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saying hello after long absence. My trip to Jamaica

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saying hello after long absence. My trip to Jamaica

Old Jan 28th, 2020, 04:59 PM
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Oh No! Yes, please write all about it..you'll be helping someone else. So sorry to read this.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 02:47 AM
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Maybe the positive thing about your trip is you made it back home!
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 05:48 AM
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You guys are the best! I have so missed being in the Lounge, and your responses are why! I will begin to post later today. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride, as Bette Davis would say. But there are wonderful moments that show us this is why we travel.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 06:16 AM
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OK, this will teach you to ask for detail!
Day 1 -Travel Day Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2019 – a 20 hour day, arriving at my destination at 10:30 p.m. after a little visit, was able to go to bed around midnight. , I am going to explain a the circumstances, and then each experience with my recommendations and warnings, and the best parts, which were the people, the natural beauty of the country and the cuisine. I will say that I am a planner. I enjoy researching where I am going, I usually learn what is open when, make a plan, and then I let go. If I meet some people and they say come with us or you should do this, I know when I can do the other things I wanted to see, or what I am willing to forfeit. For this trip, I had a list of places I wanted to see, a loose “Plan B”, but nothing as detailed as usual, since I was going to be staying with native Jamaicans and taken around to local favorite spots. So, some of the onus is on me. Madness ensued.


I was invited to stay with friends, one of whom who was either going to fly down with me or meet me there. I would be staying with the grandmother, who is Rasta.

First of all, my friends did not let me know that one of them was trying to buy a house and close by the end of the year. A few days before I was due to leave I found out about this, and some issues that never should have been coming up at so late a stage. As a former full time Realtor-broker, I never would have bought my plane ticket or planned this trip had I known this. The point of the trip was that my friend was going to show me all their favorite spots, and I could experience the “real” Jamaica. That just seemed too good to pass up. They’d said I would be staying at the grandmother’s villa. After I said that out loud the second time, I thought to myself, this is probably more like a (modest) compound, with siblings all living in close range of each other, and that is what it was. They also let me know right away that there would be no AC, which I didn’t care about, but neglected to let me know there was no running water. Also, the “friend” that was supposed to drive me around – I’d planned to pay for gas, and a generous tip, said their car wasn’t running, I committed to a 4-day “rental” and a daily rate for the “guide”. Over $600 and 7 days later, I still hadn’t managed to see anything, because the “guide” would be 1 ½ hours late, even though he lived just steps away and I would see him up and dressed at the appointed time, and then I’d only get an hour at the site, we would leave for the afternoon adventure, and never get there. I tried to adjust to “island time”, after all it is hot, and things move slower, but then he would claim the place was too far away and would be closing soon, or that the gate is closed, or take me to some other place like Somerset Falls, that I had, in fact, researched, and definitely did not want to see, and I would be left with a day in the car. Driving is a series of narrow curving roads, where drivers beep as they enter the turn to let oncoming vehicles know. This system works surprisingly well, and the guide was a great driver, and no incidents. It did remind me of my father’s stories of learning to drive in the hills of Italy after taking his driver’s test on a stick shift in Philly only weeks before.

Since my friend from the US who invited me never arrived, I didn’t have anyone to run interference for me, and had a few people with their hand out, and it was hard to say “no”, when the grandmother was so welcoming and generous. I realize it makes me sound petty. One of her sons invited himself along on the trip to Firefly, and never once put his hand in his pocket, kept the change from lunch, even though it would have paid for the 4 cab fares home, and worst of all, never once offered me a hand up the steep stairs or steps to the gardens. Finally, on the 7th night, I had decided that it the way I'd frame it was that it was an imposition to stay with people for two weeks without my friends there. I knew that if I truly wanted to see the country, I would have to take matters in hand. We were due to go to Port Antonio the next day to see some falls, (guess what, we never got there, because we left almost 2 hours late, and once settled in the hotel, I found out the Falls were only 45 minutes away when he said it was too late to continue there. ). During the rare Wi-Fi hotspot, I was able to research some hotels, and book into one for two nights, and begin the second half of my trip.

