Sunday, January 11, 2009

The PCF Guide to Travel

Montego Bay, Jamaica 12/5/05

The night before our father had asked us if we wanted to go to Jamaica. Upon arrival we were greeted by two gentleman otherwise known as Wizard Jombi and Mr. B. Little did we know by getting into the car we would be descending into the pit of hell for the next few days of our journey.

This is what we learned from our trip. Hopefully it will help you. It certainly helped us to further define how we want to plan our travels in the future. The PCF has been many places, but we are always learning something new.
We bring you the first in a continuing series...

The PCF Guide to Travel



January fifth, 2009 was a sunny day. The Montego Bay Airport MBJ smelled of water and salt...reminded me of Djibouti and a hotel swimming pool. When we got to customs the agent asked us where we were staying...
I honestly
didn't have a clue. Didn't know her/his last name, address, nor did I know anything else about our host... except that this person was a friend of a friend of... That didn't get us through.
So she, the custom's agent, made us stand aside until we had retrieved some legitimate information.

She wasn't very nice by the way.

OK, so no matter how appealing your trip may sound, or which friend or family member is suppose to be taking care of what, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHO YOU'RE STAYING WITH, THEIR ADDRESS, AND PHONE NUMBER!
For 1, you have to know specific information when you go through CUSTOMS. They're not going to let any old body into their country for any old reason without knowing the specifics.
2nd, YOU need to know some specifics about your hosts so that you'll know whether that is the right situation for you or not. In our case, had I known that we would be spending the majority of our time with some *special individuals* then I would have booked a room, Couch Surfed, or reconsidered going to Jamaica. I can't tell you how important this is...

Please use my hindsight for your foresight.

After leaving CUSTOMS we headed for the transportation exit where we would eventually meet our hosts. The Airport Transportation pickup site was more akin to a market place or bus stop.

Vendors selling Jamaica's signature Chicken Tofu Shrimp Patties
1990 Toyota cars whizzed ABOUT
Black faces peering out from back seat windows.

About 30 minutes later our ride had finally found us. In the passenger seat was Wizard
Jambi, the friend of the friend of... Deemed "legally" blind he used a staff, affectionately named Brother Bird, to guide his step and ego. His Assistant/Taxi Driver Friend, Mr. B, drove him everywhere. Mr. B knew everybody and everybody knew him... even if they didn't really KNOW him. I'd say he was a couple of notches up from the town drunk except that his drug of choice was WEED. Lol. Boy, do I mean weed! Weed everywhere! Weed in the car. Weed on the beach and weed in the house!Lol.
And despite all of the hard work MTV and BET have done to portray otherwise, Gonja is still illegal in Jamaica. Yeah.

So we said our hellos. All seemed okay, until...
Bigs came over to embrace me in a familiar sort of way. (Eeewwww)

If you've ever hugged someone and their hand awkwardly finds your lower back (Not the butt folks! The lower back!) it is definitely a fully awkward moment and it happens so fast, it's to correct.It was definitely not my style, to say the least. Thinking back I would have approached that situation differently.

Number 1.
Now this is important.You must Establish Yourself up Front! Introduce yourself, establish your space,and let them know who YOU are. Using your voice, your body, and disposition you can make people feel and think things about you that may or may not be inherent in your person. This IS about wielding respect, not what some people may call being Bougie or uppity. This is actually really important in countries that have different norms about women or groups of people in general. Whether or not this is true for your next destination, you are who you are wherever you go and wherever you are! Let 'em know you are someone to be RESPECTED!

Number 2. If this situation would have been unacceptable to you don't be afraid to split some verbal wigs. Such as: "' You don't know me like that MMAAANNN! Get off me! I said, get off me Mother Trucker! Bbboooyyyy!" Lol

What could've happened...
Before he scurries to hug me, I extend a hand
Kalimah: Hey, how you doin? (We shake hands)
Mr. B: Good, how are you m'dear?! (Breath smells like weed)
Kalimah: Good. Good.Glad to be here...
After getting into the car
Kalimah: I am a 21 year old educated, independent woman and you can't touch this ish! I like movies, science stuff...blah blah, gubli, gabli
Now, Who are you?

So instead of that awkward moment FOR ME! I seal the deal and let him know who's boss. The thing is I would have rather given him a hug, but just because you mean it in a friendly way doesn't mean that they aren't thinking about something else
mmhmm. So, assess the situation based on what you know about whomever you'll be staying with. Just because you shake hands in the beginning doesn't mean that you can't be friendlier later. It will keep you from quite a few other problems...

