May 31, 2009

The Kingston Sun

May 29, 2009

We arrived at our lovely apartment in Kingston, and everything was just dandy, except … the swimming pool was out of commission! Now, the swimming pool was the primary reason I chose this apartment complex. And, it is very hot in the summertime in Jamaica.

On our first full day in Kingston, after lunch at home, we decided to set out for the YMCA, as we had heard they had a swimming pool there. I thought perhaps we could sign up for the pool, and if we were very lucky, there would even be an exercise facility. So, Nando, Tatiana, Soraya, Raymi and I left the house around 1:30pm, in search of some respite from the Kingston sun.

Looking at Google maps, I could see that the swimming pool at the YMCA was just a few blocks from our apartment, so we decided to walk. I asked the guard at the gate how to get there, she told me to keep straight down the road we live on, and we’d get there. After about a block of walking in the sun, Raymi began to complain. I asked her if she’d rather stay behind with the security guard, and she decided she’d prefer to go with us.

As we were walking, Tatiana told me she thought she knew why most people in Jamaica are brown – because there is so much sun. Then, she asked me if I would get brown if I stayed in the sun too long. I appreciated her logic – after all, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 –1829) thought that Europeans would eventually get dark if they lived in the tropics for too long. Anyway, I digress, as Tatiana was not that interested in the topic and kept on walking.

After about four blocks, I asked another person, and he didn’t know where the YMCA was. So, we kept on. I asked another person, and he told us we were headed in the wrong direction. We turned back, and stopped in a Scotiabank to take advantage of their air conditioning for a few minutes. They also had a water jug, and we helped ourselves to cold water.

When we finally got to the YMCA, the receptionist told me that swimming is only on Saturdays from 12 noon to 3pm (!!!). Apparently, they are booked up with swimming lessons for the rest of the time. Since it was Friday, we decided we could come back the following day for the recreational swim.

From the YMCA, we needed to go to the Edna Manley School of Performing Arts to enroll the children in summer camp. Now, I didn’t want to take a taxi, since we are trying to budget our funds. So, I asked the swimming instructor how to get there by bus. He directed us to the bus park, which, according to him, was just down the road. So, we set out again, on foot.

On the way, a young man with a thick New York accent asked us if we could help him out with some money to buy his son some Pedialyte. Clearly, if his son was dehydrated, walking in the sun to ask for money to buy Pedialyte was not a good move. However, I never believe people when they ask me for money on the street, so it’s not like he needed a believable reason. I also thought this guy might be a deportee because of his accent and his financial situation, but did not think I should just ask him. Perhaps next time I see him asking for Pedialyte money. Anyway, Nando did give him a few coins.

Turns out the bus park was at least six blocks away, and the sun showed no sign of relenting. Nevertheless, we made it and found out that there was a bus that went in the direction we needed. After waiting about a half an hour for the bus, we finally got on. We were among the last to get on, since we didn’t know where to stand in line. So, we were squished into the standing only area of the bus. For the duration of the ride, the girls found it funny to play a pushing and poking game. Not surprisingly, all of the Jamaican children, both the school children without their parents and the pre-schoolers with their parents were very nicely behaved and looked on in awe at my misbehaving children.

We disembarked from the bus at the National Stadium, and a lady told us that the College was at the end of the road. It turned out to be a very long road, and we walked another 30 minutes in the sun to the end of the road. By that time, it was 4:30, and the registration office was closed. Luckily, the lady gave me some registration forms to fill out and bring back.

We had made it this far without getting a cab, so I asked the guard at the college how to get to Emancipation Park, which is relatively close to our house. He told us we could walk there. And, we did. Another 20 minutes in the sun. The kids complained the whole way. And, as soon as we got to the park, the children, who allegedly could not bear to take another step, immediately proceeded to run around the park. By 6pm, when we left the park, it had cooled down considerably, and it was pleasant to walk around. There is a track around Emancipation Park, so perhaps I’ll come back to do some jogging or at least speed walking.

On the way home, we picked up some delicious patties. We finally walked in the door of our apartment at 7:30pm, after about 6 hours of walking around. I am hoping the girls are as tired as I am and will go to sleep early.

We’ll see how long we can continue to survive in Kingston on public transportation and by foot. It seems so extravagant to rent a car. Plus, I am not sure about driving on the wrong side of the road.

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