Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Labour Day

Last Friday was Jamaica's Labour Day. This brings to mind the last camping trip of the year, grilling, etc. Usually a three day weekend that is spent as a holiday. Not so in Jamaica. Labour Day is a day for just that, labour. Most communities or groups chose a project and people get together and work on the project. These projects include fixing potholes in the road, painting crosswalks at schools, cleaning up litter in communities, planting trees, and the list goes on. I like the idea of a day for all of the country to donate their time to a community project. If only there were one Labour Day a month.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Language Barrier?? Yup, I suppose so.

This past week I prepared a classroom lesson on nutrition, and vitamins in particular, since one of the classes was studying foods in science class. I broke down the lesson into 1) identifying the vitamins (A-K- a fun alphabet game- where is vitamin F?) 2) learning how the vitamins help our bodies (vitamin C helps our immune system!) and 3) discussing what foods have each of these vitamins. This all followed up with a fun bingo game. With a few exceptions, I don't usually know which classes I will be visiting on a given day, so my lesson plans are vague enough to adapt on the fly to kids from 3rd to 9th grade. The vitamin lesson was a little more advanced than usual, but I ended up spending an hour with third grade anyway.

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

Sea Phobia Continued...

We finally did it. We live so close to the sea, but we rarely go for a morning swim for exercise. This morning we did it. Finally.

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

Jamaica Is Kind Of Like A Dostal Family Reunion

For any Dostal in-law, the feeling of being somewhat overwhelmed during a family reunion is a familiar one. There are many conversations at once, often in the same circle of people, and the key to participating in the discussion is the volume of your voice. I love the feeling of community, family, and love that these reunions (and conversations) evoke, but there is a development process for actually participating in the chats.

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.

The Frustrations

Sunday was a bit of a frustrating day. It was a nice day and we had nothing to do. We both commented that if we were in the states we would have a car and we could go for a nice drive, take a hike, go to a movie, go visit friends, etc. Instead there was really no one in the area to go see, we had no car, and there was really nothing to do. We ended up filling the day, but those are the days that make us pine a little bit for home.

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

What the $&^% Did He Call Me?

Since coming to Jamaica I have been called many things. Here is a short list in order of most frequent: Big Man, Boss Man, Brownie, Whitey (yes, I do get brownie more than whitey. I only get called whitey about once or twice a month), red man, rasta boy. There are others, but they are infrequent or inappropriate for this blog. Then Friday I heard one that really made my head spin. While walking down the street I heard, "Hey, raggamuffin!" I looked around and saw one man yelling in my direction, and there was no one else around me. I was being called a raggamuffin. I don't even know what that means. I guess it may be time to think about a trim or at least shaving (I was thinking that when I was called rasta boy a couple weeks ago). Things that make you go WHAT?