Trip to Jamaica with Raquel

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My daughter, Raquel, who has been terminally ill (read her story in the club), got one of her wishes last month, which was to go with me to Jamaica and bring a friend. The company I work with helped make this wish come to pass, as I have been earning more income with them and was able to pay for it out of my business.

The Make-A-Wish foundation is going to grant Raquel’s other big wish, in just a week, which is to take our whole family to Orlando Florida and go to all the theme parks together. More will be coming about the second trip but for now I want to tell you about Jamaica! Raquel, Chloe Jamaica SignLast year in March, my company announced that they would be offering an incentive trip to Jamaica in January 2015. We had just gone a few months before, my has been a night for our 20th anniversary, to Kauai, Hawaii. I was filled with a desire to take my children somewhere tropical and show them all the amazing animals, plants and sea life. Jenni Mike Hawaii Best

So when my company made the announcement, I was having visions of working hard over the summer and taking my whole family there. Out of all of my children, Raquel was the one that kept talking about it and asking if we were going to go, over and over. She also asked me repeatedly when we would take trips, if her best friend could come along, and I had always told her no.

Raquel, Chloe in poolAfter everything she went through over the summer, fighting illness and going through treatments, I wanted more than anything to tell her yes on both counts. By the time tickets for the trip became available, I felt that she was strong enough to go. The day after they made the tickets available was the day Raquel had an MRI and I decided I wanted to take her, and got the okay from my husband. I went to the website and saw that the tickets were sold out. Yikes!

I emailed my account manager and someone else I knew in the company. I told them I had wanted to take her so badly and we just found out she could go. They had been following my daughter’s story. I was overjoyed when they emailed me back and told me they could get us a room. I also checked my credit card account and was so happy to find that I could pay for my flight, my daughter’s and a flight for her best friend, with my miles!

We were so pumped about the trip and her friend’s parents gave their permission. The exciting day came and we drove to Vegas for a red-eye flight. We arrived in Jamaica the next day at one in the afternoon, bleary-eyed, but so happy to feel the warmth and see the beach.

Raquel and Chloe at the beachWhen we arrived at the nicest hotel on the island, the Hyatt Ziva resort, we found that my company had arranged one of the nicest rooms for us. It was a suite right on the beach. There was a welcome dinner the first night. It was right outside our window. We enjoyed the music of a live band for a while and grab a little food. Then the clouds rolled in and the rain poured for about 45 minutes. I guess the storms there don’t last too long but everyone moved on to other plans. The resort was all inclusive, so we could pick from several different nice restaurants to eat at each night. The food was fantastic!

Raquel, Chloe, Jenni at dinnerOn the first day we just had some fun time to explore the beach, enjoy the food and especially the jerk chicken from the shack by our room and get acclimated. The second day we went on an excursion to a place called Mystic Mountain. There we went on a bobsled ride and did some zip lining. As we were walking to the jungle, we noticed huge spider webs here and there with big spiders in them. It freaked the girls out a little, but I thought it was cool.

Mystic Mountain: Ziplines and bobsledsThe next day we did a service project with the rest of the group. We planted a whole field of ginger! My company (starts with a D) had built a road up into a mountain through a small community. Many of the community members will be employed by this farm, and about 20 agricultural students will have the share in the ownership. It is part of a program called “Farm It Up Jamaica,” which encourages locals to grow things. There is a high level of unemployment in Jamaica and lots of poverty, due to lack of available capital ( I believe). So this program will really help many people there. Even Raquel put on her work gloves and helped us plant!

Ginger field serviceAfter the planting, they cut open some coconuts for us to drink the water.

Jamaica Guys cracking coconutsLater in the day I decided to get my hair braided. The ladies are experts there and know how to do it super-tight. The only problem is it hurt! I asked her to do it a little less tight, but she didn’t want it to fall out. It was so tender that night, that I had to pour lavender essential oil on my head so I could sleep, and the next morning and felt a ton better!

Jamaica Hair BraidsThe next day I decided to grant Raquel another wish, which was to go and swim with dolphins. We went to the place called Dolphin Cove and first got to hold a stingray, then did some snorkeling.

Girls petting stingrayThe girls got to hold a real shark that was as big as they were on their laps. That was quite an experience for them!

Jamaica Girls holding sharkWe also got to hold some cool birds!

Jamaica: Holding birds with girlsThen we got to get up close and personal with a dolphin named Arby. The day was a smashing success!

Raquel kissing dolphinThe girls enjoyed the time at night at the resort watching movies in our room, but we also played some cards with my sister. That was fun! On the last day we enjoyed some more time at the beach and the girls each got a few braids of their own.

Girls getting Jamaica braidsHere is the hat Raquel brought back for her dad 🙂

Raquel, Mike Rasta hatI don’t know if I’m ready to pack up for another big adventure, but it will be worth it to have a fun trip with our entire family. We are excited!

Jamaica Girls feet

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  • Kristin Johnson


    I went to your FB page to leave a Happy Birthday wish, and saw this link– since Luke got his mission call to Jamaica, I couldn’t resist looking at all your photos! What an amazing trip! So glad you had the opportunity to go. We have been praying for Raquel, and hope your are all being blessed to be able to handle this crisis. Did you know David Liechty’s wife Wendy has this same cancer? We can’t believe we know 2 people going through this. Anyway, just wanted to say Happy Birthday, and that we think of and are praying for your family and Raquel.

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