I recently shared in a Facebook post that I was thankful this Holiday Season for renewed energy, focus, and creativity. I am definitely grateful for the blessings of creativity and refocused energy that my writing have brought back. The Christmas Season has been one of my favorites since I was a young girl. The festive Holiday songs, church, feelings of nostalgia, anticipation of Christmas Day, family, faith, friends, food, and the feeling of togetherness help to make the Season bright for me. The feeling of the Holidays is what I value most and what I love most about it, because it reminds me of family and friends. Of happiness and all that I am fortunate enough to have and am grateful for every day. Never in my life have I felt more connected to these feelings or have they held as much meaning as now, as we go through trying times as a Nation. Seeing people happy, grateful for what they have, spending time together, laughing, making new memories, and pulling together makes me so happy.
I had my music on shuffle through media in the car (as I do 97% of the time) on my phone tonight on the way home from work, and I listened to an Electronic song. I belted out lyrics I haven't sang in probably five or more years, smiled to myself in pride at the fact I remembered every single lyric, smiled at the fond memories that came with the song, reminisced on how much has changed since then (my 20s), and rested my head backwards on the headrest, completely at peace and continuously belting out lyrics. Feeling something so inexplicably beautiful from deep, deep within my Soul. It was a pure moment in my solitude that I truly cherished, and it was good to be able to reflect on it in the moment and to feel pure peace and joy. It was a feeling I've never experienced before while singing, listening to music, or even during this Holiday time (my favorite time) of Christmas Season. It felt GOOD! I was released, I was happy, I was blessed, I was powerful. I was everything beautiful in that moment, and I wanted to replicate it every second and every day from then on out. Some things are unexplainable, and this was one of those things and one of those times. Another beauty of the Season. Feeling. Believing. What our eyes see our hearts feel stronger. Our faith shows us that much stronger through the Soul. And I had that moment tonight. I will be sad to see the Holidays go, but will most certainly cherish them while they are here, and will cherish the fond memories made for long after. I hope you hold your loved ones near and dear this Season and always. I hope you find what makes you happy. If you're still on a journey, continue that journey and may it bring you peace well into the New Year.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! "Here's to having all your hopes and dreams take flight in 2018!" "Feliz Navidad, Próspero Año y Felicidad!"
We took a trip to Jamaica for my little Sister’s wedding. The wedding was on Saturday, November 11, 2017, and we decided to bake a bit extra of a vacation into the trip. We arrived at the airport on Thursday afternoon, November 9, 2017, around 1:00 p.m. EST and to the resort around 2:30 EST. We departed Jamaica for home on Thursday, November 16th around 9:30 a.m. from the resort and began our trip to the airport. Don’t worry, Mon. I’ll tell you all about our adventures there before we sadly left for home.
The start of our trip was a bit rocky, and even a little bit before we left there were a couple of hiccups: The Royalton Blue Waters switched (downgraded) our room from one with a swim-out, but did upgrade us to Diamond Club, which afforded us more property amenities and extra, free snacks and premium drinks in the lobby. While our driver arrived 45 minutes late, it was an honest, human mistake, and he was a very gentle, kind, genuine man who apologized profusely for his first ever time being late to anything in his entire life. He felt horrible and thought we may miss our flight, but we actually had plenty of time because we’d baked in more than our usual extra travel time (for reasons that will come in a later blog or book). I thought about him several times during the trip and hoped and prayed he’d be able to maintain his employment. His company has a strict policy on customer service and being prompt for customer pick-ups. We discovered that the airline switched our seats on the trip out, so we didn’t sit together, but Mike switched seats to sit closer and we both sat next to some pretty awesome people! Things started looking up when Mike got a free snack on the plane because the credit card machine was not working. The trip out was smooth, without incident, and we arrived safely to Jamaica. Our car was waiting early at the airport in Montego Bay (which I’ll later refer to as Mobay in places). We fell in love when we landed. It was an experience equivalent to what they say about people and love at first sight. We quickly lost track of how many times we heard “Yah Mon”, only to realize later how many more times we’d hear it hourly and how much we’d love it and the people even more as the trip went on.