If I were someone who believed in signs and bad omens, I would have been shattered by the beginning of my trip. I shouldn’t even share this with you. My friend had told me his grandmother was a real firecracker, and would be out dancing every night, so I should bring dresses and dancing shoes. With that, and all the gifts, collapsed boxes, wrap and ribbons, because you can’t take wrapped packages, plus the bottles of limoncello I’d made as a gift, my bag was 3 pounds over. I knew just what to do, I took my three pair of walking shoes out and shoved them in a tote bag. The strap to the dopey tote broke, and I didn’t realize that one of my Birkenstock walking sandals had fallen out under my plane seat, it was brown, the carpet was tannish-brown. I got to my gate, and was putting everything in my carryon so I could discard the torn tote. I realized one sandal is missing. I hail one of those motorized carts. We get to my arrival gate, and the woman at the desk says, “You mean the plane that just left for Lexington (Kentucky)?”. I said, well, did anyone turn anything in? I lost one sandal, It is my main walking shoe for my two-week trip. She said, someone turned in one shoe. You mean this? Yes! I hugged the gate agent! (embarrassing exuberance). I apologized to the young couple that was trying to check in, we all laughed, and I gave them a sheepish smile, and we motored back to my connection gate with at least 20 minutes to spare. I was fortunate that the gates weren’t further apart. I know, what a loser. I shouldn’t even mention this incident at all, but I was pleased with myself for checking my bag, and for taking action. It was a harbinger of the trip to come, though, if you believe in such things.

Arriving in Jamaica, I ran into trouble at Customs, because they didn’t find the address listed as my destination specific enough. The woman at the line told me to write down the other address information I had, and when I tried to show it to her, she actually held up her hand and said to me, “I already forgot you”. So I got instructions from a more pleasant person. Having always had a place booked, I never ran into this issue, and had to go to the tourist kiosk. And then I can’t believe I did this, I was on a ramp saw two women at a desk below with no one there, and I bent over the wall of the ramp and called over. One woman said, “Oh, don’t stand in line, come around right to me.” Luckily, I had written down the name, address phone number and proprietor of two local hotels in case things went awry (ha). A very nice woman assisted me, then unsolicited by me, walked me over to the front of one Customs line where a man walked me directly over to a Customs agent! I got my first taste of the charm of the Jamaican men, when this very handsome man said, “Don’t wor-ry dar-lin’. I will take care of you”.

I decided to follow my friend’s advice and take the Knutsford Express bus. From what I’d read online, I had very low expectations about the bus system from my pre-trip book and online research, but they are very nice at the depot, and the buses are modern, clean and comfortable. I can heartily recommend the line. They only run twice a day, morning and afternoon, and I had a 3+ hour wait until 5:10 in a day that started at 3:00 a.m. Several women that sat next to me initiated conversations, which was pleasant, and the depot provides bottled water, warm or cold. We watched in awe at 3:00 p.m. as the rain came down in buckets. Fortunately, there is a covered walkway so you can board the bus. Unfortunately, I sat next to someone who gave me a look when I asked if she could move her bag from the seat next to her, even though the bus was sold out, and she angled her body, claiming there was no room, no matter what I did, so I sat for 3 hours with my lower back not squarely in the seat. Sigh. When you change buses in Ocho Rios, they park the buses with the baggage hold areas facing each other, and it is a confusing mess, and very hard to navigate, especially in the rain. The porter wanted me to take my bag and walk all the way around the bus when my connection was just feet away, albeit against the flow of foot traffic of other passengers looking for their bags. I found someone who took pity on me and guided me through the crowd. I turned to tip him, but he was gone. I sat next to a lovely young lady going home for a few days, and there was PLENTY of room in the seats! I tried to use the Wi-Fi to let my friend know we were delayed. Thank goodness the people who walked toward me at the final bus depot were actually the family who were there to pick me up. I would be staying with the fiancé’s family for a few days “until my friend arrived”. I had met her by Skype two weeks prior. I asked the driver if he is the one I met by Skype the previous week, and asked if he’d had a very busy day, as a barber on Christmas Eve. He did not correct me, and after I gave him the gift I’d selected later that evening, carved black and white wood beads, I learned he was not the same person, and although he said he could be available to drive us around, he never materialized on those days.

The house was full of aunties, as I was told it would be, but also many children and one infant. I was so warmly welcomed, and I found out they had just bought this house and moved in three days before! So they were living out of suitcases and boxes. I had a lovely new bed and shared a room with the fiancé and her sister and the adorable baby. I spread the gifts out on my bed and asked the fiancé help me to choose who would get what. While in Cape May this summer, I’d bought a dozen or so semi-precious bead necklaces and bracelets, and or the fellas, carved wood bracelets and stainless steel thick box chain necklaces. I also had a few scarves, silk skirts, straw wristlet bags, and embroidered zip pouches, just in case. I didn’t think to bring anything for children, but I bought them sweets at the store.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 10:05 AM
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Since my friend from the US who invited me never arrived

What happened to your friend? Why did they abandon you in Jamaica? To me that's the big question about your trip report -lol!

Besides that it sounds like a pretty interesting experience and you did get to see a bit of the "real Jamaica"!

