weeks ago, despite seeing poverty and decay in places I see life too, and I actually thank God for that lesson; even as I pray for the return of my car!

About Gabrielle Burns

I am a Jamaican at play here in this vast playground in cyberspace....Yes, at times I do like to live dangerously, but I AM also working hard at becoming more interesting by the day... :)
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