Category Archives: Trips/Vacations

Florida – Big Talbot Island State Park

We had set out a goal for ourselves to explore the coast of Florida. I mean, in general, we are trying to travel EVERYWHERE, but in particular, we wanted to visit all of the named beaches in the state (as well as visit all of the state parks, etc., etc.).

We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to drive out to Jacksonville this weekend and find something to do. Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we made it out to the ocean at some point during the day. Jacksonville is about a 3 hour drive from Tallahassee, to it’s at the edge of how far we want to travel for a day trip – to make sure we can get there, spend some quality time seeing things, and get back without exhausting ourselves too much or feeling hurried.

I woke up extra early in the morning on Sunday and started Googling things to do around Jacksonville. I read about Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks and thought they looked cool and had plenty of nature to explore and enjoy – just our thing! So, I’m pretty sure I hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the day – waking Donald up in the process and letting him know that I had an IDEA!

We were up, caffeinated, showered, ready, and on the road by 8 am. Amazing what a little motivation will do (I’m not lazy, but I will resist giving up on cuddles). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we had arrived. Our first stop was Kayak Amelia, where we rented some beach cruiser bikes. We headed north out of Kayak Amelia toward Big Talbot Island State Park, first crossing a section of road that was one lane wide, and the traffic alternated directions. Bikers were directed to wait until the car traffic had crossed the bridge, then cross the bridge using the full width of the lane while traffic in both directions are stopped.

There are limitless times to stop, look, and capture. We cannot catch them all, nor should we.


We appreciated the slower pace the bikes offered us vs. traveling in our car. We really had an opportunity to view the scenery and take in the beauty of the park. We could speed up and feel the wind in our faces, or stop and hop off the bikes to look at something closer.

The branches were thick and twisty, below which grew dense patches of ancient palmettos.


I loved the variation in the colors of green and the interplay of the sunlight shining through the leaves. Such a mix of light and dark produced beautiful scenes that filled me with awe as I rode. I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh! Look! It’s so pretty!,” but it was always applicable. Donald really helps me to slow down and appreciate these things around me. I like them, but I am usually driven to go-go-go and see the next thing. He helps me to slow down and really savor where I am.

The bike path wound through the most lush canopy. The shadows danced on the ground before us.


The sky was bright and as energetic as the shimmering Atlantic waters.


After we had biked a while (a few miles?), we came to a long, wooden boardwalk overlooking some water. I’m always a sucker for water, and it was fun to ride the bikes and hear the sound that the tires made on the boards. We saw a lot of shore birds, but most of them were across the waterway from us, so I don’t have good photos of them. At some point, I want to invest in a good zoom lens for my camera, but on this trip, we just had the GoPro and our phones (more portable).

A long boardwalk guided us over tidal intercostal waters.


In the distance white-capped waves can be seen far from the coast.


We finally made it to where we could see the Atlantic Ocean! I don’t think I can stress enough how beautiful it is here. The sunshine and the salt in the air…. delightful!

The coastal islands seemed small and distant but held much life including many dunes.


I could have spent the whole day on this beach, just listening and watching the waves roll in.

Busy shore birds pay little attention to us as they work the sands in search of a meal.


So many birds! They weren’t afraid of any rogue waves and would walk right in the water. There were some seagulls, but also many smaller birds like this little guy. So cute! Donald has an owl call (at least, I think it’s an owl?) that he makes to try and attract the birds.

Dead wood is so alive in the stories it holds of the storms and other happenings it must have seen.


This stretch of beach in Big Talbot Island State Park is known as Boneyard Beach. The description from the Florida State Parks website, “Sculpted by nature, this shoreline boasts 30-foot bluffs and a striking beach peppered with massive driftwood trees that recall images of an elephant graveyard.”

Some dead wood can be functional and serve as a walking stick. Maybe this is one is a bit too large.


I love Donald’s whimsical and playful side. It comes out at various times, but especially when we are interacting with nature. OMG, that branch. I’m pretty sure it would have held off even the Balrog. “Thou shalt not pass!”

So much life lives at the intersection of ocean and land.


I get it. The Atlantic is generally darker and grayer than what you see here. We have taken creative license with our image editing, but I’m enjoying the higher saturation images, even if it makes the Atlantic look more like the Caribbean. 🙂

The many shades of green present from the oaks to the palmettos seems endless when the sun strikes them.


The beauty of the sun filtering through the dense foliage… there are no words. So here are some photos, so you can see a little bit for yourself.

The paths are endless. So much to see around every bend.


