Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jamaica Travelogue Part Two-- This day is not the everyday

There’s something about the morning sunshine in Negril that filled me up with this endless vitality. The watersports hut didn’t open until 9am, so I had to spill out some energy to calm down my excitement. I jogged the circumference of Bloody Bay, but I still felt so alive, I had to do more, so I swam a few laps. Within a few minutes of being in the water, I scraped the top of my foot on the rough coral reef. Although I was bleeding and in immediate pain, I shook it off to go windsurfing.

I met up with Sheldon and we both looked out at the bay. There was almost 5 knots of wind, barely enough to plow through the water. I trotted around in the rig that Sheldon fixed up for me, but it didn’t project the glowing moment that I thought it would. When I came back, Sheldon confessed that there was a much bigger sail at the other Riu location, and if I could sail there, I could get it.

After a while of trying to navigate upwind in a narrow channel, I got there just in time to see another windsurfer sail off with the bigger sail. But this journey wasn’t a wasted effort as I convinced the instructor at the other location to trade my magnum board for a short board (A short board sinks in light wind and flies in heavy wind). I spent the rest of my on-water journey trudging through the water with my board sunk past my ankles—the foreign salt pouring in and out of the wound on my foot. "Maybe the wind will be better tomorrow," I thought.

I met up with Ron for lunch at the pavilion, but he looked sick. He explained to me that there had been a banana-eating contest at the pool earlier. But they blindfolded Ron, and fooled him to believe that he was competing with others to eat as many bananas as possible, when in fact, it was only him eating the bananas. I couldn’t hold in my laughter—watching him grimace as he clutched his well-earned free T-shirt.

We were scheduled to board a catamaran at 3pm for a Sunset Cruise. I had time to get my foot checked out by the nurse on staff. The cut was already getting infected from the sun and sand seeping into the wound. I asked the nurse how much it would be for her to see my foot.

“30 dollars.” What? I wasn’t going to be spending 30 bucks for someone to rub Neosporin on my foot, so I kindly limped away and headed to my next undertaking.

I had already promised to bring coconuts for everyone on this sunset cruise. Naturally, if locals could shimmy up a tree to retrieve coconuts, so could I. I walked down the beach to the next Riu resort, Riu Palace, where the bigger, rounder coconuts were somewhat closer to the ground. Still, I had about 12 feet of trunk to get up. In my bikini, I had hardly prepared for contact with a tree trunk. Shortly after a few failed attempts, one of the scuba instructors approached me and demonstrated how to climb up the tree. He had learned when he was five. His daily practice had maintained a child suppleness in him, which explained his transparent movement around the tree. But it was not the stepladder, he made it out to be. Every step seemed to take every ounce of energy I had in me. After three steps, I was exhausted and disengaged my core muscles, which led to my full collapse, followed by the harsh punishment of sliding my belly down the gritty trunk.

I walked around looking for a shorter trunk, perhaps with a patch of grass underneath. Luckily, I found one with ripe, rounded, coconuts and “resort grass;” aesthetically pleasing and plush enough to take a fall if needed. I stretched out the terrified muscles of my torso and cleared the area. I made the first vertical step off the ground. “This isn’t bad,” I thought. I may have gotten the hang of it. I managed to make it up ten steps before realizing how high up I was. Two steps away from the top and the ball of my foot slid a little. Looking down, I realized that I was 20 feet up and the small little patch of resort grass wasn’t going to stop me from breaking my ankle—the fear—the moment where your arms act and contract—anything to keep from falling.

My tired muscles went into overdrive and found a way to the top. I embraced the thick leaves and rested, finding time to look down at the tourists and grounds men impressed by my accomplishment. Somehow, I assumed that a good smack would loosen the coconuts to the ground. I was so wrong. I was twisting and pulling and yanking forever. I managed to get just a few before I had to come down from being so tired. 

Coming down. I never asked the scuba instructor that. My legs and core were exhausted beyond quick recovery, and a safe jump was impossible. After an overcautious attempt to reverse the way I went up, I grit my teeth, as I knew what I had to do. My belly cursed me and my beachside bikini as I slid down the trunk to the ground.

I gathered my five coconuts, all honestly earned, and proudly yet arduously carried them down the beach. A woman at an illegal craft table saw me struggling and asked me if I wanted a plastic bag. The resort encouraged us to not talk to the people trying to sell stuff on the beach, so I ignored her. Then I dropped a coconut, and she picked it up and put it in a plastic bag. I put the rest in the bag, and it made a world of difference. Then she asked me for a coconut in return.

“No way. I found them. They’re mine.”

“And where did you find them?”

“In a tree.”

At that moment, a crowd came out of the woodwork to laugh.

“You climbed the tree? But you’re a tourist.”

“I earned them. They’re mine.”

I thanked her for the bag and carried on.

Out in the distance, I saw the sunset cruise with the wedding party on it about to leave without me. When I got closer, they collectively shouted for me to run. Luckily, I had just my bikini on, so I could run through the water and climb up the rope ladder to make the boat as it departed.

I exhaled with relief and held up the coconuts, which received a jubilant and drunk cheer from the crowd. We all quickly realized that no matter the setting, every well-prepared Jamaican always carries a machete, so thanks to the boat hand, we were able to enjoy our fresh coconut water with rum from the boat’s bar.

The first stop of the cruise was Rick’s Cafe, a tourist attraction, famous for its tall cliff where you can jump into the water. From the moment our boat arrived, we had already divided our group into those who were jumping and those who weren’t. As we climbed up the stairs, locals were asking for tips and donations for their hard work. Though I left my wallet at the boat, I did notice the level of safety that went into ensuring each jump was as risk-free as possible. There was a crowd at the top, which we assumed was the line, but in a blink, I was in front of it. We had to read a sign clearing the workers of responsibility and warning us of dismemberment, and then off I went.

I took a deep breath in before I jumped, and the scare of the drop made me exhale so quickly that by the time I hit the water, I had nothing left. I felt a slap on the arches of my feet, like a hot pepper leaving its mark in your mouth. When I came up for air, I swam quickly to the stairs, realizing now that I had been fed a steep dose of adrenaline.

The bride’s little brother wanted to jump, but couldn’t swim well. You could tell he had this unnerving drive that would never let him regret giving up this opportunity. His five sisters (God bless him) finally let him go. After his defiant jump, and a close watch from the divers, he never stopped smiling. His mission for this trip was accomplished. I had accomplished nearly everything I wanted to in a day, but of course there was something missing. Though what, I couldn't determine.

As we took the sunset cruise back, we stopped to swim through caves. The rocks inside the caves were slippery, but when the wave came in, the water carried us up the rocks to a series of dark hideaways that led to other cave exits. And when we wanted to come down from the rocks, we just waited for a wave to take us down. It sounds easy, but sometimes, if the timing was off, we got stuck trying to carry our weight on the slippery rocks for a quick scare until the waves would save us again.

Although the sunset on the cruise was a cloudy one, I was convinced that I made the most of my day.

This day is not the everyday. And my biggest fear was that this memory would blend into others.

"In a small place, people cultivate small events. The small event is isolated, blown up, turned over and over, and then absorbed into the everyday." -Jamaica Kincaid