Faith, Fate, Karma, Kismet, or Destiny
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Several years ago, as my desire was building towards a future life in Jamaica, I joined a number of groups and social media outlets where I thought Jamaicans and people like me might integrate. It was never my intention to actually “make friends” or meet new people. It wasn’t supposed to be personal. No, my sole purpose was to learn about Jamaican culture, lifestyle and values, so as to determine if Jamaica was really the place for me.
I don’t know what you want to call it, faith, fate, Karma, Kismet or destiny, but, since that time, my life has been filled with “chance” encounters that have ended up changing the direction of my life or that moved my dreams forward by leaps and bounds. Whatever it is, I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the people I’ve met over the last few years and I’m feeling particularly blessed by them today.
Sometimes, when we are making big plans or working hard towards our goals, things fall apart and what feels like a crisis ends up being the best thing that could ever happen to us. My search for a place to live here in Jamaica is a perfect example.
A friend that owns numerous properties in here in Treasure Beach had indicated that he wanted to rent a small house to me. Although it was unfurnished and in need of serious work, I started envisioning myself there, only to suddenly find out a few months later that he had rented it to someone else. I was at a loss, wondering if it was a sign that I just wasn’t meant to live in Jamaica.
I did a lot of online research and quickly discovered that I couldn’t afford to be here long if I was paying rent at the rates vacationers pay. I was pretty depressed about all of it, but, as a last-ditch effort, I decided to query another “friend” that I’ve never met, Maurice, asking if he knew of any rentals with “Jamaican” pricing.
Sure enough, he got back to me almost immediately and told me he had an older aunt that owned a house here. She has health issues, lives in Florida, rarely makes it down and none of her family has an interest in being in the house. It had been sitting dormant for three years. He offered to contact her and see if she would rent it out. Little did I know that I was about to meet a Jamaican version of myself, albeit, a bit older version.
Before I knew it, I was on the phone with Julie. or, as everyone here calls her “Auntie Julie.” We chatted for a long time and were instantly close friends. It was decided that my September trip with my 16-year-old daughter to “house hunt” would be spent staying in her home in Treasure Beach. She offered to come stay there with us so she could show us the ropes and help us find our way around. That’s when we first actually met.
By the end of that trip, I felt like I had known Auntie Julie my entire life. We were like family and I knew I had found my place in Jamaica. Her home was actually much larger and better situated than the house I missed out on, was fully furnished and not in need of immediate repairs to make it livable. More importantly, it felt like home to me and I could see my husband and I spending our retirement years quite happily there.
Finding this house also situated me fairly closely to a man I’ve tried for a few YEARS to meet, Keith Wedderburn, an organic fruit farmer who owns Bluefields Organic Fruit Farm. We connected on Facebook during a conversation about farming. Since I was a goat farmer back then, we began discussing various aspects of farming that were different between Jamaica and my home in the cold Northeast USA.
Over time, I discovered that his passions included first, his wife and children, secondly, his community and, finally, his farm and farm tour business. I watched him closely as he interacted with other people on his posts and came to really admire his ability to both start a meaningful Facebook conversation and to moderate it, as well. I could see that his passion was less about farming, per se, and more about educating people on healthier ways to live and eat.
On every trip I’ve made to Jamaica since those conversations began, I have contacted Keith and told him I was going “to try” to make it down to see his farm so I could better understand the plight of farmers here in Jamaica. I was also very curious to meet him in person, wondering if he was as well-spoken and congenial as he seemed. Each trip seemed to get jammed up with visiting places that my family wanted to see and I never got down his way.
That changed during this current longer stay in Jamaica, as I’m now living only about an hour from his farm. I decided before I came for this stay that no matter what anyone else wanted to do, I was GOING to meet Keith! So when a friend, Ricardo, came up from Kingston to visit for a few days and had a car, that was one of the first things I wanted to accomplish.
Off we went, making arrangements to meet Keith and tour his farm. We got lost on the way there and had to search a bit but he finally drove down to the main road to meet us. It turned out to be an amazing and illuminating visit. Not only was Keith just as he seemed on Facebook, he was even MORE humble and soft-spoken in person. By the time we left, I knew that we had forged a bond that was going to help us both reach our goals.
