The worldwide Augustana College experience

Kingston- The Land of Opportunities

Preface: The journey to Kingston was long and terrifying as we drove  through the mountains, only stopping once at Strawberry Hill for the most fantastic brunch I have ever witnessed. The essence of Chris Blackwell welcomed us with opened arms as we stuffed our faces and explored the grounds. We were in awe of the amount of musical history that resided in that estate. Spectacular. photo (1)

Where to begin. My time in Kingston seems so long and yet so short. The hotel was wonderful, wifi in the rooms, pool, bar, and air conditioning, everything you could ask for. Immediately I acquired a runny nose and was annoyed by the abundance of emails and notifications that were emanating from my phone. I had enjoyed simplicity for too long, back to the real world. Every part of Kingston made me believe that it was like any other concrete jungle, but just as I had experience in the country, Kingston had some of the same energy, the same magic that the rest of the Island had.

Then I met the children.

And I discovered that the magic comes from the youth of Jamaica. Those little humans changed my life from  the second they began touching my skin and braiding my hair. I had one little boy come so close to my face our noses might have touched and say, “We have the same eyes!” and run away with a gleeful scream. The innocence in this seemingly hardened city was eye opening.  These students came of their class of 37 students with a smile on their face ready to learn. The motivation instilled in them was heartwarming as a teacher, seeing students valuing education is an incredible thing that we don’t see in the US anymore.

I was fortunate enough to teach a little geography, math, and language arts despite of testing going on. To be honest though, I think the children taught me more than I was ever able to teach them. The time we spent in the yard eating lunch, reviewing for exams, and simply playing after school were some of the most powerful learning experiences for me. Some of the girls taught me how to dance and speak Patios, Laura and I were forced learn various childhood games and chants, and we were told what was the best thing on the lunch menu that day.

For five days this continued, we went through the same routine and each day every child was there at school. Each child participated with the morning devotion, and each morning the second graders would complete there morning routines. Pencils would need to be found and sharpened, headers were written in perfect penmanship, and the day would begin. Each day the amount of hair touching and gawking at the color of our skin decreased as we settled into the school environment. It difficult to blend in when your skin forces you to stand out.

Since we were there during bi-monthly testing, Laura and I were able to see the types of assessments that schools would give in Jamaica. In comparison to the US, the content matter in Math was very similar however, the tests of Integrated Studies was foreign to me, teaching the students about families and communities, something that american children would never be tested on.

I have so much more to say and I could write forever, so I’ll add some pictures and tell one last story to be done…photo 2 photo 1  photo 3photo 4

This last picture, selfie if you will, is with *Olivia and other girls in my class. She was one of those children who just steals your heart. Being a mixed child (Chinese/Jamaican) she had lighter skin which she shyly compared to mine, surprised to find our color was rather similar. She was little different in another way too and her classmates were more than open in sharing that fact. *Olivia had an extra finger attached to each of her pinkies, bring her grand total of finger to 12. After I heard some of the teasing from the other students I told *Olivia that her extra fingers were a blessing because unlike other kids she could count to 12 instead of 10 just on her fingers! When we had the chance to write word problems she even wrote one along the lines of, “*Olivia has 6 finger on one hand and 6 fingers on the other…” I was so excited that she was embracing her little something extra.

But really, look at all those smiles. I never worked a day.

To sum things up, I didn’t go to Jamaica to change the world or to save lives, I went to learn and to teach. I desperately hope that I made a tiny indent on these children’s lives, because they absolutely changed my life forever. In the humble words of Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 

I loved and I loved and I love Jamaica.

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