Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
I just returned from a trip to Jamaica with my family. I always enjoy visiting other cultures. They help both as a way to open me up to new ways of looking at things, while at the same time serving as a mirror for my own culture. When I travel, I like spending time with the local people, seeing their country through their eyes instead of the staying at resorts designed to make me feel at home. I want to be pushed outside of my comfort zone because that’s how I learn. This trip to Jamaica was particularly special because we were going with my Aunt Michelle and her mom who were both born there. They were really excited to show us their birthplace.
I remember my former colleague, Jeanette, telling me that Canadians were very reserved. Jamaicans are the opposite. As a researcher of community, I was particularly interested in how Jamaicans experienced community. What I found was that, in general, they experience it with a higher degree of intensity than us, Canadians. This means all the emotions attached to community seem to be magnified compared to what I am used to seeing. This can be both positive and negative.
We flew into Montego Bay and from there, took a bus through the mountains to Kingston. The trip was very treacherous with narrow roads and steep turns. There was a buzz of chatter on much of the trip; I was amazed by the laughter that seemed to bubble up both in front and behind me. Half way through the trip, the sharp turns got to my aunt and she unexpectedly threw up. Immediately, the bus pulled over and several of the women sitting at the front came over to help. They assisted my aunt by cleaning up her clothes, rubbing her back and speaking encouragingly to her. Another woman came rushing past me with a package of gravel in her hands to help with the carsickness. It was an outpouring of compassion, empathy and support for a stranger that I could not imagine occurring in Canada.
In Canada, we tend to mask or moderate our emotions. I felt that in Jamaica they seemed to boil much closer to the surface.
There is no doubt that Jamaica has a much slower pace than Canada- my mom talked about how inefficient everything seemed to be. The flip side of this, though, was they made more time to be in relationship with each other.
I noticed the idea of family was much looser. At my Aunt’s step-dad's funeral, I learned that his family was the coming together of three different families. There were the kids from his first marriage, another child who had been born out of wedlock and the most recent marriage to my Aunt’s mother. Through this, all three families had been woven together to form a new family with each looking out for the other.
Family also played a more prominent role in people’s lives. On my second last day, we spent the day with a man named Charlie on his boat. We quickly learned that we would be sharing this boat with his wife, son, two nieces, brother and friend of the family. After an incredible day, Charlie invited us all to come and visit his house later that week for dinner. Unfortunately, I missed this because I had to return early but I heard my family had a blast.
In summary, community and in particular family is far more central I found in Jamaica. This may lead to a slower pace and greater inefficacy, but ultimately, what is really important in life?