Monday, January 20, 2014

Jamaica/Wedding, Zip Lining and Dolphins

Wed, Jan. 8th - Wed, Jan. 22nd, 2014

I flew out of Phoenix very early on Wednesday morning and met up with the rest of my family and other wedding guests in Atlanta where we continued on to Jamaica.  It was very hot and humid when we arrived there in the late afternoon.  Very warm for those that came from the extreme cold of North Dakota wearing multiple layers of clothing.  There were 15 of us and we had an almost two hour bus ride to our resort in Riu Negril.  Our bus driver said, "We will be going by our underground condos up ahead.   People are dying to get in".... cemetery.  Ha Ha.  About half way there, we stopped at a little roadside bar like this one, for a Red Stripe beer to get the party started.   "Welcome to Jamaica, Mon!  Have a nice day.  Yah, Mon!"

Jamaica was first sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1494.  He was stranded there on his fourth voyage from 1503 to 1504.  I'd rather be stranded there than North Dakota, especially this time of year!  The Spanish called it Santiago and settled it in 1509.  It was conquered by the English in 1655 and became a base of operations for privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan, operating from the main English settlement of Port Royal.  After an earthquake in 1692 they settled across the bay at Kingston, which became the biggest town by 1716 and the capitol in 1872.  Until the early 1800s Africans were captured, kidnapped and forced into slavery on the sugar cane plantations.  The British crown abolished slavery in 1834 and they got their independence in 1962.  Jamaica is about 146 miles long with 14 parishes (counties) and a population of 2.8 million with almost a million living in Kingston.

At our resort in Riu Negril these guys and several others walked up and down the beach singing Reggae type music.  "Every little thing's gonna be all right, all right.  Don't worry, be happy!  Yah, Mon."  Claude and Morgan each both bought one of their CDs.

Our travel person got us signed up for some fun activities and we were up bright and early our first day to go zip lining.  YEE HAH!  Me, Rob, Lacey, Morgan, my Mom and my baby brother, all harnessed up and ready to go.  We had to divide into two groups, so the rest were in another group.

Here's our guide, Ryan, hooking my niece, Lacey, to the zip line.  She's looking a little leery, but Ryan says, "Just walk off the end of the ramp."  Easy for him to say and off she goes!

And here I am.  It wasn't nearly as scary as it looked.  And I had no choice but to go, when my 79 year old mother raised her hand to sign up.  She just said, "I'm going."  And what could the rest of us do?

And here she is, having a great time.  There were nine different zip lines and we had to hike up to each one in the heat and humidity.  It was hard for all of us, even the youngsters in our group.  Mom had to sit and rest for a bit on one especially steep hike and have some water, but I and several others had to rest a bit, too.  Our guide, Ryan, kept saying, "How you doing Mama Clem?  You okay, Mama Clem?" and he helped her over rocky areas, but she really didn't need his help.  He was very good to her.  They said their age record for doing the zip line was 84, so she should come back in five years and break the record.

Here's Morgan

And the bride-to-be.

Here's our group at the end, with our guides, Ryan and Chin, and another couple who joined us.

The next afternoon, some of our group took a catamaran cruise out of the bay and down the coast a few miles.  I didn't go.  This is one of the sights they saw, not sure what it was.  Maybe somebody will let me know when they read this.

I assume this is Rick's Cafe, a famous party bar along the cruise.

The gift shop, of course, is not to be missed.  When in Jamaica, do as the Jamaicans do.  Yah, Mon!  As one of our bus drivers told us, "There are no problems in Jamaica..... only situations."  And "What happens in Jamaica....  never happened."  Unless you have friends and relatives with cameras and access to the internet!  You just can't get by with anything these days.

View of the main pool at the resort with swim-up bar and tables and stools in a few places.  We could have taken a tour of the island and the rum distillery, but it took all day, and this just looked much more fun and relaxing.

Some of the gang having a little cool off in the ocean, Mom, Claude, Jodi, Rob, Morgan and Lacey.

You would think these small town North Dakota boys had never seen a mermaid before?

This is an old, dead tree on the beach that someone had some fun with.

He took them at their word, when they said have a nice day.  Cuban cigars, free drinks, "You wanna dance, Mom?"

Saturday afternoon arrived all too soon and it was time to get ready for the big event.  Father and sisters of the bride.

Mom and I.  No pressure on us.  We just had to show up.

All systems go and waiting for the bride.

Lacey and Josh.

