At 8:43pm Central Time last evening, my reasons for peace-ing out on my engineering job, leaving Seattle, and starting this grand three-year experiment were unequivocally fulfilled.
I and three of my classmates are here in Jamaica working with the Blue Mountain Project, a nonprofit organization based in Hagley Gap. If I were to describe the conditions in HG as such, it would either freak you out like woah or get you excited about the purely rustic nature of the place. Shannon and I spent a week up in the mountains while our other teammates were here a few months back to provide some basic groundbreaking prior to our follow-up. Basically, we hope to create a long-term relationship between BMP and Ross, ultimately sending a team here every year to consider new sustainable business opportunities for the region.
I could really go into a whole ton of information on the community right now, but my time on Le Internets is limited. Onto the prologue:
We made our nightly hike up the hill to Hagley Gap Square — a small area consisting of several shops and bars and numerous locals — where the Baptist church was out, in full force, preaching to the citizens. After stopping by Buru’s shop for a Guinness, we ran into Papi, a 19 year-old more interested in hearing what was on the music shop’s playlist than the redemptive words being repeated ad nauseum by the local preacher. We made our way over to the shop when Juke, one of the town’s more respected young Rastafarians, motioned to me as I passed by. I knew he was addressing me by the tone of voice (friendly) and words used (“Hey, Whitey!”). We were told early in our visit that “Whitey” was actually a term used because not many others were around to answer to such a name.
Juke estimates his age to be around 35 but he speaks with the knowledge of someone twice that. He’s been an amabassador for UN Global Volunteers and a village advisor. Yet outside of his village, the respect he receives, either through ages of prejudice or lack of…who knows, is waning. So when we began our discussion and he recognized my field of study, we talked, you know, business.
And dare I say it, but I tried REALLY hard to stay focused as he described his current assets (farmland) and his business plans (trading high-quality coffee on an independent market). But it wasn’t so easy, because I was trying my hardest not to grab and shake the guy, look him in the eye, and say “Juke! THIS is why I quit my job!! I’ve been dreaming of this day for years!!!”
Minutes later, I called my parents as I looked across the valleys surrounding Hagley Gap. Mount Charles’ streetlights — all five of them — glistened on the mountainside kilometers away, and the vast expanse of stars opened themselves for viewing above. As the preaching slowly reduced in volume and the humming of Reggae began to permeate the air, I shared my excitement with Mom and Dad. “Son, we’re proud of you,” my father responded. “It’ll be good to have you back home.”
Yes. It WILL be good to return home and share these stories with friends and loved ones. But I will not forget this place, this humble Gap, where this brief chapter in my life came full circle.