While we are all becoming more familiar with Jamaica, I am finding that I am adjusting to more than just the difference in climate. I am also adjusting to the different cultural ideas of time and urgency, as they are more go-with-the-flow and often handle things with a “no problem” motto. Living in a place where there is absolutely no rush or worry, its almost contagious. It would have been very difficult to continue to have the same mindset as I had in the states. The biggest culture shocks for many people on the trip was the hope for things to be the same or similar to the states—expecting certain resources to be readily available to you upon request. One of the most evident realities of this island is their self-sustained living. Unlike the surplus of sun, glorious green mountains, and beaches regularly available to us, there is very little access to an abundance of supplies here in Jamaica.
The first realization of this was when we took our first cold showers. As we were informed, warm showers are available, but that’s only once the sun has heated up the water in the tanks. This is something I have had to get used to whenever I would visit my family in Jamaica, but to many it was a big adjustment. Going to Yallahs High School, I saw just how serious it is to preserve all resources here. Their school curriculum is completely different from the ones we are used to in the US, aiming to develop the students for the reality of their future. Typically the courses taught are designed to build students knowledge based on a variety of subjects that will eventual be used to create a foundation for college. In Jamaica, however, students are taught the typical subjects of math, science, and reading with an additional emphasis on manual skills such as wood crafting, metal scrapping, and even agriculture. Unlike in the US where there is a display cabinet of the “best projects” live for the school to see, these schools do not have the luxury of keeping products for show when they have a need for resources. Its almost as if a strategic plan is put in place to make what is needed for the school or students household so once they are finished they have what it is they need. It provides the students with hands on courses, where they can create and produce products they need while they are learning the skills.
The most surprising to me was the agriculture department, where they basically farm their school lunches. This is a part of the school where crops of corn, scallions, and other vegetables are available for students to learn how to farm. It also contains a chicken house where chickens and chicks are raised and even a slaughterhouse where the chickens are killed and cleaned before being used for meat at lunch. Talk about self sustained living!
After seeing how conscious they are about their production and waste, it makes me think about my lifestyle more critically. Although I have the funds and access to many things, everything is not a necessity. I realize now that I abuse and take so much in my life for granted simply because anything I could ever want is at my fingertips. Coming to a place where locals work to produce everything they have makes me see how ungrateful I’ve been for the things I own. This made me take a step back from all of the expectations that I have had in coming to Jamaica.