The worldwide Augustana College experience

Face Your Fears, Mon!

I have been in the incredible country of Jamaica for four days now. Leaving the United States is something I have never done in my twenty-one years, so that step alone was a huge first for me, but the firsts don’t stop there! Leaving the country is always something that has sounded wonderful to be, but always makes me uneasy and slightly fearful. I have never been the type of person to face my fears, running away is usually my first response. I have been able to reflect on the last four days and see how that first initial fear-facing step of leaving the country has inspired me to face many of my own fears and embrace situations I would usually cower away from.

Our first part of this adventure took us to Jewel Runaway Bay – an all inclusive resort on the ocean with everything a person could ever want (all you can eat buffets included, all you can drink all the time, pools, beaches, water activities, nice rooms, arranged events, and the friendliest staff I have ever met). Sounds like the life, right? Well, it sure was. I never knew this kind of lifestyle even existed! What’s there to be afraid of, right? Another question that can be asked. Well, for a reserved “scardy-cat” such as myself fearful situations existed. Open water – a fear of mine, probably from watching Titanic one too many times and drowning – my other huge fear, both of these things came into play. The whole group wanted to go snorkeling. Okay, normally I would run away, but after heavy debate I grabbed some flippers determined to tackle this. Sadly, I couldn’t  make it out to the reef and went to do reggae water aerobics instead, but ya know, I tried! (Maybe not the best example to start out with but I am going chronologically here, so this was a good first step with fear facing) The last day, however, I decided to go sailing. It was so beautiful and so much fun out on that windy ocean; I faced that fear of open water for that ride. (This was one of those flat sail boats with the netted bottom) The rest of that part of the trip involved a lot of laying by the ocean and not too much more except, Jessie and I started the Augie karaoke bandwagon at the resort’s karaoke night by nailing our own rendition of Michael Jackson’s PYT – again, karaoke is something I usually stay far, far away from. It was an amazing two days and I am so grateful I had that opportunity.

Currently we are in Portland and a resort called the Great Huts; I am sitting in this “lobby”, which is not enclosed by any walls and everything is wood and stone. It is also called Great Huts for a reason: we sleep in huts. Ask anyone in my family, I DO NOT do outdoors; I hate camping, I am scared of bugs, and I like to be inside in my own bed. This is not the case. Jessie and I sleep in a bed with a mosquito net over us because there are no windows, doors, and bamboo-like walls. Usually I freak out when bugs are by me at our own property, so it is truly facing my fears sleeping in a JUNGLE without proper shelter. I am getting ready to sleep praying I don’t wake up flinging bugs off me like I did last night. That amazing full moon peeking in our window and the ocean right outside our hut below the cliff makes it worth it though. See – I am gradually getting better at facing my fears as we go on; they just keep getting better.

Food. I am the pickiest eater in the world – I hate weird things, don’t like my food to touch, don’t like noodles, rice or much cultural food (sad, I know). So here is WAY outside my comfort zone. I have eaten things just put in front of me with no idea what they are, ate rice (which I said I don’t like), tried peppermint tea with my eggs for breakfast (I don’t really like tea or eggs), and just had dinner at a hut type place on the road where I ate jerk pork (cubed, REALLY spicy pieces of pork) with my fingers. It was actually AMAZING. This is one of the feats I am most proud of; I have ate something new everyday, usually more than once. I know it’ll continue throughout the trip. Now on to the doozy…

I can honestly say I attacked my two biggest fears like a champ during our outing today. My two biggest fears are drowning and small spaces (claustrophobia) . Well, our adventure today was to Reach Falls (we went there after our pit stop at a small bar and I ate the random jerk chicken and rice placed in front of me). It is this amazingly beautiful waterfall, running water spring in the jungle on the mountains. Along with me not being an outdoorsy person to begin with, I somehow managed to climb up these little falls and rushing water (without water shoes, forgot those, not good) to a final waterfall at the top. As  a group we climbed up to the top to be told there is a small hole to climb in and a cave under/behind the falls. We were guided down into a cave half filled with water and water rushing in all around through different areas. It was incredible, much like this trip as a whole, words can’t describe it accurately. After making it down with the help of one guide, another guide held us under water and pushed us through the outside waterfall into a small area between (water falling all over) to take a breath and be pushed under another part of the waterfall to completely exit. I was shaking from the cold water and a combination of fear and anxiety. I wear my bruised knees and small cuts and badges of accomplishment for the intense trek and climb I made up and back down. I could not believe I had done that once I finally gathered my bearings sitting on a slanted rock trying to get off the waterfall. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was 1. In a cave, 2. In a cave half filled with water, 3. allowed someone to hold me underwater and push  me under rocks under a waterfall. It was truly amazing and still gives me an adrenaline rush thinking about it.

Just from the stories above it is very obvious this whole trip is causing me to directly face things that scare me or things I would usually stay away from. I know as we continue and actually start working in Kingston I will have to keep facing these types of situations. I know because I am doing this I am getting the absolute most out of this once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so blessed to be here and apart of this trip. I can’t wait to see what we have in store.


-Taelar Hillyer


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