Jamaica: Reflections on a Retreat/Vacation

Lindsay and I decided to get away from the cold and from the turmoil of daily life and take a vacation somewhere warm, where we could relax, calm ourselves, and try to re-center ourselves on the Lord. Since it was Lent, we joked that we were giving up cold weather for Lent. 🙂

This is the first view of Jamaica from the plane:
Jamaica as seen from the plane - DSCN6328

Day One: Monday, March 23, 2009
We arrived in Jamaica and made it through Customs fairly easily. We were greeted by the representatives from Apple Vacation, who gave us our vouchers for the transfer to our hotel. We were taken to our bus, and once their we were offered Red Stripe beer — as we were waiting! We didn’t take them up on this offer, but hey! Hospitality! 🙂 After a couple of times circling and returning to the airport to get one more passenger, we were finally on our way to the hotel. We were the first ones off the bus, as our hotel was only about a mile or two from the airport.

We checked in and were met by a representative from Apple Vacation, who told us a little about our surroundings and signed us up for the Dunn River Falls trip for Wednesday afternoon. Our hotel was fairly basic, but had air conditioning, a little balcony, was clean and the staff were very nice.

We went out to grab some lunch and explore the area a bit. We ate at the Jamaican Bobsled Cafe, where you could sit in one of the bobsleds from the Olympic team. Proceeds from the meal went to support the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled team, and you could tell that it was a big thing here.
Jamaican Bobsled Cafe - DSCN6596
It was here that Lindsay had her first Red Stripe of the trip. I had a salad and it had one of the best salad dressings I’ve ever tasted — I think they used guava, but you’d have to ask Lindsay to be sure. Definitely some tasty business!

After lunch, we changed and headed for the beach. We were told that it closed in about 30 minutes (it was 4:30 pm), but we were anxious to check it out. This is our first view of Doctor’s Cave Beach:
Doctor's Cave Beach - DSCN6330

Another view of the beach:
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There were lifeguards on duty:
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I won’t necessarily say what I did:
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or what someone else did:
Lindsay sleeping on the beach - DSCN6357DSCN6406

At one point, I was walking along the edge of the water, and a man approached me, calling himself “Smoky Joe.” He had cannabis plant logos all over him. I had an idea what he was trying to sell me, and it wasn’t really the red, yellow, green and black embroidered bracelets that he had. After talking with him for a few minutes, and telling him we were from Michigan, he saw that I wasn’t going to buy anything and said, “Respect!” and continued walking down the beach.

The tranquility of the beach was amazing:
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We got to watch a beautiful sunset and marvel at God’s creation:
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Then, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up and headed out for some dinner at Margaritaville:
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Where we had yummy drinks and convinced the waiter to take our picture:
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We had quite a good time while we were there talking with most of the people we came across. Everyone was very friendly. We quickly learned that the majority of the income to the area came from the cruise ships, so we were often asked if we were from “the boat.”

Our final stop for the night was the casino-type place across the street, which had karaoke, popcorn and ice cream/cream rum drinks.

Day Two: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Today we got up early and caught a cab to 7 am Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
DSCN6506
The taxi was $10, although the church was only about a mile away. We had believed the desk clerks when they said that we couldn’t walk there from our hotel. We resolved to walk all the rest of the time. 1 mile each direction — uphill both directions! Seriously! 🙂 When we got to the cathedral, we saw all the school children in their uniforms walking to school.
DSCN6496
There was a small booth set up at the driveway/base of the hill for the kids to buy snacks, pencils, notebooks and other things on their way in.

The woman in red at the right side of the picture let us use her hymnal and marked the pages for us. On each subsequent day, she would always make sure we had a hymnal and knew what to sing.
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Looking out the front door from inside the cathedral, you could see the bay and the mountains.
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Their tabernacle:
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Their stained glass windows:
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After Mass, we still had about an hour before any of the shops downtown opened for the day, so we decided to walk around. We were greeted by a man named Roy, who at first seemed only to want to help us cross the street, but ended up giving us a tour around downtown Montego Bay (for a fee).
Our tour guide, Roy - DSC03604Lindsay and our tour guide, Roy - DSCN6539

Here is the Sam Sharpe center, a plaza in the middle of downtown, for Sam Sharpe who helped to free the slaves of Jamaica:
DSCN6510Sam Sharpe Center - DSCN6511

This is St. James church, built in the 1700s. It is an Anglican church.
St. James - DSCN6515
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They even had steel drums up in their choir loft!

