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Departing and Returning: Charting the Heroes' Journey


First a bit of background...                 
I took my first group of Trinity students to serve at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf more than ten years ago and have been making my annual trek to Jamaica every year since. Several years ago I had the crazy notion that I would apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Jamaica, and particularly to Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, a college that had never welcomed a Fulbrighter before. Generally Fulbrighters going to Jamaica find themselves teaching at UWI or the Jamaican University of Technology but I was aware of Sam Sharpe because it is just down the road from CCCD and I had met student teachers from Sam Sharpe at CCCD so it made sense for me to request that as my placement.  Little did I know the large amount of discussion that ensued at the US Embassy in Kingston over my request? “Why does she want to go to Sam Sharpe- it’s not even a 4-year college? They’ve never had a Fulbrighter before.” 

But when they read my application and realized that my PhD was in Curriculum Design, they opened up to the idea since Sam Sharpe was in the process of writing the curriculum necessary to move from a 3-year diploma granting institution to a 4-year degree granting institution, and they knew I would be of help in this area. So when a Fulbright Scholarship allowed me to teach at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College in Granville, helping the college integrate service-learning into their curriculum as well as teach special education classes and write curriculum for their deaf education major.  In my spare time I became involved in The Meeting Place, scuba diving, doing yoga to DVDs and playing recorder duets with one of the Sam Sharpe students…oh, and eating lots of jerk chicken.           
The Stages of a Hero’s Journey

“The variations are endless.  In some stories the hero is a man, in others a woman.  The journey may begin with a clear inner call or merely by accident or chance.  A few stories end prematurely when the would-be hero rejects the opportunity before him or her.                                       

For those who accept the challenge, the journey may be by land or by sea.  En route, there are difficulties and challenges—rivers to ford, deserts to cross.  There are angels to wrestle with and dragons to slay.  There are feats to perform and puzzles to solve.                                

Sometimes the course is clearly charted.  At other times the hero must make her own map as she enters new territory.  In most versions there are guardian spirits in one form or another who guide the way and protect her from danger, often snatching the hero from the jaws of defeat just in the nick of time.                                                   

The climax comes when the hero arrives at the place she has been seeking, the magical moment when the purpose of the journey is revealed.  Enlightenment comes, the boon is uncovered, and the good that the hero set out or was destined to find is now in her possession. A few heroes remain wanderers forever; but most return, bringing back their discoveries and the stories of their adventures to share with those remaining at home.” 
—From Charting the Hero’s Journey
by Linda Chisholm                                                                                 

Not everyone goes through the stages in the same order and some may in fact skip various stages.  But everyone begins with Stages 1 and 2 and ends with Stage 12.  Enjoy the journey with me!

Stage 1: Hearing the Call:

“Each hero’s journey begins with a call to leave behind the familiar and to venture into parts unknown. The call may come suddenly or it may unfold gradually. It may be intentional and deliberate or even a blunder. The call may be clearly recognized or but dimly perceived. Often the call is best recognized only in retrospect.”
—From Charting the Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Hearing the Call to Jamaica
Jamaica feels like a second home to me.  The first time I flew into Sangster airport in Montego Bay in 2001 with a group of Trinity students, I immediately knew that my soul was connected to this country and these people.  Twelve years and 14 trips later, part of my heart remains in Jamaica every time I visit, but for this trip, I would be doing more than visiting…I would be living and working with and among both old friends and yet to be discovered friends.                 

I first received the call to take students from Trinity Christian College to the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in Granville, Jamaica (a small town just outside of Montego Bay) after hearing a friend from Hope College share about her upcoming trip to CCCD.  The seed was planted and I began dreaming of taking my own group of students to work at CCCD.  For me my passions of deaf education, international travel, the sun and sea and working with college students all came together in this opportunity afforded me by both a Fulbright Scholarship and a spring sabbatical from Trinity Christian College:  As Fredrick Buchner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”


Stage 2: Preparing for the Journey

“On recognizing the call, few heroes depart instantly. Most go through a period of preparation in which they tell others of their plans, take care of matters at home, and gather belongings and information they believe will prove useful on the road. The decision to embark may be met with resistance, support, or indifference and these reactions may engender greater resolve or indecision on the part of the hero. For some departing heroes, the preparation brings only excitement and joy; for others a considerable amount of anxiety; for most a mixture of conflicting feelings.”
—From Charting the Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Will I get accepted, do I want to get accepted, and if I do get accepted, do I want to go?
I have loved taking students from Trinity Christian College to the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf for a week each January. As a college, we have brought many new teaching strategies and materials to the school and eventually have begun to take the children on a field trip each year. CCCD loves Trinity and Trinity loves CCCD. 

