Heart racing, head thumping, and legs panging. He pointed to me, singling me out from the crowd. I froze with a panicked expression clearly stamped across my face while my sweaty hand tightly clutched the trusty walking stick. “But I’m slow,” I muttered in a low voice. He just shook his head and said something like “The slow ones always make it to the top one way or the other.” As I walked to meet him to the front of the line, I thought this man would be the death of me. Little did I know then that he would be the one to save me from failure.
~Marwa (on the Blue Mountain hike)
Gabby and I were enjoying our stay at our Blue Mountain host family when Gabby saw yellow lights outside the bedroom. My first reaction was, “Maybe it’s Richard (our host father),” but Gabby convinced me differently. She said it was fireflies, but I turned down that assumption. Her frantic insistence freaked me out and I started to believe that an intruder was outside. Turns out when Sabine, Gabby, and I left for the Blue Mountain Peak hike, I saw fireflies.
At 10:45 pm, Ms. Briggs’ ipod alarm went off to wake up Marwa and I for the hike. We threw on layers of clothing because we were warned about how cold it gets at the Blue Mountain peak. We headed out around 11:50 to meet up with the rest of our group. When we were together finally, Everton, our trail guide, led us to the path. Thirty minutes later of walking to the start of the trail was not as bad as I expected, but I shouldn’t have compared that itty-bitty path to the monstrous mountain. Around 12:50 another service group joined us at the starting line. “Let’s go,” Rohan, the lead tour guide, commanded. And at that point, there was no turning back.
We took a short trip to Ocho Rios to treat ourselves after a long week of work. Here we were at Dunn’s River Falls, quickly slipping into our bathing suits, ready to get wet. We all entered the falls, our bodies cooled by the soothing water. Sliding down rocks and letting our bodies hit the slimy surface took us to another dimension. After 40 minutes of climbing, cheering, and pictures, we made it to the top, quietly yearning for more.
Leaving St. Albans Primary School was hard. The kids there didn’t want us to go. They were hugging us, pulling, and tugging… anything to get an extra minute with us. Then once on the bus, the kids started to knock on my window, waving at me, blowing kisses, and saying goodbye. I recall one time before I got on the bus, a girl hugged me, but locked her arms around the classroom window bars so I couldn’t get away. One of my friends had to pull me away. I felt really bad looking at her face once I was free. It was the look of someone who just lost something important. I really miss the kids there and hope I that one day I could go back there and see all the kids again.
One of my fondest memories is of having a last minute bowl of corn porridge with my host family before we left Penlyne Castle. It is strange to think of how comfortable I felt, watching a bad movie in the living room of this house that I could not have imagined ever relaxing in. Merlene, her almost silent husband Allick, and precocious little Nacquane made that rundown house a home—if only for a few days.
I was sitting in the Scott’s Hall second grade classroom when, all of the sudden, Ms. Duncan rushes in and says “You guys! The children in the sixth grade classroom are running wild.” Then she rushes out and says to the sixth grade classroom “Stop! Excuse me. It’s time to go home!” As soon as she left, one of the sixth graders stood up and theatrically, repeated her exact words. It was hilarious.
We looked pathetic. We had just finished hiking the Blue Mountains for eight hours and my knee hurt so badly, I didn’t think I would be able to stand for a while. But as I surveyed the LSJ group resting at Jah-B’s coffee shop, I saw some hope. Despite our exhaustion, I our group joked, snacked on Icy Cake, played with the kittens, and gripped our coffee mugs with appreciation. In spite of frustrations and fatigue from the hike, we had made it. And we supported each other the entire journey.
We had stacked several hundred books and brochures from the library in one classroom so we could sort them, clean them and catalog them. I left the room to do something else and when I came back there were three boys from third grade, sitting on one of the benches and reading books. I made them leave because they were about to mess up our different stacks – but next time I came back they were sitting there again. While I had to take the books from them so we could continue to organize them, I know they will really make use of their new library.