Wednesday, December 19, 2007
We have been enjoying our new place. As Carrie said in the comment to her sea creatures post, I did get stung by a jellyfish on Sunday. Initially I could see where four tentacles struck my bicep and left lines from my shoulder down to my elbow. It felt like stinging nettles but the pain went away much faster. We have seen several jellyfish around the area so it was not a surprise to finally hit one. The water was so murky that I really couldn't see anything.
Christmas is in less than a week, but I feel very disconnected from it. There are decorations around the office, but every time I try to listen to Christmas music it just feels wrong. I think the fact that the temperature hasn't varied for the past six months may have something to do with it. It still feels like July here.
Monday, December 10, 2007
- puffer fish (unpuffed) both in the daylight and at night when they show their luminescence
- unidentified (but very pretty) black and yellow striped fish
- unidentified (also pretty) blue/green/gray “needle” fish
- sea urchins (black and red)
- potential red sea anenome (unconfirmed due to proximity to sea urchins)
- an abundance of coral varieties
- lightning bugs of the sea (what are they really??)
- sting ray (unconfirmed due to distance from the sea floor and lack of goggles- but it was big, roundish, black, and moving, which means it was not sea grass)
- schools of small fish (also unidentified)
- school of jelly fish
I'll admit that this posting makes it seem as though I am not a scientist at all. I really need to get a book on marine coastal environments...then I can offer better descriptions than, “oh, that's a pretty fish! Oh wait...maybe it's not a fish...is it alive? Maybe it's a leaf.” That's pretty much how our conversations at the sea sound, but we are quite enthusiastic about it. I do find myself somewhat irrationally afraid of the sea (though note that almost 30% of the creatures that we have seen have the potential to inflict significant pain), so most of my observations are from the shore or a boat. Sorry there are no pictures due to the fact that these are all underwater things.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
On Saturday I went to Lucea and had a Thanksgiving celebration with other volunteers. Carrie had a meeting at work and decided she wanted to weekend alone. I had dinner with about 10-12 other volunteers. That felt a lot more like Thanksgiving. Lots of food, way too many deserts, and football. A very good day.
Our new house has been approved and we will be moving the end of this week and over the weekend. We will now live on the ocean less than a quarter mile from a beach and we have our own private access on some rocky cliffs.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The Bluefields Bay Fishermen's Friendly Society is hosting the Bluefields Bay Marine Show on December 23, 2007. There will be boat and canoe races for fishermen and an exposition on the bay environment and healthy living. Now, I'm guessing that many of you won't be able to make the show, but you would still be supporting the organization if you bought a ticket. Tickets are J$300 (~$4.30 USD) and if you are unable to attend (ha!) I will send you a ticket via snail mail as a souvenir. Checks can be made out to the above society and mailed directly to the society at:
Bluefields Bay Fishermen's Friendly Society
I also work with the Bluefields People's Community Association. You can click on the "How to get involved?" link on the lower right of their website for more information. If (when!) any of you come to visit, we can arrange for a work day or other projects as well. Helping hands are always welcome!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Then, for dinner we had chicken foot soup. I had seen it but never eaten it. The soup is delicious, but I wasn't sure what to do with the chicken feet, so I decided to just put it in my mouth and suck the broth off of it. To my surprise I did that and spit out bones. The skin and connective tissue really just melts off. Not a lot of flavor. I had no problem eating all of the chicken feet in the soup and it is a wonderful soup, but when I got the curried chicken foot it got set aside for the dog. Just too much foot.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Alas! Today I was toweling off after my shower and felt all tickly. Ants ants ants! Luckily they weren't the biting kind, but they are oh so tiny and tickly (and tiny enough to escape my glasses-less inspection of my towel prior to drying- the inspection has been necessary ever since I found a centipede all curled up in the furriness of the towel). They were in my towel. Many many ants. And since I was damp from the shower, all ants, both alive and smushed from the toweling off process, were stuck to me. Oi! I went back into our room to find that the seeds were indeed the source of the ants and spent some time smushing ants on the desk after removing the seeds to the yard. Scott was rather unconcerned with this and just thought it was in my head (since the ants were so tiny, I guess he couldn't see them from across the room or he just figured I was overreacting, which I probably was). Alas, I have been at work for an hour an half and am still finding little ants crawling along my arms.
