Saturday, June 13, 2009


So right now I'm trying to get over a cold. We were in Kingston on Friday, I was out late that night, up late on Saturday night too because another PCV visited me, and then spent way too much time swimming in the river so... I only have myself to blame for being sick. Plus I guess my body is getting used to an "oulip" of new things right now.

I guess the cold water did me in.
Though I cannot explain how relaxing Sunday was... sifting through rocks/sand, floating in the water watching leaves swirl by...
So I went to see the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) on Thursday. It's moving into a chest cold so I got antibiotics & slept all of yesterday. I'm excessively sleepy right now but I have a warden's meeting at Devon House, then I have to make it back to Castleton for a CDC meeting.
I guess the time in bed gives me a chance to go over materials at least, & good for fine-tuning my Patwa.
I wrote a 6 page document on everything that happened with who I was living with before this but I guess I'll spare you the details. At first I thought it was a cultural difference but the more I was around other Jamaicans the more I realized she's just excessively domineering/controlling so... after a while we clashed. I gave it my best shot. I've actually talked to other volunteers who have been in the same spot/have already left and they had similar problems with her too so at least I know it's not just me.
We both still have to work together but things are airing out right now so we'll see what happens.
I really love the people I'm staying with right now. They're relaxed, everything is communal & her family is awesome. I'm living with Ms. Dorothy, her mom who's about 90 something, her mom's helper and her granddaughter. She's had 7 kids and has 28 grandchildren so she's used to people coming/going, gives me my space and has really welcomed me into the family so I'm very grateful right now.
Plus they're going to teach me how to make some very good Jamaican dishes.
I like the location too, it's north of where I work & I walk about two hours a day to work & back. The walk is beautiful along the river/through the hills. I've dropped about 5lbs since I moved there a week or two ago so that bodes well considering on average, female volunteers gain 20lbs during their peace corps service.
I'm excited about getting things going for the community as time moves along & have a bunch of plans.
I had a long discussion with someone a few days ago about being a volunteer & understanding "cultural integration". It's not really something that anyone could fully grasp unless they have gone through it themselves, at least to this scale. It kind of builds a certain camaraderie between all volunteers, regardless of country served.
Big ups to all Peace Corps volunteers.
I'd update more but I need to run over to Devon House.

Solar Pump anyone?

Add ImageTime is flying I guess. It doesn't feel like I've been here that long but my departure seems like it was ages ago. I guess sometimes it's good to have no conception of time- I think I'm more on "Jamaican time" than a lot of Jamaicans.

So the project at right is going well. We spent a day draining the pond in the gardens- catching tadpoles, fish & frogs to relocate them to another aquatic location while we fix it up.

I was happy, got to catch a frog.

So we drained it, chipped off decades and decades worth of old paint layers, patched up holes with cement, are treating it & then should have things done in a few weeks.

The whole project has been moving along very quickly- I'm getting into contact with a few people right now in hopes of getting a solar pump donated.

It would be an excellent opportunity for environmental education/advertising alternative sources of energy for anyone who visits-so why not?
Much more aesthetically pleasing considering we're using thin piping with a hole drilled into it right now. It runs off of water pressure from from an old uphill irrigation system.
You can see our version of a fountain at right.

Blue Draws

Time is flying. We fianlly swore in at the US Embassy on the 15th of May. Hard to believe that was a month ago.

So I'm an official "Peace Corps Volunteer" (PCV- we love acronyms). There are a lot of projects I'm looking forward to getting started on. Expaning the recycling program, starting an Environmental Club at the school, starting a library (The community & school both lack one), getting equipment for the Communtiy Center's Clinic, working on a summer camp, getting some bus stops/painting murals, getting a footbridge built so kids can get to school/don't have to go through the rive to get there during rainy season, ict/computer training etc.

I have a list going... hopefully everything goes smoothly.

So today I spent the day with Ms. Nugent (My Project Partner) at the Castleton church of god (or something like that) chilling out making blue draws.

Originally I thought they were called Tom’s draws instead of “blue draws”.

Who is Tom & why is he special enough to have a dish named after his underwear?

Everyone cracked up when I called it “tom’s draws”.

The real name for it is Dokanu.

