Discovering my Jamaica
I awake to different sounds than when I fell asleep. Instead of high pitched chirps, a low moan from a native bird creeps into my hotel room. Eric is still asleep. I’m not sure when he made it back last night but by the looks of him, he’s making the most out of the “all-inclusive resort.” I find I’m drinking more water in hopes of preserving the memory of this place. Alcohol seems to spurn holiday amnesia.
I clamber my way to the gym. Time to sweat out the toxins which I’m learning are an inevitable condition of a typical Jamaican night. After helping a fellow traveller fix her treadmill, I befriend a kind Jewish man named Ted. He’s from Philadelphia and continues our casual conversation in what seems to be an attempt to avoid his primary mission of cardiovascular health. Good conversation is just as healthful.
I’m sweaty. The only appropriate remedy seems to be a cleanse in the Atlantic Ocean. Eric and I dress in flip flops and board shorts. We move slowly almost as if we’re soldiers preparing for war. The Sun is high enough to play delicately with reflections on the ocean surface; a thousand tiny mirrors, tiny warnings. The walk towards the beach creates a rising anticipation which seems to follow the tide itself. I’m prepared for battle. I run, sprinting towards the sea. As the first wave breaks, I dive underneath and continue out to sea. My lungs burn. When I cannot stand it any longer, I thrust myself upwards. As I break the surface, I feel the salt sting my eyes and the sun warm my face. Baptized in nature. Battle won.
Off to the landscape beyond the resort. The place we were specifically ordered to avoid. But the allure of a magnificent waterfall and jungle wandering prove too tempting to desert natives. Jamaicans crowd the edge of the street in attempts to sell their wares to those who find value in special “brownies” and colorful trinkets. They seem to move as fast as the pace of their lives. Slowly. Deliberately. Mindful. Is this what they expected of their lives? Nevermind. I’m naive. I convince myself that they are all actors in a play put on just for us. When we leave, they will go back to what I believe to be normal lives as accountants, real estate brokers or McDonalds night managers. Do they think the same about us? We’re both wrong.
We arrive at the Blue Hole. The lagoon is formed from the confluence of two waterfalls just beyond the lagoon’s edge. The center of the pool swirls from the influence of the waterfalls. It’s hypnotic. Our tour guide Jaimie sells his wares in the form of aquatic acrobats, jumping off cliffs as naturally as breathing. We all watch his masterful execution in awe. He takes us deeper into the jungle to more exotic scenery, larger cliffs. We do our best at imitating his bold performance. Jaimie is proud of his intrepid Americans. Business was good today.
Bill leads the way to the performance hall. A team of drummers/dancers/singers have prepared a suite of native performances. Their stamina and enthusiasm is infectious. As is expected, now comes the part where the performers look for volunteers to dance with them. Their eyes carefully roam the room until they rest with me. I cannot resist. I absorb the beat of the drum and attempt to dance appropriately. I finally lose myself to the madness of it all. There’s a strange comfort in this chaos. I move with my Jamaican partner and respond to the cheers of the crowd. I feel like an extension of them; fulfilling what they hoped they could do but wouldn’t do. There’s hope here.