Today I am reminded of the 6 months that I lived in the mountains of Jamaica. I lived in the Parish of St. Catherine…more specifically in a location called Rosehill. My middle son was given Rosehill as his middle name as that is where he was conceived and his life began.
I bought a small sturdy house on “top mountain” from my husband’s grandfather for $500.00 American dollars. Our bedroom had a small door that lead out to the front porch. I could lay in bed and see the Caribbean Sea 30 miles away. I could also watch the huge rats traversing the rafters. We woke with the roosters as the sun came up and went to bed when the sun went down. The birds in the trees were like the ones that Americans keep in cages.
There was no running water. Only a cistern that captured the rain water. There was no electricity. We cooked over a fire. There were no glass or screens on the windows. We ate what was ripe from the bush. About once a month a man came through on a make-shift bike with an ice box on the back. He sold chicken back. Oh what a delicacy that was to add to a stew. There was a small “shop” in walking distance where we could buy flour and sugar wrapped in brown paper. Cigarettes were sold one at a time.
I was the first white person many had ever seen other than in magazines. The small children walking barefoot to school, and wearing a uniform, would call to me in the morning as I sipped tea on the front porch: “Good morning Miss Carol! Good morning, Whitey!” Two neighbor children would sit for hours in a small empty room in our house with a 3 foot high pile of ganja cleaning out the sticks and stems.
There were no doctors nearby. No transportation in Rosehill. If someone passed away they were buried in the family’s backyard. Sometimes there would be a number of graves in one yard covered a few feet high with cement. Family and friends would gather to visit and sit atop the cement graves.
I had brought my leather doctor bag packed with a sundry of the most basic supplies. As a Registered Nurse I was able to offer what care that I could to the sick and those with open wounds. Their gratitude was palpable.
Clearly the mosquitoes had never tasted white meat and they feasted on me as though I was the last source of food for them. On one occasion we traveled to Ocho Rios in search of a small motorcycle. We didn’t find a motorcycle but I was able to buy one can of “Off” for $15.00 Jamaican dollars. I felt like a Royal. I hadn’t seen another white person in months and there were no mirrors in our house. When I saw the tourists disembarking from a Cruise Ship I was shocked. I said to my husband: “Oh my God. White people are SO white!”
I could go on and on sharing the details from that chapter of my life. Mostly I just wanted to say that I have learned a great deal from the countless chapters of my life. Throughout my life I have made choices and been enriched by every mistake I’ve ever made. Today I refuse to live in fear and as they say in Jamaica: “Be of good courage.”