twenty-one years ago this month i traveled to jamaica for the first of seven service trips. i intended to write something last year to commemorate the twentieth anniversary, and then with everything else going on at the time it didn’t happen. but it’s been on my mind a lot this year, and i knew it was time to get some of my thoughts out of my head.
the last time i wrote at length about my jamaica trips was in 2014, but it always pops into my head around this time each year. i can still remember so many parts of that first trip like it was yesterday. the first time i saw patrick in his crib and spent the day soothing him and making sure he had his bottle. chasing bob and bobby all around ferry. talking with jabbo while he whittled carvings for all of us. the joy we all felt when kelly was born [she is 21 this year which is definitely fueling a lot of this nostalgia]. dance parties in the community center with junior. pulling biscuit around in her car for hours on end. having long discussions deep into the night with the others on the trip with me.
and because that first trip was so impactful, i went back. again and again, every summer through six more trips. it was a different group each year, but no matter whether we knew each other or not at the beginning we left that trip bonded by shared experiences and memories.
the jamaica trip isn’t a typical mission / voluntourism trip. there is no religious aspect to the trip, for starters. and while the group members may change, the relationships continue. the bonds built in the community of ferry have been fostered over nearly 25 years, and today some of those kiddos i met as toddlers are the first in their families to go to college thanks in large part to the funds the group raises every year and the advocacy they do. even though it’s been 16 years since my last visit, i continue to get updates every year from joli on how my friends are doing and what the latest news is.
and even though it’s been 16 years, i still remember those trips as if they were yesterday. i remember the anticipation of the flights, the greeting with roy at the airport, the nerves and excitement melding together. i remember the shrieks of joy, the tears that were shed, the feeling of hopelessness that sometimes overtook us. i remember spending hours stringing together friendship bracelets and necklaces, going back to our accommodation with cramped fingers and glitter in all sorts of weird places. i remember the field trips and the squeals as the kids saw the ocean for the first time. i remember sister grace and sister cecilia and all they did for our groups over the years. i remember where i was when joli called to tell me we’d lost junior. i remember the birthday celebrations and baby showers. i remember how hard it was to leave, every time, and the adjustment period once i returned home. and most of all, i remember how much each of those trips impacted me and the choices i have made in the years since.
i will always dream of returning one day, of going back and meeting my kids as adults and getting to know them all over again. i hope they know that even though it’s been so many years, our hearts will always be bound to one another.
“someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, what have you done with your life? & though there are many moments i think i will remember, in the end, i will be proud to say, i was one of us.
one love xx