Hi folks! This post is long overdue, but I wanted to recap my fabulous trip to Jamaica last month. Things are pretty good with me so I'm not going to complain. I'm just a month away from finishing up school and reclaiming vital parts of my life. I can't wait to just watch TV again and read non-foreign policy related stuff. And exercise. Yes, the Chubby Train is pulling into the station....anyway, on to adventures...
And boy did we have an adventure in Jamaica. I realize most people who travel to Jamaica on vacation probably stick to all the beautiful resorts the island has to offer. If I weren't dating my boyfriend, I'm sure that would have been where I ended up, too. But because he'd spent some time in Falmouth, a historical and revitalized area of the country, that's where we decided to go. Leaving Baltimore, where it was 42 degrees and bitter, and arriving in sunny and breezy Jamaica nearly sent me into cardiac arrest. I immediately loved it and I loved the people and their accents. Reggae blasting from car stereos and friendly taxi drivers offering rides to wherever were a wonderful introduction for me. Along the way, I snapped pics of the scenery, all very beautiful and lush and, unfortunately, privately owned by expensive resorts. That kinda bummed me out that so much of the prime real estate in Jamaica isn't owned by or given access to Jamaicans. But I think the same can be said of all developing countries that happen to be near a beach. It's not right, but it seems to be a reality for now.
So, we finally arrived in Falmouth after a harrowing ride (I was clutching the door handle for most of it) and settled at the Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR). It's a historical organization that works to revive and restore parts of the city. It's kinda cool because the building, which architects and others have worked to restore, is a beautiful mansion with a woodshop downstairs and bedrooms/office upstairs. My boyfriend worked for them for four months a couple years ago so it was nice for him to see all of his old friends. Now, we had planned to just spend a week by ourselves in this BIG mansion, but alas, God had other plans. There was a group of 13 students in town on spring break who were interning for FHR and they would be staying there, too. So, we just rolled with the punches. I will admit at times that I felt like they were just looking at us like, "What are these two old people doing here??" But overall, they were really friendly and open. And they had a great experience!
So, we shared a bunk bed (lol) and had to use mosquito nets at night. The last time I was on a bunk bed, I rolled off and knocked out all of my teeth (I was 5) so memories were flooding back. And then to know that tiny, bloodsucking creatures were going to attack me, too was all too much. So, we shared the bottom bunk and he received the brunt of mosquito bites....now that is love, folks.
Our first night was fantastic! I didn't take any pics, but we basically walked around town and ate A BUNCH of food. I can't even describe how much I appreciate that there are multiple, delicious jerk chicken stands all over town. I was completely in heaven. And then there was the beef patty place called Tastee which I visited every single day...sometimes multiple times a day....to feed my addiction. On top of that, there are fruit stands, fresh fish, brown stew chicken....I could on. Homegirl gained some weight and I was proud of every pound!
The next day, we ventured to Time N Place, a little secluded beachfront bar and restaurant. They were blasting more reggae and it was totally empty save for a few employee. It was the epitome of relaxation. I drank it up, like a Red Stripe.
On our third day, we took a road trip to Port Antonio, a beautiful, quaint town about 3.5 hours from Falmouth. It was to be a scenic drive along the meandering north coast of the island with picturesque views of the water, mountains, jungles, and everything in between. I was practically foaming at the mouth with anticipation...but naturally, we experienced more than a few setbacks. It all started with the car rental...
Something should have told me he couldn't be trusted. After numerous phone calls to friends of friends of friends, we were finally able to secure a car from a young Jamaican kid for our drive across country. We rode in the car with him and everything sounded ok. Sure, the brakes were making a little noise but nothing alarming. Kicked the tires for good measure. Insurance and registration, check. He gave us one piece of advice: "You can use my iPod, but don't play it when the car is off - it will kill the battery." Hmmmm...alright, that's weird. But we had no intentions of playing his iPod anyway so it shouldn't matter, right? Of course, the gas tank was on empty so we drove to the nearest gas station to fill it up. Fifty dollars and multiple swear words later, we were ready to head out. G turned the key and....silence. He tried again....nothing.
"C'mon babe, stop playing around. Let's go!"
"I'm not playing around," he said, "the car won't start..."
WHAT?!?! What do you MEEEAAAN it won't start?! We just poured fiftyfreakingdollars into it - it better start! I knew it! The damn kid had hustled us already and I was livid. I mean, livid. The gas station attendants took pity on us and offered a jump. Nothing. After 10 minutes with the car, the battery was completely, utterly, incomprehensibly dead. Luckily, I had the sense to get the boy's number before we parted ways and I called him up immediately, cursing a blue streak. Eventually, he figured out our issue and promised to deliver a brand new battery right away. He showed up, I glared, he fixed it, and we left. "If there are any more problems with this damn car, I swear..."
