Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Want Cake

I need cake.  Must have cake.  A doughnut could suffice as well.

 It’s that kind of a week.  I don’t think I’ve craved a piece of cake in my adult life.  It used to be to the point where I didn’t think I’d ever want a piece of cake again.  After working in an office where every other day there was a reason to have cake, à la Office Space, except there was always enough cake.  Working in a suite with only women, there was always too much. “No just a small, tiny sliver for me!” * You know what I mean. 

But now, I have to settle for cookies.  Slightly stale cookies.  Or biscuits, as they call them here.  So not cake.  They randomly sell cake up at the square where I can catch a taxi into town at this one little shop.  And I’m tempted to pay a taxi driver to go fetch me some cake.  How sad.  I know it wouldn’t be what I crave anyway.  Nothing is exactly the same here.  The Oreos are different.  The Pepsi is different.  The Burger King is different; surprisingly better though.  (Yeah, I eat Burger King here.  And yes, I immediately regret it.)

I’m experiencing one of those Peace Corps roller-coaster lows, a dip so far down that only cake (and possibly ice cream) can pull me out.  

These ladies feel me.

I had a visitor last week, which was great.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  When people come to visit you, it’s a whirlwind of excitement.  It’s getting to be yourself for a whole bunch of days at a time, as opposed to a few times a month when you get together with fellow PCV’s.  It’s amazing!  Freeing!  Wonderful!

Then they leave.  And the darkness comes.  (slightly dramatic?)  I did not anticipate this feeling of loss, loneliness and anxiety.  It’s worse than I had thought, perhaps *because I never considered how I would feel after he left; See: not good.

I’m going to see my family soon in the States, which will surely give me the boost I need to get through the last of my service, except the one little dilemma that causes – to lie or not to lie about it.

I am torn every time someone around here asks me if I’m going up for the break. (“going up” means you are going to America) and I want, need maybe, to lie every time, because I know, no matter who it is, they are going to ask me to ‘carry something nice back for them’.  It could be a co-worker, a friend, a taxi driver, a neighbor, a parent, the shop owner, a friend of a friend, a cousin of your taxi driver, a long lost roommate of the second cousin of one of the parents of one of the children at the school in the town next to yours… you get the idea.  LITERALLY ANYONE will ask you to bring something back for them. 
And I am a terrible liar, especially on the spot, so I can never manage to say that I’m not going home for Christmas.  So I tell them the truth, which then leads into this conversation about how I can’t bring them back something because everyone asks me to bring them something (to which they act surprised, which I am surprised they are surprised, I don’t understand that one if you are a random person I barely know asking me now) and I have to explain that if I brought back something for everyone that asked me then it would be ridiculously expensive to carry all that luggage.  Not to mention I’m flying a cheap-o airline that charges to put luggage in the overhead compartment, my luggage must fit under the seat in front of me!!!  Phew!

It’s a draining process that I hate to go through again and again, so should I lie?  Yes, the answer is yes.  But that brings me back to my being a terrible liar situation.  It’s just all around awkward.  

Ok.  Rant complete.

So lately it’s been hard to find the energy (in between all the episodes of depressing TV shows) to talk to my friends; I haven’t had a real adult conversation in a few days.  I’m thinking that’s not super healthy… 

…soooo I’ve been doing my thankfuls everyday to get my positive attitude on!  Every day is the BEST DAY!

Today I am thankful for:
Pats win MNF
Cookies/Biscuits – Strawberry Tea Time (almost as good as cake)
Last day of the school term tomorrow
Pen pal letters for Grade 1 and 2 finished, mailing tomorrow
Great photos
Being healthy
Jamaican children's dancing abilities
Coffee (actual Dunkin Donuts, yum! send from my lovely Sue :))
Unlimited oranges
Giant grapefruits
The fact that I can still get Pepsi, Burger King and Oreos, even if they  are a little different
New Alicia Keys Album
12-12-12 was yesterday, pretty cool
Peace Corps friends who will totally be able to relate to this :)

 Just dance, gonna be okay. 

*Eat the cake!  Just think, there are sad PCV's out there all over the world that would do anything for that cake!
*Could also be contributed to the fact that I’m REALLY getting into Breaking Bad.  Bad idea?  Meh, misery loves company.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jamerican (Don't hate me for using that term, because I already hate myself)

