Rain on a tin roof

Recently I had the pleasure of taking a couple of trips to the country of Jamaica. And I want to share a little bit with you about what I learned.

Arrived! Thanks Sugar!

Our first trip was to an all-inclusive resort in Ocho Rios, I went with 3 girlfriends for a birthday celebration. We had the opportunity to swim and sail in the ocean, snorkel the coral reefs, zip line though the rainforest and tour some of the local tourist attractions. The vacation spoke to us of all the colors of the Jamaican flag – what the Jamaican people are so proud of. The colors of the flag are black (for the strength of the people), green (for the lush vegetation), and gold (for the abundant sunshine). The one thing that stood out for me more than all of the others was the people. Filled with joy every day, the people were what made me fall in love with this country. “No problems” seemed to be their words to live by. We met many people of different statures who were all in different places in their lives. I had the opportunity to become friends with and learn about their lives on this island. And no matter what they had, or didn’t have, the commonality between them as was the same. They were happy because they were alive. After all, they are living in paradise. “Sugar” Cain, Alex, Dwayne, Bailey, Raymar, Kirk, Derrick, Ian, Devis, Monica, Clayton… just a few of the people who left a lasting memory in my mind.

Going home after this first visit was difficult. It was hard to leave the beauty of the country. It was hard to come back to a life where we have so much but it doesn’t feel like many truly appreciate what we have. It was only hours before I could hear people complaining. Complaining that they didn’t have the things they wanted. Or that traffic was terrible. Or how terrible the weather is. Or something else.

I chose to take from this first vacation the happiness of the people. I knew that I would visit again.

Only I didn’t think it would be so fast! Within only weeks of this first vacation, I decided to return, this time with my husband. But this time, we didn’t want the “all-inclusive” experience. We wanted to learn more about the locals. We wanted to see life as it is on the island. To some extent, we did accomplish this. We did stay in a hotel, which in my opinion was still too “tourist-y” for my liking. But we chose to make our way around the island by befriending locals. We connected with some friends that I met on the previous trip, and they were only too happy to show us around. We made some new friends. We made adventures. Lots of them! We learned to get around town on foot, we took our own taxis and learned how to pay “local” prices. We found restaurants where we could order local food. The most fun we had was asking locals to take us to their favorite places – they were always so happy to show us, and they did never disappoint.

We made memories that we will never forget. Some highlights:

Our friend Spencer, took us on a driving tour of the region of St. Ann. We traveled 2 hours through the hills and saw everything from homes that were no larger than most of our bedrooms, to mansions that spanned acres of land. We saw farmland and learned about the local history. We visited the Bob Marley house, the caves at Runaway bay and an amazing swimming hole, called the Blue Hole. It was an awesome day that I’m sure I won’t forget. If you’re ever in Jamaica and you’re looking for a personal driver, please let me know and I’ll connect you with Spencer. His warm personality will make you feel like you’ve always been friends. And to hear him laugh… is a true joy. Spencer… he’s one of the good ones! (PS. He also knows of the BEST jerk chicken huts in the area. Make sure to ask him to take you there!)

On our first evening in town, we ventured out to a local premier league football match to watch our friend Dwayne play. We took a local taxi, and we made a new friend, who brought us in and showed us a little of how he lives, and how he parties! He hooked us up and showed us how to get around. That was an adventure all on its own! We met up with another friend from our last trip, Clayton, who just happened to be at the game as well. We made friendships that we’ll have forever. I haven’t laughed and smiled so much as we did in our short time on this visit, in a very long time. Oh yeah, the football game was awesome too! Even though our team didn’t win :-(

We met Captain Harry, who became our “friend on the beach”. He would visit us daily to make sure that we were enjoying our stay. Harry introduced to Michael and Jordan :-), a pair of brothers who run a local horseback riding adventure. They traveled us through the town of Mamee Bay on horseback and showed us the amazing possibilities of how you can live from your own land with trees of mango, apple, coconut, breadfruit, akee, avocado, almond… the varieties of fruits one could grow are endless. We rode our horses in the ocean, and we laughed as the brothers sang and danced and showed us the joy of just being alive.

It was easy to make friends on the beach. One friend who stood out was David. Initially, he stood out because he had one arm that was amputated above the elbow. But later he stood out because I’ve never seen anyone so happy. We watched this guy run on the beach every day with his friends. He would run up and down the beach with a smile on his face. One day, Frank saw that David and another guy were about to start a race. So he jumped in. He didn’t win, of course, but he had fun. So we got to know David a little. We learned that his arm was amputated when he was just 7 years old and he was electrocuted. He always loved to run. And so, he is now working to enter into the 2016 para-olympics, for the 200m run, in Brazil. This is his dream, and he’s doing all he can to follow it. Such an inspiring story. And an amazing person.

In one of our adventures about town we made a friend named Steven, who walked us around the town and took us to a local restaurant for a true Jamaican meal of oxtail stew and curried goat. He talked about his life, his family, and how he survives and sends his children to school and college. Stephen prepared a mix of Jamaican spices for us to take home and taught us how to use them to make our own delicious meals that will remind us of Jamaica. I can’t wait to try it out. Stephens honesty and good nature brought us so many smiles that day. A good person. A true Jamaican.

And Clayton, and Giovanni… our trip would certainly not have been the same without these two. A pair of young and vibrant guys… they took us on such adventures, I could go on for days about the fun we had with them. Taxi rides, River rafting, local beaches, I even jumped off a cliff into the water!! (I didn’t think I could swim, but apparently when in Jamaica… I can!) They introduced us to many local treats (Magnum!) and enjoying a meal with these guys was an awesome adventure on its own! Spending one day with these guys was not enough, we met up again to visit the local club scene, but not before experiencing the open air street parties, complete with karaoke! We spent so much time laughing and dancing and just enjoying life. This is what Jamaica really is all about.

I really could go on and on about all the people we met, all the stories we were told… but all I can think about is how much I want to live my life like they do. When things aren’t right… remember that it soon will pass. Don’t leave disagreements unsettled. A good talk can fix everything. When you don’t think that you have enough, look around you. If you need something, you need to figure out how to go get it. There are no problems, there are only situations. You have everything you need. You are alive. There is food, water, sunshine and friendship everywhere you look. If you respect people, they will respect you back. Love people, they will love you. Without good people, there is nothing. Peace, love and respect.

Jamaica. One Love.

Soon be back.

“The best feeling in the world is lying in your bed listening to the rain falling on your tin roof. Everything is perfect.”
– Clayton

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