From Montego-Bay to Royan
Growing up in Jamaica, water was always at my fingertips. As a child, I considered her a close friend. I would play with the water and she would play with me. I would stand waist deep in her salty blues and she would splash me over and over trying to push me to the sand below. Her continuous waves teased me, encouraging me to follow her out to the tip of her vast expanses only to rush back sending me onto the dry sand. But I could never manage to stay away from her.
As I grew older, I became more daring with her and my imagination of what was possible. I wanted close my eyes and relax in the ocean, surrender myself to the ebb and flow if the waves. Let them decide where I should end up. There were some days that I sit by the ocean and feel this uncontrollable urge to dive in, sink to her very depths, and never resurface. This was not a thought of suicide but one of regeneration. A fantasy in which I could now start a new life underwater. I would construct my home out of abandoned lobster and oyster shells, feast on the abundant fish in my surroundings, and dance with the occasional dolphin or turtle that paid a visit. I imagined that it wouldn’t be so different than moving to another country. It would be much easier in fact because there would be no VISA requirements. I might have to develop new defense skills to fight off the sharks and the killer whales but in the ocean, there was true freedom for me to travel anywhere and everywhere.
It wasn’t just ocean water that appealed to my sense of wonder. The rushing waters of the many rivers coursing through my tiny nation beckoned just as strongly. Going to the river was a daily ritual, one that I cherished as a child for it was in these rivers I learned how water gave the freedom to live. It was in these rivers that I learned about the magic of mother nature. Being in and near the endless waters was how I connected with the Earth and the many people that inhabited this tiny planet for it was on a beach in a tiny city in France that I made a brief but lasting friendship.
My last trip to France, I decided to forgo the usual stay in Paris and spent a week in the small town on the south coast, Royan. This city doubled in population during the summer months because of its crisp blue waters. It was here I met a young man. He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much French but we made a connection that transcended all of these difficulties. We connected through music, laughter, American TV shows as we strolled along the shores of the beach. We sat on the cliffs overlooking the horizon and struggled through a dialogue about our families. He told me about his town, his life and occasionally lost me in a French rant but he would find me again as we dipped our toes in the water. The ocean breeze tousled his hair as he smiled shyly at me and I touched his shoulder to let him know that I understood.
He would drive me in his car along the coast and point out some of the most beautiful scenery overlooking the ocean. At one spot he parked and we got out to take pictures of ourselves standing by a wooden historical war monument. In broken English he expressed his desire to explore the world beyond the limits of his tiny ocean-side town. He wanted to go to Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver. He wanted to improve his English so he could live and prosper in what he believed to be the most powerful nation on Earth. His passionate wanderlust nature shone through difficulties in his speech and I felt his pain for I too have often felt restricted by my island nation. I wrapped my arm around his and rested my head on his shoulder as we turned to look out into the endless ocean. After a few moments, he checked his watch, gave my arm a gentle squeeze, and we strolled back to his car.
About the Author: Giselle is a recent graduate of UBC with plans to go to medical school. She has been writing since the age of seven and has a strong passion for seeing the world. She hopes to one day work with Doctors without Borders.
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Ready to go to Jamaica? WSGT found these travel books and gear to help you prepare.
Lonely Planet Jamaica: The best guide to Jamaica
Jamaican English: Jamaicans have their own version of English. Learn a little before you go!
Travel workout kit: Stay in shape on the road.