I just wanted to get to Port Antonio without anymore issues. So, finally on the road and basking in the Jamaican sun, I start to relax. Everything is beautiful and scenic. We're chatting and snacking on fruit and taking it all in. The roads meander through the hills as we whiz by the ocean. It was so perfect, I even started to doze a bit. Until I was rudely interrupted by a ferocious POP!!, then a slowing down of the car, a terrified look at G trying to steer the car, and a depressing thud as we pull off the road. Uh oh...we get out to inspect the damage: a completely flattened rear tire. Crap. In the trunk, there's a spare, but it's flat. The jack kit is incomplete, missing the crank to lift the car. And besides, neither of us knows how to change a tire anyway (shame on us). To make matters worse, the sun is beginning to set, we are parked on a two-lane winding road with drivers zipping by on either side, and we are across from a creepy, old cemetery. In short, we are f****d. Still a good 100 miles from our destination with no towns in sight, we are just flabbergasted as to what to do. We cannot push the car, we cannot call anyone to help, and we don't know where we are exactly anyway.
Now, I truly understand the saying that God looks out for babies and fools. Along came our angel #1 - a taxi driver who contained the Holy Grail of car tools in his trunk. He had an air pump (for the spare) and a complete jack kit. In less than 20 mins, he had fixed our tire and we were on the road again. We gave him some money, he grinned appreciatively, we thanked him 800 million times, and then I thanked God about half a trillion times. I was overcome with gratefulness for not having died on the side of a Jamaican highway. So we were on our way again, by the grace of a loving God, and I thought to myself, "If there are any more problems with this damn car, I swear..."
Guardian angel #1
About 30 minutes from our destination, we notice the brakes getting louder and louder. They are screeching at every turn, wailing at each gentle touch. Since I just recently got my brakes fixed, I knew it was bad news. The car wouldn't make it back to Falmouth nor would I want to risk our lives that way. So, what to do? Enter guardian angel #2 - Peter. Thankfully, a friend of ours back in Falmouth had a childhood friend in Port Antonio who knew everybody and everything in that town. Once we arrived to Port Antonio, we immediately called Peter and he came to see us. We told him about all our car troubles and he assured us that 1) the guy who loaned us the car was a trickster and 2) that everything would be alright. I had to stop myself from burrowing in his shoulder to cry. First, though, he took us out to a nice restaurant and we ate well. We were so tired from the harrowing day though that we just decided to go to bed and get a fresh start the next day.
We woke up to beautiful weather and just walked around town. We ate breakfast at a popular and super cheap restaurant. I fell in love with peanut porridge. For $3, we ate like royalty.
Then we called Peter to deal with the car business. He made some calls and took us to different mechanics. First, we went to the tire shop. If anyone can fix a tire, it'd be those guys. We were hoping they could just patch up the blown tire or something, but no dice. Instead, they retrieved a 7-inch nail from it and marked it for rubbish. Well, we couldn't afford a new tire (which would have been about $50) so the next alternative was to buy a used one for $8. It wasn't perfect, but we did the best we could. Next, we had to get those brakes fixed. So Peter called up his friends and they fixed our brakes, which were worn down to the metal in front, for the low price of $20. Angels - all of them, I tell you!
*not a brake pad in sight*
So, finally, after spending half of our day dealing with the car, we had time to actually enjoy the town. We didn't get to do nearly as much as we had planned, but I wanted to see a beach or something! So, Peter first took us to a secluded lagoon. I nearly broke my ankles walking down the steep hills, but it would have been worth it. Gorgeous. So G went snorkeling off somewhere, I waded by the shore and watched kiddies splashing around. Then I got some sun. After about an hour of that, I was starving so we headed to try some Boston Bay Jerk chicken, a specialty of Port Antonio. Talk about gorging myself...we got jerk chicken and pork, festival (a fried dough stick), roast yam, and 2 Red Stripes. Rolled over full.
By that point, it was time to get back on the road to Falmouth. We did have a long trek ahead. But before we said goodbye, we had to have one last car problem lest the trip wouldn't have been complete. As we were driving with Peter, the car began to cut out every time we stopped. At stoplights, stop signs, anytime the engine would idle for a few seconds. Whhhhhyyyyyyyyy?!?!? My nerves were totally shot, my hair was standing straight up, blood boiling, the whole bit. So, we took the car back to the tire shop and had them look at it again. The only comedic relief was an old rasta mechanic who kept singing and smoking (near the engine). It was just too funny that I had to laugh. We finally got on our way, said goodbye to Peter, and booked it all the way back to Falmouth.
It was dark about halfway through our trip and people were driving like maniacs so I sent up a few more prayers. Luckily, we got back safely. I called the guy and told him to come get his car...and do you know what he had the nerve to say??
"Oh, you guys are so late..."
I hung up the phone and just screamed my head off. Then I gave him an earful when we got back....he may be Jamaican, but I'm Jerseyan...and we don't play that.
Jamaican Adventures Pt. 2....