Reflections on Vacations, Blogging and Jamaica

January 13

Initially, I hadn’t intended to blog about our Jamaica trip. The trip was so unlike the other trips I’ve blogged about–most recently (in reverse order) India; Ghana and Botswana: and Thailand, Laos and Cambodia–that it hardly seemed like a vacation. But, on reflection, I’ve decided that a vacation does not need to be exotic to qualify. It’s enough if the trip causes us to vacate (temporarily, of course) our normal life pattern. And, certainly, Jamaica did that.

Were it not for our friend, Kay, Carol and I would never travel to Jamaica. It’s not our kind of destination. A large cruise ship anchoring 100 yards off the beach at our hotel and a town laden with cheap souvenir shops is not our cup of tea, Laying on the beach is not something we love to do. And, as Kay said to us, Jamaica is a young people’s place. Even the music, which Carol and I do like, is too loud and weed-infested for our taste (though we don’t regret finding that out ourselves, first hand).

Culturally, Jamaica is certainly different than what we are used to. The pace is slower, the sports different (cricket and dominoes) and the language, though English, is often difficult to follow, because of the accents and the cadence, and sometimes the words themselves. I suspect that Carol and I will be saying, “ya mahn” to one another for same time. And the patties (pahties) we ate in Ocho Rios were a big, cultural step up from McDonalds.

For me, the highlight of the trip was the mornings and evenings that we spent talking to Kay on her lovely veranda, over coffee, breakfast, drinks or ice cream. Related and similar to that was meeting her friends–the dominoes players, the entertainers on the veranda on Saturday morning, her Fulbright fellow tenant, Abigail, lunch at Iva’s house with her guests and dinner with Pearnell. As we’d expect, Kay surrounds herself with a diverse group of interesting friends, and it’s fun to be with them.

I can already tell that, in retrospect, there will be many moments that we’ll laugh about–a 2-hour drive to see shimmering water, a cricket match at which a loud Australian boor glommed on to three Jamaican men who were too polite to tell him to “screw off,” a play which was not very good, which we could hardly follow, loud concerts at which we almost got contact highs and dominoes being slapped down emphatically and loudly on a table. And, there’ll also be what I hope is our last flight on DiSpiriting Airlines. Vacations survive as memories, and we’ll have more than our share of those.

Of things we “did” (other than sitting on Kay’s veranda), the highlight was the Saturday morning entertainment on the veranda, though walking in the forest, cricket, dominoes, paying tribute at the Bob Marley Museum and the excellent Indian meal we had in Ocho Rios were also good fun. There were other things we might have commented on, were we looking more for cultural differences–people selling fresh fish by the roadside, the poetic road signs (“Protect your head and don’t be dead”–wear your helmet–or “Don’t drink and drive, stay alive.”), so there’s a potential career in roadside poetry for Carol, if we should retire to Jamaica.

Of course, escaping Chicago this time of year is a big plus. And being able to visit with Brandeis friends in Florida was a great bonus for us. (We saw the Pérez Art Museum yesterday, which had a wonderful exhibit about Cristo’s wrapping of the islands in Key Biscayne in pink in 1983.)

So, it’s not Africa or India, but Jamaica was a welcome respite. For us, a vacation. But, perhaps, not every vacation is worth blogging about. So, I’d be interested to hear, honestly, whether you felt it was worth bothering you about all this. And, if not, cheer up, I promise you exotic in March.

Back to Kingston

January 10 and 11

January 10

Breakfast at the hotel, then read and relax by the pool, witnessing some photo ops of young ladies with distinctive hair styles.

Gilbert picks us up (an hour late) and we drive back to Kingston (through lovely mountain scenery), where we have lunch at Kay’s and rest for the evening’s activities, dinner at an Indian restaurant called Tamarind, which was excellent. And then a play, written by a playwright, Basil Dawkins, who we had met at the veranda talent gathering last Saturday, called Maas Mat Comes to Town, at the Little, Little Theater.

Neither Carol nor Kay liked the play, said it needed considerable work. I could not follow the dialect, so I spent the second act reading Michelle outside the theater.

We returned to Kay’s veranda for some excellent ice cream, to finish off the day.

January 11

Started off the day where we ended last night, on Kay’s veranda, for coffee, an omelette and some relaxing, enjoying the view

before leaving for the airport (Kay driving us) around 11 for our 2:10 flight, allowing plenty of time for Spirit Airlines’ storied inefficiency.

We were not disappointed in our expectation of inefficiency by Spirit. I’ll spare you the details of what started with their inability to find Carol’s reservation, requiring her to buy another ticket yesterday, and their miraculously finding that reservation today, thus (hopefully) causing them to refund the amount of the second purchase, and continued to their charging for everything imaginable. In the end, I asked the lady at the counter whether there was a separate charge for a seatbelt. (There is not, yet, but I imagine the ticket lady pumping this suggestion into management, and being rewarded for her creativity.). In short, flying Spirit is dispiriting.

But, we made it, and were picked up at the airport by Len and Elyse, and had an excellent dinner with them and my other Florida college buddy, Phil Paul, and his wife, Leslie. I did manage to get into an argument with the manager of the restaurant over their failure adequately to disclose the addition of an 18% tip and their pouring a glass of wine from a bottle that we had rejected as unacceptable. Just a little spice added to the evening.

