January 11 by Courtney

    Court_ocho_blog_3  Today was a day to let loose and have some fun!! After everyone had worked so hard on their SCUBA certification, showing off skills for identifying common Jamaican algaes, plants and animals, and studying Peterson’s 281 and Gobler’s 276 lecture slides for yesterday’s test (totaling 557 lecture slides that we have seen in the last 4 days!!!), everyone was ready to distress and enjoy the island life. Around 1:15 pm, the class enjoyed a quick talk from Gobler about what to expect when roaming the area Jamaica. We then loaded ourselves into two vans and were off to Duns River Falls and the town of Ocho Rios. You could feel the energy and excitement pulse through the van as the reggae blaired and we were finally stepping outside of the gates of the compound.
Our first stop was Duns River Falls! No one really knew quite what to expect. We entered the park and made our way down to the bottom of the falls. Standing there in the bottom lagoon, you couldn’t help but to have a smile plastered on your face. The smile was uncontrollable!! There in front of you was a beautiful, intimidating waterfall that you can’t wait to start climbing!! You think to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m about to do this!! Who get’s to climb a waterfall in Jamaica?!!….Yeah!! Come on!! Let’s go!! Let’s do this!!”!! Meanwhile, everyone else is thinking the exact same thing!! Everyone is excited and determined!! It was the best feeling in the world!
      Technically you are supposed to have a guide when climbing the falls. In having a guide though, you are forced to climb with a large tourist group and hold hands with one another while climbing up the easiest way possible. Holding hands while climbing anything is probably one of the worst things you could do!! Plus, us being the dedicated, passionate students of the 2007 Tropical Marine Ecology Class from Stony Brook University, we wanted more of a challenge!! Also, this way each student could pick their own route, depending on what they felt up to. At one point, as you can see in the picture, some of us decided to climb a very challenging route, vertical and with the water pounding us down! When climbing this part, you couldn’t open your eyes starting about a quarter of the way up. The water was just too strong! You had to feel along the wall and along the path for foot wholes and hand grips! Everyone that attempted made it successfully and felt very accomplished! We continued up the cascading waterfall and many happy smiles in pictures and a few minor battle scars later, we were all at the top!! Some people wanted to do it again, but it was time to head to Ocho Rios!!
Our first stop in Ocho Rios was a small craft fair. We got the opportunity to purchase some local Jamaican souvenirs. We all experienced the Jamaican business hospitality! Each vendor was very personable and would politely ask you/escort you into their part of the market. They would show you what was special about their store and tell you how they would cut you a special deal! One thing that you will quickly learn is to never pay the asked price. Always bargain. You will most often win and end up paying less. Also, make sure you know your exchange rates!! The vendors will sometimes try to cheat you, knowing you are unfamiliar with the exchange rate. $1 US is equal to 66 Jamaican Dollars. I found myself buying a hand made photo album for $1300, giving the vendor two $500 bills and three $100 bills. I had to keep telling myself its really only $20 US. Its always embarrassingly amusing when you find yourself being the unfamiliar foreigner.
After the craft fair, we were dropped down in the tourist district of Ocho Rios. There were many tourist sorts of shops. We were given around an hour to roam the district, of course staying in our buddy groups! They all took US dollars, but still you found yourself having to bargain with them. The shops gave us yet another opportunity to find any sort of gift or keepsake to remind us of our time here! The shops started to close and the sky began to get dark. We again piled into the vans and were off to dinner!! We ate out for dinner at restaurant called The Ultimate Jerk. The restaurant was delicious, authentic Jamaican food. They had a wide variety of jerked meat and sides like fritters!! Did I mention it was delicious? Dinner was relaxing as we all wound down from a very energetic yet draining day. We all shared our exciting adventures that the day had offered. Everyone was tired after our long day. We returned to the compound to lay our heads on our pillow and rest.

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