I made it to the other side and earned my "R"...meaning I am officially a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). Jamaica made me more resilient, patient, and simply appreciative for the gift of life. I have many fond memories on practically all corners of the island, and the people I have met (both Jamaicans and other PCVs) have deeply inspired me. My Peace Corps service made me more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, and I surely experienced all the stereotypical feelings of leaving a special place I called home for two years. Almost three months have passed and I'm still reflecting on my lessons learned, but there is no doubt in my mind that my service, though sometimes challenging, shaped me into a better person and hopefully left a mark on my community.
I'll miss my times at school where I worked with the 4-H Club and did literacy pull-outs. Their goodbye celebration had me laugh-crying, as kids presented songs and shared their farewells.
I'll miss my home and my lovely neighbors...especially my little neighbors who loved to come over to play. I loved what it meant to be neighbors in Jamaica; if you have too much ripe banana, you just knock on your neighbor's door and gift it...and the next time they roast a breadfruit or harvest some yam, they cut you a piece. My one neighbor in particular was so much help during my wedding planning and gave me a contact for a cake baker, a pastor, and a photographer!
The avocado tree inna mi yaard should be bearing ripe fruit right about now, and I'm sad that I'm not there to eat them up!
The day I left, my little neighbor was moping around and said, "I was crying because you're leaving!" Ouch, my heart hurt a lot. However, through WhatsApp I am able to keep in touch with my neighbors and hope to send them a package of some school supplies soon.
I'll miss these two women who were always there for me during service...
Of course, I'll miss my Peace Corps Jamaica family (many not pictured, nuff luv to unu)...they were my rock throughout service and getting together was always a good time.
Last but not least, sharing the experience with George and any other folks that visited was so special. I loved showing people around the quiet community of Spring Ground, or taking them on a route taxi adventure to Treasure Beach. It means a lot to me for the all of the people who came to visit me during my Peace Corps service!
Peace Corps Volunteers tend to hype up the reverse culture shock that one may experience, but I found coming home to Philadelphia was emotional, yet easy. This is the place where I spent a large percentage of my life and I slid right familiar things, such as reuniting with family and friends, visiting the public library, and thrift store shopping. I did feel a little overwhelmed about being home and to cure that feeling I decided on a whim to go visit my best friend in New York City, and my brother in Washington D.C, which were both worthwhile trips. I think my biggest culture shock was seeing the workaholic culture (a lack of work/life separation), yet now I feel like I'm already back in that mode... Following close behind on the culture shock list, was American dog culture...unu luv yuh dog dem...lawd jesus dem get treated like pickni!
I feel ridiculous admitting this, but when a Bob Marley song comes on the radio in a store, I get a little choked up. So many of his tunes were theme songs to my service. I actually didn't know Bob Marley's music that well before coming to Jamaica, but I sure knew him when I left. Jamaica is musical in general, and I think of public coaster bus trips across island with more people jamming out to the song than not...harmonizing to the song or simply singing out of key and swaying heads as the crowded bus winded down potholed roads. Then there's the church choirs with their songs of praise echoing throughout the hills on any given day. There's competing stereo systems and the evening songs of barking dogs, chirping insects, and frogs.
Jamaica will always have a special place in my heart and there's no doubt that I will go back.
I'll always love you, Jamaica. Me soon come.