Saturday, March 29, 2008

Swimming with the Fishes

Sarah and I have reached a draw in our butt-bruises contest: her bruises are far, far more impressive than mine are, and will likely remain a part of her life long after the sunburns fade. Mine are less scary, but I broke my tailbone, according to the resort’s nurse-on-site, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges, or something. We both have a lot of whimpering and squirming, but it’s all for a good cause.


Mary is considerably less bruised, seeing as how she did not leap off any cliffs in the recent past, but she makes up for it by being smugly smarter than us for not having leapt off any cliffs in the recent past. It all balances out in the end. (Hah, the end, get it? I slay me.)


The original theory was that we would have lots of time on Sunday morning, to have a leisurely breakfast, do a little snorkeling, get packed up, check out of the hotel and be on our way around the island to Ocho Rios, where we were scheduled to swim with dolphins. To quote the Jamaicans, “No problem.”

Of course I knit. But not very much.

Then the reality dawned: my mother and sisters, to balance out for their myriad gifts and brilliance, have, how do you say, a bit of a challenge with the concept of packing quickly. Less leisure, and less snorkeling, but we were in the car and on the (left side of the) road in good time. I got to drive this time, and I can say with confidence that the weirdness of driving on the left side of the road wears off much faster than the weirdness of riding on the left side of the car.

Did I mention the goats?

We arrived at Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios after a wee bit of lostness – we drove right past it; it’s simply not well-marked. We had a bit of time before our appointment with the big fish, and Mary wanted to go snorkeling, so we headed into the ray area and got ready to snorkel. I got the mask, got the lifejacket, put everything in its proper place, got ready to place my face in the water… and promptly had a right and proper panic attack. Seriously, not a pretty thing; if they hadn’t let me go to the ladder and get out early, I’d have levitated. It was amazing; I had no idea I would panic like that. I can swim underwater, can put my face under, can even deal with sharing the water with creatures large enough to double as afghans on a cold winter’s night, but I could not – could not – put my face underwater while wearing the snorkel mask setup. I’ve never had quite that effective a freakout. So the girls and my mom snorkeled, and I paced and breathed slowly on the dock.


But then, swimming with dolphins? Awesome and fun. You’ll have to check back in a few weeks; I don’t have any photos, but the Dolphin Cove staff helpfully videotaped the whole thing and sold it back to us for a billion dollars, so once I get a copy of that I can probably post snippets of it. Sarah did not lose her bathing suit bottom, or her top… but she threatened to do both, at separate times.

Better pictures to follow... I was in the water with the dolphins, so we paid ridiculous amounts for the DVD made by the Dolphin Cove staff.

Speaking of which, have I mentioned that once again, I was the largest of a group of four women, and therefore was rendered effectively invisible for most of the trip? Sarah got two separate marriage proposals while we were in Jamaica; I’m not entirely certain they were kidding. I got to hold the camera.


Anyway, after that, we dried off. Then we drove to Kingston.


Hah, those five little words, they don’t sound too intimidating, do they? But we were driving through rain forest and mountains, on the left side of the road. On roads that were no more than 11 feet wide. Very exciting stuff, and my mother did a fantastic job driving. I’m certain I could have handled the driving, but I’m not certain I could have handled her anxiety while doing so… she’s not known to be the most calm of passengers under normal circumstances, and this was decidedly not normal. One of us would have ended up pitched over a cliff in rural Jamaica if I’d been behind the wheel, and I’m not quite sure who it would have been.


We made it to Kingston, a terrifying experience all by itself. The road that takes you to the outskirts of town is a wide, four-lane toll road; it dumps you off into a narrow, poorly lit inner city area in which prostitution and active, in-the-moment drug use happen on the sidewalk as you drive by. I haven’t spent a lot of time in my life being an obvious, physical minority, and it created senses of both self-consciousness and acute fear. I was very aware that we were four white women, in a nice (by comparison) car, with all of our possessions and money and identification in one place.

We made it to the airport, checked in the rental car, and asked the lot attendant to get us a taxi to bring us to our hotel. The Sheraton. “No,” he said.

Excuse me?

“There is no Sheraton here.”


I checked the printed confirmation page that my mother had carfeully carried throughout the trip. Sure enough: Kingston.

Kingston, ONTARIO.

Oh, my, yes.

It all worked out in the end. We weren’t able to get on an earlier flight, since our 6:40 a.m. flight was the next one to leave the island. But we found a room in the Hilton, the only chain hotel in Kingston with available rooms. It was overpriced but safe and not scary, and we made it back to the airport in plenty of time the next morning.


The flights home were thankfully uneventful, and I had a lovely reunion with my kids and husband.

And there were two feet of snow waiting in my front yard. Perhaps we came home a bit early…


Lisa said...

Oh the joy that is the Jamaican marriage proposal. I think we all got at least one when I went. The topper was the guy who fell in love with my friend Cari. He was a deaf-mute, and carried around a Trapper Keeper so that he always had paper to write notes with. He gave her a note that said "I love you like Jesus loves the little children."

I also had a slightly similar panic in Jamaica. We went snorkeling right out in the Caribbean, on some famous reef. It was awesome! But then at one point, I looked at the boat. And it seemed so far. And had they counted us? Did they know how many people needed to get back on the boat? And was I floating farther away? And was I about to scrape myself on that particular pokey-looking piece of coral sticking up? What if a current came and just swept me away? Luckily I was able to rein in my minor panic attack and realize I'd be much better off to stay calm, and just make my way back to the boat.

Gadzooks64 said...

OMGWTF!?!?!?!? I just got back from Negril! What a blast!

Too bad it rained almost every afternoon that we were there but still a grand time.