. Nine hundred dollars later and the next morning we went two hours early to be perfectly sure we would be in Jamaica later that day. The seat I was in was an exit seat so it did not lean back and an obtrusive bar was jutting out of the back of the chair. Not a fun ride down but once I stepped off and seventy degree air filled my nostrils I calmed down some. Driving on the left side of the road took some adjusting. Traffic is the worst I've ever seen in Jamaica, at least in Kingston where we stayed was located. We came upon Immaculate Conception Convent in Constant Springs, Kingston mid afternoon. Relaxing after the pre trip aggravation was much needed for everybody. Jumping into a pool in January is one great feeling let me tell you. The view from our porch was breathtaking and the Convent was ... well Immaculate haha. Truly beautiful. Being the only white people in the city is something so indescribable. Stares from buses full to the brim with people followed usually with gasps of disbelief as we walked. Oh shit, white people...No...way. For most of the trip participants, they had never come into a situation like this where they were the alienated ones. So begins the learning experience. After grocery shopping for local, amazing foods we returned and continued the relaxing until bed. The next day we woke and eat breakfast consisting of Jamaican Spice Bun, toast with Guava Jelly, etc. We started our Intellectual Journey session and were off to host a party in a slum town called Whitfield for the local youth
. We arranged the sandwiches to bring and began decorating for the kids. After some balloon kicking I saw a ball being footed around in the street. I decided to join the kids ranging from 7 to 12 years of age at most. After juggling some and knocking the rust off of my skills they decided to set up a goal of two rocks. I never in my life have been schooled so hard than by these Jamaican boys. By the time I finally quit I was almost passing out from sheer exhaustion. I rested some, drank from the hose and played a little more. After this we had games for the children and prizes. It was similar to a small militia. The young ones were completely obsessed with us. Why are you white? Your skin turns red when you pinch it! Your hair is so smooth. These were normal things to hear as most of these children seldom see people of fair skin. One girl Colleen was red headed with the whitest skin of the group and she received a lot of attention. The community despondency that was occurring in this town was quite disheartening. We were to work on a medical clinic on the opposite side we were on later in the week. We bid our farewells and went back to the convent for an authentic jerk chicken dinner. I can safely say I ate better on this trip than the whole previous semester. Pass out early every night due to the tolling work. The next day Sister Grace, our host and driver, had a knack for being very slow or later every day. A "Jamasian" as we deemed her was born and raised there. We did not end up doing anything the next day as she was very late in the morning after our session
. We drove around looking at what we would do the rest of the week and making some preparations so I suppose the day was not totally wasted. Returning after two hours of rush hour traffic to make our own food. Read, pass out and do the same the next day. Only this day Sista Grace was actually on time and we made it out to another slum called Ferry. Here, the large males on the trip (strangely including me) were appointed to help tear down the wooden roofing of a building behind the school. The others were out front weeding and making it appear somewhat respectable to people driving by. One of the hottest days there, the most tiring work thus far was capped off by standing on the concrete roof we revealed while a rain storm passed over. The most cooling, refreshing rain I've ever felt. Dined on saltfish and ackee, a national dish, this night and prepared to work on the clinic in Whitfield the next day. There was mold in the ceiling, garbage and overgrowth everywhere on the premises and a green plum tree growing over the clinic. Two volunteers from Seaview Gardens were helping me atop the tin roofed clinic hacking away at seven inch thick branches with machetes and an axe. We were done with everything an hour before Sista Grace was to pick us up. While everyone sat and waited I cleared the decaying leaves off the roof. We were asked why we didn't have a party for this side of town by the residents. Where are our sandwiches and prizes? The group was speechless and did not know how to answer these questions
. After returning to the convent we were served with curry goat. Not everyone was too keen on this but for the most part the trip participants were willing to compromise and eat foreign food. They enjoyed it much more than what we are served at the University haha. Its now Thursday and we went back to Ferry today to whitewash welcome stones out front and the concrete gate around the school. Others had the job of mixing concrete for the floor of the house and laying it down. We carried mostly pure calcium carbide for the whitewash back from some random place about a mile and a half down the road. Needless to say it spilled all over the four of us carrying buckets resulting in unattractive chemical burns. We decided to water the solution down a lot when we got back especially since the children aided the people in the whitewashing. Despite what we were doing we always were the centre of harassment by passer bys. I understand where they're coming from. After finishing, we were climbing into the van and I witnessed the most distraught face displayed on one young boy. Even though he was truly sad we were leaving I felt better about myself because I realized someone actually cared that we were there at all. Three of us walked out to get pizza this evening. Pineapple pizza to be precise and it was wonderful. Slept. Friday comes and we are unsure if our trip to Trenchtown will proceed as someone was gunned down the previous day. The government stress of that poor island is staggering. We were told we had a wise old woman as a guide and we headed in
. We passed by the house Bob Marley grew up in. She took us around various alabaster artists, bead artists, textiles and such. We refueled with some bag juice and waited in the community centre until Sista Grace picked us up. Returned and took Sista Grace out to a real good rib place. Got back to immaculate and packed our stuff for our day at the beach. It was less than one hundred miles to the beach yet it took us over three hours to get there due to the dilapidated roads. A small private beach called Frenchman's Cove was where we retreated to for some much deserved fun in the sun. I haven't tasted salt water in quite some time so I swam as much as I could before we left. Sitting in the back on the way home was a terrible mistake. I got so sick as soon as we got back from all the pothole dodging and failures to dodge. Everyone was instructed to pack up so we would be ready to leave by five thirty am to catch our eight thirty flight. We made it on time and slept the whole way back from NYC to Olean NY. Fuck. See ya later Jamaica.
Ed. Note: There are few pictures of any work actually being done because of the quickly learned desire of the younger ones to play with and inadvertently steal our belongings.
Well, I was appointed student coordinator of this trip early in the semester after I expressed my interest to Father Bob Struszynski the summer I lived in community with him at a Franciscan Mountain Retreat Centre called Mt. Irenaeus (Google it!) The other trip leader was Anne Foerst; she is a professor of theology and philosophy at Bonaventure. She hails from Cologne, Germany and possesses three undergraduate, a masters and a doctorate degree from Harvard and MIT. She also builds robots. But enough about her onto the trip. There were twelve of us in all. One senior, two juniors, two sophomores, and five freshman. The trip was originally supposed to be centered around a philosophy course incoming freshman take called the Intellectual Journey but it was never officially approved. We went on with discussions anyways because of the rich experiences most were having. We got off to a rough start getting lost on the way to JFK airport and missing our flight. We called in a favor to Holy Cross friary in the Bronx and shacked up there for the night