Ms. Bathtub

Musings from Carye Bye of Portland, Ore.

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Location: Portland, Ore., United States

I may be Ms. Bathtub, but I hardly ever take baths.. I do shower that is, so don't worry!

I am the director of the Bathtub Art Museum and also run my own printing card & novelties business under the name Red Bat Press. I live in the great bike fun-friendly city of Portland.

I'm always up for a good adventure; however anything goes here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

99 Impressions of Jamaica: Part III

After an amazing Jamaican breakfast with an Irish Moss - a brown foamy seaweed health drink that is delicious, Matt and I walked the other way on the one-town road towards the lighthouse we saw on the map, ignoring the attention like the night before as much as we could. Down at the lighthouse no one was about, so we just hung out on a couple of swings and petted the resident lighthouse dog. After awhile an old man appeared and asked if we wanted to see the lighthouse. He hurried off and another man came to give a short tour, talking in a bored monotone the whole time. He didn't ask for anything, but in Jamaica everything costs so we paid him, more than it was worth. Then the same old man came back, telling us to come look at the turtles. Ooh I want to see turtles was my first impression but soon I found myself in a tourist trap! He brought us to a ledge where he had lined up about ten hand-carved wooden sea turtles and bird souvenirs, and asked us to buy something.

While I ended up with a cute sea turtle for my friend Sue - a feeling of real pity for Jamaican arts, at least in Negril began to grow. This man, looked me in the eye and told me he carved these creatures himself. While I didn't yet have my proof; I didn't believe him. But as I suspected the same wooden turtles and birds showed up at other "Real" Jamaican Arts stands that we passed the rest of the day. There may have been 1 or 2 local artists in Negril, but the art was not original and frankly really bad, and all the rest made in China. Later in the day, we made the grave error of stopping at the Arts & Crafts market we saw listed on the map. Suddenly I felt like I was in a horror movie, with these fake artist zombies reaching out and trying to grab Matt & I and force us into these 3 x 2 ft booths that all carried the same Rastafarian fake dreds, red, gold and green flags, and wooden turtles and birds. 'RESPECT MON' they'd each say as I firmly said "No Thank you" for the 100th time.

Why does Negril's people lack creativity or the will to do something that is not like everyone else? Many are poor and have to most their energy to make ends meet - but why sell the same thing - why not do something different and unique. I feel like when I make less money, I'm more creative - instead of going to a store with money and buying what I need, I make it. Perhaps in places like Kingston, the capital, there is real art. Sadly I was not to find any on this trip.

Wheels is what we desired on the third day. We could swiftly pedal past the roadside ruckus and get off the one road and small city centre hub and explore beyond. We rented a couple bikes for $10 each from a man with one arm who was reading a prayer book upon our arrival. The man, shaded in a small hut, asked for a couple minutes to finish his page before setting us up - and of all the characters we met, I liked and trusted this man the most - he was genuine and not up to any tricks.

Off we went - see you later marijuana, papaya, Red Stripe (Jamaica's national beer), wooden turtle sellers. But we forgot that others on bikes could keep up with us - but that story comes later.

Our first road ended at a rocky pebble beach with goats off in the distance. Next we pedaled up into the hills into real neighborhoods away from the beach tourism. While it is usually recommended to stay in touristy areas for safety reasons, I felt totally comfortable riding around off the beaten path. It was a hot and humid day, so biking in the heat sucked up most my energy, but an afternoon heavy rain was on the way to give relief. We made a loop back to city centre, then headed north to visit a place called the Palm Reserve we saw on the map, stopping briefly for another amazing home cooked veggie meal at a roadside stand. As we turned to pedal down the road to the Reserve, a bunch of kids asked to be our Guide. we said no thank you and were on our way. The sky was darkening, and we knew the rain was on it's way. An afternoon heavy shower was almost as expected as the nightly sunset. Each day the humidity would rise so high that by 5 pm, the sky just had to open up and give something back. A $10 admission each was asked to visit the Palm Reserve. No one else was there to visit, and we decided the price was too steep to pay as well. So we checked out the surrounding banana tree, lizards on the shutters, and 'watch out for alligators' sign as we pedaled back passing white birds sitting on cows in a strange marshy land with tall palms as a backdrop. We briefly met a strange (crazy?) man on a broken bridge on our way out.

This is when our bike ride of two began to grow. A young boy on a bike asked to be our guide. We firmly said no, but the boy kept biking our way, sometimes rushing in front to do bike tricks (ie. popping a wheelie). On our map we were following a road that would take us around to meet up with the beach side of town. Soon there were two boys. The scenery around us was breath-taking - Little houses along this mountainside, lush greenery, woman washing clothes in the river. I loved it, despite the persistent company. We passed a quarry, and the boys stopped. Thank goodness I thought, they are finally going to leave us alone, but Matt called me back. The boys told us that we should not pass the quarry - that robbers hid in the woods. Quite a dilemma. Do we go on or do we listen to these boys? If we didn't meet them we would have gone ahead around the bend, but maybe they know something. We turned around. As we rode back I started to open up to the older kid and asked him how old he was, seventeen he told me. I thought he was 13 or 14. More boys on bikes joined our gang. An uncomfortable non-trusting feeling started to develop. My mind began to race with some rather ugly thoughts - maybe he's leading us back to a trap, and we will be robbed. this kid's no kid, he's up to something. I was wearing my purse with my camera,money,and credit card across my back. I started to worry that boys would cut it off and grab it. Between these fearful thoughts, I also wondered if these were just a bunch of bored kids looking for a little dough or an adventure. I hoped for the latter. Finally the sky got heavy enough, and buckets of water started pour down on us, soaking us instantly. We biked on, and so did the two first boys.