So when I looked at the Fulbright Scholarship book that crossed my desk for the fourth year and decided to apply to work in Jamaica.  Several months passed and I learned that I had been accepted provisionally but would not be officially accepted into the Fulbright program until I received final approval both from the US Embassy in Washington DC and the US Embassy in Jamaica which is located in Kingston.  Again I waited with mixed emotions. Did I really want to leave my husband, children, dog, home, church, friends and family for that long? What was I thinking?                          
So when I received the congratulatory letter from the Fulbright Association informing me that I had been officially accepted as a Fulbright Scholar I had very mixed emotions. Receiving a sabbatical from Trinity continued to confirm to me that this was something I was supposed to do but my heart was still torn. But I knew what I had to do and that was to accept the Fulbright Scholarship and prepare to spend five months teaching at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College in Granville, St. James, Jamaica.

Stage 3: Departing and Separating

“In movies, novels, legends, and sometimes in life itself, there are the dramatic final moments before separation when the departing hero says farewell, starts on the road leading away from home, with or without the final glance backward that is supposed to tell all and predict the road he will take in the future. The soon-to-be sojourner usually anticipates with excitement the promise that lies ahead. But departure’s other face is separation, accompanied sometimes by a sense of relief and as often with a twinge or more of sadness.”
—From “Charting the Hero’s Journey “by Linda Chisholm

I have never been truly alone. A have always lived with my family, a roommate, a spouse, a spouse and children, or at the very least, I had a boyfriend or fiancée that I spent the majority of my time with. I’ve spent weekends alone at conferences both around the US and across the world but those were never for more than four or five days and while at the conference, I was surrounded by fellow professors and even friends.                                                 

So after a night of enjoying our son and new daughter-in-law’s wedding I knew that the morning would bring the first leg of my Jamaican journey, a week with 22 Trinity students at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf. My husband would then join the team and me on Saturday, stay through Wednesday, and then I would be on my own…alone in Jamaica.                           

Wednesday came all too quickly and then he was gone; back to Chicago and the cold…and I was left alone to figure out how to live life in Jamaica on my own.                                        

I’ve been amazed to discover that the food I bought three weeks ago is still enough for me for several more weeks: perhaps it is multiplying like the loaves and fishes! I’m finding that towels dried with clothespins on the line are hard but they dry quickly and smell fresh. I’m also not too concerned about the cleanliness of my condo since it doesn’t get dirty with just one person living there.       

And what do I miss? Well, besides the obvious, my husband, children, Bella my dog, and friends and family, I miss my morning cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The folks at my local Dunkin’ Donuts must wonder where I am because I ordered a medium with cream and sugar every day! Also, watching television, I see all of the commercials for many of my favorite restaurants such as Olive Garden and I miss good Italian food. I also miss my yoga class since doing yoga to a video isn’t anything like sharing it with a group of like-minded individuals. And even though I can view my church on the Internet, it’s not the same as worshipping with my family and friends at Parkview Christian Church.

Stage 4: Crossing the First Threshold

“Once the separation has been effected and the journey begun in earnest, a frequent first response is exhilaration. New sights, sounds, smells, and tastes stimulate the hero’s senses, just as they did for Marco Polo when he arrived in Kublai Kahn’s great city of Cambaluc. Accompanying responses to the initial exhilaration may be delight, wonder, joy, surprise, but also apprehension, disgust, disappointment, or confusion. These contradictory feelings may come at the same time or in any successive order.”
From “Charting the Hero’s Journey” by Linda Chisholm

Moving into Court Manor, Montego Bay
Living in Jamaica, in even what would be considered one of the most beautiful condos in the downtown section of Mo Bay, is not what I am used to. It is so very important to conserve energy, that no electricity is used unless it is absolutely necessary; which means that I only use the air conditioner in the bedroom for up to 1 hour a night. I turn on the hot water heater around 5 pm so that I can take a bath before bed and then turn it off all day. I only turn on the power for the stove when I am going to use it. And, for the first time, I wash my clothes in a washer but dry them on a line outside – the Jamaican way to dry clothes because, as the Jamaicans say, “We have the sun.”         

