Negril, Jamaica Zimbali Experience Part 2 of 3 – Now That We Have Arrived – Sound, Sight, Touch and Taste –The Farm Tour

Zimbali Experience Part 2 of 3 – Now That We Have Arrived – Sound, Sight, Touch and Taste –The Farm Tour
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Stepping out of the car I take in the beauty that surrounds us.  The first thing I notice is the sound that I hear.  The sound is stillness.   I even found it a little awkward and I was not sure why.  I then realized that there are no sounds of cars, there are no sounds of people. I was reminded quickly that I had not heard the sound of stillness and quiet in a very very long time.   In our day to day lives, we hear traffic sounds, radio, phones vibrating or alerting.  In our homes we hear ceiling fans, air conditioning running, computer fans running, so many sounds that we have become accustomed to and we think it is quiet. Quiet is the absence of all sound.  I could hear tranquility.  I could hear myself breathe.  This is what you hear after you shut your car door at the Zimbali retreat.  I was present.
I could feel a peacefulness within me, immediately.
Walking through the bamboo gate we were immediately greeting by the beautiful Alecia.  Alecia is one of the owners of Zimbali Retreat along with her husband Mark.  Alecia escorts Richard and I to a waiting area, we are given a refreshing drink of fresh ginger and pineapple juice.  The time of the year we visited was late July so the temperature is probably around 90 and the humidity was pretty high but not nearly as high as it is in our home state of Louisiana.  We sit in the waiting area which has big ceiling fans to cool us off, and a balcony view of the land.  The land is filled with deep tropical, lush trees.  Sipping on my drink I take it all in.  I look at the surroundings.  I see and hear some birds.  I see a beautiful hummingbird.  I see butterflies fluttering through the leaves.   I walk around and explore more. I see a shelf filled with books!   I am an avid reader so I am drawn to see the collection.  So many books, I could just imagine myself lost at this retreat in nature reading from their inspirational library.  It was at that point that I knew I would be returning.  I go back to the balcony and sit with Richard.
Then I hear laughter.  Laughter of children.  Two adorable children named O’Dane and Sol, giggling about who knows what?  Sol is the daughter of the owners, Mark, and Alecia, she has the most mesmerizing eyes. O’dane is the son of Clifford one of the farmers.  Clifford is also Alecia’s uncle, he has been with them since they started the creation of Zimbali.  Sol runs up to me with a smile that goes from ear to ear.    Her eyes light up, giving her reason to have the name, Sol.  Sol asks me if I want some candy and she holds out a bag.  I happily take a piece of the red candy.  The candy is cold to touch, I ask her what kind of candy is it.  Sol’s “candy” that she generously offers to me is frozen berries.  They were very tasty too.
Alecia, announces to us that Clifford, better known as “Fudd” is ready to take us on the farm tour.  We set off without hesitation with this stranger and his machete into the mountain area of the farm.    Where else do you feel safe enough to go with someone you just met on a tour in the mountain with a machete?
When I hear farm I envision row after row of crops planted, is this what you have in mind?  This is not the typical farm here.  The farm and retreat is set nestled on about 7 acres of land nestled nicely in the mountains of Negril.  The farm is spread out behind the retreat.  There are okra plants growing almost 6 feet high, varieties of banana trees scattered.  Mango and coconut trees are plentiful on the farm.  There are peppers, pineapples, broccoli, star fruit, breadfruit, and beautiful avocado trees.  There are herbs planted throughout the farm area also.

