Monday, December 22, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I will try to fill some information in on the past several months. Carrie has been spearheading adult literacy classes two nights a week that I am helping her with and I tried to start a literacy class one night a week in my community that I was doing. Carrie's classes have been excellent and all is going well. We had assessments last week to see what progress had been made since August and several students had made excellent progress. I wish I could say the same for my class. It has probably been my biggest flop as a Peace Corps volunteer. I will give it one more shot after Christmas, but there just doesn't seem to be any community interest. Everyone says they want the classes, but no one shows up. Oh well. Other than that I have been working on my rural water projects and have been branching out into other communities and am now actively working with three and have a fourth that is ready for assistance. I am currently in the grant writing stage, but hopefully will have some projects getting off the ground next year before we are done with our service. I am also working with an organic farming group that has been getting excellent support and has been promised quite a bit of funding in the new year. It has been a huge success.
In September and October we mostly just working. No big trips or really much travel. We found that we had community events most weekends and mostly we were feeling very integrated into the area. The last week of October and first week of November my parents were in town. That was an excellent visit and gave me a good break as I was working partial days and then spending time with them. They saw the office where I work as well as the communities were both of us work. It was also the first time we did a lot of the tourist activities in the area. We went to YS Falls, Black River Safari, and the Appleton Rum Tour. We also spent a night in Negril and a day on the beach. Hopefully soon I will have some pictures posted on Flickr.
The rest of November was mostly work again. We didn't do much for Thanksgiving. We had a dinner planned with some local Americans, but the teacher we had lined up for our class had to cancel so we ended up teaching instead. They did save us some turkey so we each got a turkey sandwich the next day.
December has been busy but fun. The first weekend was the Reggae Marathon in Negril. We were planning on volunteering last year but ended up moving that day so we said we had to go this year. It was well worth it. We were working at a water station so had to be there Friday night for our "training". There was also a free pasta dinner for all of the runners and volunteers. The race had 700 runners and 300 volunteers and the organizers got 8 hotels to cater the event. Each hotel set up a tent with 5-6 different pasta dishes, salads, fruit, bread, etc. It was wonderful. The race was set to start at 5:15 am to give the runners the best part of the day to run in and the water station people had to be there at 4:15 am to set up. We woke up at 2:30 to get across Negril and to the check in for breakfast that wasn't there. The breakfast ended up showing up at 10:30 with the lunch (luckily most volunteers had left by then so no long lines). The race started on time and we were at Mile 4, which was perfect. We handed out bag water and bag Gatorade (for those of you that don't know what bag water is, imagine a closed plastic bag full of water). The race included a full marathon, half marathon, and 10k race. 4 miles in most of the runners/walkers were still in a pack and it only took an hour from the time the race leader passed us until the last walker went by. By 7 am we were cleaned up and done. We walked back up to the finish line and watched the first marathon runners come in, some of our Peace Corps friends finish, and stuck around until lunch. Then back to our hotel for a nap before heading home. It was an excellent experience and I loved it all.
The weekend after the marathon was the Bluefields Bay Marine Festival which was put on by Carrie's organization. She put a lot of time and energy into the event and I came to assist however I could and to put up a booth for the health department. There were two days of the festival with a conference of fishermen, policy makers, and other persons involved with or impacted by the fishing industry on Saturday and a fun day with boat races and cultural events on Sunday. The festival couldn't have gone better and everyone involved thought it was excellent.
We are now on vacation and enjoying the time to relax for several weeks to regroup ourselves before getting ready for the last 6-7 months of service. I should find some time to post pictures and make sure everything is up to date.
I also have to say Go Griz!! The University of Montana is in the FCS (I-AA) football championship game on Friday night. I was able to listen to the semifinal game on the internet last Friday night. It is nice to be able to follow some of these things.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The first thing is, it is weird to work and cut chicken feet. I kept having an odd feeling of cutting the fingers off little children. Yes, quite odd. But the results are well worth it. The soup was fantastic and probably one of our best attempts at a Jamaican dish (although I think we make a really good stew peas with pig tail).
