No Beach For Local Tourists

pearly-beach-entranceOn New Year’s Day, a carload of us drove up, down and around Ocho Rios looking for a public beach. Our first stop was Pearly Beach. The name sounded promising. But we might as well have gone to the Pearly Gates. St Peter would not let us in. The security guard said it was a private beach managed by UDC (the Urban Development Corporation). It could be rented but it was not open to the general public without prior arrangements.

We wondered if we should forget about finding a decent public beach and just go to one of the hotels. So we stopped at Jamaica Inn. Unfortunately for us, but not for them, they were at full occupancy. And their policy is not to issue day passes when the hotel is full. The view from the hotel lobby showed hardly anybody on the beach. But hotel policy is hotel policy.

We asked the receptionist if there was a public beach nearby and we were told about one in the centre of Ocho Rios. That’s not a beach. It’s a port. Back on the road, we kept looking for a public beach and we were sent to Sugar Pot beach. That’s not a beach. It’s a wasteland. We were well salt.


We decided to try our luck at Bamboo Beach. The sign at the entrance boldly announced that this was PRIVATE PROPERTY. And there was a long list of rules and regulations including: No drugs, no firearms or weapons, no ganja smoking, no profanity, vulgar language or loud behaviour and no soliciting. All very well and good!

But we were not amused to find that food and drinks were prohibited. The gate hostess informed us that the car would have to be searched and if we did have food and drink there were two options. We could either eat and drink before going on the property. Or we could leave our food with the security guard. Neither option was appetising.

img_2248The last item on the sign read: “Please call management to report any questions or concerns”. We got voicemail. So we kept going. By now, we had wasted a lot of beach time looking for a beach. We decided to try Shaw Park Beach Hotel. For US$65 each we could access the beach and get lunch. Or we could pay J$1,000 each to go to the adjacent White River beach, entry to which was controlled by Shaw Park.

We decided on the latter option since food and drink were not prohibited. But, alas, the White River beach was not a beach. The river had been in spate so the water was muddy. The beach was dirty. There was a dog roaming around. We quickly ate our food in less than ideal circumstances.

On the way out, I complained to the manager of the hotel. He was surprised that we had been sent to the beach because he knew it was not in a good condition that day. And he cheerfully refunded the entry fee. That was some consolation. But after all of that upping and downing, we still hadn’t gone to the beach!


On Tuesday, I called the UDC office in Kingston to ask about access to Pearly Beach. I was advised to send an email to the director of corporate communications, which I did. I proposed that one of the priorities of urban development ought to be ensuring access of all Jamaicans to public beaches in ways that are consistent with local cultural values – for example, self-catering. Patrons should not be held hostage by beach operators who attempt to force them to buy food and drink on the property. UDC has not yet responded.

The Jamaican Government needs to take lessons from Barbados. All beaches in Barbados are, by law, national parks and cannot be privatised. Every citizen of Barbados has access to all beaches. One of my favourites is Accra Beach, named after the capital of Ghana. Both locals and tourists enjoy the beach which reminds me of Hellshire. Full of vibes!


Hellshire Beach before and after erosion

By the way, if the Government doesn’t move quickly to build back the reef at Hellshire, the beach will die. Imagine, Kingston is sitting on the seventh largest natural harbour in the world and we don’t have a single beach in the city. We have turned the harbour into a cesspool.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about record visitor arrivals. We welcome these foreigners. But we simply can’t forget about local tourists who also want to enjoy the beauty of our homeland. We have to launch a national campaign to take back Jamaica’s beaches from private operators. In the 1970s we used to say we’re more than a beach, we’re a country. Now, we need to claim our beaches. They should belong to all Jamaicans. Not just a few hoteliers.

And the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) needs to look carefully at its ads for the North American market. There are hardly any black tourists! It seems as if even Jamaicans in the diaspora who come home often are not recognised as tourists. We only want their remittances! The issue of beach access may not just be about locals. Perhaps, for the JTB, the ideal tourist is really not black.


Mi find some a di missing man dem/Finding Elusive Men


Hellshire before LIME; photo Keisha DeLisser-Cole


Mi go Hellshire weh day an mi find some a di yute dem mi did a fret bout inna last week column, “Weh di eligible man dem deh?”  Di one dem weh suppose fi ready fi go a university, but dem no qualify.

So mi cyah gi a piece-a answer to di man weh email mi an seh nuff eligible man gone a farin.  Im aks mi,  “Yu have any idea wa di man dem who no qualify a do? Inna dem ya time, all puss an dawg ha fi ha degree fi fling up burger a Burger King so mi no know wa dem (no di puss an dawg  dem) woulda do, all like di middle-class one dem, weh no go no further dan high school.”

