We just returned from another fabulous escape to Heaven on Earth–aka Negril, Jamaica.  The cold snap that hit Florida had an effect on Jamaica, too.  But a little wind and slightly cooler temperatures doesn’t diminish paradise.

It was our eighth stay at Beaches Sandy Bay, a small, intimate resort in the middle of the Seven Mile Beach.  It was wonderful to see so the staff members that we knew from previous visits.  It was breathtaking to look off the balcony of our favorite room at the view that warms my heart and soothes away every shred of stress with just one glimpse.

Jamaica is a beautiful country but what we love more are the people–they are the warmest, most delightful we have ever met.  So, of course, the highlight of our trip involved Jamaicans we met there.

This time, a lot of our new acquaintances were 3-5 years old.  We took a Sandals Foundation field trip to the Happy Hearts Early Childhood Institute, a public school in the Whitehall area of Negril.  We talked to the children, listened to them sing and watched them play.


We were touched by the welcome we received from them and the principle and teachers.  The building was very small–pulling up, it was hard to believe it was actually a school.  It did not resemble any school in the states.  It was  rustic building painted tan, highlighted with yellow and turquoise.
There was no doubt about the structure’s purpose when we stepped inside.  Fifty-five students in red and white checked school uniforms filled the bench seats in one long room.  On one end, were the 5-year-olds writing away in their notebooks.  A rolling chalkboard separated them from the 3- and 4-year-olds on the other side.

The openness and smiles of the kids made it obvious that the teachers and principle created a safe and caring environment.  We left a piece of our hearts at Happy Hearts.  After Christmas, we plan to back up a box with crayons, coloring books and teaching aids to ship down to the principal.

Another new friend was Benny, the Egret.  Yes, a real one with white feathers and yellow legs but the name was given to him by us over breakfast one morning.

Benny sat on the railing as we ate breakfast, eyeballing out plates.  We offered pieces of bread.  Benny was not interested.  We laid a small pieces of bacon by his feet.  He looked at it and looked away.

I turned away from him for just a moment and before I could look back, he was on the tabletop, stealing scrambled eggs with salsa from my plate.  I yipped and jumped, making Benny retreated with a mouthful.  When I recovered, he returned and when I didn’t shout out, stayed there and ate more.

In case you didn’t know it, an egret–or at least Benny–is a very messy eater. Tiny pieces of egg and salsa splattered everywhere, Benny seemed to love the eggs but on some level, it was kinda disturbing. A bird eating scrambled eggs? It just seemed so wrong. Nonetheless, it was a thoroughly entertaining experience for both us and the rest of Benny’s audience scattered at tables across the open deck.
And now, we cherish the memories, appreciate the renewal of spirit that a trip to Negril Beach always brings and look forward to next year and our return to paradise.