Saturday, July 30, 2011

Volunteers with Benefits

Last week was our shadowing experience, so we had our first independent field trip!  Like tiny baby birds leaving the nest for the first time, we are finally free to fly!  Well, for 2.5 days, that is and it wasn't exactly on our own, as two other trainees were heading in the same direction, and one trainee and I were actually going to stay with the same Volunteer.  Our independence is something given to us in very small doses....

So we had a moderately interesting trip there - I started walking the 15 minutes it takes to get where I was meeting the other trainees, and about 5 minutes in, it started to pour.  This was approximately 6 minutes after I made the not-so-clever decision to leave my umbrella in an effort to pack light...ugh.  But no worries, I ducked for cover and it let up a bit and I continued on my way to the meeting place.  The first two legs of our journey were pretty low key by Jamaican travel standards (we did defy death a few times when our driver thought he was playing a video game and not actually holding our precious lives in his speedy little hands, but par for the course).  Once in Spanishtown, for the final part of our trip, we hopped on a bus only to wait about 35 minutes because it was empty.  Finally when the bus was properly jammed pack with travelers, the driver put the vehicle in drive, I throw a little "Yay! We're leaving!" look over to my friend (because I can't move any other parts of my body due to our sardine-ness), and we take off....only to go 5 feet and slam into the taxi ahead of us.  The passengers go wild, the driver jumps out, and my fellow American traveler burst into hysterical laughter.  Which really is the only appropriate way to respond to such ridiculousness. Since no one or no thing was injured in the making of this road trip, after 10 or so minutes of yelling Jamaicans, we got on our way once again without further interruption, hallelujah!

We get to our destination, and a huge shock, it's only about 70 degrees here!  I love it already.  This area is known for being very "Americanized" or "Englandnized" so there are a lot of restaurants, big grocery stores and a movie theater.  Our Volunteers took us to a nice restaurant on a hill with a gorgeous view of the city (see pic), and even better, they served burgers and fries, which we took advantage of.  After lunch we went to the grocery store to stock up for the next couple days, and then went home to rest.  The volunteer that we stayed with has a pretty sweet set up.  She has her own downstairs little apartment, if you will.  A nice kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room, bedroom, and a large open area that I assume is going to be another living room of some sort.  This area of the house is a new addition that is still being finished, so there's not a whole lot of furniture going on quite yet.  However, that doesn't bother us, as we are just happy to be in a comfortable place with a slight air of independence surrounding us.  We ate a small dinner, got into some comfy clothes and snuggled up to watch a movie; in typical girls night fashion, we put on "Set It Off".  I'd never seen it in it's entirety and I'm happy to say I have now.  Movies set in the mid-90's provide loads of unintentional entertainment, as does Queen Latifah.

The next day, we got up and shadowed our Volunteer at her job.  Since it's summer right now, school is not in session, so she arranged to teach a summer computer class to some of the parents at the school.  It's a 3 hour class from 9-12.  But since we are on "island time", the students don't start arriving until 9:30 or so, which was fine with us as we used the extra time to discuss celebrity gossip, which just so happens to be one of my favorite topics of conversation. (Judge me, I don't care)  The class is a work-at-your-own-pace atmosphere, and each student gets an assignment based on their level, so we each take a student to work with independently.  This was a great experience because not only did we get to finally feel like we were teaching and helping people (since we got here it's been the complete opposite, it's always people teaching and helping us) but I also really enjoy teaching adults, as they have an actual desire and passion to learn.  The class ran a little late, but no worries, once everyone left, we packed up and headed home.

Another great thing about our shadowing experience was, we only worked the half day!  This was such a nice break from our 8+ hour training days we've had for the past month.  We relaxed all afternoon and some of us *ahem* might have even taken a two hour nap...

After our no-stress afternoon, we took advantage of the two-for-one deal at the movie theater and met up with the other Volunteer and Trainee in the city.  We got to see Friends With Benefits, as Captain America was sold out (not to our dismay, as the ladies really wanted to see the chick flick but were just being nice to the boys when we agreed to see the comic book movie. C'mon, we all need a little Justin Timberlake in our lives now and then)  The movie was surprisingly very good and very funny, I was practically laughing the entire time from the first minute in to the end.  And here is a little movie theater etiquette for you all non-Jamaicans.  Before the movie starts, you must stand for the national anthem.  Also, don't get up to pee during the movie.  You are covered; there is a 20 minute intermission half-way through.  And lastly, don't get up from your seats for one second after you asked a lovely young couple to move over so your party of five could sit together, because two "I can't be bothered" older women will swipe them, literally, right out from under your butt before you can say "Mila Kunis!" and then your friends have to sit in front of you instead of beside you like you had originally intended, rendering your asking the cute little couple next to you to move completely pointless!!!  Okay - so that last one might be super specific to my own experience and could probably happen anywhere in the world, you know.  Your welcome.

After we left the movie, we headed back home to cook up a delicious, I'm-on-a-Peace-Corps-budget stir fry.  Which we later found out practically every other shadowing Trainee made with their Volunteers, interestingly, or not interestingly enough.  We ate, chatted a lot, and finally went to bed.

