Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Trip to Remember

February 19th, 2014

This trip has definitely been an eye-opening and enriching adventure so far. My roles as the iLEAD Liaison and as a research assistant for an Eco-tourism study have proven to be invaluable experiences thus far. The faculty advisers Dr. Natalya Brown, Dr. Linda Piper, and Dr. Manuel Litalien have all been really supportive and have been excellent supervisors to their respective groups, by overseeing a solid balance of both work and play for the students. 

PRM group meeting at Great Huts
Everyone has clearly established objectives in place and are expected to spend a significant portion of their days doing work but there is also time available for students to plan excursions of their own, spend time at the beach, or to go explore the local city markets in the off-time.
PRM group interviewing Mr. Florea
Group photo at the PRM Centre
Bright and early this morning, I hopped in a cab and joined the Portland Rehabilitation Management group. Along the way, we stopped in at a local supermarket to buy some goods and care items from our pool of money to donate to the shelter. We ended up buying roughly $2,200 JAM ($22 USD) worth of stuff and gave the remainder of approximately $1,000 JAM ($10 USD) as a cash donation to the center. It was truly amazing to see how much buying power we have and the amount of stuff we were able to buy. After delivering the package, we went to work by conducting research and running an interview of Mr. Florea, a board member of the center, to investigate critical issues such as the board structure, administrative procedures/policies, and overall business operations of the center.

Jamaican man in the market
Before going on this trip, I didn't know really what to expect of Jamaica. All I knew was that I was traveling away from the cold and going to a place where Bob Marley was king and the weather was nice. One of my goals going into the trip was to try and immerse myself in the culture and to speak with locals to get a better understanding of what the real Jamaica is all about - away from the shield of an all-inclusive resort. After several interactions with the locals, I have found it to be incredibly refreshing how friendly, compassionate, and expressive the Jamaican people are. You can be walking down the street or even just traveling through a city street by car and you'll often be greeted by a friendly smile and a kind expression from a person welcoming you to Jamaica. There really is a strong feeling that Jamaicans treat tourists like family here, and I think it is largely due to how dependent the country is on the tourism industry and the fact that there are very strong Christian roots here. One of the other big surprises for me is how Westernized Jamaica is. A significant portion of the population wears North American-styled clothing, much of the music played are songs that are quite popular back home and everyone seems to be very fluent in the English language.
Jamaican security guard hard at work
Sharing stories

At the Great Huts resort, Alex and I had the pleasure of exchanging stories with a security guard while he was enjoying the view of the sea from the comfort of a hammock. I guess everyone likes to relax once in a while, right? It turns out that he had quite a lot of the same interests as me and taught me a lot about the fishing and hunting traditions of Jamaica as well as several other fascinating topics on the Jamaican way of life. One of the interesting things he told me was that the strong wild deer population on the East coast of the country was all started with the introduction of just three deer to the island several decades back. I was able to share with him stories of my camping and fishing experiences as well. It was hilarious seeing his amazement and mind being blown when Alex and I told him of the size that moose can get to and how our weather is so cold that we can go ice fishing on our frozen lakes. I definitely look forward to talking to some more Jamaicans and learning more about their unique backgrounds.

Overall, this trip has been a blast so far and there will surely be more adventures ahead! Be sure to continue to follow this blog to keep updated on everything that we're up to!