Solo Traveler Associate Editor Tracey recently traveled to Jamaica. The trip incorporated a number of “firsts” for her, which she will share with us over the next few weeks.
Prior to being invited on a press trip by the Jamaica Tourist Board, I had really never contemplated visiting Jamaica. I had never been anywhere in the Caribbean. It just wasn’t on my radar. What a shame that turned out to be!
Of the many first-time experiences I had on this trip, the sweetest occurred at the Harbour Street Craft Market in Montego Bay. As I wandered from stall to stall admiring the jewellery, baskets, purses and wood carvings, women would invite me in for a closer look. It was stifling hot, I was drenched with perspiration, and the last thing I wanted to do was get stuck inside a tiny, airless space packed to the gills with crafts.
But these women were so friendly and cheerful, and so eager to show their wares, that I couldn’t say no. And when one of them began fanning me while I perused her selection of hand-made jewellery, I nearly cried with a combination of gratitude and relief.
Her name was Janet, and she was certain that I needed some jewellery. She was so determined that she custom-fit an ankle bracelet for me while I waited. Then she described the meaning of the colours of the beads that she had used: black to represent the people of Jamaica and the hardships they have faced, green for the land and vegetation, gold for the sun and red for the blood that we all share. She was absolutely lovely, with a huge, sunshiny smile. Sweetness personified.
A little further along in the market I was offered some traditional Jamaican treats. I am really not a fan of desserts or candy, but again, this woman was so sure that I would love her Coconut Drops that I couldn’t possibly say no. And thank goodness for that! I have never tasted anything like it: sweet, spicy, caramel-y, crunchy deliciousness. I begged to buy some to bring home, but to no avail: there was no more for sale, she had just wanted me to taste it. She did, however, offer to share the recipe. I’ll let her tell you herself:
Doubly sweet: the cookie and the cook.
As a solo traveler, I had anticipated that I would feel nervous in the market, uncomfortable with the sales tactics, ill at ease with the haggling, worried about feeling stuck inside the stalls. None of this came to pass. The vendors enthusiastically invited me to look at their crafts, but once I had, and I needed to move on, they wished me well and thanked me for stopping.
I will not soon forget the sweetness of the cookie, of the women in the market, or of my first visit to Jamaica.