Luminous friends and a Rain Forest

January 8 and 9

Tuesday was a rather quiet day for us spending most of our time with Kay‘s friends. For lunch, we went to the home Of Iva and Clive. Iva was active in the tourist business and used to set up meetings between tourists and locals so that they could get to know. She is now a justice of the peace, a volunteer, quasi-judicial position. One of her guests, Norma, was the Costas, the head of all the JPs in the area. Iva had invited about 10 or 12 of her friends over to join and meet us. Most had had some connection to the United States, having lived there or, in some cases having children and grandchildren there. It was a jovial and enjoyable afternoon.

Clive drove us back to our hotel where we had only about an hour or so before Kay’s friend, Pearnell, picked us up and drove us to her house, where she had prepared dinner for us, which we ate on her deck. After dinner, Pearnell drove us about an hour or so to see the luminous lagoon where phosphorescent particles below glimmered in the water. We went out on a boat and observed the luminosity. This was interesting but not worth the 2-hour drive and the boat ride to see. Pearnell, a psychologist and university lecturer, is great fun, though, so the evening was very enjoyable. Carol and I had met Pearnell on an earlier visit to Kay, so it was a reunion of sorts.

Wednesday, we were originally scheduled to drive out to Montego Bay, which would have been about two hours each way. After yesterday‘s experience, however, we told Kay that we thought we would pass on that and would like to go someplace closer. After much discussion, we wound up going to Konoko Gardens and falls, which, to my surprise, turned out to be great. We had a very good guide who told us about all of the plants and trees. Really quite beautiful, more of a rain forest than a garden. Carol made friends with a toucan and a boa constrictor.

Afterwards, we rode back to our hotel where we had lunch, rested and all three of us had massages. Kay had had a massage yesterday and was raving about it. Maybe useful; definitely painful. Read and relaxed before going to Christopher’s a restaurant highly touted by some friends of Kay. Dinner was terrific, and the grounds and resort look beautiful. Hotel is called Hermosa Cove. If you’re thinking about this area, looks like an excellent bet.

Back to our hotel to blog, read and sleep.

On to Ocho Rios

January 7

Didn’t mean to post yesterday’s offering before covering our evening activities.

We stopped at the super market to pick up a few things for dinner, which I ate while watching the Bears-Eagles playoff game, which the Bears lost on a last-second blown field goal.

We were driven by Gilbert up a winding road to the top of a mountain, where we went to the Dub Club, a popular place for music. Climbed down some steep stairs to through the weed-infused smell to the happening club, where it was happening for people about one eighth (okay, a slight exaggeration) our age. So after soaking in the nice views briefly, we escaped the Dub (luckily, we’d asked Gilbert to wait) and drove back to the quiet refuge of Kay’s veranda and a couple of cold beers before retiring.

Did a wash this morning and had another lovely, leisurely breakfast on the veranda. I read more of Michelle Obama’s book, BECOMING, which I’m enjoying very much, both because it’s interesting and well-written and because we know the places and some of the people she talks about in Chicago.

Gilbert picks us up and drives us some two hours to Ocho Rios on the new highway through the mountains. Part of the drive is through heavy rain on a windy road. Kay tells him to get off the phone (good work, Kay) and Carol is very unhappy that there is no functioning seatbelt on Kay’s side. But we make it to Ocho Rios without incident and check into our very modest hotel, Rooms on the Beach. Kay has booked us “Ocean View” rooms, despite the fact that it’s the Caribbean Sea, not an ocean, that we’re on. Carol and I have a slight view of the sea, but Kay has none. When she complains about the lack of view, the lady at the desk says that “Ocean View” is just what they call the rooms. We speculate that some marketing guy thought that “Ocean View” was a lot better than “Sea Glimpse.”

It’s 3PM and we’re all hungry, so we walk to nearby Juicy’s where we have some delicious “patties” which are like flaky empanadas filled with your choice of different insides. This is a rough equivalent to our hamburger and I think there’s a brilliant franchising opportunity for these in the U.S. here’s Kay devouring one and a couple photos of the atmosphere at Juicy’s.

A brief lesson in Jamaican. “Yes” is “yes, man”, which is pronounced “yeh monn.” “Patties” is pronounced “pahties”. When the woman who works for Kay breaks something, she explains that “it dropped.”

We return to the hotel, where Carol reads and I nap. After our late lunch, none of us is hungry, so Kay passes on dinner altogether, and Carol and I have some thing light at the hotel. Then up to the room for blogging and more Michelle Obama.

What’s Cricket

January 6

Slept late and enjoyed very leisurely lovely breakfast on the veranda. As usual, had trouble posting yesterday’s blog, so left it after firing off my typical, frantic email to Glenn Crocker. 

Kay gave us a solid, lengthy tutorial on cricket for which, having played on the Jamaican national women’s team, she was well qualified. We peppered her with many questions and I’m now an expert on the intricacies of the game. Not. 

We drove to the ball park to see the match between Jamaica and St. Kitts , which was in the third day of a 4-day match, with Jamaica firmly in charge. Having watched less than two hours of the match, I can confirm the cricket makes baseball look action-packed.