When drying clothes in a clothesline, you literally show your dirty, or should I say, clean, laundry to the world. For instance, I know that the man who lives next door wears gray and black jockey briefs. Do I need or want to know this? NO!! So I decided that I would be hanging MY underwear on a wonderful dryer that I hang over the shower bar given to me for my birthday by my good friend. She must have known that I would be very uncomfortable letting the world, or at least my neighbors, see my “clean” undies.                
But sitting on my patio overlooking the Caribbean more than makes up for any of the inconveniences that I am experiencing. I eat my breakfast before school and often my dinner on that little patio, watching the cruise ships come and go and the pleasure crafts come back at night. What a life this will be for five months.

Stage 5: Taking up the Challenges

“This stage in the journey deals with the challenge of understanding a new culture- its geography and natural features, its human culture and the institutions of its society. The challenges also include issues of individual relationships. The hero who accepts the challenges is seen differently by the people who surround her. One will recognize the perceptions of others and, as they turn into the tasks, will have a changed notion of themselves.”
—From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm          

An Unexpected Visitor
Last night after I had just finished skyping my husband, Rick, and son, Aaron, and was working on some lessons for school a streak of black and white ran across my family room floor and up the stairs. I knew immediately who my ‘visitor’ was since a black and white tabby had been stalking my condo since the day I had moved in. I’m sure he/she/it was looking for a new ‘sucker’ friend who would feed it or at least give it milk but that wasn’t going to be me.                                

I had told many friends that I intended to find a ‘furry dog’ to adopt as soon as I arrived in Jamaica but quickly realized that 1) there are next to no dogs of that type on the island; there are only street dogs and 2) I’m not home enough to give a dog adequate attention, so I put that plan aside…but I was NOT about to replace my desire for a dog with an unwanted cat!               

I am not and have never been a cat lover. I’m allergic to cats and just don’t like them. Well, needless to say, this cat had me over a barrel. It was in my home and probably thought that it had outsmarted me. It had come in through the screen door that I had left ajar and then just stood there, staring at me from the top of the stairs.                                   

I quickly opened the front door and in my sweetest “here, kitty; here kitty” voice cajoled it down the stairs and out the door, quickly locking the front door and the screen door behind it.  Sorry cat but you didn’t find a sucker in me last night!

Going Without Water
There have been few years that I have gone to CCCD with Trinity students that we have been without water for at least one day, and sometimes for as long as three days, but I never thought that I would have to deal with that while living at 1 Court Manor.                                           

Well last night as I was preparing to take a bath I turned on the tub water only to find nothing coming out. I tried the sink and had the same result. “Not again,” I thought. This is one of the hardest things about living in a developing nation: the uncertainty of living with potentially no water or electricity for extended periods of time. I put on my pajamas and dealt with the fact that there would be no bath and went downstairs to work on the computer.  But I am happy to report that I again have running water this morning. Now let’s hope that it’s hot!

Stage 6: Battling the Beasts

“Where would the hero be without the dragon or giant to slay? All heroes, as they venture forth to accomplish the given tasks, face perils to themselves and to the communities through which they pass. Naming the beast- recognizing it for what it is- is the first step toward slaying it. Reflecting up and writing about the beast battled on their journeys, diarists are able to identify their own points of weakness and vulnerability, and thus find the magic sword for conquering the threats to their proceeding on the journey. They grow stronger from the battles.”
—From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

One of the most common expressions you will hear spoken around Jamaica is ‘soon come” which interpreted means, “it will happen when it happens.’ Time is relative in Jamaica and things or events usually begin when the people that are supposed to be there have arrived. The only place that I’ve found this NOT to be true is at The Meeting Place. Church starts at 9:00 and at 9:00 the doors are closed until about 9:15 when latecomers can enter and join in the worship time.               
I became accustomed to this relationship with time while taking students to CCCD each year and part of my orientation to them would include talking about this substantial difference between the US and Jamaica. Each year I could tell that this was difficult for some of the students but most of them were able to go with the flow. I even learned to adapt to what I felt was ‘mushy time’ and began to relax my own schedule.    

