To get to the beach we had to go steeply downhill through a lush park with a craft village, different kinds of snack counters, First Aid and police posts and an army of attendants all willing to assist visitors. Joe seemed to know many of them so we often stopped to greet and be introduced to various persons. Even those he didn’t know nodded and said howdy. Most Jamaicans are friendly. You don’t have to know them, they’ll stop and talk to you anywhere, anytime.
“If your trucking business fails, you can make a living as a tour guide,” Auntie Candi told Joe.
He laughed. “I’ve thought of it.”
As we went down the steps we could see and hear the rushing water of the falls; steep in places, looking scary in others with lots of overhanging tree branches, and here and there a few calm pools, where people who were climbing the falls were resting.
“Want to climb the falls?” Joe asked.
I looked at Maya. “I’ve never climbed it,” she said. “But since we’re doing so many touristy things. I might as well.”
Finally, we reached the beach, another beautiful stretch of light brown, powdery sand with palm and almond and other trees gnarled and twisted by the wind, but with clear blue waters stretching out into the distance. There were buoys marking the limit for swimming and the end of the falls roaring into the sea. Maya and I quickly stripped to our swimsuits which we were wearing under our clothes.
As it was a school holiday, a lot of young persons were on the beach; some seemed to have come prepared to spend the day. They had picnic baskets, drinks and beach balls. Some were in the sea having a good time.
Joe rented a couple of beach chairs for us, but before we could settle on a spot for ourselves, I heard some voices calling, “Maya! Maya! Over here!”
Maya shaded her eyes and started waving. A group of children from her school rushed over. They were in swimsuits and seemed to have already been in the water as they were all wet.
One of the girls, whose name was Heather, welcomed me enthusiastically. “Hey, Lori, if I knew you were coming, I’d have brought the skipping ropes.” I had been teaching them how to jump double dutch when I visited their school.
“Come,” they invited us. “We were just setting up for volley ball over there.”
I looked at Auntie Candi, who waved us to go on. She was already plastering sun blocking cream on her skin and preparing to stretch out on her towel on the beach chair.
I didn’t learn the names of all the kids, but they were very friendly. I am not a fan of ball games, but since there were no rules, and all you had to do was to try to get the ball over the net, I joined in. Teams were as many players as wanted to join in the game. At one time we were about ten a side. Since there was no competition and no coach, in fact what we were playing should NOT be called volleyball at all. I didn’t feel pressured and was soon running from side to side, bouncing into the others on my team trying to get at the ball and screaming: “Get it! Block! Over here! Mine!” and things like that with the best of them.
Then we played a game of tic tac toe in the sand – boys against girls.
They drew a very large square in the powdery sand. The boxes for the X’s and O’s were very large, because the X’s would be occupied by girls and the O’s by boys. It was great fun. We sat cross-legged in the boxes when chosen to do so, and were all mixed up. (Us girls spread our towels across our legs to be decent since we were in swim suits.)
While the teams were deciding which box to ‘mark’, those of us inside had to keep moving our upper bodies to the music from somebody's box. In no time we were moving together as if choreographed, since, if you moved the wrong way, you bumped into somebody. Maya and I were chosen to play several games. There was one boy who kept bumping into me. Somehow, he always seemed to end up in a box next to me. I realized he was doing it deliberately, but couldn’t bother to take him on, I was having too much fun.
Again I had that strange feeling of being in a movie. Neither team won a game because everybody kept shouting instructions, so the teams were able to block one another successfully.
After a new set of players joined us, Maya and I went for a swim. The water felt refreshingly cool. I was having so much fun, I never want to leave this place, I thought.
In a quiet moment swimming, I wondered why I was enjoying everything so much, including the games, until I realized that one of the things I liked about this vacation, was that none of the young people (except Maya) knew me. So, I could do anything I wanted without fear of being judged. I could be myself, or NOT myself, if I wanted to. Here I was nobody’s sister, I was not an A student, nor the worst at sports. If anyone criticized me behind my back, what would I care?
Then Joe called us to come out of the sea if we wanted to climb the falls.