Where does it end? Because my mind is definitely playing tricks on me and every tickle is not an ant. But perhaps one in ten tickles is an ant! *sigh*
This could be a long day.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Overall I have been quite proud of our assimilation into Jamaican cooking. Our host family has been wonderful in both giving us a wide variety of traditional foods to eat as well as helping us learn how to make them. Last night was a wonderful feast of curried goat, rice and peas (our family makes the best rice and peas on the island, I think), salad, and fried plantains. Topped off with a dessert of rum and raisin ice cream. Fabulous. The true test will be how much of that cooking we maintain once we move into our own place. I am pretty certain that we keep making Jamaican-style breakfasts and I hope we at least keep the Sunday dinner tradition of curry goat.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I would also like to point out that we were able to watch the last game of the World Series thanks to cable at the hotel!
Hopefully we will get some more pictures and stories up shortly. I'm optimistic that my internet access is improving...we will see.
Peace to all.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
We are starting to look for our own place. We have a few leads and hope to move around Thanksgiving. It is time for us to have our own place. More details when we know anything.
I haven't been able to watch any of the world series. We don't get Fox (or ABC, NBC, or CBS). I get plenty of college football on ESPN, Big Ten network, and Fox Sports, but I miss all the truly big games. Oh well. Better than nothing at all I guess.
Friday, October 19, 2007
We were on the radio this week. On Wednesday we did a 30 minute radio show on VYBZ FM where we introduced what Peace Corps does, talked a little bit about our projects, and did a short educational section on safe drinking water and personal hygiene. We didn't find out until after the program that the radio station is streamed over the internet. On Sunday we are doing a short introduction of the Peace Corps on the other local radio station, LYNX FM. I looked online and didn't find a webpage.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
On an unrelated note, I have noticed that buses and classrooms seem to fill according to the same philosophy. If there are zero to very few people seated on a bus that is waiting to depart, no one else wants to get on that bus. However, once a critical load (probably about 75% capacity) has accumulated in a bus it fills very quickly indeed. This normally is not a problem unless there are several empty buses to choose from. Then the time it takes to reach the critical load is quite long and only made worse by the bus drivers' and dokta's (conductor) attempt to reach critical load before any other bus in the vicinity-- by aggressively recruiting the few people intending to travel that direction and very efficiently ensuring that they are evenly distributed amongst the empty buses. Perhaps the goal is not to fill up your bus first, but rather to make sure that no one else can fill up theirs.
It also seems to apply that if there are zero to very few people in a classroom, it is also not desirable to stay in that classroom even if the person is precisely on time for the class to start. This means that even the people who are arriving late can make the same argument. I have yet to figure out how to keep people in an empty classroom in order to reach critical load. As long as there are no other empty classrooms in the vicinity to fill, maybe I should hire a dokta.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
We don't have a scale so weighing myself at home is out of the question. This makes it a little bit hard because I used to weigh myself first thing in the morning. There are weights a the health center where I work. Again, a little difficult because I used to weigh myself with nothing on. I feel if I tried that I would no longer be in the Peace Corps. Also, the scales at the health center tell me I weigh somewhere between 150 and 225 pounds depending on which one I step on.
Okay, now I don't know what I weigh. I feel like my clothes are loser though. Oh yes. When you don't own a dryer none of your clothes shrink. In addition, when washing by hand you wring everything out, which stretches the clothes. All of my undershirts look like they are two sizes too big for me (which they now are). I am pretty sure I have lost about 10 pounds since I have been in Jamaica. I gather this by looking at approximate weights on the health center scales. I am pretty sure it was more, but then I came Hurricane Dean and the week of buffet meals and no exercise. During the hurricane I was told that I looked emaciated, which is something I have never heard before when referring to me. I think the closest to that previously was, "If you didn't eat so much some of the emaciated people could get a little bit."
