Is it too big of a statement to say that I think I just had the best weekend of my life? Seriously, I hope my wedding or some other huge life event can live up to this. I was in amazing places with amazing people, which resulted in some pretty amazing feelings and experiences. While words will certainly not do justice for the first-hand experience of the natural beauty that this island beholds, I will give it my best attempt.
Saturday began with rain. Lots of rain. For the duration of the two-hour bus ride, we were all unsure if our day would end up being spent sitting in the bus silently willing the rain to cease. The rain let up just enough for us to enjoy Boston Bay, a scenic seaway with a plethora “photo opps.” My personal favorite was a little Bob Marley themed tree house. One thing I have noticed upon coming to Jamaica is the pride they take in their notable figures. They love to reinforce the positives about their homeland, perhaps to make the negatives a little more manageable. When chatting with locals, they frequently ask us if we like Bob Marley, with hints of pride flashing in their eyes. Similarly, I have noticed that almost every classroom I have visited has a poster that has notable Jamaicans, with short captions about their accomplishments. As one could probably guess, these include Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, and Portia “Sista P” Simpson, the prime minister of the country. I find myself to be a bit of a positive person, so I can really appreciate the pride Jamaicans take in the positive parts of their country. I’d also like to point out that there is a water bottle company called “Cool Runnings Water.” I’m a big fan of the movie Cool Runnings (about the Olympic Jamaican bobsled team for those who are unaware), so I was glad they like to be reminded of how good it is, too.
Anyway…Our next stop deposited us at a small white-sand, clear blue-water beach. I have been to plenty of beaches along the East Coast of America, but they pale in comparison. We picked that particular beach because it was across the street from one of our professor’s in-law’s house. Both of our Italian female professors have married Jamaican men, which gives them direct ties to the country. It also gives us insider advice, such as how to find these tiny, but perfect, beaches, and where to get the best jerk chicken. Jerk is a staple in the Caribbean, and it is no joke! The jerk I had from a stand down the street from the beach was probably the spiciest thing I have ever tasted. Nonetheless, it was delicious. It was served with a sweet potato and a festival, which I would describe as looking like a Spanish churro and tasting like funnel cake-yum! Unfortunately, the rain only allowed us to stay at this local secret for about an hour, so we somewhat dejectedly climbed back into the bus. I had heard nothing but good things about our next destination, Reach Falls, so I was willing to perform a rain dance to make the sun come out.
Lucky for me (my dancing skills are less than impressive), the sun decided it was time to grace us with its presence. Pulling up to the parking lot, I was already making a deal to put sunscreen on my roommate’s back if she put it on mine. After we were all lathered, water shoes on, and valuables left in the car (other than a couple of waterproof cameras-so glad for them!), we started the short hike to the most breathtaking natural beauty I have experienced in my life. Reach Falls may not be the highest waterfall, but the power was undeniable. Gallons upon gallons of cool, fresh water came plummeting over the edge every second. I could have spent the entire day marveling at the falls and swimming in the pool in front of them.
I totally forgot we had a tour up the river in store for us as well. My entire tour was spent trying to gain enough balance in my water shoes to take in the absolutely stunning surroundings. There were tropical plants, trees and wildlife that all depended on the rocky, winding river. We trekked through the river, slapping at mosquitoes, and hardly talking because words do not give the beauty of the experience justice. Highlights of the hike included what I can only describe as a natural waterslide that let us out in another claustrophobic cavern to crawl through before climbing out into the sunlight. Another highlight was meeting the group of about six people taking the tour with us. My dialogue with one of the gentlemen went as follows…
Him: Where are you from?
Him: Well that’s obvious (insert my slight blushing), but where?
Me: Oh! We’re students from Temple University in Philadelphia!
Him: No way! We are all Drexel alumni!
Small world, right?
Our day came to a satisfied close, with all of us agreeing that we are pretty sure we just had the best day of our lives. Or a day that we will never forget, to say the least.
So here is to having more days similar to May 24th, 2014. Here is to allowing ourselves to become totally immersed in this awesome culture, and living the rest of our days here out to their fullest potential. And finally, here’s to our beloved homeland of Philly, which has the incredible power to create new friendships at a scenic point in Eastern Jamaica. Cheers!