Today I am grateful for Jamaican music, Jamaican apples, and having time to relax. I’ve been living in Jamaica for a month now and it’s definitely starting to feel like home. Last week we (the 14 environment volunteers) moved into a new community in the eastern region of Jamaica to continue with more sector specific training for the next 6 weeks (now 5 left).
My new host family here is absolutely amazing and incredibly welcoming. I live with a couple in their 40’s. Their children have all flown the nest, so right now it’s just me living with them. They have a great sense of humor, love to listen to music, and are helping me out TONS with learning Patwa. The husband is a cook (also currently a delivery man) and has been teaching me some delicious Jamaican recipes (some new recipe posts are soon to come). Going hungry will definitely not be anything to worry about in Jamaica. The wife is a police officer and has been keeping me entertained and informed with a multitude of stories about her work and the police, safety, and crime situation in this parish and Jamaica at large. I was told I wouldn’t have internet access here, but I’ve been lucky in that my host family has wifi (however this will probably not be the case when I am placed in my 2 year site).
On a typical day I wake up to roosters crowing outside my window a few minutes before my alarm goes off at 6am. After staring at my ceiling for a few minutes and thinking about life, I get up, cook and eat breakfast with my host mom and/or dad. Usually I eat a plate of fruit, some peanuts, and a piece of toast or an egg. Next is a quick 10 minute cold shower (or bucket bath if the pipes aren’t running water) and I get dressed and ready for training. I’ll leave my house at 7:30am and join up with a few other volunteers to walk about 20 minutes to get to our training site (either a church hall for presentations or a nearby farm for hands on work). Around noon we break for lunch, which is usually cooked for us by a lady with a food stall down the road. Most of the time we’ll have rice and peas (what Jamaicans call rice and beans) with raw veggies and chicken, pork, or cooked veggie chunks for lunch. Then we continue training until 5pm-ish and walk in small groups home. On the walk I sometimes stop to get a juice or piece of fruit (or on Friday – a Red Stripe beer) on the way home. At home I’ll chill out for a bit, work on homework, practice patwa, eat dinner around 6, and watch the news at 7pm. Then I’m usually asleep between 9 and 10pm to wake up and do it again tomorrow!
In Jamaica, the greeting (“Alou”, “Maanin”, etc.) is more important than the expression of gratitude (“Tengki” or ‘Taanks”). Walking down the street is usually an incredibly interactive experience as it is considered polite to greet every person you pass. Jamaicans say “Houdi kom fram out-a-door”, which means that the person who is entering the space should usually be the one to greet first. In this community, since we are new, this means that we are expected to step up, be the first to greet, and make an effort to get to know the people in the community. As an ambivert leaning towards my introverted nature, this level of dialogue and interaction with strangers was uncomfortable at first, but I’m getting more comfortable with it and it’s helping me grow into a more friendly and extroverted person.
On Thursday this week, we took a trip into UWI (The University of the West Indies) in Kingston to listen to a lecture on how climate change is affecting and is expected to affect Jamaica then drove up into the Blue and John Crow Mountains to Hollywell to hike in the tropical forests and learn about the flora and fauna of Jamaica. The drive up and down the mountains to Hollywell easily qualifies as the most terrifying thing I’ve experienced yet in Jamaica. On one side of the road there was usually a cliff or steep slope dropping to terrifying (but beautiful and lush) forest below and an uphill slope or cliff on the other side of what felt like a one lane road. At times, I felt like we were on the knight bus from Harry Potter as we bent the laws of physics to allow cars (or even a couple of trucks) to pass going the opposite direction as our coaster bus drove fearlessly up (or down) the mountain roads. As you may have guessed by now (considering you are reading this blog post after the experience) everything was okay though and we made it safely up and back. Also noteworthy is that we stopped on the way down at the Blue Cafe to enjoy some absolutely incredible mind and mouth melting blue mountain coffee.
All in all, this week has been a week of firsts: I got my first machete, I sharpened my first machete (and learned how to sharpen knives), ate my first bread fruit, ate my first cocoa fruit (which is a big pod that you chop in half, where inside there are cocoa seeds – what we make chocolate out of – each encircled by a gooey layer of fruit. You take the seed out, suck on it until the tangy fruit is all off of the cocoa seed, then spit the seed out), had my first cup of Blue Mountain coffee, and moderated a panel for the first time. I hope these next weeks of training bring as much new experiences and learning as this last week.
Looking ahead, I will be doing a “Visit a Volunteer” trip with a fellow trainee on Monday – Wednesday of next week. We will partnering up and taking public transportation across the island to visit a volunteer at her site who has been here for about two years. Once there, she will show us around her community and give us a better idea of what a “typical day” looks like for a current volunteer.
Keep an eye out for some recipe and music posts ahead this week!
Likkle muor ~ Sage