The countdown is truly on. Each month that passes no longer feel like an accomplishment; instead, time has started to pass like a checklist of what remains to try, do, taste and see before I leave.

A new group of volunteers arrived a few weeks ago. They are wide eyed, full of fears and anxieties and excitement and optimism, and it is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult to see myself in them.  On one hand, I am far enough removed from their newness that, were it not for my intentional effort to reflect (via this blog) on my own experiences this past year, I feel I would struggle to relate to their current state. On the other hand, their questions about getting around, what is safe, where to find things, and how to do things are a reminder of how far I still have to go to be truly comfortable, integrated, and ‘aware’ of all that is around me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between immigrants and ex-pats, about the things one needs to do in order to feel included in a new culture or society, and what others need to do to make that inclusion real. The results of the American election have brought these ideas to the forefront of many people’s minds, but for me, living in another place and being the ‘other’ has brought colour to a perspective I’ve only been able to imagine before.

(On a side note, I have yet to meet a Jamaican who has something positive to say about Donald Trump. Mostly he is talked about in the same way as Silvio Berlusconi, a buffoon of little risk. It has been refreshing to be somewhat separate from the daily blather of the US election. While it is covered by the local news, conversations on the topic have been short and in passing only).

Being in countdown mode means that I have inadvertently slowed down my efforts to ‘learn new things’ (of course, all life is learning) and intensified my efforts to understand, explain, and make sense of what is going on around me so that I can tie up loose ends in my mind before I leave, the need for some kind of closure becoming more and more important as I near the end of this adventure.

Tomorrow, my family (mother, father and aunt) come to visit. I am SO excited for their arrival! During their three week stay, I hope to share with them some of the highlights of life in Kingston and Jamaica at large. Inevitably, they will witness some of the challenges as well. There are local elections coming up, and even though they don’t usually cause as much trouble as federal elections, there are already parts of town that have been declared off-limits by Cuso due to violent conflict.

I hope my family’s visit assists with my wind down reflections. I expect that their questions and observations will be useful triggers to assess what has become fixed in my mind and my heart, and what I am still unsure about. Regardless, I am looking forward to catching up, enjoying their company, and indulging in the best parts of Jamaica as I start the countdown to coming home.

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