So mi a sidong inna Aunt Merle shop a enjoy mi fry fish an bammy.  An mi decide fi fast wid some yute who did a lyme side-a mi. Talk bout lyme, mi ha fi congratulate LIME fi di lovely job dem a do.  Dem a fix up some a di bruck-down hut dem pon di beach.  Yu fi see how dem pretty!


Hellshire after LIME; photo Keisha DeLisser-Cole


Mi surprise so til.  Di beach a look like Barbados!  It come een like Oistins, one fishing village inna Christ Church, weh tourist an yardie go fi cool out pon a Friday night. Every time mi go a Barbados mi seh Jamaica shoulda try fi be lickle bit more like Barbados; and Barbados shoulda try fi be lickle bit more like Jamaica.  Barbados so nice fi visit.  But mi kudn live deh.  It too organize.  Officially.  Pon di down low, dat is a next story.

LIME a brandish new lyrics, ‘Portmore, for sure.’ An a so dem a fix up Naggo Head bus park tu.  Mi kyaan believe it!  Mi did ha fi meet Scheed Cole.  Im a di mastermind weh plan out how fi fix up Hellshire an Naggo Head.  Im artistic yu see! Candace Clunie, one young woman who work pon im team, a she introduce mi to im.  She a one talented architect an a artist.  Mi meet her a work hard-hard pon di beach job.

Root a di problem

Di yute dem mi talk to a Hellshire no come from no middle-class background.  Dem belongs to di ‘working-class’ weh naa work. No work no pudong fi dem deh people.  Dem ha fi a scuffle fi mek work fi demself.  One a di yute dem run a gym inna im yard.  Im look buff, yu see.  Im naa mek no money right now, but im know seh time longer dan rope.

Plenty a di yute dem dida light up dem spliff so dem was in a good mood.  Dem humour me when mi aks dem one-one, ‘Yu still inna school or yu a work?’  All a dem seh mi coulda write down weh dem seh but mi no fi call dem name.  Not Teddy.  Im definitely did waan mi talk up di tings.

Im gi mi im boasy business card weh a bawl out inna big, bright letter:  TEDDY’S PLUMBING SERVICE, 24-HOUR SERVICE for all your plumbing needs.  Phone 855-8617.  Teddy live inna Woodford Park an im seh im business a gwaan good-good.  Im was a prentice wid a experience plumber, an den im branch out.

All a di yute dem do bad inna school.  Teddy im seh im kudn stand reading.  Im leave school wid no qualification.  A so im turn to plumbing.  Inna im spare time, im start check out computer.  An im get a big shock:  ‘A bare reading yu ha fi do pon dis?’

A so im come fi find out seh reading a no one a dem subject inna school weh yu ha fi put up wid.  Is a passport fi carry yu inna one brand new world.  So Teddy just log on.  Lyrically speaking; an fi real.  Email gi im plenty problem fi di first.  When im fren dem a aks im a how im a tek so long fi answer dem email, im ha fi admit seh im no know how fi spell some a di word.  Im gwaan lickle-lickle so til im ketch i.

‘Inna De Yard’

Chruu mi waan know a how di language dem a run jostle one anodder, mi aks Teddy wa language im use pon di computer.  Im seh if im a talk to im fren dem im talk patwa.  If im a talk to dem odder one a farin, im talk inna English.  Teddy no ha no problem fi deal wid di two language dem.  Im a no like some a dem teacher weh refuse fi accept seh a two language wi talk inna fi wi country.

Seet deh.  Teddy have nuff more sense dan Peter weh aks one ‘cute’ question pon Gleaner blog bout mi talk weh mi gi a Freiburg University:  ‘Did you lecture the Germans in Jamaican patois?’ [‘Yu did talk to di German dem inna Jamaica patwa?’]   Di German dem a tek fi language more serious dan some a wi. Andrea Moll, one graduate student a Freiburg, she a do one Ph.D. bout writing pon di Internet.  An she a study how fi language write pon

Mi no know a when fi wi teacher dem a go admit seh a one wicked ting  fi diss pikni heart language an a try teach dem inna one next language weh di poor pikni dem no understand.  A dem deh eedyat business a mek di bwoy pikni dem naa do so good inna school.   Di girl dem wi try work wid di programme.  But di bwoy dem dis gi up.

Mi bet yu anyting if di bwoy pikni dem, all like Teddy, did learn fi read an write inna fi dem owna language, Jamaican, dem woulda never ha no problem fi learn fi read.  An from dem learn how fi read fi dem language, dem a go learn fi read English same way.


Scheed Cole


Dem disadvantage yute shoulda follow Scheed Cole example.  Dem fi tek reading serious when dem deh a school.  Scheed come outa di inner city.  An im mek up im mind seh education a di passport fi tek im out an carry im back inna fi im community.  Hear weh im seh pon Gleaner ‘Inna De Yard’ video:   ‘If a one ting run fi mi life, a it dis:  a yu ha fi decide fi yu owna future.’









