Negril & West End ᛫ December 10, 2017 – February 27, 2018
Getting from MoBay to Negril was not difficult, although it was already dark and I had to change cars in Lucea. So at first, I took a small bus from MoBay to Lucea which took about an hour and from there it was a 40-minute taxi ride to Negril. The whole trip cost only J$ 480 (3 €/US$ 3.8). From the terminal in Negril, I took another taxi to my Airbnb place because I had found no Couchsurfing hosts. The Airbnb was a guesthouse with several rooms and travelers. I had booked a bedroom with private bathroom and shared kitchen. The owners were very nice and I hung out with them and an Austrian couple the first night.
My home for a week was actually located in West End, which is right next to Negril and only separated by a river. Negril is mainly comprised of the 7 Mile Beach (in fact, it’s only 4mi/6,4km long) and hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops. West End, on the other hand, has a much bigger residential area and more cliffs than beaches.
While I stayed there, I tried to get set up a little bit. I found a nice apartment to rent for two months for a good price (J$ 37,000/242 €/US$ 297 per month) and went to talk to a couple of scuba diving schools to find some work, but it turned out to be more difficult than expected. Everyone had a different reason for not being able to hire me.
From the 15th to 17th, the Rastafari Rootzfest took place in Negril. It was a Ganjacup where different vendors showed and sold their products. It took place in a park right next to the beach. On the first day, I went there with a guy from Norway I met at the Airbnb guesthouse. We looked at and tried some of the different weed strains. I was very happy to find good quality there because in MoBay it had not been so good.
Thankfully, Jamaica took a step in the right direction and decriminalized cannabis in 2015. You are now allowed to own up to 56g/2oz, grow five plants at a time and consume it in every place that also allows cigarettes. It was nice to see policemen walking around at the festival while people sold and smoked it everywhere.
Another cool part of the festival was that there were only vegan food and no alcohol. Apart from the weed, food and drink booths, there were also clothing and souvenir stands. At night, there were several reggae concerts. Like the concert in MoBay, this stage also had a VIP area and not many people were dancing. Besides my Norwegian friend, I met more cool people and at least we danced. 😉
One Love at the Beach
The next day was pretty much the same: Hanging out at the beach and park with my new friends and having a good time. At night, there were more people than the day before, but still not many dancing. The only one of the lineup that I heard of before the festival, Capleton, was performing. Him and the other bands put on good shows.
On the final day of the festival, I wanted to bring my camera and go early. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because I felt sick and had to spend the whole day in bed. I could bring myself to go in the evening because I had already paid for the ticket. But I didn’t end up bringing my camera and didn’t stay for long.
That night was also the award ceremony, but they didn’t announce it and the last part that I saw was pretty unspectacular. Sadly, I found out later that all the prizes went to the same company in Kingston. Of course, I didn’t see the different weed that entered the competition and I’m not an expert, but it does seem a little unfair to me. All in all, it was a nice festival but lacked some music during the day and a party crowd at night.
My first own Apartment
When I woke up the next morning, I felt a little better and was relieved about that because I had to move. After packing my stuff and eating some breakfast, I took a taxi to my new apartment. It was the first time, I had my own place with a kitchen and bathroom I didn’t have to share. It also had a rooftop terrace with ocean view and the next beach was only a five-minute walk away! The landlord was an older guy and very friendly. When I was finished unpacking, I went to buy some stuff with my neighbor that I had already met at the Rootzfest. I mainly needed food and household goods.
Afterward, we met up with two other German guys (also friends from the festival) who took us to the Blue Hole. All three guys had to leave and return to Germany two days later. We had a last nice lunch together and they were even so nice to give me their leftover things like sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and smoking stuff. ?
The first days of living in my new place, I mostly spent by working on this blog, cooking and going to the Canoe Bar. It was located on the closest beach and I used their wifi even though it worked pretty poorly. Thankfully, I got internet access at my home later. It worked best on the balcony and rooftop terrace. I also went to talk to the remaining scuba diving schools in Negril, but without any success.
