The worldwide Augustana College experience


The four days spent at the Alpha School in Kingston were more than I could’ve ever imagined. On the first day, some classmates and I sat in on an assembly for the house, Florence. To hear the girls singing, chanting, blowing their horns, and running throughout the roads just brightened my day. But what brought me the utmost happiness was seeing the smiles on their faces.

After the assembly, the girls went to their respective classrooms to start their lessons of the day. Dr. Egan, a few of my fellow classmates, and I were substitutes for the math teacher that day. It was so interesting to observe how the girls acted in the classroom compared to how kids in the United States act. When Dr. Egan walked into the room, they all stood up and were respectfully quiet until he gave them permission to sit down. Students in the United States do not show the same amount of respect for their teachers. Typically students are not quiet when the teacher is talking, let alone standing up for them when they enter the room. Another difference I saw between the girls in the Jamaica school and students in the U.S is that the students at the Alpha school are so willing to participate and are very excited about whatever they are learning. Students in the United States are almost forced to participate in class and they do not enjoy going to school the same way as the Alpha girls do. All in all, I am confident in saying that students in Jamaica really value and appreciate their education more than students in the U.S.

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Anna Dispensa Blog #3

The third part of our trip consisted of our trip to Port Antonio specifically to stay in the Great Huts. Upon arriving at the Great Huts, I was a little bit stressed out. Up until this point, I had never slept in outdoor accommodations, therefore, this was new to me. Our hut in specific was named the Queen of Sheba and had two floors with a kitchen, sleeping spaces, and both an outdoor and indoor bathroom. The first night, I was nervous that there would be bugs in my hut, but everything turned out alright and it was actually very cool to fall asleep to the ocean as well as the sounds of nature.

While I did enjoy the isolation of the huts from the typical resort vacation for a few days, it was nice to travel back into the indoor air conditioned hotel for the last night. During our time at he huts, though, we did participate in a few excursions and events which were amazing! Two specific things in which we participated in that I greatly enjoyed were going to Reach Falls as well as playing dominos with the locals at a bar near the Great Huts.

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Great Huts, Boston Bay

Although Kingston was incredible with experiences and memories I will retain for the rest of my life, I was excited to have a change of pace and slow down from the intensity of a large city. Over the mountain we went and I thought the Blue Mountains were so cool, and even though I am not a coffee drinker, I could still appreciate the landscape. Blue Mountain coffee is regarded as some of the best coffee one can get at a supermarket and I was where the coffee beans grow every year. The drive was a little questionable at time when other cars came flying around corners when the road was really only wide enough for one and a half cars. Eventually we got to the other side of the mountain and saw the ocean at Buff Bay and from there is was a short drive to Boston Bay with great views. We also passed through Port Antonio which was the former banana capital of the world.

Finally arriving at the Great Huts, Josh, Rob and I were led to the Fig Tree House and oh my gosh the views were some of the best I have seen in my life. Waking up every day to the sight of the ocean and bay was all I ever imagined in my dream ocean outlook. I fell asleep every night to the waves crashing against the rocks and woke up every morning to a beautiful sunrise peeking up over the ocean. I thought the Great Huts were incredible. I overheard the price is getting more expensive which is a shame because I thought the experience was incredible. The jerk chicken that came with it was some of the best chicken I have tasted too. At night time, a couple of times I went to the local bar that Dr. Egan knew people from but unfortunately the owner was gone at the time. I was really looking forward to meeting Roger as I heard a ton of stories about him and how awesome conversations with him are but he was with his family in the US.

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Blog 3: Goodbye Jamaica

As I sit on the flight leaving Jamaica, I have a lot of the same feelings that I did when I was flying back from Nicaragua. However, I believe my experiences I have had in the last couple years traveling abroad helped me have an even better experience on this trip than I otherwise would have had if this was the first time leaving the country. Since I already mostly understand the process of traveling abroad, I was more concerned about having more interactions with the people and immersing myself in the culture. Also, since I have traveled abroad, I already knew what I needed to do for safety, so I was less concerned about how to keep myself protected. Since those things have become somewhat habitual when I travel, I believe I was able to get a better idea of what it is like to be a Jamaican.

Unlike previous trips abroad, the Jamaican people were so much more approachable and often came up to us to talk. This allowed me to talk to more people and hear what their lives are like and allow me to get answers to any questions that I had for them. The most important thing I was able to do was joking and laughing with Jamaicans. I say this is the most important because I humor has played such a huge role in my life and has helped me start my relationships with almost every friend that I have now. I love making people laugh, but laughing with people is even better. So, whenever I was joking with the boys at the boys school or we were able to go out and play dominos, it was just a great experience for me because I was able to feel as though I was truly connecting with the Jamaican people because we were playing, talking, joking around, laughing, and generally just having a good time. Even though we were often the butt of the jokes for our awful dominos skills, it was still a blast and an experience I will not soon forget.

