World Horizons by J. C., Bristol, VT
The small plane shook and sputtered as the wheels touched down. I smiled. We were finally here.
Since I had been accepted into the World Horizons volunteer program, I had been counting the days until this moment. It seemed as though that day when I had scowled and cursed (under my breath) at the thought that my parents believed I was unmotivated was light years behind me. On that day in June, I had stomped up the stairs to my bedroom in blind anger with a section of The New York Times clutched tightly under white knuckles. I was prepared to make an attempt at finding some week-long summer camp to work at. Anything to reassure my parents that I was not going to spend the summer in City Hall park with the local strangers, in town with my friends, or lounging about on my roof with a radio and a bottle of water. This was exactly the way I had hoped my summer would be; my mother and father, however, had quite different ideas. But now, here I was, thousands of miles from my small town in Vermont, no longer to appease my parents but to satisfy my own curiosity. I was out to see what the world was like outside of our sickening American culture.
As the door opened and we all got out of the plane, I could sense the excitement shared by the other 10 students who had been assigned to spend four and a half weeks on the island of Nevis. The air was warm, but not humid, and there was a strong breeze. From this point on, these new friends (whom I became quite attached to after only a very short time) underwent an uncountable number of completely new experiences. There are a million stories I could tell. Of long conversations with rastafarian men using a foreign dialect that was sometimes called "Nevisian pride "; of giant spiders which spanned at least eight inches; of new foods I had never even heard of; of long day after long day being dirty, sweaty and tired; or of small, wide-eyed children staring with amazement at the magic toothpicks I had trained to jump. All these things I look back upon, and I can only wish I were still there. These days were some of the best days of my life, and at the same time, they were some of the hardest.
We worked all over the island: in the hospital, in the library, cleaning parks and beaches, and running a daycare center for the children in the afternoon. I met so many people, and fell in love with every one of them. Soon we were known all over, and strangers would greet us on the street and stop to talk endlessly about what America was really like. The only previous exposure they had to American culture (since few had been there) was cable TV, one of the few modern aspects of their culture. It took a bit of convincing before we got some to believe that American girls don't always sleep with someone after the first date, like they do on music videos.
My only regret is that I will never be able to have this exact experience again, and that I cannot come even close to expressing what my summer was like there. I would love to go back and visit some day, but I know it would never be the same. All I can do is remember these days of reggae music, long hours of hitchhiking to the post office, and the words to a song I heard there: "Nevis is always your home." L
For more information, contact:
World Horizons, PO Box 662, Bethelhem, CT 06751 or call: (203) 266-5874.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.