Credit: Destiny Ridguard

Jamaica is a lush landscape replete with verdant foliage. Flora and fauna cover the fertile hills, peaks and valleys of this unique isle. The richness and fullness I feel here transports me away from worry and into a state of wonder. Every color is celebrated as citizens rally round the red gold black and green of the Rastafari flag. The bright sun shines through storm clouds as a constant breeze brings relief to my browning skin. Classic reggae tunes pump loud from street vendor stereos and smells of curry and jerk seasoning waft from the cook shop on the corner.

Mountain Peak signals the middle of the island, the best brand of coffee and the highest elevation. The ridges and crests of the hilly range reveal miles of rugged terrain that remain undiscovered treasure.

At the base of Cane River Falls, I stand ready below a tree that my cousin just climbed and hold out my hands to catch a series of fresh ripe mangoes he drops down to me. In my view, there is no place more vibrant or stimulating, in every sense.

Back in the city, residents of the Tower Street tenements use palm brooms to brush dirt down drains. Mangy mixed breeds search for food amongst filth in the gutter and the trash littering most of the neighborhoods. Peddlers offer boxed juice and banana chips and others bags of cut pineapple and cane. In Jamaica, everyone is an entrepreneur and business is booming.

Downtown Kingston boasts big banks and bustling markets to peruse. I walked past a craftsman fitting flattened aluminum into a mold, hammering out multi gallon size stew pots for sale. Foreign cars speed by, honking so carts, motorbikes, and other people will move out the way. I step around rotted mango pits and mounting piles of ackee flesh.

Infrastructure in the city is sparse, sewage maintenance and waste management are maintained at a steady clip. I continue focusing on how close I am to wind swept palms and the blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Cinder blocks prop up signs quoting scripture, letters proudly painted in bold shades. Roosters step gingerly around murals that cover school walls and alleyways.

Barefoot children cross the street as I slap away another mosquito bite. Beware broken bottles and plastic strewn around puddles and in pot holes. The warm tropical vibe provides an always positive and exotic encouragement.

A brief rain shower falls  as my brother and I find shelter in a fast food restaurant, sipping June Plum juice from a carton. We emerge to the sounds of children crying out from second story windows, young kittens and goats basking in the new sun rays cast on the sidewalk. I wiggle my toes in my sandals as my feet trace a new pattern over the ground.

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