The worldwide Augustana College experience

Runaway Reggae and Dominoes

I write this sitting on a smooth piece of driftwood, shaded by a palm tree. Cool white sand is between my toes, and the warm Caribbean Sea gently rolls in and out a distance of 20 bare feet away. The water is clear and dressed in a hundred shades of blue.

We’re on the luxurious leg of the trip, being pampered at an all-inclusive resort in Runaway Bay on Jamaica’s north coast. The Augie students, not surprisingly, seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. A snorkeling excursion is planned, the volleyball has been batted about the net, and we’ve bathed in the sun and the water.

The geography of Jamaica enables the natural beauty tourists crave, but each of us knows that our carefree experience at this resort is the polar opposite of the lived experiences of most Jamaicans both presently and historically. The very name of our current location, Runaway Bay, is a reminder of the long history of European colonization of this island. The indigenous Taino people lived on this island when the Spanish conquered and enslaved them. The British later fought Spain for control of the island, with the final naval battle occurring in the waters I’m enjoying now. Britain won and the Spanish “ran away” from this bay. Britain continued the institution of slavery, shipping in human cargo from Africa as the indigenous people were now depleted.

The Augie students, aware of this history, are definitely making their professors proud and earning their Augie “Global Diversity” (G) suffix. As much as they are enjoying this current luxury, they are already eager to get away from the gated and guarded bounds of the resort to seek more authentic engagement with real Jamaicans in settings intended for the public. Tyler, Isaac, and I recently returned from a mini excursion further down the bay to a public beach. We listened to reggae music blasting from tall stacks of speakers and played cutthroat dominoes with two new Jamaican acquaintances, Jessie and Old Dog.

Perhaps this will be our first step in moving away from the common tourist experience and toward experiencing more of the everyday life of our host country. Our final (and I believe most meaningful) step will occur in Kingston when we get to teach at the Alpha schools.

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