I’m a quarter of the way through my adventure in Jamaica and life is good! I’m much more settled than I thought I would be at this point. When I lived in Brazil, the three month point was about the time when I suffered most from culture shock; it feels good to have that part behind me on this journey.
It’s getting harder to write something personal on this blog every day. Part of my writer’s block OF COURSE comes from the fact that things are no longer as novel as they were when I first arrived. New fruits continue to excite me, but I’ve had to limit my pineapple intake in order to protect my poor ulcer-prone stomach, and daily servings of fresh banana and papaya are not all that interesting, even if they *are* delicious. The heat has moved up a few degrees from ‘Blissful’ to ‘Mildly Uncomfortable’; 2 shower days are becoming the norm, not the exception. Pretty soon I will be eating my own words and complaining about how hot it is! I’m still finding gems in the every day (like the fact that pine tree car fresheners are shaped like palm trees here), and I have not yet grown tired of palm trees swaying in the Caribbean breeze, but these things don’t catch my eye with as much frequency or impact as they first did. Instead of marveling at basically everything on my walks to work, I marvel at how quickly things that used to make me wide-eyed have become part of the fabric of my everyday routine. It’s still beautiful, but in a different way that is less interesting to blog about.
Now that I have (for the most part) moved past the novelty of my surroundings, my focus has turned to the nuanced and complex issues that inform, and are informed by, Jamaican history, culture, and society. Race, religion, colonialism, slavery, poverty, violence and privilege are on my mind all the time. Sometimes little things catch me, like when I look up recipes that call for ingredients I cannot afford on my volunteer stipend, and I wonder how people who have far less than me could be expected to eat well enough, or often enough, to succeed. I compare the issues facing students at the YMCA Youth Development Program to those in Attawapiskat and wonder how humanity has failed youth everywhere so badly. I read articles about infanticide as slave resistance in the Caribbean and think about how my own parents passed down traditions both purposefully and innately, and wonder about what it means to have a legacy of slavery as the defining narrative of not just one family’s history, but an entire nation. These are big things to think about, and I haven’t figured them out in my mind yet, so writing about them is hard. I have a lot of drafts started, but no ideas of how to finish them.
I’m also sensitive about writing about the YMCA, where I spend most of my time. Even though I know this part of my experience is likely the most interesting for people to read about, I want to be respectful of my coworkers, their successes and challenges, and their clients and students. Every. single. day. there is something that happens at the Y that makes me stagger at the staff’s patience, stamina and resilience. They are doing incredible community building and youth development, and I am committed to finding a way to tell their stories in a way that makes them proud.
I’m grateful for my Cuso ‘family’, who delight me with their company and share their experiences and knowledge with frankness and tolerance. It’s a blessing to be going through this adventure with them.
This past month I missed out on some big things back home, and it was a bittersweet reminder of what I have given up to be here. I’m relieved that this adventure is proving to be worth the missed experiences, and am humbled by the love of my friends and family in Canada, who have stretched themselves to make me feel included in their important moments despite the distance. Thank you for keeping me in your hearts and minds, even though I am so many miles away xo