(Written on Friday/Saturday…)
It seems that in Jamaica so far, it rains whenever we have guests. And when it rains, it pours.
The first serious rain we saw during our trip came down while Ant Alliance was visiting and we were trying to do some work outside in the prison (go figure!). Now, Larisa’s boyfriend Matt is visiting and we find ourselves ankle-deep in Jamaican rainy season proper.
It rained when we were coming back from Hellshire on Sunday, and again while we were at the Indepedence Day fair on Monday. In fact, it’s rained every afternoon this week. Luckily, it’s stayed pretty clear during the mornings and evenings, although if today is any indication that may not be something to rely on for much longer.
Rain in Kingston is definitely a show-stopper. The most noticeable effect is that traveling becomes damn near impossible–driving four blocks can take up to an hour because the traffic comes to a total standstill, and getting a taxi, something that usually takes about five minutes, becomes more similar to attempting to get answers from the U.S. Immigration Services. Walking is a pretty bad idea too, thanks to Kingston’s excellent drainage system–even with umbrellas, wading through ankle deep water everywhere you go while avoiding getting splashed by nearby vehicles isn’t exactly ideal. The second effect, of course, is that major outdoor parties like Bembe and Dutty Fridaze get rained out, leaving you stuck at home with nothing to do, which would ALMOST be okay except…
Text message received at 2:25 PM 8/9/07
Power out at our place!
Power outtages aren’t really that surprising in a place like Jamaica, even in a posh area like New Kingston. Especially when it rains outside, the power grids go down all the time, so I wasn’t that concerned–until Larisa called, informing me that the outtage applied to, well, only us.
Long story short, we are renting our apartment from a pretty sketchy pair of individuals through no fault of our own. We were represented in our housing hunt by Kevin, who met only with THEIR representative, a fairly respectable realtor who was acting as a front for this unsavory pair. A few weeks after we moved in, our landlords proper showed up and started fudging our agreement. They insisted that we pay them a deposit as well as pay for electricy and phone–we insisted that all of this should be included in our (very exorbitant) rent. In the end, we gave them the deposit (warily) and hoped that we wouldn’t have to deal with them again. Unfortunately, this meant the electric bill never got paid and, in true poor college student style, our power got cut.
By the time we had figured all of this out, New Kingston resembled the inside of Dunn’s River Falls, and we had less than an hour to 1) get a taxi, 2) pick up Larisa and Matt, 3) pick up our bill, and maybe 4) pay it if we could make it on time. Just getting the taxi took almost half an hour, so we decided to wait until morning to pay the bill. We spent the night chilling with Eric and Mandy, our new friends who are studying Jamaican street festivals and Jamaican folk traditions of ganja as medicine, respectively, and then sleeping (and getting horribly sticky) without air-conditioning.
The worst thing about not having power is no air conditioning. Then no light. Then the fact that all the ice starts melting in your fridge and turns into a huge puddle on your kitchen floor and you start worrying about the food in the fridge spoiling. All of these things were on our minds when we headed to the headquarters of the Jamaican Public Service company (hah!) on Knutsford Blvd. to pay our bill. I submit a bulleted list of our adventures:
* JPS headquarters no longer accepts payments directly! You must pay at a Paymasters or a Bill Express. If you want the power reconnected immediately, have them fax the form back to JPS headquarters!
* The nearest Paymasters is in the John R. Wong supermarket, and lo and behold we pay our bill–with, of course, a bunch of extra charges (including a “deposit” that just goes straight into next month’s bill…?). However, their fax machine is broken, so…
* We bring the receipt PHYSICALLY back to JPS HQ, thinking that we could just, you know, show it to them. Since we’re there. And the receipt is there. And they’re there. But no, because
* We get back to JPS and call the department responsible for reconnections, and they tell us that “We don’t actually see customers at the Knutsford Blvd. location.” “Even if we’re, um, downstairs and we need you to?”
((Several phone arguments later))
* The security guard was asked to READ THE RECEIPT, number by number, to the lady over the phone. Keep in mind that she is only a few floors above us. We get put on a list for reconnection and are told that we’ll “probably get power back today” since we applied early in the day. But what if they didn’t connect us today? “You’ll get power on Monday.” As in, 3 days away? OH YEAH.
Luckily, when we got home in the middle of a small hurricane, we turned on the light and it was good. I’ve never been so happy to see incandescent light in my life.
It’s still raining, but with the power back our spirits are too. I can’t believe I only have a week left in Jamaica–even for all the fuckery it’s capable of sometimes, I’m still going to miss it a lot. I hope it’ll stop raining long enough for us to go to Hellshire again soon.
(Note: We made it out to Hellshire on Sunday morning! It was fricking fantastic. I was so happy I jumped into the water headfirst and hit my chin on the sand and KEPT SWIMMING. I love Hellshire.)