Today I am grateful for the Rasta man that came to my gate to sell jellies (young coconuts), jackfruit, and Jamaican apples. I am grateful for the riddles he told, offering free fruit in exchange for the answers. And I am grateful that I did not answer any of the riddles correctly so that we could laugh and he could share the answers with me.
So today I will riddle you this: What is the weakest letter of the alphabet?
Easter is a symbol of renewal, hope, and new beginnings — all of which have been themes interwoven into my life, thoughts, and pre-service training this last week. Such a holiday feels hugely appropriate to end this last week with.
On Monday, Radhika (a fellow trainee) and I navigated public transportation across the island to visit a current volunteer (Melissa) who’s finishing her last week of service after living and working for about 2 years in a small town in the Manchester parish. We spent most of Monday running errands in Mandeville, then spent most of Tuesday presenting and facilitating projects with her for her students at a primary school in her rural community. On Wednesday we spent about 5 hours traveling back to our training site by coaster buses and taxi.
On the subject of public transportation: “Coasta” buses are small buses that have about 7 rows of 4 seats each. They stop at bus stations and wait until they are full up to leave for their intended destination. Even though there are only 4 seats per row, the conductor for each “coasta” will ask the passengers to “small op yuhself” to fit 5 people per row. (Taxis do the same thing, often squeezing 4 people into the backseat). I’ve fit into car spaces smaller than I ever thought possible here in Jamaica. Each bus is roughly the same shape and size but each is decorated (some in big ways and some in small) inside and out to the driver’s taste. Traveling by coaster bus is a uniquely Jamaican experience.
Thus far in pre service training, I’ve been focusing mainly on readjusting, studying, working on training projects, and taking life one day at a time. Being at a current volunteer’s site, seeing how much a part of the community Melissa had become, how passionate about her teaching her students she was, and how at home she had made herself in Jamaica refocused the lens of this whole experience for me and put the service I’m working towards in a new perspective. Actually seeing, talking to, and being with a current volunteer at her site renewed my motivation and gave me a lot of hope for the work we will be doing here in Jamaica.
After working with Melissa at the school last Tuesday, the teachers and 4H students threw her a surprise going away party complete with cake, ice cream, singing, and happy tears. I felt things coming full circle watching Melissa leaving her service as we are just beginning ours.
Thursday was a difficult day back in training after traveling — sitting in chairs watching presentations and doing small group discussion for most of the day. Thankfully, on Friday we had the day off for Easter weekend, so many of the trainees got together and went to Golden Shores to relax & recuperate while enjoying some sun and sand on the Caribbean sea. I spent hours swimming in the warm crystalline blue water with friends, laying in the sun, hula-hooping (teaching kids and curious adults how to hula-hoop), rock & shell hunting, and talking with new friends. It was a perfect day to ground and refresh after the long week.
This Sunday I went to Easter Sunday service with my host family at their church. When we came back home we had a delicious lunch and a smorgasbord of fruits. I had my first mango right off the tree in the front yard, enjoyed some Jamaican apples, and ate my first deliciously sweet mammee (which tastes somewhere between an apricot, mango, peach, and orange).
We’ve reached the halfway point of pre-service training and I’m looking forward with new eyes. This week wore me down but I’ve taken the time to reflect over this long weekend and fully recognize this new beginning in my life. For this coming week I’m setting intentions towards moving forward with a fresh sense of hope and vibrancy. To be present and engaged with my peers and my community. And to take the time for self care to stay grounded and healthy so I can continue to grow as this experience continues.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou
I am finding my new home.