I mentioned in my last post that after a year of living in another country, I’m finally feeling at home.  I was pondering this on my ride back from the nearest town where I go to shop.  It’s a ½ ride, which here means it’s about 12 miles.  Despite the absurdly fast and reckless driving, the condition of the roads still manage to slow down traffic, and when I say traffic, I mean six to seven cars spotted at one time.  I digress.  I was thinking about how I feel at home in Jamaica now and what that means exactly.  Well, I realized it means that now, this absurdly fast and reckless driving just seems like regular driving to me.  (I never get sweaty or nervous anymore and I can keep my eyes open the entire time!) In other words, nothing is surprising; it just is.
To give the non-PCV an idea of what I mean, here are a few things that used to be surprising, but are now just standard everyday life:
  • Greeting everyone you see – known or unknown.  If you see someone 100 yards away, out working on their farm, you are rude if you do not look over and give them a wave.  This is now ingrained into my being.  When I walk around, I am constantly looking around making sure I don’t miss someone that I can throw a “mawnin” to.
  • On the same note, it would be very strange if a Jamaican man (any age) did not hit on me in some way when I pass, and even more expected, ask me to carry (bring) them with me.  Of course, I always say that my “husband” would not like that, and then it is just expected that they ask me if my husband is a Jamaican, to which I always reply “yes”.  Ladies always gots to be on the defense.  Also, when they ask you to carry them, it means that they not only want to go with you, but that you will pay for their travel.  No, thanks.  Also, the radius of unwanted attention expands exponentially depending on the number of lady PCV’s you are travelling with.  Example – if there are 2 of us, 3 times as many men will seek us out.  If there are 3 of us, 6 times as many men seek us out, and so on and so forth.  You get the extraordinary picture.
  •  Travelling – If there are not at least 4 people in the back seat, you do not have a full taxi.  Also, where I live, 2 people in the front passenger seat is pretty standard.  I’ve been in a taxi where there were 2 in the front passenger, 2 in the front driver’s seat (one is the driver, one passenger) and 4 in the back, and then 2 in the trunk (most taxi’s here are wagons, so the trunk is pretty spacious).  Of course, when there are children along for the ride, you sometimes lose count of how many people are in the taxi. (One time I counted 14 total!)
  • Car seats in Jamaica = Your lap.  Yeah, I mean you.  If you get handed someone’s baby, just go with it.  It’s not unusual to hold a stranger’s baby for the duration of your ride.  (This actually works out great for me, because I love holding stranger babies, or any baby really) In other words, I’ve seen one car seat here in Jamaica; it belonged to my first host family in which 2 of the children would climb in and out of in during the car ride.  It was more of a play seat them.  And seat belts?  Yeah, right, you want to get laughed out of Jamaica?
  • Speaking of children – Other than car seats, it’s a rare sighting when I see a stroller.  People just carry their babies around, and if they can stand, they start walking.  One time I saw a 6 year old pushing his 1 year old brother around in one for fun.  That’s about it.
  • No PDA.  I’ve rarely seen a Jamaican express their love for another in any sort of physical way (or verbal for that matter) even to their children.  Example: A teacher and the chairman of the school board are married; it took me about 2 months to figure it out.  Even now, I still have my doubts.
  • Jamaican’s love, love, love KFC.
  • I hear more Celine Dion and other adult easy listening songs here than I do reggae.  Much, much more.
  • Hot Dogs are called Frankfurters, and don’t be surprised if you get them for breakfast.
  • Despite that Jamaica is known for its great coffee, most people just drink instant, including yours truly.

Those are all the things I can think of for now, which is a lot considering the reason I made this list is to point out things that I don’t notice.  Hmmmm…..oxymoron?  Anyjah, despite my perhaps sarcastic *ahem* and negative tone, I do love Jamaica and I feel so lucky everyday to be here.  Which brings me to my next segment, Gratitude!

Things I am thankful for today:
Great camp day – we painted!
Fun. – My new favorite band, or as I like to call them, the new Queen
I made real coffee today – Dunkin Donuts Vanilla, yum! (LYB)
Parks & Recreation – Specifically, everything Tom Haverford says and does
Tom Haverford/Aziz Ansari’s Huge Smiley Face
Stickers – students love them, and I love using them as bribes
My sweet friends and family that send me awesome packages
My host mom that cooks delicious meals
My real mum that cooks delicious  meals that I can't wait to eat
Clean sheets
Blaine from Glee
Football season starts in a month
Weekend at the beach in 3 days
Sweet dance playlist that I made for said beach weekend
America in less than a week!  See ya soon

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where have you been?

I’d like to say something like, I’ve been having so many meaningful and life-changing experiences that I haven’t had any time at all to blog! But really, it’s more along the lines of, I’ve been catching up on True Blood and the newest episodes of Parks & Recreation (not to say that those aren’t life-changing). Don’t get me wrong, in the Peace Corps volunteers do a lot and work hard, but in the two plus years we have, there is also A LOT of downtime. There is only so much integration that a girl can do when there are so many HBO Emmy award-winning series at my fingertips.’s a quick(ish) update of what I’ve been doing in the last 6 months, other than watching Season 5 and 6 of Dexter.

The school year ended the first week of July. That week, we had a graduation or “school leaving celebration” for the grade 6 students that are going on to secondary school. It’s a really big deal here, and they go all out. The students wear a cap and gown, they get their portraits taken, they get plaques and presents, and all this transpires over an approximately 5 hour ceremony. Yeah, it was 5 hours. 29 students “graduated”. It was scheduled to start at 10, did not start until about 10:45 and ended around 3:30. I’m pretty sure our principal gave a speech that was just shy of an hour. Not that I am complaining at all, this is just how things go down here in Jamaica.

