Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jamaica

When I found out our cruise was going to be stopping in Jamaica, I was so excited! Mike joked that he never knew Jamaica was special to me, and it isn't that it ever was, but there seemed to be something appealing and thrilling about visiting Jamaica!

The group we were traveling with had a group excursion for us to embark on in Jamaica. I knew what it would entail, as it is similar to the excursions they have treated us to in the past. This year, I prepared mentally and committed to Mike that I was going to participate fully in this excursion.

Barring drinking the free alcohol they offer on the catamaran as part of the package, I was going to participate fully by this time getting in the ocean and snorkeling, instead of staying on the boat to read and occasionally take pictures of Mike. (Several people skip the snorkeling part, but after my break-through in St. Thomas last year, I wanted to participate.)

We took a long bus ride from the ship to Dunn River Falls, where we loaded onto a catamaran and traveled out into the depths of the sea.

My nerves began to get the best of me, and as the boat workers started passing out snorkeling fins, I declined to take them. Mike was completely supportive of my decision, and didn't force me, but when I asked him, "Do you think I'll regret it?" He firmly replied, "Absolutely!"

My biggest issue was not wanting to jump in, (I've never jumped into a body of water before, why start now?!) but then I saw a few others climb down the steps instead of jumping, and it started to change my mind. But then... I looked into the ocean, and there in the water with all her snorkeling garb on, was an 81 year old grandmother from our group.

That made my decision.
I didn't look back.
And I never regretted it.

I stayed fairly close to the guide that was helping the 81 year old and her 84 year old husband!! Which definitely had its perks; like holding a sea urchin he cracked open and having fish swim into my hand to feed from it. (I initially wanted to die when the guide took my hand and placed the sea urchin in it. I don't even pet our goats or horse!) He helped us see so many cool things, that I regretted (and I think Mike did too) sending Mike away to explore on his own so as not to hold him back.

Mike had misunderstood the guide's time rotations of being in the water, and he returned to the catamaran long before me. Which was sort of fun, because he grabbed the camera to prove I really did do it!


I returned to the boat, feeling satisfied and with a sense of pride of really doing something difficult. It's hard to describe how much water typically terrifies me, and what a personal accomplishment this event was.

I didn't know that the next activity planned would test my limits and leave me feeling proud too.

Our next stop was to hike Dunn River Falls. We had been warned to wear good shoes, and to not take cameras or anything as we would become completely wet. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But certainly not this.

This photo only shows a portion of the approximate 1000 foot water fall that we looked up at and they told us we were hiking it!

I momentarily had a little freak out questioning of whether or not it was safe.

After the first 20-25 feet or so, I may or may not have had another freak out moment firmly suggesting to Mike that as parents of 5 children thousands of miles away, we had no business embarking in such a risky activity.

We have no photos of the place--only these Google image photos.



Apparently, it is all sorts of safe. They scrub the rocks each morning to prevent slippery mildew forming and it was surprisingly non-slippery.

So many fun (and not so fun) moments during this hike. I will likely never forget the thrill!

When we returned to the catamaran after this hike, I felt as though I could do just about anything! But I was glad, nothing else was on the agenda to get my heart racing again.

We rounded out the excursion with a lunch at a hotel (dang I wish I'd have taken a photo of the building) that was once an old plantation. I was so in love with the building, that instead of taking photos, I found myself searching out someone to ask about the history of the building. The building seemed to be bursting at the seams with stories it wanted to tell, and I regret we were sort of in a rush to leave to get on the bus for the journey back to the ship.
(Only photo I took was the view FROM the hotel, not the building itself.)

This is where my visit to Jamaica sort of caused a change of heart.

Up until this point, my experience in Jamaica, had been nothing short of wonderful. I felt exhilarated, alive and invigorated with enthusiasm for not only the beautiful world we live in, but the personal satisfaction in my activities while there.

I was anxious to get back to the port by our ship to do some shopping. I had left any souvenir shopping to this day in Jamaica (our first two stops we have been to previously and the last stop I knew shopping would be limited). Plus, I wanted souvenirs to mark such a memorable day.

The bus journey back was due to be an hour plus, and looking at the clock, we knew our time was going to be cutting it very close to get back to the ship on time. The time wasn't the main source of my anxiety however, it was the horrible driving of the bus driver on the 2 lane highway. From our seat on the front row, Mike and I watched as he passed slow vehicles when it seemed hazardous, and downright stupid. As much as I wanted time to souvenir shop, I also wanted to arrive back to the ship alive. It was a nerve-wracking, heart-racing drive, and as several fellow group members were also getting antsy looking at the time and considering the shopping they wanted to do too, we came upon traffic at a complete standstill for miles.

Our entourage included 3 buses, one of the busses in our group was detoured down a side street, yet our driver stopped and yelled in some foreign dialect to the police officers and they moved some cones for our bus driver to drive through.

(If on an excursion booked through the ship (ours was), the ship waits for the passengers to return if they are notified of a delay.I'm sure the bus driver's yelling included something about us needing to back to the ship.)

We passed a horrific accident scene. And though the emergency vehicles/injuries had left by this point, the remains of the scene were disturbing to see. Especially seeing a tour bus part of the wreckage. Having traveled on tour/excursion busses in several Caribbean cities now, we know that their safety standards are nowhere equal to those in the USA. It was sickening to think of tourists, on an adventure similar to what my day had been, end their day in an accident.

