“Life is whatever you make it,” Elena thought as she surveyed the busy narrow street. She wiped the sweat off her brow.
It had been six months since her arrival in Yallahs, St. Thomas. Relocating to this rural community on the east coast of Jamaica was an entirely different experience for the New England girl, but she was absolutely confident of her decision to drop everything and move there. But her fiancé, the investment banker, wasn’t as confident as she was when she informed him of her decision and was still trying to dissuade her when she bade him goodbye at the airport.
Elena adjusted her rucksack over her shoulders and prepared to follow the other pedestrians in between the traffic of motorbikes and buses across the street. Zebra crossings and traffic signals were just a suggestion, she quickly learned the first few weeks that she was here. No point in waiting to cross the street; just go across when you have the chance to do so.
She decided several weeks ago to start walking to the little Primary School where she taught a roomful of 45 eager second graders. At 23 years old, she was still unsure of what she wanted to do in life, but she was pretty certain that it did not involve following the same path as all her other high school friends and getting married and starting a family by the time she was 22. She wanted so much more than to be someone’s wife. She wanted to help children achieve great things and a teaching degree seemed the way to go.
But after one year in a Boston classroom as a teacher’s aide, she was ready to throw in the towel. The pay was sparse indeed, and not enough to cover her living expenses and repay her student loan. So once the opportunity arose for a one year teacher-exchange program in the tropical island, she grabbed it.
The children loved Elena and this seemed to be the route her life was destined to travel. She had found the gratification that she was seeking by interacting with the children and watching them soak up their lessons like a sponge. They were keen on listening to what she had to impart and that in turn, made teaching so much more fulfilling than it had been in Boston.
As she crossed to the other side of the street, she decided she’d extend her program for another year. Her fiancé certainly wouldn’t like that. Then again, he probably wouldn’t like that she was going to break up with him and get on with her own life, either.