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The Dippas


After the long wait, I finally arrived in Jamaica, and it has not failed to impress. Immediately I notice the unspeakable beauty of the island. Lush jungles, incredible coastal vistas, soft sand beaches, and cooling gentle breezes whistling through the palms. I also took note of the massive houses speckled around the island hills.

Alongside these impressive structures are an innumerable amount of dilapidated one-room structures housing countless families of meager means.

And then I arrived in Savannah-La-Mar.

Savannah-La-Mar or Sav is a medium-sized city, for Jamaican standards, that has very little charm at first look, the town that I will call home for the next two years. What it lack in traditional beauty it makes up for in personality and lore. It didn’t take me long to hear about the “dippas,” vengeful souls that have returned to the earth seeking revenge for having been wronged.

Many of the people I’ve met used the term “scammers” to describe those who are victim of the dippas in Sav. A nun we work with has declared every single man with a motor bike as a scammer and not to be trusted. Another younger lady of our church has pointed out specific individuals as scammers and if they start dancing: run and lock all your doors because nothing good can come from it.

Most alleged scammers seem to be homeless, or very close to it, but the locals mostly attribute their current state to the revenge of the “dippas.” The young lady illustrated her point by telling, by her account, a non-fictional story of a man who had wronged many tourists for years.

A man driving a bus from Montego Bay had made a living taking tourists to their hotels but severely overcharging them for years. One day, he saw a very large and well-organized group of white tourists waiting for a ride and quickly hurried them into his bus before the group could shop around for prices.

The group gladly got on the bus and sat in total silence while the bus driver took them to their hotel. On arrival, the man looked in his rearview mirror at the silent group as they began to get up from their seats, as he stuck his hand out over his shoulder to receive payment, nobody paid him and no one had left the bus. He turned around to face his passengers only to find an empty bus. The dippas had their revenge.

The story was endearing , but also informative of the thought process many of the residents have. The concept of the dippas is a way for the locals to rationalize the current state of the downtrodden, whether it is actually misfortunate or otherwise. A deep belief in higher powers controlling fate, and that your actions and even the actions of ancestors, can be the reason for your current demise.

The amount of people in Sav labeled “scammers” is very high, which coincides fairly well with the amount of impoverished in the town. I wonder if it is the reason why many Jamaicans do not feel it necessary to help some people in their community, because they are simply reaping what they have sowed.

For many Jamaicans, life in Sav can be difficult and many often use whatever means necessary to survive the day. It will be my challenge to be acceptant of all who grace our gates, scammers included, and do my best to make sure the dippas stay far away.

Brandon Newland is very pleased to be joining FMS to help serve communities around the world. He taught English as a second language in Korea for many years before returning to school to pursue his dream of helping the marginalized and impoverished. He has recently received his master's in international studies with a focus on community development, and looks forward to learning more on his journey. Brandon currently serves in Savannah la Mar, Jamaica.