Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Jamaica 2015: Week 2

I was up early on Sunday, like the day before. I just didn’t want to waste any time indoors when I could be outside on that gorgeous deck! I was outside a little after 8am with a cup of tea and my book.

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We had breakfast at 9am (scrambled eggs, bacon, croissants) and then it was just me for a while.

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I was feeling a bit burnt from the day before and tried to stay under the umbrella as much as possible (except when I was in the water). We had a lunch of chicken sandwiches (from the leftover roast chicken the night before). I carried on reading while everyone else napped. I had the place to myself again…

We left at around 4pm to head back to Kingston as my brother (S) didn’t want to drive back in the dark. What a lovely, relaxing weekend! I was seriously sunburnt though – around my shoulders and collarbone…

On Monday morning, I realised how badly sunburnt I was.

Ouch!

Ouch! I spent the rest of the week peeling…

My sister-in-law (T) and I took my nephew (Baby A) to the supermarket to pick up a few things for the house. That evening we went over to a friend of S and T’s to celebrate her birthday. I hadn’t met her before but my aunt was there with a couple of her friends who I’ve known for a while. It was a nice evening – we had some wine and some homemade Chinese food (excellent) and a delicious homemade coconut birthday cake too. People meet up early here so we were home by 9.30pm, even though it felt like much later.

I went back to the office on Tuesday to do some work. T met us for lunch that day, and we went to Fromage Gourmet Market on Hillcrest Avenue. We all had the burger and fries – the burger was excellent. S and I went back to the office after that but were in a bit of a food coma, as you can imagine!

On Wednesday morning, T and I decided to use the gym at my aunt and uncle’s place a few streets away. They have a small gym in the house – a treadmill, a bike and a cross-trainer. There’s also a small multi-gym and some free weights. My first choice was the treadmill but it was out of order. I spent 20 minutes on the cross-trainer and then did some upper body weights. It wasn’t the best workout but I was just so hot. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done here. Just behind the gym is a koi pond where Baby A kept himself entertained by feeding the fish.

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That afternoon T, Baby A and I went back to PriceSmart – T was hosting her Baby Group at home on Thursday morning and needed a few things. I’d already told her I’d be going to the office that day! Afterwards she said it had gone well and there weren’t as many mums/babies as she thought there’d be. On Thursday evening, we went over to S and T’s friends’ place (the same friends who had the birthday at their place on Monday) to play Kalooki (Jamaican Rummy). I’m not a card player and it took me a while to get my head around this – partly because the game moves really fast! The game only lasted an hour or so and we were home by 7.30 to have dinner.

On Friday evening, we went to Medusa’s Bar and Grill – just off Hope Road – they do steaks on Friday night and it’s a regular outing for S and T and a few of their friends. I thought it was a good sign that a Prince song was playing as we walked in! We each had the 10-ounce sirloin (I couldn’t finish mine) which came with French fries, sour cream, Scotch Bonnett pepper and a few other toppings you could choose. We had a few drinks as well – and we were home by 9.30pm.

We lazed around on Saturday and then popped in to see my aunt in the afternoon. She had some other friends over too and we had a few bottles of wine between us! S, T and I dropped Baby A back home and then went to Roe for dinner. To start with, we had fried crab sticks, a garden salad and shrimp gyoza; for our main course we shared the crispy tuna roll and pork ginger. I think there was one more roll, but I can’t remember what it was. I also had another glass of wine. We were home early and T and I sorted out our packing for the following day. We were driving to Old Fort Bay near Ocho Rios for a 3-day yoga retreat (the same one I went to the year before).

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Jamaica 2015: Week 1

I came to Jamaica in July 2014 to visit my brother (S) and his family. I was in Kingston for most of the time, and also went on a yoga retreat near Ocho Rios for one week.

This year, I decided I’d stay a bit longer. I got in on a Tuesday afternoon (16th June) and was so impressed with the new automated immigration system! I placed my passport face down on the scanner (open to the page with my photo and details) and my details popped up on the screen in front of me. I had to confirm they were correct and then type in the address of where I’d be staying. The machine took a photo of me (not pretty after a 9-hour flight) and then printed off a slip of paper with my details on it. I took it to the immigration man who tore off his part of the slip and gave the other part back to me. I then went to the carousel to wait for my luggage. It was hot. And it was crowded. And the carousel hadn’t even started yet. What I noticed last year (and again this year) is that everyone waits as close as possible to the wall where the luggage comes out instead of spreading themselves around the carousel. I waited on the opposite side and had a bit of room to breathe for a while! My bags eventually showed up and I wheeled the trolley towards the ‘Nothing to declare’ area. Unfortunately the customs officer thought I did have something to declare and asked me to put my bags through the X-ray machine. And then they opened my trolley bag – for what, I have no idea. I was finally allowed to go and wheeled the trolley towards the exit. As I got there I was approached by a porter who said he’d help me. ‘No, thank you,’ I insisted – I’d managed this far on my own and I could see S waiting outside. Just as I got to the door, I was stopped by another man who pointed to a sign that said ‘NO TROLLEYS BEYOND THIS POINT’. How was I going to manage two suitcases, a trolley bag and my handbag without a trolley? The same porter was still hanging around, so he ended up helping me after all!

