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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Jamaica by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in Jamaica
by Robin Esrock / Published December 9 2008
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Sean Cable and Paul VanceA couple years ago I wrote about a service called Like a Local, based out of Amsterdam, that connects travellers with a diversity of locals.   It’s such  great idea, since the people you meet really makes a trip memorable, and here’s a little help if you really plan to get beyond bar talk.   When I found out about the Meet the People program, I couldn’t believe it was free, and pretty much under utilized by the tourists to the country. Sometimes I choose stories because they will sell, other times I choose stories because something great needs good press and I’m in the fortunate position to help.   

So we leave behind the resorts and head to the south coast.   First though, we stop off at the Rasta village, which was totally authentic, run by an exuberant priest.  Dealing with marijuana on TV is a tricky business, less so when we’re writing.   You can’t exactly be subtle about it when it’s literally in your face, growing everywhere you look.   But as we hopefully show, this is a serious religion, and they’re serious about their weed.   Not featuring that aspect would be like visiting a church and pretending the crucifix doesn’t exist.   Since this was arranged for us by the Jamaican Tourism Board as part of the Meet the People program, we could only commend them on their trust that we wouldn’t sensationalize our visit, condemning the herb, or more realistically, overindulging in it ourselves.

Island time means nothing runs on time, but everywhere we went, we were greeted with sincere smiles and genuine interest, something that comes through in the show.  It didn’t matter that I caught no fish, or saw just a handful of endemic birds – the fact was I was meeting real people doing what they love.    

And the food?   Jerk seasoning was created by escaped slaves to preserve food on the run, and today it’s the signature sweet-spicy dish of Jamaica.   The feast at Little Ochie’s is the kind of meal you wish you’d never had, because no fish or lobster will ever taste as good again.  And those scotch peppers – well, one should never underestimate the power of the habanero.  

We did stay at one resort:  Jakes, in Treasure Beach, where you see us enjoying our pina coladas.   It’s funky and friendly, owned by the same guys who own a couple megaresorts, but with a far more chilled clientele and target market.    In TV, and sometimes in writing, we paint with broadstrokes to get an idea across quickly, but generalizing can bite you in the ass.   There’s nothing wrong with going to a resort in Jamaica – we were just trying to show another aspect of the country.    If I had more time, I would have loved to look at the cricket culture, and investigate how Jamaicans won the  gold medals for 100m sprint at the Olympics, both men and women.   

This episode, Jordan Kawchuk rejoined us as director (we last saw him in Taiwan, 8 countries ago) and we had a new production assistant on the team too, Neil Maclean.  Nothing brings a crew together like a long road trip, crates of cheap Red Stripe, and the experience of seeing Daggering first hand.   Whoo boy, we knew it was nuts, but we didn’t know just how nuts it would be.   We would have loved to continue onwards that night to Passa Passa, but since these street parties only get going at 3am, and our shooting days start early and end late, well, we’ll just have to leave that for next time.  


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