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Urban Native Girl Heads to Jamaica

Lisa Charleyboy is from the Tsilhqot’in (Dene) First Nations of Raven Clan from Alexis Creek First Nation from BC. Currently living in Toronto Ontario, she has recently graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Honours Degree in Professional Writing. Lisa works as an Aboriginal Recruiter for York, is a freelance writer and moonlights as the Urban Native Girl, which is her own Indigenous pop culture blog. She writes for Indian Country Today Media Network as a style reporter. This is her first travel story for the My Life section.

My Journey to Jamaica

It seems I’m constantly wanting to head south to soak up some sunshine. But when you’re in the midst of a Canadian winter, that desire gets heightened to a feverish pitch. This season, I was debating about where to go. I’ve been to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, but wanted to try something different.

The something different was Jamaica, specifically a villa is called Nutmeg South, a five bedroom, five bathroom, luxurious house, complete with an outdoor pool. It is stunning and the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. What keeps drawing my friend who I traveled with, the President of Big Soul Productions, Laura Milliken (Ojibwe), back to this particular place is the excellent service provided by the friendly staff. We had a driver (Dave), a butler (Carlington), a chef (Miss P), and a few others who contributed to the general maintenance and cleanliness of the place.

The morning of my flight, I was picked up by director/writer Zoe Hopkins (Mohawk/ Heiltsuk). We flew from Toronto to Montego Bay on a quick 4-hour flight, along with musician Derek Miller (Mohawk) and his stunning girlfriend Catherine Stefanizzi (Potawatomi). Poor Zoe was outfitted in her parka and Ugg boots and was literally sweltering by the time we landed at the airport. You could tell who really knew what kind of temperatures to expect by their outfits. I had jeans on with wedgies and a tank top, but was wishing I had a silk scarf to tie up my hair, as I was starting to bead while waiting for our luggage.

Our driver, Dave, greeted us at the airport with Laura and her husband James Kinistino (Salteaux), who is the Vice President of Big Soul Productions.

We spent the first day hanging out by the pool and laying on the teak lounge chairs. We waited for additional guests to arrive, including actor Stuart Pierre (Sto:lo) and musician Kristi Lane Sinclair (Haida). There was a ping-pong table set up right beside the pool that got heavy action for the duration of the vacation. I think Catherine was awarded Nutmeg South champion, but Raven Kanatakta later gave her a pretty good run for her money.

Dinner service was always beautifully presented and the food that Miss P prepared was outstanding. She uses all fresh, locally grown vegetables and things that are readily available. We had red snapper for the first dinner and were all immediately won over by her cooking skills. To our surprise, the table settings were changed for each meal, and we all enjoyed checking out what was selected each time. Catherine is a home décor designer for a large national brand in Canada and photographed everything before each meal. My favorite piece was a ceramic beverage container in the shape of a chicken. The juice erupted from its beak during every pour. That was a pretty good conversation starter.

Each morning Carlington, the always-jovial butler, prepared Blue Mountain coffee and had it on a tray on the veranda overlooking the pool. I was frequently up very early and spent the mornings sipping on the scrumptious blend, while working on my laptop.

After everyone awoke, we would head over to the outdoor dining table, full of fresh fruit platters with extra long forks, so we literally wouldn’t have to lift a finger. On the 5-acre lot, there are fresh oranges, limes, lemons, avocados and mangos; no shortage of fresh deliciousness. The mangos were so good that we would gobble them up first. After our fruit frenzy, Carlington would take our orders for eggs, which were always accompanied by a massive plate of bacon. I named it “bacon-o-clock” and giggled about it to a fairly silent crowd.

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On our first full day, we headed to Doctor’s Cave beach, in Montego Bay, and only a 7-minute ride. The beach had trampolines out on the water, so I swam out and did my best to impress our crew with my old school gymnastic skills. I ended up freaking everyone because I was getting too close to the padded springs. So I called it a day and made a mental note to sign up for an adult trampoline class upon my return to Toronto. The beach was fully set up to rent chairs and umbrellas, and there were always staff around so we could order any type of beverage with ease. The sand was nearly pure white, gorgeous and very soft. It was one of my fave spots, just enjoying the day reading magazines, sun-tanning and gossiping with the girls.

On Friday, we decided to take a hike up Mount Zion, which was only an hour jaunt. I was feeling tired and almost didn’t go. But thank goodness I did, because “bacon-o clock” was taking its toll, so I needed the exercise. And it was a great chance to check out the beautiful country view, including goofy goats and local “architecture”.

That night, our third day of the vacation, we went out to Pier 1’s ‘Pier Pressure’, to dance and get a taste of the local vibe. I totally thought it would be hardcore dancehall and I wouldn’t know any of the music, but the DJ was awesome and spun a lot of old hip-hop jams. We all moved and grooved with Miss P, Carlington, and Wilton, another one of the Nutmeg South staffers. They were so great to have brought us out to that spot, as it’s something most tourists would likely miss out on.

Saturday brought two new guests, when the ultra dynamic Digging Roots duo, Shoshona Kish (Anishinabe) and Raven Kanatakta (Algonquin/Mohawk) joined us in our oasis. Raven brought both a ukulele and a guitar, and was never seen without either of these in hand during his entire stay. It was pretty cool to have a soundtrack everywhere we went.

On the weekend, we visited the local YS Falls. It was a windy, harrowing ride, but so worth it, as we got to see one of the most naturally beautiful spots in Jamaica. It’s catered to tourism and has a natural spring outdoor pool, with wood lounge chairs and a zip line ride. I really wanted to go on the zip line, but once I regained equilibrium after that windy ride, it was already time to hit our next destination. Don’t make that mistake, and make sure you zip line if you go.

In just under a half an hour, we appeared on Negril Beach. It was later in the day, but the beach was still fab, and Raven played his guitar with a local guy to the sunset. That was my favorite night in Jamaica, as we were all just so chill and relaxed, enjoying the present and finding our groove. Laura and Zoe went horseback riding on the beach at sunset, while Derek, Raven, and Stuart bombed around on jet skis like boys.

After an action-packed Sunday, we spent Monday lounging around the pool like rock stars, then hit the Hard Rock at night. It was Valentine’s Day, and Jamaica proved to be a perfect alternate setting for us single ladies. We kind of forgot about the usual stuff and just loved the moment on the dance floor.

After much debate, on Tuesday, we headed over to the newly opened Palmyra Resort. It was one of the most stunning hotels I’ve ever seen. The pool was exquisite and had a grand staircase behind it. It would make the perfect setting for a location wedding. Laura even had the idea of installing a glass floor over the pool. That’s why she’s a producer; so smart. We basked in the luxury, ordered bottle service, set up our own iPod player, and made our own scene. We kind of just took over the space. The hotel also has lounge beds at their private beach, so people who hate the sand can nap comfortably.

From über-tourist to über-local, we capped the day off at a city beach, which is kind of rocky and right by the airport. We definitely felt like we were getting a true sense of Jamaica. It was pretty cool to see the locals jamming again with Raven. We waived at the flights coming and were a little jealous because we knew we were leaving the next day.

We had such a wonderful time bonding in our tight little group, and the friendly vibe of everyone in Jamaica made us feel so happy and at welcome everywhere we went. We’re all currently trying to figure out how we can spend more of our time down there in the winter. Needless to say, we can’t wait to get back to our Nutmeg South home away from home.