Week 6 has been my favorite week of training thus far. Rain and storms have been a common weather theme all week – but that certainly hasn’t kept us inside! Every day of training this past week, we have been outside working in the dirt, learning from farmers and our fellow volunteers in “Climate Smart Agriculture” (CSA) sessions hosted on a farm in our community. This farm belongs to one of the local farmers in this community who graciously offers us some land to till, hoe, plant, and grow and a sun/rain cover structure on the farm to have our training sessions under.
The walk to the training area of the farm takes us down and up through a gorgeous gully planted with plantain, banana, coconut, coco, and breadfruit trees, all with enormous leaves (some bigger than me!) that sometimes make me feel as if I’m walking through a dinosaur jungle. The training site is situated on the top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the Blue mountains off in the distance.
During our CSA sessions this week we carried out a whole smorgasbord of activities: we made maps of the farm, took soil samples (to determine texture, taxonomy, pH, and fertility), and made various types of compost (I was particularly excited to learn about the takakura composting method). We talked about water management and land husbandry, built A-frames for determining contour lines (to make barriers or trenches on hillsides to reduce erosion and improve drainage), consulted the farmers about pest management methods in Jamaica, transplanted seedlings, practiced budding and grafting methods, and learned about the state of organic farming in Jamaica. Lastly, on Friday, couple of my favorite activities were getting hands on and learning more about apiculture (beekeeping) as well as traveling to the St. Thomas parish RADA (Rural Agriculture Development Authority) office to learn about value added products.
To end the week, all of the environment volunteer trainees got together at a host family’s house Friday night for a “snackluck” and movie night. “The Harder They Come” was the movie pick for the evening – which is a 1972 Jamaican crime film with a wicked reggae soundtrack.
There’s been a lot of ebb and flow of emotions as I’ve been going through culture shock and adjustment throughout these last couple of weeks. Some days I feel energized and like I’m on top of the world. Other days I feel exhausted and a little lonely in this new place surrounded by new people and different cultural norms. But overall I’m happy with my decision to come here and I’m looking forward to finding more of a sense of community over the next couple years after I’m placed an my site about a month or so from now. Whenever I’m feeling down I remind myself that it is within these difficult and uncomfortable moments where we grow the most.
Thankfully, because I’ve experienced these difficult emotions in the past, I know how to deal with them constructively and what things will make me feel better. I’ve started an exercise routine this last week running, doing strength training, and yoga every day. Reading, writing, coloring, and listening to podcasts are other stress-busting activities I enjoy that I’ve starting fitting into my spare moments.
All in all, it’s been a busy but fulfilling week. Likkle by likkle, I’m beginning to feel more grounded here. I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead as we delve further into youth environmental education and organizational capacity building. Bring on the knowledge!