Coming to Jamaica was different for me because, unlike the other 14 members of my group, I have not only traveled out of the states before, but I have also already been to Jamaica.
With my father being in the military, my family was forced to move to different places throughout the earlier years of my life. So at a young age, I quickly learned how to adapt to different locations. Maryland has been the first place in which I have resided for more than 4 years.
Through listening to each persons reflection of their days, I believe their lack of exposure has played a big role in the experiences they have had in Jamaica. Many of them were expecting the Sandals commercial of a girl laying under a palm tree on a beautifully sandy beach. Within the first week of being here, I could see the preconceived notions that many of the group members had being taken over by reality.
One of the motives for me coming to Jamaica was to become more familiar with my Jamaican heritage. I frequented different parts of the island when I was younger with my family but have never been to the areas we have explored on this trip. I was also never fully exposed to the Jamaican lifestyle directly. When I used to travel here with my family, we would stay at a hotel and would visit my family members on the island for dinner and go to different tourist attractions. The difference in this is that the areas I am exposed to now are not deemed a tourist attraction, which is allowing me to become more familiar with the culture and Jamaican lifestyle. This is not a 10 day vacation, it’s a 5 week learning experience allowing me to live among the Jamaicans and do service within the communities.
Already being familiar with the food and culture of Jamaica has allowed me to play a different role in this program. I am able to tell my fellow group members specific food names and what they are similar to in the US. I am also able to translate what is being said to them in patois.
The difference between my desires and those of my fellow group members is that they want to experience the Jamaica.
The Jamaica I am beginning to call home is not the one that is portrayed as one of the most beautiful vacation get a ways. It is one where many of the locals frequent the streets selling and hustling to provide money for their family. One where all produce is conserved and used to its full potential. One where the language of patois isn’t just a dialect but the soul root of the Afro-creole culture. One where poverty is the reality of many of the locals’ everyday struggles. Finally, it is one that has a beauty that is undeniable to anyone who comes to the island along with a beauty that lies deeper within the heart of the past and present lives of the Jamaican people. This beauty is something that can not be seen or found looking at ocean waves crash against the shore of a hotel resort but one that is seen, heard, and felt through the people and culture of Jamaica. This beauty is something that will take time to fully see and appreciate because of the treasure buried deep within Jamaica. It is one I will search for, find, and bring a piece of it back with me when I return to America.