But at Sam Sharpe I am involved in several 8:00 classes and find it difficult to begin knowing that over half of the students are not there. The lecturer that I am co-teaching one of the larger classes with has consistently told the students that they must be on time because there is so much material to cover but so far there has been little change in when students arrive to class. Even after chapel this morning, during his announcements, the principal stressed to the students that they must be in their classes when they are scheduled to begin.                         

Our practice at Trinity of allowing our students to leave their class if the professor is more than ten minutes late would never work as professors or lecturers as they are called at Sam Sharpe, are as often as not, late as well. So a question for my Physics colleagues: what really is time?

Teaching with a Piece of Chalk
One of my main responsibilities at Sam Sharpe this semester includes introducing the pedagogy of service-learning to the year 1,2 and 3 special education majors which include students majoring in high incidence disabilities, low incidence disabilities and deaf and hard of hearing. In am also working with the three special education lecturers to revise their curriculum and change their program from a 3-year diploma granting institution to a 4-year degree granting institution. Additionally I am co-teaching an Introduction to Exceptionalities course and guest lecturing in both high incidence and low incidence classes. Finally, I am hoping to help the college partner with local civic organizations such as Rotary and Lions Club to gather support for service-learning at the college so that any programs started are sustainable.                          

Last week I taught several lessons and spent a lot of time preparing power point presentations and handouts. I was supposed to be in classes equipped with equipment to show my power points but in all three classes I found myself equipped with a chalkboard and no chalk- that’s it! Well, one student quickly found me a piece of chalk (and laughingly told me to keep it in my office) and I taught using a chalkboard and a piece of white chalk, realizing how dependent I have become on technology.          
Well it was back to the chalkboard as they say, for me, and I am learning NOT to rely on technology. Rich discussions about key topics and incorporating both reading and writing into every class is something I’m going to be experimenting with while teaching at Sam Sharpe.

Stage 7: Passing Through the Gates

“A succession of gates marks the progress of the hero’s journey. The passage through each is a milestone, with the gate ahead viewed as the ext obstacle and the one behind as a step of accomplishment in reaching the destination. Some gates in a hero’s passage are wide and welcoming, and the traveler passes through with relative ease. But other gates are guarded by strong and sometimes fierce creatures with the power to determine who may cross over to the other side. The gates of the hero’s story are metaphors for markers on the interior road to understanding. We must ask what ideas, assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors act as gatekeepers preventing our reaching a higher level of appreciation of another culture and of ourselves.”
—From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

‘You smell America (n)’
Yesterday when I walked into the fifth grade classroom at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf one bright little boy said, “You smell America (n),” as I walked to my seat at the back of the classroom to observe the lesson. I guess the surprise showed on my face because he quickly added, “Smell good.”                                          

I turned to Sharon, the lecturer from Sam Sharpe who was accompanying me and asked her if there is in fact a ‘smell’ that Americans have and she assured me that, “Yes, when I have Americans visit my home, there is a specific smell that is there when they leave.”                                         

I remembered back to when my husband, Rick, the kids and myself lived in Homewood, across the street from an Indian family. We frequently commented that they had a particular smell, probably coming from the spices that they use to cook with.            

Well I certainly don’t cook with lots of spices and I didn’t think that my grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup were leaving off a particular order so I deducted that Americans must use more scented products: soap, deodorant, hair spray, and cologne. I then assumed that this young boy must like the scent of Oscar de la renta perfume, which I was wearing yesterday. His comment was all actually very sweet and another reminder that I am only a visitor to this country, no matter how long I stay. I smell like ‘Oscar’ perfume.

A Citizen of the World, a Semester in Paradise
I fancy myself a citizen of the world. I love to travel, in fact it is in my top five things to do in life, and have been all over Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, and of course, the United States, and will be traveling to Africa for the first time next summer. But my favorite place in the world (other than home) is still Jamaica. I understand that there are many people, and especially tourists, who never experience the REAL Jamaica and that makes me sad because they miss out on so much. The Jamaican people are friendly and kind, the food is amazing, the culture interesting and the beaches, enchanting. What is there not to love?      

