Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Something New

So Christmas turned out to be a lot of fun. I got an invite from Pam to stay with her family during the season. It turned out to be a really enjoyable long weekend. Her family was warm and wonderful to me and I was invited to go along with them to a fantastic Christmas Day party at Delroy Chuck's house (The Jamaican Speaker of the House!) and a family party where I got to meet brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. It was a great Christmas and I even got to drink some killer scotch! All my favorite holiday foods from home were had and I can't think of a nicer way to spend a Jamaican Christmas. I was then invited to go out to an all night party with Pam's sons on Boxing day. It was really insane and probably nicer than any party I had been to in the states. All you can eat food and drink we danced the night away with some of the boys' friends.

I then flew to Ft. Lauderdale to visit with one of my best buddies Daryl for New Years. The yearly tradition went famously as always and ended with a new hit single that you can view on Facebook. Great times were had.

After I got back from Lauderdale, there were about two and a half weeks of rain. In Jamaica, NOTHING happens when there's a big storm, so all my community meetings were canceled and only half the people showed up to school. From such an exciting two weeks, it transitioned to two of the most boring weeks I've had here so far. After the rain settled though I started teaching my photography classes working with the High School art teacher. They have been going well and the kids seem to really enjoy it.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from the supervisor of the agriculture department for Peace Corps asking if I'd be interested in working with the Jamaican Dept of Agriculture helping them develop some software. I said Sure! Thinking that I would be able to get some of my skills that I've been neglecting over the last year and 1/2 up to par again. So last week I interviewed with one of the ministry's heads and I'm moving to Kingston this Sunday! Things move really slowly here or SUPERFAST! It turns out that Pam lives walking distance to the ministry's building so I'm going to be moving into her spare bedroom!

So my final chapter is starting here in Jamaica, five months left and with it a bunch of change that should hopefully inspire me to write more often here.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long Time

So I know it has been a long time since I have posted here, but there have been some things happening that I think I want to share.

First of all, I made a realization a hour or so ago when I woke up in some pain and went to take some pain killers (story of the pain to come) I went to the fridge and ate one of these great little bananas called "Honey Bananas". They are the miniatures you see around but they are really creamy tasting and sweet! Best banana I have ever had! So anyway I was eating a couple to take the medication and I realized that I am no longer getting the "Tourist Tax" anywhere in my town. Most places you get dinged $20-$30 or more per pound for fruits and vegetables with the outside stands and sometimes at the bars for a beer. I don't remember when this happened, but I get charged the fair price now, and it just feels wonderful. Finally feeling accepted in my town is just a great feeling and it's making me feel something that I think is rare here, appreciation. Appreciation is rare here in Jamaica, not only for volunteers for myself, but for Jamaicans as well. When somebody does something for another person, you very rarely here a simple "Thank You" or even a smile. I guess it's something in the culture. I'm not saying you never see it, but just not that often. When I talk to teachers or people in other professions, I sometimes ask then if they feel appreciated in their work, and I've never heard a "Yes" I think a "PSA" is needed here to encourage people to thank each other, it might go a long way to making Jamaica a happier place.

Yesterday I helped put together this year's Christmas Tree lighting and it went off great. I think more people showed up for Christmas Carols and to hear some of the local leaders give encouraging speeches. Pam, the leader of the Business Association did an amazing job as always getting people together and to encourage donations. We had a bit of a "Charlie Brown Tree", but it was decorated with love and a crap load of those baby blinking lights! When the lights were hit, it really lit up the town square where the tree was. I handed out some cupcakes that Pam had gotten after the event and that got a little crazy. The kids kept coming back for more and after I gave them a couple more I found if I yelled at them in a joking way to "Gwon!" (go on) they giggled and stopped trying to get too many extras. The adults were just as bad. I guess they were good cupcakes! For a such a destitute place my village is, I think with these events, a little civic pride is creeping in. The bus loaders and mini-shop keepers in the town square all vowed to protect the tree and the decorations. Last year I don't think a single decoration was stolen for the two weeks the tree was up.

