The customs line entering Jamaica was an endless meandering of smiling faces happy to arrive in the Caribbean. While the line moved along quickly, it stretched on long enough for me to look around at who was visiting Jamaica with me. It was not difficult to know who was who was visiting and for what reason. I saw two distinct groups.
One group stood close together, in pairs, hand-in-hand. They wore sunglasses, new rings and had Jamaica travel guides attached to their wrists. The other group stood in packs of four to eight people, wore matching T-shirts with smart Biblical slogans and had leather bound scripture attached to their wrists. As I was reminded by the stout gentleman in front of me in the customs line, “There is much to be done in the Caribbean.” He went on to tell me how the people of Jamaica needed to change. He did not elaborate on his plans, but confirmed that he was a missionary — and not surprisingly, had a mission. I suppose he wants the people of Jamaica more inline with his T-shirt slogan and reading material.
I fit into an odd third category as visiting travel writer, I mostly observe, sitting in a group of one with a little spiral-bound notebook attached to my wrist commenting about the writing on T-shirts. That said, I do not want anything to change in Jamaica. I still want to leave the U.S. and find places that have their own flavor of life and show me that my interpretation of the grand scheme of things may not be perfect for everyone.
While I appreciate good intentions, I believe our differences may be our greatest gifts to each other, that differing perspectives offer insights that I could not learn on my own.
After the woman at the customs booth stamped my passport and I wandered out Montego Bay, I was glad to see Jamaica had changed only a little, the food was even better than I remembered — and that tourism is still winning over do-good-ism, for now. Personally, I hoped the man with a mission would try, and leave, the spicy greens and reggae music just as they are.