Serving in the Peace Corps is undoubtedly one of the weirdest things I’ve done, and that includes that time I slept in the Dublin airport because I was an idiot and missed my flight. The sheer diversity and heft of emotions that happen in a short amount of time is astounding (I’ve experienced loss, joy, and homesickness all in the space of a few minutes. Maybe not healthy?). The things I now consider “normal” would make your head spin (one of those being walking in on a friend’s host mom exorcising a demon from her friend. No. Big. Deal.). You should SEE the text messages we send each other. Frequent topics of discussion include the state of our gastrointestinal systems. Re-entering American society is going to be a challenge for some of us. Social graces = gone.
One of the strangest feelings that has come over me of late is feeling territorial. Jamaica confounds and frustrates me most days and Brown’s Town is not terribly friendly to white people but the most bizarre thing has started to happen.
Brown’s Town is definitely not a tourist destination, but it is on the North Coast and buses full of tourists (all white people) sometimes travel through to the Bob Marley Mausoleum in Nine Mile. I get a kick out of the whiteys rubbernecking to look at the random white girl walking on the rough road in Brown’s Town. I usually feel very superior to tourists. Stacey (PCV and fellow Brown’s Town resident) and I were at our parish 4-H Achievement Day and we saw a white girl that we didn’t know tagging along with one of the schools. I immediately bristled and wanted to know what on earth she was doing there. She didn’t appear to be a tourist and had that slightly dingy, grimy look of a volunteer of some kind, but STILL.
I also once saw a random white guy on public transportation, which is HIGHLY unusual. What does he think he’s doing? I was at the airport waiting for someone and a lady asked me if I was on the New York flight. I answered (unfairly) in a haughty tone that I lived here and no, I was not on the New York flight.
As much as I bitch and moan about Jamaica and how frustrating the culture can be, this is still MY Jamaica, who do you think you are trying to understand it? Silly tourist, you’ll never know the REAL Jamaica, never understand the hardships that Jamaicans go through and sometimes put me through. This feeling is especially hard because most people automatically think I’m a tourist and I want to scream at them when they do. It’s like I’ve lifted my proverbial leg and marked my territory. I lot of PCVs are experiencing this as well. Some don’t even like when new PCVs are placed near them. I’m not that bad, but I can see why they’d feel that way.
I don’t pretend to understand the storm of feelings that happen. Moving to a foreign country (even, maybe especially, a very tourist-y one) and being confronted with serious poverty and wildly ineffective government is naturally confusing and makes me think and inevitably changes my worldview. I have a tumultuous, love-hate relationship with this little rock in the Caribbean and I’ve still got a lot of learning and growing to do in the year I have left.