We got home at around 5pm and my nephew (Baby A) was about to have his dinner. I hadn’t seen him in a year and he’s toddling around now – and he’s such a doll! Of course he whined when I picked him up – it would take some time to get used to me and I’d brought lots of little toys and books to buy his affection with over the next few weeks.

We had an earlyish dinner and S went off to play poker while I unpacked and settled in.

I pottered around the house on Wednesday morning. I had some tea and breakfast and watched Baby A playing with his toys. S came to pick me up for lunch – we stopped at the pharmacy first (I’d fallen when I was in London and grazed my knee quite badly) and then went to Roe, a Japanese place at Sovereign North. We both had the sushi bento box which was really tasty and then he dropped me back home.

My sister-in-law (T) arrived that evening – she’d been to London and Venice for her cousin’s wedding (we’d also met the week before in London). She was exhausted (and so was I) so we all had an early dinner and called it a night.

On Thursday I decided to go to the office with S. I had a lot of work to catch up on and my plan was to go to the office a couple of days a week to get it all done and relax the rest of the time. Also, the office is air-conditioned whereas the living/dining rooms in the house are not – and even in the bedrooms, the fans are on in the day and air-conditioning at night. Even though the temperature in Kingston is about 32/33C it feels hotter than Dubai as it’s so humid (I sometimes feel like I’m even sweating in the shower) and we really take air-conditioning for granted living in Dubai… So, I went to the office and managed to get a bit done. We ordered chicken shawarmas for lunch – yummy! We left the office early as we were going to PriceSmart (the equivalent of Costco in the UK) to pick up food for our weekend in Port Antonio. On the way home, I spotted this house and found it amusing:

Welcome 'Om'

Welcome ‘Om’

We went home, picked up my T and Baby A, and off we went. We picked up all kinds of things – wine, fruit, vegetables, bacon, salmon and some stuff for the house too. Fitting it all in the car was quite a challenge!

Once again, we had an early night as we had a long day the following day. We were all up early on Friday and eventually left the house after an early lunch. We got to Port Antonio at around 4pm and most of the drive was beautiful. I do get freaked out by the bends in the mountain roads and at how close the other cars drive! My uncle and aunt have a house (Nautilus Villa) in Port Antonio, near the Blue Lagoon (where the movie was filmed), so we stayed there for the weekend. It is gorgeous – the deck looks out on to the ocean and is built above the water so when you get in using the ladder you’re already in water that’s 10 feet deep (and so clear).

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The entrance, dining room, one bedroom, kitchen and deck are all on the ground floor. On the first floor are two more bedrooms and a living room.

The upstairs living room

The upstairs living room

The beds must all be Super King size because at least four people could have slept comfortably in mine!

We unpacked and then had a drink on the deck. The sun was already starting to set and none of us felt like swimming right then – even though it was still hot. We’d asked for dinner to be served at 8pm, and just before I went up to my room to wash my hands. I realised I should have gone up earlier and closed the windows so that there wouldn’t be any mosquitoes (and who knows what else) buzzing around. As I opened my door, I was greeted with a blast of cold air. God bless the housekeeper – she’d already closed the windows and turned on the air-conditioning! I was so happy!

S, T and I had dinner on the deck. The cook had made salmon in an orange/mustard sauce with a mixed salad and sweet potato fries. Baby A and his nanny were already asleep. By 9pm I was tucked up in bed with my book.

On Saturday morning I was up so early. I was on the deck before the staff arrived at 8am and I think the butler was quite surprised to see me there! I had a cup of tea, enjoying the ocean breeze and my book.

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We had breakfast at 9am – eggs Benedict, bacon and jerk sausage. We soaked up the sun a bit more and then when it was too hot to bear it any more, we got into the water.

S, T and Baby A

S, T and Baby A

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We had some lunch at around 1pm (grilled lamb sliders and chicken wings) and then it was back into the water. It was so hot. At around 5pm, some of S’s friends stopped by with their families – there were six kids running around (not including Baby A – who was quite overwhelmed)! They only stayed an hour or so but it felt like it was much longer! After they left, we all showered and got ready for dinner (roast chicken and asparagus). We sat up on the balcony for a while and, once again, I was in bed soon after 9pm. I’d finished the book I was reading and started another one that night.