Two weeks before, we had the Annotto Bay Christmas Treat for the kids of the area between the ages of four and eight. It was even better than last year. I have to hand it to the teachers for allowing the kids to have fun, but to maintain some order. I got to ride in the parade this year drove in the Santa Truck up and down the main road. We started up at the top of the town where the hospital was and brought presents and visited the sick kids there. Our entourage of Vinny the Vienna Sausage, the National Brand Bird, "The Chocolate Yoohoo like drink Bear" (forget his name...), Santa Clause and one Peace Corps Volunteer were welcomed with warm smiles and even a few cheers from the kids that could cheer. Santa grabbed a few of the older ladies butts along the way, but I guess Santa gotta get his too!

We all jumped back into the truck and headed down to the main road where three of the costumed characters walked in front of the truck and kids rushed out of their schools to meet them. Hats off to those guys, it was HOT! We finally made it to the party grounds proper, and the characters grabbed a quick water, and went and danced with the kids for a bit. The kids were given hot dogs and snacks provided by the larger food companies on the island. They had ice cream, and then were given gifts that were paid for by donations that my city partner Jessica and I begged our friends and family for. The kids LOVED them. The day just couldn't have gone better.

So this brings me to what started out as a really fun event, a going away part for a great volunteer who had extended his service six moths to finish his projects. We had a really fun party in a beach house right on the water with about 12 volunteers. I won't go into any detail of the bad part of the evening, but I ended up hurting my back from an external force. Nobody got hurt (besides my back) but we were reminded that things are pretty rough here in Jamaica. So if you come and visit, please make sure that you get back inside at a reasonable hour, and lock up your doors.... After the unfortunate event, we had a fun white elephant Christmas gift exchange which I think raised our spirits a bit. I ended up with some cool coffee smelling candles. A GREAT gift when the power goes out a couple times a week!

So with less than 8 months to go, I have to say that I'm finally feeling accepted and even a little appreciated in my community. The bad stuff keeps you in check, but I think the good is outweighing it. During this holiday time I do confess to being pretty home sick, and I wish I could be back in California for Christmas.

Miss you all


Monday, May 25, 2009

REAL Peace Corps Stuff...

So today is the Jamaican Holiday Labor Day.  Unlike the American version, in Jamaica it is a day for volunteerism and community projects.  So for the last two days the two local organizations I'm involved with joined forces and painted a "Basic" school, aka preschool.  

1) Man I am out of shape

2) It was a blast!

We had tons of people come out to help, which was such a great thing to see.  Sunday it was mostly kids but they did a great job!  I pulled the whole Tom Sawyer scam and got them to paint the fence!!  They were fighting over the brushes!  We scraped the walls to get off the old paint and started the actual main school painting.

Today was great, we started early and maxed the capacity of the back of a pickup with kids and went to plant some trees.  The pickup left and I was left with around 12 kids ranging from ages 6 to 14.  We managed to plant around 20 coconut trees and then literally marched back to the school.  We were trading marching songs as we all marched in line.  I forgot where and who I was with and started the "Full Metal Jacket" song going, "I don't know what I was told...." I had to come up with some creative lyrics quick!  I think I went with, "....Planting trees is mighty bold"  They taught me some Jamaican marching songs as well, but don't ask me to repeat them...

We got back to the school and I was invited to a quick breakfast at this wonderful doctor that helps organize community events.  His nephew (also a doctor) and his friend were visiting from Burma with a quest to take a test and go work in America.  Another peace corps volunteer then joined us and we took off for the school.  By this time more community members arrived and the big job was underway.

We worked until around 4:00 and were basically done!  A nice face lift to an aging school.  I ended the day tired and smelly as hell, but satisfied of a job well done.

Good stuff

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Photo Club

I've posted the link to the new site, the kids are really excited and I think they did a really nice job on their first attempt. I'm missing two groups, but hopefully they will bring their cameras tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things a movin

So I'm happy to report that today I had my second photography class at the high school.  I have 13 students which is a great number.  There are 5 cameras that are usable, but decided to break the students into groups of three (one group of 4) and just use 4 cameras for now.  There are actually three more cameras that were donated but they didn't include the charging supply.  I have to research replacement power plugs.  Anyways I taught a basic lesson on camera settings, and then gave the first assignment of portrait.  The kids were really excited to get the cameras, the first cameras I think most of them have ever used.  I'm not sure that the fresh batteries will last very long because it was like a night club with all the flashes going off.  Their assignment is to get three shots each and turn them in by next Tuesday.  I'll post some of the results when I get them.  I actually want to get a website going but maybe I'll just use blogspot here.  That might be a good plan actually.

