The cookie: Peanut butter cookies (see this post for the recipe)
The speaker: Wazhma, owner of boutique Retail Therapy in Capitol Hill. (Her name is pronounced like “Taj Ma” of the Taj Mahal, if you’re curious. But she wasn’t named after it or anything).
“For my store, I’m always searching for products that make people feel good. But I always wonder: How do other people run their businesses?
“Recently I traveled to Jamaica. I really wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of how people there live; after all, life is all about the people you encounter and how they can shift your perspectives. If you spend all your time inside the walls of a resort, it’s easy to be enchanted by snorkeling and the beautiful sunsets and forget that Jamaica is an extremely poor country. Another thing most tourists don’t notice is that the private beaches aren’t sectioned off just to mark property lines, but to keep native Jamaicans out. Even if Jamaicans pay to stay at the resort as guests, they still have to swim in the Jamaican section. It’s definitely a callback to segregation and yet everyone accepts it. And I’m like, ‘I’m in the water. You’re in the same water. What difference does a floaty Styrofoam rope make?’
“On the other hand, people are freer there, in a way. Take this woman I met named Dimples. I swear, she had the biggest dimples you’ll ever see. In the background you can see her little stand called ‘Dimples’ Hot Spot.’ It’s just off the road about an hour from Negril as you head inland into the mountains. It’s virtually a shack, but there she was, serving the best fried chicken, beans, and rice I’d ever eaten in my life. She’d raised the chickens herself—free-range, no hormones. It was clean, simple food, being served on the side of the road to whoever’s hungry. I can’t imagine anyone in America doing that. Here, you can’t just nail up some 4 X 4s, cover them with corrugated sheet metal, and start a restaurant. You have to have eight permits and jump through all these hoops.
“Yes, there are benefits to the world we live in, in terms of health and access to opportunity. But we as Americans have also entered a limited space in terms of how we treat ourselves and our communities. Maybe the Jamaicans have trained themselves not to swim in water where they should rightfully swim, but we’ve also trained ourselves to accept certain limits, like not pursuing our dreams if they deviate from the norm.
“Just do what you do, and what you love; everything else kind of passes. That’s a constant lesson I have to learn and re-learn to live by.”