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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PADI Open Water course

I’d been wanting to do this for a while, and it’s not as though I haven’t had the opportunity. I thought about it when I was in Bali in 2010 and I thought about doing it in Dubai earlier this year. The two questions I had were:

  • Am I fit enough?
  • Will I fit into a wetsuit?

I think (hope) the answer to those two questions now is ‘yes’!

When I found out I was going to be in Bali for the whole summer I decided this was the time to do it. I asked Harry to recommend somewhere and he booked me on a course with YOS Marine Adventures in Tanjung Benoa. 

Day 1
I was told the driver from YOS would pick me up on Wednesday at 9am – and he was at our villa at exactly 9am. I got to their centre at about 9.20am and waited in the entrance for my instructor, Made Antari, to arrive.

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We talked about any health concerns I had (none) and I asked him how long he’d been diving. He said he started diving in 1999, got his Master Scuba Diver certificate in 2002 and became a qualified instructor in 2007. He told me as I was the only person doing the course over the next few days we could do it in 3 days instead of over 4 days. Great! I was also asked what I wanted for lunch – I had the choice of nasi goreng, mie goreng or a club sandwich. I asked for nasi goreng.

The morning consisted of watching three videos on various aspects of diving. After each section Made gave me a questionnaire to fill in about what I had just learnt. If I got an answer wrong he would explain the correct answer to me. If there was anything I didn’t understand I could ask him. This is where other people would have come in useful as people usually ask questions about things I would never have thought of. At noon my lunch arrived and then there was one more video. Made gave me my Open Water Diver manual, Recreational Dive Planner (RDP) and the exam to do at home and I was done by 1pm.

Day 2
I did my second day of the course a week after I should have. I went to bed after the first day and wasn’t feeling very well. I felt even worse when I woke up on Thursday morning and called them to postpone the rest of my diving course. I told them I’d call them when I was better and they were fine with that. I eventually re-scheduled for the following Thursday. Made picked me up at 8am and we drove to the YOS centre. I was given a buoyancy control device (BCD), wetsuit, wetsuit boots, mask, snorkel, regulator, a weight belt and fins. Wetsuits must be the most uncomfortable things to get into (and out of)! But it fit! From the centre we drove to the public pool at Tanjung Benoa. I understand it is used by several diving centres but luckily we had the pool to ourselves that day. Made told me to do a couple of lengths of the pool, just so he could be sure I could swim. It was disgusting. There were so many dead insects floating on the surface I didn’t even want to get into it. But of course I had to. When I was done, I got out and he showed me how to assemble my equipment and get into the BCD. I put the regulator in my mouth and put my head in the water. I could breathe! We went through a series of exercises – taking the regulator out of my mouth while under water, finding the regulator under water, how to indicate you have no air and you need your buddy’s alternate, how to stretch if you have cramp under water, and so on. I did most of them without any trouble – at one point I panicked and thought it would be a good idea to take my mask off. I don’t know what I was thinking – that is clearly not the thing to do in any situation!

The air in the tank is actually very drying and my throat was parched each time I surfaced. Diving is thirsty work! 

At about noon Made decided I was ready for the open water. I was excited but terrified at the same time. 

We got on a boat with all our equipment and were driven out to sea for about 10 minutes. We got to our dive site and got into the water. I didn’t have to plunge in backwards, I sat on the edge of the boat and eased myself in, turning so I was facing the boat. And then we descended. About 5 minutes into the first dive I had to tell myself to just keep calm and not to panic because I realised I was at the bottom of the ocean and suddenly thought ‘What the f*** are you doing?? Why are you doing this??’ And then all of a sudden: ‘What if I have a nosebleed?’ Thankfully I didn’t have to find out. We did the same practice exercises we did in the pool, swam around for a bit and did some more practice exercises. 

It was amazing. When I got to the bottom I was surrounded by fish! I felt like I was in ‘Finding Nemo’. Made had warned me that when we first get to the bottom the fish would approach us as they would think we were food. Colourful coral, colourful fish, sponges – all around us. 

We spent 30 minutes at 11 metres before we surfaced for a break. We went back down again for 22 minutes (at 9 metres) and then called it a day. We went back to the centre, had some lunch and Made dropped me off at our villa. 