The young friend that drove us up to meet Keith was Ricardo Burke. Although, technically, we had met last year, this trip afforded me the opportunity to really get to know him. I had read a lot about his organization, Yutes4Change, but didn’t really grasp all that he was doing with it in his community. A few weeks ago he drove us down to his town and showed us the difficult lives that the people there are living between poverty, lack of education and hopelessness.
I was amazed to see the little space he rents, from which he runs an after-school study program, complete with computers, a before school breakfast program, Sunday school, community outreach to the elderly, and so much more. It was impressive to see how much he was doing with so little, and even more so because even having been awarded many awards for his work, Ricardo remains the most humble man, always looking for ways to expand his reach so as to help more people. I couldn’t be more proud of him if he was my own son.
Another young man I finally met in person and whom I now love like one of my own kids, is Alexan. He was headed back to school from Christmas break just as I arrived in Jamaica this January so he came by to meet me in person. My 20-year-old daughter and her boyfriend had joined my younger daughter and me on this trip and they all immediately fell in love with Alexan. He is just so genuine and easy to be around.
We were originally connected through a fund-raiser that a mutual friend ran to help Alexan. He was a dedicated student who needed financial assistance and I was one of the contributors. At some point along the way, Alexan needed some advice and contacted me. We began to get to know each other and became good friends.
As our relationship developed, Alexan decided that his calling was to help other young people have what he has found in our connection, namely encouragement. He is now mentoring several of the students at his school and, beyond his emotional support, he is trying to start a foundation that could help to alleviate some of the financial struggle students face as they strive to get through school.
The group he started, The Amplified Voice of Young People, is just getting off the ground but I know he will touch the lives of many young adults through it. I’ve heard the saying “each one, reach one,” but this outcome has given new meaning to that for both of us.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, quite unexpectedly, I had two other Facebook friends come to see me this past Sunday. The best part is that I got to meet both Sandra and LaRhonda in person for the first time at a lovely brunch here in town. As it turned out, the two of them had a lot in common, too. To top it all off, LaRhonda brought another retired American woman with her, Deborah, who has quickly turned into a lovely new friend.
Sandra, is a Jamaican and a computer teacher in Kingston. We met via Facebook a few years ago because I saw her post some photos of the amazing copper jewelry that she designs and produces. During our private conversations surrounding my eventual purchase of a few pieces, I discovered that she was spunky, intelligent, independent and freely spoke her mind. And she drives a really cool, vintage VW bus! In short, she was my kind of woman.
LaRhonda, an American who has been married forever to a Jamaican man was everything I expected and more. She retired from her career in the USA and runs not only her own computer business here but also an amazing non-profit called, Vision for Jamaica.
Her non-profit teaches basic computer coding to school children from preschool up to young adult. She is a mover and shaker and has a wealth of knowledge about Jamaica, as well as wisdom about life. She has become a big part of my support system down here and I’m so thankful for her.
Reading this, you might not think these people play any significant part in my life beyond simply being my friends. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Keith is working towards a guesthouse on his property that provides farm stays, one of my ultimate goals here. I’ve been able to support his efforts by building him a website and making contacts for him. He has given me great insight into what it takes to survive as an entrepreneur here.
Ricardo and Alexan have not only been a great inspiration to me, pushing forward against terrible odds, but they also check in on me daily and would be at my door in a flash if I needed anything or had an emergency. That is such a comfort to me right now, living so far away from my husband and children.
LaRhonda, Sandra and Deborah give me the courage to keep walking in faith, to reach for my dreams and to not worry about the opinions of others who might not understand my choices. We are definitely birds of a feather!
Not to be left out is Miss Julie. Finding her and this house has given me a real home and real family here. I can’t even explain the connection between us and the way our energy multiplies when we are together. She has helped refine my plans and helped me believe that I can make valuable things happen here.
My hope is that you will read what I’ve written and find a renewed willingness to be open to the future that is out there for you. Maybe it will come through a connection you make. Maybe it will be an event. Or maybe you will simply find a new path. The important thing is to keep looking and be ready when that moment comes.