I never thought I would….my new normal is.

This is the final challenge for #bloggingabroad and I have really been trying to think this one though.  So my new normal is seeing men and boys running around in their boxers.  It is a cultural phenomenon here.  In the mornings during the non-rainy season I see my host dad brushing his teeth in the drive with nothing more than a towel on.  Both my younger host brothers, and sometimes even the older one will run around in their skivvies.  Often at the beach you will see men and boys swim in their skivvies.  Women will too, to some extent.  Lucky for me I have not witnessed a full fledged bath in the river out in the open as of yet.  (Fingers crossed that never happens!)

ship is in port

There are so many cultural nuances that I could choose, but this one is the most mind boggling to me.  I suppose in a culture mired in sensuality this should not surprise me.  Modesty is not a huge thing in the younger crowd, unless you are a devout church family and then traditional modesty is most certainly prevalent.  There are many things here that I never thought would be my new normal or that I would be doing or seeing.  Things like suddenly getting 10-20 marriage proposals daily.  I suddenly feel like the hottest girl around, but I also know these are not meaningful proposals and they are simply a means to an end.  Another thing I never thought would happen is for me to avoid local bars and clubs.  I simply am not going to put myself in that position here.  In America I am certainly not afraid to walk alone in the dark, but here I have decided not to take the chance.  The fact that most of the time the clubs and bars are only full of men is a huge problem as well.  I do not need to get a reputation like that.

jamaica one love

During regular days when I go out I mitigate some unwanted attention, but for the most part I navigate fairly smoothly within my community.  The biggest issue for me is that I live in the scheme and getting home after dark requires a walk up a dark gully and a decently long walk along a fairly darkened road.  I do not often see local people walking along these roads at night, therefore I am inclined to follow suit.

Jamaica is heavily influenced by the tourism industry and sometimes it is hard to remember that I am not in America and the laws and gender standards are not the same.  I live near a tourist destination and I can get almost anything I want here, ie: mushrooms and feta cheese and decent wine!  This sucks me into this feeling of how home is, but then I ride the taxi home and I remember that I am most certainly not in America.  Every place has its ups and downs, here the ups far outweigh the downs for me.  I have the ocean, which I can see from my home, the river, also visible from my home, decent food selection and fairly consistent transportation.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see life outside of myself and my perceptions, just because it looks a bit like home does not mean it is like home!


Gaining momentum, you have to keep on moving.

This week has been so inspiring, and similar to the Sanders campaign the momentum is catching.  Sadly also like the Sanders campaign, you have to look for those who would try to trip up those who believe in you with false statements and facts/figures that look ominous, when in fact things are moving smoothly.  However, I am not a politician and I am not running for office.  I am simply trying to help create a greater sense of community while focusing on better environmental practices.

under the bush
under the bush you can find this!

Better environmental practices include not tossing garbage in the bush, being aware of burning plastics and styrofoam and keeping the community tidy.  It also involves a huge group effort.  This week we had a community clean-up and the response was absolutely amazing.  People actually do care about their environment.  The problem is when other people do not respect it and the disrespect overwhelms us.  Change is difficult and hard, behavior change is the most painful to endure, but in the end it will be worth it.  I know that T. has lived here for a couple of decades and she has worked at keeping her area clean, yet people laugh at her.  They see her efforts as futile and they turn around and toss garbage back into the bush immediately after she cleans it.  She and I both want the same results, we just have different ways of accomplishing it.  Together we may finally conquer this crazy littering problem, but it will take more than us, it will take a large number of citizens to join us and prove that it is important and that it is of value.

Community members putting up signs in the district.

At the end of Wednesday we had 5 pick-up loads of garbage hauled out of the community.  The biggest benefit to me was the realization just how important a community skip is.  Trying to find skips became a task after the first 3 loads.  We ended up getting chased away from one.  Disclaimer here:  In Jamaica there is not an individual garbage pick-up charge.  Your taxes pay for it, so no matter what is in the skip no one is charged extra for the pick-up.  I realize that this will be an on-going battle but to see just how many persons, including a local politician, came out to help was amazing.  Even person’s that have only come to a couple of meetings were out there with gloves cleaning up.

