The Family Experience

We are currently in the sea side village of Hellshire. All 36 of us are here for two weeks living with homestay families. There are 8 people in my house and to say it is chaotic is an understatement.

The Bailey Family

Mista and Miss Bailey- the grandparents but technically my host parents

Pat and her husband Oneil – they have two kids OJ (6) and Onelia (8)

Dalhia- another daughter and her daughter Dana (10)

Onelia feels a constant need to touch me. I have asked her not to do it and so has her mom so hopefully that will change. OJ lives in his own little world of TV and video games which seems to be frustrating for everyone in the family who are somehow involved in the education system. Dana is super outgoing and is always working to keep me busy, but in a good way. We went for a walk to the park and she wants to take me to some caves nearby.  She wasn’t quite able to convice me to go to Sunday school with her, but I did go to the church service with her.

Pat is a full time teacher, mother, and student. We had a bonding moment on the roof while trying to hang laundry. She talked about how its her dream to finish school because it will be worth it in the end, but with OJs grades slipping its tempting to quit. I haven’t really interacted with her husband but he seems nice enough.

Mista and Miss Bailey are technically my host parents. They are the ones crazy enough to sign up to host PC volunteers. Mista Bailey is a security guard in Portmore, but spent a few years living in Queens as a chef. He was very proud to show me his certificate of completion. Miss Bailey is a retired teacher and now spends the day in the house cooking and making sure everyone else is where the need to be. It is her responsibility to teach me how to cook Jamaican food, hand wash laundry, shop at the markets, and help me with my Patios. Her dad has been fighting cancer and I am under the impression he is not doing well. I am trying to stay positive for her, but we don’t really know each other so it just kind of ends up being awkward.

Then there is Miss Baileys sister Pauline. She lives across the street. Her and her daughter view me much more as a stereotypical American than a Peace Corps volunteer who only gets paid a very small stipend to live. They enjoy calling me a tomboy because I play sports and carried by own bags. From the daughter it seemed to be a bit of an insult but Pauline assured me that it was just “Jamaica talk” and I shouldn’t be worried.

I have to constantly remind myself that this is going to be different than my homestay in Argentina. I am in Jamaica. I am here for a lot longer. They are not as affluent. None of this is bad. Its just different and I have to keep telling myself that.


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