Garfield was our driver from the airport when we landed in Montego Bay to the Royalton Blue Waters Resort in Mobay. He was also our driver from the Royalton to Negril for the second part of our trip to the Rockhouse in Negril, and we found him to just be a delight! What a nice welcome to Jamaica! He asked us whether this was our first time in Jamaica and we told him it was. He then said to us, “I will share this with you: ‘Jamaica is a medicine you need to take at least once a year. It will cure what ails you.’” We talked about Track and Field on the drive because Mike is an avid fan and ran Track in school. Mike and Garfield talked about Track and Usain Bolt at length. Usain is, of course, a legend in Jamaica. He visits Jamaica often and has never forgotten his school, or his roots in beautiful Jamaica. Garfield also humored us while we talked about Jamaican football versus U.S. football: “We play football with our feet but you guys play it with your hands and call it football. I don’t know why that is. It’s like someone got mad at someone during the World Cup and called them ‘Soccer’ (read: Sucker).
Garfield told us the story of the White Witch of Rose Hall as we passed by, which is a famous, well-known part of Jamaica’s history. The story (as he told it) is that Rose Hall Plantation had slaves. He told us that the “White Witch”, Annie Palmer, practiced witchcraft and that she murdered three of her Husbands, including her first Husband, who owned the Rose Hall Plantation at the time. Garfield told us that there are frequent celebrity sightings in Jamaica, and that some are well-known in Jamaica and/or own homes/property there, including Johnny Cash, Morgan Freeman, Beyonce, Jimmy Buffet, Ralph Lauren, Lennox Lewis, Rihanna, Sean Paul, and one or two others I'm forgetting because I didn't document that part while on the trip, and as we know, memories fade, which is why it was so important for me to begin capturing the essence of Jamaica while I was there.
We arrived to the Royalton Blue Waters in Montego Bay without incident and made good travel time there too. We parted from Garfield and had someone waiting already to take our bags, get us registered at the resort, get us settled for snacks, and some welcome drinks in the Diamond Club, since we upgraded our room for our stay. Not bad! We were liking this and our vacation already. We got a full, guided Orientation to our room, which included a beautiful soak-in tub, Room Service to Order right from the t.v., cable, a stage where live music played every evening, and a nice patio with a wonderful view of the resort pool, cabana areas, and the sea. We’d never stayed in a resort before, so we felt like we were living high on the hog in this place. We got settled into our room and unpacked a little bit before going off to explore the property, passing by the many shops and restaurants to become familiar. More family arrived about an hour or so after we did, so we then greeted them in the lobby, exchanged hellos and hugs, and shared some drinks. My Sister’s Bachelorette Party was on Thursday evening, and we went to a couple of clubs, but Amnesia was my favorite. Music was on point, energy was BLAZIN’, and it was quite the experience! It was so amazing to watch the dancers (not those kind of dancers). Everything seemed so surreal and so perfect, and I watched in awe wondering if the dances were choreographed, but they seemed so natural as the locals danced to the music. After we hit the clubs, we took a bus back to the resort, but not before some side-of-the-road-ya-gotta-know-a-guy Jerk Chicken! Oh man!!! I was loving the food and experiences already!!!!!
My Sister’s wedding was beautiful at Borghinvilla in a perfect, beautiful country-like setting! The grounds were serene and beautiful. The wedding venue was about 25-30 minutes away from the Royalton Blue Waters, but the drive really didn’t feel like it. Maybe because they drive so fast there. About the driving……we didn’t realize they steer from the right in Jamaica, so that was an experience that took getting used to. It was really funny when one of us would get into a car and remember, or when a few people went to get into the “passenger” seat, only to realize that it was actually the driver seat. The wedding day was a full day of meeting with the Wedding Coordinator to rehearse for the ceremony, prepping dresses (hanging and steaming), making sure the Bride had everything she needed, getting hair and make-up done, having some lunch, all while listening to some great American and Jamaican tunes. Everyone was excited for the ceremony and happy for the couple. The ceremony was intimate with family that traveled from near and far, my Sister was stunning in her gown and make-up, the Bridesmaids were all beautiful and proud, her Husband and the Groomsmen were handsome, and the ceremony overlooked the water. Absolutely BREATHTAKING!!!! My Sister married a great guy, and he is more my Brother than my Brother-in-Law. We were all so happy that the big day had finally come after lots of planning. We were kind of sad that it had all come to an end, but it was most certainly worth the wait! Now my baby Sister is off and married and now I really feel like it’s the next chapter of her being all grown up. I think sometimes I forget that she is an adult, but now I’ll just be waiting to be an Aunt again!