Holidays at the Beach
On Christmas, I skyped with my family, then went to the beach and made a nice dinner. Since it was the first time spending the holidays in warm weather, I really enjoyed them. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get any presents. 😉
The following celebration day, New Year’s Eve, I spent with my landlord’s son. He was visiting with his girlfriend from the US. We went to a beach bar, met their US American friends and had a fun time. At midnight there were fireworks from a boat on the ocean. They were a little smaller than expected, but nice anyway. Afterward, we danced to live music until the early morning.
Finally Starting to Work in Jamaica
At the beginning of January, I got a call from the Norwegian guy I had met at the Airbnb guesthouse. He told me he had found a job at a diving shop and that I could possibly work there, too. Of course, I was really excited. On the 4th, I went to talk to him and the boss of the place.
The scuba diving shop was located in a hotel on the cliffs and actually very close to the guesthouse. After talking for a while, the boss told me that I could start the following day as an intern. I would help out with anything at the dive shop in return for doing courses to become a Divemaster. Since I already had the basic Open Water Diver certification, there were four different ones I would need to do. They are called Advanced, Emergency First Response, Rescue, and Master. At night, I hung out with the Norwegian and others at the guesthouse, celebrating and talking about our new jobs.
The next day, I took a taxi to the hotel again. There I met the Norwegian and the owner’s son who was involved with the scuba shop. He showed us the property and we made a first inspection of the diving shop. It had been closed for a couple of months and the plan was that we would fix it up and open it again. We made some lists what we would need and went through some things, deciding if they could still be used or not.
The Hotel on the Cliffs
The hotel had a really nice and big location on the cliffs directly next to the ocean. It also had a reef right where the cliffs entered the water which was perfect for diving.
The following days we scuba dived and tidied the place up a bit. There was also some paperwork to take care of. For example, the Norwegian hadn’t dived in many years due to health issues. So I helped him get his status back through research online and writing emails with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). While cleaning up, we found some old dive books that I used for studying for my certifications. Besides that, I worked on an online marketing concept for the dive shop. They already had a website but it was outdated and not very appealing. The concept included the online appearance, new prices for dives and courses as well as possible marketing campaigns.
A really nice part of working at the hotel was that I got staff lunch (usually rice and chicken prepared in different ways) every day. And after a while even breakfast (toast, an omelet or scrambled eggs and fruits).
Getting Mobile with My Own Bike
Shortly after starting the job I bought a bicycle because I didn’t want to take taxis every day. It was not in the best shape and quite expensive like most goods in Jamaica. This is due to the fact that not many things are produced on the island. Everything that is imported gets 16.5% tax on top. The seller promised he would buy the bike back before I leave. I wasn’t completely sure he would really do it though. Even if not, it was worth it because paying taxis for the next two months would have been even more expensive.
It took me about 10 minutes to reach the hotel. And it felt great to ride a bike again and be more independent. I missed the one I used to have when I lived in Cologne, Germany. In Jamaica, you drive on the left side. But since I had been there for over a month before getting the bike, I was already kind of used to it. Therefore, driving on the “wrong side” was no problem. Besides that, the streets had some potholes that I soon knew by heart.
Starting to Workout
Most of the time, I came home between 4 and 5 pm. Then I did some workout, grocery shopping, talked to the landlord, cooked dinner and/or worked on my blog. I had the new years resolution to do a workout at least every two days. In the past, I usually didn’t stick to my resolutions for very long. And frequently doing sports had been a struggle for me in the previous years as well. But this time it was different and I really managed to work out regularly. My workout plan was on the basis of what my sister had shown me in San Diego, CA. I looked up some exercises online and chose the ones I liked. Then I created four different workouts so it wouldn’t be the same every time and get boring after a while.