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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 12:23 PM
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What a shame your trip was a mess. Having lived there for seven years nothing in your report surprised me unfortunately!

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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 12:35 PM
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I have only vacationed 3 times on the island, but I agree. Every single thing you mentioned... well it sounds very Jamaican, their way and attitude. Right down to the people at the airport, both dismissive and kind. I had a somewhat scary moment leaving the country on my last trip, when I was flagged for some reason for special inspection, and a matron lady took me into a private room. While someone else was holding my passport. Didn't like that at all.

I really would like to know why your American "friend" didn't show. That seems like a pretty big miss really!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 08:58 AM
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Hi Suze, and Schnauzer, Your comments made me half smile, and half shake my head. Thanks for the support. Usually, I can roll with it, but this was more extreme than I usually experience. Suze - oh no! That does sound scary. I had a worrying experience during my trip which I'll mention later. To answer your question Suze, my friend continued to pursue the house purchase in the States, then radio silence, not responding to texts and questions, and then seemed to have given up on coming entirely and went back up to NYC ( had just been 2 weeks earlier) to visit a family member. I'm from the city and have been thinking about a return visit, I could have done that and saved myself the more than double over my budget, even allowing for an extra $1000 in sundry expenses. I don't know, in terms of travel time and effort, NYC is a 5 hour+ drive, or by train, and a flight to Jamaica is only 2-3 hours. I think the sore point is that I spent time on my vacation to create a model supporting letter to help resolve an issue for them, and under the impression that my friend was coming down to join us. I spent time on my vacation to do it. That was based on all my years of experience, and provided as a friend. (with the usual disclaimers that I am not an attorney, not licensed in my state, and not currently practicing real estate).It wasn't until we neared NY Eve that it became clear my friend wasn't coming. On we go.

Day 2 – Christmas Day – I was given a lovely breakfast by the fiance's mother and sister, both of whom I adored, a platter including mutton, which is actually stewed goat, not sheep, and breadfruit, roasted then steamed. After, a big stainless steel bowl of ackee was placed in front of me to clean – snap off the large seed, which looks like a flattened black olive, open the ackee and clean out the pulp, which is a little like pumpkin - the pulp around pumpkin seeds. After that, I opened my suitcase and asked my friend’s fiancé help me pick out gifts for all the aunties and cousins. I had bought semiprecious gem necklaces and bracelets for the women, and carved wooden bead bracelets for the guys, and a few additional gifts like woven wristlet handbags, scarves and embroidered pouches. I pulled out the wrap paper, ribbons boxes and tissue paper and wrapped and tagged everything, since you can’t bring wrapped packages through airport security. The children clamored about and we all visited as I worked. I had found these pretty gift tags with a little bell attached to each - reindeer, a cardinal on a birdhouse perch, a Christmas tree. The children got a big kick out of them, and I ended up giving them as trinkets. Everyone seemed to like their gifts, though I am not sure if "I am saving this for church" is akin to our Southern "Bless your heart"! A few people put theirs on right then.

The rest of the day passed in visiting and laughing and that late afternoon, a Christmas dinner, with folks spread out all over the house, and a sister-in-law who thought we might try to meet up in Negril toward the end of my trip. Christmas night I tried to follow a game of domino which was boisterous and spirited. Some of the kids skipped over to me "Look what I can do!", but the most touching part of the day for me, was that as the kids got used to my being there, and I sat in my chair watching the game, the most serious and aloof little boy, came over and leaned against me, putting his head on my shoulder. I slipped my arm around his waist for a few minutes, until something else caught his attention and he darted off.

Ok, I will consult my daily journal and continue later. I guess I need to figure out how to post photos here.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 09:18 AM
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Well I think it sounds like a lovely trip. Certainly one you will always remember. Still seems strange to me about your "friend" standing you up in a foreign country though.

I would LOVE to see photos!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 09:21 AM
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ninasdream.....have you spoken to your "friend" since you've been home? Are you still friends?
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 01:03 PM
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Hi Suze - the photo in my profile is me at the Hope Botanical Gardens in Kingston. My hair is flattened to my skull in the humidity. But not a bit of makeup on, except for lip gloss. Not bad for an old girl, huh?

What is the best way to post photos here? I looked over the FAQ's. Should I just upload sized/edited images, or should I create a photo album?

Schmerl - good question. Idk. I will say I am not particularly in a "hugging" mood.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 01:13 PM
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LOVE your photo... dang cute. Thanks for posting. People seem to somehow post photos these days right here on thread/posts. They come out really big, but people do it all the time, not sure how exactly. I'm sure a link to a photo album elsewhere would work too, if you do that kind of thing.

