​Carry me, brudda

As a category 4- temporarily category 5- hurricane spirals towards Jamaica, forcing my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I to consolidate in Kingston while leaving our host families behind, that clichéd expression slips into my brain, “I never thought this would happen to us.” 

But it is happening. Walking down my goat path, rain splattering the bottom half of my cotton maxi dress and further ruining my leather sandals, I turn to look at my house. Thinking of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, I don’t linger, but turn my head as my brow furrows in anxiety, and tears well up on my rain soaked face. I’ve been away from my family for two weeks, returned for twelve hours to give out hugs and gifts from faarin*, and tell them to prepare, to get water and food, and stay safe and be safe and so many other things I can’t think of in that moment I hug them. “This can’t be the last time we see each other,” is my last thought as we embrace.

A stormy St. Andrew

Waiting for a taxi while pre-hurricane storms stream down outside the shop, I realize I’ve missed the taxi I’d planned to take. Thirty minutes later, Sam** pulls up in his pickup truck, asking, “You wanna go down?” I pull open the door and jump in, remembering his face, but not his name. I want to ask why he didn’t offer a space in the back of his truck (it’s a 4-seater) to the other man waiting to go into town, but realize it’s entirely not my place.

We drive down the mountain as rain continues to pound the truck and the tires thud into the road’s many potholes, my butt becoming airborne every time. Our conversation turns to infrastructure and how I could go about attempting to fix these country roads. Sam speaks with passionately acerbic energy about Jamaica’s government and people, and how things will never change despite a passive desire for improvement. I think, “But he hasn’t met my host family”.

A man with an umbrella tilted up slightly by the wind’s strengthening blows calls out to Sam, “Carry me, brudda” ***, asking for a lift downtown. Sam replies that he has to get into town, that he has no space for this soaked Jamaican. I realize this is the second time I’ve seen Sam refuse passage to a needy soul.

As Sam continues to rage on about the government and its failing economic policies, I notice a rainbow winking at me as it rises up from the valley below. I smile automatically, thinking of a rainbow’s biblical origins in stormy times, and its more secular meaning nowadays, of pots of gold and hope.

A double rainbow, caught by fellow PCV & friend, Lindell Reust

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I’m told by the media that means I should be some bleeding heart liberal, well-meaning and hard-working, but with misplaced idealism in a world that continues to batter and roar against myriad injustices. But I don’t see that; I don’t see some chimerical rainbow leading to a disappearing pot of gold, but a blaze of lights driving me to do good (and do it well😉 .

I see my fellow Volunteers who inspire me every day, as they teach children how to play American football, cut down their first plantain, and say “Mornin’” to literally everyone pon di road.**** I see Hurricane Matthew barreling towards my new home, and though some, like Sam, may doubt Jamaica’s compassion, I don’t see that. 

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

So in the face of a literal or figurative storm, when you ask me to carry you, I will not turn away. I will carry you when the winds blow so hard you feel your feet slipping away, because someone has always been there to catch me when I start to fall.
*from foreign, abroad

**not his real name


****on the road

White Privilege in Jamaica



Taxi View of the Blue Mountains

Looking at the near-empty bus, I knew I would have to wait at least thirty minutes, probably an hour, before it started its engine and slowly rolled out of the Country Bus Park. To my right, I saw another bus just about to pull out. As I looked at its dokta*, hands on the wheel about to ease his left foot off the clutch, I stepped in line to get on the slow-filling bus.


“Eh, eh, miss, room up here!” the dokta yelled to me from his near-moving vehicle. The loada** of the bus I was waiting in line for ushered me up to the adjacent bus in a seat facing the back, the gear shift centimeters from my butt. The dokta smiled at me, turned to the loada, then grinned and said how lucky he was to have me next to him. Flashing him my, “You’re gross, but I don’t feel like getting into that”*** smile, eyebrows raised in annoyance, I nodded. Despite the pervy driver, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to get on that bus, saving myself an hour of sweating in the stationary sauna parked beside us. Continue reading

beauty is dirt caked fingernails

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Beauty is fleeting.”

Red lips pouting at me from the mirror, highlighter catching the fluorescent light and making my cheekbones shimmer subtly, a highly arched eyebrow raised in scrutiny, I gave myself the once-over, attempting to leave no detail unnoticed.

Growing up in a world where beauty is often touted as the ultimate achievement, especially for women, I find it difficult not to care about what I look like, at least to a certain point.

