DAY ONE IN JAMAICA (WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 3rd 2010)
I travelled to Jamaica for Rodney Kernan and Shara Sterling’s wedding. Everyone in the world was invited as long as they paid to fly to and stay in Jamaica. (SEE http://sharaandrod.com)
As soon as I made my reservation, Hurricane Tomas began its track toward Jamaica. I thought of purchasing travel insurance, but it was pretty much too late to get a fair deal. I landed safely, but made the mistake after drinking a few too many of having a few glasses of water in hopes of sobering up. No one said, “don’t drink the water.”
DAY TWO (SICK MON!!)
I woke up with a headache, but not the hangover type as much as the sick kind accompanied by Montezuma’s Revenge, appropriately called MONtezuma’s revenge in Jamaica, Mon! After some aspirin and many trips to the bathroom I made a slight recovery.
In the meantime, Hurricane Tomas is still not sure which way it wants to go. The elevators in the hotel are a about a quarter of the size of the ones in the courthouse, but the maximum number of people allowed is 13. No doubt, they mean 13 Jamaicans who in general are much skinnier than non-Jamaicans. So if there is an evacuation, obviously I will use the stairs.
I eventually get the strength to go out on the beach and look for shells and sea beans (what can I say, it’s an obsession). I find some good shells and even some beans, but I’m harassed by helpers who appear from nowhere and refuse not to assist me in the search for shells and beans. They actually find some good stuff so I pay their toll or tip or involuntary charity or extortion.
Then I begin to wonder, Can I get the sea beans and shells thru customs? The U.S. Customs website says no plant materials allowed. So the shells are okay as long as they aren’t from an endangered species like the Queen Conch. So I’m good for the shells. But technically Sea Beans are plant material. They aren’t really beans. They are seeds of plants. But it doesn’t make sense that I can’t bring them home because they drift across the ocean all the time and enter the U.S. without passports, inspections, checkpoints, etc… The ones I found, I have seen in Melbourne Beach. So I think I can take them thru, but I better remember to declare them just in case I can’t.
DAY THREE (THE WEDDING)
The good news is the hurricane misses us, but it still rains like in that Alanis Morissette song, “It’s like rain on your wedding day…” Still better than, “It’s like a Hurricane on your wedding day…” The wedding is great, and the rain stops in time for a rainbow.
Prior to the wedding I went back to the beach to look for more shells and beans, and was smart enough to bring no money with me this time. But still the involuntary help appeared out of nowhere bringing me shells and beans and asking for money. A man who carved cups and accompanying straws out of bamboo wanted me to purchase one, and a woman wanted to give me a massage. I told them I had no money, but they said I could come back later. I told them I would be back tomorrow. Before I left I asked the bamboo cup carver who was wearing a Yankee hat if he could carve a New York Yankee symbol into the cup along with a baseball bat and baseball. He said he would. I never did make it back the next day and feared that because of me he might possibly get sued by Major League Baseball for a copyright infringement. And as for the guys I did not pay for the shells they found, I feared they might try to break my legs.
DAY FOUR (THE FLOOD)
The reason I never made it back to the beach is the married couple and the wedding guests decided to go to Dunns River Falls. For some reason I just thought these were supposed to be falls we just looked at, and I’d have time to get back to the resort and go to the beach. But as it turned out we actually walked up the falls, and ended up falling in the falls, and getting quite wet. Had I known this or not fooled myself into thinking my iPhone’s Otterbox was waterproof I might not have taken it with me. But I did, and my iPhone was ruined. I lost my glasses, but somehow Rodney found them in the bottom of the water.
