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Jamaica Honeymoon – Day 5 ~9:40 am, local time
Day five of the honeymoon felt like the first step back towards the Montego Bay airport and our beloved animals that wait for us back in New Jersey. As the trip comes to a close, I sink just a little deeper into my lounge chair, holding onto the sunshine and the view of the sea for just a little longer. Six days is a healthy length for a trip where lounging is the default, any longer and you might get a little too used to it.
We’ve taken a dip off the cliffs every morning we’ve been here, partly because it’s available, but mostly because it takes the edge off the heat. You kind of form this relationship with the water in tropical climates, using it as a sort of reset button for your body to reach a more comfortable operating temperature for the next few hours. The residual salt in your hair clings to your follicles like a natural hair product, maintaining its shape while the wind blows through it bringing salt crystals back to the sea from whence it came.
One of our hosts, Tom, recommended a local lobster joint, Sips n Dips, for the freshest catch in town for lunch. We strolled up around opening time and were greeted by an elderly man who’d informed us it’d be about 40 minutes. He spoke with the familiar island intonation, carrying a nonchalance as relaxed as the wind and waves. In Jamaica, you either embrace the speed or hurriedly wait, because the beach doesn’t differentiate between footprints in the sand. Heather and I welcomed the idle time, knowing the service industry well and the importance of proper food preparation. When our cook/server came by with our tray of fresh lobster, we started by prying the tails out with our forks, eventually resorting to our fingertips to finish the job. At one point I looked down at my hands and wondered how people keep this operation clean in white tablecloth restaurants and thought that beneath the shade of a tree is the better place to be.
Climbing back onto the Vespa and pulling out onto the main road, we coincidentally caught Pam, Rick, and Steve cruising by. We decided to take a ride up the coast a bit to see some more of the island but it didn’t last long as every hundred feet past the last Americanized resort the road turned into a minefield of potholes. Driving a Vespa with Heather on the back was like having a computer update you with every potential danger in the area: “You’re going too fast, but don’t hit that pothole, wait, watch out for that sand patch!” All the while the wind moves past us keeping us cool and comfortable.
We stopped at Rick’s Café on the way back, the tourist trap of tourist traps in Negril. Large, fake stone patios, a big stage, one of those rectangular picture frames that you can stand in and more overweight white people than a Red Lobster in Texas. Institutions like these undermine the culture in which they operate when people travel hundreds of miles to have a chicken club on the cliffs of Negril.
Of course it’s a choice and risking your hunger on unfamiliar cuisine creates a risk for a rumbling stomach, but I can’t help but think when I visit these places that this is what’s wrong with our culture. Heather and I have already made the mistake twice: once in the Dominican Republic shooting a wedding and the other time in Cancun, where you experience such an Americanized version of a country that it’s offensive to even say that you visited it. I guess places like Rick’s are inevitable in highly trafficked vacation spots, but it does both of our cultures a disservice with their sheer existence.
Everyday of my life I want to make a connection. Whether its person-to-person or person-to-culture, connections are bridges of understanding that can conquer ignorance one experience at a time. A relationship with the water and the wind will sweep us into a more united future much quicker than any resort or tourist trap ever could.