The children of Jamaica start attending school at the age of 3, called Basic school for ages 3-6. After that, they attend primary school:
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Then, we began the walk back to the Hip Strip, where our hotel was located. One mile each direction, uphill both ways, but it wasn’t bad (see how Lindsay’s grinning), and look at our view!
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We had breakfast at The Pelican, which was the only restaurant open. There we discovered that omelettes were $595.00!! (Okay, Jamaican dollars) Then we did a little shopping, got dressed and headed for the beach for a day on the sand!

Look at that water! How could you not just jump right in?
DSC03619

I wanted to take a picture from the dock, so I went over there and what did I hear? “Michigan!” What? Oh, yes. My friend, Smoky Joe, from the beach the night before. He said that he had seen me “and my friend” walking around the Hip Strip last night, and was thinking of picking us up. Oh boy.
Smoky Joe - DSC03631

Lindsay playing in the water:
Lindsay in the surf - DSC03640

Me playing in the water:
Jenn in the water - DSC03642

The weather was perfect. It was about 82 degrees, with a constant breeze. The water was great. The perfect temperature if you hadn’t been baking in the sun. Once you had been laying out for a while, when you went back in it was deliciously cool. Since there were no lockers on the beach, Lindsay and I took turns lying on the blanket and swimming. This was where we did the majority of our reading. I was reading “The Imitation of Christ,” while Lindsay was reading “The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.”

At the end of the day, when we were sufficiently burnt, we went back to our hotel to change, and then grabbed dinner at The Pork Pit:
The Pork Pit - DSCN6548
who had the best food that we experienced during our trip. Seriously, look at all that yumminess:
The Pork Pit - DSC03653
We tried the jerked chicken, jerked pork, jerked sausage, and jerked shrimp. They had this special sauce which was amazing. We also had some kind of rice and beans as a side dish, but after the jerked meat, it was a little plain. I tried, I believe, their pineapple soda.

On the way there, a man came up to us on the sidewalk and started walking with us. He showed us his Jamaican passport and said that his name was Desmond. It became clear that he was another person who made some extra money by selling ganja. He walked us to the Pork Pit and up the stairs. He backed away a little as we looked at the menu, but came back up to us again to talk as we were waiting to place our order. It was a little uncomfortable for me — I am not used to having people come up like that and follow me to my destination. When we got our meal, he sat down with us at the picnic table and watched us eat. He didn’t seem like he was a bad guy, just a little creepy. And I don’t like being watched while I eat, even by friends. At one point, Lindsay got up from the table, and he told me that I should “ditch my friend” and he would “show me a good time tonight.” Oh boy. He wandered off around the time we were going to leave, so I was relieved that we wouldn’t have to try and get rid of him before we got to our hotel — I didn’t want him to know where we were staying. We thought that maybe he had tried to sell something to the Australian people the next picnic table over. When we took the stairs back down to the street level, he was there waiting for us. He walked with us back towards the main part of the strip. As we were walking, he pointed out a little park area on the other side of the road, saying that it was a nighttime hangout. I didn’t think it was a good idea to go off the main street, but Lindsay started heading that way. She was walking a little bit ahead of us. Desmond took the opportunity to grab my hand and had his thumb massage my palm. That was kind of freaking me out. Happily for me, he soon found someone in the park that he wanted to talk to, and Lindsay and I could leave. Between him and “Smoky Joe,” I began to joke that I had 2 drug dealer boyfriends.

