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Soaking up the Island Life

On our last full day, I left the schedule wide open. We slept in ( as much as we could. I seem to be waking up around 630am anymore, no matter where I am or how late I stayed up the night before), ate a leisurely breakfast, and hung at the beach and pool.

We also got to hang with our favorite new critter friends: lots of lizards and Freddy, the neighbor dog we thought was a stray, but wasn’t.

 

Captured a few moments of Drummer Boy and Singer Girl:

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HWSNBN took it upon himself to go snorkeling — way too far out for my liking. The bay we were on was sandy smooth and clear, which was great for wading and splashing, but not good for marine life sightings. So he swam out — and disappeared. After 45 minutes of having no idea where he was, I asked folks at the neighboring villa if they had seen him when they were out swimming and canoeing. Nope. So one of teh guys took a boat back out and found him; I could see them talking from teh beach, and can only imagine the conversation:

“Hey there!”

“Um, hi..”

“Dude, your wife is stressing.”

“Why?”

“She can’t see you. I think you better get back. You might be in trouble, man.”

“Crap, ok…”

So he came back. I gave him the stink eye, explained calmly that if the kids or I had done that he would have lost his ever-loving mind. He agreed, kind of sheepishly. I gave him another look, then left to get ready for dinner.

Men.

That night we went out to an amazing restaurant — Scotchies in Falmouth (http://scotchies.restaurantsnapshot.com/). As we all wondered what to have, the waitress just took away the menus and said. “I’ll take care of you, mon.” And she did. Jerk chicken and pork, sausage, ribs, steak, and sides. Our fave new food in Jamaica had to be festival, a kind of semi-sweet dense doughy breadstick. Incredible! And the margaritas at Scotchies were amazing as well! We sat outside and it was very pretty — thanks to Andrew for suggesting it!

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After dinner, it was time for our last adventure: swimming at Glistening Waters, one of only 4 bioluminescent bays in the world (http://www.glisteningwaters.com/luminous-lagoon-tour/). Once again, Andrew hooked us up: we were the last ones there for the night, so went out in a boat solo and got to swim. The waters glow when they are disturbed, so we treaded (trod?) water with wild abandon to make the magic happen!

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The bay was bath water warm, and if you ever go heed the call for water shoes because that is some squishy stuff on the bottom (don’t ask, don’t tell). But what a fun last adventure!

well, not quite the last one!

When we got back to the house, we resumed a marathon activity that Sailor Boy had been planning for us: a game of Dungeons and Dragons. For weeks leading up to the trip, he helped the D and D virgins (me, HWSNBN and Singer Girl) create characters, and gave us YouTube videos to watch. It didn’t help. I spent my teen years avoiding this game, sure that it would ruin my social standing if I played the “game of nerds.” Well, having happily raised a proud nerd, it was inevitable that I would have to come to the dark side eventually. We played the game over a span of three days and nights — and ultimately had to speed through the end or we would still be there at the table, me baffled at what I was supposed to do. My son was in his element, and we were all bonding with wild abandon.

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It was awful.

It was awesome.

I’d do it all again tomorrow!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

On day three we donned water shoes and hiked through the Jamaican jungle to climb up — and jump off of — waterfalls.

I had originally planned to visit the famous Dunn’s River Falls, but Andrew reassured me that the Blue Hole area was actually more enjoyable, according to the other folks he had driven around. Again, Andrew did not steer us wrong!

There were little falls and big ones. Tiny shallow pools and great big deep ones. Lots of blue water and green foliage. It was beautiful, and it was so fun! We actually got some great pictures, too! I don’t usually buy the CDs that the professional photographers hawk, but these were worth it!

 

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After all our time in teh ocean, the fresh water was incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. As tourist attractions go, it was about as far from American as you could get: pot brownies sold at stands as you climbed, Rastafarians selling Red Stripe beer out of coolers, and very few safety rules.

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always be wary of what’s happening behind you…

The last jump was the biggie: about a 40 foot drop!

After that (and after we had to reinsert Drummer Boy’s arm shoulder back into its socket), we did a short zip line into a pond!

All in all, a stellar experience!

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That evening, back at the villa, Chappie, the house caretaker, made a bonfire on the beach!

HWSNBN couldn’t resist helping: IMG_0882

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A great ending to a great day!

Yee-haw!

I have never made a formal bucket list (note to self: good blog topic), but I already know some of the things on it, and am working my way through it. Last year, I danced on teh Champs Elysees for my birthday. This summer I will go skydiving. And last week, I rode a horse on a beach!

When I broached the subject with the Jamaica-bound crew only Singer Girl was an immediate and emphatic yes vote. The others came and to the idea (except for one. He chose to sleep in and hang out poolside at the villa. Not a bad choice!).

The rest of us hopped in the car with driver Andrew and headed to Braco Stables (http://bracostables.com.jm/). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After donning the requisite headgear, we saddled up!

