The worldwide Augustana College experience

Living Jamaica

Oh hey there, Jamaica.

I am here. This is Jamaica. I have tried to snap myself out of this beautiful illusion so many times, but I am beyond grateful that this is reality. Leaving campus at 4 am, getting on the plane, and even flying over the ocean didn’t make it hit me. Living Jamaica did. After the long lines of immigration and customs, we eventually left the airport and split up into our two vans. Then, I finally started fully realizing I was about to immerse myself into the very world I had been reading books and watching documentaries about.

As we drove down (the left side of) the road, I looked out the window. Wild goats and dogs ran along the highway as we drove about, and we saw happy school children skipping home from school in their plaid skirts and button-ups. The radio played a popular reggae song followed by a Jamaican cover of “All of Me” by John Legend. The streets were lined with small shops, fruit stands, and dance clubs… with the occasional resort.

After learning so much about Jamaican culture for the past ten weeks, my seventeen fellow classmates and myself constantly seem to feel a sense of resentment towards the typical tourist culture of Jamaica. All-inclusive resorts are not all Jamaica has to offer, but we are definitely not opposed to the entire idea of them at the moment.

As the members of my van walked into the resort, we were greeted with cold rags for our foreheads and cold fruity drinks. Staff members constantly came up to us in the lobby asking if we felt okay and if there was anything they could do to make us feel more comfortable. A member of the staff started walking some of my peers and me to our rooms, and the conversation I had with him is the single thing that stands out above anything else about this trip so far.

He told me to “live Jamaica.” I knew immediately what he meant, and we talked a bit further about the idea. Yes, I’m American. Yes, I’m used to certain ways and food, but why would I continue my ways while I am here? There is no right way, and while I’m here, I’m determined to take in as much Jamaican culture as possible and see the world through their eyes.

We stay at a resort to get used to being in Jamaica, but I have already gotten a small taste of Jamaican culture. The food is fantastic to say the least, and I’ve definitely branched out in that department. Even more so, the staff at the resort give me such a brilliant picture of Jamaica. Yes, I know they are doing their jobs by being polite, but they are beyond genuine. For instance, I threw a “wah gwan?” (it means what’s up/how’s it going? In Jamaican patois) at a worker at the grill, and he got excited and threw an answer in patois back at me. He even taught me something new. And that’s what this trip is about.

Sorry y'all. I got enough sunburn to go around.

I am beyond excited to learn more about the culture, but the resort has given me such an opportunity to get to know my peers even more as well. The people I am experiencing Jamaica with are nothing less than remarkable. We have sang “Sweet Caroline” insanely loud and off-key around a piano in the lobby together. We have played far too many games of sand volleyball together. And just this afternoon, we stood around in a pool together and shared so many laughs and little moments. Day two and I already don’t want to leave.

As for today’s activities, we explored caves and ate a phenomenal meal. We went to the Green Grotto Caves just down the road. These caves had many purposes throughout time. They have been used as a type of dance club for entertainment, a hiding spot for slaves, a set for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, and a destination of Christopher Columbus. The pictures I took and will soon post all over Facebook just don’t do it justice. There was a lake inside the second cave we saw that was absolutely crystal clear. We could barely tell there was water present. It was a kind of beauty I’d never seen before.

Dinner tonight was even more out of my element. We had some fantastic Jamaican dishes—five-course meal style. Anyone who knows me knows I am not the most upscale person in the world, so I felt a bit out of place at first… until they served my cheesecake on a checkerboard and a peer’s dessert in a toy dump truck. The staff and the little things about the in-house resort restaurant gave the scene such character, and it’s safe to say I’m still feeling okay with not wanting to eat after that meal for the rest of my life. So much delicious food.

Tomorrow we travel to Boston Bay to stay in huts for four days. Resort life will be bittersweet to leave, but I am so ready to finally get on with the part of the trip that I’ve been looking forward to most. As my new Jamaican friend reminded me, I want to live Jamaica, and it’s hard to do that living in a resort. I want to get to know the Jamaican people. I want to walk the streets of their cities. I want to breathe in their history. And while I’m not going to go into much detail about I will be doing, you can look for it in my next blog post in a few days.

And as they say in Jamaica… bye.

They speak English.

Check out this resort!

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