This is our boat…
Ten years ago, I traveled to Jamaica for my birthday with my girls. Although our hotel was in Montego Bay, the day after my birthday, we decided to take a day trip to Negril. That decision changed my entire life.
My friends and I fell in love with the crystal clear waters and white sands of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach although we were admittedly annoyed by the beach hustlers who kept trying to sell us on banana boat rides and Jet Ski rentals. And then, one guy approached us about taking a glass bottom boat tour to the reef. After negotiating the cost down to $10 per person, we were game.
As we rode to the reef, I noticed that one of the guys working on the boat had really pretty eyes, so I told him so. He smiled this radiant smile and thanked me.
“What’s your name?” he asked. I told him.
“Jave,” he replied. After our introduction, my friends and I went about snorkeling, and I didn’t give the guy with the pretty eyes a second thought.
When the boat dropped us back off at the beach after our afternoon at the reef, the guy with the pretty eyes approached me to ask for my phone number.
“Damn, I left my phone at home,” he said in a thick Jamaican accent. “Please put my number in your phone.” Yeah right, like I’ll ever really call you, I thought to myself. But for some reason, I went along and let him punch his number in my phone.
As my friends and I started walking away from the boat (which I later found out is owned by Jave’s uncle), I got a calming, uncanny feeling that this Jave guy would somehow be a big part of my life.
Strange, I thought. As I turned around to look back at him, I saw that he was leaning against the boat looking right at me. I couldn’t stop myself from blushing as I turned back around and continued walking away with my friends.
Two weeks after returning home, as I was scrolling through my phone, I came across Jave’s name and I decided to give him a call. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
This is our favorite breakfast spot…
After our first phone conversation, Jave and I spoke on the phone just about everyday. Needless to say, my phone bill was insane, and he was constantly running out of credits on his phone. After a year of getting to know each other over the phone, Jave finally convinced me to come visit him in Jamaica.
I’ll admit that I was nervous. Will he still like me when he sees me again? What if he turns out to be a crazy murderer? What if he doesn’t respect my boundaries? My parents are going to kill me. These thoughts all raced through my mind in the weeks leading up to my trip.
But all of my fears were allayed: He still liked me, he wasn’t crazy or a murderer, he respected my boundaries, and my parents didn’t kill me. But they were worried.
We had a great time together doing absolutely nothing except taking long beach walks, talking about any and everything we could think of, and treating ourselves to date night dinners at Sweet Spice. During that first visit, we stayed in a hotel between the beach and the cliffs, and most mornings, we went to Charela Inn on the beach for their $3 French toast for breakfast.
Whenever we return home to Negril, we always make a point of eating breakfast at Charela Inn at least a few mornings during our stay.
This is Whistling Bird Resort…
…just one of many resorts and beach hotels I requested Jave to check out for me before booking a reservation. He quickly learned that I’m really picky about hotel bathrooms and hotels in general, and so before I’d make a reservation for my return trips to Jamaica, he’d actually go to the hotel and look around for me to see if I’d like it or not. (I know that’s extreme – don’t judge me.)
It was and still is very difficult for Jamaicans to get visitors’ visas to the U.S., and Jave got denied when he applied to come visit me. As a result, during the two years we dated before getting married, I had to go back and forth to Jamaica to visit him. I was always on the hunt for hotels that offered affordable luxury (and still am), and Jave was always willing to do some hotel scouting for me.
This is where Jave popped the question…
To clarify, this is where Jave officially popped the question. He previously popped the question over the phone and via text…several times! When he asked me the first time, I thought he was joking, but I quickly realized that he wasn’t after he asked me several more times. I don’t think I ever really took him seriously.
And then one day, I got a call from my mom.
“Your boyfriend called,” she said.
“My boyfriend? What?” I asked thinking it was best to play dumb.
“Don’t play dumb, Dana. He called and spoke to your father about marrying you.” What – the?! I was cringing. “You should come over,” she said.
