Homes for the Holidays – Part 1: Jamaica

Christmas in Jamaica
Do you see Michelle? Christmas decorations at our host family’s house.

As digital nomads, our concept of home is constantly evolving. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s hard for us to answer where “home” exactly is. It seemed only fitting, then, that as we returned to Jamaica, our friends here said “Welcome home” to us, additionally adding: “Will Jamaica be home?” We made sure to answer them directly. “No. But we do love Jamaica.” We can’t deny that being here in Jamaica has felt like returning home in some ways. Other than where we grew up, Jamaica has been the one place in both of our lives where we have physically lived the longest (2 years for our Peace Corps service). We’ve had different living situations each year of our lives from from 2001 – 2012. I guess we’ve been nomadic for longer than we realized. During those 2 years, we made some amazing friends – both Peace Corps and Jamaican nationals – that we hope to be friends with for the rest of our lives. There were times when living here was very challenging, times when we didn’t like it. But that’s what made the experience special for us, that we persevered through the good and tough times here.


The first week we were back in Jamaica, we tried to do some new things along with reconnecting with friends: Drove around Jamaica without any restrictions: Driving was definitely an adventure. You have to make sure you avoid pot-holes, goats, dogs, bicycles, pedestrians, passing cars, abrupt edges, landslides, massive puddles, all while driving on the left side of the road. Not to mention the windshield wiper and turn signal controls are switched, which made us laugh a couple of times. Instead of signaling left, I was getting good at turning on the wipers.

Driving in Jamaica. Don’t recommend it for people who are trying to avoid stress.

Reconnected with Peace Corp staff and volunteers: It felt like returning back to college. We were done with Peace Corps but still could relate to things going on. It was awesome to see and hear about all the things current volunteers are doing. We wanted to encourage those struggling. We remembered how difficult things were when we were volunteers. We also remembered how accomplished we felt.

Reggae Marathon Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteers from group 83, our group. 2 are still with PC and 1 is living and working on island.

Reconnected with our former work places: Michelle and I spent a couple of days visiting the school and community center we were assigned to. It was great to see so many familiar faces. It’s only been 7 months since we left but we felt the kids were bigger. It was also awesome to meet Jordan (our PC replacement) who has been doing amazing things. We couldn’t believe all the things she and other volunteers in the area had accomplished and discovered (things we never knew existed).

Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteer Literacy Advisor
Michelle with some of her former students.
Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteer Community Center
Me, with some of my former students.

Participated in the Reggae Marathon:  We didn’t run the full marathon, just the 10k portion but still had a great time. We couldn’t believe that some of our friends ran the half and full marathons. The weather was beautiful and hot. No way could we have lasted longer than 6 miles.

Jumping Jedd Reggae Marathon
Would not have been able to jump if we had did the actual marathon.
Jedd and Michelle Reggae Marathon
Right before the race started.

Spent time with our former host family and friends: The best part of our time in Jamaica as Peace Corps volunteers was all the relationships we built. We were so happy to see most of the people we got to know over the past two years and reconnect. This part of our trip felt the most like being home with family.

Homegrown Event Watercress Westmoreland
Hanging out with our friends at our host family’s event.
Family Westmoreland
Our host mom, with her actual mom.

In this crazy nomadic life of ours, the week leading up to Christmas will actually bring us to all three of our “homes”- Jamaica, Oregon, and Hawaii! We are thankful to be able to go “home” for the holidays.

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