I logged into Facebook to post a status. It reads: “Leaving Jamaica tomorrow…already feel homesick for 2 places.” This bittersweet feeling left me very confused. How could I feel so torn between two places? I wanted to go home and fall into the same old routines but on the other hand I felt as though I just started a life out here in Jamaica. After I posted this status I refreshed my news feed and saw a quote that really stuck out to me. It said, “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.”
As the days went on, I identified more and more with the community members. I placed myself in the shoes of those I met and thought deeply about what it meant to live a day in their life:
On Sunday, I am a long time church goer, singing and rejoicing during devotion, despite what tribulations may be going on in my life.
On Monday, I am a 2nd grader, on my way to school. Right before I left I traced lines on my blank pieces of paper so I would be ready for my favorite subject: Writing. I was not fed breakfast, so I left extra early to attend The Breakfast Program. My school may have limited resources, but I make the most of what we have and I value my education so I can go to University and travel the world one day.
The next day, Tuesday, I am a primary school teacher of 20 years. I have seen it all: from aspiring athletes and university students, to boys and girls who grow up too fast or fall into the wrong crowd.
Likewise, on Wednesday, I am a high school teacher. I have seen star students that pass their end-of-the-year exams and other success stories, to young men who drop out of school to work early or join a gang and young girls who get pregnant or rely on fleeting relationships to get through day-to-day life.
Thursday, I am a farmer and I take great pride in knowing I sustain the Earth and provide food for my community. I take my crops up to the the farmer’s market and make a living that way.
Friday, I am a taxi driver. Taxis are the main source of public transportation. I have met many people this way and you can find me waving and honking my horn at my pedestrians, as I have probably met them at least once in this small town. As of now I am on strike, because the road conditions are deplorable and we have decided to stop all operations until there are concrete road repair plans set in stone.
Saturday, I am back in my own shoes and I ask myself, in relation to my being in Jamaica, who am I?
This is where the quote I mentioned earlier comes to mind: “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” As I return the U.S. a lot of people ask me how my study abroad experience was. I often do not know where to begin but I always start with, “It was a beautiful and humbling experience.” I was always modest growing up. I counted my blessings. I grew up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood with my average nuclear family. My immediate environment offered places to eat, shop, play, relax, and so on. I had of all my basic needs met and more. Deep down I knew I had everything but there were moments when I took my life and its luxuries for granted. In contrast, I spent a lot of
time with children in Yallahs, Jamaica and I compared my upbringing to theirs. Yallahs is known as the “forgotten parish” and it shows. The roads are bumpy and rocky, buildings and houses could use better infrastructure, there is no grocery store in town, schools do not have a fair student:teacher ratio, family involvement is low, and there are not many extracurricular activities for children to get involved in. Even I found these conditions frustrating and it certainly tested my patience. Yet, many children strive to succeed despite their odds of failing. I applaud them for their courage. They may be younger than me but I feel wiser from just knowing them. Their faces, names, and their life stories are ingrained in my memory and I will carry them everywhere I go. Until next time, Jamaica – you will always have a piece of my heart!