Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jenny, Seth and I have been at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites since midday on Saturday, August 13. We came here on a Costco all-inclusive package deal and it has been absolutely wonderful.
Although I was concerned that we would be sharing one room, it has two beds and one fold out couch that Seth appropriated and finds very comfortable.
The food is delicious. We eat in the buffet for breakfast and lunch and then go to a specialty restaurant onsite for dinner. Room service is available 24 hours a day and all drinks are free. We haven’t had occasion to use room service but Seth has definitely although moderately enjoyed the drinks. Even Jenny and I broke down and had a glass of white wine with one spectacular dinner.
Both Jenny and Seth are enjoying the jerk chicken, jerk fish, and other Jamaican specialties. I’ve stuck to more sedate fare. Their meat- beef, lamb, pork, chicken- as well as the other foods are very good.
We’ve eaten at the Steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant, and the Casbah gourmet restaurant. Tonight (Wednesday) it’s going to be Mediterranean. We also had other choices: Italian, Mexican and one other that eludes me at the moment.
Our deck overlooks the lazy pool, the infinity pool and the ocean. Ah, the ocean- the temperature is just right, not so warm and not cool at all. There are man-made reefs where I’ve been able to snorkel and watch fish. There has always been quite a breeze, which keeps the temperature pleasant- about 87. The landscaping is lovely, palm trees and all sorts of flowering bushes and plants.
On Sunday we spent a lot of time on the beach. Seth and I swam and then stood and chatted for an hour or more. Unfortunately, my sunscreen wore off and I have been suffering with a really painful sunburn on my shoulders. I do have a cover up that I got from Lands End for swimming and so I now use that- in addition to copious amounts of sunscreen.
The sunsets have been spectacular. I’ve had difficulty with Facebook on my phone but I’ll post more photos as soon as I can.
The exchange rate is 127 USJ = $1 US. However, until this point we have had no need to pay for anything. Tipping is not allowed. That’s too bad because every person working here has been very pleasant, competent, responsive, and possessing a nice sense of humor.
The people we’ve met who are here on vacation have been very pleasant- and we have run into one lovely couple more than three times now. They are here for a destination wedding with 57 other guests! Apparently Expedia offers destination wedding travel.
We’ve been told (by the tennis ace who sat and ate with us during lunch yesterday) that most of the people vacationing here are from the States and Canada. This morning, a gregarious man in an LA hat introduced himself- and later Seth worked out with him in the gym. Clarence and his wife Grace were actually from Ontario now, although they were both born here.
People watching is a lot of fun- all sorts of families, all sorts of body shapes (and it’s easy to tell the American women from other nationalities because we tend for forgo bikinis while others are happy to let everything hang out with no false modesty or concern).
On Monday, Jenny and Seth did a Canopy Tour that involved zip lining and loved it. Not quite as adventurous, I went on a 4×4 safari tour, where I learned a great deal about Jamaica. Here in no particular order:
The Jamaicans speak Patois. My guide Richard the great! taught us (the honeymoon couple from North Carolina and the elderly Indian widower from Trinidad) “hey, mon” for yes- “she looks trash and ready” for a woman nicely dressed- or “he looks wickeeed” for a man nicely dressed.” A woman who is 200+ pounds is called a “fluffy mama” and is much appreciated by and very desirable to Jamaican men.
Richard said that getting independence from Great Britain was a terrible thing- everything tanked, British businesses left, there was great unemployment and poverty that they are still working their way back.
He told us about a slave revolution only 10 years before Great Britain emancipated all slaves.
He showed us plants- the sensitive plant that closes two leaves at a time when you touch it- that the slavers planted because they could use the plants to track runaway slaves.
There is another plant that is a natural Viagra and one that helps women with menstrual cramps.
Jamaicans bury their dead in a concrete-lined plot and the coffin is then encased in concrete and something else to keep the groundwater pure.
Tourism is the major industry, followed by sugar. Once marijuana is completely legalized, that crop will be the major industry.
Right now it is legal to have 2 ounces of weed. He said there are plans to put weed dispensing machines in the airport!
Richard told us that he would like to move to the US to work and, once there, there are three things he definitely needs to have: a. chili, b. all sorts of pies (since Jamaican pastries don’t include pies, and c. venison. I guess those are fine goals.
We went to a church that used to be a slave hospital. Some of the original wooden pews are still standing. He had us sit in them to discover that they are constructed in such a way that it forces you to sit up straight. He says that anyone who tends to fall asleep in church is now seated there!
We went off road, which was incredibly bumpy. That took us to a river with many waterfalls racing water over the narrow bridge (there was quite a thunderstorm on Sunday night).
