If you grew up in rural Jamaica, or maybe just spent the summer holidays there with relatives, then you were exposed to a way of life that we’ve come to describe as ‘country’.
Some people may look on this experience with condescension, but for people who had these experiences, they often bring back feelings of nostalgia and great appreciation for the ‘country life’.
BUZZ Fam, I’ve delved into my memories to bring to you a list of 10 things you’d be able to relate to if you had the ‘country life’ experience. Let me know if I missed any.
Drinking rain water
In rural Jamaica, the trees are filters, and concrete tanks are catchment areas. Although ‘town folks’ may frown at the thought of drinking rain water, for ‘country folks’ it was the original flavoured water – cool, crisp, fresh, and just sweet enough!
For many ‘country people’ the idea of having a kitchen inside the actual house, even if it was entertained, was near impossible; the houses were too small and the meals were cooked on wood fires.
So normally a hut like structure was erected outside to cook family meals, some had concrete floors, others were just dirt floors. ‘Country people’ would know that when the smoke is high in the kitchen in the evenings dinner has just started, but when that smoke starts to vanish, dinner is almost ready. And you will agree, that the smoke in the kitchen gave the food a delicious flavour to which no food cooked on a gas stove can compare.
The National Water Commission has caused many people in urban areas to be able to relate to this struggle, but for ‘country people’, it was more of an experience than a struggle. Children and adults alike would go to rivers or standpipes with buckets on their heads, and small jugs in their hands to catch water. For the children, it was a chance to play on the way, and adults would use this opportunity to catch up.
Going to mango walks
June brought the double blessing of being ‘mango time’ and summer. Children would gather in groups and go in search of mango trees that had ripe mangoes. Carrying a bag, a knife, some salt, and some water to wash your hands and mouth if you’re ‘stush’, these ‘mango walks’ could last for an entire day.
Some ‘country people’ were fortunate enough to live close to the river, and many summer days, and weekends were spent there. Get a breadfruit, a piece of yam, steal a little sugar from the kitchen, pick two limes from the tree, throw everything in a bag along with a change of underwear, call a few friends, head to the river, and repeat.
Country toys and games
If you were fortunate enough to have a relative overseas send you a toy, or your parents had enough money to spare to buy you one on Christmas Eve, then good for you – you were one of the few. The rest of us had to make our toys. From making trucks from juice boxes, to dollies from banana stalks, a gig from wood, and a yoyo from pear seeds. And then there were the fun games like hopscotch and ring a ring a rosy that were used to occupy our time.
Sweeping the yard
Almost all children had a time when this their assigned task, nobody should visit and find a ‘chaka chaka’ yard. But to sweep the yard, you’d first have to go in search of broom, which was just some bush or scrubs that grew around the house or close by. A favourite was rosemary bush which would then be tied to a stick, and used to sweep the yard.
Swimming in a tank
There was always a tank that served as a community pool. Unbeknownst to parents, children would gather there to swim on hot days when they couldn’t or weren’t allowed to go to a river. This tank was normally at an old house or somewhere in a field that farmers would bring their animals to drink. Can you recall a moment when you ‘almost drown’ in one of these tanks?
Raising pets that became food
Whether it was a chicken, a goat or a pig, children were normally given a animal to raise for themselves. Eventually though, these animals were killed, either for sale or for dinner.
Playing cricket in the road
Some country areas were very hilly, and the only flat surface were the paved roads that would also serve as a cricket pitch for boys in the community. Fortunately, only a few cars would pass now and again and disrupt the game.