Today I go to Ochos Rios, or as the locals call it Ochi. I’m trying to be a more responsible adult this year. I’ve got health insurance, something that is hard to come by when your income constantly changes and you work 3-10 part time gigs. This week's adulting activity is going to the dentist. I typically go to the dentist in Uganda. I did try and go in NYC just before leaving but the dentist mistakenly took my information but did not actually schedule the appointment with the doctor. Frustrated for having driven, parked, and taken the time to go to Washington Heights for this visit, only for my efforts to be thwarted, I vowed to go to the dentist in Jamaica which I knew would be a fraction of the price.
Ochi is located 20 mins from Oracabessa. There are speeding taxi’s that travel around the main road of the island. Asha helps me find a taxi. I’m seated in the back squished between two people. This is the closest I’ve been to strangers or anyone for that matter in a long time. I wonder what it will be like to rejoin normal public transportation. In NYC we used to quite frequently place ourselves pressed up against multiple strangers whether it be in the subway, bar, parade, etc. I’ve never been one for crowds but armed with the vaccine, I might be ready to change my ways this summer.
The older man in the front seat is speaking to the driver and having a hard time keeping his mask on. I can’t understand all what he is saying given he is speaking Patois but I do catch the words Covid, vaccine, Bill Gates and I don’t need to hear anymore. I’ve had more than a handful of fascinating conversations with locals about the vaccine. More than excited to tell everyone I meet I have it, I’m delighted to be a testimonial and evidence the vaccine is safe and well freeing. I’ve found myself cycling through anger, grief, frustration, and fascination when discussing a) COVID is real, b) the vaccine is not new, and c) my love of modern medicine. Many Jamaicans do not believe COVID is real. I can understand why. Many do not know anyone who has been infected and died. I can understand why many are fearful of putting something foreign into their bodies. And I can understand why those who do not typically get sick want nothing to do with hospitals, doctors, and medicine. I can empathize with those who have had vastly different experiences than I have. Can you? What I can’t understand is why many people of color believe a billionaire white man wants to kill them with a vaccine when the majority of people getting that “deadly” vaccine are white but I will leave that there.
Moving on. Twenty minutes later I arrive in Ochi. Wondering if I’ll be overcharged for the taxi ride, the driver says, “I’ve been seeing you. Do you need a ride home? You are very beautiful. I will wait for you.” With a laugh, I thank him, pay him the rate he requests, which is lower than I anticipated, and make my way out of the taxi.
I arrive at an office building across the street from the large grocery store. The dentist has me fill out some forms and escorts me to the dentist chair. In Jamaica, or at least at this office, they take your blood pressure and perform other foreign to me dental practices. The doctor felt around my neck, shoulders, and gave a very thorough mouth massage. I love visiting doctors in foreign places. I’ve had too much experience at hospitals, doctors, and nurses. I’ve had my fair share of death defying moments and illness. I was so excited to go to a dentist, I forgot how unfun it is to go to the dentist. The dentist was thorough, maybe too thorough. At the end of my appointment two doctors stood around my xray almost searching for a cavity to fill. With a clear bill of health, I patted myself on the back, and wondered back out into the streets of Ochi.
Ochi is typically a tourist spot. Tourists come in on cruise ships and wander the streets spending money. I saw no tourists that day. With a huge loss of revenue, I’m curious how life has changed here. Still a bustling part of the island, I used my sixth sense, the ability to find taxi parks without trying, I climb in the back of a taxi to head back towards Oracabessa. I get dropped off at the Friday Farmers Market to link up with Isis. His sister has joined him. We pick our veggies and stop off at the yummy coconut based ice cream spot. Next, we pull off to check out another local beach. Isis’ sister, Lisa, shares this is a sacred Taino spot. The beach waves are black with seaweed and plastic litters the beach. Not the most scenic spot but it’s good to see locals gathering, Friday’s parties, and to breathe deep on some sacred land.