Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jamaica March 2011 Day 1

This March break was a first for us when we decided to join a hockey team headed to a Jamaican resort to with sports equipment and nets to play hockey with some of the kids who lived there. We were one of 15 families from the Ottawa area that descended on the Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay.

We hit the Ottawa airport wearing our black Leitrim Hockey shirts (there was probably about 65 of us) to catch our 6:00am flight. The kids were very excited, ours especially since they had never been on a plane before. Check in was interesting. Many thanks to the kind family who lent us some weight to get our hockey stuff through. We all had an extra 5 kilos and had to distribute it evenly among us to get the sticks and nets on the plane.  In Canada they seem content to check for traces of bomb-making type stuff by dusting your gear with some secret powder which must show a reaction when it comes into contact with anything shady. Pretty high-tech! I didn't get the pat down but I took the longest in the x-ray line because I was packing so much tech (Iphones, netbooks, vid and still cams, media players, GPS etc.. ).

Speaking of Gps units, it's the first time I've been on the plane with one and after holding it up to the window I was excited to see how fast we were going (850km an hour) as well as our altitude (The 6791 is wrong in that pic, some barometric altimeter error due to cabin pressure? this screen shows 41,000 feet).

On the plane ride we were asked to complete a Jamaican customs paper for each family member. There was a shortage of pens but no worries, I had one in my favorite color, purple, and it took me about 30 minutes to fill them all in (what's this stuff! I'm on vacation mon!). As it turns out, this was bad as I had not noticed the note at the top indicating the use of blue or black pens only. So when we put down in Jamaica and went to customs, they told me my forms were NO GOOD, Purple ink and all that and that I had to go re-do them.

What kind of OCR software you got here Mon, Purple is the same as blue to the computers! In fact, my purple ink was better than the squeaky thin black pen I managed to scrounge from the tourist desk as me and about 30 other people spent 20 minutes refilling the forms and holding up the bus! Blue version in hand we got through customs and narrowly avoided the guys who hang out at the airport posing as hotel drivers trying to drive you to your hotel instead of your free hotel bus taking you. It helped that we were a big group and were dressed like a cult, all wearing the same black t-shirts.
The drive was pretty interesting as they drive on the left side of the road (a parting gift from the brits when they were here). Just when you think the oncoming truck will plow into you, it shoves over to the side and you barely scrape by. It's like every road here is one lane and we all "share" it. There is an awful lot of barbed wire here, the most I have seen, ever.. I'm not sure if it's for keeping people in, or out. At one point as our bus pulled up to a red light, a guy staggered into the road and dragged a dirty cloth across the windshield. He was a Squeegee guy without the squeegee!

We arrived at the hotel and because our rooms were not going to be ready for another 3 or 4 hours, the hotel arranged for us to get bracelets and go EAT right away. I was impressed with the way that went down, they even brought us kiddy drinks to tide us over as we re-filled in the Hotel paperwork we had already filled on the plane. Our fearless Leader, Dan, had arranged for this super quick check-in and he had asked us to fill in all the info on the plane but the authorities had held him up at the airport trying to get our hockey equipment through and he had everything with him. Because these sticks and nets were gifts he was planning on leaving behind, there was more paperwork to fill out! As we entered the resort there was a big banner as you came in with the hockey team's name on it, Neat-o. As the days passed, as long as you mentioned you were with the hockey team from Canada, and you wanted or needed anything, it happened fast with excellent service!

My kids wanted to swim in the ocean right away! They had never been in salt water and took to it readily, but we had one unfortunate incident. My 10 year old cut open her big toe on a rock in the water a mere 90 minutes after arrival. The beach shoes were in our luggage and since we had no room yet, we had not unpacked these. It was bleeding quite a bit when I carried her out of the water (almost slicing up my foot in the process) but the hotel staff got me the nurse who brought a wheelchair and we headed off to the medical station at the hotel. The nurse seemed very capable, and cleaned the toe up really good but she felt it needed stitches. My kid was against this, she has never had any. In Canada we have that second skin medical crazy glue stuff that doesn't involve poking holes in your skin and sticking needles through it with string on the end so she wanted that. Apparently, this technology has not made it to the island yet, or at least not our hotel.

