Letter From Jamaica

December 6th, 2011 | Shonali Burke | 25 Comments

what's up?! from JamaicaDear You,

Well, this isn’t actually a letter from Jamaica, since I didn’t get online at all much (and that was only to share photos on Facebook) while we were there. After we got back,you were asking about the trip, so I figured I’d tell you a little bit about it.

First, though – hello! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving (if you celebrated it), and that the last two weeks have treated you well? Are you looking forward to the rest of the holiday season?

We did have a great Thanksgiving, and not at all a traditional one. As you remember, we decided – quite on the spur of the moment – to spend Thanksgiving somewhere we wouldn’t be bombarded with the commercialization of the season.

Browsing Travelzoo deals made us think of Jamaica (we didn’t use a deal ultimately), and within a couple of days, our plans were set. Rockhouse Hotel – here we come!

Personally, I don’t know anyone who has come back from an island vacation, much less a Caribbean one, and said, “It sucked.” (Unless something awful happened to your traveling companion and you ended up on “Dateline,” but fortunately that was not the case here.)

It’s hard to complain about living in paradise, albeit for a few days. Because that’s what Negril felt like. Since the Rockhouse is built on the cliffs, a couple of miles away from the town center and beach, we got more peace and quiet than I think we otherwise would have.

the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, JamaicaIt’s a very cool hotel; there are only 34 rooms, and several of them are “villas,” which are self-contained cabins, each with an outdoor shower. There’s a strong emphasis on recycling, which we saw throughout our trip; all the rooms have separate trash cans for recyclable products.

And because the Rockhouse is built on the cliffs, the Caribbean Sea literally rushes up below you, so you go to sleep, and wake, to the sounds of waves dancing against the rocks. At various points, there are handrails cut into the cliff that lead directly into the sea. How cool is that?!

We didn’t stay in the hotel the entire time, though I imagine for those who did, it was the perfect place to do so. On our third day there, we took a day trip (we hired a private car as opposed to getting on a tour bus, which was a really good decision, and I strongly recommend Clive’s Transport Service) and drove along the South Coast of Negril.

We took a tour along the Black River where we saw tons of crocodiles, then stopped at YS Falls (really gorgeous waterfalls) and Appleton Rum Estate, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, rum producers in Jamaica. On our way back we paid homage at Peter Tosh’s memorial in Belmont (not because of his marijuana advocacy but because he’s our favorite Wailer), and even got to talk to him momma for a few minutes (and a “donation”). It was a long day, but it was worth it!

Outside of that one very organized day, we chilled out. We did hit the beach one day, where we went out on a glass-bottom boat to look at the reef – stunning. And someone did try to get us to buy ganja. No, we didn’t.

There was lots of reading (story books!), lying in the sun, and generally relaxing. There was some hard bargaining when we went down to the Crafts Market, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and I found that as long as I said, “No, thank you,” with a smile, no one objected to us not stopping at their stall. I loved talking to the Jamaicans we met, and hearing that lovely lilt in their voices. They really do say “Yah Mon” frequently, and I got used to hearing, “Problem? No problem,” whenever we asked if we could do something.

Also, for the first time ever, I was greeted several times with fist bumps accompanied by the words, “Respect for the beautiful lady.” As you might imagine, that is now a requirement in the Burke household.

I was stunned – and will never forget – the iridescent blues of the water and sky. I’ve never seen such blues, not in Goa, not in Sri Lanka, not in California. I loved the jerk sausage and ate conch for the first time – delish! And now I can say I’ve eaten snails, since that’s basically what conch are. And I also drank a piña colada for the first time. Yay for new experiences!

Fortunately the weather was not bitterly cold when we returned, so it wasn’t too much of a shock to our systems. And now, when I hear the traffic rushing by early in the morning, I just close my eyes and pretend its the waves of the Caribbean Sea, gently waking me up each day to another brilliant, flawless, sun-kissed day.

Here are a few photos from our trip. If you haven’t been there yet, think about going. As for us, we’ll keep these as a reminder of one of the best vacations of our lives… and look forward to the next time we’re there.

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Love,

Shonali

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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23 comments
rachaelseda
rachaelseda

How lovely Shonali! Thank you for sharing this with us and I am sooooo happy that you had a wonderful time and were healthy and well so you could really relax. It was a much deserved vacation and I'm glad you were able to disconnect. I will be asking you for tips when I plan my trip there (one day). And I must see this fist bump!!

James Farrell
James Farrell

Thanks for sharing. I'm glad to not get the short version on Dateline lol!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Uhm really glad you explained the peter tosh thing since I am sure you have always been pegged as a stoner LOL. at least @bdorman264 can stop gossiping now. (psst not too late to change your image..wink)

Great pics and the Jamaican board of tourism should hire you for some lessons in copy writing! And love Appleton Estates one of my favorite rums. I want to go but my girlfriend only wants to go to one place..Ireland LOL Maybe I will surprise her one day keep her blindfolded til we board.

