sign created by Jim Restin

Thursday, December 1, 2011

new blog...Resilience ~ A Journey

The Journey continues at my new blog site entitled "Resilience ~ a Journey", at this address: 
(newer blog 9/12/12:

Be well ~ S StJ

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Leaving....and a Coming

A Leaving...and a Coming...a last blog entry 

Peace is something which must be won again and again, each new moment of our lives.

As I chose to leave Peace Corps Jamaica last week, for many reasons, I wrote for hours on the home journey. A new blog will arise from this transition, "Resilience"....soon.
A new,new shiny day ~ of hope and forward movement ~ of leaving with no regrets ~ of knowing life awaits ~
Of myriad stars in a dark morning ceiling, over city lights on mountains: a human reflection of the power of stars.

There is relaxation, fatigue, washed clean of questions for now. There is grounded knowledge of an accepted pathway, branching beyond the expected, the planned, evolving through days & nights of meditation & wondering, grieving and questing.
What awaits?Who? Where? Moving toward my right outcomes.
Finding, reclaiming freedom ~ being blessed with new life and hope when such sorrow enveloped.

Turn now, towards a distant sun, northern lights, winter dark. Move away from hot, stifling, breathless, heavy light, and into a light from within tall trees in a misted, cooling muted homeplace.

Now ~ be ready! Refine your attention. Ask with sincerity. Take on the coat of many colors to be a part of the whole/of all. 
Peace Corps: such a romantic ideal, to those who aspire and train, to those who observe and hope ~ such a valiant vision....Is it possible?
Perhaps a new "vision" is needed, a higher use, not just higher calling.
PC is small, self-absorbed, not advisory in any encompassing way~ which big, overwhelming America COULD do.

Be clear here: there is a certain beauty, appealing to some and not all. Myth of the tropical island: lost in failure, poverty, anger, extreme violence, endless cheap imports entrapping the culture, rather than empowering.
Thankful for the gift of learning, of living within another people, of community integration, of conquering and embracing the new and the fear and the hope.

I came in light, to live and find more light ~ in the glare of a relentless sun and over abundance of sheer noise, humans wanting more, bigger, better, adopting the worst of American ideals ~ I came in light, and found the dying of the light in a child's eyes, in the struggling anger of the people's children, random violence of disenfranchised youth.

I learned thankfully about the stamina and faith of the elders, about the land and the hopes, until it fell apart with the fighting urge to win freedom. I have never aspired to live on a tropical island, being a pure "northerner", but made the most of it..tried my best, I did my best. I learned and gave, I came away a more complete person in some respects.

I know where I am going now...I have found "home" a surge of resilience through saying yes to a new shining day. Message: We never realize completely what good we have, what an amazing world of connecting souls.
Open to each other! Look into someone's eyes! Walk slowly, and be able to see, hear ,breathe life itself.
Take time ~ patience ~ and hope. 
(top photo: Oregon sky / lower photo: Jamaican sky)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Matters Most

                                                                                                                        ~ A. St.J. 2008
    Only we can know what matters most for each of us. One persons journey is not that of another. We may search for commonalities to promote and establish peace, but in the end our journey remains unique and singular.
   As we search for what matters most, in order to do our best, moments of opportunity to absorb life disappear.

   Children laughing as they finally find the right word in their ever-darkening memory. Children singing, tapping out a swaying beat on a desk,a drum,a friend's shoulder,... allowing inner, innate music to take hold. Children helping children. Growing together.

    Adults - searching for more - miss the moments, and only look up as a struggle occurs. Missing the beauty. Missing the wonder. Missing what matters most.
   Listen. Look. Be present. Be a present help. Become. Come to be....and sing, beat the drum, dance, move and be moved.

   What matters most? Find it for yourself - then do your best at it. The rest will come.

  "As long as we do our best at what matters most, things will find their way."
                                                                                       ~ Adam

NOTE: Reality of this job at a Special Ed. school for all ages in Jamaica: Teachers miss moments, struggle to calm, to quiet, to stop, to start, to criticize, to faintly faintly, when there is much to be praised. Missing children growing toward soulful understanding. A deep continuous sense of loss pervades, fueled by the anger of frustration and misunderstanding. The children simply desire to learn, to give joy, to succeed, to be what matters most.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why Are We Here? Engaged Mindfulness....

One moment can change a day.
One day can change a life.
One life can change the world.......We are the world.


~ I'm reminding myself of a few thoughts today, needed for support & encouragement....come along if you like. 

"....go out and help people and do so in mindfulness...Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help....PEACE is in every step. "~  THICH NHAT HANH 

                                                    ~ 2 CORINTHIANS 13:11

"Just as a mother would protect her only child, even at risk of her own life; even so let one cultivate a boundless heart toward all beings."  ~ SHAKAMUNI BUDDHA
 Make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair,hope;where there is sadness, joy; where there is darkness, light.  

