Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We Are Still Around

For the past four months or so our blog has been pretty sparse and boring. That is partly because we have been so busy and partly because we have been in Jamaica for so long. We just reached the point where it didn't feel like there was anything to write about. I am going to try to catch up on the past couple months. Some of this may have been posted already, but bear with me.

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.


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