I also got involved with two new agencies.  The Perish PDC (Public Development Committee I think...) and my towns Heath and Agriculture Associations.  I'll be helping them write project proposals to get government funding.  It's going to help keep me busy in the summer months so I'm pretty excited.

Well anyway just wanted to let you all know that things are on an upswing here and I feel like I'm getting to do more of the work that I wanted to do.  Oh and I'm getting a bicycle!  Gonna ride to work now and get a little more exercise.

Bye for now

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Long Overdue

Approaching the midpoint in my service I find myself in a routine.  The newness of the experience is wearing off and I feel like my job at the high school is just like any other job.  Kind of doing the daily grind.  So I'm now on a quest to spice things up.  My lack of posting is due to a lack of interesting things occurring, so please forgive me.  There is a homeless shelter that is asking for volunteers in a nearby town that I'm going to check out.  The photography club is just about ready to kick off, and the business association is planning new activities for the year so my life should become bloggable soon.

Good news with my literacy student though, he is really improving and followed through with an assignment to read 3 books.  I think I'm going to set up a reading program like I had in the library when I was a kid for the summer time.  For every X number of books he reads he gets a prize.  Lunch at KFC or something.  

I'll be looking for summer activities as well, the school always has stuff going on and computers to fix and viruses to kill, but I'll need extra things to keep me busy.  Now that the equipment is all setup, it feels like I've already accomplished my goal here, so its off to find new goals and new challenges.

Oh one more point about computer viruses, if your a virus creator and happen to come across this blog, please die.  Die, die, die, die and die.  In computer challenged countries, a virus can knock out all the computers at a school for months.  My school is lucky to have antivirus supplied by the ministry of education, but it still takes me and the tech at the school a whole lot of time fighting them... ok phew that was some negative energy getting out.  I feel better now.

Oh I had a great birthday by the way, thanks for all my good birthday wishes on Facebook and my friends here making my day special.  Plus loved ones back home.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rainy Morning

So it's a rainy morning here in Jamaica.  I just got a call that school has been canceled so all I have to do today is go over the cooks house and help him with his computer.  Thankfully he has a car so is going to pick me up.  Mr. Core the cook is a great friend to have as he hooks me up daily with a huge tasty lunch that makes dinner unnecessary.  This is a man who can have all the computer repair services he needs!  The last few weeks have been mostly uneventful.  The school has been keeping me busy as they received 55 or so new computers and a second server.  They sent the 2nd server already configured so all we had to do was put the old server on the new network and then put all the current computers on that network as well.  That is a bigger job because now that we have a stronger network from the fiber optic connections that were finally installed, I have to put computers that never made it on the first network on it as well.  Then of course we have to clean up those old computers before installing..... oh well boring stuff to most anyway that's whats been keeping me busy.  The after school teacher class is going well, I feel lucky for that class because it satisfies my Peace Corps goals and leaves me time to do the work that the school really wants me to do, be a computer tech.

Other than that I had a nice trip to Ocho Rios and had a tasty burger (a rare treat) and hung out with some fellow volunteers.  I'm trying to plan a little something to celebrate my birthday at the end of the month, but it's becoming complicated.  I might just settle for a few friends over and to cook some nice food and watch a movie.  I find that I am spending way to much of my own money so have to find ways to chill on that.  I might need every penny that I have when I come back, looking at the job market and hearing stories from people back home.

My project to start a digital camera club at the school got a nice boon as I received a few more cameras from my old company.  Thanks guys!  I'll be sending personal thank yous soon to the folks that donated.  I just need a couple more and I'll be ready to start.  I've been talking to some of the kids and received some interest.  I've created an outline of the lesson plans, got an ok from the principal, so now I'm almost ready to go!  I find that alot of my creative juices get zapped here from daily life so this project is moving slower than I would like.

Well that's it for now.  I need to get ready for my repair job to keep getting double helpings of lunch!