I would start with some jogging or running up and down stairs. Followed by five exercises to strengthen different muscles, each one 10 times, repeating all of them three times. In the end, I finish with some yoga asanas and meditation. I’m not a fitness expert, so I don’t know how efficient my workout really is. But I feel good after doing it. Hence, I ‘m happy to have found some sport I can do anywhere and can actually motivate myself to do. 😉
Moving to the Hotel
When I had been working at the hotel for a while I was told that I could live at the hotel. Like the Norwegian, it sounded like I could stay there without paying. Of course, I was really excited because I hadn’t expected that. Even though I wouldn’t have a kitchen or fridge it was a no-brainer to move there and save money. It was a little sad to leave my nice apartment and disappoint my landlord. I had told him in the beginning, I would stay for two months, but he could understand.
When I arrived with all my stuff at the hotel on the day of the move, the owners had a different idea though. For some reason they wanted me to pay the same amount I paid for the previous apartment. That was less than guests in the hotel paid of course, but too much for not having a kitchen. I almost called the landlord to let him know that I was going to stay longer with him. But after some discussion and with the help of the Norwegian, we came to an agreement. From that day on, I would also do some online marketing for the hotel in return for my room.
My New Home
My room was a downgrade to my previous place and not one that a paying guest would stay at. The shower had little pressure and I ended up using the pool shower to wash. There was no fan or air conditioning and I shared the room with many bugs. But since I didn’t pay for anything that was ok of course. The best part was that it was only one minute to the ocean, which was like a dream come true. As for the kitchen, I ended up using the one across the street at the guesthouse for a small price.
After moving in I started working on an online marketing presentation. First, I analyzed the hotel’s current website and other online platforms like Tripadvisor, Facebook page etc. Then I make suggestions on how to improve them. Unfortunately, the day of showing my work to the owners got postponed multiple times. And so it would take some weeks until I actually started doing more specific work towards achieving my suggestions.
The Only Constant in Life is Change
One thing I really wanted to do was visiting the capital Kingston. The Norwegian suggested to do it at the end of January rather than at the end of my stay because the dive shop was still not opened, but hopefully in February. He wanted to come with me and show me around because he had lived there for some years. That didn’t work out, unfortunately. A couple of days before we were supposed to go, things got really weird.
First, he took a day off from work because of not feeling well and then I found him packing his stuff and leaving the hotel in the evening. He lied about the reasons (as I found out later) and was pretty mean to me. I was puzzled by his behavior but later learned that he was manipulated by a Jamaican “friend” who took advantage of his health problems. At the same time, his health also made it impossible to fix up the dive shop and do the courses with me. It made me sad that he couldn’t just talk to me about it and instead was being rude to me and the hotel owners.
Luckily, I could stay in the hotel anyway and a friend of the boss who was a dive instructor agreed to continue the courses with me. I could also still take a week off and travel to Treasure Beach and Kingston. During my trip, I studied by reading a scuba book and watching the corresponding videos. When I came back, we started doing the required dives and the new instructor taught me many important things.
A New Routine
One day, the guy who set up the website came by and I finally showed a part of my digital marketing presentation to him and the hotel owner. They didn’t know the login for the website though. So I started my work by taking pictures of the hotel and enhancing as well as creating content.
From that day on my days usually looked like this: After breakfast, I would study and/or do other requirements for my dive certifications until lunch. In the afternoon, I worked on the hotel website. Around sunset, I did some workout (at least every second day) with the view of the ocean. Then I went across the street to make dinner. And in the evening, I would work on my own website and study Portuguese with Duolingo because of my upcoming trip to Brazil. The wifi didn’t always work and when it did it was often slow. So it took much longer to get anything done.
Sundays – Fundays
Sundays were my days off. Since there were only three more after I got back from Kingston, I wanted to spend them doing nice (tourist) activities. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad on all of them so my plans didn’t fully work out and I ended up working more on my blog than just enjoying myself. One day, I did go to the Seven Mile Beach, but the sun only came out shortly before sunset.