Why are we here? Are we mindfully engaged? We can only answer for ourselves. I'll start with bringing  what little peace I am empowered to bring. The responsibility is daunting, but we must begin....begin anywhere we find need. ~ Susan St. John, Peace Corps Volunteer, Special Education


Friday, September 23, 2011

Land of Contrasts...Striving for Peace


....Night falls ~ sounds envelope you like the Tiki Room at Disneyland, or the night scenes in Jungle Book,.in city neighborhoods and country roads alike, a riotous concert until dawn, of crickets & frogs, night birds & croaking lizards ~ all as brilliant & rhythmic as Jamaican people. You know it is dawn by the momentary tangible silence preceding the morning birdsong.
  Yet, close your eyes in the heat of the mid-day sun, and you could be anywhere, even home in the U.S. ~ backyard sounds of a Saturday(weedeaters, children playing, steady rock beat from passing cars, neighbors calling). You could almost forget that you are in the midst of palm trees on a small tropical island, in a deep blue sea surrounded by a vast ocean. 
Remember who you are in this grand plan~ no matter the time or place.

 Laundry blowing in the sunny winds, among the mango trees....hard work, but after 3 months, a natural part of weekly life. Did I tell you my arthritis in hands and wrists is fading rather than increasing!...possibly helped by hours of hand-laundering and wringing of wet towels and cotton clothes?
  The rain is suddenly falling on my newly washed laundry, neatly pegged to the line. We are told to leave it there...until the sun returns! Ah...the cool wind blows through the wooden slats on the windows. Guavas & oranges fall at our feet in the rain. Hibiscus & rose petals mix with ancient aloe & orchids. The sun returns quickly, as rain and thunder roll across the ever-deep blue of this Jamaican sky. Here they say: Just wait a few minutes and the weather will change.
  Jamaica, land of contrasts ~ so Americanized, yet so uniquely its own singular home of grief and joy, sun and storm, glorious peace and passionate strife. These people have a prosperity of spirit over all things. Remember, this nation is just 50 years old, with 350 years of violent history.
Remember who you are in this grand plan, no matter the place or time.

Taxi & Road Culture!!....the short scenic 1/2 mile walk of daily danger to my school!!!
About taxis~ the main source of transportation....
  Few bicycles are seen on the roads of Jamaica, due to the extreme danger of riding on narrow, rocky roads with neurotic, speeding public taxi & mini-bus drivers flying by.Once in a while, you luckily happen upon a driver who is careful, relaxed....actually gives a pedestrian a bit of space.
  Here is the fact of Jamaican life: city and country alike...the main way to go anywhere on public transportation is the private taxi. Look for the red license plate(certified) and usually a tiny white Toyota Corolla. Often the gas tank is on E and the back doors are broken. Christian praise music pours out and seats and floors are ancient, rarely clean. People are crammed in - unless you are fortunate to be travelling a rarely-used route, or you're the first passenger, so the front seat is yours(at least for a while.)
  When you arrive in town, you hand the driver the fare and he's out of the car with the engine running to get change from other drivers  milling about. The town square is swarming with taxis, waiting, pushing through crowds...honking, speeding, surrounded by market sellers and shoppers. We ask for the next taxi to go to the other side of town...they shout to a friend, who waves me over. I make sure his route will actually go to my destination, since otherwise I will pay "charter fare", 3 times higher than "route fare". much to learn! But the Peace Corps has taught us well, over & over & over......
  You ask: where are the buses? Buses!? They only go between larger cities, or longer distances. Kingston has regular city buses, but then, that's Kingston, another entity altogether!
  The roads are so narrow, often with stone walls & jungle forest on each side, that pedestrians & cyclists take their lives in their hands everywhere. Speed limits are rarely observed, or non-existent. Horns beeping at EVERY bend of the narrow roads, or beeping at pedestrians in case they need a ride! I wave them by each day, as I continue my walk. It's all part of this passionate life - and we exist only by the grace of our own faith.
Land of great contrasts, as is so much of our world. Faith abides through tears, anger and the struggle to exist. My ninety-four year old host "mother", a descendant of the many peoples who conquered this land, sings hymns throughout the house & garden, in a light high sweet voice, then laughs with joy at "being alive to see another day". I am connected in spirit to my great aunts, mother and grandmother, as I hear the truth in her hopeful words.
Remember who you are in this grand plan....and give thanks.

in peace ~ S.StJ.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Light in Jamaica....Sworn In!

"Wherever we go, may we be a light in Jamaica that brightens the lives of many." ~ C.H., Peace Corps Volunteer, speech for Swearing In ceremony, 2011

 This photo shows two of my young PCV friends with me on the morning before our Swearing In at the US Embassy in Kingston: Ruby, a Philippino American from California and Carline, an African American from Florida...both young enough to be my daughters! Carline wrote a wonderful speech for the ceremony, which I record here as an example of where we are in heart and mind, at this point along our journey. All 28 of us have dispersed to our permanent sites across the island, alone yet connected, working with schools, farmers, fisheries, and youth centers....challenges and joys await...learning continues.