Early start, first load almost finished.

The key here is that the community worked hard together and we have visible results, that in itself should build confidence in the new association.  “Wi nuh jes a bag fi mouth!”  Meaning we are a group of action not just words.  So “Big Up Yuhself Three Hills Community”, you done real good! I expect we will need to clean up a few more times before the behavior changes really take hold, but with the Zik-V threat and the Ministry of Health blaming the people for the problem it looks as though the momentum we need is behind us and all we have to do is keep moving forward.

Amazing how much trash is in the bush!

There is a grant proposal in the works for two new trash skips and although Mr. J and I have a bit of disagreement about the location of one, I still feel we can only build on this momentum.  Next month we start a series of educational sessions on proper trash disposal and the health risks of improper trash disposal.  With the local primary schools starting to collect bottles we have a potential to create a recycling program that will carry on well past my time here.  That is the entire goal in a nutshell, to create a sustainable, lasting program that the citizens will continue to carry on with once I have left.  I feel that we are moving in that direction and it helps fuel my desire to get out there and help facilitate things happening.


Wi nuh a bag fi mouth!

I just found out about blogging abroad challenge.  So I am starting late, in the next few weeks I will try to backtrack and get all 10 blogs in.  The last challenge is to talk about a proverb or a quote you hear often.  Sadly I do not hear much that sticks with me in meaning.  The one thing I have heard a few times is Mr. J. say in community meetings that “Wi nuh jes a bag fi mouth!”  I hope I spelled it correctly.  Actually I hope I quoted it correctly.

This week we are going to prove “wi nuh jes a bag fi mouth”.  We have planned a community clean-up and people appear to be motivated and excited.  We hope to get enough people to care to continue to keep the community clean.  It is part of my focus on environmental education.

So what exactly does this saying mean?  As I understand it, it means that we are a group of action and not just talk.  We say what we mean and do what we say.  The first time I heard it, I was wondering what in the World such a silly saying could mean.  I went home and thought about it all night.  After hearing it in context a few more times, I determined that it means not just talk but action as well.  So tomorrow we will prove this to be true!


My favorite proverb, which I never really hear used is: “One one coco full basket/evri mickle meck a muckle.”  This in essence means that every little bit ads up or little by little  one will go far.  So never hesitate to pick up that dollar off the ground, if you pick them up often enough you have enough for whatever you were needing.

So there you have it a little piece of Jamaican culture in your hot little paws!


Finding your strength

There are those times in your service when you just feel defeated. You question why you are even here. Why did you leave your comfortable life for this? What is the point? Why do I endure these unnecessary hardships? Then one day you find your strength to go to one more meeting. To get up and bike or walk the two miles to the school you work in, of to meet with the local adults to teach them reading basics. Even though these are worthy and needed activities they somehow fall outside of your “requirements” for your service. This becomes painfully clear when you go to do your quarterly reports and of the three parameters you are supposed to try to meet, nothing you did falls in those areas.

Proper Trash Disposal!

It is at those moments when you feel completely defeated and you wonder how things could be going so terribly. Just because these do not fall in your requirements, does not mean that they are not beneficial or needed. Sometimes you have to let go of your goals and expectations. Sure I am supposed to be doing environmental work, but I have spent the last 4 months facilitating the creation of a community group, trying to work in two local schools, who still have yet to have one single environmental club meeting, or creating a literacy group and a reading club. Not one of these actually fall into my required areas, but I have found that my requirements do not always fit into the needs of the community. Flexibility is my greatest strength. It will be yours as well. Let go of your strict interpretation of what you are supposed to be doing. Let it organically happen.

road signs

So what if the only real goal I hit was environmental demonstrations to a small group of local men who helped build my school gardens. So what if the kids only just last week planted those gardens. So what if I have not any tangible results. You know what I do have? I have some small successes. I have adults who could not read at all, now able to read sentences and build up their confidences. I have many of the roads in the area with new road signs/names. I have a community group that is now organizing a community clean-up. I have Zik-v prevention signs that were voluntarily put up. I have kids who are excited to see me and really want to go work in the dirt. So yeah there are things I do have and next quarterly report I will have a huge reporting quarter.