Until then, I’d never told my parents that I even had a boyfriend in Jamaica. I always tried to pass Jave off as a friend because I was afraid of whether they would approve. Deep down, I knew that despite the circumstances, Jave was the right man for me. But my parents’ approval meant everything to me.
My heart was pounding out of my chest as my dad told me everything he and Jave spoke about. Jave has cajones, I thought. Of course, my parents expressed their concerns. And I listened intently and quietly considered all of their advice. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some of the same concerns – mainly, was Jave just using me to get a green card.
But I trusted the friendship we’d built – years of phone conversations and occasional visits. I prayed a lot and asked God to literally make it impossible for us to have a relationship if it wasn’t his will. But I knew that I was making the right decision because I wasn’t leading with my feelings; feelings are fickle. I was thinking clearly and I trusted that, and I shared my thoughts with my parents.
Still, I left their house that day feeling somewhat defeated. But then my mom called.
“Dana, if you’re being led to marry Jave, then I’m not going to be the one to hold you back. I want you to know that you have my blessing,” she said.
A heavy weight had been lifted.
After that day, Jave had several more conversations with my parents – most were initiated by him. And although my parents weren’t totally confident in our decision to get married, the more they spoke to Jave, the better they felt about him.
During my next trip to Jamaica, after eating dinner at Kuyaba, Jave popped the question and gave me a princess cut diamond that nearly depleted him of his life’s savings. I said “yes”, and we got married the next day.
This is where we promised each other for better or worse…
Eight years ago today, Jave and I promised forever to each other in a small ceremony on the grounds of Rondel Village the day after he officially proposed. Only his mom and best friend were present – my parents were unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict. But that was okay because Jave and I had already decided that we’d renew our vows on our one year anniversary in a bigger ceremony with more of our friends and family present.
Looking at this picture, we looked so young – like kids, almost. Me in a cheap Nordstrom’s dress I bought online, and him in skinny pants he hated. At the time, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into – I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re signing up for when they get married. Most people are in it for the good times and more good times – for better or better.
You see, it may look like Jave and I are constantly in love as we gallivant around the world together. But being “in love” fluctuates based on our mood, circumstances, etc. I’m so thankful that we were both on the same page about love before getting married and that we both understood that love is not a feeling. Love is a decision that no matter what – whether the ship is sailing smoothly or whether it’s sinking – we will ride this ride with each other until the very end. And while being married for eight years by no means makes us marriage experts (by no means!), I think a lot of people get divorced because they get married with misguided expectations.
Marriage is a lot of work – it’s a constant process of becoming one. Growing pains are normal, and on our worst days, we remind ourselves of the vows we made to each other on the beach. Over the years, all of our struggles – distance, loss, financial hardships, sickness, etc. – have only made us cling to each other tighter as we constantly work on evolving into the people God purposed us to be and as we constantly work to create the life of our dreams. Throughout the years we’ve learned that the bad times make the good times so much sweeter.
This is our beach…
I once viewed this beach, this ocean as a physical barrier between me and Jave. Even after getting married at Rondel Village followed by a quick two night honeymoon in Ocho Rios, I had to return to the U.S. while Jave had to stay back in Jamaica for a year while we began our visa journey. I can’t tell you how hard it used to be to say our goodbyes at the airport. Back then, it always felt like we were waiting for our lives together to start.
But whenever I think about Seven Mile Beach now, I remember that this is the starting line of our journey through life together. And then I look at my parents who recently celebrated their 37th anniversary, and I’m reminded that Jave and I still have many, many roads ahead.
So I no longer look back on the ocean that separated us and the time we spent apart with resentment. Building a solid friendship despite the distance was the cornerstone of our relationship and I believe that it’s one of the reasons our marriage has been able to survive the storms that have come our way.
While many travelers are turned off by Seven Mile Beach because of all the tourists and beach hustlers it attracts, this beach is our sacred ground. Our dream is to someday share early morning walks hand-in-hand with our kids on this beach and to someday walk this beach holding each other’s worn, wrinkled hands.
Every return visit to Seven Mile Beach is a return back to our beginning – a reminder that the guy with the pretty eyes and I have come full circle.
This is our beach.