We saw a mongoose crossing the road, an animal that looks like a Brahmin bull, and what Richard called “Jamaican reindeer” which were both domesticated and wild goats.
Richard pointed out mountains and named one “Butt Crack Mountain.” It does look like that and was titled by a guest, so the tour guides have called it that ever since.
We have met our housecleaner/maid Candace. Seth spent an hour chatting with her a few days ago and at night she now puts mints on both of his pillows (Jenny and I get one!) She is lovely and gracious. Today she told me that she has 6 children at home, two of her own and four of a deceased sister’s. She said that she likes working here. She did get into some small trouble being in our room for so long during that chat with Seth, however.
It has been lovely being here with my two children on this first family vacation in over 20 years.
Seth is missing his girlfriend and her 4-year old son, and vice versa. The little boy, upon learning that Seth was gone, plaintively asked:” Then who is going to play with me?”
I’m sure that there is much more to tell you, but the balmy breeze and humidity on the deck are dulling my senses. Yes, a great place to have a restful vacation!
First, I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be in Jamaica as the entire country celebrates Usain Bolt. The shouting and praying and whooping for their home guy (literally, he lives very close to our hotel) is something else. Their pride in him is enormous- and obviously well-deserved.
Jenny, Seth and I went on a catamaran tour that included climbing up the 960 feet high Dunns River Falls- again, literally, over rocks and boulders, into huge pools, through fast rushing water. My water shoes were useless, without sufficient tread to give me any purchase or confidence on the rocks. Luckily, Seth was able to pull me up- and often the waterfall leader Trevor held my other hand. The waterfall is beautiful, enclosed on either side with rainforest flowers and trees. I could appreciate it much better as we walked down the stairs from the top.
Jenny and I went snorkeling along a reef, with the many others on the boat. There were some interesting small fish, but definitely not the vivid colors I saw when I last snorkeled in Mexico over 24 years ago. It was still fun.
This evening, Jenny and I overlooked an outdoor wedding which was very nice. Later, the wedding party was at the Calabash gourmet restaurant where we ate again (I know I called it the Casbah last time).
More miscellaneous Jamaica information:
They drive on the left and the saying is- left is right and right is suicide.
Mortgages are 17% or 23.6%.
Weekly salary is $100 because people are paid by day, not by hour.
There is 30% unemployment.
People often start building a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom- and then add on as they have the money.
It is illegal to purchase or bring into the country any fast car (faster than the police). Ashani, our wonderful bus tour guide (it took over an hour to get to Ocho Rios where we were able to board the catamaran), said that some people might bribe the right government officials and bring a fast car into the country. But everyone would know who owns the car so even if the police can’t catch up, they can always show up at the person’s home.
The other issue with having a very fast expensive car is that it would take three different insurance agencies to cover it, since one agency wouldn’t be able to manage it.
Other countries play a huge role in Jamaica. The US provides the navy, the Chinese provide the roads, England provides military, Spain and one other country (in addition to Jamaica) own the tourist hotels, etc.
We passed a bridge that was built when Christopher Columbus came to the island- and the bridge is still in operation!
There are over 1000 types of trees and 700 species are native to Jamaica.
We learned a lot about Rastafarianism which is a religion in Jamaica. They are vegetarians, avoid technology except for cell phones for emergencies, and smoke marijuana (legally) as part of their meditation and prayer. They believe that they are descended from David and share many similarities with Orthodox Judaism. For example, they both grow their beards, the Torah and their holy book both have 66 chapters, etc. The major difference is that the Rastafarian believes in Jesus as a holy man, which the Jews do not.
A riddle- how is a banana tree like a woman? Answer: both take 9 months to have their bananas or babies. The difference is that the banana tree then dies, sending up a new shoot for a new tree. Hopefully, the women continue to live!
Ashani was born in Jamaica and then moved to the states when he was 12. He got his associate degree as an electrical engineer but then moved back to Jamaica when his mother was in a terrible accident. He started doing the tour bus because he couldn’t find work in his field. Now that she is better, he wants to move back to the US but she won’t get on an airplane.
There is a road that encircles the country. You can drive it in three days straight or a week if you stop for rest, etc.
Jamaica does more than export Olympic runners and Blue Mountain coffee. The school system is excellent and many brilliant scientists, doctors and lawyers are graduates of schools here- then move to other countries where they can get paid a lot more than in Jamaica.
Ian Fleming lived here and his movies were shot in Jamaica.
I know there were several hours of information and conversation, but this is what my weary mind can recall at the moment.