a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Feb, 2008

One more post about Jamaica and I swear I’m done

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

[with notes written Jan 24-Jan 26]

My morning routine is still highly satisfying: breakfast, coffee, swim, reading and resting by the hotel pool… all to the sound of waterfall and bird song. Ahhhh. For some reason I appeared to be the only hotel guest to use the pool, at all. I liked having my pick of lounge chairs.

I decided to not let myself be ruled by my watch. I would go on gut alone. I had a small feeling I would get tired of the lounging. And sure enough, by 11:00 (I checked) I was getting squirmy and itching to do something.

I did another walkabout. This time, the highlight was not a bat, but a giant cockroach, which I photographed beside my foot (see pic) for a sense of scale.

I bought another Jamaican patty (I am addicted!) and a half-frozen Pepsi from a friendly street vendor (see pic).

The weather was as perfect as it could be. It was hot, partly cloudy, a few degrees cooler in the shade. In the afternoon I settled back down by the pool to read and do absolutely nothing (see pic).

Confession: I’m not cut out for a life of leisure. I realized I needed to have something going. There’s a chapter in Little Women (that was one of the books I had on the go) in which the sisters take a week to do whatever they wanted. – a holiday – in the truest sense of the world. They completely put aside their work, and each pursued their own personal idea of leisure time. At the end of it they discovered that perpetual “play” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The leisure time, which they thought they’d relish, stopped being enjoyable. They realized that leisure time is best enjoyed if it doesn’t entirely replace honest work, and that you need work in order to fully enjoy rest.

I sound like such a puritan, don’t I?

But it’s true.

Thursday evening I dined alone. I don’t have a problem doing this, but unfortunately I was seated directly across (and facing) another single diner. Frig.

Single dining is a learned skill. And a necessary one!

The waiter came along presently. (You remember, I’m supposed to be hard of hearing, right?) He looked down at my notebook.

“Are you a [mumble mumble]?” he asked.
“Am I quiet?” I asked, wondering if he would prefer it if I was louder.
“No, a PO-ET,” he said.
“No, I’m not, but wouldn’t that be romantic?” [WTF was I SAYING! Little Women had turned me into a LM Alcott wannabe!]
“It depends,” he said.
“You’re right, bad poetry wouldn’t be very romantic at all, would it?”

Sheesh. I know what he was thinking. **Crazy deaf Canadian girl: a photographer and sun seeker who gets drunk on one drink, attracts bats, AND is a big dork!**

I found myself highly aware of what I was saying to the hotel staff, in case they didn’t understand me. I had already asked someone for a “cocktail.”  “You mean a drink?” was the question that came back to me.

So there was a lot of this kind of thing:

“Would you like to see the dessert menu?”
“I’ll pass,” I’d reply, only to correct myself and say “no thank you” instead.

We checked out Friday morning and were on the road to Montego Bay after lunch. Montego Bay is on the other side of the island.  Kristina’s colleague was driving us. He and his wife were also going to Montego Bay for the weekend. I was pleased that a native-born Jamaican was doing the driving. He was entirely reliable, and introduced us to roasted peanuts (see pic)!

The drive was slightly hair-raising  but I wouldn’t have traded it for the anything. I count myself very fortunate to see the sights this way. The “regular” way from Kingston to Montego Bay is to take a short flight, but this was something altogether different. We essentially had to drive up through the mountains and descend on the other side. Most of the time it was a twisty and narrow a two-lane highway (see pic)through “the wilds” of Jamaica. In my head I kept comparing it to highway seven between Ottawa and Peterborough. It was about as rural, but that’s where the comparison ends. We passed through countless small villages, saw countless roadside businesses (see pic) and ordinary people (see pic) – the real people of Jamaica. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a good photo either, because the scene was too big, my lens way too small. Besides, it was getting dark. Video would have given you a better idea. Oh well.

This part of our trip really excited me, because it was we were getting an entirely different perspective of the island, and it’s an opportunity not afforded to many. (I certainly wouldn’t dare drive here alone!)

We stopped at a rest stop, which was basically a row of shacks (see pic) selling jerk chicken (see pic), corn, soup, and who knows what else. Carlton bought us each a Red Stripe. We laughed (see pic), and shrieked with surprise. Apparently it’s not illegal to drink and drive in Jamaica, but it is illegal to be drunk and drive.

We made it in one piece – no worse for wear –  and were happy to eat dinner (see pic) and see our lovely suite (see pic) at the Half Moon resort (see pic).

DSC_6108.JPGOn Saturday we woke to heavy rain. We had french toast (see pic) and Jamaican Blue coffee in a bodum with a view on the side (see pic). The rain cleared and revealed blue skies and blue water that was warm enough to swim in.

We sat by the ocean for a long time (see pic), just staring out into the waves. I realized I was grinning, staring and grinning. It couldn’t be helped. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the puffy white clouds… it brings out the best in us. I could feel all my anxieties falling away.

