Friday, August 17, 2012

Funny Conversations

Peace Corps is just as much—if not more—about a cultural exchange as it is about sustainable projects. Naturally, Jamaicans are just as curious about where I come from as I am about their culture and community history. Two separate, recent, cultural exchange conversations stand out to me as particularly humorous:

Situation 1
I had just met one of my student’s older sisters, C. She’s in high school, about 15 years old. She’s a typical high school student who has little to no interest in studies. I know she comes from a difficult home situation, so I pay special, positive attention to her whenever I see her around.
One of the first questions she asked me, while touching my arm:
C: Di sun a burn you.
Me: Yes, the sun makes me darker.
C: If I go to your country, will my skin turn your color?
Me: (rather dramatic) No, sir! God made you this beautiful color and He made me this color.
C: Oh.
I realized moments later that she had asked the question in all that is genuine curiosity. I was just thankful that I hadn’t put my foot in my mouth and had instilled that her dark skin truly is beautiful. It still might be one of my favorite questions to date, though.

Situation 2
The locals in my community—as well as regular passer by’s (taxi drivers)—know me as the white girl who runs. Because I’m a white girl, my route is very restricted to a 3-mile out-and-back. Thus, I look forward to Sunday mornings when a host cousin runs with me and we can take the road to the beach. One particular morning we ran a little further and waded in the water before turning back around. Part of our conversation on the run back:
Me: “I’m still surprised at how warm the ocean is here.”
Oochi: “What do you mean?”
Me: “I’m so used to the ocean being freezing cold, because that’s how it is all year long where I’m from.”
Oochi: “Yeah man, this is Jamaica. Everything is hot here.”

view of the beach to which we run
One of the benefits most PCVs enjoy in their respective country of service is called a closed user [cell phone] group. This means that we can call and text message each other’s cell phones for free. It’s literally a lifeline. There is a poor volunteer whose wife left us with a severed Achilles tendon back in March. She finally has a date to come back in early September (woo hoo!). In the meantime, we do our best to make sure he has the support he needs. He and I exchange daily text messages about how the day is going, and he leaves me laughing out loud every time. The following exchanges are with this individual.
Those of you who have lived in any sort of developing country know that meetings never start on time. And generally speaking, you can bet it’ll start at least half an hour to an hour late. [In some extreme cases, it just never happens at all.] The other night I was a few minutes late for the start of Bible study at church. I text messaged another volunteer:
Me: Of course the first time I’m late for something, they’ve actually started on time.
TC: Just walk in like you own it. Ha ha.

This same volunteer is helping with a summer camp at his wife’s work site. I was supposed to go help as well, but a sprained ankle landed me a week of staying at home. The following has to do with how camp is going:
TC (yesterday): I’m in the grocery store because I’m out of food at home, and somehow I end up buying a loaf of bread, two boxes of crayons, and a coloring book.
TC (today): Absolute madhouse.
Me: How many are there? All ages?
TC: More kids and we are crammed inside a church. About 50 kids ranging from 3 years old to 13. I have about 12 little ones to myself. It’s like herding cats.
Such is the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. We buy children supplies over food for ourselves, and liken working with them to herding the feline species.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breadfruit

Sorry it's been over a month and this is all I have to show you for now.

I had never heard of breadfruit before arriving in Jamaica; however, my father told me that it has an interesting place in the history of West Indian slave trading. Go figure.

The tree itself is not native to Jamaica, but was carried here from Africa. There are a few different varieties, some of which grow in Florida. Almost all of the varieties have to be cooked before they're edible. My favorite way to eat it is roasted. The fruit is loaded with nutrients and has been claimed to be the solution to hunger in places such as Africa.

The fruit itself is light, spongy, dry, and fibrous when roasted. It goes well as a side to almost anything. Yesterday I had it with curry chicken and pok choi. I tried it once with peanut butter, but it was way too dry to be palatable. Jamaicans have done amazing things with breadfruit, including making a flour from it. There was even a breadfruit festival in St. Mary a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend. 

game: how many breadfruits can you spy?
The following are a series of pictures in which my training host mother roasted breadfruit. 
Without further adieu:
fruit on the tree
ripe breadfruit, ready to face it's doom
making ready to set the fire
Mrs. Collins preparing the fire
don't tell the environment sector we're using gasoline
and on she goes!

must rotate about every 20 minutes

directions: roast the living daylights out of it

finally done roasting

don't eat the peel or the pit, but enjoy the rest!

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