I arrived in Kingston one month ago today. In just four more months (plus one week) I will be winging my way home. I knew in my planning that 5 months would fly by – that it would be time to head home before I could blink, and that I would have to pay attention to make the most of my time here to

  • accomplish the work there is to do in a literal sense at my placement,
  • to see and experience all I can of Jamaica, and
  • to take on the learning and growth there is for me to experience so I return home better than I left.

That may sound like a lot of pressure, but I am trying not to have it be that way.

I know this is a growing experience whether I consciously set out to have it be that or not. I know that I will not return home the same Shan who left. I already feel leaner and stronger, softer, broken open, tender and clearer. Given the personal costs, it does matter to me that it be worth while. I have no worry about making a difference at my placement, but I do wonder if this adventure will make a lasting difference for me. Only time can tell. Only I can make it so.

In my first weeks in Jamaica, it is the little things that have made the biggest impressions:

  • the young taxi driver in his souped-up electric blue Honda singing along to Whitney Houston’s ‘Run to You’ with my roomie and I in the cab wondering whether to join in (I did) or giggle (I didn’t); I’m pretty sure that song wasn’t even recorded when he was born
  • being surrounded by the song of tree frogs while sitting on our deck – invisible melody makers
  • the smile of the homeless man who sleeps outside the wall near Devon House. He is there day and night, completely destitute, and yet he smiles
  • bright yellow allamanda against glossy green foliage – and all the spots of beauty
  • the stark, welcoming, reliable simplicity of the Canadian High Commission right next door to my apartment complex
  • that moment when the sea breeze lifts the burden of heat from my body
  • the sweet burn of ginger beer on my tongue
  • friends who understand one can be heart-bruised and still be good company

I am heart-bruised, and I am here by choice and by design. I am laughing and smiling – and, yes, sometimes crying – in the sunshine. I am writing more than I have in years, and emerging from my protective shell while surrounded by more security than I’ve ever had to live with. I don’t know what life will look like when I go home in 4 months, so I will try to keep my heart, eyes, and mind here with my body. That is easier some days than others.

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