I can believe everything about your trip, and would like to hear even more. I still can't believe a "friend" stood you up in such a huge way though
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ninasdream View Post
Hi Suze - the photo in my profile is me at the Hope Botanical Gardens in Kingston. My hair is flattened to my skull in the humidity. But not a bit of makeup on, except for lip gloss. Not bad for an old girl, huh?

What is the best way to post photos here? I looked over the FAQ's. Should I just upload sized/edited images, or should I create a photo album?

Schmerl - good question. Idk. I will say I am not particularly in a "hugging" mood.
It’s simple to post photos here.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 02:17 PM
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!2/26 - Let's just call my friend's fiance CC, and her sister-in-law Em. The night before over dinner a new friend, Em had talked about our all going to Negril the next day, hanging out at Rick's and the beach, they would drive. I was kind of mystified because that was about 3+ hours away, also I don't know why locals would want to go someplace so touristy. I love margaritas, but don't need $15 ones. The next morning they decided we did not need to leave at the previously discussed 7:00, but at 9:30, and it wasn't going to be Negril, but Ochi, which is what everyone calls Ocho Rios. We left around 9:30, stopping at the grocers, where hands were out for gas money and then groceries and liquor. And then it was revealed that a tire needed to be fixed, so we didn't leave until 12:30 from the shop. I passed the time pleasantly with the fun and social friend, Em We arrived at the "beach" at 2:30. This beach, Fantasy Beach was for locals, or for scoring ganja. Th. It was fun to watch the youth dancing and singing. Some girls sang a song "Blessed" that I had totally missed on US radio, but I happened to have heard it today (1/31)..

The brother bought us a small snack of jerk chicken, which was excellent, in truth I never had any during my trip that wasn't excellent. We opened the hatch of the car, and ate chicken and Em fixed me an interesting cocktail- Red Stripe Sorrel beer, which is rather sweet, served on the rocks with Compari. Surprisingly good and refreshing, but can get you legless pretty fast. I don't think they sell the sorrel beer here in the States. I later bought a 6-pack and brought 2 bottles home with me.

The beach and the water were very clean, and it was like low tide,so you could walk out and just stand in the warm clear water. Em and I went into the water for about an hour, chatting and laughing.Then I found we were going to shower and leave - and we were on the road by 4:00 - so all that for 1 1/2 hours at the beach. You have to understand, I am one of those people that arrives early to avoid traffic, and you have to drag me kicking and screaming from the beach at 5:30. Where are my NJ people? I would get up early to leave home by 8:00 from exit 137 to get to Island Beach State Park, exit 82 by 9:30 -10:00 before they fill up. So we traveled an hour+ each way. I realize that when I go to the beach with other people, it's probably going to be for a stay of only 3 or 4 hours. But 1 1/2 hours? And when they left, they didn't even offer to give me any of the beer or water bottles I'd bought. You see what I mean about my being afraid of sounding whiny and petty? But I had laid out about $50 for a grubby free beach.
The shower area was three showers outside with a board in front of them. I had really been looking forward to it, since 3 days without running water, but just made due in my swimsuit in the freezing cold water with barely enough water pressure to get the shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. I went ahead and exchanged contact information with them; they were talking about meeting up in Negril at the end of my trip, but I'd rather lost faith in the potential for a successful outing with them by then.

That evening I was informed that I would be leaving this house to go stay with my friend's grandmother for three days, which meant I needed to figure out what clothes to bring and pack, but sine I had that stupid 28" suitcase, I had to use my carry on and a few small totes, plus fit in the gifts and shoes. CC accompanied me, and we shared a room. It was a nice setting and I was welcomed and met many aunties, cousins and friends. I couldn't sleep that night, and moved out onto the couch in the living room, where I did sleep comfortably for a few hours.For the next day I had hoped to visit nearby Firefly, the home of Noel Coward, but it is closed on Fridays, so we had a relaxing day hanging out and chatting, and languid meals times with some of the best homemade fried chicken I've ever had. We were all set to go to Firefly, and for some reason, I was having to wait for each person to get dressed, and my friend who is a librarian got called in to work because someone didn't show up. I was disappointed, because I knew she wanted to see it.