Fortunately, there’s a different narrative.


Red-ripe Tomatoes…Guess who’s makin’ pizza Friday?!

Continue reading

The Blinking Cursor


Clouds reflected among the lily pads of the Black River

As I stepped out into the Blue Mountain fog, my brain whizzed with thoughts as I tried to sort them, its murkiness reflected in the view before me.

On the tough days of my Peace Corps service- the lows, the thorns, the troughs- I have to force myself to act like I normally would, miming my optimistic behaviors in an effort to recreate that conquer-the-world state. But I don’t always succeed. Not all roads lead to a happy ending; not every blog post resolves the problems I sought to unknot as I sat down to the tapping of my fingers, relaying the thoughts I didn’t know I had until they materialize in a Word 2013 document in front of me. Continue reading

Weh ya seh?

Back to Africa Miss Matty?
Yuh noh know wha yuh day-sey?
Yuh haffe come from some weh fus,
Before yuh go back deh?

Wat a debil of a bump-an-bore,
Rig-jig an palam-pam!
Ef de whole worl’ start fe go back
Weh dem great granpa come from!

Go a foreign, seek yuh fortune,
But noh tell nobody sey
Yuh dah-go fe seek yuh homeland
For a right deh so yuh deh!

~”Back to Africa”, Jamaica Labrish, by Louise Bennett


A couple of years ago, at a family reunion, I told my aunt that my brother saw the world through music, and I saw it through words. I have since moved frum faarin to Jamaica, where every day, I find that new words open up new ways of thinking. Continue reading

Falling into Rhythm


Running pon di road

Each time my foot pushes into the ground, propelling me further down the road, my breath comes a little bit quicker, heavier, wilder. Afterwards, I wonder how it is that I managed to bounce around the potholes, fly down the hills and trod back up them; I’m not a runner so finding my pace takes time.

When I imagined myself in the Peace Corps, I pictured an integrated me, hungry after working all day in the field with local farmers, wiping sweat from my forehead as I rubbed my clothes clean watching as other women did the same, teaching a class how to improve their crop yield with biodynamic farming. This image, one of hard work and success, ignored a necessary step: figuring out how to fit in. Continue reading

Each Day, One Difference, One Person: My Manifesto

When I woke up this morning, stretching and daydreaming of the pancakes I would later make, I thought to myself, “This day is for me. I’m going to do what I want.”

About an hour later, a good friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer called me crying. As a Floridian, she was worried about her friends, especially those she couldn’t reach. No one expects such carnage to happen in her backyard; this shock mingles with a helplessness that makes you wish you could be there to do something, to help in some way, while the other half of your brain tells you there’s no difference you could possibly make.

While washing dishes, I thought about my own responses to these tragedies. Terror, anger, and despair rush through my veins in waves of intense emotion, muddying my thoughts as I try to make sense of them. The problem is that there is no sense in actions of deep-seated hate, such as in the attacks in Orlando. So how should I respond? What should I do? What can I do, if anything? Continue reading

Pon di Oustop


The Eastern View, Blue Mountains

Around dusk at my new home, I climb pon di oustop* to see Kingston turn on her lights as the dimming sun shoots pink, purple, and peach across the sky. Kingston begins to sparkle like a diamond that catches the sun’s rays and refracts them to all eyes watching, reminding me of colder nights spent crick-necked with crêpe in hand as I stared up at the Eiffel Tower glittering in the City of Lights.

It’s a funny thing, to be reminded of the past by a shimmer, a passing breeze, or a scent. But what is a human if not an amalgamation of senses, emotions, and reflections? Continue reading

Set Me Up


When I moved to Jamaica, I learned about Nine Nights- Jamaica’s funerary ritual- and the Setup, a Jamaican party during the Nine Nights after someone has died; revelers dance, drink, eat, and celebrate the life of the deceased. Unsurprisingly, after hearing all about these nights and a party Setup, I wanted to experience it, to dance to music meant to draw everyone together in a celebration of life, memory, and community.

One full moonlit night around 9 pm, we set out for a Setup. We arrived far too early, before the band had even arrived for their sound check, so we went to one of our community’s main squares to pass the time. I could hear the thump of the bass and smell the heady aroma of smoke before we saw the Barber Shop. As soon as I saw it, I remembered how the previous Peace Corps Volunteer had mentioned going there to get various designs shaved on her head. We had some time, so my next thought was, “how much?” Continue reading