I eat chicken feet in the soup when it is fresh cooked and they are hot. I don't like it as much as pig tail, but it's not bad. I'm not sure I can do it in leftovers and I know I couldn't choke down cold chicken feet. Just how it goes. They are a key ingredient in the soup though. I like a thick soup so full of vegetables it is almost a stew and it seems that the feet release gelatin during cooking that makes for a perfect soup consistency. Lovely!
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society is hosting the Bluefields Bay Marine Conference and Festival on December 13th and 14th, 2008. The conference is the first grassroots effort to bring together fishermen, interests from the tourism sector, and government officials to discuss the environmental issues surrounding the marine environment in Jamaica. After all, these are issues that impact everyone's livelihoods, whether they are harvesting from the sea or marketing it to visitors. The festival is a community cultural event which includes cultural music, food, and educational booths, as well as a fundraiser for the Society’s yearly operating budget. Here is a ticket for the festival:
My proposal to all of you is to purchase a ticket to support this event. $350 Jamaican dollars is about $5US. Please contact us via email and we will work out the logistics. No international checks this year, we promise. We have another idea that is flawless and secure for all involved.Thanks!! And happy beginning of the holiday season! It's only in the upper eighties these days...it definitely feels like winter is coming.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Mom and Dad came down to visit the last week of October and stayed for 10 days. It was fantastic! We took them to see all the places we work and to the different communities. They seemed to have a real good time. We also enjoyed the weekend with a trip to Negril, YS Falls, and the Black River Safari. It is difficult balancing work and pleasure when there are visitors here, but it is great seeing family. I hope to have some time over the holidays to post more pictures as work slows down. Right now I am too busy trying to get some work done before December. It seems like everyone wants everything now because once the holidays are here everything slows down.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
What has happened over the past month. I got bit by a dog while running about two weeks ago. He took a pretty good chunk of skin out of my right calf. For those volunteers who are looking for a way to meet more people and integrate into the community, I highly recommend getting bit. I was in the community where Carrie works. Every time we would go there all I would hear is "Miss Carrie, Miss Carrie". Nobody even knew my name. Now I hear "Scott" and "How is your foot" (in Jamaica the foot starts at the hip and ends at the toes). I get more attention than ever.
The only other thing that I can think of right now that has happened is the ocean has cleared up so snorkeling has improved. In the past month I have seen lobster, sting ray, jelly fish, and too many little fish to count. Some of the fish are plain, some are pretty, and some are down right ugly. They are a lot of fun to watch.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I really enjoy sharing our success stories with this blog audience. Of course there have also been challenges and failures, but those aren’t near so uplifting to write about. Our recent successes:
Community work day: Scott organized a Peace Corps/community work day to help clean up the community and do some landscaping work. Together with people from the community, we picked up more than 25 bags of garbage. It filled up the entire back of a truck (the bed was about four times the size of a pick-up truck). As we walked along the road, children from the yards would run out to see what we were doing. Several of them put on gloves and worked with us for a while. It rained before we were finished, but we still got a lot done including cleaning out some drainage areas so roads and yards don’t flood. To follow up the work day, we had a cook-out dinner at our house for all those who were working. We fed about 20 people from the Peace Corps, the community, and our yard. It was wonderful to cook and host.
Literacy Class: My literacy class participants dwindled over the summer so I moved the class to a larger, more central location. The first class was Tuesday, and there were six people there. Disappointed, I talked with several people I knew in the community to bring more people to the class. On Thursday, there were 18 people. Huzzah! We had a very vibrant second class and I hope most, if not all, come back this week. Plus, I now have a classroom that I can permanently keep materials in (no more running a class out of our tiny house and carrying everything we need up the hill each day) and we have secured $100US per month in donations for teaching supplies and to rent the facility.
Let’s hear a “hip hip” for these victories!
