Among the many discussions we’ve had with fellow volunteers, we have also concluded that most of us have a new-found love for America. Ironically, many of us left home with criticism in our hearts for the way the U.S. imposes its will on other nations, or how Americans are so obsessed with material gain, or any other number of issues. And it’s true that, since we’ve left, there have been a number of things happening in the U.S. that we are not proud of.
But by living in Jamaica, we do see our country differently now. We are all the more grateful for the privilege of growing up in a land of opportunity, a place where success stories happen every day to all sorts of people. We are proud to identify with all the people who came (and continue to come) to America because they wanted to make life better for their families. And perhaps most of all, we are astounded simply by how well things work! From the school system and the DMV to the line at the grocery store, we have a new-found appreciation for American efficiency and reliability. Though our systems in the U.S. aren’t perfect, they’re a lot less effort to navigate than those we’ve become accustomed to as PCVs.
We’re not saying that any of these things are the fault of Jamaicans as a people- we have come to understand that there are complex historical, political, and social factors behind everything. And it’s not really about comparing Jamaica and the U.S., because they each have their roses and their thorns. Rather, it’s the age-old adage that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. So, in the end, leaving home has given many of us an unexpected appreciation for the country we left behind and its ways.