Far away from the comforts of the United States I found peace in the clear waters of Jamaica. I had limited cell service, no internet, no TV and relatively unreliable transportation — these were all aspects of my second year journey to Montego Bay, Jamaica. One of the main things I love about traveling overseas is being challenged by a different culture. That love was tested in this trip. Armed only with a suitcase and good company I set off from the Montego Bay airport for (what is normally) a 2.5hr commute to the main campus of the Caribbean Christian Centers for the Deaf to assist with development opportunities for Jamaican Deaf students.
Up the mountain we go! There were no guardrails, no traffic signs and blue ocean that blended into sky for as far as the eye could see. As we climbed 2,051 ft. from the bay deep into the mountains, every turn we were faced with oncoming traffic at a speed of 50mph or as some describe “a ferocious game of chicken.” As a manager who is accustomed to having a grasp on many aspects of life, I was frankly horrified. Nausea quickly ensued. The kind driver peered up in the rear-view mirror at my green faced reflection and said “Nah worries ma’am. Er’ting gwon be aight.” Up ahead, a herd of cattle was blocking the roadway. We waited patiently as the street cleared. After all what was the rush? I soon realized that in Jamaica there was no need to stress – Life down there is simple.
Finally, we reached the dorms. Upon entering my room I exhaustedly hopped into bed only to find a lizard staring right down at me from the ceiling. Two hours of searching and chasing my new four-legged-friend into the wee hours of the morning gave me plenty of time to exercise this popular Jamaican mantra “Nah worries.”
The value of education, clean water, an abundance of commodities are all aspects of a Jamaican life that are sometimes available. Many days, I spent my time playing with Deaf children, teaching in classrooms and attending board development meetings.
Unity against all odds
While some think Deaf children are unable to learn at the same measurements of their contemporaries, these students prove this notion to be untrue. The children were excited to learn. Even the homesick teenagers smiled in intrigue pondering what the American visitors might have to say.
Window of hope
After decades of development the school campuses are transforming. The noisy hubbub of volunteer work teams continuing construction despite the humidity are all welcome signs of progress.
The trip was full of familiar faces. Paris, uniquely, with one brown eye and one blue, is excited to see me every year. Aisha, while facing many challenges walking and signing due to the limitations of cerebral palsy always has an infectious smile. In many ways these children have left an indelible mark on my heart. As if I couldn’t have been more excited I visited with Akeil, a Deaf boy who was new to the school last year and at 4yrs of age had no language, but now after one year is signing like a pro! I couldn’t be more proud (see images below).
The impact of helping children in their critical stages of development is like no other experience. Even now, as I settle into the fast paced nature of my very American life, I am reminded of my lessons learned in Jamaica. Now, I am more aware that in due time, somehow, everything always just seems to work out.
Ultimately, my week long trip around the island was an amazing experience. It is challenging to put aside the brilliant faces of the youth there as I now focus on life back at home. In the words of the most famous Jamaican musician Bob Marley, “Some people get wet, others feel the rain.” This year I’m going with the flow. Until next time… “nah worries.”