Wednesday was Scott's 28th birthday. Happy day to him! It was a mostly uneventful day as far as celebration is concerned because we had a community peer councilor all-day session scheduled that we were helping to facilitate. But our host mother put together a very nice dinner for him and we enjoyed a long, comfortable dinner complete with wine and banana cake with ice cream for dessert. We celebrated a little bit last weekend in MoBay with a few other volunteers with the other half of the banana cake and a wonderful lasagna dinner (thanks, A'Nova!).
Funny how so much of the celebration revolves around food. How wonderful!!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Things are progressing slowly. Last week was a busy week for me. I had something going on every night and spent most days preparing for meetings and presentations. There was only one day I spent trying to fill the time. I also kicked off my project with meetings on Wednesday morning and Friday night. The rest of the week was spent helping with a HIV/STI peer councilor training. This week is slow again. I was hoping to have a meeting today for my project that would hopefully lead to more community water quality education, but that meeting has been put off until next Wednesday. I don't think my project will really get going for a couple months yet. I am trying to fill my time by asking other people in the department if I can tag along on meat inspections and such and that is giving me some stuff to do. In the next month I will also hopefully start helping out the three parishes near the one where my primary projects are. "Soon Come" as they say in Jamaica. Some days I envy the teachers who have a class show up every day and they have something to teach. On the other hand I appreciate my freedom to look for other things to work on. It is just taking me a while to get to know the department and see how I can help outside of my project.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The hurricane was interesting. We stayed in the US Embassy. The embassy made all of us be there including any Peace Corps staff that is American, and then pretty much begrudged our being there. They didn't give us any supplies at all. All of our food came from Peace Corps staff that ran out to the store before we were stuck there, so we had canned goods and oatmeal for the two days we were there (which really I enjoyed. It made it feel more like camping). The building was kept cold, somewhere in the 60-70 degree range and the building is so high tech and computer operated that they can't turn it off. They also can't (or won't) turn the lights off. That made the first night really short as none of us had packed for being that cold. The second night the Peace Corps got some blankets in and we were sharing so more people could sleep (there were three people under our blanket). That was a much better night. The time was spent reading, watching movies on computers, and playing games. There are marines stationed at the embassy for protection and they took pity on us and brought us puzzles and games. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the volunteers from the previous two years. It was also a great opportunity to watch a hurricane. The embassy was just finished in the past year and is designed for a pretty intense attack. We couldn't hear the wind inside even though it was blowing 115 mph. Unfortunately, the only pictures I could take were through the windows and they didn't turn out too great.
Originally uploaded by smemontana
The Monday after the hurricane we had a quick swearing in. Apparently the ambassador was called out and wouldn't be around on Friday when we were scheduled to swear in. It also gave the other volunteers a chance to watch the swearing in. It was interesting being in front of the Ambassador in jeans and a t-shirt to be sworn in to Peace Corps. At this point we were considered volunteers-in-training as we had not completed our final testing. On Friday we had a formal ceremony for the Peace Corps staff that wasn't in the embassy and we became true volunteers.
Swearing In Ceremony
Originally uploaded by smemontana
Monday afternoon we moved from the embassy to the Pegasus Hotel which most people said was the nicest hotel in Kingston. That may be true, but Tuesday morning it was also the smokiest as one of the generators malfunctioned and started on fire. Damage was limited to the lobby but smoke was thick throughout the first 3-5 floors and several people had a hard time finding their way out. Three Peace Corps volunteers were sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation. We were at the mall during the fire and our room was on the 11th floor so none of our stuff got smoke damage. Several people were on the 3-5 floor and their clothes had a distinct odor of smoke. We spent 8 hours in a conference room at a hotel next door before being moved to a new hotel. That made it 4 days in a row of being confined to a building. Most of us were getting stir crazy.