We spend some time at The Twisted Kilt, an Irish bar (go figure):
The Twisted Kilt and Palm Tree - DSCN6586
The bartenders there were very friendly. Their names were Everett and Anthony:
Everett, Jenn and Anthony - DSCN6564Everett, Lindsay and Anthony - DSCN6565
They had signs posted around the bar with cute sayings, which I took pictures of for Fr. JJ:
Why God created liquor - DSCN6563Irish Diplomacy - DSCN6584
The Twisted Kilt had 2 for 1 martinis, and we were encouraged by our bartenders to keep up with one another. 🙂

Day Three: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Today at Mass, we had a different priest. This is us with Fr. Leo:
Jenn, Fr. Leo and Lindsay - DSCN6588
He is a missionary priest, recently reassigned to Jamaica. He told us that he had previously been assigned to Jamaica 49 years ago, and in between had been assigned in China and Africa. He said that he walked, past our hotel, down to the airport (about 2 miles) every morning. We asked him what the extra prayer was at the end of Mass yesterday, but he was not sure. He asked if we would be coming to Mass on Friday, when Fr. Carl would again have morning Mass, but we were leaving tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. He said that he would be having lunch with Fr. Carl, and that he would ask him to write out the prayer for us, and that he would give it to us at tomorrow’s Mass. From Fr. Carl and another parishioner, we got the location of a Catholic bookstore, and said that we would check it out tomorrow morning.

We headed back to the hotel to get ready for our afternoon trip to Dunn’s River Falls. On the way, we may have made a stop to kiss one of the “locals”:
Lindsay pretending to kiss the elephant - DSCN6593Kissing the Elephant - DSCN6594
As you can see, I was perhaps a little more affectionate than Lindsay. 🙂

We also did the majority of our shopping this afternoon. After we had scouted out many of the shops in the last few days, we pretty much knew what we wanted and what to expect for pricing. We mostly got liquor (rum) and coffee (okay, this was me — I brought some back for the office, for Fr. John and Fr. JJ, and for myself). We stopped near the hotel where an older local woman was selling fresh fruit. We ended up giving her $5 US and getting several bags of fruit, including one of the best-tasting mangoes I will ever eat. We also got half of a papaya (the woman split it with us, since we didn’t have enough money to buy all of it), a custard apple, and a naseberry.

We got ready and waited in the hotel lobby for our bus to pick us up to take us the hour-and-a-half to Dunn’s River Falls. And we waited…. And we waited…. Finally, we contacted the Apple vacation people, who contacted the people in charge of the tour. They had forgotten us. So, they sent out another person, to drive us to meet up with the tour bus. The tour bus had gotten pretty far without us.

Along the way, I made Lindsay try to take pictures out the window of the golf courses we passed, for Fr. John:
Golf Course - DSC03679

Shortly before we arrived at Dunn’s River Falls, we stopped at a little place where we could buy snacks, water shoes, and other things. There was one attraction which particularly called out to Lindsay:
Red Stripe Vending Machine - DSC03688

We met a couple of guys from Canada, Laurence and Alec, and hung out with them for much of the trip:
Laurence, Jenn, Lindsay and Alec - DSC03700
Laurence and I were fans of being *right* under the waterfall, while Lindsay and Alec were careful not to be.

Making our way up the falls was more difficult than I had anticipated. You really had to be careful how you were stepping to make sure you didn’t slip. And there were places where the water was gushing past you pretty fast! It was a longer climb than we had thought. We both loved the falls. If we hadn’t been expected back on the tour bus to return to Montego Bay (because the Falls was in Ocho Rios), we might have gone up it a second time. 🙂 Here’s a view looking back at a portion of the falls:
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There were spots where we got to go down a “slide” and fall backwards into a “pool.” Very, very fun. 🙂 I’m glad we got to take Lindsay’s camera. I think I’m going to have to invest in a waterproof camera for our next vacation. 🙂

I don’t know about Lindsay, but I was worn out by the time we got back. She had been talking with the guys on the bus, but I had started to get motion sick from sitting backwards to talk to them, and was pretty quiet for the ride. I hope they didn’t think I was rude — I just didn’t want to get sick. 😦