Morgan and Kyle.

And here she comes, looking incredibly beautiful.

You clean up pretty good, too, Dad.

The pictures pretty much speak for themselves from here on out.  

It was a short and beautiful wedding and I felt so lucky to be able to be there.

Rob was in charge of the video camera.  There were three official photographers and everyone else was snapping all the pictures they could.  I had 625 pictures on my camera after five days and that was after I deleted almost 300 bad ones.  A friend once told me just take lots.  Some are bound to turn out good.  She was right.  Thank goodness we don't have to pay for film and developing anymore.   These kids probably don't even remember those days or know what I'm talking about.

The deed is done.  It's official.

Mr. and Mrs. Peterson

"Whew, maybe I can get out of this hot suit jacket, now."  "Oh, no way.  There's still lots more pictures to be taken."


"Oh, yeah."

"Everybody start lining up for your turn."

Proud parents.


Bridesmaids and videographer.


The whole family.  Christmas cards, ya know.

Wedding party.

The happy couple walking off into the sunset.

We had drinks at the main poolside bar before the wedding supper, but afterwards we were all drawn to the little bar in the main lobby where Paul, the singing bartender, was entertaining the crowd.

You can check him out on you tube on the internet.  Just google Paul, the Jamaican singing bartender.

He was awesome, taking orders and mixing drinks, all while singing and holding notes that just gave you the shivers.  He sang songs like "My Love", "Lady in Red" and "Under the Boardwalk".  I bought his CD, as did some of the others.

Mama Jodi with her girls.

Brooke says it's been a long, but wonderful day!

Sunday, after seeing Rob and Lacey off to the airport, we all took off to swim with the dolphins.

Here I am getting a little kiss on the cheek.

Morgan having a swim with two dolphins,, hanging onto their fins.

Jodi getting a kiss

and a swim on the belly of the dolphin.

A little kiss for Morgan.

The new Mrs. Peterson having a swim with the dolphins.

Morgan trying the ultimate experience where you lay on top of the water and the dolphins each push one of your feet until you stand right up out of the water, if you can manage to keep your body stiff enough.

The new bride did much better than the rest of us.

Here's me giving it a try.

And my little brother.

And Claude swimming with them.  This was lots of fun and I highly recommend it, if you get a chance.

For another $50 we could get in with the sharks and pet them.  We decided to pass on this.

Getting in with sting rays was included in our package and that was quite interesting, too.  They have sharp needle-like things all along their spine and feel kind of soft and slimy.  The dolphins don't feel slimy at all, just hard and wet.  No comments on that, please!

He asked a volunteer to come forward to get a kiss from the sting ray and just as the guy was approaching it, it sprayed a bunch of water out of its mouth.  I'm not sure how he got it to do that.  They also offered camel rides at this place, which seemed kind of out of place at the beach.  John and I rode camels by the pyramids when we were in Egypt, so I passed on that.

Back at the beach at the resort, the bar boys were always going around picking up empty glasses.  It was nothing to see them carrying stacks about eight feet long.  Mom and I were sitting next to a couple ladies one afternoon who asked us about what kinds of drinks to order.  So I commenced to name off a few we had tried--Red Stripe beer, Super Conga, Bahama Mama, Tropicale, Rum Fruit Punch, Miami Vice, Blue Ocean, Mango Tango, Strawberry Mango Daquiri, Pina Colada, Chocolate Martini, Creme de Menthe with seltzer water, etc.  They started to laugh and asked, "Just how many days have you two been here?"  It was only our third day, but I don't think they really put very much booze in them unless you asked them to.  But they were yummy and the Miami Vice was my favorite, which was red, white and blue, very pretty.

Our last afternoon I walked down the beach a ways past the end of our resort.  A couple days earlier a young man had been going up and down the resort beach with two live lobsters, telling everyone about this wonderful grilled seafood restaurant just past the resort, where you could pick your live seafood and they would grill it for you.

I walked quite a ways down the beach and every tree branch seemed to be a sale rack.

These people just seem to show up for the day, sell what they can, all relaxed and having fun, while their kids are playing in the ocean.  No problem, no worries, yah mon.

It's not like Mexico.  I did not feel harassed at all.

Beautiful, huge shells.  Claude bought one earlier from a beach peddler for $5.00.  I talked to someone who bought a little bit smaller one for $1.00.

Their were several bars like these two along this little stretch of beach.  This one was called "Office of Nature" and the sign said, "ere the fun don't done".

