Time on the Cliffs & Our Trip To Torrington School
I rise early and perch myself on the concrete sea wall of Blue Cave Castle, watching the early morning fishermen and snorkelers working for the days catch. It is so peaceful up on the cliffs – but today is an exciting day. I wait for our new friends (Joe and Tami) to rise for their morning coffee. Finally my hubby comes out in the courtyard and soon Joe and Tami show up there for Blue Cave’s Famous Blue Mountain Coffee. Today is a day we’ve all talked about and look forward to visiting Torrington School. As we ready for our trip, we run into some other guests and after a brief chat, we find that two of them are from this board! (no joke!) We tell them of our trip to the school and THEY TOO have brought supplies. They will be unable to attend the trip with us, but ask if we would take their things for them. We gladly agree. We bundle our packages together and wait for Charlie to pick us up. We have some reflection time & kick back to discuss our trip events so far. Charlie arrives right on time, already having picked up Stan and Betty. They meet Tami and Joe for the first time and we all head off with bags in hand to load the bus. Our bus ride begins and we take the road toward Sav, laughing and talking as though we’d known each other for years. Shortly after Little London, we realize that Charlie takes a more Jamaican approach to driving. Charlie is hungry, so we stop for a patty and a soda.
With Joe and Stan’s urging, Paul decides to be adventuresome and try a patty. Mmm, mmmmm, mmmmm!! Paul likes these and so do I! We continue onward toward the school and Charlie says we are about halfway there. I’ll agree with Rasta Stan’s description of our travelling at breakneck speed, so we decided to crack a Red Stripe and chill a little until we get there. We are all eager to meet the children and as we pull in, we are looking hard to see what we are about to embark upon. We pull up to the school – which is a basic concrete building. The yard is bare, with a well-used swingset in the front. The principal comes out to greet us.
After talking in the yard, the children came to the door to see what was going on. They came slowly at first…. We lugged our goods into the school, stacking the bags of supplies on and around one desk that was at the front of the classroom. Dawning enough photo equipment to be obvious, I’m sure we looked like tourists from National Lampoon’s Vacation. The children in their beautiful yellow and khaki uniforms – they watched us with bright sparkles in their eyes and wonder of what would be. They all smiled and chimed in saying “WELCOME!” I believe we were all immediately overwhelmed with a sense of unity and human kindness – I’m sure at that moment – the saying “One Love” was being felt by all of us……
Our new friends, Tami and Joe, Stan and Betty, were all surrounded by the 100 or so children at the school, all vying for a chance to be photographed and to see their picture on the digital and video cameras. Paul was entertaining a handful at a time by letting them watch themselves on the camcorder screen. One precious little girl started to cry and Tami picked her up and comforted her. We had timed our visit around school lunch time and a few of us adventured behind another curtain that was blowing in the doorway. It led to the school kitchen and I snapped a few photos of the lunch the children were being served. With only one working burner on the stove, I’m sure that this small serving of rice with a little sauce was a fair accomplishment. One little girl walked over with a mile wide grin and showed me her empty bowl and said “I ate it all”. I laughed, while choking back the tears and complimented her on not being wasteful.
I made my way back to the classroom and stood there in awe watching each one of my new friends joyfully interacting with the children and my husband Paul was helping a little boy who had put his shoes on the wrong feet. Later, my husband told me that the shoes were far too small for him and hoped he hadn’t caused pain by trying to put his foot into a too small shoe. The children of the school are very spirited and joyful and the teachers truly care about what they do. I noticed Jamaican children like to sing alot – it’s great that they realize that happiness may be more important than shoes that fit, or what you eat for lunch. As we slowly gather ourselves at the school and realize we should leave and let school get back to normal, we all walk slowly snapping a last photo or two, waving goodbye or giving a hug to some of these beautiful children. We may have left some school supplies but we are taking away memories of a lifetime. As we board the bus, the children all hang on the fence, waving and smiling. We all smile back and wave but we hope they couldn’t see our watery eyes through the glass. As we pulled away, silence fell over all of us. I don’t think there was a dry eye on the bus. I know that I sat reflecting on the things in life that really are important and how lucky I am to be as fortunate as I am. I’m pretty sure that we were all reflecting on such things. After a while, Stan piped up and suggested we head to Mi Yard for a late afternoon drink. We compare photos on the digital, and replay the camcorder video and make plans to share pictures and make the school supply visit to a Negril school a yearly event.
It’s early evening and we head back toward the Castle. We make it in time to have a mixed drink before sunset. You’ll never believe what happened next. I’m pretty sure this was a once in a lifetime occurrence for me. As we took pictures and video of the sunset from the penthouse deck at Blue Cave Castle, toward the east, Joe pointed to a beautiful rainbow that appeared out of nowhere. It was truly a blessed moment to have a beautiful rainbow in one direction and a beautiful sunset in the other. Wow, what a day! We spend the evening at Blue Cave Castle with our friends, Joe and Tami. They have the penthouse, so we make good use of their blender, our new friendship and the memories of the day.