Anyway I'm not sure if I can find the recipe but it mainly consisted of grated sweet potatoes, grated dry coconut, flower, cornmeal, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg (fresh nutmeg- from a yellow fruit that splits open as it drys, wrapped in a beautiful red waxy design, you grate the seed to get the spice). It smells delicious.

So after we got the mix together we went behind the building where a bunch of banana trees are growing & cut a bunch of huge leaves. The trees "bled" clear liquid.

So then we held the leaves over a fire until the green changed into a darker shade, that way the wrap holds together after we tie it. Cut the leaves off of the stalks, arranged in piles, plopped the dough onto the banana leaves, folded them a few times into rectangles & ties with strings from the banana tree.

Prepped about 40, put them all in a pot to boil for an hour, let them dry out and then stuck in the fridge.

I lived off of those things for about a week, they're delicious. The farmers really loved them too- I brought them to a work day & it was a hit.

Work days here are huge, right now we're working on building a foundation for Ms. Grant's house so Food For the Poor can take over & get the rest built. They're living in a chicken coup in the mean time so we're scrambling to get everything done before the first hurricane hits.

The area is prone to land-slides so there are a lot of people I'm concerned about up here, considering a lot of things are supported by stilts.

One lady loses about 1 room per year because of the hill/rain.

So I also think that whatever gully project we get started will massively help the community too, that should happen in August or September of this year.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Field trip (yay!)

Woke up early for some yoga then went jogging. (Making some good habits) Plus all we've been doing is sitting in class all day and eating a lot- the meals are really hearty here so I need to do something drastic asap. I can't wait to be in control of my own diet...

My mosquito net last night did absolutely nothing, I’m scratching in agony right now... though I probably just need to find a way to suspend it instead of using it as a cover.

Went on a field trip today to some botanical gardens about 40 minutes north of Kingston/in castleton. The ride up was kind of crazy because it’s a two lane road up a winding hill with no guard rails and a huge drop… with people passing other cars in front, but I guess Froggy (our bus driver) is awesome and hasn’t had a crash in 26 years of driving for peace corps.

We piled out of the bus, walked past the post office which was a tiny orange house and crossed the street where everyone zips by at 50 miles per hour. There was a small make-shift stand to the left selling coconuts with a hole chopped in them for a straw (I got one on the way out for J$60, the guy whipped out a machete and skinned it for me on the spot). In the center was a small bar and on the right was a stand with one woman grilling. Our APCD took orders for lunch.. I decided to try curry goat which ended up not being that great because it was mostly bone..

I still can’t get used to eating meat the way they serve it here but "you get used to it".

I'm open to everything anyway..

Two of the volunteers from Peace corps group 78 were there/this was their post, which is absolutely beautiful. I talked to the guy (they’re an old couple) for a bit.. he’d been at another post and they got moved there/have been working on organizing the place/labeling plants because most of them were missing labels, working with RADA (farmer's association) and doing a bunch of other things in the community, including starting a community based recycling project.

She was so excited to show off the bottle collection :)

The place is so peaceful, the air is perfect and the river that runs through the area is really clean/gorgeous. We climbed some of the boulders and stuck our feet in the water.. imagine a collective sigh of contentment from the environmental sector...

I wandered around a little bit on my own and got some really good shots (still up on the photography, there are a lot of areas I would kill to paint... I really, really wish I would have brough a sketch book but I guess that'll be a trip into Kingston at some point, assuming I can avoid the really dangerous areas).

I was getting pretty close to a tree/getting a shot of this really cool looking rusted-out lock/chain when out of nowhere a lizard popped in front of my face, startling/making me supress a startled scream. Luckily no one noticed...

Got back from the gardens and took a walk down to some fields near a water sewage plant right near hellshire, supridingly it didn’t smell… I guess a huge crocodile lives in there. Not really an animal I've ever had to deal with.

Actually I've never even been to the tropics before this, and definitly couldn't tell you what a plantain is but so far I love all of it.

Anyway we watched “net ball” which is sort of like basketball but as soon as you have the ball you can’t move/have to pass it.