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Blog 2: Alpha School for Boys

On this trip to Jamaica, we had the opportunity to spend four days at the Alpha Institute which consists of the Alpha Primary School, the Alpha Academy for Girls, and the Alpha School for Boys. I chose to spend my four days at the Alpha School for Boys where boys, who normally wouldn’t get a full education, spend two or three years learning a certain trade. These trades include things like woodworking, barbering, landscaping, and music, and five members of our group, including myself, spent our time working with the musicians.

The music department is mostly headed by Mr. Sparrow Martin who is a well-known musician in jamaica who has recorded with Bob Marley and an Alpha Boy himself. Mr. Martin was truly an inspiration because of how much he clearly cared about all the boys at the school and wanted them to succeed. Observing him direct the boys, Mr. Martin perfectly maintains a delicate balance between praise and drive to improve. Mr. Martin was very appreciative of us being there and he had no hesitation in including us with the group. On the very first day, he taught us how to play “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley and he even gave us some practice improvising, something I have done very little because the boys were going to be performing it at the Primary School for Jamaica Day. However, little did we know, we were going to be performing WITH the boys at the Primary School for Jamaica. Luckily, the performance went very well and it was an incredible experience to be welcomed into this culture so much that they let me participate in a celebration of a national holiday even though I had just come to the country a few days previously.

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The Great Huts

The last place we stayed was the Great Huts resort in Boston Bay, Jamaica. For many of us, our first day at the Great Huts was somewhat of a shock. The huts were beautiful, but we did not have access to internet in our living spaces, and there was no air conditioning. We also did not have windows so we had to sleep with mosquito nets at night. This was definitely a different environment than many of us were used to, but I absolutely loved the Great Huts! I really enjoyed getting to experience nature-especially plants and animals I do not get to see at home-in such an immersive environment. While our time in Kingston was more focused on Jamaican society, the Great Huts gave us a chance to experience some of the environment on the rainy, forested side of  the environment. The Great Huts were surrounded by beautiful trees and different tropical plants. There was a beach, and everywhere we looked, we could see an incredible view of the ocean or different plants surrounding our area.

One of the coolest things we saw during this time was our tour of the Reach Falls. While at Reach Falls, we were given a tour involving swimming, crawling, jumping, and falling. The tour was very exciting. At the end, many people jumped off of the cliff at a height of approximately 30-ish feet. I really wanted to jump off of the cliff, but unfortunately, I was too nervous and could not bring myself to do it! I eventually jumped off a smaller cliff, but the bigger cliff was just not going to happen.

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Kingston: Putting American School Kids to Shame

It was our first day at the Alpha girl school in Kingston.  I was assisting Dr. Egan and my fellow students in administering a math lesson as the girls’ teacher was absent.  The classroom was crowded with around 40 girls in dark blue uniforms sitting behind old looking desks patiently awaiting instruction.  The girls were told that they would be working in groups today and their desks scraped loudly against the floorboards as the girls arranged them in pods.  Dr. Egan opened the lesson with a warm-up problem.  As the girls worked, the only sound was the whirring of three small, wall-mounted fans, our only means of relief from the stifling heat.  After a few minutes of work the sky, which had been threatening rain all morning, opened up.  Water came through the wooden slats in the windows, getting everyone and everything that was near a window wet.  The girls were undeterred; in fact, they seemed not to notice.  They were more focused on the problems being given to them.  As the girls finished their work, their hands shot up eagerly to see if they had done the work correctly.  As the lesson neared its end, girls from other classes filtered over to hang around the doorway of our class; it was time for lunch and our lesson  was running over time.  Yet the girls in our class continued in their studies until dismissed.

In all of this, I could not help but think how different these girls were from American high schoolers.  Of course they looked, acted, and spoke differently than American kids, but there was something at work beyond that.  These kids were motivated to learn.  They wanted to be there.  Despite all of the distractions present in the classroom, the girls were engaged in their studies.  Why was this? What drove these girls to learn?  Was it some cultural difference, a higher value placed on education?  Was it a closer relationship with their teachers?  Was it because, in living in an underdeveloped nation such as Jamaica, they realized how much of a privilege education was?  Was it some difference in the teachers? The school?  Perhaps it wasn’t something extraordinary about the Jamaican education system, but something deficient in the American system, our anti-intellectualism?  Any of the other myriad of issues facing American schools?  I do not know.  But what I am certain of is that if American school kids could be instilled with the same enthusiasm for schoolwork, the results would be as incredible as my experience has been thus far.

