Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Flag of Jamaica  ,
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Greetings from Jamaica,

Just over a week ago, on December 3rd, was the 5th Annual Reggae Marathon in Negril. Well I was in no shape to participate as a runner, but I chose to volunteer. My friend Renee had invited me to stay at her house in Negril, and we would volunteer together. The days leading up to the event, being around active, healthy people. In Ocho Rios, I go for a morning jog a couple times a week in the mornings, but I don't see very many other people out. I also was looking forward to spending time with Renee, since I hadn't spent much time with her before, but knew that she was a hip chick.

I left Ochi on Thursday afternoon so I'd get to Negril in the early evening since I calculated it would take about 4 hours to travel there. Negril is on the western tip of Jamaica and Ochi sits in the middle of the north coast. Unfortunately the ride was longer than expected, because I expected transportation to work as efficiently as in the states. NOT! As I got closer to the west end, the sun was setting and I was treated to a beautiful ride to Negril. I finally made it Renee's and immediately felt comfortable and relaxed, perhaps the rum and tonics helped a little. Renee lives right on the water, and the only think in between is a 25-yard expanse of exposed coral. The waves crashing against the coral beach was our background music to our conversation.

The next day we woke up to the sound of the ocean. I could live here forever. We had some coffee, went swimming and then enjoyed breakfast in the early morning sun. What a way to start the day.

We were told to check in with the marathon people at 9:30am but didn't actually begin work until 11am. Renee and I worked with the art director to paint boards for the finish chute and for posters of Bob Marley. The work was fine, but what I enjoyed most was interacting with members of Jamdammers, the running club in Kingston. Renee and I were but two out of many volunteers enjoying the excitement that a marathon brings, and since our hand eventually began idle we left around 3pm. Our plan was to then sneak into the Couples Resort, where the marathon headquarters are located, to get some free drinks. This is not an unusual pastime of Peace Corps Volunteers, on our small living allowance we can't possible afford to get into the resorts legitimately. Our first plan of attack from the beach side was unsuccessful when a security guard intercepted us. We tried to explain that we were part of the marathon, but he just escorted us to the entrance. The marathon expo was across the street at the Couples Sport Complex so we made our way over there, and made our way over to the bar on that side. There are bars everywhere in these resorts. We chatted it up with the bartenders and helped ourselves to drinks. You may role your eyes at me for doing this, but just consider yourself as a volunteer surrounded by plush hotels and free food and drinks. Just take a moment to consider...

Now the night before the marathon is the big pasta party. It was incredible, tents and tents of really good food, and even better it was free! Can you see the there? I like the free stuff. Anyway, the four big resorts in Negril provide the food, and they "compete" amongst each other for the best pasta. The party is a great way to meet people to, and I saw some familiar faces as well. I met some folks that came all the way from Alaska, and a few Peace Corps Volunteers were participating in the marathon. Renee and I didn't stay long because we had to get up extremely early the next day...4am, since we were assigned to aid stations, and the marathon starts at 5:15am. What? You may ask, but because of the heat and sun even in December, the runners can't be out to long in

The start of the race is great. It's still dark at 5:15am in December, the road is lined with lit torches for the first 200 yards, and sound of African drums gets the adrenaline flowing. I worked at Aid Stations 13 and 19, and I was partnered with a Jamdammer named Lisa. She said that I should run just to experience the start. She also shared a lot of information about the club, and I asked her questions about running. I want to start a group in Ochi, just for the selfish reason of having other people to run with for safety sake. But in fact, a running club could be a lot of fun and we could do a lot in the Ocho Rios area. The interaction was really motivating, I plan to run the half marathon next year, and all of you that are reading this, I welcome you down to Negril to participate in the 2006 Reggae Marathon.

I'll keep you posted on the running club and my training. My plan is to just advertise weekly runs and then once a consistent group is formed I'll bring up the idea of a club.

I hope you are doing well. I am looking forward to next week Wednesday, December 21st, when I fly home to the "great white north". I will be spending Christmas and New Years at home in Wisconsin, and I'm so excited. I can't wait to frolick and play in the snow. I want to wish everyone a joyous Holiday Season and a fabulous New Year.

One Love

p.s. I have some good pictures, but I'm not able to upload at this time. Soon come.
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loislemke on

Welcome to Wisconsin!
I know you Mom is looking forward to seeing you but so am I. I can hardly wait to hear about your experiences. Your idea of a running club is great! When I was running (in my youth 30-42yrs) it would have been a great social outlet and motivator.

Lunch on Friday 12/23/05 with you and your Mom - I can't wait.
P.S. I couldn't get on to your travelpod for a while - don't know why.

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