Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Beeston Spring

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I have been very lucky in my project and the community group that I am working with. My main project right now is to rebuild the spring house at Beeston Spring. The first step, find funding. The community recently placed third in best community in Jamaica by the Social Development Commission. The community group has graciously set aside some of the prize money for my project. Next step, design a spring house. One member of the community group is an architect who has done a design complete with drawings. Next step, start work. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony on December 8. The ceremony will be recorded by a local radio station and broadcast later in the evening. The radio station is webcast so I will give out more information later for those interested in listening. Things are moving fast on this project thanks to the great people I am working with in the community.

Thanksgiving in Jamaica

Thanksgiving was different this year. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Jamaica, so there was no lead up to it. Also, we don't get American holidays, so it was a working holiday. I spent the morning in my community of Beeston Springs, which I will post another blog about soon. Carrie went into work. After work we were invited to celebrate and have dinner with an American family that is near Carrie's work (and our new neighbors). This year, Thanksgiving meant kayaking in the ocean, swimming, and rum. Nice, but we did miss having family around.

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

Sparky The Plug

Yes, this is my first outright plug for my host-organizations on this blog. I know the holiday season is fast approaching and that is a time that a lot of people are looking for organizations to donate to. When I was a young professional, I started a search every November to find a good, worthy recipient of my annual donation. I don't think I donated to the same group twice as I kept renewing the search every year and finding new great organizations. So, for those of you searching, look no further!

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
Bluefields P.O.
Westmoreland, Jamaica
West Indies

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!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Other Jamaican Firsts

As far as weekends go, it was an exciting one. On Saturday we were invited up to one of my communities for a relaxing hanging out afternoon and dinner. While there we had several firsts for Jamaican food. The first was jackfruit. How to explain jackfruit? First, it is about the size of a small watermelon with a rough, bumpy skin which resembles, other Jamaican fruit that you have never seen in America. Once cut open, the inside looks like a breadfruit with some seed pods. For those that have never seen breadfruit, I'm not really sure how to explain it. On the jackfruit, you pick out seedpods that resemble an artichoke heart but taste like...a jackfruit. It is sweet and very delicious. This description isn't very good because it is like no fruit I have had before.

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

The ants, the ants!

Scott and I recently found a large sack of unused garden seeds at my organization. Included in this bag were seeds for cilantro (wonderful!). My coworkers said the seeds were no good because they were too old. We decided to try to germinate some just to see because seeds would be so useful, especially because I want to do some gardening work with a nearby village. So we had a sack of seeds in our bedroom for a while while we wait for small samples of them to germinate. They had not attracted bugs for weeks so we really weren't worried about storing them there.

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

Chunky and Delicious!

I find myself singing along with Jamaican advertising slogans…the age of the catchy jingle is alive and well here! I will be walking down the street and see a billboard for a company and find myself unwittingly singing the jingle. Often Scott will join me as well. We definitely sing along during the evening news and our host family laughs- at us or with us I am not sure. The particular slogan of “Chunky and Delicious” did prompt us to make the unlikely purchase of canned mackerel. We had it for breakfast today along with callaloo, fried dumplings, and papaya and it was quite wonderful. We will definitely be going back for more.

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.