Day 5 in my new officially official 😊 house in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica. The smells of burning at nights and in the morning are just as familiar as the coffee churning every morning in downtown Jacksonville from the Maxwell House coffee plant. The coffee smells each morning from the Hubbard Street house were only supplemental to the lovely smells of my own coffee percolating. And occasionally as we are still quite close to the main highway here in Jamaica, I hear fast cars and bikes racing by and big Mack trucks blowing by with their steam powered horns that get your immediate attention no matter what you are doing. The frogs that lull me to sleep at night with the cool “winter” breeze (about 72 at night with mid percentages of humidity) are one of my favorite parts of Jamaica.
The cool breeze runs through the house. I can see the leaves of the mango trees blowing in the wind; they remind me of home, like home, my cousins, especially David, he loved mangoes… I can remember family dinners when we were little, the cool evening Florida breeze as we wreaked havoc through the streets of north St. Pete with our hide-n-go-seek and cops and robbers games. Jamaica is like home.
Then there is the money system, the injustice, the economics, the rat race, and on the macro level remnants of years of wanting more for its country as it slightly eludes the Jamaican people each time.
She is an example of the Jamaican heart, the Jamaican way. I am so excited to learn the culture more and more each day. I enjoyed our walk to town yesterday for the first time alone – two white girls with our carmel skin and curls, hearing whistle after whistle and “pst” after “pst,” nonetheless, there is respect. No harm, just enjoying what they see. People are complicated enough already…
But when you add other characteristics of Jamaica, like culture you see something very cool! The teacher in me must explain “culture” a bit further. Culture happens on different levels. There is our immediate family culture (what we experienced and learned from those in our immediate home). Community culture, your neighborhood and other family members and close friends, perhaps. Work culture is developed within professions but more influential would likely be the culture experienced with specific employers. Finally, and only to serve as a brief explanation of the ways that culture influences, the final level of culture would be your place of birth. The country you call home. The place that has formed the parts of you that make your people group different than another.
Jamaica is quite different from America. America may be accused of lacking culture, it is not particularly distinct in culture like Jamaica, and has been called a melting pot – various people groups contributing to the diversity of the “United” States of America by adopting various cultures. This is very different from more collectivist countries like Jamaica. In my experience, this can make assimilating challenging. People are people… people change, assimilate, evolve, and yet still there spans a bridge that connects all of humanity no matter how different. At least that is what I have discovered so far in my travels. And that is love – at the end of the day we have all the same needs – being known and knowing.
As I spoke with a special person last night, under the stars, literally! We talked about what matters and keeps a relationship. He asked what I believe keeps a relationship together. My answer was textbook A+++, “Love and Respect, of course,” I said, with complete confidence he would agree. He di, but, he his point was the first one. Love! Of course, and I do believe that love can and will indeed conquer all! Yet somehow, I felt so shallow and unlovable to give such an answer, because the words are easy, living it is another, especially when loving requires sacrifice.
In a world where inequities reign, and where often the greater of two evils must be chosen, there still can remain the simplicity of loving your neighbor. May we all have the same fighting spirit as the little old Jamaican lady welcoming us to Jamaica!