We got back to the hotel and changed. I had seen a Jamexican restaurant and thought this would be good. Turns out, it was attached to our hotel, but not yet open for business. Lindsay remembered another one up the road, so we ate there. I was picky and ended up “customizing” my dinner. I am such a pain sometimes, but the wait staff were very tolerant. We hadn’t noticed when we went in, but this particular restaurant didn’t take credit cards, so I had to leave Lindsay in the restaurant while I found an ATM. The tourist police directed me to one. It was locked, but they said to use my ATM card to get in (it was in a little alcove or room right off the street). I said that I didn’t have one of that particular bank’s ATM cards, but apparently this didn’t matter, you just needed an ATM card or credit card of some nature to unlock the door. A very interesting security measure. You could take out either Jamaican or US dollars (felt odd pressing “foreign currency”). We stopped by the Twisted Kilt again on the way home, to grab a few drinks and tip out the bartenders (since they had processed our credit card the night before and we didn’t get a chance to add a tip). We headed back to the hotel — still waiting to hear from the Canadian boys to see if they wanted to meet up somewhere — and ended up falling asleep really early, maybe 9 pm or so. I guess the Canadian guys called Lindsay sometime about 12:30 am, but that was a little late for us to go out.

Day Four: Thursday, March 26, 2009
Today at the end of Mass, Fr. Leo made an announcement before the final blessing about us. He pointed us out and told the rest of the people that “today, our visitors who have been with us these past few days will be leaving us.” He prayed for our safe return home and encouraged us to come back and visit. He held out an envelope, so I walked up to the sanctuary (in front of everyone!) to receive it. Everyone clapped for us. I was a little embarrassed at the attention, but it was a really sweet thing to do. We felt so welcomed there. 🙂

When we opened our envelope, we saw not only the prayer, but a short note on a sticky for us:
My Dearest Sisters,
Thank you for joining us at Mass over these past 3 days. It was great to worship with you. When next you are in Montego Bay, please do not hesitate to worship with us.
Peace and Love,
Fr. Carl — Rector

Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, be my sanctification
Body of Christ, be my salvation
Blood of Christ, fill all my vein
Water from Christ side, wash out all my stains
Passion of Jesus, my comfort be
O good Jesus, listen to me;
Within Thy wound I fain would hide,
Never to be departed from your side,
Guard me when the foes assail me
Call me when my life shall fail me
Bid me come to Thee above
With the saints to sing Thy love
World without end. Amen!

Take my body Jesus, eyes, ears
thought and tongue; Never let
them Jesus, help to do Thee
wrong. Take my heart and
fill it, full of love for Thee.
All I have I give Thee, give Thyself to me.
Amen!

It was still a little early to head over to the Catholic bookstore, so we walked back to the strip for breakfast.
Welcome to Montego Bay's Hip Strip - DSCN6597
We ate at The Pelican and Lindsay ordered the national dish, Ackee and Codfish:
Ackee and Codfish - DSCN6604
It was interesting. We thought that the codfish was mixed with eggs, and that the ackee was something else on the plate. Turns out, the ackee just looked like scrambled eggs. She also got a boiled green banana, yams, and two rolls/biscuits which tasted like doughnuts. I was boring and had an omelette.

After breakfast, we went back to downtown Montego Bay to go to the bookstore. We found that they only took cash, so went in search of an ATM. By the bank, we saw some policemen. Unlike the tourist officers, these carried semi-automatic rifles. They mean business. It took us quite some time to figure out the ATM. It only dispensed Jamaican currency, and it took awhile to figure that out and then to put in the proper amount. Probably the only time in my life I will ever withdraw $10,000 from my account! 🙂
$10,000 Jamaican - DSCN6608

The Catholic bookstore was tiny. It was about 2 bookcases within a florist shop. The top shelf of books were “loaners,” and not for sale. We were looking for some prayer books which were specifically Jamaican, but there were not many like that. We still wanted to support the store, so we picked out some of the more unique books and ended up with quite a stack to take back home.

We were getting pretty tight on time, so we hustled back to the hotel to pack. While we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport, we ate the last of our fruit, the custard apple and naseberry:
Custard Apple/Starapple - DSCN6611Naseberry - DSCN6613
The custard apple was very sweet and very sticky. The naseberry was similar in texture to an apricot, and tasted like nutmeg.

Our last view of that beautiful water before heading home:
Gorgeous Water - DSCN6619

It was a wonderful vacation! Truly, thank You, Lord! 🙂

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