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Experience The ‘Real’ Jamaica
by: Norman Fleming

There are many who believe the glitz and glitter of the tourist industries and the accompanying commercialization of both the areas around the tourist centers and the culture of Jamaica overshadow the ‘real’ Jamaica, the people and culture that exist beyond the tourist centers, the true heart of Jamaica. This has led to the creation of a variety of opportunities to visit the other side of Jamaica, to see people and life beyond the often stereotypical vision of Jamaica that most visitors see.

The Meet The People Program is one of these interesting, non-typical experiences. It is run by the Jamaican Tourist Board, and has more than 500 local participants. These local volunteers come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, and their interests and skills are listed in a database. Tourists who sign up for the program provide the same types of information, and then locals and tourists are matched up. Amazingly, this is a free program and provides unparalleled social and cultural exchange. Aside from social engagements, such as family style meals in the local host’s home, the matched groups together explore their shared interests in Jamaica.

Country Style is a similar program, bring tourists and residents together for more natural interaction than would happen in the usual tourist scene. After all, spending time with someone on an equal footing, as opposed to with someone who is paid to see to your comfort, is a different experience all together. Based in Mandeville, Jamaica, visits are arranged with interested and interesting residents throughout the island.

Jamaica For Real is the creation of Oliver Foot. His family has been in Jamaica for generations. In fact, he is the son of the last British governor to rule Jamaica. He provides what could be called reality tours of Jamaica. His goal is to share his love for Jamaica, a love that includes those qualities that may not be attractive to those who treasure Jamaica for the tropical pleasures of the island, for the stunning array of creature comforts and entertainment, and for its majestic beauty.

With his Jamaica For Real tours, Foot shares the special beauty to be found in struggle, the social struggles against oppression that resulted in the rich ‘real’ culture of Jamaica. Visiting such sites as the Borderline, once a highly charged area between two politicized neighborhoods during the social unrest of the 1980’s. He tours Trenchtown, an area notorious for its poverty, one that received international attention through the reggae music that spoke of the desperate conditions to be found there. He shows the beauty of the countryside and its people, and offers a vision of the beauty to be found in the ordinary life. He presents an amazing and enlightening vision of Jamaica in a tour that shouldn’t be missed.

These types of experiences are a wonderful way to explore Jamaica. Aside from the wonderful people you’ll meet, you’ll gain an insight into Jamaica that few outsiders rarely acquire. Once you have a view of the ‘real’ Jamaica, the island will never look the same again.

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Norman Fleming

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Sat Jul 21, 2007 1:36 pm
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