On my last Sunday, my alarm woke me at 8:30 am. After breakfast, I cleaned my room and got it ready for pictures and filming. Since it was kind of a mess that took me awhile. 😀
When I was finished I rode my bike to meet a friend that I met in Kingston at her hostel. While I was on the road, it started to rain. So I stopped to put on my raincoat, but my skirt got soaked anyway. My friend’s hostel was up a hill and when I arrived there, I was soaked on the inside of my raincoat because of sweating as well. 😀 We hung out until her friend with a car came and drove us with another German guy to the Blue Hole.
We came back in the evening and went to the Canoe Bar for dinner. It was nice to be back there before leaving Jamaica because I had spent a lot of time there in December. I enjoyed a nice quesadilla and watching the sunset. Afterward, we walked up the hill, I said goodbye to my friend and rode my bike back home. In the evening, I worked on my presentation about the hotel website that I wanted to show to the hotel owners the next day.
The Last Day Working
My last working day started by trying to figure out how to get PICs (need to be purchased and sent to PADI by the instructor to order certifications, but the process had changed since my instructor last did it) and exams for my certifications. Afterward, I finished the presentation about the hotel website. The owners didn’t have time again, but their two sons listened to it in the afternoon. When I was done with that, I hurried to wash some clothes and pack the stuff I couldn’t take with me because I wanted to give it to a colleague but he didn’t show up. So I ended up giving it to my instructor who was also very happy about it.
After eating the last food I had in the fridge across the street, I did more work for the website like improving my presentation so it could be understood without my verbal explanation and editing the last pictures.
A Stressful Departure Day
The next day, I got woken up by my instructor who luckily had found both exams for the EFR and Rescue Diver. After breakfast, I went over some of the material again and then took the tests. In one I had some mistakes, but the other one turned out better. Thankfully, I passed both.
A little later than planned, I started packing my stuff and a package that I would send to the next destination where I would stay a longer time. At the post office, I was told to wrap it in a certain paper. So I had to go to a bookstore, get the wrapping paper and then back to the post. There, it took a while to fill out everything, but I only ended up paying J$ 1800 (about 12 €/ US$ 14) to send it all the way to Brazil.
Things Often Go Differently Than Planned
Then I went to sell my bike. The guy wasn’t there although I had told him a couple of days earlier that I would come on that day. When I called, he said he would be there in 30 minutes. So I went to say goodbye to the landlord of the apartment that I had rented from December to January and returned to the bike shop. After waiting for a while, he came an hour after we talked, just to drive off again.
I had to wait another 20 minutes and got pretty mad at him for letting me wait so long and on top giving me J$ 2000 (13 €/US$ 16) less than he had promised when I bought the bike. But there was nothing I could do, so I just hurried back home because it was already getting late and I still had quite a lot to take care of before leaving Negril in the evening.
I took a taxi back to the hotel and watched the sunset with some German women I had met a while earlier. Then I packed the rest and cleaned the room. I was ready to leave around 8:30 pm, much later than planned. I went to look for the owners and sons to say goodbye, but none of them were there, which made me pretty sad. When saying goodbye to the security guard and putting on my bags, I got stung by a bee. Two colleagues helped to get the sting out, but it burnt in the whole hand and arm. Even more delayed, I hurried to the guesthouse across the street, but not everyone I had hoped to say goodbye to was there either.
Leaving at last
My already not so successful day got worse when the taxi I took to the city center wanted much more than the normal price and I got in a small fight with the driver. I ended up paying more than usual, but not as much as he wanted.
From there, I walked to the station with taxis to other cities. Since it was already so late, there were no people traveling and I was the only person in the taxi. Usually, the driver waits until the car is full before they leave and I thought I would have to go back to the hotel. But we left at 10 pm towards Montego Bay and picked up some people from the street.
See More Pictures of My Time in Negril & West End
Here you get to the other places of my journey in Jamaica:
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