We exit the small guide bus into a strange and isolated local marketplace near Negril, Jamaica. The tiny shacks are often covered only by tattered tarps and supported by crumbling columns. The native Jamaicans run to us, bearing gifts and warm welcomes in Patois, a language similar to English created from the influence of their conquerors. The smooth, flowing language seems to glide off their tongues, and regardless of what they say, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of hospitality. A young child, wearing only a half-shredded shirt and a diaper runs to embrace me. In the distance we can hear people singing songs so joyous and upbeat that even our guide, who has visited countless times, lights up and beckons us toward the slum concert.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Families leave their shacks join us as we approach the ever growing sound of the reggae celebration ahead. How can these people with so little, be the most exuberant group I have ever witnessed? Many of the woman offer us native fruits and snacks, all the while their ribs showing through their torn clothing. I brought a few dollars which I give to a family with two small children, pocket change to most Americans, but to them, it means one step closer to attaining food and clean water for their children.
What we have encountered purely by good fortune is a Rastafari celebration, with reggae music, dance, and a feast: seafood, jerk chicken, and fried plantains were just a few of the delicious dishes served to us. Rastafari beliefs encourage peace, community, and kindness, and these Jamaicans were nothing but kind and accepting of us: complete strangers. We ate and drank and listened to stories passed down through generations. To this day I have never felt so accepted as I did that day; invited into a world completely foreign and at the same time wonderful, and loving every minute of it.
Growing up in the Napa Valley–a haven for millionaire winemakers that attracts prominent, esteemed tourists–has formed my opinions on humanity in a predominantly bleak way. People from Napa are so concerned with material and status, that many spiritual and emotional components of life are lost along the way. I myself may have been lost in the world of retail-worship had I not taken a trip to that little village filled with big hearts.
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