The worldwide Augustana College experience

Emancipate Yourselves from Mental Slavery

Note:  Jamaica Program Co-Director Mike Egan is auditing Paul Olsen’s African American Literature course in the spring of 2018.  This blog post represents Mike’s response to one of the prompts on the first exam of the term. 

English 237:  African American/Black Literature

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Boston Bay Goodbye

As we arrived at the airport in Jamaica, I was mixed with feelings of sorrow and excitement. Although I was excited to get home to my family (and my cats) whom I missed dearly, I was also somber to be leaving a place in which I had created so many memories. Our trip was concluded at the Great Huts in Port Antonio, a place you must see to believe. The Great Huts and the other destinations we traveled to while staying there truly allowed us to capture and experience Jamaica’s beauty. As a girl who has grown up in the Midwest with no mountains, large bodies of water, or any other impressive landforms, stepping out onto a cliff overlooking miles of pure ocean is an incredible experience. The Great Huts not only allowed us to enjoy Jamaica’s beauty, but her people as well. We traveled to the market where I was able to talk with many Jamaicans about their lives and the goods they sold. I learned quite a bit about people from a culture unlike my own and the zest they had for life. Even just walking to the various food huts along the road outside of the Great Huts resort gave me a more immersive feeling into the culture of Jamaica. I got to eat fresh jerk chicken and festival, and even play dominos at the local bar.

As I boarded the plane to the U.S. I remembered not only these most recent experiences, but all of the experiences I was fortunate enough to have throughout this trip. This was my first time traveling outside of the country, and I am sure it will not be my last. I cannot describe the feeling you get when you are in another country, another culture. Your eyes are opened to the world around you and, while you begin to realize how small you really are in this great bug world, I felt that I learned even more about myself, my values, and my outlook on life throughout this journey. Jamaica is a beautiful country with her own unique culture and people, a place that I will not soon forget.

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Jamaica Journal 2: I Love Alpha

The Alpha Primary School will forever hold a special place in my heart. I had no idea what to expect when going there and had so many questions: What grade would I be placed in? Would I be expected to teach? If so, what would I teach? I was also nervous because I was not an education major.

All my questions were answered with the 3 days we were at the schools. I was placed in a 3rd grade classroom with Alex. The first 2 days were the two of us observing the class and how the teacher taught and getting asked a million questions by the children who had never encountered a white person. The last day was when Alex and I taught a lesson on synonyms and antonyms. It was hard coming up with a lesson for a couple reasons. One reason was that I am not an education major. I don’t know how to plan lessons for whole classes, rather I plan lessons that are for individual clients. Another reason was that we didn’t quite know what the students already knew about synonyms and antonyms. A final reason was that we were unaware of what our teacher’s teaching style was. We went with a basic review lesson that incorporated some group work and was interactive. It went very well! It was right at the student’s skill level.

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Journal #3: Great Huts at Boston Bay

Our trip has come to a close after 12 days of being on this wonderful island. We ended our journey at the Great Huts at Boston Bay, about a half hour from Port Antonio. We stayed in huts that were more rustic than the past two places because they were open air rooms, meaning we did not have air conditioning and the bathrooms were outside and somewhat exposed. My roommate and I stayed in a two-story hut over looking the ocean, which was named African Sunrise. We made sure to get up every morning to watch the sunrise because, as the huts name would suggest, we had a great view of the eastern sky.

After we ate dinner on the first night, a group of us went out to play dominos at a local bar. It was a bit intimidating because the local people were watching us and telling us what to play. There is a lot more skill than I thought that went into the game of dominos. You have to be perceptive to what others are playing or not playing and always be counting the dominos to know how many of a number is left. I left with my head feeling a little more confused than when I got there but it was also a lot of fun to learn from people who play the game all the time.

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Boston Bay and Port Royal: Forward, But to Where?

By the time we had arrived at the last stop in our journey together, I was certain this experience had ranked as one of the most significant in my life thus far.  I had done and seen so much that merited remembering, met so many incredible people, got to see anew those I had already know.  Yet I found myself (and still find myself) unable to categorize all of it, give it a single moral or purpose in the context of my life.  As I sat with my classmates, eating our last meal together in Port Royal, I had time to reflect.  Across the harbor, the city of Kingston appeared, a distant mirage.  Already the experience seemed like a hazy dream.  Had it all actually happened?  The only proof I had, were a few photos and a select number of souvenirs, a terribly small pittance.

How should I view this experience?  A lesson in being grateful for what I have? An encounter with a world that is foreign? Some of the morals I had derided from this experience seemed contradictory.  Was this a lesson in human frailty? A lesson in human strength?  A reminder of the incredible diversity of human cultures?  A reminder that we are all truly the same?  It will take time and thought before I am able to truly understand the experiences I have had.  I know with certainty however that the words of Stoneman, the Rasta we met in Trench Town, characterize my feelings perfectly.  I have not come back home from Jamaica; I have come forward.