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As Fudd takes us throughout parts of the farm, I am thinking to myself that I wished I would have worn tennis shoes instead of flip flops.  I look at Fudd’s feet and he is wearing flip flops, his are not blinged out in décor like mine are.  I decide to “suck it up” and keep walking.   We have the farm dogs that join us on our short journey.  As we walk on our tour, Fudd tells about his life in growing up in Jamaica.  How he lives off of the land and always has.  His children do also.  He is “green”, he lives and eats organically because this is his way of life, has been and if it is up to him I do believe it will be for many many years to come.
Fudd walks through the land with his machete, knocking down a few brushes here and there to get through.  Pointing out trees and plants that are native to the land.  Richard being a landscape architect was filled with questions about everything growing.  Fudd knows the answer to every question and more.  Fudd takes his machete and reaches up in a tree to cut a mango down.  I’ve never seen a mango so big. I think the mango was almost the size of a football.   Fudd uses the machete to peel and cut it.  He hands Richard and I piece of mango to share.  Fudd did not wash this fruit off before we took a bite.  There was no need to.  They use no pesticides.  We took turns biting into the mango, juice bursting out and sweetness like you have never tasted.  Fresh, clean and delicious.  Fudd throws the peeling and the seed down on the ground, the dogs eat some and what they do not eat just cycles back into mother earth.  Just a few more steps away and he is chopping down a coconut for us.  I personally do not really care for coconut water unless it is the chocolate flavored one, however since I am in another country I am being open and I am surely not going to turn this offer down from our gracious guide.  I take the first sip, a very small sip, then another larger sip, then another gulp.  Wow.  Amazingly tasteful and thirst quenching.  I finally pass the coconut to Richard.  Fudd explains how the coconut is sweeter as it gets older.  He chops us another coconut down and opens this one up to give us the “jelly” of the coconut. I had never heard of the jelly of coconut.  I tasted this jelly by scraping it with my finger.  100% of pure yumminess.   I have only known of coconuts to have either water or the meat that you shred for coconut cakes.  This was a new taste of the coconut for us.  Fudd explained to us the growth span of a coconut and how they farm them and use them at The Zimbali Retreat.

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The tour was mostly shaded, however, the heat was getting to me, maybe the altitude and maybe the fact that I am not accustomed to being out in the heat walking around for an hour.  I was sweating, I dare not complain.   I was truly in awe of what has been created here by Mark and Alecia and by God. Fudd and the other workers do this on a regular basis year round.  I think I have the luxury of working in the air conditioned office and these workers, well I think they have the luxury of being in nature to work.  It is all a matter of perception.
We venture back to the retreat center to get ready for our food experience. That is part 3.  The taste of the Zimbali Retreat.

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Negril, Jamaica -Zimbali Retreat Experience Part 1

