In less than one week I’ll have the possessions that I plan to carry back with me after two years packed up into hopefully just one bag as I hand over the key to my home in Jamaica. Then I’ll take one last look around my community before I make my way to Kingston, where my Peace Corps adventure began back in March 2015. I’ll spend a little time at the Peace Corps office, where the doctors will make sure I am going home in one piece, as well as a few odd meetings here and there with some Peace Corps staff. Finally, I’ll hop onto a plane to Philadelphia and officially gain the title of a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV).
I’m not quite there yet, though---there’s still goodbyes to be had, belongings to shed to my host family and neighbors (kitchen stuff, for example), and I definitely need to put some elbow grease into some deep apartment cleaning. My projects are finished, or as finished as they will ever be, and I’m starting to get excited for the next chapter. As I linger in this state of transition, I have been thinking about all of the things I am going to miss about living in Spring Ground, Manchester...
I am going to miss walking home from Spalding, the larger town near my home, up to the quiet hill of Spring Ground. I begin my walk home through crazy traffic and crowds of people. Signs on the Main Street read various spellings of the town: Spaulding(s) or Spalding(s), your pick. I pass taxi men trying to load me into Cave Valley, Mandeville, or Christiana taxis, though most of them know by now I’m always walking, walking, walking. I pass the vegetable market where the women cry out, “anyting fi yuh today, darling?” and sometimes I’ll stop and grab a piece of pumpkin or some onions to cook up with dinner. Perhaps I don't want to cook, I can grab a patty at Juici's, where a man is sitting on a crate playing a recorder for some change. I pass the fruit stand that smells sweet and full of mangoes, bananas, papayas, pineapples and oddly enough, imported apples and grapes. Most days, it takes me a while to get down the road because I stop and chat with the Rasta mon or Callaloo Mon or the clothing vendor that I call “Okra” because he calls me “Pumpkin”. Most of us don’t even know each other’s formal names, but we stop and talk almost every day and laugh.
Finally I break free from Spalding town area and follow the road to the entrance to my community, an uphill climb. I pass the yam plants growing up dried bamboo sticks, and banana trees in every yard. As I trek up the hill, I walk past the yard where I sometimes feed some mongrel puppies my leftover lunch, so they get excited and follow me all the way home, even though most of the time I don’t have anything for them. Then I keep walking and past Flappy, the one-eared, saggy titty old dawg that seems to always be coming in from wherever she goes every day at the same time I come home and we pass at almost the exact same spot. I greet her, "Flappy!”, unsure if she can actually hear me. I'll miss ol' Flapster. My neighbor, Daddy (Pops lives down the road and Papa lives nearby too) is sitting on his veranda up the hill from the road and shouts out “Wha’appen Mel? Yuh all right?” and I shout back, “Yuh mon, lawd de sun is HOT”, and wish him a good evening. Finally, I come upon my driveway...it's downhill and sketchy but I have mastered running down it. My neighbors (kids) are outside and hoping they can play with my guitar and ukulele.
The walk home up the hill gets me sweaty enough to enjoy a cold shower and I get to rinse the street grim off my feet. I’m givin’ thanks for simple joys that were part of my daily life for the past two years.