Monday, September 8, 2008
I did get bored during the storm and shaved my hair off with my battery powered beard trimmer (which took all the rechargeable batteries in the house and had to be touched up a couple days later). It had been a year since I had cut my hair. Everyone now jokes that Gustav blew my hair off. In reality, I think I was just frustrated with the lack of control with my life and needed to change something. I cut my hair, changed my ring tone on my phone, and put a new background on my computer. I feel like a new person. That is about all that I have control over right now. Also, my hair was hot and was getting in my face a lot.
This past weekend we went to Ocho Rios and spent Saturday with a group of 21 volunteers playing in a waterfall called Blue Hole. It was a fantastic day jumping and playing in a couple of deep pools under a few waterfalls. We try to avoid large groups of volunteers, but we were in a remote location so the fact that almost 1/5 of all volunteers on the island were there didn’t detract from the fun. Carrie and I then went to another volunteer’s site and helped with some water sampling on Sunday before coming back early Monday morning.
I haven’t posted pictures for a long time. I try to do it once a month (because that is about how often I take pictures) so it must almost be time again. I will try to do it in the next couple of weeks.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The start was subdued with everyone getting very quiet and waiting. There was some light cheering as he came around the first corner. That was all I saw. Once it was clear that he was out in front coming down the back stretch everyone between me and the tv stood up and rushed the tv. Only about 1/10 of the people in the room actually saw the race as everyone else saw people jump up and down and cheer. I knew Bolt won, but that was it. I hung around for a few minutes and saw the replay. Wow. It was an interesting experience. Everything shut down for 15 minutes.
Monday, July 21, 2008
So hats off to producing enough of something to make a dent (ding?? scratch??) in our food expenditures for the week.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
However, the ease of travel comes at a price. In the last couple of weeks the weather has gotten hotter. What does that really mean? It doesn't cool off at night. The temperatures during the day really aren't that much different, but the extra 4-7 degrees at night make it really hard to fall asleep. Last night our bedroom was 86 degrees when we were going to bed at 10 pm. It cooled down to 82 during the night. This is a big difference over those 72 degree nights back in March. Even just a few weeks ago it was in the low 80s as we went to sleep. I guess I will stop sweating some time in November.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
My brother Cory and his girlfriend Marie have been in town for the past week. We have had a lot of fun going around showing them our little corner of Jamaica and our projects. It makes me proud of the work we are doing and the people who are our Jamaican friends. Some days it is hard to stay focused and positive on our projects and the seeming lack of progress and how it seems like we aren't integrated enough into the communities. Then we start showing what we have been working on to outsiders and we get a new perspective. I can see that we are making progress and that the people really do appreciate the work we are doing.
I haven't posted new pictures for a long time and they are building up. We took a trip to the St. Thomas lighthouse a couple weeks ago. It was a very nice trip and I have some photos from it. It is the farthest eastern point in Jamaica. I was curious about the garbage that had washed up on the beach near the lighthouse. Most of it had come from Haiti. Hopefully there will be more up in the next couple of weeks.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
1) The idea to ask adult literacy class participants to perform community service projects of their own creation and design in lieu of payment for the class IS NOT a bad idea. I am so proud of them and their initiative.
2) The literacy primer that I wrote is a hit (which was a risk for me since I am really not a writer or an illustrator). Today my class groaned when I said we had to stop reading in order to go on to other things. There is absolutely no reason that books that are easy to read need to be boring. We are in the middle of the second 10-week session and they are clearly excited about reading. I can only hope this keeps up. Again, I am so proud of them all.
Hopefully we will have some new pictures up soon. It has been a while since we posted and we have traveled a bit recently. I'm hoping to have pictures of the baby goats that have to be born any day now at the end of the beach road...the momma goat is huge and has been so for weeks now. Soon come.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Time has been going fast and it is hard to believe we have been here for 11 months. Our projects keep us busy and we really don't have time to think about it. We are starting to realize that we are closing in on 1 year left and if we have anything we really want to do we had better get started. I know that I need to start computer classes at the health department and I know that if I don't get them started soon they will never happen. I also tend to pick up small things every week or two that I help the health department with that fills my time.
