It’s sadly cliché to post about gratitude on Thanksgiving weekend, so maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll post instead about the gradual process of transitioning and how that looks a few days on since my last post. I’ve been here three weeks now; it’s time to move from ‘settling in’ to ‘being here’ mode. This was a busy, fun, weekend – the kind of weekend that makes me think this whole Jamaica thing is going to be okay after all.
On Friday my roomie and I walked in the rain to our neighbourhood jerk pit, where we lingered, ate, drank, listened to the rain on the tin roof, and watched the families, friends, and lovers around us enjoying their Friday nights. We hope to do this often (or as often as a volunteer stipend allows) and we hope to do it with our growing circle of friends. It is such a relief to have a place we enjoy near enough that we feel safe walking home from it even in the dark.
Saturday a fun crew of 5 Cuso volunteers, one former volunteer (she has stayed on as an employee of the organization she was matched with – it’s not an uncommon occurrence), and 2 Cuso staff headed out for the Digicel 5k for Special Needs. It’s an evening running race near the waterfront, which is brilliant in a country where running in the sun seems like a terrible idea. Okay, I admit that running in general occurs to me like a terrible idea, but … I digress.
For the first time in over two weeks I finally got to see the water. It’s so odd to me to be living on a small island in a harbour city and seldom get to see/smell/be soothed by the ocean. It’s something I’m missing that I wasn’t prepared to miss. As always, just breathing the ocean air was restorative. The good company also helped. Four of our group participated in the run/walk and 4 of us cheered them on. With 8,000 participants, it was a fun event to be part of. Even so, we left before the after-party really go started. We had hoped to stay for the free concert, but not as much as we hoped to eat. 🙂 Dinner in another new place. A couple great new people met. Reinforced relationships with some of the people I already knew. It was a great evening, all in all.*
And then Sunday night – the piece de resistance. I remember when I first heard about the Canadian Women’s Club of Jamaica saying to someone “I’m not going to Jamaica to hang out with a bunch of Canadians.” Oh, how foolish I was. No, I am not here only to hang out with other Canadians, but I can’t overstated the comfort of spending an evening with people you don’t constantly have to ask to repeat themselves and just for one evening to blend in a little.
The occasion was Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the Canadian High Commissioner and his wife. Turkey, ham, salad greens (WHERE ON EARTH DID THEY FIND BEAUTIFUL SALAD GREENS?), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sauvignon blanc. It was heaven on a plate (and in a wine glass).
As much as I’m LOVING Jamaican food, the familiar smells and sights were soothing. And again, the circle of local connections was expanded. I even made a friend who added me to her phone, so you know it’s official. 🙂 Our High Commissioner and his wife are charming and laid back – just as the representative of the Canadian government in Jamaica should be, in my uninformed opinion.
It was all perfect timing. As someone from home told me on Friday “just relax and enjoy where you are.” This weekend truly helped. I didn’t realise how feeling somewhat housebound was effecting me. Tonight the people I already know were at their best, and the people I met were a promise of meaningful connections. I was proud to be with them, and truly happy to be here – body and soul.
* ASIDE: The low point of Saturday evening – our waitress told me, full of smiles and wonder, that I look just like ‘that Mindy girl from Facts of Life.’ I said, ‘you mean the fat one,’ and she said, ‘well, ya, you know, just in the face.’ She truly seemed to think it a compliment. Not cool, waitress lady. Not cool.