We all made it to Jamaica. Let me add that this is not a trip to a Sandals resort or one of the walled beach areas for tourists. We are lucky to see the real Jamaica, meet the people in their own environment, and learn how important having all of us buying dinner from the locals is on their local economy. I can't even describe it. After driving through remote villages/towns, down roads with people selling bananas, mangoes, etc., after seeing some very extreme poverty in rural Jamaica (but only from the road, not up close yet), I'm sitting in a tree house, listening to the ocean and the tree frogs, I'm soaked with sweat, and wondering if there is a creature walking on the floor...or worse, one of the 4-5 inch carnivorous centipedes, and wondering if the staff person will bring me a mosquito netting after all (which he did! Hooray for George!). I am thankful there is a fan in here, which will likely make sleeping more possible. The breezes coming in the windows (well, the openings in my hut) are stronger now which is wonderful.
The flights went fine and I was amazed at how quickly we got here. An hour to Atlanta and then another 2.5 hours to Jamaica. The wait at the airport took awhile, but I'm told it went fast for what usually happens. I finally put my contacts back in once in Montego Bay. I was tired of my glasses sliding down my face in the heat. We walked outside and I felt I might lose my breath with the heat and humidity. Thankfully, there are typically breezes, which makes the heat bearable. I know I'll forsake any attempt at make up, though, which is nice. Eric Wills, the Director, went over the itinerary and rules...I was very impressed at the organization. Tracy Wanamaker, my co-music therapy supervisor on this trip, told me she's been doing 3-4 miles on the treadmill each day to prepare for the hike. Am I going to die in the jungle?
The bus ride was actually pretty nice until about 3 hours in..then I was tired of talking, my legs hurt, and the roads got bumpy so I started to feel a little woozy. Mainly because the only thing I'd eaten was some trail mix I bought in Atlanta. I was sick with hunger, literally. That, and exhaustion. All the students looked worn out as well. We're all acclimating to the heat/humidity.
When we got here, and went to our huts, I realized that I have one lamp in the entire place, so I have my flashlight to get around and to try to find things in my bag. It was dark when we got here around 7:00 p.m. We're an hour BEHIND Indiana because while they are on Eastern Standard time, they don't observe Daylight Savings Time. And we're so close to the equator the sun is down early.
We walked up the road for dinner (in the dark because we all forgot to carry flashlights) and found candles lighting up a dining place. These local guys can see in the dimmest light. Eric said it is because electricity is SO expensive. He said his energy bill is ridiculous here. So there I sat, at this little bar counter place, eating jerk chicken off of foil with my fingers. It was awesome. I also had breadfruit and some type of bread. It was truly great. But I couldn't help but think I was dreaming the whole time.
Tomorrow is free time for the students to tour the area and the supervisors will visit the sites we will work in next week. I'll see the infirmary (one of the worst in the country in terms of conditions), the School of Hope (school for children with special needs, including hearing impairments), and the homeless shelter. The man who owns Great Huts where we are staying supports the homeless shelter.
At this point, I'm still learning what my role is with the students, how much I will need to implement myself in terms of music-based activities, etc. I am also trying to learn all the students' names. This is a large group of around 20-25 new people I need to get to know very quickly.
I am looking forward to it...and hoping I don't find a scorpion in my shower tomorrow morning! I promise to load pictures sometime tomorrow when it is daylight and I can take some of this beautiful place.