After our graduation, we still had 3 days of school left, to which the number of students decreased each day by 50%, leaving us with approximately 20 students on the last day of school, out of 168.

That last 2 weeks of school, I decided I wanted to put together a summer camp. I was already planning to help another PVC at her summer camp, but I realized that it would be important to my students to plan something for them to do as well. And at this point in my service, I feel comfortable with planning a camp last minute by myself. This was after I heard that the regular community member, who is in Teachers College, was spending his summer in the States on a work exchange program. (who could blame him?)

So that brings us to now, and I am just finishing up my first week of summer camp with my 17 students who showed up. It’s been really fun, but a bit challenging as my campers range from Grade 2 to Grade 6, which means the reading levels vary immensely. I’ve been trying to encourage the younger, less advanced students to reach out for help from the older students, and vice-versa. I’ve also been teaching them new games and trying to fit in some arts & crafts. Tomorrow, I’ve planned to do some paper mache! Fingers crossed! We did paper mache yesterday, and I would say it was about 75% successful :-) They barely get a chance to be creative in school, there’s no such thing as art class here, which means painting or drawing is a rare activity. I’m doing my best to introduce creativity and getting them to use their imagination. Not the easiest task, but proving to be a lot of fun, for both the students and myself.

In official Peace Corps business, a few weeks ago, Group 82 had our mid-service conference. It was very surreal, as most of us couldn’t believe that a year had gone by since we first arrived in Jamaica. It was a lot of fun to see everyone and it made me proud of my group that we made it this far. (Who am I kidding? It was mostly just great to sleep in an air-conditioned hotel room :P)

Also, at the conference, I attended the IT session on movie-making. It’s inspired me to put together a video about our first year of Peace Corps. I recorded almost our entire group describing their first year of service in one word. I’m (slowly) putting together a video of this, including pictures and music. It’s pretty awesome because it seems that I’ve discovered a new passion. I’ve already killed several hours editing about 2 and a half minutes of video. (oh, bumbaclot, I just realized I’ve blogged about it so now it’s a project that I actually must complete. Watch out 2014!)

In emotional news, I must say that after a year in Jamaica, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ve really found my groove. I’m comfortable here, I’m confident in my work, and I dare say, happy. I mean, of course there are a million things that I could complain about (A three letter word, starting with B, rhymes with mugs) and there are still days that are unimaginably hard, but I’m not here because it was going to be easy. And when things do get tough again, I remember that each day is different, and I know the next day (even just the next hour sometimes) will be much better. And I’m here to grow and to be thankful…speaking of which:

Things I am thankful for today:
Children learned a new game yesterday and loved it
Made a delicious ramen noodle stir fry (don't judge until you've tried it)
Cool weather yesterday – much easier when walking up the giant hill on my way to work
Internet access
Talked to two of my besties this week– I get to see the in just a few short weeks!
Avocado Season is back! (or Pear as they call them in JA)
Ginnup season is back too!
Students saying their favorite part of camp so far was the writing assignments, a pleasant surprise
Successful first week of camp
Went to my favorite beach yesterday
Good Music
Endless amount of books
Saturday Funday in Ochi with my newest bestie :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Fear's Resolution

Time for some good old fashion self-loathing.  Today I was called "fat" three times.  (By three different, not-so-skinny themselves, individuals, mind you)

I know it's that time of year anyway, when you say to yourself, I'm going to eat better, exercise and get in shape.  Well, for me, it's not the time of year, but the brutal honsety of my Jamaican community that is shaming me into such activities.  So basically, the fear of being called fat every time I go out for a walk is cause for my New Year's Resolution.  It's time I lay off the fried chicken, rice and peas, and cheese puffs.  Sad face.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jamaican culture, Jamaican's are very honest and up-front people, and this is a standard comment made to a lot of female volunteers, so I shouldn't be that offended, right?  But when I decided to venture out for the first time since I got back, not particularly motivated or excited to be around people (I know, I'm terrible), being called "fat" no matter what the meaning, was still a big kick to my big fat self-esteem.

Adding to my diminishing self-confidence, I cut bangs today.  Did anyone notice those?!?  Nope, they just noticed my expanding muffin top.  (Tip: Do not cut bangs in place of eating right and exercising, it is not a sufficient distraction from your gut, even when you cut them yourself in poor lighting and a dirty mirror, resulting in a too short and too blunt look.)

And thanks to those of you who told me I wasn't getting fat.  You are sweet.  But also liars.

What I am thankful for today:

My new computer cord that works!
New bangs (however bad they look)
Jamaicans who are honest despite your feelings
Americans who lie to to save your feelings
Kindle cover - thanks mom!
New kindle books
Internet works today
Patriots are in the play-offs
New (to me) clothes brought back from US
My health
My friends