Our ship waited for our return, and our group boarded the ship disappointed about little to no souvenirs from our day in Jamaica.

I spent the next few days lamenting the fact Ellie didn't get a deck of cards from Jamaica to add to her collection. I felt bad I didn't get something for myself to remember the day by. And I just plain felt disappointed the way our Jamaica day finished up.

Then on Monday, after returning home, I saw from a fellow group member a link to the accident in Jamaica. (You can read it HERE.) Reading the article erased any frivolous regrets of not having souvenirs. I was (and still am) surprised how difficult it has been to know about a young mother and her daughter from Minnesota, returning to their ship after a fun day of swimming with dolphins in Jamaica involved in the horrific crash. The young mother lost her life on that dangerous Jamaican highway, a husband back home in the US lost his wife, and 4 young children no longer have a mother.

It put all sort of things in perspective. I may not have any souvenirs from Jamaica, but I have my memories, I have my life, and I am living with those I love.

Those are worth more than any memorabilia money could buy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Hands, My Children, My Job

*I'm setting a mark for myself to blog on here at least once a week. So many happenings are going unrecorded, and though I'm doing it entirely for myself, I know there are a couple of readers still out there that miss me. So let's see how this goes.*

During late December, my hands finally succumbed to the cracking and dryness that often happens during the winter months. My right thumb had a significant, painful crack on it and no matter how much lotion/ointment I applied, it wouldn't heal. I dealt with it for a few days, and was hopeful that a week in the Caribbean humidity would cure it. That Caribbean humidity worked a miracle on my skin, although a havoc on my hair. (It's rare I can empathize with my mother-in-law about hair issues.) My thumb healed perfectly, and my hands spent a glorious 8 days rarely needing lotion.

Despite going on our cruise earlier than usual this year, I returned home optimistic that the softness of my skin would last throughout the rest of the cold, dry weeks of winter we have yet to endure, as it has the past couple of years post-cruise.

My visions of smooth skin for the rest of the winter didn't take into account the fact I'd be washing my hands 4,073 times for a couple of days last week, and now this week.

You see.
We have a new identity (hobby?) around here.

The Sowby Family is perhaps now better known as Public Vomiters.

Meet Joshua, third grader that spewed his breakfast, including a red berry smoothie (TMI?) across his third grade classroom last week.

And this is Drew. 1st Grader who five days after big brother's debut, decided to match him by throwing up on the school bus yesterday afternoon.

And this is Ellie. 6th grader who I kept home thinking she had a mild case of I'm-sort-of-sick-but-really-I-just-want-a-day-home-from-school. But the fact a few hours later, a bathroom rug was thrown away instead of washed, confirmed my earlier ambivalent feelings of keeping her home had in fact been the right choice.

Despite Ellie being home sick yesterday (her throwing up didn't start until after lunchtime), I decided to do Cookie Day. Every so often, I greet the children at the bus stop with a container of cookies, and I hear reports of children spying me from a few houses down as the bus approaches with chants and cheers of, "Cookie Day! Cookie Day!" I love the enthusiasm and cheers that greet me as I stand there with my blue lid container full of cookies.

Except yesterday, as I stood by while the bus doors opened, intermixed with chants of "Yay! It's Cookie Day!" and "Cookie Day! Cookie Day!" were more loud and overpowering voices yelling, "Drew threw up on the bus!" and "Drew just barfed!"

Rarely am I at the bus stop to greet my children, but the bus driver knew I was Drew's mother, so I didn't really  have an escape. I wanted to stand there passing out cookies like normal, or even run home to help Drew, but more accurately, I daydreamed for just a moment of running home, hopping in my car and escaping to a hotel for an undetermined amount of time.

I didn't.

Instead, I passed the cookies to a neighbor boy to give out, and turned to the bus driver (who had just retrieved the emergency 'Body Fluid Cleanup Kit') and I said, "I am so sorry." And then quite insincerely added, "Can I help you clean it up?"


(For the record, I asked GENUINELY at the elementary school if I could help clean up Joshua's and they told me, "Oh, the janitor's got it taken care of.")

A part of me thought the bus driver would say, "Oh no. It's part of the job, go home and take care of your child." or even, "Oh, it's no big deal. Keep passing out cookies." Instead, I somewhat stumbled into the bus as he said, "Yes. I think I will let you."

I have cleaned up a lot of throw up in my life. I'll spare you the details of some of the worst (my BFF's teenage brother throughout his whole bedroom, mere weeks after their mother died is likely still at the top), but the floor of a school bus, mixed with my child's lunch remnants come in as a close second.

Wondering how my soft hands relate to all this?

Ellie and Drew threw up more times yesterday afternoon and evening than I can count. I washed my hands more times yesterday than I have in my entire life combined.

By yesterday evening, I could feel the annual crack on the side of my thumb beginning to make a second appearance of the season.

So last night, when a child started spewing in their bucket as they walked to the bathroom, and Mike continued eating his dinner, I said, "That's fine, I'll help AGAIN. But don't be surprised when I HAVE to go alone to the Caribbean next week for medical reasons."

I'm a nice, compassionate, serving mother and wife like that.


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