Zimbali Retreat – (part 1 of 3)
The Drive-
 Politics, People & Potholes
Michael was his name. He had the warmest sincerest eyes you will ever seed.  He exited his car with a simple sign that said Zimbali.  He was our guy!   This is the man that would be our “cab driver” to take us on our excursion we were going to do from the luxurious Beaches Negril.  Being the gentleman he is, he opened my door to the car.
The journey began with a friendly hello, an introduction from him and that he would be taking us to our destination.  Courteous and friendly is an understatement for this man.  He proceeded to tell us that the drive would be approximately 30 minutes and for us to relax and enjoy the ride.
Negril is a beautiful part of Jamaica with lush tropical gardens and one of the most pristine turquoise beaches that you will see.  It was easy to enjoy the ride with the views of the beach.  However, I changed my view and looked across the street from the beach and paid attention to the people and the homes along the way.  Michael was very engaging in conversation and asked about us, our families and where were we from.  We reciprocated with questions about him, his family and his country.  He proudly spoke about all three.
Michael told us about the people in the area.  How they have to fend for themselves.  They set up shops outside of their homes to sell things to each other and to the tourist.  He says not many in the area work often or have steady jobs so they have to get creative on ways to make a living. He said that even though the people may not have all of the luxuries that people in America have that they are very happy people. This was humbling.  To see subpar (according to our standards) homes, clothing and transportation and to know that they are still happy people.  So many lessons learned in 1 hour drive (30 minutes each way).  We asked about one home in particular we passed that really stood out among the smaller simpler homes.   This one was extravagant, on hill, landscaped, with a fence.  We asked who lived here.  Thinking it would be some one of significance.  We were corrected.  He said it was a local man.  This man was one of the first men in the area to have a car.  Because he had a car he would take people to where they needed to go and charged them or accepted donations.  He saved this money along with the money he made from his job and built the house.  Michael said this man was so grateful to be able to help the others here and that he was a very proud and kind man.  He said he still helps people when they need it.  I think this is just a normal trait of the Jamaican’s, always helping each other.
As the ride continued, Michael kept us up to date on our ETA.  We turned off of the main “highway” to a small dirt road through a sugar cane field.  Being from south Louisiana this was a familiar sight to us.  We talked about how they harvest their crops and compared it to the way it is done in Louisiana.  Basically the same.  However, there were no big large tractors or machinery in their fields like there are in Louisiana.  Instead, there are people with machetes, harvesting with good ole man power.  They harvest sugar cane year round in Jamaica.  While one patch of farm may be peaking at the crop, the other patch next to it is just getting ready for planting.  The patch next to it is maybe half way through growth.  (I giggled to myself thinking of the ever popular Facebook game – Farmville except this was for real)  The year round tropical climate in Jamaica allows for this.
As we ventured up in the mountains of Negril, he told us we were 13 minutes away from Zimbali and though its only three miles away the dirt road is a little rough so we would take it slow.  Little bumps and swerves to miss the big bumps kept the ride fun!  We approached a man on a motorcycle at the start of the road.  Michael pulled over, rolled down the window and spoke to him with his beautiful Jamaican dialect.  We were not sure what they said to each other however the guy on the motorcycle smiled really big and handed Michael a newspaper.  As Michael took the paper and we drove off, he told us that was the paper guy and he wanted to help him by saving him a trip up the mountain. Again, the hospitality of Jamaica is always heartwarming to me.
Somehow, we got on the subject of politics with Michael.  I don’t recall if it was on the way there or on the way back.  We asked what he thought about their Prime Minister.  Why not?  Right?  I remember he chuckled and rubbed his head.  He said…. “Ahhhhh…you know …its politics…they are all the same”.  Then he told us something that really stood out to both my husband and I.  He said he was 50 years old and he had never voted.  He said might one day.  Another humbling moment.  I guess he thought his voted didn’t matter.   Jamaica only became an independent country in 1962.  Michael was 3 years old when this happened.  He is from there originally and is so proud of his country and their people.
It was on the way back and I was gazing off in the side windows thinking about our lives and how blessed we are.  The ride is slow as Michael dodges the pot holes and then we came to stop.  I look to the front to see several men working.  Michael said there was road construction.  The men working were dressed in t-shirts, jeans or slacks and no shoes.  No safety vests, no hard hats.  There were no signs that said “under construction”.  We asked “what were they doing” Michael said they are widening the road.  I looked closer.  Yes.  They were widening the road.  They had their shovels.  They had wheel barrels.  They had men throwing the big “clumps” of dirt off to the side.  They were digging and getting ready to pour concrete yet there was not a concrete truck in sight.  They were going to pour the concrete manually.  Now there are parts of Jamaica that does have the machinery for jobs like this and the infrastructure is up to par.  This is in the outer parts where not so many tourist venture.  The time frame takes much longer….years.
Michael was so friendly we wished the ride was even longer.  We quickly approached our resort.  We thanked him and shook his hand.  We felt blessed to have Michael as our driver to share with us his story, his views, and his country. He drove away.  I wish I would have hugged him.  We felt even more blessed as he dropped us off that our family can experience the luxury of the resort we are staying at.     We felt humbled and grateful all in the same heartbeat.  We looked at the employees at the resort in a different light.  We appreciated them even more.  We looked at this Paradise that they share with us and relished in the beauty of the land and the people even more.442171f6-75bb-4aa3-8295-0fc088952372