First Impressions of Kingston


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I was definitely surprised how green the city appeared when we first arrived. We are limited to the Northern suburbs (away from the violence of the downtown areas) with green hills across the skyline. No smog. No concrete jungle.

First impressions can be hard to report so long after the fact. Devoid of context, they are just supposed to be gut reactions to what you first see around you. A couple of months have gone by, so now I have filters…but maybe a few of my first photos will help bring it all back. So, here are a few photographic first glimpses:

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This one was a bit freaky. I don’t like guns. I don’t like the thought that ammunition is being advertised like pizza. Either side of the same highway, other signs advertise security companies, security guard services and life insurance. Not a pretty picture.

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…signs like this for example.

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While on the subject of signage, municipal signage in Kingston is in a terrible state of repair, something which we very much noticed as newbies trying to navigate the streets. Often the green and white signs were so worn they were unreadable. Unless they were sponsored, of course. Many signs like this sponsored by Burger King or any host of other commercial companies were on the main streets. They are sort of a mixture of ugly advertising, comical and happy and fun, all at the same time.

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Jamaican colours popped up on every street corner as painted fences, colour schemes for buildings, patriotic art, or just street gully decoration like this.

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Corrugated tin fencing is everywhere in poorer areas. Huge rain gullys prevent flooding when heavy rains come. Later we did see them running with torrents of water, but when we first arrived the city was in its second year of drought and desperately dry.

Driving around the city for the first time, Kingston does feel like a large island. We wove our way through narrow suburban streets to get to the other side of town, there is very little in the way of multi-story buildings or a city business center. And there’s so much to learn about a place I know nothing about…so watch this space!

9 thoughts on “First Impressions of Kingston

  1. I’ve always enjoyed your insightful observations of the countries you and Robert work in. Also your view on the challenges involved when you are transplanted for the third time… Your observations of the new culture that you’ve been thrown into with its own unique set of challenges, that frequently then become your own! hang in there and as always thanks for sharing- xos

    Liked by 2 people

    • It would be easy to assume that our Jamaican people live only in apartments or townhomes, like in the fist photo, or in shacks. That would be a very unfortunate opinion. Although we have a great many poor people that I wish the country could do more for by way of training and jobs, and an ever-dwindling middleclass, we do also have middleclass areas and neighborhoods in Kingston and St. Andrew. We also have areas with beautiful multi-million dollar homes that even outclass the homes in the first picture — Chancellor Hall, Beverly Hills, Cherry Gardens, Norbrook, Jacks Hill, etc., etc., Many of these homes rival multi-million dollar homes and neighborhoods in the United States. Portmore, in St. Catherine, is quite a large municipality and has mostly middleclass homes in areas such as Edgewater, Independence City Garveymeade, Waterford — some areas are much nicer than others and vary in price range, places that are a far cry from the extremely poor zinc homes you’ve posted here. There are also places like Duhaney Park and Hughenden, that are very middle class, decaying a bit in places, but a far cry from the zinc homes of the extreme poor, which, I might add, are not the majority of homes in Kingston/St. Andrew. New Kingston, has quite lovely middleclass homes as well.

      I believe in chronicling how a place is and your experiences, but I would hate for people to get the impression that it’s either townhomes in picture number 1 or zinc homes in the latter photograph.

      I really hope you have the opportunity during your stay to visit/drive through many of the nice and regular “safe” areas I’ve mentioned here, although we all know safe is relative. anything can happen anywhere at anytime, and they sometimes do.

      I don’t know if grill work first started as aesthetic design or for safety. Of course, we did not have them with our old world Georgian (I believe) homes, centuries ago. I was born in the mid-60s and never knew anything but grill work on homes. For me, I see decoration and safety combined. It’s all a matter of perspectives. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful homes anywhere in Jamaica (from books, movies, etc.)

      I expect being American your sensibilities are much different than our Jamaican sensibilities. we seem to have an ever growing crime situation since the 80s that our country can’t seem to get a handle on. My prayer and the prayer of all the Jamaicans I know is that we can get a handle on the crime that’s destroying us.

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  2. Pingback: First Impressions of Kingston | Unaccompanied Baggage

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