The next morning we hop into the beautiful waters outside of Blue Cave and start our day out with snorkeling. We see many unique things, including several versions of eel, red snapper, blowfish, sturgeon fish, flounder and much more. Although I am hoping for an encounter with a giant ray, I am thrilled with all the things I see. We walk down to the Sunshine Plaza and do a little shopping. Tami and Joe went shopping with us. Not really sure too much about the days, as we are at one with Father time – who knows what day and who cares. It’s just a beautiful day with a setting in paradise. Tonight is our board party and we chatter all the way back. It’s a long walk in the very warm weather but the sights and sounds are worth it. We all shower up and are waiting for the day to draw closer to sunset for our meeting at 3 Dives. We’ve heard about the lobster and are hoping that they have some frozen reserves, since lobster is out of season. We head out around 5pm and walk up the West end road toward Three Dives. It’s not near as far as we thought and we are the first of our party there. Joe and Tami tell us they made a friend just up around the corner and we should go up for a pre-dinner snack. We end up at Keitho’s – great beef patties and fresh squeezed orange juice. We hang out and visit with Keitho for a while. We head back to 3 Dives. As luck would have it, we sparked a conversation with a young couple and it turns out that one of these people just happens to have been a long time lurker but never posted. She had no idea about the board party but Jah saw fit to bring together some more wonderful people. As the night progressed, we met Indybob and RebekahJo, Tea’Oom, Sienna, Sala and many others. We snap a few pictures, capturing actual faces of those that we’ve met only through words on the Jamaicans.com bulletin board.
Jah looked well upon us as there were 5 of us eating and they had 5 frozen lobsters left! We chatted and snapped photo after photo – talked about the board and the food was ready long before I had ever imagined. (Time does fly when you’re having fun) We were AMAZED at the helping of food that we got for about $16 USD! Look at this spread! A serving of Lobster consisted of two whole lobster tails, each sliced in half. And another whole plate of callaloo and rice and peas came with it! Words cannot describe the taste of that lobster. I’m sure that I will probably never have lobster in the states again – it was THAT GOOD! Tea’Oom showed up and had gotten a great local delicacy called blue drawers. Kind of a sweet tasting dessert type dough wrapped in a banana leaf. It was so neat trying this unique dessert – which is a hard to come by local specialty. Sala entertained us with fishing stories and we laughed way into the night. The only thing I can say about the food and the friends tonight – incredible. It was a priceless evening.
We take our friends Joe and Tami to the Office of Nature and Bloody Bay beach. We are glad to spend another relaxing day – watching the rays and hermit crabs. We stop by to try and catch Stan and Betty and make plans for a live radio broadcast that is happening from Mi Yard that night. We lounge the day away – interacting with the locals and watching the children play. Tami and Joe decide to stay behind – she wants the braids – so Paul and I head out to catch a taxi back to Blue Cave. We watch the sunset, and then head down to Mi Yard to meet up with the other boardies. Tami showed up with freshly done braids and a reddish brown sunburn from being out all day. Stan and Betty were there, too! IndyBob also showed up and maybe some others did too. It was a heavy rum cream evening. We decided to head back and were hungry and had been eyeing the place across the road. The Love Boat had newly opened. We sat out on a large beautiful 2nd floor deck that hangs out over the water. This is where we will have our late night dinner. They were out of several things on the menu (steak, lobster, hamburgers) so we settled for some other menu items. I had some tasty jerk chicken with rice and peas.
The next day we wake early and start gathering up our goods, as we will be departing soon. I head to the ocean and treasure the last snorkeling excursion for this trip, then start packing our bags. Tami and Joe come down to say hi and we invite them to go shopping in town. We all have souvenirs to buy and have really put a focus on enjoying our time in Negril, rather than focusing on if we got our parents something they would really enjoy. We spend the day shopping, Joe and Tami go off on their own to shop for a while and I go to my favorite eating place at the Sunshine Plaza – “Sunshine Pizza”. It’s mid afternoon and I order a yummy tomato pizza MMMMMMMmmmmm. We stare out over the water and we are getting rather silent because we know this is our last day. Paul and I talk about how perfect our trip has been. School lets out and we see the uniformed kids walking down the street. Two lively characters decide to stop and talk to us. Nicholas and Brian asked if they could have our leftover pizza. Paul and I both thought the same and went to the counter to order pizza and soda for the boys. We learn that Nicholas wants to be a policeman when he grows up and Brian wants to be a policeman too, unless he gets fired and then he’d be a taxi driver. We head down to the beach for our last sunset in Negril, at least for this trip. I wanted to feel the sand underneath my feet one more time…
We walk down to 7 Mile beach, stopping at Sheid’s for a drink and wiggle our toes in the sand one last time. We end up late afternoon at a favorite place – Irie Vibes. We have a hefty walk back to the Castle but decide it’s still early evening, and we want to watch our last sunset from the Castle. Tami and Joe decide to stay behind to finish their shopping. We make our long last haul up the west end road, stopping here and there for a Red Stripe, laughing and joking with silent spots in between – silently etching every detail into our memories. We make it to the Castle and await another sunset – our last for this journey. As we sit on the sea wall, we quietly watch the sun set, and thank Jah for having allowed us to witness such awesome things in life such as this sunset. Right now I’m sure we’re thinking the same thing…I wanna stay here forever. Tami and Joe return from their shopping trip after sunset and we spend the evening laughing and Red-Striping it. We try not to talk much about our departure tomorrow, Tami and I both get choked up talking about it. We leave around midnight and head back to our room for one last sleep in our castle bed.