Towards the end of our bike trip from Kayak Amelia, I was getting really tired. We had ridden almost 10 miles total on these beach cruisers where you stop moving fairly quickly if you stop pedaling. However, just before we needed to cross at the one-lane area of road, there was an offshoot path. Donald was riding ahead of me, so I called out that I was going to explore it and deviated from the sidewalk, thinking he was going to catch up soon. The path was darker and twisty, and went downhill. It was dense with plants and roots and pine needles. I had initially thought that it was just going to parallel the bike path, but it was taking me deeper into the forest, and I wasn’t hearing Donald behind me, so I finally stopped to catch my breath (and take this photo).

What I didn’t know, was that he hadn’t heard me and had spent some time riding back and forth on the bike path, until someone mentioned seeing me go down this trail. (I suppose I can get distracted by new sights and adventures.) He caught up to me and we decided to bike back out (instead of taking the trail to the end). It was pretty, but we were tired and looking forward to our next adventure on Amelia island, just north of where we were (our next blog post!).

Happy Adventuring!

— Jenn and Donald

Go Wild 2017: Thursday Morning and Afternoon

Early Morning
I woke up (and woke up my roommates) at 5 am, because I forgot to turn off the alarm on my phone. But we had planned on waking early anyway. For some reason.

I didn’t have any volunteer duties scheduled this day, so I used my time to meet up with some planner friends (Isa Wilson, Kay Matuschka, and Lois and Scott Evans; Lois is Buffie’s aunt) who had eaten breakfast at the Cascades American Café. I crashed their table with my venti Starbucks.

After eating, we spent some time wandering around the resort. The Gaylord Opryland is really beautiful. FREAKING HUGE but beautiful, with water features, plants, and natural lighting everywhere.

(Sorry, not sorry, but this post may or may not have a billion photos.)

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
The hotel is HUGE, but luckily, each area has different carpeting, so you can kinda figure out where you are. This is the hallway to our room in the Garden section.

Wayfinding: From this photo’s perspective, you are standing at the Starbucks in the Garden section, looking at the Conservatory Skywalk, which will take you across and above the Garden section, connecting with the Cascades section (where the hotel lobby lives).

There were three of these large atriums, and Atrium rooms had these adorable balconies with wrought iron bars, tables, and chairs. I wasn’t able to snag one of these rooms, but can imagine that they would have been a lovely place to hang out in the morning with your planner and a cup of coffee, enjoying the atrium view. On the downside, the atrium can get a little noisy and our room was a lot quieter. Not that we were in our room much.

There were a lot of restaurants in the hotel. Most of them cost an arm and a leg, with the notable exception of the Mexican place with the reported $3.50 tacos. I never ate there, but wanted to. Sometimes, you’d spy a restaurant, but have no idea how to navigate to the entrance. This place was a maze of ups and downs, elevators that only went to certain floors, and mysterious Staff Only passageways.

Big guitar. Because Nashville is known for music or something?

Wayfinding: From the Starbucks, if you walk AWAY from the Cascades section, you will reach brown carpeting (Magnolia section), pictured here. Continue down the hallway until it ends to reach Fuse (restaurant/bar) and the other 2 bars where Planjama will be held. I didn’t find this out until later on Wednesday, but going to Fuse, then down the staircase was a MUCH SHORTER trip to Ryman than the circuitous route through Delta (and ALL AROUND the hotel) that I had been taking. Of course, by time I figured this out, we were all but done with working in the Ryman room. Alas.

Cascades American Café had a small aquarium tank. Most of my pictures were blurry, except for this one of the puffer fish, who refused to puff up for me, even when I tapped on the glass.

I took a TON of photos this morning. So many. You may think, OMG! Jennie! Enough with the pictures already! BUT! I really *am* practicing restraint. Don’t believe me? Here’s the link to my Flickr account with ALL of the photos. All 673 of them. And I haven’t uploaded my video files yet. Muahahahaha!

Surrounding the Cascades American Café and between the lobby and the escalators to the Garden section is this koi pond. Also, where a bunch of waterfalls can be found. Hence, “Cascades.”


Cascades American Café

Fish with fancy fins

One of the waterfalls – longer exposure


Pretty Isa

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Isa and I (left) in Cascades

Lois and Scott Evans

Waterfall – long and short exposures

I love palm trees! And they were everywhere!



Wayfinding: If you stand just inside the Cascades atrium outside the lobby, looking at the lobby, walk down the sidewalk to the right (away from the Cascades American Café) and up the stairs. Above the lobby level, you will find yourself at the spa. Go through these wooden double doors and down the corridor to the right to get to the fitness center and pools.

Fitness center

Outdoor pool

Juice, Tea, Gatorade, and Water vending machine

I totally face-snuggled one of these robes. Not even sorry. It was so soft and luxurious!

Indoor pool

Wayfinding: From the lobby, walk straight over the bridge over the koi pond between the double waterfalls (on the left) and Cascades American Café (on the right) to these escalators. They will take you to the Garden section, and subsequently, the Magnolia section. For Delta, make a hard right before you get to the escalators.

