10 months living in Jamaica and what a journey it’s been. Posting to this blog regularly has proven difficult with no WiFi at my site – but it’s far past time for an update.
So much has happened over the last few months. I’ve made friends in my community, started an Environment Club at the local primary school, and have been working closely with the community Farmers’ Group, Home Ec Group, and Community Development Committee. The teachers and I at the primary school have also been working on a grant application to acquire funding for a school garden, agroforestry tree planting program, recycling project, and fencing to help ensure the sustainability of the garden and trees (protection from cows, goats, chickens, and dogs that commonly wander on school grounds in this rural area).
In December I ran my first ever 10k at the Reggae Marathon in Negril! I finished in about an hour and seventeen minutes, which is a time that is extremely average but that I’m very excited about. Negril Seven Mile beach is now one of my favorite beaches in Jamaica and I celebrated the day after the 10k by lounging in the sun and having a fancy iced drink with an umbrella. I’m already looking forward to the 2018 Reggae Marathon!
Over the holiday season, I took a trip home to celebrate Christmas with my family. Having a snowy Christmas was magical but holy smokes the cold, dry air was a bit of a shock. At least I know I’ve fully acclimated to the tropical climate in Jamaica! While at home in Oregon, I got to indulge in many of the creature comforts I had been missing. I went craft beer tasting, ate tons of sushi, went skiing, and watched Star Wars in iMax. But I was particularly overjoyed by the little things I used to take for granted like hot showers, driving, accessibility to any ingredient I want for a recipe, and using a washer and dryer. It was a refreshing trip home but I also had a chance to reflect on all the things I appreciate about Jamaica and was happy to return back to the rock to enjoy the warm air, Caribbean food, and laid back pace of life.
When I arrived at the airport in Montego Bay from my vacation, I found that my ride had cancelled on me. Thankfully with a little Jamaican luck (and jovial help from some airport staff who were pleasantly surprised and much more friendly when I started chatting in patwa) I was able to catch a hotel shuttle to Negril to meet a friend who was working there who happened to be driving back to May Pen that day. Then a couple days after my arrival to the island, I spent the first day of 2018 at a yard party with my Jamaican friends and family.
Fast forward again to this weekend and I just arrived home from a 3 day Empress Retreat in the Blue Mountains. Empress is a support and empowerment group for female PCVs in Jamaica and we have 2 annual retreats. At this retreat, we learned about ways to support each other and ourselves, cope with difficulties faced in service as a women, learned about the perceptions, needs, and attitudes towards feminism in a Jamaican context, and learned more about how to uplift and empower women and girls in our communities and schools (among other topics also discussed). At the retreat I had an opportunity to teach an introduction to poi workshop – which was a fun way to share a big stress reducing skill/hobby in my life. Besides all of the sessions and workshops, we also enjoyed yummy food, movie night, s’mores, and some down time to connect with fellow volunteers.
I have no deep insights, witty comments, or lessons learned to conclude the blog with today. But it is nice to be able to say that even with all the growing pains and little frustrations, this little island is feeling like home.