One of the most challenging things about working in an international school is that the recruiting season starts so damn early. So my second year in the DR I started looking for a job in November. Unlike my first time where searching took until June, this time I got a job for the following school year in November. YIKES!!! 😏😏 it was hard to be excited because it was so far away.
Another major difference was that AISK flew me out to Jamaica to visit the school in March and meet with the outgoing Principal and IB Coordinator, since I was taking on the IB Coordinator role. The principal was a counselor so that made me hopeful that he would understand my role and the Director was the epitome of laid back. I was also excited because I had never been to Jamaica but I figured it would be similar to living in Barbados and closest enough so I could get home throughout the year🤗🤗.
The visit was great, I got to visit the Bob Marley museum, I stayed with the Director at his home and the incoming principal seemed pretty cool and laid back. I got to look at apartments and choose the place I wanted to live. #sweet I felt ready for the new change.
I liked that Kingston is a city and I could get around on my own. The school was small but much bigger than CCHS and I had signed up for two jobs – 6 to 12 School Counselor, College Counselor and IB Coordinator…not a good idea in hindsight. So unfortunately I was overworked and stressed most of that year and dealing with some of the parents were a challenge but I dealt with it 😛😛.
In the beginning I felt good about being at AISK and I liked working with the principal and the Director, the cohort of teachers I came in with was great – it was a good mixture of people from all walks of life and different international experiences and we liked each other. We went on some great excursions as a group – the beach in Ochi, the EITS restaurant in the hills and the party at the Elementary principal’s house. I was happy, I was making friends although it was more difficult than the DR because of the size. The work was busy and challenging as IB Coordinator but the principal and director were open to my suggestions for making things more efficient. The students were lovely for the most part, I loved being around black people in the Caribbean and until I opened my mouth there was no indication that I wasn’t Jamaican, I fit in unlike in the DR where I often stuck out. I struggled with the homophobia and the conservative Christian views from some Jamaicans but overall I chose to avoid these conversations just to keep the peace.
Weird interactions that deserve mention…
Every time I told people outside of school that I was Bajan. I got this puzzled look and then the statement posed as a question: I thought Bajans don’t like Jamaicans. Hmmm that’s not my experience I would answer with my eyebrows raised 😜😜😜
However there was some bad blood due to a ridiculous, illegal and disrespectful search of a Jamaican woman traveling to Barbados so I could understand the sentiment. Customs be tripping sometimes and I was born there so I am sure there were many more instances of this foolishness 😣😣
Living in Jamaica came with so many new and wonderful experiences and lots of fun times:
I was grateful for the kindness of De and Lisa for rides to school and home
The beach was not as close as the DR but I went periodically and enjoyed the fish and festival served right on the beach 🤗🤗
The staff outings were plentiful and fun…the friday happy hours and the taco Tuesdays often ended with a rum headache (that Wray & Nephew omg lol) but the company was great and laughs were plentiful
I traveled to Ochos Rios, Negril and Montego Bay for long weekends…the beach girl in me was happy 😍 😍 😍
The music scene was awesome, I went to a variety of live shows and concerts 🤗🤗 😍
I loved the food (yummy) and I ate so much. Jerk chicken from Scotchies, patties from …. fish with vegetables, festival or bammy. Soups…conch soup, fish tea, chicken soup. I didn’t feel limited because I didn’t eat meat. I could have whatever choices I wanted
I found plenty vegetarian restaurants, juice places and health food stores to get quinoa and almond butter and oils etc.
I drank so much coconut water, and ate so much coconut and mango ice cream from Devon House I know I gained some serious pounds 😚😚😚
And the fish…OMG I so loved the variety of fish available in Jamaica🤗🤗 🤗🤗 …snapper, king fish, parrot, lionfish, conch and others I can’t remember. I couldn’t have asked for more… my belly was full and happy
I went to soca parties with De, Lianne or Trish, a pleasant surprise and this made me giddy with delight
I loved my little apartment with the huge windows, a washer and a dryer and a balcony #littlethingsinlife
I was in awe of the IB Art program and exhibitions done by the students and supported by one of my favorite people the Art teacher Denise. I often snuck off to the Art room to hang out with her, we had great talks and I so loved her energy 😍 😍
I got to attend so many amazing dance performances because Jamaica and dance go together just like Reggae and boy did I love seeing from children to adults dancing 😍 😍
I was able to date…those date nites at some outdoor place that served some variety of fish and conch soup and alcohol of course were nice 😚 🤗
Although I had less than a year to get to know the seniors, I feel like I bonded with some of them. Most of them were kind and ambitious, smart and gracious and I felt like I made a great contribution to them. I was so proud of the university acceptances (especially my favorite pain in the butt ZM) and the scholarship offers that they achieved 🤗🤗😍 To this day I still stay connected with some of the ladies and I am so proud of what they are achieving in their lives.
Despite the good times and the easy transition to Jamaica, there was drama brewing…
It was clear to me early on that there was some challenges with the Board’s extreme oversight and the behavior of some of the people in the front office that reflected a perceived lack of trust and order. Some of the
rich influential parents didn’t like being given direction or limits. Drama and challenges were brewing that we as educators were unaware of. One thing led to another and the Director and the Board decided to part ways at the end of the year and it was messy. The Principal then decided to leave at the end of the year as well because he saw the drama unfolding. And just like that the happy existence that we the new international teachers envisioned disappeared. Things were tense the second half of the year, people had differing opinions and the search for a new director and principal closed with choices that many of us were not sure about 😐 😐 😐 .
A visit happened from the new director and she chose to meet with some of us myself included and I knew from her energy and conversation that changes would be coming and it would be difficult for some of us. But I could not imagine the storm that was about to come.
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Next post…To be continued…it will be different but how bad can it be?