Monday, July 21, 2008


Woo! It was Friday. Rachel was nervous about asking Larry if we could go to the city with Jennifer, but I had a plan. Over breakfast, I just announced that Rachel and I were invited by Jennifer and were going with her to Morant Bay. Larry seemed fine with it.

I went to school in the morning and got a list from the main teacher of supplies she would like for next year. (I want to have a drive at my school so I can ship them to the school in Mt. Vernon.) We went back for lunch, during which Larry announced that he would take the whole team into town. We were a little annoyed - we wanted to escape him! - but what could we do? Rach and I set off to meet Jennifer while Larry loaded the others into the rental car.

The ride with Jennifer's son was terrifying on many levels, to say the least. He drove as fast as possible, passed semi-trucks on one-lane streets, and stopped frequently to pick up strange people who climbed into the back seat with us. I spent the trip praying that I would a) survive and b) not get car sick.

Morant Bay was nothing like Mt. Vernon! It was much more urban, and the streets were packed with people. We were the only white people. We were reminded of this with shouts of "Whities!" or "''Ey white girl!" as we walked past. I didn't mind it. I liked being the odd one out, but Jennifer kept shooting them dirty looks.

Jennifer took Rachel, myself, and the two young boys through the open market, to the bakery, and (ick) the butchers. We wandered by ourselves for a bit when she went to order supplies for her store. After buying bootleg sunglasses and hats, Jennifer wouldn't let us walk around alone anymore. Apparently, we were sufficiently ripped off.

On our way back to meet Larry, we discovered our ride's car had a flat tire. Jennifer let the two boys walk back by themselves and then got worried about them being lost. She kept stopping and asking people if they'd seen "two white guys".

Eventually we found them and then met up with Jennifer's husband, Leighton, at a bar near the beach. I was itching to get out to the ocean, even though the coast was rocky. I couldn't get over how turquoise the water appeared. There wasn't an easy way to access the ocean, though, so I had to settle for the view from the parking lot of the bar. Leighton and my future husband, Mr. Johnson, were pretty sauced by the time we showed up. Larry was pretty ticked that we were half an hour late - but we couldn't help a flat tire and the two MIA whiteys.

After Larry took the boys back, Leighton told me how he really felt about Larry. We were basically on the same page. I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one feeling this way, even though I knew my team members were also frustrated. Then Mr. Johnson kept trying to convince me to be "his waitress" and I kept trying to change the conversation.

On the way home we got another flat tire. The great thing about being with locals, though, is that they know everybody! The first car that pulled up instantly recognized Jennifer and gave us their spare. We were one life-threatening car trip away from home.

That night, Rachel and I went down to the shop for one final farewell. We took pictures with all the kids and indulged ourselves in Red Stripe Lights, which you can't find in the U.S. Later in the night, the younger guys in town showed up and we talked them into teaching us how to play dominoes. The first time I played with a coach, I won! When I played by myself, I lost a lot. I finally won a game, but I think the guys let me win. I didn't care, though. They were incredibly nice...they made sure to blow the smoke from their weed in the opposite direction.

That night, as I felt asleep with the rain dripping on my toes in my cot, I said a thank you prayer to God for letting me meet these people and spend time in Jamaica. It was an adventure, and not always the most fun. But meeting the Jamaicans, especially the children, really helped me gain perspective on my general daily outlook.

We are so lucky in this country. Not only do we have every opportunity at our fingertips, but we often take them for granted. I spent a week around toddlers who never once had a tantrum or needed a nap...children with a handful of clothing and one pair of shoes...babies with ringworm in their legs and open wounds from machete accidents. And not a one of them complained.

I feel asleep to the sound of Jamaican June bugs, and woke for the last time to the sound of our neighborhood rooster. It was time to go home.


emilysuze said...

What are Red Strip Lights? My mind is in the gutter on what it might be. :)

The Working Girl said...

Oh crap! I meant, Red Stripe Light, which is light beer. Hooray beer!

I'll have to fix that typo :)