This past Tuesday marked the half-way point of my planned time in Jamaica. I’m not ready for it to be half over already. It took so long for my heart to catch up with me here; I don’t want to leave it behind again in a country that has returned me to myself. There is still so much to see and do – so much country, so much friendship, so much work, so much fun. We never know what may happen. Maybe it’s not really half over already. Maybe it’s just beginning.

Bahia Principe resort, Jamaica
A slow walk to nowhere.

Tuesday was also the day I had the fairly spontaneous opportunity to escape to Runaway Bay, on Jamaica’s tourist-populated North Coast, and experience the luxury of the Grand Bahia Principe Resort. The resort was lovely – exactly what you’d expect of a 5-Star all-inclusive. A stunning room, beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea, bars & restaurants around every corner, long strands of beach, innovative pool design.

For me, that it offers everything I expect in a resort is the problem – it could equally be in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Mexico. Which is fine if what you want is a great resort experience. I may have to revise my opinion on how much of a ‘Jamaican’ experience such resorts offer. Still, it was luxurious, perfectly timed, and just what I needed after a hectic work week and various other sources of stress.

runaway bay
How I like to run-away – very languidly

I did have one less-relaxing moment:

Yesterday morning, despite threatening clouds, we made our way to the beach early in order to maximize any possible sun/sea/relaxation time before I had to head back south in the early evening. I floated lonely as a cloud; actually, I floated while watching clouds dance in the sky and I let tears join their saline cousins in the ocean. I was completely out of my body and trying to get out of my head.

I felt an odd movement of water and a cool shadow over my shins, looked down, and screamed as I have not done in a very very long time – I can’t even imagine when. It was primal and well beyond reason or control. I was truly terrified.

What I saw was a large winged body and long thin tail skimming past my legs. For a flash I was too petrified to move, afraid that I might kick it or attract its attention. Then I dropped my legs down, but was (unusually) not where I could stand up. Still, the change in orientation allowed me to get my legs out of reach and start truly swimming – because clearly a chubby middle-aged woman can out swim a ray.

Just a few long strokes and I could stand again, be reassured by my friend who had swum towards me (between poorly concealed laughter), have the people on the beach and standing on their hotel balconies go back to what they were doing before I attracted their attention, and catch my breath. My throat is still scratchy this morning.

I stayed in the water another while, but did not venture to the deeper waters again. Much of that beach is protected by reef, but with the high tide and strong wave action of the day, animals that might normally stay beyond the reef had easy access landward.

I know that not all rays are dangerous, and I’ve quite enjoyed watching their elegant movements from the safety of a boat. I also know that I have no idea which rays are dangerous, and clearly have no idea what to do when I encounter one. They are a primeval creature and on some level inspire a primeval fear. Part of my mind wants to reassure me that it was really just the shadow of a ray-shaped cloud overhead, but I can’t convince myself that shadows ruffle the water.

Hours later, tired, sun-soaked, sated, and contemplative, I smiled to see the parabola of lights that indicated I was back in Kingston. The approach to Kingston from the north lays out the city – from the harbour up the bowl of the Blue Mountains – in front of you, and I realised that to me that recognition already feels like a welcome home.