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 :)