Chilled out for a bit then went to another volunteer's birthday party. Got to see him attacked with/covered in flower which is what I have to look forward to on my birthday…

Then went to bed. I'm actually getting sleep, and my mom told me she could even hear a difference in my voice.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Catching up II

The image is a bunch of garbage (literally). There aren't any reliable garbage collection systems here so everyone usually ends up burning it, which I can't blame them... but a lot of the carcinogens released might cause some problems in the long run..

Or just tossing it wherever. [Littering makes me cringe] But I guess I was conditioned that way...


Woke up & Nicole (My host mom) made me breakfast, eggs/bacon & some toast. Packed a “bun and cheese” for me for lunch and walked me to the church to make sure I knew where I was going. [which I definitly appreciate]

Our Patois class was pretty minimal, the other ones went an hour over so Nicole and I missed the bus.. I came home, and was taking my things off the clothesline just as she and Duckie (her cousin) dropped by- he's a really sweet guy.

Favorite quotes so far...

We were driving through some slum ran by the JLP- it's a political party here, there's a lot of political violence/corruption between them and the PNP so needless to say... I'm staying out of politics for once. Anyway on the side of the road there was a huge pile of trash and a bunch of goats picking through it..

“Peace corps!!! Off the bus. Pick up trash. Adopt a goat.”

Aaaaaand another scenrio.. I was messing around with this really cool hand carved chess set in the lobby of the Colin Powell plaza..

“Did you check in yet?”
“Yeah just messing around with these. Some of them are broken.”
"You see Angela?!?? This is why we can’t have nice stuff. You always break things."


Anyway more and more and more and more... training. Then downtown kingston/the market there, wouldn’t dare whip out my nice camera but I wanted to soooo bady, it really reminded me of some of the markets in China... minus the Chinese/me being an Amazonian woman in comparison. I should be getting private property insurance soon...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Catching Up I

Another long day of training. Nancy’s phone (my roommate at Mayfair) didn’t go off this morning and our wakeup call never happened so we woke up in a mad rush.

Anyway.. I had some strange nightmares last night, which for me is odd because I can't recall ever having had them before. Tossing and turning so much woke me up, realized I was rested and freaked out because usually when I wake up “rested” it’s about 10am and I’m late for work...

So I franticly woke her up, we missed breakfast and had to desperately throw everything in the suitcases/get them loaded in the van, check our keys back, and sprint over to a new building to get more immunizations (Hepatitus A & B). Arm rolled up, the nurse made me laugh, hop back on the bus and head to Colin Powell Plaza.

Training dragged a little but the administer was entertaining- we also did this weird exercise that consisted of intense eye contact with each person in a circle.

More training, then hopped on the bus to Hellshire. My host mother is cool so far... We walked down to some house in the middle of the night and got very good jerk chicken and "festival"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 1 of training(ish) B

I cannot wait to get a shower and go to bed right now. I picked up "Egg and protein" shampoo because it was the cheapest thing possible and smelled good.

We're all sitting outside right now using laptops because we can't get a signal inside.

The building we did training at today had an absolutely beautiful view of Kingston. A performings arts group came in and sang at the welcome ceremony, then we had more introductions/quite a few hours of training.

Our lunch break turned out nicely because we found a food market & a few of us pulled in money to get fresh peppers, tomatoes, hummus and pita bread to eat instead of fast food. More training, safety/medical.. the first aid kits they gave us were really nice, and I'm sure I'm really going to appreciate the mosquito net later. Came back to Mayfair, ate and here we are.

I'm just zoning out and enjoying listening to the crickets.

The age range of the group is pretty large which I actually like, I think the average age is 45? There are a few couples who are volunteering together too. I love hearing about people's lives and what they've experienced/what's brought them here.. being drafted in the Vietnam war etc. There are still a lot of other volunteers I'm gradually getting to know but everyone here is really cool, including the staff.

I'm going to finally get a shower (they finally fixed it today, took a 10 second cold one with no water pressure this morning) and pass out. We're waking up at 7 to get immunizations/head to Hellshire, which I've heard is beautiful. Meeting our 1st Host family & going to live with another one in a few weeks. I'm not sure if I'm going to have internet at any point but definitely taking advantage of it as much as possible when I can.

Here's to hoping the shower works...