Date: 07 May 97 15:52:09 EDT
From: Nellie Gruender <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Seein' the sights of Jamaica

Everyone,

Today we went on an 8 mile raft ride down the Rio Grande. It was incredible!! First we were driven up into the mountains to the starting point and we were assigned a raft captain. to become a raft captain you must first be an apprentice for 2 years. If after the two years you do OK you then are certified by the Dept of Tourism to be a raft captain. I have nothing but respect for these guys. I'll explain more later.

Our raft was made out of bamboo, and each captain has his own raft. The rafts last about 5 months, and then, depending on how business has been, the captain will either buy, (or if business is bad) build his raft. The front is pointed, and the back is wider with a seat that looks like a porch swing on the back. We sat in the seat, and out raft captain stood on the front the whole time pushing the raft with a bamboo pole. Since you start out in the mountains it's downstream, but it's not all rapids. After a few miles both Gene and I began to feel guilty about just sitting back and relaxing. Now to the apprentice part. The apprentices are the ones who take the raft back to the top of the mountain. No not by truck, but by the river. Needless to say it's up stream, up hill, and a job I'd never take on. They get paid very little while they're doing their apprenticeship.

On the trip we saw the mountains, natural plants that we would pay hundreds of dollars for in a nursery, and beautiful rock formations. Every so often we would slide down rapids as we rafted down towards the bottom. At one point we stopped and swam/wadded in the cool water under a huge tree with fruit called Rose Apples. Our captain picked some for us and we had a snack. We saw bamboo trees that were enormous, and the shore was dotted with banana trees. The houses on the side of these mountain are truly took some architectural doing. Most look like they just grew there.

The big activity on the river was laundry. Everyone takes a large pan, and washes their clothes with a scrub brush on the side of the river. The other activity of course was swimming, and looking of mussels on the bottom. We soon realized that bathing suits were optional no matter what your age.

We can't say enough about how much we are enjoying Jamaica. We have continued to enjoy all of the guys that work here in the marina. Donovan, who made the matter of fact racial comment, spent several hours on the boat last night talking to us, and we came away with a great deal of mutual respect. He's very intelligent, and well versed on world affairs, and enjoyed having someone new to debate with.

Zach made friends with a 13 year old boy who lives near the marina, Kervin. They had a great time playing soccer with Mangos (not ripe yet). Zach has come to realize that you don't need high dollar toys to have a good time. It was interesting to hear Kervin and Zach communicate since Kervin speaks the local Jamaican dialect. Then when Zach asked if he wanted to play football, Zach had to explain what a football was. Zach has seen a very different world than he's used to, and has a far different perspective about how privileged he's been!

Tomorrow I'm going to see the Port Antonio Hospital near here. Martin, our herbalist, is going to provide us with herbs to make the trip home. ( no ganja!!!!!). When we explained that our customs would seize the plants he said "just tell them they were prescribed by a herbalist Dr." Do you think customs will buy that one?

The adventure continues!!

Nellie
Aboard Rainbow Chaser
Port Antonio, Jamaica