Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 1: LOTSWild's Jamaica 2012 SCIIIx

     There’s just no way to pass up the opportunity to log the days events; right now, while they are clear and clean in my soon to be fogged memory. We set out this morning around 5 am from Asheville on a group adventure to Jamaica. We plan on training in martial arts, learning from primitive teachers and guides in the hills above Negril and having a generally mellow time somewhere between the green jungle foliage, rocky cliffs of the West End, and Negril’s famous 7 mile white sand beach. I always try to warn people, “Jamaica is very fluid. We have to be adaptable and willing to roll with changes”. See, this trip is much more about the flow and flux of life, embracing the changes with grace, and finding those beautiful spaces that are always there if we stay present and thankful for each moment. But like any quest, rewards are the result of some effort – some cataclysm – some challenge for the bold. People reply, “What do you mean?” I try to explain about thoughts reflected, intentions manifest, and some such nonsense but the truth is, it just is. And we are. And I am right now. OK, so you’re thinking “he’s already hit the rum”, sure, you’re right, but let’s begin the tale.

      As I was saying, we were on the road early. I didn’t sleep last night, being on the floor next to a snoring travel partner, a little warm, and excited about today. It was a special evening; Brian Adams is one of those characters who has trained in martial arts for so long his perspective is hard to even grasp. He had already published a book before Bruce Lee was known in the West. He ran a school for Ed Parker, the grandfather of Kempo, has learned from legends over the last 50 years, and has seen all sorts of talent, injury, promise, hope, failure, and still pushes his aging body to pass on what he has gathered to anyone willing to learn. His small apartment reminded so much of Chuck Blackburn’s – Tang Soo Do grandmaster. Simple, elegant, lined with books and videos on philosophy, healing, spirituality, martial art, history, world culture, and more. I was thrilled to offer this environment to my own red belt “Chris”. Name changed because he’s a minor, and because I could almost throw him off the bridge outside at the moment. Bridges? In Jamaica? No. Just wait, we’re getting there.

     So we spent the evening watching a black belt test that was probably filmed the year film recorders were invented, and then checked out a traditional Chinese social gathering. This epic piece of martial originality was just a recording of a group of Kung Fu practitioners - in suits, ties, skirts, and T-shirts, performing their own family styles for one another much like some families gather for dinner and take turns with stories and singing. I have to include all this so when I raise hell in a minute you don’t think for a second that am missing even a brief moment of pure enjoyment. At least, I say that to myself.

     We arrived at the airport well in time, no problem, car parked, shuttled, checking in. Everything is going so smooth…I present my passport, turn to “Chris” for his. Problem #1. Pretty freaking huge. Chris doesn’t have his passport. It’s with his English homework. In my truck. In Asheville. My brain goes into super hyper drive; what does this mean? Well for one, he can’t get on the plane. By the way Mr. Bolejack, this huge stick (it’s called a Bokken) is too big and can’t be on the side of your bag. Why? Because it will punch through the side of the plane, causing a possible crash where we would all die in the middle of the ocean somewhere near Cuba. OK, no problem, the ladies were sweet. They said go down to the package man and have him wrap it up. This is double cool because my bubble wrapped pack is less likely to be torn apart and searched. NOT that I am transporting anything illegal but the fact that the albino Jamaican Snow Owl is most likely to be seen with IR nightvision is a fact mostly lost on paranoid authorities who often mistake NV as some sort of paramilitary gear. So as we shuffle through the airport, me carrying Brian’s bag cause he’s like 70 and so is the bag, in pounds (which by the way is an extra bunch of money, especially since he too has a bokken and other problem items), we pass a passport office. I shove Chris through the door and say “Go talk to her”, “about what” he says. “Passports.” That keeps him busy for a few minutes as I call his family to consider all options, including leaving him sitting at the airport. We finally find the package man. Problem; the bubble wrapping machine is broken. He’s out of boxes, except this one really big one. We take it. I pick up Chris, his family is helping formulate a plan that doesn’t involve the death of their loved one, and we get back in line. The box is too long. So we cut it down, tape it up, I do my Hojo Jutsu magic on the operation and Brian clears checkout with the rest of our party. Not me, not Chris. You see we have a taxi that will be waiting for all of us in Negril, Jamaica – and it’s a bus for the 5 of us. A car is cheaper. If three of us go we don’t need a bus. Slow down brain! OK. The check in ladies are so superb they offer to change my flight to next day and get Chris and I a hotel. Of course the passport is in my truck – locked. Well to hasten the dramatic conclusion we send the adults ahead, Chris and I head to a nearby hotel, someone tries to find my truck to break into it, without getting arrested, get the passport, and fed-ex it overnight to the hotel. We aren’t entirely faithful that it is in the truck but we have to try something.

      Oh yes, there’s more to the story. Thank God for texting, that’s all I’m saying. Well, in keeping with my Jamaica Travel Philosophy I meet some cool chap named Darrel who drives the hotel shuttle. He was in the military and decides to help a brother out. All potential recruits: military service is like owning a Harley but better, you have brothers and sisters all over the country, no matter how short your service or what branch. He gives us advice on where to eat cheap and get full, what two particular ladies to avoid, and offers to take us anywhere for free, including movies later. The hotel is sweet, down pillows and all the goods. We eat and hang out in Jonesboro, GA, with Darrel standing-by for immediate pickup with a cell phone call. What a stud. I meet this Mexican guy who really likes my cowboy hat and he loves vacationing where? Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Asheville. He likes getting outdoors but doesn’t know where to go. Are you kidding? He owns a computer repair store, I check it out. I had been looking for a high quality cheap laptop to resell in Jamaica (one of the pay-for-your-trip ninja secrets), but had no luck back home. Well, here I sit typing on my new custom built HP Mini, 2 gig ram, 150Gig hard drive, itsy bitsy wi-fi computer running Windows 7, crammed with great software. I can fit this thing in my carry on pouch. It was so cheap I won’t even tell you what I paid because you’ll probably think it’s hot. He hooked me up.

      About the time Chris and I get back to the hotel I start getting texts from the just-landed Jamaica detachment; “What address are we going to? Customs has stopped us!” I made something up, I mean, what is that anyway. Who ever knows what address they are going to, give me a break. That worked, but then they were having a hard time finding the Taxi guy, who was at the bar with a sign that said SPENCER. Time passes. No word. I get a call from my Jamaican contact who says the taxi guy is there waiting, where’s my crew? Well, the crew got their own taxi, paid way more than necessary and are half-way to Negril. Um, the taxi guy at the airport still needs to be paid. OK, deal with that later. PROBLEM; they don’t know where they are going.

      Well I think this is good enough. My faculties will likely begin to suffer if I continue much longer as I sit here in a very classy hotel bar somewhere outside of Atlanta. I may not be in Jamaica, but I do have rum, coconut, and a big chuck of Pineapple. I may not be swimming under the stars, but I do have a great shower, a soft bed, and a mini-laptop to record this on. I heard a few minutes ago that the advance party arrived on location all in one piece before sundown. I remind myself of the very things I advised my teammates with mere hours ago; it’s really the journey, not the destination. It’s a fluid thing, we have to adapt and be flexible, and willing to find the beauty and wonder in each small moment as it presents itself. Like the Rasta, heart full of thanks, smiles beaming out to the world – opening doors we didn’t even know were there. And tomorrow, the adventure starts all over. Thus concludes, hopefully, the entry for the LOTSWIld Jamaica Trip, Day 1.

the background . . . on my computer
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ready to roll at the close of Tuesday's class - got your passport?

at least this is where I ended up - it could have been worse ;)