Once we left the "Bus Stop" with Wizard Jambi and Mr. B I didn't know where the hell we were going.
Next thing I know we're at a Chicken Shack picking up rice and beans with chicken on top( Granted I don't eat meat)

3. Always Be Aware! Just because you get off of the airplane, doesn't mean you go into relax vacation mode, especially if you don't know your hosts well. Make conversation. Schmooze a little bit. Let them know you are present and that you have your own agenda! If your agendas meet then wonderful, but if not, so be it. It's your experience. Don't let ANYONE DEFINE IT FOR YOU! This has a lot to do with life choices as well, because we can choose to let others designate what we will do and have. " No thank you! I don't care if you got chicken, when I told you I didn't eat meat. This is my life!" If you have to, be adamant about your point of view.Keep in mind You should always remain respectful, but this also encompasses SELF RESPECT and MUTUAL RESPECT.Your hosts should respect your wishes and beliefs while you respect theirs.

Once we got our food we made our way to the beach.
That's when the weirdness really began...

When we got to Jamaica I wasn't prepared for the change of climate. I ended up shedding a coat and sweater outside the airport leaving me in a fitting lime green shirt that I would never wear by itself, that did not fit my jeans, and that generally left me feeling uncomfortable and too open in a foreign environment. As you travel about you want to be looking right, my friends. You need to be looking fresh as ever! In foreign, ever fluctuating and new environments your physical stance, your clothing, the way you walk and hold your head, how you approach and portray yourself to others, says everything about who you are wherever you go. It also communicates to people how they are to approach, the kind of interactions you expect with everyone you encounter. It lets people know right off the bat who you are, what you expect, and the proper way to engage you. This proves true no matter where you go.

Waiting outside of the airport in
Montego Bay I may have been at my best, but because I didn't feel as powerful and on it in my overall portrayal, I didn't exude it and enact it with supreme confidence. Traveling you want to continually remind yourself and others when necessary who you are and what your objectives are. Your clothing, stance, and presence is one way to keep doing that. You may know nothing about where you are going or what exactly will happen on your trip, but if you know who you are and continually define and remember that to yourself and to others, you will create your own experience. And you'll continually find yourself in situations that are pleasing to you.

I also felt too open. And this is one of the primary tenets of self-defined travel.
Define your boundaries. The lines, the fit, and the cut of your clothes define your physical boundaries, which is one of the most important things whenever and wherever you are travel. As a mobile agent literally carrying your body, belongings, ideas, plans, and dreams, the illusion and reality of yourself to near and far places around the world, you make up your own home. You make up the physical boundaries and structure of your traveling house, yourself. And you protect your home. By traveling you are naturally welcoming the experience of a place, but you also must continually define, refine, and create the parameters of your experience and your traveling house.

By dressing and exuding in the way that makes you feel like you are it, by standing up straight, walking like you know where you are going, and speaking in a voice like you know exactly what you are saying, by looking everyone in the eye no matter how powerful, older, or authoritative they appear, you establish a level of respect and exchange on your terms... you set your standard at the very beginning. We all create our realities. It is your journey and you have the right. Let others know who you are and how they should deal and interact with you and it can only go uphill from there.

Often those first moments, when you get off the plane, as you leave the airport, set the standards for the rest of the trip. These are all important. Do not neglect them. And listen. Define yourself and your intentions to anyone you are dealing with at the beginning- who you are and what you want. Be vocal, adamant. . Let everyone know who you are and what you want and expect upfront. And if something doesn't feel quite right act right then. Don't wait for something else to happen or otherwise another confirmation of what you already know. Make a decision. Take control. Don't let anyone take control of you or your trip, whether it seems like they are being nice or not. You always know where you are going.

What we could have done:

We could have made a decision after the first few signals, that we needed to change course and find somewhere else to stay, but we didn't. Over the course of an hour or so there were some severely inappropriate sexual remarks made and some both undercover and insidious ( you really have to watch out for these) disrespectful statements and disregard for who we were as both individuals and as young women. And at anytime during this first part of the trip we could have taken charge and made some executive decisions. You never have to stay in any situation, no matter what you or anybody else thinks. You are never stuck! For several reasons, we failed to act and take hold of our experience. Or just plain cuss somebody out.

Define yourself upfront and continually and don't be afraid to get mean or just plain bold. Don't cut any corners either. Define and create who you are and what you want! What I want to say is.. being polite, quiet, nice, young, respectful ( this one can really trick you up and be a load of crap) or any word that translates to you not getting what you want, feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, or being in danger is not worth a single thing. And you are worth everything. As my mom said, "Don't accept any wooden nickels."

Coming Next:

Weed, vodka, and gecko poop,

"recognizing what you see when you see it and

knowing what you know when you know it",

Money and foreign exchange rates,

..and the PCF slaves in a small dark kitchen ...

The adventures... of the PCF CONTINUES..

©2009 Intisar Abioto, Kalimah Abioto


  1. wow. this is unlike any of your other travel logues. I'm curious, but nervous, too.

    hey, I know gecko poop. kinda wet and mucous-y.

  2. Old folks used to say, "I wouldn't take nothing for my journey!" Your travels here are of immeasurable value and worth. Keep it up! You don't even understand the importance of it all. No doubt it will make sense and probably even prove lucrative in time. Keep on trucking little sisters. Ashay!