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Jamaica Mission 2016 Part 5: Reverse Culture Shock!

By September 29, 2016June 27th, 2023DMC News & Events, Michael's Operatory, Outreach

This is my 5th and perhaps final blog about our 2016 Jamaica dental outreach program.  Here’s the first blog, wherein I mainly talked about preparing to go down and how much better we were at it (compared to 2015!).  In the second blog, I talked about clinic set up, equipment failures and how we had to adapt.  In the third blog, I talked about how we worked hard and played hard.  In the fourth blog, I talked about some shock and awe that we all experienced.  And in this blog, I’m going to tackle the interesting topic of REVERSE culture shock.

Reverse Culture Shock

Papa Joe and I warned everyone from the beginning: when you get back home, you’re going to be in for a shocker.  You won’t be used to anything.  You may find yourself missing your team and ESPECIALLY your patients.  You may be wondering what the heck you’re doing up here and if it’s making any difference at all.  That’s what Papa Joe calls reverse culture shock.

For me, when I did this trip the first time, I had difficulty adjusting at first.  I kept thinking: I had such a big physiological impact on the lives of so many in Jamaica over a short period of time; I feel like I’m wasting away up here.  I need to be back there, helping out.  I’m definitely not making the most of my life by typing and talking and phoning, etc.  I wasn’t depressed; just in a daze for a few days.  And I wasn’t the only who felt that way.  This time around, I felt it a little bit; but not as much as some of the other volunteers.  Here are some examples:

Dental hygienist Nina Nguyen after returning:

I was missing going to the beach after work (every day).  So I did a painting last night of the sunsetting at Negril beach.”

Dr. Irish Malapitan after returning:

“I was sad when I got home.  I was more thankful for the things that we have.  I truly loved the patients in Jamaica.  They had so little but gave us so much”

Dr. Jacqueline Geroche after returning:

“I walked into a store and bought a patty.  It was 5:00 p.m. and I need a patty.   I’ve never done that before.  I’m withdrawing and I can’t deal with this right now.   I see the privilege that we have as Canadians and we have it so good and we take it for granted.  And I know there’s still barriers to dental care up here, but it’s nothing like they have down there.”

Dental hygienist June Jennings:

I  have been missing  our group already.”

For my fellow lawyer at DMC LLP, Jonathan Borrelli, it sunk in when he returned home and saw the tall buildings.

FYI, in Jamaica, they’re just called Patties.  Here, they’re called Jamaican beef Patties. I saw this at the Toronto airport upon arrival and had to take a pic:


So what’s my recommended treatment for reverse culture shock?

Step 1: Reminisce about the good times, the challenges, and think about how good we’ve got it up here.
Step 2: Call up other volunteers and meet up.
Step 3: Come down and volunteer every year.  It’s guaranteed to be the best 10 days of the year and some of the best memories of your life!

Thinking Bigger

As I mentioned in the Oral Health Office article that’s coming out about our mission trip: this is a temporary solution.  Papa Joe has a wonderful dream of acquiring a piece of land close to Montego Bay (currently listed for USD$1.2-million) and developing it as a public dental clinic.  A clinic that can accommodate 50 people and which will see dental and non-dental volunteers from North America and Jamaica spend 1 week at a time providing free dental treatments and education to impoverished Jamaicans.  I believe we can help Papa Joe with his goal.  It won’t be easy.  We need to fundraise, and also get donations of sundries and equipment; and we also need volunteers to work there all year round.

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