Port Antonio and the Great Huts

The great huts were spectacular. I feel that everyone should have that experience. The huts were beautiful and the views that we saw while we were there were breathtaking. The market was a great experience. I have to admit that it was a little scary and intimidating at first but it soon became fun. The ladies that were in the back of the market were very sweet. They knew Dr. Egan and wanted to talk to us about our experiences in the schools. They were happy that we came and volunteered at the Alpha Schools.

The huts were a nice experience. They gave you a very natural glimpse of Jamaica. At the huts we were reading the paper and we saw some things about Vybz and his recordings. As I mentioned before, the Jamaican people really are fans of his music. I was reading an article that was headed More Want to Hear Kartel’s Voice. This is what I have heard from other people too. They want him out and think that he will be out in the matter of 2 years. It said in the article that his songs should be banned from the airwaves. The news article even talks about the book I read for class, The Voice of The Jamaican Ghetto. It says that the book should be “read by every Jamaican and anyone who is interested in the real Jamaica.” It was just serial that we saw the articles. I never would have guessed that Vybz was that big.  I have also been thinking about my paper for the final project and thought it might be interesting to do a three way economics paper with Jamaica, Norway, and the US. From driving to Port Royal, I was thinking that it would be cool if I could intergrate my experience from Norway into my paper. One item that was thinking was the driving experiences. I don’t know I just thought that it would be an interesting spin on the paper.

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Jamaica Journal #3: The Great Huts

I’m writing this right now siting in the upstairs lobby because the wifi doesn’t reach anywhere else. As the days go on, I find myself enjoying being disconnected from the life of starring at the phone screen all day long. It gives me time to reflect on everything that happened on this trip (the resort, Kingston, and being at the elementary school), enjoying the breathtaking view, and just reading a good book at the beach. We were here at the great huts for only two and a half days but it’s been one of the places I will never forget. Each hut is unique in its own way. Some house 8 people, while others only have 2. Some you have to climb up two sets of stairs just to reach your bed, and others you open a curtain and your bed is right there in front of you. It’s a very nature center place. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to shower outside without solid walls around me and I can saw that I got use to the freedom it gave me. I can finally saw I bathed outside (sort of).

We experienced many more of the tourist place while still managing to see Jamaicans around and experience their culture. We went to beaches, jerk restaurants, and even shopped in a local market in Port Antonino. We traveled in a cave and through a river at Reach Falls, where people were able to jump off cliffs. We swam at the blue lagoon. I’ve never seen water so clear. I was still able to see my feet even when I was swimming in the deepest part of the lagoon. At the market, we go to experience the shopping and bargaining that people do just to make a living. There I was able to talk down prices, as well as buy some things for myself as well as others. I was nervous at first going into the market because I didn’t know what to expect and we learned in class that Jamaicans in the market can be very aggressive, especially when it comes to them wanting you to look at their items. After walking around the market , I become more comfortable because I was with a group and I realized that the market people were fair and were willing to listen to me when I gave a price or I just said no thank you. I was able to get some things that I will have to remember this trip.

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Great Huts

The last major stop of the trip was the Great Huts, a small resort near Port Antonio. The huts we stay in are an adventure on their own! Their all unique, some require you to climb multiple ladders to get to the bed. Others have bathrooms outside where you end up showering with some lizard friends. The views here are breath taking, the blue ocean just below us doesn’t look real despite me staring at it. Wandering around the resort is like hiking through a forest and there are always new things to discover. Of course I can’t forget to mention the resident dog, Issac, who wanders around and loves to have his butt scratched!
Despite how amazing the resort itself is there are still adventures to be had outside of it. The first stop was reach falls, where we explored a waterfall by traversing through it and swimming/climbing/slipping our way around it. At the end you can jump off the top of the waterfall into the water below which I actually did (eek!) much to my own surprise. After that crazy adventure we relaxed on the beach at long bay to soak up some sun and enjoy the waves.
The second day we went into Port Antonio where we visited the outdoor market. It was quite and experience and I figured out pretty quickly you have to be aggressive about your prices and saying no to sellers. As you walk through vendors shout at you to come over and one women even grabbed my hand to lead me to her stall. There was a lot of “no thank you” and “nothing I want” happening. I did find some cool things to bring back as a way to remember my trip there.
After that we went to the villa at the Blue Lagoon where a man named Joseph was kind enough to prepare a meal for our lunch. After eating we hung around on a helicopter pad to enjoy the sun. There was also a lot of swimming going on and even some jumping from trees.
The time we spend here has been short but so very memorable. It felt nice to get away from the city after so much time in Kingston. We head back to the USA soon and while I’ll miss Jamaica I am looking forward to being back in my own bed! This place has absolutely had an impact on how I look at the world and I’m so grateful for this opportunity and all that I experienced here.