Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our First Visitor

It has finally happened. After so many people have shown interest in coming and visiting us in Jamaica, one of you has finally stepped up to the plate. That person is…. my sister Gabrielle.
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

Mi wan ten poun plummi, massa!

I just need to boast for just a minute. Just one quick minute, please.

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

An amusing anti-litter participant

I walked into the office the other day, and everyone was crowded around the newest addition to the anti-litter contingent in the community.

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

Oh, the new year

Well, I must start by saying Happy New Year to everyone and, of course, my apologies for not posting in so long. I have not been sure exactly what to post lately, and I will partially blame that for the delay in writing. No matter how I spin it, though, I will admit that 2008 (thus far) has been a tough one for me. As Scott mentioned, the holidays were fine but strange given the weather and absence of family.

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

Christmas in July

What happens when the weather doesn't change from July to December? It still feels like December and you get Christmas in July. That is what it felt like here. Not really Christmas. It was nice to have the time off and we enjoyed spending time with friends, but it still doesn't feel like Christmas has happened.

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.