My eldest offspring, Keisha, has been away in Jamaica for 6 weeks working with Projects Abroad. During her time there she grew in so many ways. The journey was gruelling, her outward journey was Heathrow to Jamaica via New York ~ only her New York to Jamaica connecting flight was cancelled, leaving her stranded several hours until one was scheduled to replace it. As it was her first ever solo adventure and a major journey she coped incredibly well ~ although didn’t dare sleep between her flights and so was more than tired on arrival in Jamaica.
Once in Jamaica she was taken to meet her host family and shown around the office where the Projects Abroad in Jamaica is based. Almost from day one she was on her own and working in different areas, including visiting schools to give talks and advice on what to do in various emergencies such as hurricane or fire.
During her time there the area was suffering a drought which meant major water conservation which impacted everyone in all their day to day duties. The toilet was flushed via a bucket of water and due to the drought the old phrase “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” explains the situation. No hot running water, so cold showers and dishes were washed in just one sink of water and rinsed in another, no changing water as it dirtied.
During the week she worked hard, weekday evenings were spent in a local bar with her co~workers along with locals who had befriended her. To be respectful to the host families there was a curfew, 10.30 weeknights, and 11.30 weekends. The curfew didn’t bother Keisha on the weekends as they were spent travelling, exploring and discovering the true Jamaica.
Her local friends took her on tours, different from the version you get on the tourist booked ones. She swam, a lot, she discovered and she engaged in making the most of every opportunity and experience. Her first weekend was in Montego Bay, she was taken to a music festival the Reggae Sumfest where she heard among others, Bob Marley’s son Damian play. She was taken on a boat tour of Black River, it’s a miracle she wasn’t eaten by crocodiles as at one point she was told that she could swim in a “safe part” of the river. When she arrived back with her host family they were dumbfounded, there is no “safe part” of Black River and Keisha did say within minutes of being back in the boat a crocodile passed them by.
I can’t quite remember all the other places visited but she surfed (and briefly stayed on the board), swam in various locations, jumped into natural pools and generally sampled as much of Jamaica as was possible within the time she was there.
In amongst all of the above she worked collecting data for her dissertation about disaster management. She would then embark on the task of sifting through all the information and recordings when she returns to Uni in a few weeks. She fully organised focus groups, encouraged locals to complete questionnaires and interviewed top people regarding disaster management in the area.
It’s fair to say she was busy from dusk to dawn, taking in the culture and being fortunate enough to be able to live and breathe the authentic view of Jamaica that holiday makers don’t see.
Her host mother taught her about the local cuisine and how to cook it, which Keisha found fascinating. By living within the local community and with a family she saw first hand the very real struggle to make ends meet as the wages are poor and the cost of living is high.
Medical facilities, education, lack of jobs and all areas within the community in general were lacking funding and organisation, which meant local residents were doing their best to make the most of what they had. Despite everything Keisha found that they were friendly and hospitable not just to her but the other volunteers. The Jamaican people lived the best they could within their means and maintained a happy life approaching each day as it happened.
One large part of Jamaican culture is that they live by “Jamaican Time” meaning that they would never be on time at a fixed appointment and Keisha soon learned to say I’ll meet you in the morning, or in the afternoon ~ then be ready to sit and wait until they arrived at some point within the morning or afternoon.
Taxi’s were lairy ~ they didn’t leave until they were full, which means they had at least 7 passengers. People would sit on others knees and Keisha, being skinny, always was perched on the arm rest part of the car between the front two seats, facing towards the rear view and her fellow back seat passengers. Keisha very quickly was given the nickname “Maga” which apparently means skinny in Patois.
After the 6 weeks Keisha had developed a good ear to understand the Jamaican Patois, which at first had seemed alien to her. When she had to say goodbye to people who had initially been strangers and who had become good friends she was torn. Torn between seeing her family again and leaving a country and community she had grown to love. It was an emotional parting for her and she hopes to return again with her sister/s to show them the Jamaica she knew.
The homeward journey was long, this time she flew from Jamaica to Atlanta, had a 7 hour wait before getting her connecting flight to Heathrow.
Myself and Dave were up early and were at Heathrow just before 9am, eagerly waiting to see our girl again. The anticipation was immense, we had made a sign to hold up to greet her with. People were coming out but no sign of Keisha, we waited, concern growing, then my phone rang, it was Keisha. It turned out that 1 of her bags had gone missing! After a few moments my phone rang again, her bag had been located, it had been put on a plane which left only a few hours after her plane had left and was coming to Heathrow.
After a short discussion we decided to hang about and wait for the bag as it contained all Keisha’s data for her dissertation, her iPad and laptop. However, Keisha had seen enough of the inside of airports by this time so we left and found a vegan cafe in Uxbridge. Coffee for myself and Dave and something delicious for Keisha, I think it was Thai but can’t be sure but it was scrummy according to Keisha.
Once Keisha had eaten we returned to Heathrow, she collected her bag and finally we were on our way home. Entering our house Keisha was bombarded by the dogs and reunited with Tasha (second born) who had prepared a feast to celebrate Keisha’s return. Tara (third born) was in Ibiza, so would be reunited in a few days time.
Keisha had been out and purchased gifts for us all and hand on heart I LOVE mine! A cap with bottle opener in the rim, a Bob Marley Tee, a 60% proof rum (which I shall consume watered down by pineapple juice) and finally a weed smoking Jamaican fridge magnet.
It’s so good having my first~born back but she’s not had a single moment to herself for 6 weeks, so I can’t keep hold of her. Craving some solitude to unwind, unpack and rest we took her back to her flat with some groceries to tide her over to do just that. Soon it will be back to the grind of Uni and work for her, so it’s good to know she can rest a little before all that starts.
No matter how old my girls are they will always be my babies, I love to support them and encourage them as they flourish and spread their wings. Though I also admit to enjoy having them home around me too, so I can mother them a little.