Wednesday and Thursday were testing days with some free time to go out and do stuff. We spent one afternoon wandering around a mall like area. We went to a music shop and were looking at music when the owner started talking to us. She asked us if we were interested in teaching guitar, violin, and music in general in Jamaica. We said once we learned the instruments better we would be. She gave us guitar music books, recorders, and told Carrie that if she wanted to teach violin she had some student violins that she would give her. She just wanted to spread music through Jamaica. It was a very nice experience to have.
On Saturday we came back to our sites. There was very limited damage in Westmoreland Parish where we are located. It seems that the worst damage are new potholes in the road. There were some areas that were hit very hard including several areas with Peace Corps volunteers. We were very lucky to come back to an area that had power and water. The island was very lucky that the storm stayed south. The damage could have been a lot worse. Many people are complaining that they prepared so much for such a weak hurricane. Hopefully this doesn't make people complacent the next time because you never know which one will hit the island directly.
Friday, August 17, 2007
We were scheduled to go to Kingston on Monday for our last week of training and swearing in as volunteers. Now we are leaving on Saturday morning and will spend the weekend hanging out in a hotel with the rest of the trainees. I will let you all know how things go. An interesting aspect of our jobs is that if the hurricane does a lot of damage we may be pulled away and do recovery work.
The past week of training has been good. It was by far the most productive and I am looking forward to the end of the elections (August 27) and training so I can get started on my projects.
Friday, August 10, 2007
It really isn't that bad. Mostly right now I have no independence and the people I will be working with on my project are in the field a lot so some days I am mostly waiting for them to come back to the office. Once I am able to actually start on my project and I gain some independence then I will be able to do some of the things I want to do. At this point I am not sure exactly what communities I will be working with, but I know they will be up in the mountains. Once I know exactly where (hopefully next week), I will be able to figure out how to travel to those communities and then I can spend time there getting to know the people. Until then, it is reading Peace Corps manuals.
When you are a Peace Corps Trainee, they take away the food and the large number of people (I'm pretty sure it is a cost savings measure), put it at the beginning of a day of training, don't give you the holiday off, and tell you it is a celebration. That being said, it was still fun. Early August is a good time to be in Jamaica. August 1 is Emancipation Day and August 6 is Independence Day. To celebrate (and use it as a devious ploy to teach us about Jamaican history and culture), we celebrated Emancipendence Day on August 1. Our festivities only included the music and dance (along with a very nice play in the middle). I volunteered to sing and then was told that to sing I also had to dance. Carrie joined me in the song/dance troop and we did enjoy ourselves as we learned some Jamaican dances and songs. Some people took pictures and when I get some I will post them. Luckily I don't think anyone has any video or audio.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
We are back in Kingston for another week of training here. It is nice to get together and swap stories with other trainees. Our situation seems to be pretty good.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Ackee: This fruit is poisonous unless allowed to open on the tree. The fruits are yellow in color and quite creamy when cooked. They are not sweet and I don't really agree with the scrambled egg comparison that they often get. But when cooked with saltfish, onions, and spices for breakfast they are quite tasty. The Jamaicans knew what they were doing when choosing their national dish.
June Plum: Next to gneps (there are no gnep trees in the yard), I think June Plums are our favorite new fruit. Tasty both when ripe and when slightly green. Gneps are wonderful, by the way, and remind me of eating a peeled green grape.
Sweet Sop: There is also a sour sop, but we did not show the picture here. Almost everyone who tries this at first taste does not like it, but after a few morsels I think it grows on you. The fruit comes apart in small sections that you can see from the outside of the fruit- those little nubs. Each section has a black pit that must be spit out.
Pimento (aka Allspice): A wonderful tree! The crushed leaves and the berries smell of allspice. The ones in the picture are close to being ripe. When ripened they are harvested, dried and used whole to season a number of Jamaican dishes.
Guava: There are no fruits on this guava tree, but I know some of you will appreciate this kind of guava instead of the one you are most accustomed to working with.
Breadfruit: Our first encounter with breadfruit was not remarkable, but it is often served roasted at our host home. This gives the starchy flesh a nice smokey flavor with some incorporated sweetness and a light, spongy texture. I really like it. It can also be served steamed, boiled or fried.
