My calendar reminds me that there is a holiday today; a day to give thanks. But as I wake up to the early sun streaming through my window and the choruses of the children beginning their school day (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this but we live in an apartment over a school, aka no need for an alarm clock), it’s another Thursday in Jamaica. Another Thursday in paradise, in poverty, in my new home, in this foreign place.
The funny thing is I’m reminded each and every day of all of the things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family that is so incredibly supportive of my dreams and endeavors, who lift my spirits when I find those days when it’s difficult to carry on, and who simply continue to love me through it all. I’m thankful for my other family; my friends, over the ocean and in my home here; those life-giving souls and kindred spirits who offer understanding, laughs, compassion and love.
I’m thankful for the roof over my head that doesn’t leak, I’m thankful for my bed that’s raised off the floor so that I’m not sleeping with the cockroaches, I’M THANKFUL FOR MY MOSQUITO NET, for my health, for the education I’ve been blessed with, for the smiles that greet me at Basic School, the spontaneous shouts of “I love you auntie Katie,” for Daquain and Joshawn when they actually wrangle the patience to practice sounding out the words, for the moments when I don’t have 17 5-year-olds fighting over the only eraser in the classroom, for the walks into Albion Gully, for endless miles of bush, tall mountains and bright shining sun that bring me such serenity, for the moments when Romario and Akeem complain of being bored only to hear squeals of laughter as I watch them amuse themselves with a wheelbarrow with one wheel and a big hill.
I’m thankful for the infirmary and Tika’s hugs that normally figuratively, but yesterday quite literally, knocked me over. I’m thankful for spending an hour talking with Trevor as through his stammer he was able to ask me how my family is doing and smiled the whole while, for Rasta Brooks constant stream of wisdom and encouragement, I’m thankful for health insurance and for the sanitary living conditions I have always been blessed with, I’m thankful that Ms. Golden was okay after the seizure she experienced right in front of me. I’m thankful I was raised in an environment in which mental illness is widely accepted and treated with compassion and understanding rather than brushed under the rug.
I’m thankful for the red mud that does not wash out of my jeans but rather serves as a reminder of the gift of this earth, for the smell of laundry when it dries in the sun, for the nights we lose power and run outside to look at the stars and spend time together as a community, for our spirituality nights, for my roommates who double as phenomenal cooks and keep me from starving here.
I’m even thankful for the crowded taxis and the rude drivers because they take me to the people and places I’m privileged to spend my days with.
Amongst the poverty, the sadness, the deplorable living conditions, the questionable quality of life, the challenges and the struggles… these moments that I’m thankful for are the ones that overshadow it all. These are the ones that make waking up every morning here worth it. These are the ones worth living for.