Like many others on this trip, I came to Jamaica, fully-wound, stressed and concussed. But being the explorer that I am, I also came with an obscure list of things that I would never be able do in New York. Once we hopped off the plane, I was on the lookout for coconut trees to climb, cliffs to jump off and locals to chat with about politics.
We arrived at the Club Riu Negril Resort and were swiftly welcomed by a light breeze in the form of a collective exhale radiating from the place. Already half-drunk from the yellowbird drinks we were given while in line, we were greeted by Rochelle, who with her calming voice and endless smiles, paralyzed my memory, as I forgot the first half of my day. I involuntarily tested her with my ‘but what if’ rebuttals but was cooled off by the soft words “You’re in Jamaica. No problem.” At that point, all worry had evaporated into space.
I could have left my bags at the lobby, where a bellhop would take them to my room, but I was too impatient to wait for the real day to begin. I threw everything over my shoulder and sprinted to my room to simply dump it on a bed and head to the watersports hut.
I met Sheldon, one of the sailing instructors, and I began my plea to get the biggest windsurf sail and the smallest board available. I wanted to go fast and although I didn’t see a strong wind that would support my plans, I had to believe it was coming. After some smooth talking on my part, I was able to convince Sheldon to get me a 4.5 square meter sail (still too small) and a hi-fly magnum board (still too big and heavy) ready for the next morning. I walked out of the watersports area rubbing my palms together and licking my salted lips. I hadn’t windsurfed in over a year. My time to fly was so close.
Later, I met up with friends at the main dining room for dinner, when excerpts from “A small place” started to trickle in my ear.
“When you sit down to your delicious meal, it’s better you don’t know that most of what you are eating came off a plane from Miami. And before it got on a plane from Miami, who knows where it came from?”
I fell in love with ackee and saltfish. I spent the next week eating all the different dishes in the seafood buffet: red snapper, tilapia, steamed cod, and other fresh dishes that even if shipped from Miami could only taste as good as the chef makes it.
I passed up the buffet of buttered cakes and sweetened puddings—a miracle in many ways. I was drawn to the fruit table. Aside from the usual tropical drink ingredients, the mangoes, bananas and pineapples; there were fruits I had never seen before. Fruits that I assumed got lost in the floods under Noah’s ark. The starapples were an initial favorite and the easiest to eat—sweet and mushy with the texture of a dented pear. It wasn’t until someone from the waitstaff showed us how to eat a jackfruit that I truly appreciated it’s sticky yellow goodness. I guess I never really gave the white pineapple a fair shot, since none of us could figure out how to eat it. Imagine a tougher, stringier pineapple, where the juices and meat are nearly impossible to retrieve, but the taste is just good enough to want to figure it out. What a tease!
The first day of vacation, where everything is new, yet you still can’t erase from your mind that yesterday was less fun. There’s nothing better than today except tomorrow.