Along the lines of FATE again.
Trip Start Mar 15, 2003
6Trip End Ongoing
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July 2006, a friend of mine at work tells me a local nightclub here is giving away a trip to Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay. I've always wanted to get to Sumfest, its a HUGE reggae/dancehall concert over a period of days. So I decide to go online and enter this contest. Once you submit your entry it tells you that you have to be present at the club on a certain night for the drawing. I really didn't want to go on a chance because the night was a weeknight, I have to get up for work at 6AM every day. But I decided "you can't win if you don't play" and I'm always desperate to get to Jamaica. I also decided that even if I couldn't convince someone to come with me on a weeknight, I'd go by myself.
My friend Charlene agreed to come along and we headed to Tequila nightclub for this draw
The draw was late....it was about 12:30 when they finally announced they'd draw the name. I was really excited, totally convinced it would be me. I'd even run through my reaction in my head, imagining that if I heard my name my drink would go flying and I'd run up to the stage. My two promoter friends took to the stage with the big ballot box in hand. One shook it, the other reached in for a name.......the suspense is killing me!!! They call out "ASHLEY FINSTER". My heart sunk to the floor as I looked around for a girl to run up to the stage. They waited.....and waited.....and waited for her. After about 5 minutes the entire crowd started BOO-ing and yelling RE-DRAW...RE-DRAW! So they tossed her ballot and decided to re-draw
Meanwhile I'm nauseous with the possibility that I could still win! H reaches in the box a thrid time....pulled out the ballot....a huge grin apears on his face as he yells out KRISTI KELLER! It was actually surreal because without knowing, I really did toss my drink and run! I got to that stage so fast I don't know what hit me and the two promoters hugged me while laughing their heads off! The only thing they needed me to do before they could declare me a winner is see my identification which I pulled out right there! I was shaking so bad it was pathetic....and the rest is history.
After I filled out and signed the winners contract I quickly phoned on of my best friends in Indiana who was also going to Montego Bay for Sumfest. It was 4AM her time but she made me promise that if I won I'd wake her up. Her and I were so excited that we'd see each other again.....even though I had just gone to Indiana a month earlier to see her, we ALWAYS wanted to meet in Jamaica but our timing was always off.
The next morning at work I was severly dragging my ass around on 3 hours of sleep. I was too excited the night before and didn't get any sleep. But I was running on pure adrenaline and retold the story a hundred times to coworkers and my boss.....who had to approve last minute vacation time for me. hahaha.
Skip forward 2 weeks...........July 21 and its my day to leave!!!! I'm traveling with a long-time friend of mine, Debbie. We've known each other for 20 years, and I can't believe how hard it was to find someone to go on a FREE trip with me! I think the problem was short notice. The friend that came to the club with me that night didn't have a passport nor enough time to get one. But I was happy Debbie could come...in the 20 years we've been friends we had not traveled anywhere together. So on the morning of July 21, Debbie's mom drove us to the airport and we were off! I cannot WAIT to get back to Jamaica! Up til this trip it was 2 years since my last one, for financial reasons, so this one means a lot to me.
The flight we were given was a cheap red-eye, we left Calgary in the afternoon and didn't arrive in Jamaica until 7AM the next day
Soon he pulls into a beautiful hotel with a gaping outdoor lobby, the Half Moon resort. He says he will go find our promoters while we sit at a seaside table on the patio...what a beautiful country this is. I could cry every time I see the Caribbean sea. Debbie and I have a seat and wait, soon after a cute Jamaican server approaches us and offers us any beverage we want, "on the house". I figured 7:30AM is as good a time as any to enjoy a cool rum punch, Debbie orders the same. It went down fabulously! While we were sitting and sipping a familiar voice comes from behind. It was the promoter to greet us
Up the road a ways we pull into the Ritz, it looks super nice even if I'm not a fan of resorts. Hell, its free - who am I to complain? The promoter gets us checked in and a bellman shows us to our room. When we walked the room was fairly impressive, the bathroom was super impressive! The large patio door opens onto the most beautiful courtyard I've ever seen, even though we did phone the front desk to see if we could switch to a seaview room. There were none available.