Opry Mills
After wandering around Cascades for a while, we decided to go to the Opry Mills mall, which is right outside the Gaylord Opryland property. Thankfully, I had valeted my car and it only took 5 minutes for them to retrieve it!
I don’t think they know I took this. Heeheehee. [Rachel Donlin, Susan Basnett, Kay Matuschka, Nicole Cocci-Mayer]

Ironically, I had Bourbon Chicken from a Cajun place in the mall. #GeauxWild and #GoWildYAll mashup!

After I tried on a bunch of clothes in a store (but didn’t end up getting any), Holly and I were separated from the rest of the group. We were then waylaid by some flirty vendors. I flirted right back, shamelessly, and let him tell me I was pretty, while he basically gave me a mini facial in the mall. I bought some of his products, as they also supported the Holy Land. Unfortunately, this ate up a bit of time, but he was really funny, so it was like a performance. I don’t think I really missed out on the mall experience because of it.

Grand Ole Opry House
On the way back to the hotel, Holly and I made a quick stop at the Grand Ole Opry.

It was super windy, so all my selfies look awful.



I dropped off the car at the valet, freshened up in the hotel room, and went back into volunteer mode!

Retreat Morning

I’m at the Marysville Retreat Center near Holly, MI. This is to introduce us to the project of discipling within our parishes. Last night, John and I arrived late for general introductions, but in time for the opening prayer and praise. We had a short talk by Fr. Sean and then Marian gave us some ideas for how to tell our story and let us work on that a bit. We broke into small groups and shared a portion of our story. It was the eve of Fr. Sean’s birthday, so we ended the day with some birthday cake. 🙂

Our rooms are really nice here! There are two twin beds, a large bathroom with a tub and even a walk-in closet! Plus, I have a huge window overlooking the lake. 🙂

I didn’t want to miss any of my time here, so I got up early at 4:30 am. Right now, it’s about 5:30 am and I am watching on the balcony watching the world get lighter as dawn comes. It’s so peaceful and lovely here in the stillness by the water. Such a nice place to pray Morning Prayer. 🙂


2009: A Rapid Review

Every year seems to go by both very slowly and very quickly, and 2009 was no exception.

I started off 2009 by going to Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI for Mary, Mother of God.  I wanted to make a conscious choice about the priorities I wanted for myself this year:  God first.  I didn’t want the first thing I did this year be a bar or drinking, as important my friends are to me and how very much I love them — I wanted God to be first.  I remember being very tired and nearly falling asleep during Adoration before Mass, but I was so happy that I had gone.

Later that day, I got to bring communion to my godmother, Pat.  This was actually the last day that I would get to see her.  Her brother and her sister-in-law were in town taking care of her.  It’s a year later, and I still cry because my heart hurts at how much I have lost — which is really a testimony to how incredibly much she gave me in her friendship, that her absence leaves such a ragged, gaping hole.  People are so precious; and relationships are the greatest gifts you can ever receive.  We spent our time talking about a third person, a mutual friend who is very important to both of us.  There was something that this person had said about me that she had wanted to make sure that I knew.  I can’t tell you how many times I have relived that conversation, and how many times I really needed to hear what she had said.
Pat McDonald, Overlooking Jerusalem, Gallicantu Area

A couple weeks later, I heard God asking me to take a new step in my life:  to go back to school and get a Master’s in Theology and PhD in Bioethics.  Wow!  That’s not some small thing!  I’m not sure I can do it.  I wasn’t even sure that I would get accepted — after all, my grades from U of M weren’t that great, and I’d never taken the GRE.  Despite all that, I felt that if the Lord truly wanted me to do this, He would find a way to work everything out.  I applied to Sacred Heart Major Seminary on January 23rd, and that night attended my first Priests vs. Seminarians Basketball game. I had ordered a shirt that said “Sacerdotes velint! Scholares modo delint!” Which, very roughly translated, means “Priests dominate! Students (seminarians) only hope to!” I arrived early and tagged along on a tour of SHMS by one of the seminarians. Because of my ‘inflammatory’ text on my T-shirt, I kept my coat on and zipped during the entire tour, and was dying of heat by the end!


After the game, Lindsay and I did some exploring on our own and found God:
and did some praying in front of the tabernacle.

Then, we continued our exploration, and happened upon:
Hel-LO, Harry Potter! -- DSCN5709Fr. JJ, The Boy Band Days -- DSCN5711
Fr. Harry Potter and one of the boys from N’Sync. 🙂

The next day, Jan. 24th, I got to witness two dear friends get married,
Fr. John, Homily -- DSCN5785
along with an astounding number of presbyterati (4 priests and a deacon!).

On a narcissistic note, I was all dressed up and looking cute.
Take note. This doesn’t happen very often. 🙂

On the 1st, I served at Mass for the first time as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. I was nervous and excited all at the same time!