Congratulations Rob and Layla!! We are looking forward to seeing you in Jamaica.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Vitamin K is a lipophilic compound involved in post-translational modification of blood coagulation proteins. Yes, I do understand all that with my molecular biology background, but my grade 3 class didn't stand a chance. I summed it all up by describing vitamin K as helping blood clotting. Does anyone familiar with patois see where this is going?
As I started to talk about vitamin K and it's helpful effects in making our blood clot, I received wide open stares from the students. I repeated myself. Same wide-eyed stares. I kept on with the lesson by asking kids what happens when they cut themselves, do they keep bleeding or does it stop? They said it stopped, and I said that's what vitamin K helps with. On we go with the lesson. There was even a blood clotting question in the follow-up bingo game.
It wasn't until my walk home that I realized my mistake. In patois, "cloth" (pronounced "clot") is a general all-purpose swear word, especially with partnered with certain words, many of which I will not mention here, but yes, blood is one of them.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It was a very nice morning for it, though the sea was cloudy and a little rougher than it usually is at that time of day. I was wearing my nifty prescription goggles, but they didn't make much difference since the water was so cloudy. We probably managed to swim for about 150 yards before I got stung by a jellyfish. We pondered getting out to walk back, but decided to just swim back in the more shallow water, avoiding the general area where I got stung. Then Scott got stung by a jellyfish. It was a very good lesson for me to know that the sting isn't terrible. It has completely gone away now with the exception of a bit of a lingering rash (just what I need...). We didn't get a fabulous workout, but it is a start.
I think next time we will wait for the water to be clear. Then we can at least see the jellyfish coming.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Scott and I had a familiar experience in Jamaica the other day. We spent an afternoon in a village just chatting with people for a couple hours. Though, I should say, it felt more like being an in-law at a Dostal family reunion. The conversation ranged from the health of their babies, to water, to what happened (or didn’t happen) at a party last week, to the fact that Scott and I could actually understand what was being said, back to the party last week, and on to other parties that people may or may not have been to. It was loud, boisterous, full of opinions, and laughter. The patois was so thick that we really could only follow what one person at a time was saying, which meant we missed out on 75% of the conversation.
On the walk home, Scott asked me why I was so happy with being a non-participant in a conversation about a subject that I couldn’t really relate to. I think Scott finally may have experienced what reunions are like to an outsider. Step one is just being there and holding your own. From Dostal-family experience, I know that being a full-fledged member of the family (or community) is only a few steps away. And next time, they will welcome you back with open arms.
In general, things are going very well. We are both having successes and that is important. The days seem to crawl by, the weeks go by, and the months fly by. It is hard to believe that we have been here for almost 11 months. It really has gone fast. It is also hard to believe that group 77 will be leaving the island soon. We have just over 15 months of service left. Hopefully they will go as fast as the first 10.5 months have.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
We left Mavis Bank at 6:15 hiking toward peak. We're not sure exactly how far it is, but we are guessing between 12 and 13 miles. We like to say 13 so we can claim to have walked a marathon. Either way it is a plenty long hike. We kept a nice relaxed but constant pace and made it to the top almost exactly 6 hours later. We were tired but not in too bad of shape. The last time we made a couple desperate pushes to try to make the top and the result was cramping muscles and overall exhaustion. This trip we were relaxed and feeling good at the top. We sat there for an hour eating lunch and relaxing before heading down.
Heading down we made a mistake. The three of us (Carrie, JJ, and I) felt that the reason we hurt so bad last time was our big push to reach the top, which we didn't make. Not so it turns out. It was 11 miles of walking downhill. We reached the river crossing at the bottom around 7 and the sun had set. We were slowed down slightly by some tasty yellow raspberry like berries (little yellow crack berries as we called them) that were highly addictive. They were the first berries I have had in Jamaica. In reality they were more forced rests than anything else. By the time we were done my knees, ankles, calves, hamstrings, and every other muscle and joint in my legs was in agony. Just to say we did it we walked the last two miles on the road back up to JJ's. The only reason I think we were able to do that was because we had been in so much pain that now our legs were mostly numb. We finished 6.5 hrs after leaving the peak.