The first thing Debbie and I decide to do is nap. We'd been flying through the night and couldn't sleep properly on the planes. So we strip down, and crawl into our wonderfully luxurious beds, one for each of us. I could hear by her breathing that Debbie fell asleep immediately. Me, on the other hand, had a much harder time so I just lay resting for about an hour while the constant nattering that I'm wasting precious Jamaica-time eats away at my brain. So I get up, get in my swimsuit and head out to find the beach on this massive property
While Debbie did her shower I had to start making phone calls to all the people I needed to see. My girl Tia from Indiana was the first person I called, she arrived a few days earlier. Once she knew I was there we immediately made arrangements for her to get to the Ritz and hang out for the day, I was so excited to see her again. Her, along with another guy Richard, I would be meeting this trip, are both friends I made online in the Jamaican chat forum I mentioned in my other blog (entitled Forum Freak). I had already traveled to Indiana the month before to meet Tia for the first time, and this would be the first time I meet Richard. She gets her taxi arranged while I'm already on the phone to him asking when he's going to show up. He agrees to come out to the Ritz and meet us too. The 3 of us are long-time forum members so we know each other pretty well already. He's Jamaican and lives on the island, she goes to Jamaica 3-4 times a year because her fiance lives there
We finally get a call from her, she's in the lobby and I agree to go get her because this hotel is HUGE and there's no way to tell her how to get to our room. When I get to the lobby its soooooo good to see her again! We have a big hug and head back to the room to pick up Debbie and head for some lunch at the beach. Richard was going to call Tia's cell phone when he arrives and in the meantime we sure had some fun down at the little beach bar. We made friends with one of the bartenders, Stephen, who as soon as he found out we're all heading to Sumfest that night, made sure we were up to the times with the new Jamaican dances. At that time, apparently the Frogback and Stookie were the ones to know. If any of you know anything about Jamaican dance, you'd know that a new one evolves almost every day and you have to learn it. Its quite amazing really, there are hundreds of them all with different names, and some even have their own songs.
While laughing and dancing with Stephen, the 3 of us girls had a few drinks and some food. Jerk pork, rice & peas with Festival. I never eat American food when I'm in Jamaica....it defeats the purpose of being there. Soon Tia's cell phone rings and Richard has arrived, so Debbie decides to stay at the beach while we go find him in the lobby
We all headed back to the beach to find Debbie and chat over some drinks. I knew Richard couldn't stay too long because it was the middle of a work day for him. But he managed to squeeze in a couple hours for us. It was really neat meeting him face to face, hearing his voice, and laughing over forum stuff. After a while we all decided to head back to the room so Debbie and I could get ready for Sumfest, then we'd head to Tia's hotel in Montego Bay so she could get ready, wait for her fiance to get off work, and all go to Sumfest. Richard stayed a while to endure the getting-ready part and finally he had to leave us. We all walked to the lobby together, said goodbye to Richard and jumped in our taxi.
Us 3 girls started our short ride to the Gloriana hotel, right on the strip in Mobay
After dinner we only had time on our hands to wait for Tia's fiance to get off work so we headed back to her hotel. This hotel Tia was at, Hotel Gloriana, was kinda cute. Didn't look like much from the street but once inside the gate there's a big courtyard area with a pool, bar and lots of rooms that open onto this area. Her room was main floor and opened on to the pool area too. So we sat on her verandah for a couple hours just talking, having a couple drinks and taking pictures of our feet LOL. (as it turns out I'm leaving for Jamaica in 11 days and will be staying at Gloriana for a few nights. Will post more pics of it).
Her man finally arrives, gets dressed for the night and we off to Sumfest!!!! This is the whole reason I went on this trip and I'm sooooooooooo excited now
I'm skipping forward to describe the scene inside the Sumfest venue. It was an outdoor concert and it was already packed inside so we didn't end up being very close to the stage. But I could spot who all the artists were and the music was loud and clear! Around the perimeter of the grassy area for spectators were several vendor booths selling liquor, food, keepsakes, etc. The crowd was ridiculous! My favorite part about the crowd all night were the people with aerosol cans and lighters, creating homemade blowtorches throughout the show. This is what Jamaicans do. A few of them lit firecrackers behind us, and everyone was loud and alive that night! I would have to say that attending Sumfest was one of the coolest Jamaican experiences I've ever had.