I wake early the next morning. I walk the grounds one last time. They’ve cleaned the water garden and the turtles are out in the early morning sun. Joe and Tami finally arrive for their morning Blue Mountain coffee, and we sit at a table and chat. Paul finally wakes to join us. We don’t have long to chat, as we must pack…Sala will be here soon. We gather our bags and wait for Sala to come. Tami and Joe are going to hitch a ride with us and get dropped off at the Sunshine Plaza. The time comes and we must go. Sala stores our bags in the back and we pile in. We pull over across from Sunshine Plaza. Paul, Sala and Joe do the manly handshake and slap on the shoulder goodbye. Tami and I hug each other and cry…..I hate this part; saying goodbye to a good friend and knowing that we are leaving paradise, those are both good reasons to cry. As we pull away, I do my best to maintain composure. As we drive down Norman Manley Blvd heading in the direction of the airport, we are all silent. I am engraving these sights into my mind to hold dear forever and ever. As we pass the Riu, I remember our new friends Stan and Betty and our trip to the school with them. We pass Bloody Bay and the Office of Nature and I am reminded of our days on the beach there with Tami and Joe and the stingray and puffer fish encounters with Sienna. It is hard to choke back the tears but I am trying to remember that I am blessed to have been able to experience all these wonderful things. I smile at the locals I see along the way and remember all the wonderful Jamaican people that I met on this trip, most of whom I know by name now. As we get closer to the “hip strip” in Mo Bay, I want to scream out “Stop the car! I don’t wanna leave!” but I know that sooner or later, we must all return to reality. I see the signs – Sangster Int’l 7KM….OK I really am leaving this place….6KM…feeling VERY sad….4KM trying to look up at the sky so the tears don’t spill over….1KM…feeling so sad I feel sick…and there it is…the gateway to reality. We get our bags and I hug Sala goodbye – hoping my sunglasses are helping hide my teary red eyes. I don’t think he understands how much I value his friendship.
As we wave goodbye and walk into the airport, we get in line – the slowest moving line (boy, reality sure sets in quick). When we finally approach the counter, I blurt out “By any chance, are you overbooked?” I promise that came out of my mouth as abruptly as if someone kicked me in the pants…… The clerk replies that yes, the flight is overbooked and asks us if we would be willing to volunteer our seats if needed. Paul and I discuss it and since they could get us home the very next day, we decide that we will volunteer and see what happens. At the boarding gate, the agent says they will need our seats. They made it right with us (can you say free airline tickets to JA?). We wait for them to pull our luggage and they take us away in a van to a hotel….an all inclusive hotel. At 1:30 pm, we arrive at Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Mo Bay. We drank rum cream and rum and thanked Jah for the good fortune of having one more night on this lovely Island. The dinner buffet was lavish – fancy pastries and all, funny as it may seem, I really just wanted a jerk chicken stand or a simple patty. We watched the AI entertainment and were glad that we hadn’t gone all inclusive – that we had gone and enjoyed Jamaica for it’s people, it’s culture and it’s beauty. We celebrated our extra sunset – though not near as magnificent as Negril…it was majestic.
We left the hotel at 6am to catch our flight home. Very few in line and just enough time to grab some duty free rum and rum cream… and then onto our flight. I can’t tell you much about the trip home, except that it was uneventful and we made it. My mind was so busy going over details to remember from our trip, that other things didn’t seem as important. I tried not to think about reality too much, it has it’s own way of sinking in and overtaking the Irie mentality…but there are good things about coming home…and when we walked through the doorway at home, there hung a home made sign that said “Welcome Home – Irie Mon”. My teenage daughter had taken the time to tape it to the front of our entertainment center. I missed Jamaica – but realized there were many things here that I missed, too. I stumbled across this board when seeking out vacation destinations a couple of years ago. This board has brought me new friends, new adventures, treasured memories and so much more. I appreciate all the readers and writers on this board and the friendly help this board offers. Thank you mostly, for letting me have a place to share my special moments in Negril – it helps keep the memories alive. Until the next trip….Irie!