Aloha Spirit: Sunset Beach

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As I mentioned before, I believe karma introduced me to Tiki, and it continues to swim in my bloodstream. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

Montego Bay, Jamaica, June 2012. Jess and I eloped here 9 years earlier, and we decided to bring the whole family back for our second trip. I wasn’t sure how the kids would do at the Sunset Beach resort, which is family-friendly but has limited entertainment options compared to, say, Walt Disney World. I needn’t have worried – everybody had a great time! It turns out Sunset Beach had made some improvements in the 9 years since our first trip, the biggest of which was a new pirates’ castle with a dual water slide and a lazy river connecting to one of the swimming pools. Add this to the existing swim-up bars (one of my earliest bucket list cross-offs!) and you have fun for the whole family. The kids loved going up to the bars and ordering themselves (virgin) Strawberry Daiquiris, and Jess & I partook of many a (high-test) Strawberry Daiquiri and Piña Colada.

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So what’s the Tiki connection? Well, I never really thought of any before, until I read a recent article by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry promoting his new book, Potions of The Caribbean. Mr. Berry is the world’s foremost expert on Tiki drinks, and he posits that all of the popular Tiki drinks made famous by Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1940s-50s in California actually originated in the Caribbean, where rum was king going back to the days of Christopher Columbus. These early drink pioneers simply took recipes popular in, say, Cuba, dressed them up with tropical garnishes, gave them fancy Polynesian names, and voila: Tiki drinks. The most basic of these, Planters Punch, is a simple mixture of rum, lime juice and sugar syrup, and originated in…Jamaica!

But there’s more to this Jamaica-Tiki connection than just booze. During this trip, we were introduced to the Jamaican concept of Irie. I had gotten a sense of this spirit when we first came here to get married, whenever the locals working at the resort would say “no problem” or “ja mon” or just always be smiling, as if the abject poverty outside of the resort boundaries couldn’t get them down, when in fact they had every reason to be bitter about being a very poor nation, but regardless, the Jamaican people we interacted with seemed very happy.

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So what is Irie, anyway? I found a few cool definitions:

  1. adj powerful and pleasing;
  2. adj excellent, highest;
  3. noun the state of feeling great;
  4. noun a state of peacefulness or harmony either with oneself or the world in general.

Wow, sound familiar? Irie and Aloha Spirit are physically worlds apart but spiritually quite close. Although I had never heard the term Irie when we first came to Jamaica, it was everywhere on this trip: t-shirts, posters, signs; some marketing genius must have decided Jamaica’s pleasing spirit needed a brand name! Wasn’t Bob Marley enough of a goodwill ambassador? He surely embodied the Irie spirit of Jamaica.

So, in retrospect, I feel there’s a strong connection between our choice to elope to Jamaica years ago, the joy of of our recent family vacation there, and the spirit of aloha I feel exploring Tiki culture. It was karma that we were introduced to Irie. Mahalo, people of Jamaica. Respect!

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