KDillabough
KDillabough

Shonali, you've created a wonderful picture in my mind of what your vacation looked like. It brought me back to the week we spent in Aruba recently, which also was idyllic. Your photos are stunning (as are you in your little black dress, BTW)Delighted for you that you had such a wonderful time. Keep the Jamaica spirit flowing! Cheers! Kaarina

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

Thanks for sharing, Shonali! Gorgeous pictures, I would be so excited to see a crocodile in person, and I've always wondered whether that blue was enhanced or saturated somehow in photos. It must have been incredible, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Cision
Cision

Wow, your trip sounds amazing and so relaxing! Thanks for sharing with us! And I second this statement... "Also, for the first time ever, I was greeted several times with fist bumps accompanied by the words, “Respect for the beautiful lady.” As you might imagine, that is now a requirement in the Burke household" I think I'll make that a requirement in the Pistorio household too!

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

Woo-hoo, first one in! That's what happens when you're working from home and still in your jammies! ;)

I love that pic of you, Shonali. You look so young! Vacation is good for you (for us all) and I so appreciate you sharing your experience with us.

I went to the doctor yesterday thinking I had the flu (as you know) only to find out that I'm suffering from extreme fatigue! Go figure. When the FNP asked if I had been over-doing it lately, I laughed and then realized, whoa, I really have and if I don't ease up, there will be nothing left of me to give (to anyone!). So, all that said, your post is a great reminder of the healing properties that we can enjoy when we truly unplug and enjoy life! Thank you.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@mdbarber Heh! Yes, it really was wonderful. It's tough to slow down, but I was able to do that - and the lack of an internet connection definitely helped. That, at least, is something I can try to do more consistently... not being online all the time. And I *am* trying!

bdorman264
bdorman264

@HowieG I don't know Howie, she did specifically mention 3 times just to let us know there was no ganja celebration going on. Methink thou dost protest too much....:) Did you see Shonali's dreadlocks when she returned?

If you want the blue on blue visit the Gulf Beaches in Florida, not Cali...........

It looks like it was a fabulous trip; thanks for sharing and your professional image is intact.....at least back in the US.........:)

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@HowieG Heh! I know... I better be careful about my image, eh @bdorman264 ? :p

I'd LOVE to take Jamaica on as a client. How cool would that be?! Appleton was fabulous. The tour was fairly short, but they walked us all over the estate, including into the distillery (wouldn't let us take photos inside) and it ended with a rum tasting. I don't usually drink rum, but I tried some rum cream because @dfriez had recommended it. LOVED it.

You should totally blindfold your GF and take her. I doubt she'd complain once she got there.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@KDillabough We've decided that we should visit all the islands, though I think Jamaica will remain a favorite. Aruba, Bahamas... so many to go through! I loved seeing your vacation pix on Facebook, Kaarina. Especially as we were getting close to leaving for Montego Bay, I was looking at them almost every day - I kid you not. And when I saw that baby lizard, I thought instantly of you!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@ShakirahDawud We visited New Orleans a few years ago and did a swamp tour there as well. Never got to see any crocs, but here - it was like you couldn't keep them away! I think the tour guides feed them quite frequently, so they know they'll get treats, as it were. That's why they're not afraid of the boats. I'll say one thing, though - their eyes are something else. It's one thing to see them on TV, but when you see them up close... brrr. I would NOT like ever to be "really" near one of those.

By the way, Shakirah, I posted this especially for you, since you were asking. :)

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Cision Hah, I loved that! It totally took me aback, but then I realized that "Respect" is a common saying there - kinda like "thank you." I loved it. You should absolutely make it a requirement!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@EricaAllison So... outside of this comment - and thank you for being the first one to get here - you're going to rest, right? RIGHT, Ms. Erica?! Don't make me come down to NC and make you...!

It was amazing. My husband said he hadn't felt that relaxed in years. When we were planning the trip, initially I was thinking of bunging in a day trip to Ocho Rios (the Bob Marley homage) and maybe even a trip to Kingston. But it would have been too much, and I think would have ruined our trip. So I'm really glad I only organized the one day. It's tougher to do nothing than it looks like, though I started getting into that spirit by Day 3, I think. Now I want to plan the next one!

I hope you feel better soon, my dear. And I really appreciate you stopping by when you're not well.

KDillabough
KDillabough

@EricaAllison EASE UP: that is an order:) Stay in your jammies. Drink tea and eat toast. Read an amazing book. Shut off the computer. That is all:) Luv ya Erica

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@bdorman264@HowieG You know, I almost got braids done. But then I didn't. Just think of how *that* would have contributed to my image...

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