Saturday night we went to a big jazz/blues festival. Diana Ross was the headliner. She sang about 10 songs and changed gowns five times- each one brighter and shimmerier than the last. She was booed by the audience (here’s why), but I found it all quite enjoyable and interesting.

The resort we stayed at was gorgeous in every way. We had our own little private beach (pic of the path, and the beach). And of course we had to experience one of the bigger pools (see pic) and its swim-up bar pic). You have not lived until you have hung out at a swim-up bar… but the whole experience got me thinking about life’s luxuries, and how our lifestyles shape the kinds of people we become. The resort was so lovely (pic and pic), even the Queen has stayed here (not to mention other members of the royal family, as well as JFK) It’s very antiquey with white linens and silver chargers and tall white columns (see pic). But if I wanted to stay here longer than a couple days I’d have to win a lottery first.

It is strange to experience how the other half lives. I wondered if I lived this way in a more permanent way whether it would spoil me, and whether simpler pleasures would become less enjoyable.

There were a couple of wealthy families staying here. (They had to be wealthy, the cheapest room was $400/night and the price of food/services was to scale.)

We were at the swim up bar when a woman swam along with her two small kids. She ordered a virg!n strawberry daiquiri for them and split it between them. That’s like twelve bucks right there. 

As I (originally) wrote this I watched a family come into the restaurant where I was sitting. The hostess looked at the young daughter:

“What’s your name?” asked the lady asked with a smile.
“Princess Ella!” announced the toddler.

Princess Ella was wearing a crisply ironed white cotton dress, the kind that is so adorable on chubby toddlers, especially a blonde little girl like this one. It seems rather Victorian to describe someone as cherubic, but there was really no other word to describe her. She reminded me of my own cherubs, the ones who were waiting for me at home. Her brother ran up and down the aisles of the restaurant like a small terror while she bounced around in her pretty dress.

I wondered: what does living “the high life” teach kids? What do you think it does to their expectations? Is Princess Ella going to be screwed up forever?

BUT, I can’t help myself, I enjoyed myself very much: the super polite service, the abundance of fluffy white towels, the turned down bedsheets, the wonderfully smelling luxury bath products, the opulence of the environment around us… the OCEAN, presented in such as way that it seems like it’s yours and yours alone.
A person could get used to this pretty quickly.

So am I doomed to find fault with (other) hotel towels forever? That remains to be seen. ;)

I do appreciate the order of how we approached our stay here in Jamaica… first, we saw how real people lived. Then, we sipped expensive drinks on a private beach. I think that’s pretty good, don’t you think? :)

But I can’t help but wonder about those people who check into the expensive resorts and never leave them. How can you learn about a country that way?

One thing I haven’t talked about, but was on my mind pretty much the entire time we were here – was the music. The musical part of this culture amazes me. It’s totally different than anything I’ve known. There is music everywhere – whether it’s steel drums, a piano, or a DJ – there is often someone singing or humming to themselves. It’s not unusual. Everyone does it. And where there is music there is usually someone swaying or dancing. This is not unusual either. I love the feelings it inspires. We should all be so lucky, and so free.

My short stay in Jamaica has changed my outlook on a few things, and not in any way that I could have expected. I would love to go back!

Next holiday will be with the family. Somewhere out east perhaps. We’ll see. :)


3 Responses to "One more post about Jamaica and I swear I’m done"

1 | Marla

February 5th, 2008 at 10:53 am

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I’m envious of the downtime, but I’m always bringing projects on vacations too. I agree with you – there needs to be some purpose to each day!

Now I’m wondering – what questions are your girls asking about Jamaica?

2 | andrea

February 5th, 2008 at 11:33 am

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Maybe Mark can answer this better, but they are pretty interested in the “it’s not winter down there” concept, but it’s not exactly new to them anymore because of our trip to Florida back in February. They are pretty fascinated by The Ocean. The Ocean is a big deal around here.

They were also really interested in the money. I gave them my coins and they brought them to school. (Wait until they find out I have a $500 bill in my wallet!)

You know, the best part of leaving is coming back. They were waiting for me at the airport around midnight on Sunday. It was wonderful to see them and get some lovin’.

I brought back a small jug of sand and some rocks and seashells I had collected while I was there. We later went to the Sally Ann and bought two glass jars, and they each arranged the sand and shells in their jars “just so.”

When she was done, Emma took the lid off hers, took a deep breath, and exclaimed: “it smells like the ocean!” And you know what? It did.

I promised them we’d all go as a family someday. I hope I will be able to fulfill that promise and show The Ocean to them again soon.

3 | porter

February 5th, 2008 at 11:42 am

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Thanks for sharing your trip details…now rushing. Need to do some stuff this aft and then do some stuff with the girls….no more loafing around.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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