Living in Jamaica I am also confronted daily with the many of struggles that the typical Jamaican lives with daily. For example, my driver never has more than a quarter of a tank of gas…that’s all he can afford. There are street vendors along the most famous street in Montego Bay trying their best to sell a few trinkets a day so that they can put food on the table for their families. There are roads that I travel daily that would tear the bottom out of most American cars, especially if we drove at our normal speeds. And most Jamaicans much prefer curry goat, mutton (which I ate for the first time last week), bammy, festival and escovich fish to a great T-bone steak or fried shrimp. How can that be??

But I’m so fortunate to be working with three fellow professors who continually keep me informed as to the REAL Jamaica, both the Jamaica I see on the streets and the Jamaica I don’t see that the middle class live daily. It’s fun to see the surprise on people’s faces when I inform them “I am NOT a tourist, I live here.”  Jamaica is giving me a semester in paradise.

Stage 8: Recognizing Guides and Guardian Spirits

“When the hero is most threatened, the challenges too great for his strength or ability, the dragons breathing fire and the gates firmly locked, there materialize in the story mentors or guardian spirits to come to aid. Oh, the variety of forms these mentors, guides, and guardians assume in story and in real life! But what comfort true mentors and guardians bring to the hero who discovers that on this otherwise solitary path she is not alone! Before and behind, above and below are those who know the road already, who possess the knowledge and wisdom to help the hero complete the journey successfully, and who stand ready and willing to guide the way.”
From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Recognizing Guides and Guardian Angels: Mrs. Dorette Russell
I met Mrs. Dorette Russell the third year that I took students to the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf. She had signed on to be the interim principal for 4-5 weeks and is still at CCCD 8 years later. CCCD is so fortunate to have a woman of her strength and faith at the helm and she has become one of my best friends, in fact my Jamaican sista. She is a mom to both the teachers and the children, disciplinarian to those that need to be called out regarding inappropriate behaviors, cheerleader for the school for work teams from the United States, and prayer warrior for anyone who needs her support. She is one of the strongest and smartest women I know and I count it a privilege to call her my friend. There are numerous times over the past 8 years that I have called on Dorette for support, understanding, help and advice…and she has never left me down. She is truly my Jamaican guardian angel.

A Driver Named Mr. Johnson
When I learned I would be moving to Jamaica. Ms. Russell, who thinks I can do anything, thought that “of course” you can drive in Montego Bay and Granville but Rick thought better. So we hired a driver.                  

Initially the people I am renting my condo from gave me a driver’s name and I contacted him. He was happy to be my daily driver and we made arrangements for my first pickup. Well, instead of Dwight, I found a Mr. Johnson waiting outside my door. He’s a lovely Jamaican man, missing several front teeth, who it takes a bit of time to understand, but he really cares about my well-being and is always punctual; something a bit unusual for Jamaica.   

He arrives early in the morning with a smile, the windows half open because his air conditioning is broken (doesn’t he know what that does to my hair!) and pleasant conversation. I trust him completely and asked him today if he could just be my permanent driver, but it seems that Dwight owns his car, so that is that.  But guardian angels come in the least expected forms. Mr. Johnson, you are certainly a guardian angel.

Stage 9: Celebrating the Victories

“The hero’s journey is one of thresholds and gates, challenges and battles, and, if progress is made, one of victories large and small. Each mountain summited, flood forded, desert crossed, portal passed, mentor recognized, puzzle solved, and beast slain should be an occasion of rejoicing for the traveler. In even the most mundane of journeys, the traveler faces new situations whose mysteries he unshrouds.”
— From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

How Sweet are the Victories, Crushing the Defeats and Beautiful the Island of Jamaica
I am living in a paradise and from time to time need to take the time to enjoy this fabulous experience that has been given me. I need to take the time to pause, reflect on where I have been and where I am going, taking time out of my busy schedule to enjoy the ride.                               

Most days Montego Bay feels just like home to me. Though I know when at Sam Sharpe I am the only white person, it just doesn’t matter. In fact today I had a very interesting conversation with a fellow lecturer and she was sharing how much a friend of her that was Dutch was like Jamaicans. I told her that I too was Dutch and she exclaimed, “Well that explains it…that’s why you fit in so well.” I don’t really understand it but I can accept it, though it does perplex me a bit.
Walking down the ‘hip strip’ to pick up groceries or go to the beach, or maybe even when I splurge and eat at one of the many restaurants, I’m beginning to be recognized by both shopkeepers and the guys that work the beach. The woman that sells fruit at the bottom of my staircase now knows that I like bananas and tangerines and Debbie, my manicurist, always stops to say hi. Every time I am recognized I think, “How cool is this that I’m beginning to know not only the people at CCCD but other Jamaicans as well.”             
Stage 10: Discovering the Boon

