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When I was in the third grade, my family and I were living abroad in Jamaica. Moving wasn’t a new experience for this well-traveled grade-schooler. My Dad did, and continues, to work in the hospitality industry.
At one point, we were moving every couple of years. However, moving to an island would prove to be a different experience entirely.
Of all the places I have lived, this one brings the most questions. Unfortunately, my memory is faulty, and I struggle to remember what happened 5 years ago, let alone decades ago.
But this is what I do remember……
School was tough.
At that point, Jamaica didn’t have public schools, so if you wanted an education, your parents had to pay for private school. I was average in American but below average in Jamaica. I was pushed back a grade. It was awkward, and there was ugly crying.
I had a hard time making friends. One day, my Dad came to pick me up and found me alone under a tree because none of the kids wanted to play with me. Shortly after, I moved to another school. I was able to make friends, but my teacher was not a friend.
I remember raising my hand to ask a question and being ridiculed by the teacher. She encouraged other students to join. To this day, trembling anxiety takes over when I have to ask a question in front of a large group of humans. I still ask, anxiety be damned, because I’m a park ranger, and being an extrovert is my job, but that has yet to change a racing heart and trembling hand.
Not once but twice, I caught ringworm. It is hard to say how I got it, but my school didn’t have running water in the bathrooms, which is a good indication of where I picked up my fungal friend.
It wasn’t all diseases and disasters.
I remember having a pet fish that I fed from the balcony of our apartment. I remember being able to walk to a private beach where my brother and I were greeted by azure waves and salty urchins.
Most importantly, I remember the kindness of the locals as they taught me the secret island handshake of one love, one heart, and one destiny. I was too young to understand the underlying message, but I understood that they were offering love.
And the dancing! Every weekend we stuffed ourselves with delicious treats (and Ting!) and danced to the beat of the drums. It was at this age that dancing became a part of my identity. I learned that dancing was a way to let your mind rest and let your body does the talking.
Waves of Change
Living abroad in Jamaica was very different from my typical expeditions, but with each challenge that was hurled my way, I have a warm memory right alongside it.
At least, that’s what I gurgles up from the memory banks when people ask, “You lived in Jamaica?!”