This blog is the first in a series for #bloggingabroad
I have also, always dreamed of seeing other nations. As a teen I wanted to be a foreign exchange student, but never pursued it because my mother was so closed about allowing me to explore anything outside the religion I was raised in. My passion dwindled as I sought out an escape from my strict home.
So what is my why? What is my purpose? Why am I here? These burning questions are not unique to me alone, but to the whole of the human experience. I believe that the Why is an ongoing and evolving answer. It changes with each new step we take. So I will focus on my why am I on this little island in the middle of the Caribbean beating my head against the wall trying to make things better. I was asked why Jamaica when I arrived. In all honesty I did not choose Jamaica. In fact I wanted to be as far away from my own country as possible. I had that in Liberia, but that service was interrupted. As offensive as it may seem, I did not choose a specific location, I accepted an invitation. You see, Jamaica chose me! Before my service invite to Liberia I was told I had been invited to service in the Agricultural sector and would be leaving in March of 2014. I missed a medical document deadline due to the Government Shutdown, thanks Republicans! Because of this I was then resubmitted into the pool and was invited to serve in Liberia to teach science. I am not really a teacher but Africa was my dream. So I accepted. When I was finally COS’ed (Cease of Service) the term for successfully ending service, I was then offered an invitation to Jamaica. The time of departure seemed somehow familiar. Then I remembered the original assignment was leaving right about the same time the year before. I often wonder was I originally set for Jamaica? So you see I feel that I did not choose Jamaica, Jamaica chose me!
When you first get your assignment you often dream of how things might be. These dreams are often unrealistic. I thought I would have farmers and homeowners knocking on my door begging me to help them grow in a more sustainable manner. I expected it to look much like my Grad School project (Alleycat Acres) a sustainable urban farm movement. My service looks nothing like this at all. I only farm on the school one to two days a week. I do not even have my own garden, but I do grow herbs in bottles in my kitchen window! My biggest challenge these days is the lack of water. It is not easy to farm without water. My second biggest challenge is to convince the local people to stop burning plastics and tires and I have no idea what else they burn, but it cannot be good.
When I arrived I had hoped and assumed that I would instantly make friends and that my service would show some kind of positive impacts. I also thought I would have gardens in every home and that people would “want” to do better. So the positive impacts have happened, but not as I saw them happening. As far as making friends, I have a few, but friendship is not like it is back home and I have had to adjust my expectations. I miss having dinner parties and drinking wine all night talking about community improvement projects. I miss being able to go to the coffee shop to relax and read when the day is too wet to really go out and farm. I also miss that being a friend with a man would not progress to romantic if it was firmly set up in the beginning. I miss having friends to just hang out with, but mostly I miss places to just hang out at.
People here do not necessarily “want to” change. They see a need to change, but the expectation is the government will fix things. As part of my mission here I firmly remind them that they have been waiting for decades for the government to fix things, when are they going to realize that the government cannot fix everything? In a place that proclaims to be super religious, I have found a focus on Biblical principles to be the best reinforcement I can have. I remind them that “God helps those that help themselves” and that we are obligated to “be good stewards of the lands, waters and all that God had provided, because the Lord holds the title”. This is a tad strange I suppose coming from a “heathen” or non-believer, but remember I was raised in a very strict church and much of those teachings stuck with me. I am not completely lost on the significance religious upbringing has on people.
So my why is currently bound to my what. You see your why can change with your situation, if it does not you lose sight of your reason. Ultimately my why is to learn and to teach, it is a give and take and a balance. My why is balance and understanding. One unexpected unintended consequence of my service is a much deeper understanding of who I am. You never realize how much you do not know about yourself until you spend long lonely nights with yourself. So one could say I have a much better relationship with myself, which makes me much better at creating relationships with others. This in the end is really where your ultimate why lands. Our why is our relationships with each other and that is the deepest most moving why there can be.