“Along the road there comes the time when the hero realizes that she has been not only on an adventure but on a quest. The climax comes when she finds the object of her search. The scales drop from her eyes and she sees the world and herself in new, life-giving, and life-transforming ways. Having found the object of the search, the hero is left with the two stages of the journey that sages call the most difficult of all. The hero prepares for the return, to bring home the discovered good for the benefit of others. Societies see such returning heroes as the bearers of fresh energy and new ideas, and as the day-spring that comes afresh with each generation, necessary to sustain and renew life.”
—From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Yes, Virginia, There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch
One of the big surprises about teaching at Sam Sharpe is that they provide a free lunch to all students, faculty and staff every day. The first time that I was made aware of this it took me completely by surprise. After all, I had heard the saying, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Well at Sam Sharpe that just isn’t true. 

The several times that I have eaten lunch at Sam Sharpe I’ve been given a complete meal including fish or chicken, rice, yams or another vegetable and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s far too much food for me for lunch but a special treat nonetheless.          

Today at lunch they had music playing in the all-purpose room where we all eat lunch. What a joyous atmosphere! The students all sit at tables that seat 8-10 students and the “lecturers” or faculty sit facing them near the stage. It’s a great time to get to know the other faculty members and is also a welcome break during a busy day.  Thanks Sam Sharpe that there IS such a thing as a free lunch.

Stage 11: Charting the Course

“As the story reaches the climax and the hero’s thoughts turn to home, it is time for time to look at the road behind and ahead to see a pattern to the journey. Logic might suggest that mapping comes first; that we lay out the destination with predictable benchmarks before we begin a journey. But in most of the great legends the trail over which the hero has traveled becomes apparent only as the tales draws to an end. It has been the freedom to choose from different forks in the road, to follow the mysterious rhythm of leading and being led that finally reveals purpose and meaning and, some would say, destiny.
—From Charting a Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Sunshine and Shadows
Helen Keller once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” Living in a land of perpetual sunshine the shadows cross my path and often go unnoticed, I’m so enjoying the sunshine. Yet the shadows are there and are a necessary part of my experience…perhaps even the most important part. For it is in the shadows that growth often occurs.                                                                                                                                                     
And what are those shadows? A few that come to mind are not having a car and being dependent on a driver; missing my morning cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee; not having a yoga class to go to and having to do yoga to DVDs; not being able to call up a friend to go out for coffee or lunch; and of course, missing my family and dog. But is living in the shadows a bad place to be…now? I don’t think so since so much change, inspiration and awareness often comes in times of shadows.  

I’m learning to be able to just live with me, managing my time, emotions and energy in both productive and comfortable ways. For instance, I can go to church alone each week, meet new people, worship God, and leave alone happy and blessed. I go to the grocery store and pick out food for one, cook for one, do laundry for one and plan evening activities for one.        
Stage 12: Returning Home

“With battles fought and won, mysteries encountered and unshrouded, boons discovered and captured, new territory covered and mapped, the hero turns in the direction of home.  The return journey is never a mere retracing of steps. Some heroes take a new route home, prolonging their adventure. But even for those who choose the now-familiar road, the return is a new experience enveloped in new meaning. Just as she responded to the call to embark on the hero’s journey, so now she accepts the consequences, assenting with wiling mind and heart to the tasks now given, now chosen, and looking forward to the new world of challenge, opportunity, and difference that lies ahead.”
—From “Charting a Hero’s Journey” by Linda Chisholm

An Unexpected Visitor Becomes a Friend
I am NOT a cat person, have never been a cat person, and will probably never be a cat person but I have a black and white kitten who is determined to become my friend.  Several weeks after I moved into 1 Court Manor my ‘friend’ came running through my screen door, up my stairs and sat up there looking down at me, daring me to shoo him or her out.  I did just that and haven’t seen my friend for months.   
But last night this same kitten (or perhaps small cat) decided to come for another visit and this time sat right next to my door, meowing to be let in.  She let me pet her (at least I think she’s a girl) and was determined to join me INSIDE my condo.  Well I wasn’t ready to share my last week with a cat, even a cute one, but she did sucker me into bringing out a bowl of milk and some cut up cheese.  Not being a cat person I really have no idea what cats eat but figured dairy would be safe.                                                  

Well tonight I came home at around 6:30 and was met by my new friend, meowing at the top of her lungs.  She actually started pawing my door and was determined to make her home with me IN my condo.  Still not ready to share my digs with a cat, I gave her one of my jerk chicken bones and that quickly quieted her down.                                                                          
Now let’s see if she comes again for dinner tomorrow night.  Guess who’s coming to dinner at my house every night?

