Ziggy Marley once said “When people come to Jamaica, we don't want them to think about the problems of Jamaica. So let them come be in their paradise.” When our group touched down in Jamaica, we saw no problems. There was no poverty, no despair. We landed in an area with the illusion of normalcy. After meeting our trip coordinators at the airport, we loaded our luggage into a small truck. How odd it was to see someone drive on the right side of a vehicle! Our “coaster” arrived, the primary mode of group transportation.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
It was a small, crammed bus barely fitting the 30-something people in our group. Away we went, traveling at a rapid pace around mountainsides and near cliff edges, mere inches from other vehicles driving by us on the right side of the road. This coaster took us deeper and deeper into the undergrowth of Jamaica, and brought us farther and farther away from the delusions of the “civilized” metropolitan area. As our drive progressed, we noticed the degrading conditions of the communities and individual structures of what were supposed to be houses. Most houses were never completed because of the frequent landslides of the area. With each landslide, houses were destroyed, and many were left half-finished. A child looked up at our pale faces passing by.
We spent our days immersed in these “problems.” Our group was fortunate to work with Mount Charles Baptist Church. While we were there, we hosted a Vacation Bible School program for the local children, painted the walls of the church, constructed a computer lab in the church consisting of donated American computers, and we were fortunate enough to do some door-to-door ministry in the community. During our time of door-to-door ministry, we handed out pairs of colorful flip-flops to groups of children in the rain. There was such an excitement in some of their eyes; it looked as though we gave them an iPod or a bejeweled pocket watch. These flip-flops meant so much to these children; it was hard not to feel some type of emotion over it. I felt myself shiver with goose bumps in the warm Jamaican downpour. This was so different from my small-town environment of Pike County, Pennsylvania.
I also noticed around me that the most happiness was shared between those who had so little. These “problems” never seen by the tourist’s eye actually make the paradise of Jamaica. These people had no dire need of material possessions, but had a satisfaction most Americans can never experience. They socialized with no technology to interrupt their conversations. They enjoyed the natural fruits of the earth with no farmers or pesticides. They were able to travel without any time pressures. Tardiness is nonexistent in Jamaica. There was so much light in the people’s expressions, and so much smiling. Yes, a lot of smiling. The countryside far from the illusions of beaches and reggae is a paradise rarely seen by many outside of the Jamaican people themselves.
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