We have made it to Jamaica! We did have to pay a little bit more money at the gate than we had planned to check our extra luggage (we are bringing lots of notebooks and other supplies including a portable sound system for the music camp next week), but there were no issues with bringing my bass guitar as a carry-on item. It got a little dicey when we landed in “Mo-bay” (what the locals call Montego Bay) and had to go through customs, however. We were concerned that they would force us to pay a duty on the more expensive sound equipment that we brought. It took a lot of negotiating and explaining and praying, but eventually after about 25 minutes, they let us go through without any additional charge.
We drove around the city some as we gathered more supplies yesterday afternoon. I was struck by the mountains here that are so close to the beaches. Coming from a place where they are separated by many more miles, it was a weird juxtaposition. I traded $50 U.S. dollars for $5,500 Jamaican dollars here and noticed that a
gallon liter* of gas was selling for $134.40 (Jamaican dollars). And no matter how hard I try, I cannot get used to riding on the left side of the street! What is really weird is making a right hand turn and going all the way to the other side of the street – I cringe every time for fear that we are going to get hit.
Mo-bay is a fascinating place – filled with sounds and sights that are strange and new to me. Cars honk their horns for everything down here – it’s not meant as a shout like it is in NYC, it really replaces the wave that American drivers give. For example, instead of waving to someone to let them cross in front or get in front of you in traffic, they honk their horn at you. There is a rooster next door to our lodging that woke me up bright and early this morning – I told my roommates that I hoped we were having fried rooster for breakfast this morning!
But there are a lot of familiar things here, too. We passed a lot of franchises that look the same as they do in the States. A Margaritaville restaurant, a Harley Davidson Jamaica shop, and then the staples like KFC and Wendy’s. We went to the MegaMart (Jamaican Walmart) and most of the products on the shelves and the layout of the store seemed very American. We performed and taught at the beginning of a worship leader’s conference that night and I noticed many other things that were the same.
Although we were in an non-air conditioned church with all the windows open and many ceiling fans going full strength, there were leaders there that were hungry to learn how to better lead others in worship. They asked questions and made comments that sounded identical to what would have been asked and said in most churches I’ve been to back home. My point is that even in a strange land, there are believers who strive to know God better and better serve Him and I am so privileged to be able to meet these people and share our ideas with them in the hopes that all of us will come away better disciples for the experience.
Update – team is doing well. Everyone is in good spirits and healthy. Pray that we have meaningful sessions today with these worship leaders. My wife is feeling better but still healing – please keep her in her prayers also. All Glory to God, mon!
Edited August 11 after David pointed out to me that gas is sold by the liter here rather than the gallon. Never occurred to my American-centric mind even though all the speed limit signs here are in km/hr.