A glow from the neighboring hut caught my attention. They were still at it. Roasting coffee beans over an open fire proves to be unpleasant, so the team processes them under the relief of night instead.
Nothing riles the senses like the smell of Jamaican coffee beans being ground. The breeze that carried that luminous scent flirted with my eyelashes then playfully darted out the back door, daring me to follow. Not yet.
I was the milk-maker. Every night I mixed one cup of powdered milk with 2 cups of water and put it in the fridge so it would be cool in the morning. After finishing rinsing and drying my wooden spoon, I took a sample of my product out to the back porch. My feet parted with the cool ceramic floor, and met the rough wood of the back deck. Usually, I would go for a single-seat hammock, but since everyone else was asleep and I had no one to sit with, their appeal was vanquished. Besides, the mountains were calling. To resist would be insanity.
Unlatching the gate, I descended the stairs and made my way to the field with two archways made of sticks, or the football field as we call it. I stopped just before the path opened up to the field, and settled myself on the concrete bench. I noticed 200 yards behind me, the last lights of the compound faded.
Pastor Greg must be going to bed, I thought to myself. On any other youth group trip, that would have been my cue to retire as well, but I was in Harmons, the heart of Jamaica; this wasn’t any other youth group trip.
My parents’ voices seeped into my mind; late night endeavors off our property may not have been the wisest move in a foreign country, but choosing the safe move would’ve been too off the wall for me. We had only been there a week, but I had managed to make myself at home.
I sat there and soaked in the sounds, smells, and barely-visible sights of the surrounding mountains. It was a different world; it couldn’t be real. We had worked all day in the relentless downpour. Unwinding from the day, I massaged my sore shoulder. What a delicious ache.
A rustle came from behind me. Shocked, I nearly spilled my semi-dairy treat. I could’ve sworn I’d seen the Cheshire cat, but those floating pearly whites soon claimed two beaming black eyes as their fellow members. With a sigh of relief, I uncurled my toes in the black soil. Kimberly let out one of her distinctly Jamaican deep belly laughs paired with a teasing hissing giggle to finish. I shook my head and laughed myself as she plopped down beside me. Releasing the pink plastic cup from my front teeth, I passed her the glass of milk.
We chatted about the day and our battle wounds from working on the construction site all day. We had worked side by side on the marl haul, the most physically demanding job on the site. All day we had talked about life; I’m amazed there was anything left to say. She had been through so much, yet she found the patience to listen to my suddenly petty tribulations. I had never guessed I would be sitting with a Jamaican girl, in the backwoods of Harmons mirroring not only her tattered clothes and dried mud in her hair, but her love for life and God-despite the circumstances. I had never guessed that from that trip I would find a true friend.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.