My goal that night was to meet a Jamaican guy to dance with....that's all. And it only took about 20 minutes for that to happen. I was glad I did too because he was really helpful in getting me up to speed on the new Jamaican dances that night
Another highlight of this trip was our day trip to Negril. I hadn't been back to Negril in 2 years and I missed it terribly, its my old hood! Debbie was totally up for the trip so off we went. Its about a 1.5 hour drive from Mobay and we had arranged with a driver for one price, to take us there in the morning and come pick us up later that night. The drive is one of my favorites...there's a lot of countryside to see and most of it is along the coastline too. We also get to drive through the cute little towns, if you remember I mentioned the town of Lucea in a previous blog. We finally arrive in Negril and get dropped off near Irie Beach Bar....you might remember that from my last blog too. This is 2 years later so I'm curious to see if any of my old friends still work there.
We approached the restaurant and I saw that no one I recognize is there. We found ourselves a table and had a seat to wait for the waitress, when I finally saw someone I knew
After we ate we decided to hit the beach (only 3 steps away) for some tanning and swimming. We spent a good couple hours relaxing, having more drinks and swimming in the warm water. I came out for a break and went to order another drink when I saw Lincoln coming down the path from the restaurant. Awww it was so great to see him again. We got to hang out for a bit before he had to start work.
Of course being in Negril I wanted to show Debbie the west end, the cliffs, where Ricks Cafe and the lighthouse are
After we were finished there we started walking up West End road towards the Negril lighthouse. It wasn't too far to go and we ended up stopping at a little roadside bar, "Sir D's", to pick up a Red Stripe to go. Continuing on up the road we finally reached the lighthouse and hoped to get a tour of the inside. Unfortunately it was closed so we could only take pictures around the grounds. We didn't stay long since the lighthouse was closed. While we were there we'd noticed the sky started looking really ominous, like there was a good size rainstorm coming. It darkened fast and the clouds were thick. So we started back on foot, down the road back to Ricks where there is shelter. Well.....we didn't make it very far when we heard the loudest thunder EVER and the sky broke! This was so cool to me, I LOVE thunder storms
Frantically we ducked into the tiny roadside place to see the owner, Harold, was still there, he welcomed us back. We literally had no where to go now, except to sit down and wait out the storm. Good thing Harold had lots of alchohol to keep us company LOL. This rainstorm ended up creating for us, the most memorable part of our trip. We were stranded at Sir D's bar for at least 4 hours, overlooking the ocean, high above in the cliffs. Watching the heavy rains and getting to know Harold, his wife Donette and their kids, who lived across the street. There was no way we were getting a taxi up here during the storm, no cars passed on the street. We made the best of it though. Harold put on music, brought out his instruments, kept the drinks flowing and we had a ton of fun! Eventually the rain subsided a little and one or two cars stopped to get a drink as well. We had a blast with the couple people that stayed the evening with us there. Harold's wife cooked dinner for us at their house across the street and their daughter brought it over for us. It was the BEST night I've ever had in Jamaica. Such wonderful people
**a year later I had a friend going to Negril and I mailed her a photo album of Harold and family. She took it to Sir D's for me and gave it to them as a gift from the Canadian girls**
Finally it was our last day in Jamaica. The promoters only gave us 4 full days before we had to go home. As always, that morning was a somber one. I hate packing up to go home. So Debbie and I decided that we were gonna go out in style. We got up first thing and headed for the spa at the Ritz Carlton. Everything in there was free for guests to use. We went in these weird spa tubs, took showers, used all the expensive products, got all done up nicely, etc. Then we went to the lobby of the hotel and boarded our bus for the airport.
That's pretty much it for this trip. But there's still plenty more trips to go.
Stay tuned.....for my BIRTHDAY TRIP!!!