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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Wah Gwaan?

Wah Gwaan? What’s up? ¿Qué Pasa?

Greetings all, I am beyond excited to embark on this South American adventure in T – 17 days! (Yes, I’ve been counting down)

My name is Danielle Mullings and I am from Kingston, Jamaica.

Jamaican culture is typically described as a “melting pot” due to our mixed heritage. The culture is predominantly African traditions mixed with European elements – primarily the British and Spanish who colonized the island for the longest periods circa the 1500s. On paper, our official language is English but many citizens don’t know how to speak it. Majority converse in patois a.k.a creole – a language based off English with African elements. I’ll teach you more words from it when we meet but for now “Wah Gwaan?” translates to “What’s up?” English is seen as the language of upperclassmen and there have been movements to ratify patois as the national language and establish it as the language of instruction in schools.
Jamaican city life is drastically different from rural life but I get a mix of both since I live in a rural town on a hill and work/ attend school in the city. There is a huge disparity between the access to resources of students in Kingston (the city) versus students in more rural parishes. Jamaica is usually identified with Reggae music however Dancehall music is a lot more common. There is somewhat of a reggae revival going on now though. I am a music lover so you’ll probably hear me singing a lot. Singing is not my skill set per say but I engage in it nonetheless lol.  What I love most about Jamaica is the beautiful scenery and the warm weather all year round! I’ve never seen snow before. I’m rather curious to explore the similarities and differences between Peruvian/ Bolivian and Jamaican cultures.

P.S. Foreigners usually ask if Jamaicans live in huts, LOL we don’t. We live in regular cement block houses for the most part.

I am currently taking a gap year after graduating from high school last June. I love computer science, the environment, film and youth development and the sustainable development goals, therefore I also love the course theme, Developing Development. I’ve been working at the local television station as well as an online blog and charity. I do everything from WordPress Development to traveling around the island to conduct interviews to entering hackathons to climate change documentaries to organizing the National Head Boys and Girls Service Project I founded last year. I’m very active in my community in youth advocacy with UNICEF and Jamaica Youth Advocates and occasionally teach classes on Authentic Leadership to high school students. I know it sounds intense but I also love sleeping so there’s lots of time for that too. I definitely look forward to a more slowed and mindful pace as well as unplugging from technology (though a bit intimidating).

It took me weeks of scouring the internet to find this Dragons program and I am extremely happy I did! I wanted to engage in an intercultural experience that would blow my mind, you know, something I couldn’t come back the same from. I also wanted to challenge myself outside of the classroom in a more socially oriented way while gaining valuable leadership skills I can bring back to my little island. I love reflecting on life and searching for the bigger picture.

P.S. I’m the Student Travel Leader for our flights to Bolivia site on Feb 7. I look forward to arriving safely with you all!