Jamaica (All Roads Lead to a Gift Shop)
It has been a bit since my last post, but I wanted to share some stories from my latest journey to Jamaica with my family. We spent 7 days in the Runaway Bay area. To get the all-inclusive deal (flights included in the price) we had to pick one city to depart from and of course everyone, but me lives in Philly. Lucky me had to fly an extra 5 hours both ways just to use the all-inclusive deal.
The flight attendant on my first flight, LAX to PHL, was the greatest. Not to mention I got a new plane with the screens and chargers. As drink service came around I ordered a simple coffee. She asked if I wanted something more fun. I asked her what would be more fun. She slipped me a mini Bailey’s coffee and some cookies. Then on the second time around, without even asking, she had a coffee with a Bailey’s already mixed in, waiting at my seat, as I went to the bathroom. It was truly amazing until my tipsy self went to terminal A East instead of A West and could not find my parent’s car.
The next morning, we flew to Jamaica and this time the flight did not even include a free beverage or water. We arrived at the resort and waited to be checked in. It was almost like a mini orientation. You must learn the map, eating times, rules, etc. The resort has a dining hall, open for every meal, but for three dinners, you can go to the special restaurants. Since we were jet lag we wanted to call it early and head to bed.
We got in the elevator and midway to the next floor up it stops. We checked to see if maybe we were there. My dad pried open the doors only to see concrete. Then the elevator dropped. The lights went out. We all screamed. The elevator stopped dropping. I tried to push the call button. We heard a women’s voice, but apparently, she could not hear us. The elevator jolted back to life after a minute and let us off on our floor. We ran out. I called the front desk from my room to warn them of the problem. The girl said she kept seeing the help button but could not hear us. She also told us we had to hold down the button to talk. I checked over and over again, but there was nothing to indicate that you had to hold the button down. Glad to know if there was an actual emergency we would have been stuck in there with no help. I do not want to harp on the elevator, but it was terrifying. We did not ride the elevator at all during the rest of our stay at the resort (for good reason). It is probably best for our health to take the stairs.
Another problem was the limited chairs at the pool areas. Our first morning, we slept in a bit, only to find that there was not one open chair by 8am. Apparently guests were waking up around 5am to start claiming chairs around the pool. If this does not make you lose faith in humanity, we had to take turns watching chairs to make sure they were not stolen. Soon we became part of the problem, also waking up early to claim 4 chairs. Again, I do not want to harp on the bad, since it was all minor compared to all the amazing moments of our trip.
On Tuesday, we took a half day trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. The falls are about 180 feet high and 600 feet long. They run upwards like a giant natural stairway. You can climb up the falls by yourself, but like most tourists, we had a tour guide take us and a group up. I had my GoPro strapped to my chest. I would not suggest bringing anything on the falls that you do not plan to lose. Although it was strapped on, when I slid down a rock, the pressure of the water made the camera pop out of my strap. I really thought it was gone forever, till one of the tour guides found the camera with his foot a minute later. It was a miracle. Plus, now I have a very long experimental video of my GoPro sadly tumbling on rocks. With the right music overlaying it, it could be quite deep.
When I travel, I find that all roads lead to a gift shop. No matter, the tour, the country, or the hotel, all roads lead to a gift shop, full of chockskis, that I’ll end of throwing out years later after being stuffed in my junk drawer. When we were trying to get back to our bus from the Dunn’s River Falls tour, we had to go through blocks of gift stores and sellers constantly trying to pull us in. It was the like the scene in SpongeBob, where they have to make it through the perfume department. If you do not know the reference, please watch the first three season of SpongeBob on Amazon Prime and educate yourself.
On Wednesday, my mom and I woke up early for a sunrise yoga class. It was held in the marriage pavilion, which was nice and quiet. The class was a small group, led by instructor Owen. Owen was incredible and also led our morning stretch class on Friday. When we missed the morning stretch class on Saturday, he found my mom and I at the pool and offered a private lesson. He was a great teacher and I will miss his classes a lot. He also believes that one day I may be able to touch my toes.
Since my family is as white as can be, we ran out of sunscreen by day 3. We went to the hotel store to buy another tube, only to find that the sunscreens ranged in price from $20-$40. Smart business moves on their part, because we had to buy at least two more tubes to survive the week without sun rash.
