Monday, March 12, 2012

10 days in Jamaica

And it wasn't enough...

We have just returned from Whitehouse, Jamaica, a resort set on several hundred private acres so it was quiet and lush and just what the doctor ordered.

There was the small matter of a 90 minute bus ride from Montego Bay airport, one that I can confidently say knocked off several years off my life. "Stormin' Norman" was in the driver's seat, and while he seemed fairly relaxed, he warned us it was going to be not only bumpy and twisty, but there would be a lot of what would appear to be near-misses with other cars and trucks. When we witnessed a truly close call, he vowed someone on the bus would change his name from Norman to "Holy Shit!" Guess who renamed Norman?

We passed orange groves and sugar cane fields and rows of shacks about the size of bus shelters, in soft pastel colours with corrugated tin roofs. It was hot and humid and green, just what a summer-starved Canadian girl needed.

Any thoughts of a relaxing holiday by the pool were dashed as my darling husband signed us up for diving instruction. If we got open water certification, it would be good for life he argued, and it meant we could dive to 60 feet any time we wanted. I thought I might be able to get him so liquored up on rum punch so he'd forget the whole thing. But he's Scottish and stubborn.

We spent every day diving, usually two dives - one at 9 a.m. to 60 feet and one at 11 a.m. to 35 feet. Then we studied our dive books in the afternoon and wrote the exam at the end of the week. We both passed. With a perfect score, actually. This was because a) Doug didn't want us to die, and b) I didn't want Doug to get a higher marks. And I didn't want to die either. Definitely why I was motivated to study hard.

Our instructor, Roderick, was a hoot. At first he was a tad cranky, and I realized that we'd been foisted on him by our first instructor who took over the lessons for a more advanced couple. He could barely look at me at first, he'd just give me an instruction, look away, but if I did something wrong, he'd pull me close to him using my jacket strap and say, slowly, "Pamelaaaa, Paaaamelaaaaa, what did I just tell you?" He scared the bejabbers out of me, to be honest, as did the diving. But Roderick underestimated how stubborn and determined I am, especially when something scares me. I don't like to be defeated.

The worst part was having to take off my mask under water, breathe with the regulator for one minute, then put the mask on again and empty the water using my nostrils. The first couple of times I tried it in the pool, I came up coughing to the point of almost puking. And I knew I would have to do it again in the ocean at 30 feet down. Roderick finally said, "Okay, you can't do it. We'll try again tomorrow."

Knowing I'd have nightmares about it all night, I insisted I was going to take one more stab at it. He said no. I said oh yes I am, and went under. And did it. Apparently, I found out from Doug later that Roderick turned to Doug and with a big grin said, "now I know how to get her to do something. Just tell her she can't." From that moment on, I had his respect and we ended up great buddies. I called him Papa Bear, which cracked up the "chickens" (what Roderick called all the young boys in training, all long skinny legs and broad white smiles with names like Orlando and Desmond and Garth.) Anyway, when we wrote the exam, Roderick grinned like a proud papa and said, "Pamela, when you came to my class, I shook my head and thought 'oh oh, this is going to be bad, this woman is trouble.' But I had the most fun I've had in a long time." We even did a night dive, using flashlights! Pretty cool.

We saw turtles, barracuda, crabs the size of hubcaps, moray eels, rays and all matter of tropical fish. I loved it, especially winding through canyons of coral one afternoon. Magic.

Air Canada canceled our flight home on Saturday so we had to stay an extra day. Poor us. Luckily the flight from Montreal to Jamaica was also delayed so we got to stay in those rooms. The hotel was 100% booked at that point so we were lucky we didn't have to spend the night on the chairs by the pool.

So how did you spend your spring break?


Debby said...

So how long did it take Doug to figure out that the best way to get something accomplished was to tell you that you weren't allowed to do it?

I'm very impressed by your fearlessness, and your sense of adventure.

I still would not do such a thing.

Really. I rest my case!

A Novel Woman said...

Oh, Doug has known that trick for years. It was Roderick who figured it out.

I saw that shark feeding frenzy today and the first thing I thought was damn, I would have liked to have seen that from below! The second thing was doh! Oh no you wouldn't. (I kinda would though.)

nightsmusic said...

What spring break?

Hats off to you, my dear. I can't swim, don't want to learn and never even get my face wet in the shower (thank inventors for face wipes that are pre-moistened)

Sounds like you had an awesome time, but I do expect some pictures so I can live vicariously. ;o)

Terry said...

Pam, you're my hero. I have always wanted to learn to dive, but dread, fear, and claustrophobia have stopped me. And at night! Cool!

A Novel Woman said...

Terry, I felt the same way until I tried it. But there is a zen like calm that takes over when you're down there. The training is so thorough that you know just what to do in the case of emergency, and you practice it. All baby steps. It's a very meditative, relaxing sport. You must try it, and you'll know what I mean. I'll go with you!