Part two of vacation for Mike and I started on Sunday morning and we were off to the Rockhouse after Breakfast at the Royalton with family and friends. We much preferred the slowed-down pace and culture of Negril over the resort. We asked during the beginning of this part of the trip whether there a a lot of mosquitos because it is so hot in Jamaica, and a few people said no and that they don't really bother you. See pictures later of my many bites. We both proudly displayed the bites for some time. Each day, we'd add new battle wounds to the collection from the Battle of the Mosquitos. Apparently the Mosquito Nets were not only adding to the peaceful, beautiful setting of the room, but were also practical. Nevertheless, we appreciated being completely immersed in the culture, the open air huts, local food, and people over the mostly-Americanized resort food and being waited on most of the time at the resort. Don’t get me wrong; the resort was very nice. It just felt very overdone for our personalities and was not our speed, or what we value in vacations and life. We visited Rick's Cafe during our stay in Negril too- interesting experience that was listed (and told to us) as a spot to check on. Rick's is a long-standing part of Jamaica's history too, where people jump from high cliffs with spectators, a DJ, food, and a full bar. We stayed for a drink since we just popped in to check out the buzz.
We adored the politeness of the Jamaican culture and how helpful, humble, gracious, and accommodating they are. If one of our drivers’ cell phone rang, he would always say “Excuse me” or apologize that it rang. We didn’t see it as a necessary apology, but appreciated it nonetheless. One morning at Breakfast at Rockhouse’s restaurant, our table was a bit wobbly so our Server said she was going to fix it right away. We both said it was fine and not a bother, but she was insistent on fixing the wobbly table, and sure enough came back with a fix. Every single Jamaican would greet you first if you didn’t greet them first, and would always respond back when you greeted them. Something that leaves much to be desired in our culture. One of the people in the store where I was browsing jewelry told me when I said I wanted the bracelet with the Jamaica flag colors that I’m in Jamaica and am now an honorary Jamaican. He said once you’re there, you’re a Jamaican. So sweet!!
Jamaicans are a people with beautiful, smooth skin due to a rich diet, healthy lifestyle, and relaxed state of mind. They eat all fresh food. Food just isn’t as appealing or exciting since we’ve been home. We really miss the food and everything else about the Jamaican culture! Ohhhhh, let me TELL you about the food! The seafood was amazing because it was also so fresh! We had fresh Snapper, Lobster, Shrimp, and “Chef’s Favorite” Fish Cakes (Ivan’s) that were amazing! We also enjoyed Jerk Chicken with and without Jerk Sauce (3 Dives had THEE best spicy Jerk Sauce!!!), Brown Stew Chicken (our FAVORITE!!), Callaloo (another favorite we ate with almost every meal), Rice and Peas, Curry Chicken, Curry Goat, Oxtail, Bushman’s Stew, Curry Seafood Stew, fresh Pumpkin Soup, Smashed Potatoes (Ivan’s), so many fresh fruits and vegetables, and I enjoyed the delicious, smooth Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee daily. The pictures don’t even come close to doing the food justice, but enjoy them anyway.
Fabian at the Rockhouse was one of the Groundskeepers who was working on fixing the Air Conditioning at the unit next to ours and he greeted us while we sat out on our perfect patio after a swim in the Sea. Mike mentioned that he’d gotten stuck a few times in the foot by a Sea Urchin and Fabian asked him if he’d gotten the stinger out. Mike told him that we’d looked at his foot and thought we got them out. Fabian looked at Mike’s foot, as it was propped up on the rocks while we sat out anyway, and he said there appeared to still be a small sticker in the foot, so he offered to help get it out. He asked if we had a needle. We and didn’t, and he was kind enough to go to the front desk and retrieve one for us. He was able to get it out and said that you don’t want to take chances and that it’s best to just get it out. We were grateful for Fabian and his timing that afternoon! We chatted it up with him for a bit about his work, our lives, Jamaica, and sports. He said to remember him when we come back to the Rockhouse or to Jamaica. We assured him we would, and we will. We will undoubtedly remember him and we will certainly be returning to Jamaica.
The Sisters at Just Natural were one of my absolute favorite parts about the trip besides my Sister’s wedding. They grow everything in their gardens, it’s all organic, they make their own jewelry, and their Niece makes the bags in her free time from school- SO much fun and soul happiness chatting with them both!! They shared with us on our second visit there that people from the U.S. bring them beads and solar powered outdoor lighting for the gardens when they visit, and that they have made many new U.S. friends. That just touched my heart! We loved the Rasta Mons we ran into at LTU Pub, walking on the street, and driving us back from our nice dinner at Ivan’s. We met another new Rasta friend from LTU Pub that we saw daily and multiple times a day after walking the roads and at our fave local spots. He was a driver, and we ran into him a few times between Rockhouse Restaurant, Pushcart, and just walking around the area.
