|Arlene McKenzie welcoming visitors to the Rastafari Community Village near Montego Bay|
On July 8, a gentleman named Ian picked me up from the airport in the rental car that I would be using for my entire two-week trip, and brought me to the Pelican Grill on The Hip Strip, where had a late breakfast with Arlene McKenzie, who coordinates tours to the nearby Rastafari Indigenous Village and at whose house I would stay for two nights. (She lives there with a gentleman, also a member of the village, whose name is Firstman.) While at the restaurant she took advantage of the opportunity to introduce me to Johnny Gourzong, who is the Executive Director of the popular Reggae Sumfest. He was very approachable and shared stories of the challenges of organizing a festival on such a grand scale year after year.
For the Rasta visit I tried not to overdo the photos and allowed myself to experience things. We happened to visit with a bank representative whose company had nominated the Rastafari village for an award. It must have been disconcerting for a person who was impeccably dressed in the manner of many Jamaicans to enter the village by having to take her shoes off and walk barefoot through a stream before walking along a dirt path. Accompanying us as well was a group of Japanese visitors who obviously were enjoying the entire experience.
|Trying my hand at drumming; the gentleman at the right is named Firstman|
The Rasta village tour started with us sitting in a canopied area where the first order of business was to have our hands washed from water from a calabash container. We also drank coconut water from a similar container and listened as the Rastas played nyabingi drumming in the distance. Some of the highlights of the tour were listening to an explanation of the "ital" diet that many Rastas practice, which feature vegetables and minimize sodium intake. Other highlights of the tour featured a tour of an herbal garden as well as an explanation of the herbs and their various properties, though we were never exposed to any descriptions of ganja (also known as "the holy herb"). The Rastas also have a garden that they encourage visitors to walk through barefoot, with a tree trunk in the center where one can sit and meditate.
The tour wrapped up with sitting in the center area, resembling a large gazebo, where the words of Ras Tafari or Haile Selassie were posted, to watch the Rasta drummers, while we ate a delicious fruit salad. Afterwards we were handed some percussion instruments to play along, and the message of "one love" really resonated throughout the whole tour.
After the Rasta tour, it was back to Arlene's house to shower, relax (we did walk to a neighbor's house to take pictures of orchids) and then go to get jerk chicken at a place appropriately called Jerky's. Back at the house we did some debriefing of the day's activities and discussed plans for the future.