I made it! After about 11 weeks of training, Peace Corps Jamaica Group 88 volunteers were sworn in last Friday (the live feed was recorded and can be viewed on the Peace Corps Jamaica facebook page). Afterwards we enjoyed cake and food with our PC staff and site supervisors then all the volunteers got into cars with our supervisors to drive to our site. For me, this was my first time meeting my supervisor and seeing my site since I was not able to visit my site like most volunteers a week prior to swear in due to extreme rainfall, flooding, and landslides at and near my site.
My supervisor is a powerhouse of a woman and a bit of a troublemaker. I can tell we are going to work well together already. She has a farm near the town I will be living in and is on the executive board of the farmers group in the region that I will be predominantly working with. My site is gorgeous – it’s in a wide valley up in the mountains near the center of Jamaica, surrounded by tropical forests and with a river running through the town. The main crops grown here are citrus, chocolate, yam, and cash crops. Animal husbandry is also largely practiced here mainly with cows, goats, pigs, and chickens.
I absolutely love that there is a river running through the town. People congregate along the river bank in some areas as if it were the beach. I’ve always lived near a river, so being near one once again is a source of comfort and familiarity for me. The river is right across the street from me so I can easily walk down to unwind, dip my feet in the cold water, or jump in to cool off in the heat of the day.
My wonderful new home is a little satellite house to my host family’s larger house in an orange grove. Outside my windows, orange trees are blooming and growing delicious sweet oranges, down the way a bit towards my host family’s house, banana and breadfruit trees grow to the side of the path as well. Sitting on my veranda out front, I can enjoy the smell of orange blossoms in the gentle breeze. The inside of my little home is covered with white tile floors, white ceilings, and walls that are either also covered in white tile or painted white. The doors, curtains, and counters throughout the house are white also – giving the whole house a minimalist feel. The furniture is simple as well: a bed and dresser in my room and one black table with 4 black chairs in the main room. Without much furniture or décor, the whole house is quite echo-y, so I’m on the lookout for tapestries to hang up and maybe a cozy chair for reading in the living room.
So far this week, I’ve spent time getting to know my host family and community members as well as exploring the town, riverbank, and nearby shopping town. A few days ago I spent the day working with and talking to many of the farmers in town while shoveling dirt for a slope reclamation project and watching over a pot of brown stew chicken and boiled veg for lunch nearby.
Tuesday I got a ride up to a nearby town with our environment sector program manager and my supervisor for the going away party of a fellow PCV, Whitney who just ended her 2 years of service. There was barely a dry eye in the room as she said her goodbyes. It was inspiring to see how much a part of the community she had become (and how well she speaks Patois – jeezus!). I aspire to make as much of an impact and become as much a part of the community as I saw she had. Seeing her leaving as we are just beginning service really puts things in perspective and draws this entire experience full circle.
Yesterday I also met with the principals of nearby schools to learn about the schools, the students, and open up communication for collaboration of future environmental and agricultural projects involving youth. Tomorrow my host family plans to take me to Maypen, the nearest large town, to get some items for my new home and see where to catch a taxi or bus if I want to travel to another town on the island.
For stress relief and self-care I’ve started doing yoga for an hour or so every night before taking a shower and heading to bed. I always forget how much yoga practice helps me to feel more relaxed (both physically and mentally) and happy until I take up a regular practice again. It’s always been difficult for me to start a new routine or habit but once I get there I enjoy maintaining them. I’m not where I have been with my practice in the past, but I’m reminding myself that it’s a yoga PRACTICE not a yoga PERFECT. I’ve also getting up around 5:30am to go for an hour or so walk around the town with my host sister. We’ve mainly been going up (and down and up and down) a rocky hilly road that comes off of the main road. It’s a monster to climb up and down even when walking, but I enjoy a challenge and am going to start running the road in the mornings in a couple of weeks.
As a last note – some of you may have noticed that as of last Friday, barely a word has been heard from me on the internet. This is due to me not having WiFi availability anywhere at my site. This will be the new norm – however I intend to try to stop by the internet café or library in a nearby town about a half hour drive away every week when I go to do my grocery shopping to check in and post an update. Apologies for slow replies and reduced communication. I’ll be sending some snail mail out to some people in the next month once I figure out my mailing address and situation so if you receive a post card from me – feel free to send one back! 😉
Much love! ❤