So colorful!  Like Christmas with orange.

The next morning, we reluctantly packed up our stuff, went into town and met up with the other trainee at the bus park.  We arrived back to our hub without any trouble, apart from our sadness at leaving, of course.  We were happy staying with our Volunteer at her site and not so anxious to leave only to go back to being those little baby birds in the nest again.  But with patience being a virtue and all that, I know that it's necessary to continue with training to prepare ourselves even more for when we are actually on site on our, dun dun dun, own!  It's a slooooowww and necessary process that the Peace Corps has perfected over the last 50 years, so I guess I'll listen to their wisdom and not complain (much).

Sorry for the long post, but since it was our big first trip by ourselves, which I'm not sure you understand how HUGE it was for us, I thought I should go into detail about it seeing how monumental it was.

Anywine, here are some things that I am thankful for today:

Amazing shadowing experience
Meeting awesome new people that are here on the island that have been through the same thing I'm going through
Lady Gaga
Wine - even though I don't have it here, I'm still thankful for it
Being here
The excited feeling I get in my stomach from being here
Host Family - their inviting me to stay in their beautiful home, I love it here!
Beautiful View
Being alive and feeling alive
I seem to find a new beautiful type of flower everyday

Stop to smell the...whatever this type of flower is

Practice your thanking - leave me a comment to tell me what you are thankful for!  I'm thankful for all the wonderful comments I got :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PCT: Persons Constantly Traveling

So for all of you who aren't in the Peace Corps, or Peace Corps affiliated, PCT technically stands for Peace Corps Trainee, however, for those of you who have served as a Peace Corps Volunteer or PCV, you know that unofficially, PCT could stand for the above, Person CONSTANTLY Traveling.  Now, I might be exaggerating a bit, but..... I don't care.  The minute you get settled, BAM, they throw you into a whole new world.  NOT that I'm complaining.  As much as I loved Hellshire, where we were the first two weeks, I'm so far loving it at our Hub (another Peace Corps term for our sector specific training site)  We are in the middle of the country and it's just beautiful.  Everywhere there is another gorgeous plant, flower, fruit or tree and you have a view of the mountains from basically anywhere you are.

This picture does not do it justice.

Also, my new host family is just want I need right now.  I loved where I was placed in Hellshire, and I miss my family there, but it's nice to get a break from the kids for a bit.  I have a lot of homework to do now that we are split up into our sector groups, and here I'm able to get it done without interruption (however I'm sure I will be missing those cute little interruptions very soon).  But my host family here is an older couple, they could be my parents, in fact they do have a daughter my age that I'm looking forward to meeting next week.  Their house is very nice too, I have a nice big room, comfortable bed, internet (hence me blogging right now) and my own bathroom (yay!)  So apart from my packing and repacking and unpacking, I'm quite happy with the relocation.  I don't know how I will feel about that in another 5 weeks when we are on di road again, but for now, no worries.

My last snapshot of Hellshire Beach before leaving.

Thankful for Today:

Internet so I can communicate with all you
The view of course!
My caring friends and family - I got your post cards, love you!
The amazing people I've met here so far.
Video chatting :)
The cool weather

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hello Again!

to the internet that's been about 2 weeks since I've been able to be online for more than 10 minutes and it feels good.  Not as good as I thought it would be, since I'm sitting outside on my friend's balcony, on the hard floor, which is not optimal.  (Side note, my biggest complaint is that my arse is killing me from sitting through training all day.  Seriously, any chance I get to stand during the day, I relish in.)  But it's good that I can be back online to give some updates for those of you who I have neglected to call (I have good excuses!) and post some pictures.

 Hardship? What hardship?

Quick wrap-up:  We've been in mostly cross-culture and security training since we got here, and we have one more week of it then we break up into our sectors, mine being Education, and do some specific job related training.  And yes, we had ice cream, sweet sweet ice cream. :P

Longer wrap-up: We've all been living with host families, and mine is wonderful.  I live with a pretty typical family, 3 kids, 2 boys and a little girl, they are adorable.  I eat most meals with them, and last night I even cooked for them!  I had asked my host mom last week (I call her this despite the fact that I'm pretty sure she's only a few years older than me) what American food she might want to learn how to cook, and she quickly responded, "Lasagna" and the oldest boy, without missing a beat, exclaimed, "Garfield", to which I had to chuckle, what?  I grew up watching that!  Never underestimate the power of cartoons.  So, also despite the fact that I've never made lasagna in my life, nor am I the least bit Italian, we made a delicious lasagna, the garlic bread, however was a casualty to our hunger and was left a little too long in the oven.

That's all I can manage for right now.  I have to get home for dinner and then we have the neighborhood exercise group later this evening. (which is another story for a more comfortable time)

Things I'm thankful for today:

Delicious Lasagna, even in Jamaica
Great host family
Wonderful friends
Beautiful beach that's only a 10 minute walk away!
Great Peace Corps Staff
Letter from my mom today!  What a great surprise!
Tiny spider running across my screen right now!
 Much love!