Monday, December 6, 2010

The Grateful Alive

Barbara: I’m just back from my wonderful holiday and asked Deb if it would be okay if I just wrapped things up before we continue to our planned posts for this week (we have a new 3-way coming up, yay!! And some great pics and stories from Deb’s own adventure). Deb said she is more than happy to accommodate me, so this will be my last “solo”. 

First of all, I want to thank all of you for sharing my vacation with me, with special thanks for all the comments and well-wishes. I just loved reading them all when I got home. And an extra-grateful thanks to Erica and Christy over at erica and christy for their recent award to us. Thanks, ladies!!

Now here are some answers to your questions last week: yes, Hollye, it was a Sandals resort (Grande Ocho Rios). Our first ever Sandals—and we chose it because of the 65% off deal (apparently the best off-season rates are the last weeks before the Christmas rush, ie, November, first week of December). Not only did they throw in the substantial spa credit, but all the diving and snorkeling tours are included. Phil is an avid diver and dove every morning and afternoon while I snorkeled or read (remember, I tried diving long ago and am sadly too poultry-esque). So that was another huge savings.

At first we were disappointed with the smallish beach and, of course, the fact that half the resort is on the other side of a busy road (which is why we upgraded to the ocean side—for a relative pittance, again because of the low season). Then half the beach was under renovation in anticipation of the busy season, making the beach options even smaller. This also ruled out any chance of our skinny-dipping, Tannis … unless we’d chosen to do it in full view of the dining patrons. (I’ll let you all in on a little secret: not nearly that adventurous!) But any misgivings we had soon faded in the light of … well, the light. We saw it. And it was good.

We can't say enough good things about the service and people and cleanliness and attention to detail. They spoiled us, but they also "spoiled" us. We’ll probably start whining now for butler service and heated towels and hourly massage-applied suntan lotion the next time we travel. Phil already grumbled this morning when he opened our fridge door that “the buffet here isn’t very good”. This is how the monster is created, people!

On the last day of our vacation, I discovered something interesting about the Jamaican people. I found myself among a large group of resort workers who were gathered on the pier. We started chatting and they told me that Sandals was taking the housekeeping staff on a catamaran party to thank them for all their hard work. It was a well-deserved trip of Gratitude. And they appreciated the gesture.

I asked them if they would also be going snorkeling or swimming out on the reefs. They looked at me askance—it turns out that 95% of the Jamaican people DO NOT SWIM. I was gobsmacked. I asked them how they could live in that paradise surrounded by that healing, soothing water and not swim. They said they had no desire at all to go into the ocean, never mind learn to swim. The very thought appalled them. Apparently the Jamaican mothers in all their protective glory (and they seem an incredibly maternal people) refuse to allow their children to go into the water for fear of drowning. This fear stays with them their whole lives. I raved to them about the curative powers of salt water, how it makes you float, how there are several shallow, protected areas ideal for cautious first steps. They kept balking, but then seemed intrigued by the thought that maybe the water would be good for them. I admit I pushed a bit—like it was my mission to convert this little group to the ways of the ocean. And maybe out of polite courtesy, maybe out of piqued interest, or maybe out of desperation to get this mad white woman off their backs, they started to express interest in trying it one day. I could feel my latent missionary rise up stronger within me as I began to preach and advocate. I found myself wishing I could stay longer and physically coax this gang of hardworking women down to the shores and into the sea, just to its turquoise shallows, and encouraging them to just lie back, just suspend themselves in the viscous water, and release their tensions and worries into the warm salt water like I did mine. I can’t help hoping they will find the courage to actually do it one day.

One last rumination that ties our vacation with the “compliments” discussion from last week: I can truly say that my gratitude at being so looked after at the resort just made my heart full to bursting, which in turn unleashed an unprecedented barrage of compliments. Even though I knew that people were getting paid to pamper us (ie, it’s their job), it still affected me greatly that they were doing it and doing it so well. I know the difference between a service rendered with indifference and one infused with warmth and dignity and pride and goodwill. The people who worked at the resort had all these qualities and more. And I praised them profusely. I thanked; I raved; I patted backs. And you know what? They didn’t compliment me back and they didn’t tell me it’s simply their job, but they did smile and say thank you. And you know what else? I felt even more heartwarming gratitude.

Gratitude is an amazing feeling. It is wholesome and cozy and uplifting. As good as a resort getaway. Please, please, don’t take it away from me!

So let me finish by saying: you guys are utterly awesome and super-beautiful!! Take that and a bag of chips.

Deb: If I was an enterprising Jamaican––and some of you may know some (word in their ear)––I would start a swimming school: “Own the Ocean!” and make a bundle turning it around, teaching people of all ages to swim and love it. Change a fear into joy! I have been to Jamaica three times and have never realized this fact. Wow.

Irie, mon, and float!


  1. *runs across the internet to tacklehug Barbara* WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!

  2. Sounds wonderful and relaxing. So glad you shared with us.

  3. Tears to my eyes - your gratitude warms me also ...
    Thanks for sharing!
    Love Sandy

  4. The aversion to swimming (especially in the ocean) is not only a Jamaican anomaly - it's a shared reality throughout a majority of the glorious citizens of the Caribbean.

    Alas about the skinny dipping....too bad about the dining room's locale. Then again the other guests might have figured it was part of the entertainment. Dinner and a show.

    Someday. Someday.

  5. This looked like such a fabulous vacation! I really am glad you and Phil had the chance to go get wrecked (aka: spoiled). --though yes, too bad about the lack of skinny dipping and au natural sunbathing! It really IS surprising they don't swim! That is fairly baffling! I learned to swim very young because my grandparents had a lake cabin and the felt SWIMMING was the best defense against drowning...

  6. Yeah, dinner and a show, Tannis! Ah well, next time...

    Hart, my thoughts exactly re the swimming as a life-lesson essential. I guess one parent's essential is another parent's poison.

    And, of course, the sea IS full of potential harm: from riptides to jellyfish. But it's a whole lotta ocean for a wee bit of bad chance. I still wish for the Caribbean people a baptism by sea.

  7. Lets me start off by saying welcome back. That really shocks me that they don't know how to swim. I love to swim,always have. If I could I would stay in the water all summer long.It sounds like you all had such a good time.Glad you did. Now back to the cool weather instead of the hot warm weather.

  8. Gosh it kills me that Jamaicans are surrounded by ocean and never use it! That's like having tons of shoes and only wearing flip flops. Ok, it's not really like that.
    But, man, I'm so happy you enjoyed yourself and kept us in the loop. Inspiring, as I really want a vacation! Gotta just make it happen.

  9. Welcome home! Your vacation looks like such a wonderful break. I found your observations really interesting. I'm trying to imagine living on an island and not knowing how to swim.

  10. We loved our trip to Jamaica but do have friends from Bermuda and New Orleans who do not go into any ocean. They would come watch me ride swell after swell (praying) the ocean would not swallow me up. Both would clap when I fell off the board and the waves would wash me and my board ashore. How wonderful to appreciate and notice such yet I am not surprised for you are so loving as I can tell from your writing. Welcome home!

  11. Thanks all! I have to say how gobsmacked I still am about the whole living-by-the-ocean-not-swimming phenomenon. lifewaves, your story is adorable!

  12. The swimming school thing would go downhill. I am jamaican, we wouldnt pay to learn something we can do freely with all the free beaches available and most kids get taught how to swim by parents or older siblings. I unfortunately cannot swim. My mother wouldnt allow it. Sigh.


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