Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Black & White

Jamaicans--and many other developing countries I've lived in--call it as it is. I'm white. The typical Jamaican is black. One time I was trying to describe a Jamaican to my Jamaican host mother. Her trying to help me was, "Ohhhh, that one tall black man." I laughed out loud and exclaimed, "They're all black!" I was too new to understand, be able to see, and appreciate the different shades of black.

When I first read this week's photograph challenge, I thought that I  might change pictures into black and white tones. But then I realized that black and white are natural colors in this beautiful world we call our present home.

This week's challenge: black & white

I made a keyboard for our computer room from Styrofoam egg cartons.
Recycled + purposeful = double win.

White me with 5 of my black students.
I teach all of them in different pull-out groups.
This was after they had just run about 1 mile with me.

It's breadfruit season again! Roasted breadfruit is my favorite.
How do you know when it's done roasting? 
When it's only black & white.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I don't know how or where to begin this post. I don't know whether to be cynical, angry, funny (laughing so I don't cry), compassionate, or just plain sad at the situation. Realistically, I am feeling all of these.

My school received a shipment of TOMS Shoes this week. For those of you unfamiliar with their mission, please click on the link to read about it.

For those of you who sport the canvas flats in efforts to aid those "less fortunate" than you, read carefully and consider both sides of this story.

For those of you cautious about international aid, please offer more insight.

I read this article a few weeks ago, and it only validated my current thoughts on international aid.

There are definitely children in my school who probably need new school shoes and genuinely cannot afford it. Shoes are a necessary wardrobe piece in Jamaica (unlike some parts of other developing nations). Fortunately, I have a principal who is able to determine which students are the most needy, and she also understands the value of aid. She has done well to distribute the donated shoes appropriately.

Unfortunately, many of the shoes donated were missing the other half of the pair. I cannot blame TOMS for the failure, assuming that they did not donate only half-pairs. I really wonder what the missing parts of the story are. I wonder if losing the other halves were genuine accidents. I wonder what we're going to do with only the right or only the left shoe of multiple pairs. I wonder what the children think as they either receive a complete pair with joy or look longingly at an incomplete pair.

I do not think international aid is bad. I have seen it do good, and it can do good. But I do think that if it's not done carefully and intentionally--with a healthy dose of accountability--it's a slippery slope to a big mess.

I beg you to think more carefully of your international aid contributions, whether you're aiding directly or indirectly.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Esthetics Complex

This (past) week's challenge was:
what you wore

Since I'm not a fan of taking pictures of myself, I tried to get a little creative with the photographs. 

Some of them appear a little "off" (I prefer funky) because I'm still playing around with my different camera settings.

 I've become really good ay braiding my hair.
Thank you, Peace Corps.
Recently I've been sporting the upside-down french braid, topped with care package flower.

 Since our school has recently entered a Most Beautiful School contest, I've been crafting
using reusable materials with some students. This week I made paper machete bracelets.
Here you see the unpainted product.

At the district track meet, sporting our Beecher Town Primary team colors.

 I finally live in a place cool enough to wear my birthday scarf from Sam!

 And finally, a favorite, Wal-Mart necklace my mom sent me when I was serving in West Africa.
I always get comments on it. And it makes me think of my mom and my West African teammates.

There was one day I wish I had a picture of, but couldn't figure out an appropriate angle. 
I was wearing my rain coat over my swimsuit. No joke.
I was going to Blue Hole with some friends, but it was raining.
Unfortunately, only the rain coat got any use that day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Week 4 in the photography challenge is:
from a low angle

(1) a view or vista
(2) a mental view or outlook

A few of the following photographs I snapped for documentation purposes and then shot with this week's theme in mind. As I sifted through them later, I realized how much a difference perspective makes in one's view of the situation. 

My kind site mate recited the word perspective on a daily basis post-hurricane Sandy. Her community was completely thrashed and it was as if there was little to no hope for the future. When making my own decision to site change, I was very intentional in asking other volunteers and staff for their perspective.

On a particular adventure to a PC favorite secret swimming hole, one volunteer happened to lose a J$1000 bill (a little more than $10 US). Upset with herself, another volunteer's comment completely changed her perspective when he said, "But think of the joy on the child's face when s/he finds that $1000." True, J$1000 is no cheap loss for the volunteer. But in perspective, we can afford to lose that amount every once in a while. And it will be a tremendous blessing to whoever finds it off the beaten path.

With this, I encourage you. Take a moment to look at life's situations through a different perspective not only visually, but critically and spiritually as well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"You just have to laugh...

... because you'll cry if you don't."
- fellow PCJ volunteers

One of the aspects I love about how my (higher) education coincides with my Peace Corps life lies in the aspect of incarnational living. The hours I spent reading stories and conducting case studies regarding cultural integration and needs assessment not only paid off during my semester abroad in Papua New Guinea, but continue to be a helpful tool I use in Peace Corps Africa/Jamaica. Though the motives of missions and the motives of capacity building are vastly different, the everyday living-among-the-locals life application is the same.

Ask any missionary or international aid worker (or even international tourist) for the best tool to carry into service. 

Go ahead. Come back and compare your answers. They probably replied with: flexibility.

Each time I thought I finally conquered being flexible, I am tested again.

Here's the most recent test:

My community, including the school, collects rain water for everyday use. Though we've been experiencing lots of rain recently, the school's storage tank needed to be filled. My faithful principal has been begging this water truck or that water truck to come fill it.

One finally came today. During classes, of course. And parked itself right outside of my classroom. I soon realized that there was no way I could out-talk the pump, or that my students would be able to focus.


So what did we do instead, you ask?

Had a photo shoot (complete with arm wrestling breaks).



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kate's Cookshop

Week three of photography challenge was themed

Local eateries are called cook shops. Typically, one can find curry chicken or goat, brown stewed chicken, or fried chicken with either white rice or rice and peas (beans). Here's what was cooking in my cookshop this week:

Since I simply forgot to take pictures of my dinners (must be the end-of-the-day, post-work-out hunger desperation), I extended it to this week. The following 7 pictures are truthfully dinners from the past two weeks. Apparently I like taking close-up photographs, so look to the description to actually see what they're about.

Preparing to make my own vegetable stock for carrot bisque:
bok choi, carrots, tomatoes, and onions. When boiled through, puree in blender, adding coconut milk and curry to taste. This batch lasted all week!

Callalou over egg.
Callalou is a leafy green like a cross between collard greens and spinach.
It takes rather woody, but steamed with onions and garlic brings out great flavors.

 Boiled pumpkin and sweet potato.
Jamaicans call this "food."
Just season with a tad of salt and pepper!

My new, sweet friend, Amber, treated me to dinner at a nearby restaurant.
We both chose callalou-stuffed chicken breast over sweet mashed potato.
It was not only a work of art, but also a party in our mouths.

 Traditionally a Jamaican breakfast dish, many volunteers make gourmet rundown for dinner.
It's basically seasoned, reduced coconut milk over veggies. A protein (chicken, fish) can be added, but I prefer the simplicity of veggies such as pumpkin, carrot, and cho-cho.

Jamaicans also love them some porridge: plantain porridge, peanut porridge, banana porridge, and oats porridge are all popular. I came across this almond porridge at a new grocery store near me, and I'm sold! I stir in coconut milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and occasionally honey. It's not a typical dinner food, but it's delish!

As the locals say, "Mi belly full!"