Monthly Archives: April 2008

Destination: Jamaica, Port Antonio

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog terribly of late, and when I do show up, I whine endlessly. As my inner reserves of sunlight and warmth dwindled through the winter, I became more and more cranky. So when the opportunity arose to spend spring break by the sea in warm and tropical Jamaica, I grabbed it.

Needing a vacation away from work, I dragged my parents away from the spring-break craziness of resort-infested Montego Bay to serence Portland parish, on the northeastern coast of the island. I won’t lie; there’s not much going on in Port Antonio, the main town. It turns out that when you avoid tourists, you also avoid first-world tourist amenities. In order to have a good time, you must abandon all expectations of what will happen and when. If you hike a mile up the top of a steep hill in search of an art exhibition, only to find that you were misinformed not only about the hotel in question, but also about the date of the exhibition, the only thing to do is to be thankful for the hike itself, through the lush rainforest as beautiful as any nature preserve.

And who can be disappointed when confronted with a view of the sea coming into the cove from the top of the hill?

It was enough, I found, to sit in a park and watch a cricket game, breathing the salty ocean air that I’ve missed so much, feeling the sun on my skin after a winter indoors, and call to a herd of goats going by.

It was lovely to be there with my parents, who, it turns out, feel perfectly at home in tropical islands formerly occupied by the British. The flora of Portland is similar to that of Kandy, the hill town of central Sri Lanka where my mother grew up. In Sri Lanka, vendors on the side of the road sell green mango dipped in a mixture of chile powder and salt. Raw mango is hard to find Stateside, so when we saw an enormous mango tree near our guest house, it’s branches bearing hundreds of hard, green mangoes, we couldn’t resist helping ourselves.

To hear my mother tell stories from her childhood, mango theft is practically in my DNA. We ate our green mango with a generous sprinkling of salt and a chopped Scotch bonnet pepper in place of chile powder.

Of course, my vacation wasn’t all mango-thievery and cricket-watching. I had only five days to make up for my five month sun and sea deficit.

This lagoon is fed both by the sea and by under-water springs, some of which spout hot water. Like many things in Portland, there’s no tourist infrastructure to the lagoon, just a gravel road leading to a cement boat ramp. To swim in the lagoon, you squeeze by the boats and try not to cut your feet on the sharp stones that line the bottom.

I arrived back in Minnesota almost a month ago now, to a stack of papers to be graded, another snow storm, and thankfully, a house full of friends for whom to cook dinner. I was exhausted at work on Tuesday, but I didn’t regret my vacation excess for a second. My sun reserves topped up, I could patiently wait through another six snow storms for spring to finally arrive.

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