At the falls I was solicited by many Jamaicans who wanted to sell me anything for money. They would compliment what I was wearing, “that’s a nice shirt,” or “nice hat,” etc… Or they would hand me something and say, “here, this is free.” Or, “take this it’s free.” But as soon as I had it in my hand, they would say, “but if you would like to give a small donation, that would be very appreciated.” I knew there really wasn’t a such thing as a free anything, but they were giving me stuff without my asking, virtually forcing it into my hands saying it was free and then asking for a donation. I was pretty sure that none of the individuals seeking donations were non-profit organizations, and I doubted anyone was going to give me a receipt or take a check. So I usually handed the allegedly free gift back. After all, if anyone deserved money it was the shell and bean helpers and the poor guy I commissioned to make me a Yankee Bamboo cup.
After the falls, a few of us were dropped off to shop, and supposed to meet back in an hour to take the bus we had pre-paid for back to the resort. All the shops were tourist traps that I really had no interest in. Instead I needed to find some containers to bring back the shells and sea beans in. So I began walking off the tourist path, and found myself in the heart of Ocho Rios. I asked a few people for help, and they were glad to assist me without asking for any money. In fact, I found the city filled with many people who didn’t want my money, and it was only the ones who offered unsolicited help who asked for money. I got stuck with an involuntary-tour guide who I could not shake. I told him I didn’t need any help, but he kept walking with me, and told me he was known as Eddie Murphy. It seemed to me that while most Jamaicans were hard working nice people there was a segment of the society who were taught early on to be salespeople. They were trained to say certain things and act a certain way to try to get money from tourists. They were pushy like car salesman, and any telemarketer or salesman in America.
I found a store that sold me some containers, and then I decided that since some hair was growing back on my head and I had not shaved in a few days that it was time to go to the Barbershop. I had never had a barber shave my head completely or shave my face. I asked the involuntary tour guide where to go and how much it would cost. I figured since I couldn’t shake him, I might as well use his services. He showed me a place and quoted a fee of $10.00. I got a great shave, but only had twenties, and of course no one had change, but it was worth the experience.
It began getting dark and my tour guide didn’t know where my bus was. I found myself to be the only non-tourist in the area where I was. And where I was, was lost. My tour guide asked for $40.00. I gave him $20.00– after all, he left me lost. I inquired of some people about some landmarks I remembered near the stop, and they were glad to help without wanting money. But of course, another person standing by heard I needed help, offered unsolicited help, and walked me to where I sort of needed to be. And then he asked for $2.00. So I gave it to him. Of course the bus had left without me, and I had no phone.
I should mention that though the Jamaicans speak English — I call it Jamaican-speak or Jamaican English. It’s like watching an Australian movie or a movie from England. I can never understand what anyone is saying. I guess they have the same problem with Americans, though it’s hard to imagine. Of course people who speak American-English still have a hard time understanding me. I speak too fast and mumble. So really the Jamaican people speak my language, because they have no problem understanding what I say, even if I still only get every third word of theirs, and the Reggae they listen to is much faster than ours. I get every tenth word I think of the Reggae. I finally found a cab driver to take me back to the resort.
DAY FIVE (THE TRIP HOME)
On the flight home I fill out the Customs form and declared the shells and sea beans. I checked off plant material. While waiting for the bags a dog alerts on my bag. They look inside, and see a bamboo cup (not the Yankee one), but a different one I had purchased the day before when I had money while on the beach. Apparently, bamboo being plant material the dog alerted. I was allowed to keep it. As I was on my way out of customs, an agent asked what the plant material was, and I said, “Sea beans”. He waved me through.
I volunteered to drive the married couple home, but when we arrived at the parking lot I could not remember which level I had parked on. I knew the row was “L” , but did not remember the level. The levels at the Orlando Airport are labeled by animals. I thought I parked on the Raccoon or Beaver level, but the Beaver was actually a Bear and the Raccoon was really a Boar on level 1, where I finally found the car after trying levels 2,3, and 4. When we arrived at the car, it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. We flagged someone down who after a half hour jump started us. But the front passenger tire was very flat. We got some air in it, and I was finally able to get the married couple home — minus a detour to get a new iPhone of course.