In Jamaica Easter is a four day holiday. You get Friday to Monday off. On Friday we went to Bath and took a bath in the hot springs. I have had some swelling in my ankle so my LCF’s (Language and Cultural Advisors) told the Rasta man to rub oil and essence on me. The massage and experience was amazing. My foot felt so much better afterwards. The amazing thing about Rastas is that they do everything in love. He wanted $2000 Jamaican dollar, but I did not have that much. He took what I had and blessed me anyway. You see they refuse to discuss price before they start. Talking money over the healing spring is a bad omen. To negotiate is one thing, to simply not be prepared is another. All was well and he lovingly said goodbye.
After the hot springs we went into the botanical gardens. We got a quick lesson on many different plants. Seeing the exotic varieties is amazing, and to think these are more commonplace here is simply mind boggling. The fruits are the most amazing tasting. Like Liberia, a banana is so much better when you pluck it right from the trees. So are the mangoes. Star apple is hard to describe and even though I would love to find it in America it will never taste the same. It is good to note that most fruit is eaten in a messy and glorious way. An orange is peeled and split in half then you push your mouth right into it and suck the juices and pulps out. If your face is not sticky and your hands gooey, you have not eaten in a proper Jamaican way!
Last week we took a great field trip to Port Royal where we visited a marine research lab. They had a small aquarium with seahorses in it! I really do love seahorses. They also had an octopus and a mangrove nursery. The mangrove is an important component to Jamaican landscape. A thick grove can help minimize a hurricane’s destructive path. It is also a fantastic small ecosystem consisting of oysters and seahorses. The Jamaican Iguana was thought to be extinct, but recently they discovered a few. The lab works hard to help re-estabilsh and study these incredible reptiles.
Once we left the lab we piled back onto the bus and I must give a mad shoutout to Froggy our driver. He is amazing and hauls us all over Jamaica. We took a long windy and very narrow road up into the mountains. We ended up in the John Crow Mountains National Park. We learned about how the parks were being preserved and then took a great hike around the mountains and examined some of the flora up close. We stopped for coffee at a coffee shop on the way home. One of our LCF’s claimed he has never had coffee. We convinced him a Mocha was what he should order, this after all was a cultural exchange and this coffee shop was geared toward tourists. Our other LCF decided no more coffee for us or for him! She said we get coffee and go crazy, it might have been the coffee or it could have been getting tired and trying to not fall asleep.
We have also met with a farmer group on a lovely farm. Seeing how a real farm is without machinery takes you back in time. Jamaica is like living in a time warp. There are modern conveniences and there are things that are down in the ancient ways. To see farming done without heavy equipment makes me wonder how our food system got so industrialized. Seeing the wisdom of people who work the earth daily and the understanding they have about how their actions affect the land and climate is simply amazing. Even if the farmers do not use the same terminology as we do the concepts are cemented in their mindset.
In Jamaica when someone has a birthday everyone is invited. This festivity usually includes a DJ set and a fabulous feast. Last week we were invited to a birthday party down the street. I went late due to going shopping for some lunch things. I also found a decent bottle of red wine. I got excited when I found real vanilla extract and it was not so expensive. I enjoy the party but I did not eat. I ate before I came since I am a vegetarian and I know that a party means Jerk Chicken!
Jamaica is so much more than hotels and beaches. There is a rich culture to be seen. As with any destination point, a tourist sees only what they want you to see. I feel privileged to live with the people and learn about their ways.