Monday, September 10, 2007

Adventures in Jamaica-land...part 1

I arrived in Jamaica after a 6 hour delay. Yes, I should have been on the beach by the time my flight left JFK. I was a bit miffed because my in flight movie was also canceled. I was in a NYC, get things done now attitude when I wrestled my luggage out to the transport. See we were staying in Ocho Rios which is about a 2-1/2 hour drive from the Montego Bay airport. The resort runs shuttle buses which promised cushy seats, beverages, and scenic views of the land. Well the bus was as described….until we left the airport. We turned the corner and left the airport property and then stopped. Huh? The bus driver then told us to board a different transport bus (well it was more like a van) and his “friend” would drive us to the resort. I don’t know what shady deal went on, but the six of us (me and a party of five from Iowa) climbed into the old rusty 1970’s Toyota. The diver had his kids in the front seat along with their “school supplies” plied into the front bench. There were only five seats left, so one of the Iowa girls had to make due sitting on a wheel hump….for two and a half hours! Now add no AC, one Bob Marley cd played over and over (I lost count after it went thru the third time), and roads so poorly constructed that you would think the pot holes were on purpose (dodging them was almost video game esc).

The roads were not the only thing apparently permanently under construction, so were the houses. Seriously, you would pass homes in all states of completion. Sometimes just the frame, sometimes a wall or two, sometimes even the whole first story. Some look like they had just been left that way for years. The driver said that it is common. People will start building a house and then run out of money, loose interest, or just go abroad and come back to finish it later (if ever). Oh well, that’s island attitude for you.

I did see some funny scenery on my ride. I only got a couple of pictures of things because I didn’t have the camera ready at all times. One was of how neighborhoods get power. Okay call me an electrical engineer nerd, but I thought this was funny. Normally you would have your utility meter (the box with a glass bubble and dial thing) on the side of your house. Well here, they would have a cluster of 20-30 short telephone poles with meters mounted on them (like a little meter city or something). From there, wires would be strung to the houses throughout the neighborhood. Okay, again you can call me a dork but the people back at work wouldn’t believe it unless they saw it. A shop on the way was called ‘English dis and dat’ and one decrepit building was spray painted with ‘dimilish’ on it. However, no odd spellings based on pronunciation could compare with two billboards (damn not fast enough with the camera). One had two smiling female doctors with a slogan “Have you gotten your Pap smear yet? Cervical cancer kills!” Okay, never seen that advertised before, who knows maybe the next month they will change it to a man bending over saying “Have you gotten your prostate exam yet?” Again, why the doctors are smiling is beyond me because you should never smile while getting your “lady exam” unless you have a duck bill fetish or like being spread open with a car jack. I mostly have a worried/concentrating look on my face because I am reciting the mantra “don’t fart in her face, don’t fart in her face” over and over again (same goes for the Brazilian wax….yet another adventure to read about). Somewhat related is the second billboard with a picture of a cop and a caption saying “worn rubbers cause accidents, drive safely”. I thought wearing rubbers prevented accidents…do I need to say more.

I arrived at the hotel only to find my family all in a panic. I was supposed to beat them to the resort by 3 hours. Because of my delay, I ended up being 3 hours behind them. I could not call and let them know because I was either on a plane or in Jamaica (where my cell phone will not work). Well the resort liaison at the airport told my family that I had arrived on time and had checked in already. When they arrived at the hotel, the staff there told them I had not checked in or arrived on any of the shuttle busses. That means I disappeared on the road between the airport and resort, and my parents started having a Natalie (the missing teen from Aruba) thoughts. They were moments away from calling the authorities and sending out a search party.

My disappointment with the resort did not stop there. Our luxury, two bedroom, lofted suite turned out to be a simple two bed hotel room. The loft evidently was the lone step that lead down to the living space (aka a couch and coffee table). I thought bedrooms would involve walls or some form of separation, but again it was lost in the translation. We were shocked to find only two beds when we specifically paid for three queens (one for the parents, one for Aaron and Tiff, and one for me). When asking the hotel concierge, he said “oh yah man, there is the third bed” and pointed at the couch. Not to sound self righteous, but we paid for an actual bed. He promised he would figure it out while we go to dinner. When we returned, there was a roll-away child sized cot! Livid…livid! The bride and groom (Ang and Brad) did not fare any better and even ended up down-grading their room because the honeymoon suite was so shitty.

