One of my favourite Jamaican phrases which never failed to make me smile was being asked by a salesperson in a store “Getting through, Miss?” There’s something about it that sounds much more authentic and endearing than our various versions of “May I help you.” It’s something I bonded with other Canadians-in-Jamaica about through smiles.

Saturday as I prepared for my feast & fundraiser, there were moments when I wanted to text someone – anyone – ‘getting through.’ There were also moments I wondered what in the actual hell I thought I was trying to pull off. As I went to bed Friday night, having done what I could to prepare for the day, I had a little chat with myself:

  • You’re not allowed to freak out tomorrow – just roll with it
  • You’re not a failure if things aren’t ‘perfect’
  • People want to come be with you and celebrate; nobody cares about your dead garden
  • and – most importantly – whatever has to get done will get done, and it will be perfect*

Of course at this point the only setback to the plan was that my very very helpful and capable eldest son had been asked to go to work for the day so he wouldn’t be available to help me. Deep breath. No worries. I had back up plans and I’m grateful he has work he enjoys where he’s appreciated. Plus, there was plenty of time to power through on my own (and in the end, thank providence, he only ended up working a few hours).

And then the highway my parents travel to visit/rescue/help me was closed by an accident, and – there being no reasonable detour – they were a few hours behind in their arrival. Another deep breath. There’s nothing we can do about it. My son and his girlfriend were there now. We’d be fine. As we ‘got through’ together I was struck how amazing it is to have a son (not to mention his girlfriend!) who would spend their Saturday afternoon off helping me cook, clean and re-arrange furniture (side note – my younger son would have been there as well if he was not also busy working and did drop off a table and chairs).

Big love.

And then the power went out. This time I got to curse before the deep breath. As time crept on, plans kept being considered, revised, revisited, thrown out. Take the baking to a friend’s house. Do whatever we can on the barbecue. Just keep prepping. For 5 hours.

In the meantime, my very organised/organising friend arrived to help, kicked us all into high gear, and secured a second barbecue. About then my parents arrived, the highway being cleared sooner than expected, and for a while we were a steadily progressing 6-person crew.

Forty minutes before guests were due the electricity returned. What seemed like an impending disaster now became just a race against time. Guests arrived, hugged, and pitched in. Icing cupcakes (I’d been waiting for the power to whip the buttercream). Cutting plantain (you can’t really fry on a barbecue). Stirring, chopping, laughing, getting acquainted. It turns out that with people coming from many areas of my life, working side by side was a great way for people both to contribute and to connect.

I have complained several times over the last six months that people in Victoria don’t experience community on a meaningful level. That we have all these friendships, but everyone is too busy to get together. I have whined that ‘In Kingston when people said they were going to do something with you they did it.” I’ve compared my sparsely attended Victoria going-away party to my thirty-seven guest Kingston leaving dinner.

I’ve been obnoxious, and I’ve been wrong. So many hands went into making Saturday a wonderful evening that I’m afraid to list them all in case I miss some. The dinner was about two things for me – raising funds for Cuso International and marking the end of my transition home. The people who filled my house and many many who weren’t here have helped with that transition.

The night was meant to be a gift to the people in my life and to Cuso. And, as with the volunteer experience itself, it ended up being a huge gift to me. I appreciate the lesson in how deep and wide and strong my community is, and how much people will help when you let them.

One other valuable lesson: don’t underestimate people’s willingness to try curry goat. That bowl emptied FAST! 🙂

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos. I was kind of busy, but here are a few highlights.

* that statement is a riff on the attitude I’ve been fostering this week, which is perfection