Soon we wandering fields and beaches, passing abandoned drug airstrips and banana trees, enjoying the flowers and the wildlife. Occasionally our horses had minds of their own — especially mine, who wanted to keep nibbling the tall grass as we passed. We all secretly hoped we’d get a chance to pick up speed, but the guides really frowned on that. Every now and then I’d hear Drummer Boy call out “Yah!” to his horse. I think he may have had the most fun of all of us!

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Then it was time to get in the water (after a beer break, of course!)

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Then we hopped back on the horses and rode back.

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What a glorious day! So many laughs, and such huge smiles on everyone’s faces! And the scenery! Whatever could we do the next day to top it?

Under the Sea

As we were planning the trip, I gave the crew a list of adventure options. Some were universal yeses, some were met with a “no thanks” and some were in the middle. We started the trip strong, with a unanimous choice: scuba diving.

HWSNBN and I have been certified for decades (took our classes in a YMCA swimming pool in Fargo in the dead of winter), and Sailor Boy and Singer Girl have gone twice before, in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But since they aren’t certified, they were required to do a “how to” crash course along with scuba virgins Drummer Boy and Mojo Jojo. Andrew brought us to Garfield Diving in Ocho Rios (http://garfielddiving.com/) and we all suited up. HWSNBN and I went out for a dive while they took classes, meeting up with three other divers from Germany.

Every time we dive, I know I am going to get a wee bit panicky at first. The human body is not supposed to breathe underwater, and, as an overthinker, I always have to work through that first time. But once I start to swim a bit, I get distracted by the beauty and wonder of the underwater world.

When the kids were done and ready, our boat met up with theirs. We dove in and waited at the bottom for the rest of the group. A couple came right down, but two took a while, as one was experiencing the same panic I get. The dive master from Garfield was patient and understanding and helped him through his nerves, and soon we were all swimming with the fishes!

 

As always, I am humbled when I am under water. The vastness, the sense of peace and beauty and wonder — all combine to make me slow down, relax, and enjoy the moment. I did see a lot of dying coral, which was heart-wrenching.  It is hard to see the environment failing because we have failed it. Before we went down, our dive master told us to be on teh lookout for lionfish, an invasive species dangerous to fish and humans.  They prey on baby fish and are contributing to the destruction of the reef. During our dives, we found (and he killed — that was hard to watch but necessary) four of them.

Once killed, he trimmed them of their dangerous spikes and fed them to sea anemones, so the circle of life was fulfilled!

Here is a slide show of some of the amazing sea life we experienced:

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As always, we came away knowing we HAD to do this again — and my kids are determined to be certified! After diving, it was time for some grubbing, so Andrew drove us to Olympic runner and Jamaican legend Usain Bolt’s restaurant (https://tracksandrecords.com/)  where we replenished our stores, then headed back to the villa, reminiscing about today, and looking forward to the next adventure!

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My familia

Jamaica, Mon

The last time our family took a vacation — all four of us — was in 2015, when Sailor Boy was a senior in high school. We spent spring break in Puerto Rico that time, knowing that in a few obtsh he would belong to the US Navy and we didn’t know when we’d get him again. Here are a few pics from taht trip:

 

 

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Flash forward 4 years and here we are. Last week the four of us, plus Singer Girl’s BF Drummer Boy, and Sailor Boy’s bestie, Mojo Jojo, went to Jamaica. We all needed this trip, for various reasons. As a family, we needed to reconnect. HWSNBN had just lost his wonderful father the week before. I had spent much of the last 4 months recovering from my ice fall and helping my mom through an epic battle with the kidney stone to end all kidney stones (3 inches long it was, and after 6 procedures we think it’s gone). The four young ‘uns were knee deep in school, either starting a new semester or heading into finals. And 7 of us had just survived a Minnesota winter for teh ages. So we were DUE.

I booked a house in a community called Bengal Beach, in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica.  We were about an hour east of Montego Bay, and 40 minutes west of Ocho Rios. I thought about staying in a big hotel in a big city — but I didn’t want to lose my kids to swim up bars and nightclubs. Plus, I know from traveling experience that communal space is key to good family time. So the house was perfect –especially since it had a staff of 3 to keep the party humming (ie: I didn’t have to cook or clean. Halle-freaking-lujiah.). I also booked a driver named Andrew at the suggestion of the VRBO owner. We all agreed he MADE the trip! He was making great suggestions for us from teh minute we got in the van on the way to the villa!

Here are a few pics from the house!

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If you’d like to learn more about the Seahorse Villa, go to https://www.vrbo.com/824324?arrival=2019-08-26&departure=2019-08-30&adultsCount=6.

As you’ll see in the upcoming blog posts (and probably have discerned from previous ones), I don’t find sitting still day in and day out very fun. I realized this time that while some folks like coming back from vacation refreshed. Personally, I want to feel invigorated. Don’t get me wrong: sitting in teh sun with a good book is way up there for me on the happy scale (and my book on this vacation was The Velveteen Daughter, by Laurel Davis Huber. So good!). But I can sit on the couch anywhere. When I travel, I want to do it all! In this trip, we did a lot, as you will see!

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