In 2001, the Africana Studies Department offered its first Wintersession in Jamaica.
Directed by Professor Filomina Steady, the program was designed to provide students with a knowledge of Jamaica's history and contemporary society. It included rural homestays, a visit to Blue Mountain (a refuge of Maroons), and lectures by Jamaican professors. Below are excerpts from participating students' journals and course papers.
"I am thankful for this opportunity to connect with people this way. This rural-stay experience is also helping me to connect with my parents and their stories of childhood."
"Jamaicans are very hospitable. Guests staying with a Jamaican household are honored guests--offered the best beds and served the best meals."
"I was amazed at how much knowledge and talent a small rural community has."
"Woodside is beautiful. It felt great to get dirty and sweaty. I felt like an explorer or something, traipsing through the wild rain forest. I took a lot of pictures so that my boyfriend and family would believe my tales of adventure on the river. The guides were extremely gallant. We couldn't have made I two steps without them. It was refreshing to plunge into the deep swimming hole halfway into the hike. I got eaten by the mosquitoes once I left the water. I think my mother is right, mosquitoes like foreign blood."
"The river hike lasted 3.5 hours, and qualified most of us for the survivor series."
"The experience shows me once again how complex people are. People constantly surprise me. I need to work on reserving my judgment until I know them better or have had more exposure to them."
"I am finding it more difficult to stomach the behavior of people in our group .... I want to tell the whiners and complainers to shut up. How can you learn about another culture when you refuse to even leave behind your own culture's expectations? How can I immerse myself in another culture when the others in my group (loudly) concentrate more on themselves than on the people they came to learn from?"
"This has been a trip that has tested my strengths and weaknesses and our learning new things about ourselves and a world outside of America. This is exactly what I was hoping would occur."
Blue Mountain (famous for its coffee!)
"It was strange because I felt like a Maroon and wondered how much they had to endure though the uncharted mountains and forests. I was on a mission to reach the top and would not let tiredness or a bad thought enter my mind and discourage me."
"I hope to do more of this mountain hiking in the future, and I am thinking that I might want to have my honeymoon up in Blue Mountain."
"The hike to the Blue Mountain let me know better, or see a different side of people on the trip."
"As we look back on our trip to Port Royal, we realized that amongst all the poverty and hard times, the people still exude life: the children were still playing and the adults were still laughing. Port Royal was a glimpse into the rich Jamaican culture that we will explore."
"Over tea and dessert, we discussed the extremely poor and extremely rich areas we have seen here. I knew this was common in developing countries, but it still blows my mind to see it."
"Is Americanization all that good when entire cultures are erased because of it? Development does not necessarily help everyone involved."
"Near Cudjoe's grave is the first settlement of the Maroons. I felt so blessed to have been standing on what I consider sacred ground. We have things like that in the States--the sites of the Underground Railroad, where our leaders were born and buried, but nothing as powerful as this area. Maybe it is because they are direct descendants of those who fought their way to freedom, and in the States, we're so mixed, it's hard to find our roots."
"I can now see how important the Accompong celebration is, part of it is very deep and spiritual, paying homage to the Maroon ancestors and part of it is hard partying. I would be proud to be a Maroon."