I am glad we did it and I am never doing it from Mavis Bank in one shot again. The top was clouded in so we didn't get very good views, but it was beautiful up there and hiking in the clouds is really neat. I would still like to do a sunrise hike from the hostels 7 miles from the peak.
We also found out that the last time we tried for peak we came up about 1/4 mile short. It took us 10 minutes to get from where we turned around to the top. If we had known we would have gone all the way up the last time, but we made the right decision for that day as we weren't sure how far we had to go, we started an hour and a half later than we should have, and we didn't have any flashlights for night hiking.
I have lots of pictures and hopefully one day this week I will have time to upload them.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Here is an odd comment on the mail that we have been getting. Paul has the most interesting stamps. No one else has sent us Jury Duty stamps. We also like the stickers.
Construction has started on my project in Beeston Spring. Things are moving very fast there. Hopefully construction will go fast as the community has a stand pipe but the tank needs to be done during the rainy season.
Our hobbies outside of work are coming along nicely. Our garden has beans and tomatoes growing well. My pumpkins that I planted in the yard over a month ago are starting to bloom, but I don’t know that they are being pollinated. We planted some summer squash that I am a bit surprised to see bloom even though they are a foot tall or less. I’m not sure exactly what they will do. We also have six cucumber plants ready for transplant. My wine experiment is also going well. I racked the pineapple wine into the secondary container on Monday. The color is beautiful. After I had taken out the good wine and left the sediment in the primary I poured a little bit out of the primary and tasted it. It tasted like alcohol and old yeast. At least we have succeeded in the alcohol part.
Pineapple and Orange Wine
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
That being said, I find that I could be falling a bit too much into this habit. Scott and I helped to facilitate an event today that was, to say the least, haphazard and stressful for all involved. After it was over, I said, "That went well." I meant to give the team involved a lift and to encourage them not to walk away with a downcast feeling. But I guess the more accurate translation of my sentiment would be, "Well, that wasn't the absolute disaster that it could have been, I think one or two people learned something, and we all handled the situation with relative grace." What kind of message am I really sending?
On another, genuinely positive note, I want to send out a big up to our literacy class students. The rainy season has officially started (complete with heavy downpours every afternoon) and we still had almost 10 people in class today. Big up, unu! (Translation- "Well done, y'all!")
Peace and good night.
Friday, March 28, 2008
It is starting to warm up. Today we walked down to the Sav market during our lunch hour and I had forgotten just how sweaty I can get just walking down the street. It is one thing to have a slight sheen of sweat on my arms and face from walking down the street. Today I had that wonderful feeling of sweat running down my thighs and my shirt stuck to my back so that not only did I sweat through my undershirt but all the way through my work shirt as well. I can't wait for full on summer when this is a daily feeling.
We have started some hobbies in our off time. Last weekend we planted a nice little garden by our house. We have tomatoes and green beans in our garden plus some pumpkin and squash that we planted in the yard by the ocean. I have more squash plants to transplant and some cucumber plants have come up in my little starter trays. We also have some herbs planted that we are waiting on. This weekend we are going to start a batch of wine. Our first attempt at wine is going to be pineapple wine made from juice. In a couple of weeks we are going to start a small batch of orange wine and then once mango season starts we will do a large batch of mango wine. I am sure somewhere we may do a banana wine or a grapefruit wine.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I would say, however, that the seventy-seventh time a remarkable event happens, it can still elicit a helluva response from me. We have ants in our house; always, everyday, we can find at least a couple dozen and that really isn't a problem. Yet when those sneaky little bugs get gutsy enough to start parading across my wall (or bed, stove, couch, shelf, clothes, towels, shower, etc.) in a nice organized line of hundreds or more, the full arsenal of chemicals and frustrations comes out. I cannot go on to another task until I determine 1) their entry point and 2) their destination. As far as I'm concerned, those two things constitute my being able to address the root of the problem at the moment. Though my rational side knows that since this happens so often, the root of the problem really probably resides under the foundation of the house which is sadly beyond my reach.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Two weekends ago we had a great time in Negril at the donkey races. It was fantastic. The rotary club puts on donkey races each year with small carnival rides and games as a fund raiser. As Peace Corps volunteers we are asked if we would like to assist with projects like these and we usually say yes because we tend to get food and/or a t-shirt. Well worth it. The donkey races are as funny as you think they would be. First they dress the donkeys and riders (Jamaican donkey jockeys) up as a theme. We saw pirates, lifeguards, and other similar costumes. Then the riders race the donkeys three at a time so there are plenty of heats to spread the day out. The donkeys do not care to be ridden so there are donkeys running under bamboo rails to knock the rider off or bucking the rider off or just not moving at all. A fantastic day.
