Friday, June 29, 2012

May and June

It is difficult to know how and what to communicate “life updates” effectively with you. I have come to realize that being a Peace Corps Volunteer is almost like living a double life. In one life we live in work mode, dutifully doing what we can to fulfill the Peace Corps’ 3 goals and be a positive influence in our working community. In the other life, we live in sanity survival mode. We have days spent locking ourselves inside and weekends traveling away from site. The two lives meet somewhere in the middle, occasionally one blending into the other. As I have been at site only for six weeks now, most of what I want to write to you about falls in the sanity survival mode life.

Jamaica continues to surprise me. At first I did not sense much of a culture shock, mainly because I am guaranteed English wherever I go, and Jamaica is so close to the States that some of the culture bleeds over. Most Jamaicans have traveled abroad or have family abroad. However, I have recently come to realize that I have turned a blind eye to culture shock, and both of my Peace Corps lives have been easier to endure since accepting the reality of it. The place I experience the most culture shock is in my work life. The school system is very different here, aside from the basics (teachers, students, classrooms). More on that later.

grade 4 & grade 6

my admirable counterpart playing "Red Light, Green Light" with grades 2-6

For now I go to school only Monday through Thursday. On Fridays I typically go into my parish’s capital to use the Internet at the library, say hi to the ocean, and run errands.

view from the library

THE parish church

I spend most Saturdays with other volunteers who live relatively close to me.  Jamaica has an endless amount of sites to see and things to do. Many locally owned attractions offer Peace Corps Volunteers discounts, local prices (as opposed to tourist prices), and a friendly smile. For this, we are ever thankful.

Sunday barbeque with one of our PCJ staff

Playing in the river in Portland, near base of the Blue Mountains

chilling in Oraccabessa
walking around Portland

As you might imagine, we create strong friendships with certain individuals in our training groups. Most Peace Corps Volunteers (worldwide) naturally end their service as best friends with the volunteers closest to them at site. However, we each have a few friendships from training that are impossible to move on from.

Jedd & Michelle

Cory & I both successfully completed 2 PC trainings. He actually completed a full term, too.

my PCJ "parents," Mike & Pat

I do hope the above helps you relate better to this portion of my service. As an Education volunteer, there is not a lot on the summer calendar. I will be helping out with a summer camp at another volunteer’s site across the island, and perhaps one at my site-mate’s school. The school year starts over again on the first Monday in September.

Other notes:

I have found exercise critical to my mental health and am working toward the goal of a half-marathon in December. My host cousin runs with me on the weekends, which allows for a change in scenery (as there is only one route for me to go safely by myself). 

Though I still find rice primarily revolting, I have been consuming it in small quantities. My host mother is of Indian descent and cooks the most delicious curry and other traditional Indian dishes. Of course they are all served with rice. But don’t expect me to come asking for it.

My host family continues to be a blessing. They celebrated my birthday with curry chicken and cake. Everyone came over for the evening and we ended the night by playing dominoes.

4 of 5 of my host nieces/nephews

the family, minus 1 niece

they take very good care of me :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

I find myself with unplanned free internet time and a guilty conscience about not posting something for the few and faithful followers to read. Here's some key facts to hold you over until next time (aka, a more planned post):

- June 14 marks three complete months in country/on island.

- While my school has about 125-130 students registered, only about 70-80 attend on a regular basis. Do not ask me "Why?"...yet.

- The following community organizations exist in my community: Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Church of God, Quaker Church, and a Farmer's Group.

- In addition to numeracy and literacy intervention, I hope to help start a school garden and a student-of-the-month program with the new school year.

- I will be spending two weeks in another parish in July assisting two other volunteers who are putting on a summer camp for primary school children. Inna di bush. Inna di heat!

- The days continue to be long, but the months really do fly by.