The next day, I attended a Mass with our new Archbishop Vigneron, where he gave me permission to belong to 2 different parishes. 🙂

It was a fairly quiet month, although I did get to start a Catechism study with Jerad, hear Fr. Tad speak on bioethics,

attend the Rite of Election:

and of course:

Celebrate Krystin’s 30th birthday!!!

Lent was the major theme of this month. Although, we did break our fasting just a bit with Irish Night 2009:

I attended Parish Missions both at St. Anastasia and Our Lady of Good Counsel, did some Stations of the Cross, but of greatest note was the fact that I decided that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to give up the cold weather (for Lent, right?). So, I made arrangements, and Lindsay and I went to:

DSCN6343DSCN6378DSC03572Laurence, Jenn, Lindsay and Alec - DSC03700
Ah, Montego Bay… How I miss you! 🙂
And, just so you don’t think it was all fun and surf. We devoted read spiritual books (on the beach) and went to Mass at the cathedral every day (walking a mile to get there, uphill both ways!).

Most notable for HOLY WEEK!!!!

Palm Sunday:

Stacy and Michael’s Bridal Shower:

My first attempt at a Passover Seder Dinner:
Mmmm, Passover Seder Dinner (minus the chicken) - DSCN6842


Lindsay’s Tour of Detroit:
General Motors Building - DSCN6933DSCN6936
Donny’s in the background. He came up to visit, not realizing the extend of Massapalooza that he would be dragged to. 🙂

Lord’s Supper Mass and Pub Crawl of the Altars of Repose:


Dinner with the Schmitts (Always a lovely time!); Girl’s Night; Visiting with Adam; and Geocaching

My first day at Seminary was on the 4th, Introduction to Sacred Scripture with Dr. Healy. 🙂
I loved that class! 🙂 And Dr. Healy is awesome! 🙂

I had seen a bulletin article about someone who needed a place to stay for a few months, who had been working with a crisis pregnancy center. On the 15th, the young woman and her year-old baby girl moved in.

The very next day, two more lovely friends got married:
Congrats to Stacy and Michael!!!

The next day, we lost a dear friend, Adam, to cancer.
Adam Thad Riviera
I love you. I miss you. And you had BETTER be praying for me up there! 🙂

We finished the month by having a baby shower for Adam and Tina’s new little girl, Gianna.

June is when the medical issues started coming out in full force. I had been noticing a decline in my ability to run and jump and things like this, with an accompanying shortness of breath and chest pain upon exertion. During the first week of June, I noticed a significant amount of edema. So much so that our nurses told me that I needed to be seen by my doctor before the weekend. She ended up sending me to the ER on the 5th, where I was cleared for any DVTs and sent home. I went to a bowling fundraiser the next night, and had Jury Duty on the 9th and 10th.

On the 11th was Father’s birthday, so I dropped off his presents and pie,
How Full is Your Bucket? - DSCN7916
went to Mass and work and ended up back in the ER that evening, where they admitted me for a cardiac work-up, looking at congestive heart failure, among other diagnoses. I stayed in the hospital until Saturday, when I was released, cleared of anything major going on with my heart, but still no real answers to what was going on. Oh yeah, and I was seen by Derm when I was there, because in the few days between ER visits, I had managed to acquire a case of poison ivy. Joy.

I started off this month with my first speeding ticket. Ever. And I *so* deserved it. 😉

A few days later, there were some aerial explosions:

On the 12th, my grampa died.
Raymond Hitchcock - DSCN8760

On the first day of the month, I got to take pictures of Jerad and Krystin at Cranbrook. Not only are they wonderful people, but they are very good-looking, too! 🙂 See for yourself:

Newsboys Concert:

Annual William B. Davidson Golf Outing for St. Anastasia B.A.S.I.C. Youth Ministry:
Team 18A - DSCN9409

Wine Tasting and Night of Mayhem at Krystin’s house!

Analee’s Baby Shower was the next day on the 22nd.

Fr. Mark tried to set the Church on fire and blame it on the Young Adults on the 25th…

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:

There were lifeguards on duty:

I won’t necessarily say what I did:
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:

We got to watch a beautiful sunset and marvel at God’s creation:

Then, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up and headed out for some dinner at Margaritaville:
Where we had yummy drinks and convinced the waiter to take our picture:
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.
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.
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.

Looking out the front door from inside the cathedral, you could see the bay and the mountains.

Their tabernacle:

Their stained glass windows:

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
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:

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!

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?

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:
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.

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! 🙂

On Our Way to Jamaica!

We are on our way to Jamaica! The first leg of our journey is complete and we have successfully made it to Memphis! Lindsay was the first to notice after getting off the plane that Memphis smells like fried chicken and hot sauce…everywhere we go! There is the requisite Elvis things and lots of big pigs associated with the restaurants. 🙂