Vacation in Jamaica – Being Part of the Community

By Linda Longo

Every February we vacation in rural Jamaica.  This year will be our fifth time staying at the same place.  You’d think we’d want to try a different vacation destination, but the community of Treasure Beach, in Saint Elizabeth Perish, has a genuine welcome to visitors that makes me feel like I’m part of the community.  Each day around 3:00 I take a walk along the dirt road to meet kids playing with sticks or hanging out under shade trees.  I wave to women hanging laundry to dry, I say “hi” to men walking past with heavy packages.  I step inside a local store and see the bare necessities on the shelf.  It amazes me on how little they get by on.

As a guest to Treasure Beach, it’s customary to bring gifts.  So I prepare for the gift giving by asking my family to donate unwanted clothing and shop at the local discount store to catch end of summer sales.  In September I got shorts and tank tops for $1.99 each! The friends we vacation with usually bring drug store gifts like tooth brushes, paste, aspirin, bug itch ointment, etc.  We also like to give a special gift to the two women who cook and clean for us, Ms. Jenny and Ms. Laura.   Now I’m sewing them each a handbag from colorful reused fabrics.  My bags are made out of fabric from old shirts, jeans, wool slacks and other items that can’t be worn again.  It’s fun to create something pretty out of something that was destined for a landfill.  Zippers are still good, buttons are usable, and the worn jean material is quite fashionable.

The community works hard to help each other.  Some families have small businesses, but I get the feeling most folks are low income and work as cooks for vacationers like us.  A community support network exists through the Treasure Beach Women’s Group (TBWG).  They work on job development, healthcare and physical abuse issues.  This year I’m making handbags to sell at their gift shop and TBWG will keep 100% to support their efforts.  I wanted to make a dozen bags, but as of today I only have 5.  I’ll make a few more this weekend.

The next time you go on vacation consider bringing a little something from your community to give as a gift.  Even if you never go back to that same place, you will leave a cultural footprint that I imagine will be cherished and remembered.

About the author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past 7 years she’s helped regulated facilities understand how to be in compliance with EPA enforcement requirements. Outside of work Linda enjoys exploring neighborhoods of NYC, photographing people in their everyday world, and sewing handbags made from recycled materials that she gives to her friends.

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