In addition to learning about the fruit trees in our yards, we are meeting our communities and traveling to some other areas. We went to Negril for a PC meeting last Saturday and part of the meeting was conducted while we were treading water off the coast of the west-end cliffs. Wonderful! But really, we are working and enjoying getting to know the area that we will call home for the next two years.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
After almost 10 days we were finally able to travel outside of Kingston, and it was wonderful. All the trainees from the Health Sector went an hour and a half out of Kingston and helped a local community center pave the area in front of the center. It was hard work, but 20 people can get a lot of work done in just a couple hours. The process was different from any cement work I had seen before. It started by moving enough fist sized rocks to cover the area and provide a base. The rocks were found by looking around the building and were all moved in buckets and laid by hand. Then several hundred pounds of sand and gravel were piled up and mixed by hand with four bags of cement. I had never done it all by hand before. It was good to see and help with the process.
We finished up the day by going into Morant Bay and visiting one of the current Volunteers who is stationed there. He is a sanitation engineer and showed us a couple projects he has done. It felt so good to get off campus.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Today was our first trip off the campus we are staying on into Kingston. We were divided into groups and given a guide to show us around. Our first attempt at public transportation and the markets. An eye opening experience.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
There is promise of a trip or two off campus this weekend, which will be the next step in our acclimation. PC is doing a pretty impressive and subtle job of introducing us to the culture, food, and environment. Each meal seems to get a little more spicy. All the food is wonderful, especially callaloo, which is kind of a cross between collard greens, spinach and celery and is served up spicy for breakfast. We had a sampling of various Jamaican fruits and goodies the other day. It's amazing what a tasty treat fresh tropical fruit makes on a hot afternoon. The bananas just taste a little more like bananas, the pineapple is so sweet and good, and the mangoes are unbelievable.
The weather has been good. The highs are 92-94 with humidity, but there is always a nice breeze, and sometimes a good wind, to cool everything down. The lows are in the mid 80's, but it feels cooler than that which makes sleeping comfortable.
Many other PCTs have blogs and we will try to set up links to those pages soon. A lot of people here have been taking pictures already and have posted them. We haven't got around to that just yet.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
We were able to get out around 9:30 Thursday morning and got into Clinton, Indiana around 11:30. Friday afternoon we drove up to Crystal Lake, IL and spent some time with Carrie's folks.
Tomorrow we are heading out for Montana with a stop in Rockford, IL and spending a night in Minneapolis. Then off to Billings before the farm. We are looking forward to finishing up the driving as we have two vehicles (1 Uhaul truck and the civic). The gas milage has been interesting (10.5 in the truck, 57-60 in the civic). And it's tough not being able to talk much.
Not much new to report on the Peace Corps. We have made our reservations finally. We depart Montana on June 30 for Miami and leave Miami July 3 for Jamaica. Other than that, we will find out more in Miami.
Monday, June 11, 2007
We have our plane tickets to Miami for staging, flying out on June 30th from Great Falls, MT. Somehow I feel a little bit better about quitting jobs, ending lease, etc. now that we have our tickets in hand. If only we had reassurances that our passports aren't delayed in the current passport debacle.
I've had mixed feelings during most of the packing and closing up we have done over the past two weeks. There was a somewhat appropriate commentary on NPR's All Things Considered as I was driving home from work during my last week there. Granted, I'm not in my mid-40s with a family during these times of change, but it's still all about taking risks and just not knowing how it will turn out. I find it to be a wonderfully liberating experience, even though it is partially filled with trepidation and uncertainty.
Geez. If this is what I'm talking about during moving from PA to MT, just wait until you see what comes out once we get to Jamaica.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Planning has begun. We have started to purge our possesions, which is odd because then we go out and buy more (I haven't bought clothes in around 5 years, so I needed to upgrade some of my wardrobe for Peace Corps service). We have sent in a letter to terminate our lease the middle of June and we each have less than 2 weeks of work left. Too bad there is so much to do before we go. It will be hard to enjoy all of it.