You can imagine how a house and setting chosen by Noel Coward was stylish, with an effortless comfort and crispness and entrancing views. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there, and took lots of photos, and got some ideas for how to approach some sketches I'd begun from some artwork there, many paintings, large and small by Coward himself. I had navigated a flight of circular stairs and all different height steps and was really pleased with my knees.I slept well that night, but made an error in my itinerary the next day. I had intended to go to Kingston early on New Year's Eve day - and then forgot that the reason was I was assuming the National Gallery was closed like many museums on Mondays. It was. We went to Hope Botanical Gardens, which was free. I didn't want to go to the zoo. I have mixed feelings about them, and also one of the main draws are the loins, and CC said that since the lion's mate had died, he is very listless. I tried to connect with one of my former assistants, but she was away. She lives in Kingston and emailing me, she said she used to wake up in the morning to the roar of the lions.

I have many photos of the flowers and plants, but nothing was labeled, no little signs, no plaques, no paper or laminated map or guide to refer to. I asked the pleasant guard at the gate as we were leaving and she said you can speak to someone in the nursery building. That wasn't labeled either, she confirmed it was the building I assumed it would be, and I was not going to walk all the way back to it. The garden is free to the public, and I mentioned I might be willing to pay a few dollars admission to support the printing of plant information and identifying signs. So I left not knowing what I was looking at, no common name, no genus and species, no information on whether it was a native plant or how it came to be in Jamaica. Did you know there is bamboo in Jamaica? I did not, and I would have enjoyed hearing or reading how that came to be while I was there. More later.

Last edited by ninasdream; Jan 31st, 2020 at 02:22 PM. Reason: typos
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 02:31 PM
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Thanks jubi! That's encouraging, I'll have to size them. Suze - the Canon camera I ordered that you recommended arrived the day before departure, and I didn't notice she hadn't included a memory card. The camera or the memory card and adapter I bought over there failed. When I googled fixes, it said "remove memory card immediately!". I may have lost the amazing photos of The Spanish Bridge. I have tried to implement you tube fixes. Calling Andrew! Is he still on Fodors? I've been away so long. You see what I may about the lost sandal on the first leg of the trip as a portent. OK, I am off to get new prescription sunglasses. Mine are super expensive and I have 40% off plus a $100 upgrade. Woo-hoo..
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 02:51 PM
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Sorry about the camera. I've been using mine for several years without issue (and it was well used when I got it). One battery, one memory card, one battery charger, one cord to download. It has never failed me.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 07:59 AM
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Can't we hear more Jamaica stories? Did you ever go dancing with grandma???
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 08:13 AM
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Hi Suze, I hope you don't think my camera update was a criticism of you. I have to see if I can salvage the photos. I need to shop for one with more zoom than my current camera. I will post more on the trip soon. Thank you for the interest! Alas, though the grandma was reported as a real pistol, she was crashed out by 8:30 - 9:30 each night. She got up at 5 in the morning.

Last edited by ninasdream; Feb 3rd, 2020 at 08:16 AM.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 11:51 AM
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No I did not take it personally. I can't help it if you didn't get a memory card for the camera but I'd still love to hear more about your trip!!
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 05:25 PM
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Hi All,
Been having some technical difficulties posting. Here's my post from Tuesday, and I'll add a bit more now.
Hi Suze, it wasn't that I didn't have a card, it was that the card I bought in Jamaica malfunctioned or the camera did; still trying to figure out which. A few quick notes before my line dancing class. Sat 12/28 continued. We stopped at another botanical garden on the way home and had lunch at the outdoor cafe, some red Stripe beer and a very good jerk chicken platter - chicken, rice and peas and cole slaw salad for about $3 each. The gardens were pretty but overgrown, and at least things were labelled. It was so late in the day that the guard didn't charge us, but I think i was only about $2 or $3 dollars Jamaican anyway. One very pleasant cousin had invited himself, but let me know he'd pay his own way. I had offered to take the two guys to lunch, but my "guide" couldn't manage to find a modern restaurant, and then sulked saying he wanted jerk chicken and rice and peas. Meanwhile, I was very thirsty and running on empty. That was what we ended up getting at the cafe, and it was fine. I offered he could get a drink,and he expressed concern about the cost, but when he came back to the table he had gotten an alcoholic beverage that cost twice as much as the first one, and then took. It in the car to sip while driving. I had also said at the beginning of the trip that while we were in the city (Kingston), I needed to stop at a modern supermarket and a large modern drug store. when we were back on the road, my driver refused, saying thy had everythng in town. When we got there, they did'n't have anything no Motrin, no Tylenol, no tissue. Apparently, they don't use Kleenex in Jamaica. While I have switched to cloth napkins years ago, and cloth towels whenever possible, I do still use paper tisses and with a cold had no desire to carry around a cloth handkerchief. Plus the monogram takes 2 weeks (kidding) I should have docked him the next day's pay. I had caught cold, and needed a few items that I accidentally left on my nightstand at home.
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