What I’m Grateful For Day #6: Growing Up In Jamaica

Although I love living in the United States now, I realize I was blessed to grow up in a third-world country where I was able to have many “back in the days” experiences for my age. We had to do many things by hand or foot, which makes me appreciative of how easy life can be these days. Just a few of those modern day conveniences that are often taken for granted include cars, cell phones, electronics and appliances of all sorts, supermarkets and pharmacies on practically every corner, and even the city bus that while varies by route, often comes by every 15 minutes to an hour.

I walked miles to get home from school on a daily basis rain or shine. Once in a while, if we were lucky enough, we would catch the bus, because our cousin was the driver and would stop if he saw us. You see, the bus probably only went each way once, and only stopped at a few locations. The times were not steady as it depended on a wide variety of things. There were only those buses, no dedicated buses for school-children, and sometimes they were packed to the brim!

I still remember the days when we had to pay per minute on house phones, and not everyone even had a house phone! And internet was just starting to come around so of course most people didn’t even have computers. We had to go to that thing called the library to complete school projects, and as such they were few and far between (maybe one per year?) and of course only for older children who could likely get to the library on their own. And these weren’t libraries with the internet either, we had to find actual books! LOL! I am still amazed that we can read books on the computer and complete entire research projects without even leaving the couch!

All the appliances that are available these days really make life easier. Sundays were dedicated to fried chicken and rice and peas, and for our rice and peas we needed coconut milk. And not the canned or bagged stuff, or even what you would make from blending coconut flakes with water. It had to be fresh! We would go pick out the coconuts we wanted to use, crack them open and start grating away. Once that was done, we would mix with water and squeeze around for a while to infuse them as best we could. Sometimes we’d repeat with another batch of water to make sure we got as much flavor as we could out of it. Then we’d typically mix the resulting trash with brown sugar and have it as a pre-dinner dessert. This process often took us hours, as we, like many others, lived with a huge extended family and often had others come for dinner, too. Jamaicans are known for cooking extra, and it’s a compliment when a guest asks for seconds!

Our yard was pretty big, and we had chickens, pigeons, pigs and goats. We often witnessed the goats being slaughtered, especially when a party was going to be held. Curry goat is a popular dish for parties, as is chicken foot soup! We still make many of our traditional Jamaican dishes here in the US, although sometimes it can be difficult to source ingredients. The yard also had plenty of tropical fruit trees, including the most delicious grapefruits you would ever taste, jackfruits, guavas, star apples (not to be confused with star fruits!), a variety of different mangoes, Otaheite apples, cacao (which we simply call chocolate, the fruit around the seed is soooooo good!), June plums, bananas (which we mostly ate green), jimbilins, naseberries and acerola cherries. As kids, we always looked forward to fruit season when all this stuff (and many, many more) were in season. We played outside much of the day and just picked fruit if we got hungry during that season.

I developed a great love of the land and a deep appreciation for hard work, as things didn’t come by that easily. Even now many areas are still not privileged to modern-day conveniences, or even the ease of doing things such as going to school. We only had 2 channels when I was younger and it was mostly news and other “adult” entertainment so we barely watched TV. It is very convenient to use washers and dryers (even if you have to go to the laundry-mat), instead of waking up very early to wash and hoping it won’t rain all day so that you have dry clothes to wear. And using kitchen gadgets! I’ve actually become kind of a “kitchen gadget collector,” although compared to many my stash is very small. I still need a food processor, for example!

There are many times where I miss living in Jamaica, it is just a completely different feel. The pace of life when I’m there visiting is amazing, I think mostly because I am so disconnected from the world. Most of the time when I go to visit it is without phone and/or internet for a week or more. I’m pretty sure I’d be happy to live there as long as I did not have to work (I’m a sucker for lazing in a tropical paradise!). Even though I don’t live there anymore and I’m happy with all the opportunities available to me here in America, Jamaica is my home and a land that I will always love.

This post is a part of the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge by Kathy at Simple Clean Living. Be sure to check out what the other participants are grateful for!