2017 Summer Jamaica Saskia Kercy Temple Summer

Saskia takes Jamaica!

Bathing suit? Check. Sunblock? Check. Research about the dynamic culture and history of the fourth largest island in the Caribbean? Check. We don’t typically consider research to be an integral part of our preparation when traveling to another country, but I have seen time and time again how problematic cultural incompetence is when visiting a foreign space. Despite the fact that I’m Haitian, I lacked a lot of knowledge on Jamaica’s history and culture. While the islands do share similarities in their cultures, they each have characteristics unique to their societies. Jamaica, for instance, relies heavily on its tourism and agriculture industries, accounting for over 50% of the workforce in the country. I knew that my field site this summer would be at the Rural Agricultural Development Agency and that in order to succeed in my field placement, I had a lot of research ahead of me. Thankfully, I have been an active member of the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness since my freshman year and already had a solid foundation of knowledge on Caribbean affairs. I was persistent, perhaps a little annoying, asking Jamaican members about their experiences in the country. I made everything about this semester somehow pertain to Jamaican culture. In fact, one of my research papers in my Economics classes is about the inequality in the agriculture and tourism industries in Jamaica. Knowing the volume of my coursework and my lack of time, I knew I had to be strategic. Like they say, if you can’t beat them, join them, and just like that, I combined my class research with study abroad research. 
I wouldn’t have been so adamant about research had it not been for my experiences in Ghana last summer. I went on a two-month service trip to Ghana with 13 other students from all over the country that I didn’t know. I knew that it would be all of our first time’s in an African country, but I did not expect our upbringings and environments to have such an impact on the context of our trip. I was alarmed to find out that members of my group had such limited understanding of colonialism and slavery and found it problematic that they would come to Ghana, the main port of the slave trade, and not understand its historical significance to the United States. 
In a way, I’m glad I grew up representing a country that is often misrepresented. I knew that Jamaica, too, faced that issue. We all know the country for its beautiful beaches and resorts but don’t typically consider the social and political issues that inhibit the country from making true progress. I am eager to splash into Jamaica’s culture and let the sands of its history sink into my toes. I am ready for oxtail and curry goat in a country where everything’s irie (alright), with the hot sun against my skin (because this weather is really quite the drag). But most of all, I can’t wait to make my mark on another Caribbean country and, if I play my cards right, have it make its mark on me. Jamaica, wah gwaan! What’s going on!

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