There was a guy grilling something under the little shelter.

Walking back to the resort.  

One place I walked by just appeared to be some young guys partying and smokin' the good stuff.  I heard several people in our group say they had been offered some of the good stuff to buy.   As they say, "What happens in Jamaica...  never happened."

John's always asking me if I met anyone I knew when I come back from a walk, but this time I actually did.  Some of the girls from the wedding were out for one last shopping spree before we had to go home.

Several places along here, just set back in the trees a little, there were tarps like this that seemed to be permanent homes for some folks.  Dog laying in the foreground and what appears to be a shower or porta potty shelter back to the right.

Notice the busted up plastic chair hanging from the tree like a swing.

Back at the resort Grandma, Morgan and Jodi are still relaxing by the ocean on our last afternoon.

This is the building Mom and I stayed in.  There were four really huge buildings like this.  I have no idea how many they might hold, but they certainly weren't full, by any means.  There were lots of trees like these two on the grounds.  I don't know if they had to train them to grow flat like that or not.  The leaves look like banana trees, but I'm not sure what they were.

On the bus ride back to the airport.

These are typical homes or businesses along the road back to the airport.  We saw little 10x10 shacks built out of old corrugated metal or whatever other scrap lumber they could find.

There are goats everywhere here, including the buffet table.  Our bus driver said they call them Jamaican reindeer or just roadkill.  Speaking of buffets, we got to try lots of new and unusual foods.  The jackfruit is a spiny, oval shaped fruit, the largest fruit in the world and the national fruit of Bangladesh.  It has a sort of spongy, stringy texture, but is very sweet and tasty.  I thought the goat, lamb and oxtail were okay.  The conch tasted okay, but is very tough to chew.  I never cared for calamari, as I thought it was so tough and chewy, but they fixed it several different ways and it wasn't too bad.  The pumpkin soup was very good and the caramelized plantains were yummy, but the eel sushi was only edible and I wouldn't have it again.  I tried beef carpaccio and salmon carpaccio, but had to look it up later to see what it actually was.  I didn't mind the salmon, but did not care for the beef.  It is an Italian dish usually served as an appetizer.  It is very thinly slice beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna served on a dish with a marinade of lemon and olive oil with shavings of white truffle or parmesan cheese.  It can be topped with rocket (from the word rugula), a type of cabbage.  It was invented and popularized by the owner of Harry's Bar in Venice, originally prepared for a countess whose doctors had told her to eat more raw meat.  It was named at an exhibition in Venice in 1950 for the painter, Vittore Carpaccio.  It's amazing what you can find on the internet.

We saw lots of unfinished homes like this with re-bar sticking out of the top for the next story.  The interest rates for mortgages run from 9.4% to 18%, so many people prefer to build as much as they can afford and then wait until they can save up some more money.  Many join a kind of co-op where you put in so much money every month and then you get to take a draw once every year or two when it is your turn.  Then you build some more on your house.

They have about 16% unemployment, but no unemployment insurance.  They do have a national insurance that you can buy into if you want.  But most families live with extended families in one home, children, parents, grandparents, etc. with possibly several incomes coming in.  So if someone loses a job, the rest of the family picks up the slack and they take care of each other.

Trivia:  Bob Marley, the legendary "King of Reggae", was born in 1945 in Nine Miles, a small town about three hours north of Kingston in the beautiful mountains of St. Ann, Jamaica.  He grew up in poverty in a small mountain village with no plumbing or electricity.  His father was a white Jamaican of English descent and he endured ridicule and disdain by black Jamaicans for being a mulatto.  There is a Marley tour of the same house he grew up in given by a Rastafarian guide.  You can sit on the Mt. Zion Rock where he meditated and rest your head on the "pillow" made famous in the song "Talkin' Blues".  The highlight is the beautiful mausoleum that is his final resting place.  

Back in Phoenix Monday night.  We spent a day parked at the Lone Butte Casino in Chandler.  Then we stayed a week at Cotton Lane RV Park just on the west edge of the Phoenix metro area, where I went swimming and hiking everyday and we drove back into town for a couple movies.  We saw August: Osage County which you can skip and Lone Survivor, which was good and based on a true story, but very bloody.  Sunday we went to an RV show in town, but I haven't yet convinced John that it's time to trade up.  Wednesday we are heading for Quartzsite where one of the biggest RV shows in the country is going on, so I'll have another chance to work on him.   

Don't worry, be happy.