Day 3
Made picked me up at 7.45am on Friday. He was with another dive master and a driver as there were three other people joining us for the day (a German man and his two teenage daughters) and we went to pick them up from the Keraton Jimbaran Resort. They kept us waiting for 45 minutes – and no apology when they eventually showed up! While waiting for them I walked around and took some photos. The father and younger daughter had already done their open diving certificate so they were going to be on one boat. Made was taking me and the older daughter on another boat and we would both complete our certificate. I got the impression that the older daughter didn’t really want to be there at all… 

Anyway, we headed off to Padang Bay almost an hour behind schedule. We got to Manggala Restaurant at about 10am. We assembled our diving equipment and had a coffee. We then got into our wetsuits, left our stuff at the restaurant and walked down to the beach where we got into two outrigger canoes. Made told us that Padang Bay was the main harbour for the island and ferries left from there for various other islands, including Lombok. It was pretty busy! We were driven to a spot about 10 minutes away from the main harbour, a place called Blue Lagoon. We did our first dive here. Made told us we would have to put on our weight belts, fins and masks and then put on our BCDs in the water. Was he joking? I could barely manage to get myself into it out of the water! I eased myself into the water, holding on to the edge. I eventually got into my BCD, put my regulator in my mouth and we descended. We spent 45 minutes at 15 metres. We did a couple of the exercises from the day before (breathing without the regulator, breathing without the mask – I hate that one, and a couple of others). I saw my first stingray! And those tiny electric blue fish that dart all over the place… The water was so clear. 

When we ascended, the water was very choppy. It was difficult to hold on to the boat, remove my weight belt, BCD and fins – it seemed to take forever and my left ear was blocked. Once I was back on the boat, we relaxed and had some water while we were driven to our second dive spot, Jepun. After about 10 minutes I started feeling sick.
Made started talking to us about our second dive – we would have to use a compass and swim to a point he would choose – and then swim back. He looked at me. ‘Are you feeling OK?’ 

‘I feel a bit… sick.’

He told me it was the rough water and once we were back under water I’d feel better. Really? Because the last thing I felt like doing was getting back in the water. I was glad I hadn’t had any breakfast and the coffee was starting to seem like a really bad idea. He told me I could descend, do the navigation exercise and if I still felt sick he’d take me back up to the boat. I agreed because I wanted to finish off this final exercise! We got back in the water, put on our BCDs and descended. He let me do the exercise first – I swam 20 metres following the compass and then back again. ‘OK?’ he signalled. ‘OK,’ I replied. I was feeling a bit better. He left me in one spot while he carried out the same exercise with the German girl. By the time they got back I was feeling almost normal. We swam around for a while – I saw my second stingray, lots of parrotfish, and many other things. We spent 43 minutes at 14 metres. 

When we ascended the water was even rougher than before. We ascended further along the shore and the boat was supposed to be there to meet us. It wasn’t. We waited about 15 minutes while Made tried to get the driver’s attention – and eventually we got back on the boat.

I think, for me, the worst part is getting on and off the boat! Actually being under water is fine… Back on the boat, I had some water but had to close my eyes and focus on my breathing as the drive back to the beach was very rough and I was feeling sick again. And my left ear was still blocked which didn’t help.

Back on land, we walked back to Manggala. The waiter told me there was a shower at the front so I could take off my wetsuit and wetsuit boots.

2012

There was also a rack to hang our wetsuits on. It was surreal showering in the middle of the street (practically) but nobody seemed to care. We were two of the first divers back that day and I soon realised that it’s quite normal to shower outside the restaurant and then have some lunch! While we were waiting for lunch I ended up chatting to an Australian guy who was also waiting for lunch. He seemed to know everyone and I thought he might actually live in the area (but he lived in Athens). Made and I had our lunch and he gave me my temporary PADI card (hurrah!) and log book while we waited for the other boat to return. 

2012

As I was sitting there, watching people coming back from their various dives, I thought that a year ago I really wouldn’t have been able to do this. I was nowhere near fit enough then – and I’d have really struggled getting on to the ladder to get back into the boat! As I was thinking this, a huge man walked into the restaurant in his wetsuit. He was easily triple my size at my heaviest weight last year and I really wondered how he managed it. 

The others from the second boat finally arrived and they had their lunch. I walked around for a little while taking photos. If you’re ever looking for Manggala, it’s right opposite the Kinky Reggae Bar!

2012

It was a gorgeous day.

2012

On our way back to Jimbaran, we stopped at a temple called Pura Goa Lawah (or Bat Cave Temple). 

The minibus was quiet on the way back – most people fell asleep – and I eventually got home at 6pm (with my left ear still blocked).

It was an incredible experience – and Made told me that if he takes any people to different sites over the next few weeks he’d give me a call and I could join them. I can’t wait! 

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