Speech for Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteer Swearing In Ceremony, 9/2011 ~

"Hello ~ Can you hear me? You can hear me?...If you can hear me now, you have officially passed the test. Yes, you heard me correctly: training is concluded. There is no session yet to be presented. There is no form yet to be filled out. 'Me no talk no foreign chat', you're free to go to site. If you can hear me now,you're ready. You're ready to hear the petitions of people you've yet to meet. You're ready to hear the laughter of children you're yet to teach. You're ready to hear the concerns of neighbors you've yet to encounter.
  Am I coming in clearly in the back? Can you see this now? If you can see it now, you've aced the exam. No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you, the powerpoint presentation is done! The tour has come to its final stop. Put down that notebook; there are no notes left to browse.So 'wipe dat matta from yuh yie'! Wake up and see what is before you. If you can see this now, you're well prepared. You're prepared to see real issues faced daily by troubled youth. You're prepared to see the true needs of the communities in Jamaica. Set your sight on the ambition of these things.
  Can you see your hands? Are you sure they're not in your luggage? ..Well, if you can locate them, look at them. And look carefully...They are so nice, soft and pretty...right? May this be the last day this be the case. "Me Aunt Ditty always seh,"Mine yuh and", as I chop vegetables for her recipes. Or when I would use scissors to cut something, she'd again remind me: "Mine yuh and,darlin". But from today forward, I give you different instructions. "Mash up yuh and...yuh ear wha me seh? Mash up yuh and!" and take your hands and set them to some hard work. May they be caloused from building new friendships, and may they be scarred from aiding people making changes in their lives. May they be sore from your tireless effort to mold, craft and sculpt young minds. May your hands become soiled in nurturing the growth and understanding of all the lives you'll touch in your community each day.
  So, if you can hear me...Class dismissed ~ Please leave your evaluations on the table in the back and don't forget your name! You're more than ready for this Peace Corps mission ~ this training has more than conditioned you into the form of a great volunteer. Sure we have a good share of bumps and bruises earned in the process, but more endurance and strength to record on our medical charts, let alone our Trimester Reports! As if you haven't been told: "this is the toughest job you'll ever love"!( US Peace Corps motto) So hang tight to your friends and colleagues around you: and be swift to place your feet on the bridge that unites us and will unite us to the Jamaican people. As we stand at the crossroads of our mission, don't be timid to step across it.
  Jamaica, we already love you. Teach us what we have yet to learn, and love us in capacities we never knew our hearts could expand to. It's our hope and prayer that out of this many people, we will become one(Jamaican motto). Wherever we go, may we be a light in Jamaica that brightens the lives of many."  (printed by permission of the author, Carline Hines, PCV Jamaica, Group 82)

Peace to all...May Jamaica be a light to us! ~(above photo is one of my teaching colleagues on site) S. St.J.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Musical Waiting To Happen!

"Every moment is a musical waiting to happen!", expressed one of our volunteers, as she described charming, chaotic everyday Jamaican scenarios.
The public bus, the taxi stands, markets, churches, town centers, roadways, schools, ~ swarming with passionate life. Song erupting everywhere, carelessly and freely shared, and expressed with abandon.
   Like the "street scenes" in Porgy and Bess, La Boheme, Oliver, Carmen and others...public life in Jamaica erupts, surges, sways, dances, all to a mutual beat. Look up, around, over ~ and witness the overwhelming potential of a grand expressive musical/operatic experience just waiting to happen. And what glorious music it would be! Tragedy, Joy, Struggle, Success...
   SCENE: The bus park in a central Jamaican city: We enter from the crowded roadway in a small group ~ so clearly visible as some foreign white women travelling with shoulder bags to Kingston. The bus loaders yell out and grab at us, shout in our faces with gesturing, conducting arms, surging as an operatic men's chorus..with cries of: "Kingston dis way!" "Tek yuh bags?" Mi find yuh good seat!" "Come,come ladies, Kingston bus ovah here!" We are propelled and urged forward, even as we yell back:" NO tek bags! We keep bags!" 
   The buses are small "Coaster" vehicles, with approximately 30 seats ~ but where you find 3 seats, 6 are forced to sit. The loader and driver expertly maneuver each of us into every available centimeter of space ~ Children in crevices, bags under seats and feet, bags across laps, windows wide open on both sides, people selling fruit, drinks and banana chips through the windows, shouting and trading.As the door closes on the last standing passenger, the Chistian music starts and we jolt forward onto the mountain roads and highways, 2 hours of passionate Jamaican life!
   Songs begin. People sing. Money is passed overhead trustingly throughout the bus, as the loader calls for the fare. Everyone helps, cooperates, as if part of a scripted scene ~ until one woman erupts in protest over here child's fare. AH! Time out for an aria, duet with the loader, trio with the driver perhaps, as he stops the bus, walks back to her window...and what ensues potentially becomes a full jazz opera! ....passion more real and intense than any stage can set or inspire.
   Driving on, standard neighborliness settles once more. We are one. We are the world. Who will write our musical? Every moment in Jamaica...a musical waiting to happen.
Peace to you all ~ Susan/Mom