I recently spent three weeks in Jamaica, welcoming a new Ambassador, reviewing our programs, and renewing contact with the Hagley Gap and Penlyne Castle communities. I had a great time renewing friendships and listening to the host families, the teachers, and other community members. I learned a lot that will help us continue to improve BMP programs. And I learned something about the American nature.
I always feel an immediate sense of relaxation my first morning in the Gap. As I walk onto the porch of my host family’s house, I feel myself slowing down and the weight of the world lifting. I sit down and instead of opening my computer to begin the day’s work; I take time to watch the colors of the nearby mountains change as the sun rises. I listen to the bird calls as they welcome the new day. But I know that I am still in the grips of the American go-fast, multi-tasking mode because I also reach for my binoculars and bird book so that I can attempt to identify the birds that I find.
As the days went by, I felt more and more relaxed and a little more in tune with the Jamaican culture. I was not angry went meetings started at 6:30 instead of 6:00. I read more in my off hours instead of working or playing computer games.
But one day as I was walking home from the Hagley Gap Health Clinic, I found that I was not as in tune with the slower pace of Jamaican life as I thought. I was walking up the hill (everything in Hagley Gap is either up the hill or down). I noticed a man standing by the road and I paused to say “Hi.” After a moment of conversation, he noted that I had been rushing up the hill and wondered if I had somewhere important to go. As I was heading home at the end of the day with no evening meetings or tasks scheduled except for a good dinner, the answer was no. It hit me that my feet had automatically matched the pace of my brain which was thinking about the next day and what I needed to get done. I was still multi-tasking.
Now back home, I have to speed myself back up. This is not as easy as it may seem. There are many advantages to a slower life, which are hard to give up in favor of the hectic, get-everything-done-yesterday America demands of us.
-- Cathy Skoula