Finding Elusive Men

On a recent visit to Hellshire beach, I found some of the elusive young men I was worrying about in last week’s column, “Where are the eligible men?”  Those young men who ought to be prepared for tertiary education, but are not.

So I have a partial answer to the question I was asked by a male reader who pointed out the impact of migration on the dwindling numbers of eligible men in Jamaica:  “Any insights to share as to what they would opt out and do? Even puss and dawg need degree now to flip burger in Burger King so I cannot fathom what they (not the puss or dawg dem) would do, coming from a middle-class background, without post-secondary education.”

As I sat in Aunt Merle’s shop enjoying my fried fish and bammy, I struck up a conversation with a group of young men who were lyming close by.  And talking of lyme, I must congratulate LIME on the fantastic job they’re doing to transform some of the ramshackle huts on the beach into elegant, thatch-roofed shops.

My amazed response to the upgrading was, “What a way the place look like Barbados!”  I was reminded of Oistins, a fishing village in Christ Church that’s a popular Friday night hangout for both locals and tourists. Every time I go to Barbados I think that Jamaica should try to be a bit more like Barbados; and Barbados should try to be a bit more like Jamaica.  Barbados is so nice to visit.  But I just couldn’t live there.  It’s much too orderly on the surface.  Underground, that’s a whole other story.


Naggo Head bus park before LIME; photo Keisha DeLisser-Cole


With its new marketing line, ‘Portmore, for sure,’ LIME is also rehabilitating the Naggo Head bus park.  What a transformation! I made it my business to meet Scheed Cole, the mastermind behind both the Hellshire and Naggo Head artistic projects.  I was introduced to him by a member of his design team, the talented architect and fine artist Candace Clunie, whom I met hard at work on the beach.


Root of the problem

The young men I spoke to at Hellshire don’t come from a middle-class background.  They are part of that large group of supposedly ‘working-class’ people who simply can’t find ready-made work.  They have to be scuffling to create jobs for themselves.  One of them, who looks quite buff, runs a home-based gym.  He’s not making money yet, but he’s optimistic.

Most of the youths were enjoying a spliff and they were in a good mood.  So they humoured me as I asked them in turn, “Yu still in school or yu working?”  With one exception, they said I could report our conversation if I didn’t reveal their names.  Teddy definitely wanted me to ‘talk up di tings.’

He gave me his business card which proudly announces in bold letters:  TEDDY’S PLUMBING SERVICE, 24-HOUR SERVICE for all your plumbing needs.  Phone 855-8617.  Teddy, who lives in Woodford Park, says he’s doing quite well in his own business.  He apprenticed with an experienced plumber then branched out.

Like all of the other young men, he hadn’t done well in school.  He particularly disliked reading.  After leaving school with no formal qualifications, he turned to plumbing.  For recreation, he got into computers and had quite a shock:  ‘A bare reading yu ha fi do pon dis?’  [It’s all about reading?]

Suddenly, reading was no longer an unpleasant subject to be endured in school.  It was an essential passport to an exciting new world.  So Teddy just logged on, literally and metaphorically.  Doing email was a challenge at first.  When his friends asked how he was taking so long to answer their emails, he had to confess that he couldn’t spell some of the words. Bit by bit, he got the hang of it.

‘Inna De Yard’

Naturally, with my interest in language politics, I asked Teddy which language he uses on the computer.  He says if he’s talking to his friends he uses patwa but if he’s talking to foreigners he uses English.  Unlike many Jamaican educators who simply refuse to accept the fact that we are bilingual, Teddy is completely at ease with the idea of living in two languages.

On that score, Teddy is far more sensible than Peter who asked a ‘cute’ question on the Gleaner’s blog about my talk at Freiburg University:  ‘Did you lecture the Germans in Jamaican patois?’  The Germans are taking our language far more seriously than some of us are. Andrea Moll, a graduate student at Freiburg, is doing a Ph.D. dissertation on computer-mediated communication, focussing on data downloaded from

I don’t know how long it’s going to take our educators to acknowledge the fact that there’s something fundamentally wrong about ‘dissing’ a child’s mother tongue and trying, instead, to teach in an unfamiliar language.  This folly is the root of the problem of male underachievement.  Girls, who tend to be more patient learners, will try to work with the system.  Boys will just give up.

I’d bet my last dollar that if young men like Teddy were taught literacy in their mother tongue, Jamaican, they would have no problems learning to read.  Their literacy skills could then be transferred to their second language, English.


Naggo Head after LIME; photo Keisha DeLisser-Cole


Scheed Cole is an excellent role model for working-class young men who need to learn to take reading seriously while they’re still in school.  A product of Kingston’s inner city, Scheed made up his mind that education was going to be his passport out and back into his community.  As he says on the Gleaner’s ‘Inna De Yard’ video:   ‘If is one thing about my life that is a theme, is that you decide your future.’