Oprah once said, “No gesture is too small when done with gratitude.” This month, I’m taking a page out of that queen’s book and reflecting on the year 2016 through a lens of gratitude. So what was I up to in March?
This is Ms. Taylor. Ms. Taylor taught Grade 4 at my school last year. We’re near the same age, and as a new teacher to our school that year, Ms. Tay brought a lot of positive energy with her. Yes, those are balloons on the wall for a language arts lesson. The Jamaican classroom can be a very challenging place to work, but she always came to school with fresh ideas and a willingness to try. Oh, and did I mention that she’s a single mom of two? On top of everything else, she always arrived looking fly as hell. She reenergized me and was a great friend to me. For my work bestie, Ms. Tay, I am grateful.
Ok, lots going on here. Why are we covered in paint? Well, it’s just what you do at Beach J’ouvert. We celebrated the end of the Carnival season in Jamaica at a giant beach paint party and danced the day away to soca music! Oh and that girl on the left who looks like she might actually be a green human? That’s Stacey. Stacey was the closest thing to a site mate that I had during service and she COS’d (closed her service) in 2015. Stacey came back to Jamaica and we got to spend the better part of a week together, revisiting her old stomping grounds and recounting great memories spent together. For good times and good friends, I am grateful.
If you didn’t catch on yet, Ashriell (aka “Rilly”) is going to be a regular feature in these reflections of gratitude. Here’s the little bundle of joy doing a three-legged dog yoga pose and forcefully petting Ari’s cat Elliott. So much gratitude for these memories.
Although I served as a literacy Volunteer, my job was definitely more broad-reaching than reading interventions and library time. Here are the Grade 6 girls helping to weed out our tire garden to get it ready for planting. This project wasn’t my greatest. It wasn’t as well planned and I wasn’t really sure what we were doing. But it meant that I got to spend time playing in the dirt with students outside of the classroom! This day was a particularly inspiring show of girl power. I was so grateful to see these girls give back to their school and finish their primary school careers strong.
In 2014, a lot of the female PCVs felt like we had been dealt a bad card. Coming from a country where women are independent and really can do many of the things men do without all of society demanding that women should stick to “ooman tings,” where the sexual harassment is not overt and widely accepted, the cultural adjustment to life in Jamaica can be really challenging. These two ladies, Danielle and Lynsey, were instrumental in starting EMPRESS – a women’s support group for female PCVs. They created a safe space where we could learn from and lean on each other as we learned to navigate Jamaican society as women. This photo was taken at our second-annual EMPRESS retreat in the Blue Mountains. Those couple of days were totally transformative for me. They came like a saving grace when I didn’t even realize that I was suffering. Rastas refer to strong, beautiful women as “Empresses.” I’m grateful to belong to this sisterhood of empresses, and especially grateful to these two for bringing us all together.