The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jamaica Blog #2 – The Great Huts

The Great Huts was our second and most adventurous destination. After leaving the resort in Ocho Rios, we traveled east along the coast to Port Antonio on bumpy, winding, hilly and unpredictable roads. Once arriving we were given time to settle in and explore. Amanda and I wandered down to the beach where we found a Rasta named Ray-I. He was standing by the things he made to sell and, ganja in mouth, began telling us that he was glad we were here to join in his love and that Rastafari would never leave us and we will always be protected. Learning more about Rastafarianism was something I was excited for and meeting Rasta Ray-I was a great way to get a little more into that inner circle. We finished the night with our first trip to the bar down the road and dinner at the huts.
Yesterday (Sunday) was my favorite day so far of the trip. After breakfast, Dr. Egan took Isaac, Katie and I to a church up the road. This was another thing that I was interested in learning about because religion is something that I enjoy learning about and it has played a large role in my personal life. It was a tiny church with very few people, but their faith exceeded their numbers greatly. At the beginning of the service, a young women went to the front and was being prayed over. It was difficult to follow, especially without a bulletin, so we were not sure what was going on but it was very powerful to witness the intensity of what was happening. Most interesting to me was when the church leader announced that it was time to pray and everyone began voicing their personal prayers. Not only were the members opening themselves up greatly and showing their faith by doing so, one woman began speaking in tongues which was fascinating to hear. The experience was great overall but unfortunately we needed to leave before the service was over.
Soon after church, we took another bumpy, swervy, scary ride to Reach Falls. Upon arrival it was impossible to ignore the indescribable beauty of the falls. We were told we were going on a “tour” so followed a man that worked there. We followed him walking and swimming upstream through brooks/the flowing water going to the waterfall, across rocks, through some trees then into an underwater cave which we had to swim underwater to get out of. After we walked back down but I, as well as many others in the group, decided not to take the stairs and to take a short cut straight off the top of the waterfall. This was an absolutely amazing experience. Since I have four of my sorority sisters on this trip and there are one or two others from every other sorority except one, many of us have experienced the bonding that occurs during pledging. We discussed how the strength of the group made the experience what it was. Not being able to swim, I would not have been able to get through without Tara pulling me through some rough currents, Julia helping me on and off of rocks and everyone else’s cheering and support. We overcame some crazy stuff together and because of that experience the group was able to get a feel for some authentic Jamaican “oneness”.
After Reach Falls, we came back to the huts and went down the street for dinner. After dinner Isaac, Tyler and I followed Dr. Egan across the street to a bar played dominos for about four hours with locals. The people were incredibly welcoming and excited to see us which made interacting with them absolutely wonderful. Even though I just learned how to play dominos on the first day of the trip, I officially earned a Jamaican name… “hard woman” and “hard sister,”way better than “white girl.” Even though all we were doing was playing a game, I felt like I was learning so much about the culture and people of Jamaica, especially when the boys left and it was just me and three Jamaican men playing. I had a great time joking around with them, one guy particularly, which was amazing. I was even able to fire back with a witty Jamaican reference when one of the guys was teasing me about how I was playing during one game which I was very proud of. It was such a great experience.
Today (Monday) was another interesting day. We started the day at the Port Antonio market. Julia and I got left behind and struggled to find the group, but luckily the locals knew to point us in the direction of the white outsiders even when we did not ask where they went. We must have looked really confused. We eventually found the group with the help of a man familiar with the area, and were able to look around a bit. I wish I would have been able to spend more time there because it was interesting to get to see some Jamaican daily life and I spent half the time we were there trying to find the group. After the market we went to Frenchman’s cove which is a beautiful beach with a connecting freshwater river to the ocean. We then traveled to another beautiful cove, Blue Lagoon, which is, as the name implies, extremely blue. While most of the group swam to the other side of the 250 feet deep lagoon, I stayed back and watched as everyone swung from a rope into the water on the other side. We went to a lovely restaurant called Anna Banana’s for dinner and then came back to the huts. I went with Dr. Egan down to the beach where we were able to see absolutely beautiful stars without the pollution of Chicago or the lights of the city. Then I was pleased to be able to play more dominos at the bar and be able to talk with more locals.
As of today (Monday) I have almost 400 pictures on my camera. Everything here is so beautiful and/or so interesting so I just keep snapping photos. Even though the free food and excellent service and the activities at the resort was great and the room was way more comfortable than my hut, nothing can compare to being submerged in such a rich culture with such great people. I am ready to be able to sleep in a bed without a mosquito net with holes in it and be able to see when the sun is not shining directly in thanks to electricity, but I am most excited to be able to start working with the children in Kingston. The trip there is apparently going to be nerve-wracking, but after going through what we did at Reach Falls, I am confident that we can do anything as a group. “Love, peace, unity, respect.”

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