This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week four: Change and Hope.
Hope, it was what Obama ran on and inspired so many. What exactly is it though? When I think of hope I think of looking forward, pushing through a seemingly impossible wall and next steps. Obama brought us hope but in reality the change we hoped for was never fulfilled. Change is that action or event that most often, was strived for. For me, and this is my PERSONAL perspective the current political vibe back home give me no hope. It is hard to hope when there is a feeling of oppression and darkness. I am scared about going home. I am just now returning from my group’s COS (Cease of Service) conference. So I apologize if my emotions are running high.
As I think about writing up my DOS (Description of Service) I look back on my time here. What did I accomplish? Did I hit my goals? Did I see change? I did see change, but not the type I expected. I had a site change very late in the game. That left me feeling lost and disconnected. The expectation when you become a PCV is that you live with a host community and family and you spend your entire service with them. This means you are going to have a greater impact. When you leave with less than 9 months left it is very difficult to build up that same impact. I internally struggle with this. I always wonder am I just waiting now, or am I making a difference?
I want to focus a little on my old community. My beautiful school garden, the one thing I cried the most about leaving behind, is still being used. My original supervisor is a very dynamic person. He just never quits trying. He tends to inspire others but he really needs a supportive base, no leader can do it alone. The farmers come help sometimes, but the hardest parts are done. Sowing and reaping and pest control are all things the children can and should be doing. Also eating stuff from the harvest is a big bonus.
Photo courtesy of Kenrick Johnson, Three Hills Primary School
I know Mr. Johnson and the farm group are moving forward trying to build up a greenhouse and get momentum up on the farm land again. The hardest part of any development work is getting the momentum and maintaining it. Leadership is often about inspiration. I hope that this group continues on their path. Mr. Johnson is also working on getting the citizen’s association back into action, which is a huge undertaking and one of the biggest struggles I had up there. Getting enough people to push forward some idea and then put those ideas into action are not easy tasks, but essential for success.
One little girl breaks my heart the most. The little girl who lived across the street from me, asks for me all the time. She sees Tressa’s truck and always look to see if I am in it. I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to her. I would love to have contact with her family to check in on her when I return home. The fact that she still looks for me, tells me that I left an impression on her, and that warms my heart and gives me hope.
I miss my host family and have been back to visit and will continue to go visit. I also need to check in with my host families from training. It was hard for a while because Kingston was off-limits and to get to either it is easiest to go from Kingston. I miss them and will continue to miss the people who have shared their homes and their lives with me.
In my current site I have a wonderful host family that I really do connect with. My host mom and I go walking most mornings and we talk about cultural differences, relationships and cooking. There are two other ladies that walk with us as well, so whenever I struggle to understand components of the culture I simply ask in the most respectful way I can.
I have the fisher’s group that I work with and they are trying to get things going to promote responsible fisheries and fish sanctuaries. I enjoy these men and look forward to working with them as my time comes to an end. The lab, oh the lab! My saving grace in the midst of trauma. Knowing that I get to talk science with scientists all day every day is inspiring. I also am learning not just from/about Jamaicans but people from all over the World. We have scientists from the States, Great Britain, Antigua Barbuda, Barbados and many other countries. I have started a blog for the lab and I try to include a quick interview with the different groups of scientists we have visiting. I am also creating footage to post on YouTube page. I never made a movie before in my life, but now I have made 4. I enjoy the ability to share my talents for story telling and sharing some science with non-science people. By making it more personal and a story it pulls readers in, at least I think it does.
So what gives me hope for the future of my host country? The sheer tenacity of the people I have met. The fact that they share their lives and hopes with a complete stranger. They open up and are not ashamed to discuss things like race and cultural differences.
At the lab recently there was a group from New York laying out in the sun. My two Jamaican counter-parts were sitting in the shade looking over at them. I walked by and stood in the shade and asked if they had ever laid out in the sun? I have not seen many Jamaicans seek out to just bake in the sun? They both responded with a resounding no way. Then they asked me why white people tanned? I responded with why do some Jamaicans bleach? I did not expect and answer but they both thoughtfully said it was about being told lighter skin was better. I looked at them and told them I grew up in a time when we were told that the bronzed/golden tanned body was preferred. In that moment we hit an aha moment. For the first time they understood that white people do not necessarily want to be pasty white. I then lifted a piece of my shirt to show the color difference for the parts of me they never see. They were truly shocked at the contrast. In that moment, black or white we realized that we are told what is beautiful and what is not, and both sides seek this specific tone of skin, it is not black nor white but somewhere in the middle. Like a Middle Eastern skin tone, Hispanic, Greek, Arabic, and most Asian cultures all have a tone somewhere in the middle of black and white, and this seems to be the desired shade from both cultures. It is these conversations that stay with me, they give me hope, they make me feel that change is happening one moment at a time, and maybe that is the only real way change can ever truly happen!