One of the pitfalls of being a “single” is that you cannot stay at a couple’s only resort. Therefore, all other resorts are labeled as kid resorts. Ours was if Sesame Street vomited all over the place. Seriously, you could not walk ten feet without passing by a wooden cutout of Elmo, Big Bird, or Grover. Plus during breakfast you could be serenaded by ‘the wheels on the bus’ while dining with a giant fuzzy character (no not the Greek men). Another wedding party I rode on the van from hell with had the same complaints. The mother of the bride and maid of honor were also singles. They had planned to share a room since 1 + 1 = a couple, but the resorts were created by republicans and therefore not gay-friendly. Therefore, the whole group was forced to endure daily Elmo jazzer-cize by the pool along with me.

Fortunately, I could escape the kiddie-cooties by partaking in the water sport activities. Those who know me know I would live in the water if I could. I did everything: glass bottom boat rides, sea kayaking, banana boat ride, tricycle pontoon thing, and my favorite, snorkeling. Yeah I signed up for every available snorkeling trip. The guides were so laid back it was shocking. See something interesting, go ahead and dive down and grab it. Yeah you know how to swim, okay ditch the life jacket (although it had been 30 years since Mom last swim, so she hoarded all the extra life jackets to make her a virtual mat). Seriously, every other snorkeling trip I have been on has hard set rules and guides militant enough to keep you in line. I got some great pictures of me maneuvering between a 15-20ft crevice and swimming among the coral and fishes. I was able to touch a sea worm which has the shape, color and feel of a giant turd (okay I’ve never held a turd, but I am guessing it was pretty similar). The most exciting/scary moment was when I dived down to get a better look at a pretty brown with white polka-dot fish. Well I couldn’t see the entire thing because it was partially hidden by the coral. When I got down there, I realized the thing continued wrapping around the rock. I followed it around until I spotted the giant head. SEA SNAKE! I pissed in the water and darted off.

One of the more memorable water activities was the ‘faux booze cruise’. Every night they had a sunset cruise. Well on Saturday night, it was an adults only cruise which we interpreted as drinking-fest. The family and a few other couples all dressed up and hoped aboard. Once the boat left the dock, we were offered a choice of water and ting (Jamaica’s version of Sprite, also available in orange ting). I captured the look on our faces when we found out there would be no booze on the cruise. You could tell the crew was “off hours” because they were all about having fun. On our way out to a cove, the crew had fun by jumping the waves with the boat. Yep we would gun it at the waves at full speed and momentarily go airborne only to repeat it again 5 seconds later. They would also challenge themselves by balancing on the front and jumping with the timing of the waves. They would then be flying above the airborne boat. Once we got to the cove, the crew jumped ship….literally. They all just took off their shirts and started swimming. A few of the other guests jumped in (although everyone was all decked out) including a 40+ woman in an all white ensemble. Needless to say, when she emerged from the water 20 minutes later, you could see she was not wearing a bra but was wearing a purple thong. Okay people, just because you are wearing a thong, doesn’t mean you cannot see that small strip of purple fabric underneath white pants. Tisk tisk tisk.

Not wanting to miss out on any evening entertainment, Tiffany, Aaron, and I headed out to the hotel bar one night. We were serenaded by a live band that had morphed every American pop song into a reggae tune. Yeah you would be sitting there drinking your fruit flavored drink and say “wait, is this Gwen Stefani?” If only the redux songs were not so butchered (and personally it seams all reggae songs sound the exact same). The version of Eric Clapton’s wonderful tonight pushed us over the edge and we headed to the piano bar. Anywhere, a recipe for a piano bar is pretty simple, provide piano and add liquor. Well they were without a piano player, so the crowd just sat around the piano and drank. We asked the bartender if the player was on break or something and he said ‘no man, no one knows how to play here’. Fortunately the resort was packed with mid-westerners (seriously everyone was from Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas…it was fanny pack central) and one guest slid behind the piano and played.

I spent a good amount of time on the beach where I had hoped my freckles would blend together to form a tan. Alas more freckles appeared in a patchy motif which made me further resemble a Dalmatian. The official property was roped off in the water. Locals peddling contraband like sea shells, shitty frat boy necklaces, or marijuana (whispered) would hang out at the rope edge in canoes. One of the most amusing waterfront events was when a mother went berserk on one guy who tried to sell her 12 year old weed. She tried to have the security send him away, but after realizing they don’t give a shit, went out and tried to tip the guy’s canoe over! Ah ha ha ha.

Next post….the wedding. Stay tuned.


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