Zimbali Retreat – (part 1 of 3)
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.