I found out this week that my community has been approved for the grant to complete my project. We will have 2 plus million (Jamaican) to rebuild the storage tank and put in a wash house at Beeston Spring. This should make me ecstatic. Just by getting the grant I have made my Peace Corps experience a success. But I have been apathetic towards it so far, which makes Carrie also wonder what is wrong with me. I am pretty sure I just need a vacation. This month has wore me out and I feel like a couple days away would be good. Carrie’s parents are coming down in a couple weeks and we are going to spend some time at Treasure Beach. Hopefully that will give me a recharge.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I wish this would happen more often. I have never had an easier time bantering back and forth than in this case. And with each back and forth, everyone in the surrounding area laughed. This is generally my ultimate goal in bantering with people on the street. And I managed it this time with vocabulary knowledge? How bizarre.
Monday, February 11, 2008
So, my thoughts are with all the former Kenya PCVs and their supervisors, counterparts, host-families, friends and co-workers.
I’m going to go out and enjoy my community today.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Ash Wednesday is a public holiday here. I'm still never really sure what days we have off until a day or two before. We were also excited because several months ago we heard that Carnival was really big in Jamaica. We never heard more about it and were surprised when all of a sudden we learned that it was Ash Wednesday and there weren't any big parties planned. Then we learned that Carnival was a traveling carnival (i.e. circus) that travels around the island over the summer. I am still looking forward to Carnival, but I do miss the king cake.
The US election is starting to become a talking point in Jamaica. I have people at work ask me about it almost everyday. I would like to say that I am informed because I get and read Newsweek free from the Peace Corps, but that would be a lie because I get and read Newsweek a month late. Right now I am just reading the January 7 issue. I also don't spend as much time as I would like online reading about them. In the end I know how the delegate count stands but I don't really know much of the differences between the candidates. I'm not voting in the primaries because I haven't figured out the absentee ballot from Jamaica yet, but I will be voting in the general election in November. I will just have to find time to read more about the issues before then.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Gabe came down to Kingston January 17. She then spent two exciting days watching us go to meetings at the Peace Corps office. YEAH! On the 19th we went up to the Blue Mountains and spent the night with another volunteer. Sunday we got up later than we should have and set out for the top of the world, or at least the top of Jamaica. Our goal, Blue Mountain Peak. The highest point in Jamaica. Unfortunately we made several miscalculations in our planning. We were assuming 8 miles to the top so we didn’t get out until 7:30. We then proceeded to hike three hours to a sign that said we have 6 miles to go. This was after hiking an hour to reach the beginning of the trail. As Carrie said in an earlier post, we didn’t quite make it but we had a great time.
After the Blue Mountains we came back to our end of the island and Gabe spent three days tagging along as we went to work. Almost as much fun as the Peace Corps office. We did take some time and show her around the communities where we work and she met a lot of people. Then last Friday we finally got back to the tourist activities. We went to Negril and met up with Keith. Most of the day was spent walking on the beach, swimming, and drinking Red Stripe. Then in the mid-afternoon we went down to Pirates Cave for some cliff jumping. It is about 25 feet there and Keith jumped several times and I jumped once. Then we went down to a shorter cliff so Gabe could jump a few times. We watched the sun set over the ocean and then headed home.
Saturday we went to explore Beeston Spring where I do most of my community work. We walked through the community and saw the sights, had a farm tour, ate a jack fruit, saw a doctor bird (the national bird), and relaxed. I did have a community meeting that night so we also saw the nightlife in a small rural town. It was another great day.
