Falmouth, Jamaica, marked the third port of call on the cruise my family had taken this summer. Like many of the other ports of call, the presence of shopping was overwhelming as one first walked into the harbor. This part of Jamaica was immensely different from the typical Jamaican land only a few miles inward from the dock. The shopping port was filled with jewelry shops, t-shirt kiosks, and Jamaican art while the real Jamaica, behind the gate, exhibited a dilapidated area where shacks appeared to be homes and the selling of drugs was ever present on the streets. Security guards lined this boarder and instructed tourists to stay within the confines of the shopping plaza. It was difficult to believe that just a few miles inland from the docking of my ship this poverty-stricken land existed. While the meeting of these two diverse worlds, in fact, provided a culture shock, the smiling faces of the Jamaican natives were ever present.
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As I stood within the shopping port area, a group of school children walking in a line could be seen at a distance. Accompanied by two adults, the group made their way through the mall. Having a fond love of youngsters, I approached the group of school children in a touristy manner–a selfie stick in hand. In their eyes, they were amazed by this one-of-a-kind gadget, and they began conversing with me. For many of the young third and fourth graders, it was the first time they had taken a selfie with a selfie stick. Their faces lit up as I asked them if they wished to “press the selfie button,” and they started to take pictures of themselves. But even more pleasure came out of the experience through shared words. Seeing the large ship on which I had arrived shocked them. They had traveled to the shopping port to view the ship and learn of it as part of a field trip. One little boy asked if I was from Canada, and when I responded I was from South Carolina another young girl so preciously questioned, “Is there snow there?” They asked me simple questions and were amazed at my answers being so different from their own. I, too, must admit that I was surprised to find such strong differences yet so many similarities in a place over a thousand miles from my home. A group selfie followed by single selfies as well as hugs marked my time in Jamaica. These photos are truly my most prized souvenirs from this vacation.
Wishing to share the images, I talked to a teacher who provided me with the school’s email address. Touched by the love and culture and wanting to remain in contact, I sent the images to the principal with question of potentially starting a pen pal program where the students could learn more about the United States and particularly South Carolina, and he agreed. Beginning in the fall, I will organize this pen pal program with the amiable students of Eber Prep, and I cannot be more excited to embrace the culture and lifestyle of a land different from my own.
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