Are We in the Wrong Jungle Again?

Tourism advertisements really do get ridiculous sometimes. I had to laugh when recently I read that a certain recording studio/eco-cabin spot in Portland, Jamaica was being described as situated in a “remote jungle.”

What! This place is literally one minute’s drive off the main road. I suppose if one closed one’s eyes, one could imagine being in a jungle, with tree frogs piping loudly. The blast of a horn from a truck speeding down the road or the sounds of a soca party from a nearby beach might quickly shatter that illusion, however.

An aerial view of Portland near Blue Hole. Let’s just call all that green stuff “bush.”

I have heard that this is a lovely place if you can afford it – but why do people get carried away with these blurbs? Travel ads can be flights of fancy or even of sheer fantasy. This may be why I enjoy virtual traveling, browsing through online travel pages. If one never actually goes there, the illusion remains intact.

This description was echoed by a tweet from two young celebrities, who were actually at the resort. These delightful young ladies shared:

Went to Jamaica for 10 days to refresh our minds, bodies x spirits. we swam in beautiful waters, basked in God’s creations x made some music in the middle of the jungle.

Jungle?! Jungle! Really? The tweet sparked laughter, confusion and some consternation among the Jamaican tweeting community. Does Jamaica have jungle? Is San San, dotted with sprawling, and in some cases moldering villas, really “in the middle of the jungle”?

Some Jamaicans appeared quite offended by the term. Words, apparently, matter. The word “jungle” suggests something wild, impenetrable, uncivilized. The jungle is a place to be avoided (except, perhaps, to David Attenborough, who would relish it).

It has a kind of old colonial feel about it, too. If one finds oneself in a jungle, at any moment a “native” might appear, wielding a spear; or one might be forced to fight with a marauding leopard. You get the gist. Shades of Rudyard Kipling, or scantily-clad Tarzan swinging through on a vine.

This is my idea of a remote jungle, in Khao Sok, Thailand. This beautiful photo is at nomadicmatt.com, a lovely travel blog.

Although Jamaicans love the tall green trees of east Portland, with their hanging screens of creepers, I think most would prefer to call it forest, or rainforest, which sounds nicely exotic. Or better still, just plain “bush.”

This little Twitter frisson reminded me, too, of a politician who had been reading Stephen Covey, some years ago. Do you remember? During his time as Minister of Transport and Works, I believe, Minister Robert Pickersgill once quoted Mr. Covey’s excellent story about a “wrong jungle.” I honestly cannot pin down the context in which he was speaking, but this was at least ten years ago. Stephen Covey’s story goes something like this:

Have you ever climbed the corporate ladder and found it was leaning against the wrong wall?

Imagine a crew clearing a path through the jungle.  The workers are hacking away with their machetes, while the managers are making schedules and encouraging the machete wielders.

The leader climbs the tallest tree, looks around and hollers down to the crew below, “Wrong jungle!”

The managers yell back, “Shut up!  We’re making progress!”

This little fable is all about pressing ahead even when you have made a bad decision. And Lord knows, politicians and technocrats know all about that. Some would say they are past masters at it. How relevant Mr. Covey’s wisdom still seems to be.

Meanwhile, poor Mr. Pickersgill was never allowed to shake off the phrase, which became permanently attached to him and was thrown up time and again in newspaper columns (and by opposing politicians and other critics). In fact, it sometimes became his two middle names, when people wanted to be unkind.

Perhaps it would have been better if the good Minister had just said “wrong bush.” Be that as it may, it seems that we need to ditch the word “jungle.” It just isn’t working for us.

In a fantasy jungle, hanging around with tigers. Definitely not Jamaica, or anywhere else probably.

 


13 thoughts on “Are We in the Wrong Jungle Again?

  1. are you in the wrong jungle, and am i in the wrong airport?

    You will not believe where I am writing from – the Kingston Airport where our flight made an emergency landing due to ‘electrical smoke smell’ — and we had the honor of witnessing the fire trucks and then immigration officials returning to check us in until they figure out what to do with us! even two of the restaurants in the food court opened in our behalf (they’re not stupid!)

    what i loved most was seeing the climate-change art as we waited to be checked in thru immigration! wow, there was a great painting of the earth with a thermometer plunging thru it – the bottom of the bulb sticking out the bottom and the other end emerging near the arctic.. i think i thanked three different officials for addressing this thru public art.

    i was impressed, and others noted the art as well.

    it’s too bad that we won’t be able to take a 12-hour timeout before another plane can take us to guayaquil, as i have about 8 watercolors of birds that would be so great to show you.. or to have several days so you could point me to some birding spots.. alas, good reason to plan to do this at some time!

    most likely we’ll be on our way to guayaquil when you read this, but if by chance we remain in limbo i’ll let you know.

    so close yet still so far.. one day we will cross paths!

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    1. Good heavens! How strange. I heard on Twitter about the “smoking” plane as another friend of mine was on it! I am glad you were looked after in my town. To think you were just a few miles away from me – I had the chance to meet you! But I hope it will happen. You have an open invitation to join us! I am so glad you liked the climate change art. If you have any photos, please do share. I haven’t traveled much lately so have not seen it! I firmly believe that such important messages can be very effectively communicated through the arts… I hope you managed to get back on your way but YES – this was an opportunity to meet you and to see your watercolors!

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      1. am still waiting, as are all of the passengers.. we are living a moment of ‘groundhog day’ but today the airport is not so crammed with travelers.

        when we boarded our plane earl this morning, i noted several more people taking time to admire the art.. there were some really nice paintings – the only loss is that we don’t have time to loiter and look at each one… i took zero photos as my camera was way down in my carry-on bag. 😦 one painting showd an underwater scene with fish and bottles/human throw-away trash… i also told four or five different officials how much I appreciated the focus on climate/health of our planet. how intesting that another friend was on the same plane!
        the owner of the property where i live said that his mechanic told him that his nephew is on the plane. most likely it’s the same guy i visited with for a while and we discovered we lived in the same area. (an hour’s drive apart.)

        i’m enjoying internet time to work on a global big day post…

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      2. Oh my goodness! You stayed here overnight? So you’re back on the plane now? I’m sorry you didn’t get photos but I am sure I can find out more. I hope you are on your way soon! What an experience…

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      3. Oh, we should be on WhatsApp just in case it happens again…or the other way round, perhaps! I am glad you got home safely…

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  2. I agree. The word jungle does have a negative (and incorrect!) connotation given that “civility” (roads and access to modern amenities) is just a stones’ throw away. It doesn’t do much for the stereotype either that Jamaicans live on the beach in huts and smoke marijuana all day.

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  3. This marketing of parts of Jamaica as a jungle has been going on for some time, to satisfy the fantasy requirements of a certain kind of tourist, who does not know what a jungle really is. Thanks for an insightful – and amusing – article.

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    1. Yes, it is a figment of imagination! A lot of vegetation doth not automatically a jungle make! I can understand Jamaicans feeling somewhat offended by the term…

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