Since Sunday it has been mostly back to work. Thursday I go to Kingston with Gabe and she flies out Friday morning. I have been really busy so I haven’t had a chance to post much, but hopefully soon I will be able to upload pictures we took over the past couple of weeks to my Flickr page.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
We got up early today and went to New Market in St. Elizabeth. This is where the open air market sellers go to purchase their wholesale produce. We got fresh tomatoes for $10J per pound. Yup. That is $0.14US per pound.
Needless to say, we have a lot of tomatoes now.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Scott's sister had been visiting us for the last week or so, and we have been able to show her a good bit of the island that we know as well as going on some new adventures. Two weekends ago we spent time in Mavis Bank (home of Jablum coffee factory and PCV JJ) and attempted to climb the highest peak in Jamaica. We started from Mavis Bank and climbed for five and a half hours and we were still about 30 minutes from the peak. In order to get back to the river fording at the bottom before dark, we decided to turn around. Even though we didn't make the top, it was still one of the best days we have had here. Total of 21 miles, 6000 feet in elevation gain and I did it all in Chacos. Big-up for Chacos! Nary a blister was to be had and it was wonderful to have the full utility of my toes while hiking on uneven terrain. Huzzah!
The Yallahs river fording- this was one of two forks that had to be crossed.
Scott and I at the turn around point about 30 minutes from the peak. If the clouds weren't there you would be able to see the top in the background of the picture...
Gabe and I overlooking the coffee farms on the "Jacob's Ladder" portion of the upper trail on the way down from the top.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
As for my recent challenges? What can I say beyond this is what Peace Corps is all about. I realized that for a couple weeks I was really just seeing the negatives and the things that I probably won't be able to change in my time here. Those negatives are a reality here and I am just one person. Along with recognizing my capacity, I need to make sure that I pay attention to the beautiful things and events around me. The people that I work with are wonderful, and it is really thanks to them that I feel empowered to come out of my funk.
It also really helped that Christmas arrived this week. We received so many cards and gifts last weekend that it really lifted our spirits. Thank you to everyone! Among the gifts was a book from the Eklund's- a compilation of essays from the NPR series This I Believe. Just reading the forward by Jay Allison brought me back to reality and made me think about what is really important. Many of the essays really are beautiful, thoughtful, and pertinent no matter where in the world you might be.
Friday, January 4, 2008
For Christmas day we stayed in Belmont and had brunch with five other Peace Corps volunteers. We woke up early and made cinnamon rolls for brunch. We hung out by the sea and visited until mid-afternoon and then went home and made dinner (roast chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy). It was a very nice day.
Boxing Day is a big holiday in Jamaica. Our host family as having a large holiday meal for family and friends on Boxing Day and we said we would help out, so we got up early and headed up to Cave. It was a fantastic day. We spent the day helping our host family and some other family friends prepare a ton of food, and then we got to eat all of the food. It was great. Definitely the best day of the holidays.
We spent the rest of the week relaxing and buying our bicycles. We still haven't ridden them. In the US when you buy a bicycle the place where you buy them puts them together and tunes them so they are ready to go out of the store. In Jamaica they just put them together. The wheels aren't trued, the derailleur and brakes aren't adjusted, and the wheels were only inflated right before we left the store. It took me a week to get a bike tool with a spoke wrench from another volunteer so hopefully in the next week we can get them all tuned up and ready to go.
For New Years two volunteers from Manchester came out Sunday night and stayed with us. We spent Monday on the beach getting a nice light burn and then cooking a very nice dinner. We spent the night at a party nearby.
Now the vacation is over and we are back at work, which is good. The holiday season did feel like a week and a half off in the middle of summer and that is just a little bit hard on the system. On Wednesday a "cold" front hit Jamaica and the weather this week has been cooler (highs in the upper 70's, lows in the low 70's) and windy. It feels nice, but the gusting winds tend to make a lot of noise at night (slamming doors, scraping branches, blowing things about) and wake us up.