Geographically speaking, I didn’t go anywhere. At 180 miles away from my hometown, I am closer to my family now than I was when I went to college. I’m in the same time zone, with the same flora and fauna, and the same tropical climate. Even the color of the water is the same – that crystal blue that’s so clear you can see straight down to the bottom…
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that while my fellow volunteers are fawning over sandy beaches and discovering the joys of year-round tank tops, I’m sitting over here, nodding my head and saying, “Been there. Done that.”
It should also be a no-brainer that when asked where in Jamaica I’d rather live, I replied with, “The mountains.”
So the Placement Gods got it right this time, and stuck a city slickin’ beach bum in a rural community, deep in the heart of the Blue Mountains. At 2,000 feet elevation, with the clouds on a gloomy day settling in around me, I am as far from my norm as I could possibly be. More to my delight, while other volunteers were growing accustomed to a winter without snow, I was gifted with a brief reprieve from 80-90 degree weather.
I remember the first time I drove to Cedar Valley. I was about halfway up the mountain when I realized the air outside the vehicle had changed. It was thinner, and even in May, had a slight nip to it. Later that evening, I curiously stepped outside to feel the temperature. The night was brisk, and instantly, goosebumps rose on my flesh. I knew, in that instant, that I would experience a winter.
But allow me to digress a moment, and bring you back to my college years, when I attended a university in New York. I’d never experienced a winter before, and after four years of “seasons,” I was very much through with that nonsense. I yearned for my sunny home state and the ability to only require a sweater when seeing a movie.
So why, for crying out loud, did the idea of winter in Cedar Valley excite me so much??
Answer: It was the summer without A/C that did it for me.
I couldn’t wait for the excuse to wear long-sleeve shirts and sleep under a thick comforter. Or to snuggle up in a big sweater and baggy sweatpants with a mug of hot cocoa. At school, the wind blew through the valley and into my concrete classroom, where I shivered and some days felt my helpless fingers grow numb.
“Numb? What? Come on, now. It’s not like it was snowing or anything.”
No, but spend your life in the land of eternal sunshine and even sixty degrees feels like Antarctica.
And I loved it!! I was reminded again of how good it feels to sit in the sunshine and bask in its warmth, rather than spend day after day trying to escape it. I enjoyed walking to school in the morning, and not arriving a hot sweaty mess. I could actually wear my hair down. And the view from my rose-tinted window (aka: facebook) allowed me a chance to be thankful I was in Jamaica, and not in New York.
But the joy was short lived. Eight weeks later, and it’s summer again. Away goes my comforter. No more sweaters or baggy sweatpants; instead I just get sweat. My hair has returned to its permanent ponytail state. Before I know it, it will be that time of the year when your only option is to camp out in front of your fan.
On the plus side, I’ll welcome the cold showers again.