“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy.
I’m back! Apologies for the delay in writing for the last few weeks. As hub technical training and project due dates drew to an end, things got stressful and I fell off the blog boat for a minute. But I’m afloat once again and the end of pre-service training is flowing along swimmingly but definitely not without its twists and turns.
Currently, with all of the rain hammering Jamaica, training and site visitation has been canceled today due to flooding and flash flood warnings in parts of the island. Meeting my supervisor and seeing my site today has been something I’ve been looking forward to for months, but as my Jamaican host mom here in Hellshire says: “Rain a fall, rest a kom”. So I am appreciating this day to catch up on rest, reading, and writing. Hopefully the conditions will improve soon so we can visit our sites and start integrating into our communities.
So much has happened over the last few weeks that I’m not entirely sure where to start. Hopefully an overview of the highlights will suffice. Over the last few weeks training has focused on organizational capacity assessment and development as well as youth environmental education.
The Source Farm — an intentional community focused on ecological stewardship, permaculture, and holistic health & spirituality — hosted us for a tour of their organic farm and earthbag structures and construction. During our visit we got a peek at how their organization was structured (a very community focused, low-power distance model), learned about the permaculture and farming methods they employ, and learned about environmentally friendly construction methods. This group also organizes the Ujima Natural Farmers Market – the only organic farmers market in Kingston. Although this group is structured very differently than other farmers’ groups in Jamaica, I left feeling incredibly inspired by the work Source farm was doing. Having an example of how organic farming, permaculture, and low-power distance organizational structure WORKS in Jamaica is invaluable as an example and a resource for farmers across the island.
During our youth environmental education training week, we worked in small groups to teach children at a local Jamaican primary & junior high school school about environmental issues. Our group’s teaching topic was biodiversity. As somebody who has had very little experience working with children in education and no formal training in the area up until this point, I was a bit anxious for this week. However, I ended up enjoying working with the children. Creating a lesson plan for kids also really helped me stretch and grow out of the “lecture box” college learning had put me in and into a more involved and active perspective of facilitating a lesson. I suppose I must have done alright in the education practicum because I’ve been placed at a 2 yr site in Jamaica where the community would like me to have an area of focus in environmental education for the schools in the area, creating school gardens, 4H clubs, and maybe doing environmental lessons.
On the subject of site placement (drumroll please), I’ve been placed in a very rural community in northern Clarendon Parish near Bull Head Mountain. I am also the volunteer placed closest to the geographical center of Jamaica (which is the Bull Head mountain). I’m told I will have a cute little house in an orange orchard and will work predominantly with the farmers’ group in the region. My actual address can be provided to friends and family via email by request in a couple of weeks.
Mentally and emotionally I’m doing well. I’m realizing that I’m beginning to feel much more comfortable pon di rock. As an introvert, training has been exhausting for me some days. Going to training with a group of people I’m still getting to know, then going home to a host family that I’m also still getting to know and socializing with countless community members in the spaces between without much time to myself to reflect, relax, and recoup can be draining. But I’m finding myself reinterpreting my perception of time alone and being more appreciative of the few moments I do have to myself. Little things like taking a shower, going to sleep early, or washing and hanging clothes are now precious moments I get to myself to spend quietly reflecting on life. The adjustment has been difficult but as I’ve gotten more used to this new ebb and flow I can feel my energy and humor blossoming through once again. Once I’m to site and get to set the tone and rhythm of each day a bit more, I’m looking forward to carving out time for yoga and running every day to help manage stress as well.
So in the meantime, cheers to those little things that make each day a little more bright and sparkly.
Cheers to iced black coffee in the morning.
Cheers to fancy hand fans that open with a flourish at the flick of a wrist (and cool hot faces in small rooms).
Cheers to my favorite soap reliably sudsing up every evening shower.Cheers to mismatched socks.
And cheers to two more years of fresh tropical fruit every day.