Do you know that it costs between $500 and $600 or $700 US to get stitches in Jamaica? $150 for the doctor to come look, $150 for the stitches, $150 for the meds and $150 for anything else. When you pay the $150 he takes a look and totals up everything else and lets you know, it's a case by case thing (we are not in Canada anymore mon!). Even though we had vacation medical coverage this didn't seem right to me. The nurse asked my kid some questions and I went and answered for her and the nurse got angry with me and gave me the "talk to the hand" thing.

"Let her answer!" she barked. 

Hmm. I was starting to get pissed here. Hey nurse Ratchet, I'm the parent and this is MY kid you are talking to. This isn't a child abuse disclosure interview, how about we knock off the tude a bit eh? The whole money thing pissed me off and I'm already starting to suspect your medical opinion is driven by greenbacks. So I did the typical Canadian thing and smiled and told my kid to answer her (she didn't at first, which was funny. She must have thought if she opened her mouth the stitches were gonna be going in right then and there. In the end nurse Ratchet wrote down what I told her in the first place). Before she cleaned and wrapped it I got a good look at it and it was not as bad as I thought. I told her we had a doctor in our travel group and I was going to get a second opinion. We had packed a ton of first aid stuff and could probably get through the week keeping her beach shoes on, her toe bandaged up and the salt and chlorine would probably keep it pretty clean.

The nurse was a bit angry at that point and asked me if I was not respecting her medical opinion and I lied politely and told her that I did respect her opinion and I was simply seeking a second one. What I really wanted to say was that I don't like getting reamed out by hotel medical practitioners in a foreign country because I'm a tourist and you have me over a barrel, but I kept that particular medical opinion to myself. I may need this nurse again soon and it pays to be nice! Then she made me fill out an incident report and she got very picky over my wording and handwriting and it took about 15 minutes to fill that out. All the while there were 3 other couples out front waiting to see the nurse. Thank god we were first. For the second or third time I was starting to get a bit flustered at her demeanour. As I was trying to fill the thing out she asked me a few times if I understood what she was asking me to do. I think what she REALLY wanted to ask me was if I actually understood English and if I was quite possibly illiterate. Yup. That's the impression I got. When she huffed at my wording I crossed out a word to chose another word and she just about had a cow. "NO!!! DON"T CROSS IT OUT!" Then she reached for a new form and I told her there was no way I was filling a new one out. I've been in your damned country 2 hours and I'm spending half of that time filling out damned forms. I thanked her for wrapping my kids foot and I asked her if I could wheel my kid out and bring back the wheelchair.

Nope.. Wheelchair stays. Your kid can walk if she doesn't need stitches. YEEHA! I'm having fun now! As I left I glanced at the peopel waiting in the outer office and said:
 "Good luck folks!, you're not in Kansas anymore!".

The doctor in our group from Canada said that stitches would probably not do well in that area and just to bandage it and keep it clean. I told my kid we'll pass on the stitches and buy an IPAD 2 when we get home with the money instead, because the cost is about the same, and plus we can take pictures of her toe with the ipad! 
We got our room a few hours after and we unpacked our stuff and headed out to explore the grounds. As we left our room I went to lock the back sliding door and noticed that there WAS no lock on it. Doh! No problem man, I had to go to the front desk to get a safe key anyhow, I'll ask them to fix the room door.

The hotel was neatly laid out and you could see how they attempted to  separate the kids and families from the US spring break crowd that had also begun to arrive. All the kiddy stuff, water slides, lazy river etc was on one side, and the hot tubs, big pools and swim up bars were on the other. We caught the sun set right at 5:50/6:00 and explored the rocky outcropping that protected some of the swimming areas before hitting the evening dinner buffet. The food was very good. I will eat well over the next 8 days! We caught a bit of the night time show and turned in early to get rested up from the early start. On the way to our room we passed the water park in the night and took a picture. We'll be trying that bad boy first thing tomorrow morning! Whatever happens after today, it's all uphill!

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