We also met some amazing people around the pool and beach areas. Typically, people tend to be a lot nicer on vacation, which is always a plus.
The next day we went on a Segway tour of the surrounding area of the resort. The guide put on knee pads, elbow pads, and giant helmets. From the picture you see below, you can tell my family looked the coolest and in no way like the biggest dorks on the planet. The tour was a lot of fun (only scary to ride over speed bumps). Part of the tour included a stop at a beach bar for a drink and history lesson.
First, we talked about the flag and its meaning The flag was adopted on August 6th, 1962, the original Jamaican Independence Day, after the country gained independence from the British protected Federation of the West Indies. Gold represents the wealth of the country and the sunshine, and green represents the vegetation on the island. A lot of people, including myself at first, think the black stands for the people, but there is a deeper meaning. Black reflects the strength and creativity of the people which has allowed them to overcome the odds.
The resort was located in Runaway Bay, on the northern coast. It is slightly east of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus landed (DID NOT DISCOVER SHIT – JUST STOLE IT cough, cough) in 1494. The original, native settlers of the land were the Arawaks. The Spanish explorers eventually overpowered the land and took the Arawaks as their slaves. The name Runaway Bay derives from its having been an escape route for the runaway slaves.
As we see the cycle of history repeating itself, Jamaica is captured by the English from Spain and made into an English colony in 1655. It was not until 1962 that Jamaica became independent. Our tour guide tells us that the Jamaican economy took a giant hit that they have yet to recover from. For example, a house that is worth millions of Jamaican dollars, is about $300,000 American dollars. It is a huge jump. He also mentions corruption in the governments. Of course, please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Just wanted to share some the history I learned along the way. It’s always important to know about the country you are visiting and try to learn something every day.
As many of you know, I still look like I am 14 years old (even though I am a 25). Let’s add on the fact that I was constantly with my parents during this trip. Everyone at the resort assumed my age and either would talk down to me or not serve me alcohol without my parent’s permission. PSA – please people do not assume age and talk to everyone like an adult. Trust me I wish I was 14 and enjoying my vacation, but instead I am stressed about taking out extra money to get the dental PPO plan. Trust me, adulting sucks.
On Friday night we went to the luminous lagoon. The lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny, in the town of Falmouth. During the day it seems like a typical lagoon, but at night it is the sight of a natural phenomenon. The water is home to millions of micro-organisms, including the dinoflagellates. When these organisms are disturbed in the water, either by a human, fish, boat, or any moving object, they glow light blue for a second, almost like a firefly. The luminous lagoon is one of four places in the world where you can witness the phenomenon, but the only place you can experience it year-round. In order to see the glow, you have to take a boat out on the lagoon at night. You could see the outline of fish and a glow constantly surrounding the boat.
We docked and had the option to swim in the lagoon. At first, I was thinking there is no way in hell I am jumping into murky waters in the pitch darkness. Let’s be real, some creature is going to drag me to the depths of hell. I know this is hyperbole, but I have seen the movies. I know what happens when you can’t see what’s in the water. I decided to be brave and go for it. Luckily the water was only 4 feet deep, so it was not as scary as I thought. It was truly an amazing experience that I cannot even describe. As you moved your hands to swim, the blue glow would follow, as if you had super powers. As you lifted your hands from the water, they would sparkle blue for a second. Sadly because of the lighting, it was impossible to take photos of it with my phone or GoPro, so we had to buy the photos from the tour guide, which do not give it justice. Of course, as it is time to swim back to the boat, I felt something rub up against my arm and leg. Then it started to sting. I was stung by a moon jellyfish. My immediate thought was oh no, someone is going to have to pee on me. I got onto the boat, and the workers told me it was harmless and the sting would go away on its own. They sprayed me with vinegar (no one peed on me thankfully because I have been there before in Israel). After a couple hours the sting went away (I was partially right about diving into murky waters at night though).
Sadly, we only had one more day left at the resort before flying back. We decided to just relax for the last day and enjoy. We flew back to Philadelphia on Sunday early morning. I got crab fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philly before returning to the airport for my flight back to LAX.
Now it is back to work and next week I will start a sketch comedy writing class in my non-existent free time. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of some interesting “wooden” souvenirs…