New signs being hung up in the community.

Sometimes it takes walking away and trying to find a balance and understanding that things are improving little by little in your community. The main point is to build relationships and help a community out, this I have accomplished. As long as I have tried my hardest, that really should be enough. Better to have failures than not trying anything. Fear of failure is very paralyzing, it wipes out your confidence, you community’s confidence in you and wears down your self-esteem. I live by the motto, what is the worst thing that can happen? Oh right, it fails and we learn why.

Fire safety tips.

Remember to just get up everyday and do something.  It is far better to try than to sit in misery worrying about failure!  Trust me!

Pumpkin is soon coming!


Growing up in Kingston Jamaica, 1970’s-80’s

This blog was supposed to be a day in a life of a Jamaican artist, but the back story is so very fascinating and important to understand.  Our past makes us who we are, and even when our past is ugly, we should embrace it from our own personal perspective.  We cannot change the past any more than we can change the tides, so learning how to live with it is important.

Recently I met a lovely woman in my district named Margaret Hall.  Margaret is a little more open and a little more open-minded than most Jamaicans, at least to me she was.  I met Margaret at my community meetings which evolved into a Citizen’s Association.  The first real contact I had with her was the painting of road signs in our district.

Margaret was born in Kingston at a hospital to a woman who worked in a garment factory.  Back then there were many garment factories in Jamaica, and in Kingston Free Zone especially.  She lived alone with her mother and didn’t have much contact with her father, he had a job elsewhere and there was the appearance of marital strife between the parents.  Up until she was 8 years old she was an only child.  In the early school years she went to a preparatory school.  This is a private school and the expense is dear, as they say here in Jamaica.  When the little brother was born she was switched to a public “mixed race” school.  This simply means public school with multiple nationalities.  Jamaica’s motto is: “Out of many one people!” This reflects the many nationalities that eventually end up on her shores and stay.

Photo Credit affordablehousing.org
Margaret has vivid memories of the 70’s  and things being very cheap.  The Jamaican dollar was much stronger and was near to what the US dollar rate was.  The economy was much stronger and she remember wheat bread costing around $1 JD.  Now that same loaf of bread cost more than $300 JD.  (The exchange rate is currently around $119 JD to $1 USD.)  A single bus ride used to cost a cent, but now it costs near to $100JD just to get down the hill. Maybe one day I will write a blog on travel costs across the island.

Back in those days neighbors looked after other people’s kids.  Since her mother worked in a factory she was considered a latch-key kid.  Her neighbor would check on her and she spent her afternoons watching Sesame Street!  Her home was a duplex of sorts.  It contained 2 individual living areas which were not accessible to each other on the inside.  During her younger years an elderly neighbor looked out for her.

When her brother came, not only did her education differ, but her life in general changed. Not as many nice things came to her.  She had a tricycle and some other nice things given to her over the years before he was born.  Her home was located in an area of Kingston known as Kencot.  This was a poor neighborhood or a ghetto, but most of the people who lived there were working class.  They all seemed to have jobs and worked for a living.

In the 70’s there was an emergence of political conflict. 1976 was a year she remember as having a high incidence of election violence. This coincided with the prevalence of guns arriving to the country.  With the guns came the gangs.  Gangs brought in violence and ended the innocence in the ghettos.  Before 1976 children played all manner of games right in the streets.  After the arrival of gangs intimidation was forced onto people and children no longer played freely in the streets.  They learned to just stay inside to avoid being told how their parents would be forced to vote.  Both parties used gangs for voter intimidation.  Neighborhoods soon became segregated or fully intimidated into voting one way or the other.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.41.41 PM

Margaret went to high school from 1980-1985.  She was enrolled into an all girls school run by nuns.  (Holy Child High School).  During these years she remember being forced to focus on science classes by her mother.  Her mother dreamed of her becoming a doctor and to get into a pre-med program you had to rate high in science and math.  Margaret struggled with this and eventually a school counselor (Sister Mary Gertie) convinced her mother to switch her to the arts where she did much better.  She loves history, literature, geography and art.  In Jamaican Schools you decide by 10th grade what areas you want to pursue in college or after school and focus your studies towards this goal.  Parents often dictate what direction their child will go.  This caused great stress on Margaret but thanks to a caring counselor her mother allowed her focus to be switched.

