I'm sad to say that the summer is already more than half over. Yuck! So, anyway, what have I been up to thus far?
Well, the highlight of my summer thus far would have to be the week long trip to Jamaica I took along with my "sister-from-another-mother" (i.e. Ada) and some other members of her Houston crew at the end of June/beginning of July. We stayed in Negril, which is a resort town on the island's more relaxed, less developed west end. We found a good deal for staying at the Grand Pineapple, an all-inclusive resort located right on the beach and within walking distance of nightlife spots.
Adjusting to Island Time was not a problem: most of our days were spent on the beach (fun fact: I am apparently incapable of lying out in the sun now without peeling), drinking (Red Stripe and assorted fruity rum drinks), and venturing out to live music venues at night (quote Ada "Don't be surprised if it's reggae!"). Our big innovation, which someone dubbed the Blue Bar, was to combine our top two activities by wading into the ocean with our drinks and sipping them while congregating around a beach float. We didn't get our arses in gear to go scuba diving until like 4 PM on our last day there, but on the plus side the diving was good and I think a couple of scuba sceptics might have been converted.
Other than that, our biggest excursion was the day trip we made to Mayfield Falls. The ride there through the lush, green mountains of the island's interior was an experience in itself (especially after our driver stopped off at a rasta shack on the side of the road – painted red, gold and green with a lion of zion). I remember we passed a lot of cute little girls and boys in school uniforms. I also noticed that the village mentality pervaded in the Jamaican countryside: when people pass someone they always acknowledge each other (some of the greetings I heard included "Respek" and "Rasta!"). Drivers even give a friendly honk when they pass people on the roadside.
So anyway, hiking up the falls was very cool. I was surprised how the water was crystal clear. At one point, our guide up the falls got us to swim below these rapids and through this little passage under the rocks. We were dubious at first when he told us that once you get to the bottom you'll be able to see the tunnel and the light at the other end you're supposed to be swimming towards, but sure enough...
I guess after this the guide got the impression that I was fearless or something because shortly after that he was all "follow me" and said something vague about "natural jumping." I followed him to this tree overlooking the water. There were rungs and notches to climb up, but it was still a little tricky especially as your footwear is by this point all wet and muddy. Then we got to this precariously narrow wooden platform maybe 15' up the tree and he was like "Ok, now turn around and jump." I was like "Whaa?" (In retrospect, I think I was expecting a rope jump or something).
So I was like "no way" and had to climb back down, which was 10x harder than climbing up or jumping. Plus I was shaken (and I had made the bad choice that day of wearing these swimming trunks that constantly slip down my arse). So I wussed out, but then after I saw the guide and Zach jump, I was like "Oh, I think I can do that." You see, all I needed was to see how it was done! So I climbed back up and after hestitating for awhile (it's mostly scary because you start off on the platform with your arms wrapped around the tree – afraid you are going to slip and fall and crack your head open – and then you have to make a quick 180-degree turn and jump into the water). But, on the plus side, it was one of those easy jumps where there's no wrong way to leap into the water (i.e. there's water directly below you, and you don't need to worry about clearing any rocks or anything).
And thus begun my love affair with jumping into water from a height. Later in the trip, Zach rented a bungalow at this hotel in the cliffs for Ada's birthday (Note: if you want a bit more luxury than an all-inclusive resort, perhaps a romantic couple's vacation in Negril, there are some nice places to stay in the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The place we were at was called Catcha Falling Star and it had a very chill, friendly staff plus a nice restaurant and a bar where you could open a tab for the day with your credit card). We had a great time: drinking Red Stripe, snorkeling in the slightly choppy waters below, dancing around in a sunshower outside the bungalow.
Plus there was cliff diving! I jumped off of what seemed to be the most imposing and dangerous looking ledge in our general vicinity (for some reason deciding to do this when almost no one was there to witness it). This was definitely higher than the tree platform and also there were rocks below that you could potentially kill yourself on so you needed to like take a big step off the cliff.
Here's the photographic evidence: a shot snapped by new friend Beth. It was taken from kind of far away but you can tell it is me by how my arms are all spazzy midair. Also, those are the friggin' swimtrunks that won't stay up! That other guy in the photo had jumped off the ledge a few minutes earlier, and he gave me some pointers before my leap. Oh, and I landed arse first which smarted somewhat.
I think the reasons I felt obliged to do these jumps were threefold: (a) I was on vacation and in Jamaica and when was I going to get another opportunity to do this?, (b) I may have felt like I had something to prove to Ada and Zach after my TOTALLY JUSTIFIED motorbike-related freakout on a muddy mountain trail on Koh Phangan (let me know if you would like to see a future blog post on this), and (c) I think I felt like I needed to conquer this type of fear if I ever want to be a serious competitor on Ninja Warrior (this will definitely be the subject of a future post).
So yeah, in conclusion, Jamaica rocked. Sorry about the blogging hiatus, but look I'm back now.