12 Days of Gratitude: Day 8

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln

August

If the year were a week, August would definitely be hump day. The end of the year is in sight, and though your rational mind is telling you to “live in the present” and “enjoy the now,” you’re stuck wishing that time would speed up.

In Jamaica, August is hot and quiet. Lots of Jamaicans go abroad, school is closed, and everything seems to settle down for a pre-back-to-school nap. Even the Peace Corps Office was quiet.

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I am grateful for moments like these that broke me out of the sleepy Jamaican summer haze. A new friend and I stumbled upon these Rastas, singing, chanting and raising the Ethiopian flag across the street from an Independence Day event in Kingston. For me, seeing our flag here is a reminder that we are all connected. Rastafarians interact with Ethiopian culture in a way that is very new to me; their interpretation of Ethiopian history and the greatness of Emperor Haile Selassie have led me to new questions about my heritage and a newfound desire to keep learning.

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I visited another PCV for my first “official” site visit as a pseudo-staff member. It wasn’t until I got there that I fully realized just how much I needed to reconnect with rural Jamaica. We swam in the river across the road from her home and chatted with her strong host mother about why all women should know how to farm and have basic construction skills. Being back in the countryside pulled back a curtain. Woven thick with smog, fancy grocery stores and air conditioning, I didn’t realize until then just how quickly I had drifted away behind that curtain of city life and self-importance. For moments that remind me to be humble, I am grateful.

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These photos remind me of a few things. My friend Melissa, pictured above playing the tambourine, is a motivated, creative, seemingly tireless source of ideas and energy. In August I got to spend quite a bit of time with her and talking with her. Earlier this year, I blogged about Camp GLOW and how PCVs in Jamaica managed to finally bring the Girls’ Empowerment Camp to Jamaica. Melissa was the driving force behind the camp and she did it with style. Being around people with such powerful creative energy is inspiring in the most contagious way. I’m grateful for Mel and the vibes she brings. I am also grateful that I got to attend Camp GLOW in person.

I acted as photographer for the day (apologies for the quality of the photo above – the originals are on my work computer). August was also the month when I started serving as the unofficial Peace Corps Jamaica photographer, content and social media manager. Since then, I’ve been the voice of our Facebook and Instagram pages. Right now, I’m working with our Country Director and our unofficial Communications team (we all wear multiple hats) to write a media plan. I’m working with a group of PCVs to form a media working group to help create a platform for PCVs and their counterparts to share stories of their work and lives in Jamaica. Thinking back to the Blog it Home tour in DC in October 2015, this feels like coming full circle; I’m using what I’ve learned in these last several years of sharing my stories with you all and applying them the best way I know how. For opportunities like this one, I am grateful.

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