Blog Post #3

On Tuesday we arrived at the Great Huts after driving through the treacherous mountains and having lunch at the Blue Mountain Cafe. The hut I stayed in was called the Bamboo hut. There was a full size fridge with a large stove and kitchen area with a big couch as well. You would walk through a curtain to get to the bedroom area where there was a tree trunk shaped bathtub, a shower, a toilet with no door, and the bed which had mosquito netting around it. The first morning waking up at the Great Huts I woke up at 6 am to go to the edge of the cliff to watch the sunrise which was a little at cloudy but still very pretty and such a cool thing to watch. While at the Great Huts we went to Reach Falls where we had a awesome tour guide who took us through the falls where we eventually jumped off the waterfall when we got to the end of the excursion. The water was clear, cool, and fresh, and there were many fish in it. While at the Great Huts we ate lots of jerk. The jerk chicken and lobster was especially good. I also ate a lot of festival bread which is sort of like funnel cake, but better. We got to play dominoes with some of the locals at a bar and that was really fun to have them help us learn the rules better and cheering us on. We went to the Market at Port Antonio where I bought a mango, some bananas, paintings by street artists, and a few other cool things. When we got to the hotel on the last night I took my mango to the bartender and asked her to make me a mango daiquiri and it was delicious! I also got some guava jelly at the grocery store that they had at breakfast at the Great Huts that tasted amazing! One of the days at the huts we went to the Blue Lagoon for lunch and them swam across the Lagoon to jump off the tree and ropes at the other side. It was a very long and tiring swim, but the water was easy to float in and very clear so it wasn’t too bad. On the very last day at the huts before we got in the vans to leave, I went surfing! There was a local giving surfing lessons down at the beach so I went and it was such a fun experience I would definitely do it again. Then we traveled to the last hotel for the last night and woke up in the morning to drive to the airport where we went on planes all day until we got home!


Jamaica Blog #3

The tail end of the trip was a very interesting experience. Upon completion of our time at the Alpha Schools, we drove through the Blue Mountains to Boston Bay on the northwestern side of the island. Here we were again greeted by a luxurious resort, set up in the style of huts perched on top of cliffs looking over Boston Bay. However, unlike the previous resort in Runaway Bay, we were not cut off from the community at large. Jerk shops and bars lined the road that led up to our resort, and the locals aggressively peddled their food every time we went by. I greatly enjoyed my time here because  we had the opportunity to play dominoes with some of the local residents. A regular at our table was a young man named Corry who looked to be about my age. He didn’t talk much about himself, other than the fact that he cooked fish locally and also sold some jerk sauce. Corry took time to get to know us and teach us some domino strategy, and was always ready to hop into a game. But the best domino player by far was a Rasta named Ray-I. He somehow managed to hold all seven dominoes in one hand and flipped them out with revealing anything. Ray-I sold carvings and jewelry down by the beach, but he was never unscrupulous, unlike some of the other vendors.

What made Ray-I a joy to be around was the fact that he didn’t seem to be judging me. Everyone in Boston Bay was friendly, but many of them seemed to be doing so only because they thought that it might gain them something. Case in point a man named Formula. Formula owned a seafood jerk shop and was the first local to approach me in Boston Bay. He was a very tall, sturdy man physically, so when he walked toward me in the dark I was a bit frightened at first. But he told me to loosen up and made polite small talk about where I was from. He then promptly proceeded to try to get me to buy something from him, every time I saw him. Formula got less friendly each time, and by the end of our time there, Formula was openly displeased with me. Corry and Ray-I, on the other hand, were friendly from start to finish. They felt genuine in their interactions with me, and I appreciated that greatly. I’m more than happy to support local businesses in Jamaica like the jerk shops, but I wasn’t in Jamaica to just be a tourist. I wanted to actually go out and meet people, and Corry and Ray-I helped me do that.

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Jamaica Blog #3

We left Kingston and traveled through the mountains which included incessant honking and tight squeezes while going around the corners. There were a few times we almost didn’t make it. Really! We stopped at the Blue Mountain Cafe and bought their excellent coffee – best I have ever had. The views from there were spectacular. We arrived at the Great Huts, which was a very unique experience. It was very much like camping. We met the owner and creator who told us the history of the huts. The African Sunrise where Liz and I stayed was a two story hut with a porch swing, a spectacular view of the sunrise, and at night the waves lulled me to sleep. All the rooms were of an African motif and were at one with nature.

We had many great experiences there. The first night we played dominos, which is very popular. Another day we traveled to Reach Fall which was amazing. Our first task was to go under a waterfall into a cave. It was like an obstacle course going upstream. At the end of the stream we went through an underwater hole to get underneath a waterfall. Many jumped off the waterfall. Another day we went to the Blue Lagoon which is salt water and fresh water together. It was very relaxing and easy to swim in as we could easily float.

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Jamaica Blog #2

We took the highway to Kingston and found it interesting that the Chinese built this highway. We wondered whether the tolls went to the Chinese or to Jamaica. Upon arriving at Kingston we were amused to see people holding up newspapers for sale that said, “Illegals Welcome.” As we drove up to the Knutsford Hotel, we immediately noticed that it was surrounded by barbed wire. It was our first indication that we were in an area that could be unsafe.

The next morning we were so excited to arrive at the Alpha Boys School. We entered the gates to the school and saw many buildings. We met Sparrow Martin who was a part time teacher and was very welcoming. I worked with the advanced boys on flute. They knew their scales, knew how to transpose, and could play major keys and their relative minor scales. We also met Mary, who was with the Peace Corps, and she gave us a tour. We saw the music studio and lab they were building. Mary was trying to help out the best she could and organize the music curriculum.

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Jamaica Blog #1

We arrived in Jamaica and traveled by van to the Runaway Bay Resort. The poverty of this area was immediately evident. Entire families lived in small shacks, and I was stunned by the living conditions and the crowed of people everywhere. Many families put large pieces of sheet metal together for their shelter, and we saw men with push carts who were collecting the sheet metal and anything they could find to add to their space. There was litter everywhere and lots of goats and stray dogs. Traffic was a free-for-all.


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