Sam Sharpe Valedictory Service
Today was one of the most emotional days I have experienced yet during my semester at Sam Sharpe.  The year-end Valedictory service for year 3 graduates was held at Calvary Baptist Church to a packed crowd of students, family members, friends and lecturers.  What an amazing experience!
The service was supposed to begin at 2:00 and at 1:45 my driver had still not arrived but I wasn’t too concerned since nothing, and I mean NOTHING has started on time at Sam Sharpe since I’ve been there.  So I called my driver, arrived at the church at 2:05, and made my way to the stage to sit with my fellow lecturers.  Then the students began their procession into the church.  Students in the day program chose a solid fabric and matching patterned fabric as did the students in the night program but everyone had a different style.  I’ve never seen so many different ways to use two different fabrics!  It was beautiful and very stately.  
Dr. Brown challenged the new class of teachers to be the difference in Jamaica and turn the tide of violence that is around every corner.  In addition to her talk there were several responsive readings calling on God to grant each of us wisdom and knowledge, patience and perseverance and courage to face the future as teachers.  It was one of the most powerful, moving, and thoroughly Christian services I have ever experienced.                                          

After three hours of pomp and circumstance, the service ended.  The lecturers lined the aisle as the students passed between them on their way out the front door of the church.  There were plenty of handshakes and hugs as the students and lecturers have moved beyond teacher/student to friends.  It was bittersweet to congratulate the special education majors, all of whom I know quite well, knowing I will only see them perhaps one or two more times before I leave.   
Saying Good-Bye to my Fellow Sam Sharpe Lecturers
Saying good-bye to the children at CCCD each January has never been particularly hard for me because I always knew that I would see them again, probably the next January. But today I had to say good-bye to a group of fellow professors (lecturers as they are called in Jamaica) knowing I may never see them again. Oh we all said the right things…you’ll come back and visit us; we’ll stay in touch; we can’t wait to see each other and work together again…but the reality is that none of those things may be true.               

They threw a ‘surprise’ good-bye party for me today but Sharon just had a sense that I wasn’t big on surprises so I knew it was coming since she warned me last Friday about an ‘event’ that would be happening on Monday. She too doesn’t like surprises so I was glad we were on the same page and I was prepared, at least in part, to enter a room prepared for a good-bye party.                                                                                                                          

I walked into Room 1 of Building A, the only air-conditioned classroom in the school, and found a room full of lecturers, a table full of food and a gigantic cake saying ‘Thank You Dr. Patricia Powell (Patti). I’m not sure I’ve ever had a cake with my name on it before so I was very touched.  Then both Dr. Asburn Pinnock, principal of Sam Sharpe and Sharon Anderson-Morgan, chair of the special education department each said a few words. I was touched and deeply grateful for my time at Sam Sharpe and the true friendships that had formed in the four plus months I was there. They ‘got’ me and accepted me and I think, even loved me as I loved them.  Saying good-bye over food seems to be a good idea and today it was a very good idea.

Campbell, Joseph. (1949). The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Novato California: New World Library.

Campbell, Joseph. (1990). The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Novato, California: New World Library.

Gilligan, Stephan and Robert Dilts. (2009). The Hero’s Journey: A Voyage of Self-Discovery. Bethel, CT- Crown Publishing Company LLC.

Chisholm, Linda A. (2000). Charting a Hero’s Journey.  Partnership for International Service-Learning and Leadership.

About the Author:  Patti Powell is a professor of special education at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.  Patti is married and the mother of six children. Prior to coming to Trinity she taught children who are deaf at the State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, Arizona and music to children with severe/profound disabilities at Elim Christian School. When not teaching Patti enjoys scuba diving, reading, traveling with her husband and family and playing with her dog and granddogs.

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