The road travels walking the streets were an adventure in and of themselves. You constantly had to be on the lookout for cars and mind the narrow roads and fast driving, but it was still an experience we were glad for and that we were proud we did. The music and dancing in Jamaica is like no other- truly! People were just happy to be happy. They sang and danced. All the time. Whether it was while proudly mixing drinks, serving you food, when it was slow and they had a little free time, you’d enjoy daily great team dynamics of people who worked so well together and the hospitable nature of Jamaica. We made new friends wherever we went. We do that at home too, but it was just inexplicably different. New friends at Pushcart, new friends at Rockhouse, new friends at 3 Dives, new friends at LTU Pub. New friends everywhere!
Jamaica is a very environmentally-friendly Country. Streets were clean. Resort was pristine. The workers at Rockhouse used canvas bags to put raked leaves in, Rockhouse had AC controls in place to conserve energy, and if you opened any of the room doors or windows it would automatically shut off. Though not nearly as financially stable as the U.S., the people of Jamaica are happy with what they have. They have an amazing, intriguing way of letting go of stress and not letting it get to them. I envy them because in the U.S., everything is just rush, rush, rush. In the U.S., people are stressed, often not satisfied with what they have, are willing to hurt one another to get ahead, and do not look out for each other as much as they do in the Jamaican culture. Our driver on the way home said that people in the U.S. create a lot of stress for themselves, and he is absolutely right. We quickly and wholeheartedly agreed with him. He also told us that they are raised from when they are little to love each other, feed and house strangers, and to never use the word hate. He said he doesn’t even understand that word. He was 51 and didn’t look a day over 45. He told us that his Grandmother lived to be 104 and was never sick. You can’t help but be introspective after a discussion like this. We also met a very nice man one day at 3 Dives having lunch. He was from Columbus, OH, had moved to Negril many years ago, and owns his own company there. Mike asked him what has been his biggest challenge overall moving to Jamaica. He shared with us that his biggest challenge has been the jealousy of foreigners. That was such an unexpected, yet not shocking response, but so disappointing too. We have some work to do as a Country. That was a known fact prior to vacation, but was further reinforced through talking to the many new friends we made.
“Sweet Jamaica......No other place could make me feel this way, like Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica......” This is a verse from Gully Bop’s “Jamaica Nice,” and it definitely resonated with us after visiting beautiful Jamaica. These are the perfect words to describe sweet Jamaica. Jamaica is a life-changing experience. "This is what you're looking for......." This one is from Wylf/JJ Grey/Mofro's "What You're Looking For" and yes, Jamaica. You are what I've been looking for. Hospitable, accommodating, chill, respectful, very polite, honorable, proud, loving people of Jamaica- I will miss you almost more than life itself! You are a breath of fresh air, a delight to the soul, a marvel to wonder, and the cure to all that ails in life. I see what Garfield meant. He was right! One more new-found song that I love: “I can’t, no, I can’t. Every time I think of saying goodbye, everything inside me says it’s a lie.” This verse comes from Beres Hammond’s “No Goodbye.” Perfect for how we felt about leaving this sweet, soul-quenching Jamaica! We will miss everything about Jamaica. We loved it so much, both agree that it's the best vacation we've taken together, and we plan to return at least once a year. In the interim, we'll enjoy the trinkets and memories we brought back. One love.....
Local Places We Visited:
Things We’ll Miss our Sweet Jamaican Friends Saying:
“It’s no problem Man.”
On the List to Try Next Visit:
Mi Yard (A friend recommend this place for their Tuesday night music)
Little Ochi (Fabian, our Rockhouse Groundskeeper recommended we visit)
Xtabi Hotel (People we met at LTU Pub one afternoon recommended it as a place to stay in the future)
7 Mile Beach
Sip n Bites
Photos of our Trip
About the Author
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I have a zeal for life, a love of family and friends, nature, and a love of laughter. I frequently laugh myself into tears and it makes me laugh even harder. My best friends love this about me. I love music, travel, new experiences, the Arts, and taking photos to capture and share precious and unique moments. I'm an admitted-Selfie Queen thanks to one of my girlfriends (you know who you are). I love exercise, trying new restaurants and recipes, and I love to dance! I embrace my world fully and everything around me, and hold it all near and dear, as if it's the last time I'll see or experience any of it.