Jess’ Jamaican Diary entry 1

It’s been a crazy 72 hours. Though, I think things were in uproar before I even left Atlanta. I’ll start from Jamaica though. After a million hour redeye flight (thanks DCam–joking…sort of…) I arrived in easily my new favorite place. After seeing Silver Sands, I was overjoyed that I invited friends down so that I get to share this place with people I love. It’s that kind of a spot.

It’s 6am…the fact that I am up, alert, and writing is a testament to the beauty of this place. Because the sun wakes up around 4:30am from what I can tell, because by 5 there was a beautifully lit sky sitting atop the Caribbean Sea right outside my bedroom window. When you wake up to a scene like that, sleep isn’t as tempting as it usually is.

I had my duck on while I’ve been here…calm cool and collected on the surface but paddling like hell to just stay afloat underneath. My emotions were in an uproar and everything felt urgent and worty-of-sharing. Unfortunately P2AD boar the brunt of my wrath. I couldn’t figure out why I was so triggered until I had literally unloaded everything. Then I realized…this was residual from Summer 2011. I had to remind myself that this was not that. That I was in a new place now, and that even though the scene felt familiar, this was not history repeating itself. When I literally said these words to myself, it is like I came out of the tailspin nosedive and leveled out, instantly. Then I had to suck the poison out, a la Mean Girls, and apologize (profusely and adamantly) to P2AD.

I didn’t explain to him the ins and outs…I didn’t want to tell that story. But afterwards, he said there was no need, I was just working through my emotions, and assured me that I wasn’t as nuts as I think I was. He’s wrong, but I am glad he let it go.

After settling score, I got to tell him about Shantal* teaching me local Jamaican phrases, how I am considering resigning my vegetarianism, and my new love of 5am. It’s an odd thing…I am in this beautiful place but the capacity in which I came puts me in an in-between. What I just realized in typing this is that Chile, my last trip abroad, was also liminal. Something about travel seemingly begets transition. Hm. Anyway, so I am here as a teaching assistant for the Counseling program. It’s weird because the other instructors, all male, are all together in a villa and I am here with students. Although my “students” are my age it is still felt that my role…my space, if you will, holds differently than theirs. But it is not a bad thing, or a good thing, just an observation. Something that makes me wonder about my role within the walls of school…because I believe you always bring your whole self into a place, I wonder how teacher me has affected student me in the classroom and with my peers.

Lastly, I have had the pleasure of several walks (in the hot Jamaican sun) around the property by myself. Often heading from one meeting to another, but solo nonetheless. In these, my thinking times, I’ve gotten to just be 6. Kick rocks, and make up stories about the guests staying in different villas. Dream up how each house earned its name. Admire the art and wonder what I can leave here as my small contribution.

I had this thought yesterday that we are going to leave with so much, what are we going to reciprocate? Not just stimulation to the local economy, tips for our house moms, bartenders, route taxi drivers, and the like, but what thing of real substance can we offer this community? Immediately a list of intangibles: gratitude, appreciation, humility…but I think the real thing I may be leaving are a few definitive limits. What and who is beautiful, what and who are poetic, lyrical, worthy to be a muse. What and who is acceptable, rich, and admirable.

Shantal told me last night that she requested to work every day because she needs the money to finish building her home. She has two sons and her home will be a 2 bed room, 2 bathroom home that right now does not have a roof. Initially, my instinct was akin to Liz Gilbert’s, I wondered what I could do to help. Then after sitting for a minute I wanted less to help, and more to just admire her hustle. Not everyone steps up to the plate like that, even when life is demanding they do. No going out, no new shoes, no trips, she said, every extra dime I get I save for the house. And she’s not paying a contractor, she told me she was contracting herself, finding builders who could do it at the price she could afford. It made me smile to hear her story. It reminded me of a conversation with my mom before I left home. She was talking about how hard it’d been to cut this crown molding trim for the rooms she is painting in the house. I asked her why she didn’t just get the Home Depot people to do it for her, and she just looked at me quizzically and said, because I can do it myself. And while I definitely will not be cutting up crown molding, there are other things that I can do, and should not be afraid to try to do, even if I haven’t yet figured out how. That, I think, is being in the arena…getting your butt kicked.

*Shantal is the bartender on the property, obviously we became friends early on. Judge not, lest ye too be judged.

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