Music, fashion and styles were all influenced by American and British pop culture.  She remember shoulder pads in every top and wearing tights with leg warmers.  She remembers being introduced to music from: Duran Duran, Madonna, The Police, Prince, and Michael Jackson.  In her earlier years it was Peter Tosh and Bob Marley that she mostly listened to.  Her high school was again racially mixed and the girls often talked about American television shows.  Shows she remembers watching were: Miami Vice, Eight is Enough, Dallas, Dukes of Hazard, Hawaii 5-0 and Facts of Life.

kingston 80's
Photo Credit trumbullisland.com
American culture had a huge influence on Jamaican youth of this era.  During this time she lived in an area known as Pembrook Hall.  The youth were told they could not use Patois in school and it was forbidden.  High school had a focus on their own culture and history through the JCDC program.  They learned their own cultural history, traditional dance and even had Festival competitions every year.  Sports were also a big part of their lives.  They were also competing at Champs, a national sports competition.  They also were fortunate enough to have swimming, tennis, netball, softball, and badminton.  She has fond memories of these aspects of high school.

Her principal was a nun (Sister Mary Stephanie) and she was very strict on the no Patois policy.  Her school was run by  Franciscan Missionary Sisters and much of it was funded from external sources outside of the Ministry of Education.  For Margaret church was also a very big part of her high school life.  She began teaching Sunday School classes at age 12.  She was also the secretary of the church youth group.

School dances or FETE were held often and the students invited other schools to join them and they went to other school dances as well.  Being an all girls school there was much excitement when the all boys school was joining them for an activity.  This was at a very crucial time in not just Jamaican history but in much of the world history.  Teen age pregnancy began to be a social stigma.  The girls would wear big baggy hooded sweatshirts to hide their conditions, even on extremely hot days.  The girls developed a secret sign language to communicate about this.  Back then a pregnancy would be the end of your life as you know it.  You had to drop out of school, most parents put you out and you would be shunned by society.  Many of these girls forced backdoor abortions on their own.  They would take a Fenac tablet and drink a bottle of Pepsi.  This would cause massive cramping and the hope was the embryo would be aborted by “natural” causes.


The one good thing that came out of this social issue was the Women’s Center, where pregnant girls would be allowed to finish their education and give birth to their babies.  It also birthed the National Family Planning Board to address these issues.  Due to Margaret’s mother being so strict about boys, Margaret avoided this dilemma altogether.

After high school Margaret spent a year working and trying to find her focus.  The following year she got an internship with the Heart trust program.  She was sent to a beverage bottling/manufacturing company.  She worked as a typist for the accounts department, typing was a skill she learned in high school, thanks to the switch from science to arts.  This internship opened up a new market for her in office work.  She held many jobs over the years.  She even started school to become a literature teacher.  Sadly she has yet to see this dream happen.

In 1998 her mother became very ill with diabetes and lost her leg.  At that point Margaret decided to buy a plot of land to take care of her mother.  She found one in Three Hills under the emancipation land act.  (This is a huge story that will require some time to go over, but it is essential to my service and I will one day feel confident enough to share it.) During this time she had become self employed making garments and stuffed animals, all so she could care for her mother.  During those early years she went back and forth between Three Hills and Kingston (town).  She lived in a small boardhouse, and the foundation slat still stands today, until the house was built.  She was unemployed for 5 years to care for her mother.

In 2008 she moved to Spanishtown for a job after her mother passed.  In 2013 she heard rumors that some men had broke into her home and were living in it.  She made the decision to move the Three Hills permanently and occupy her home.  Last summer she decided to pour her heart and soul into her passion and support herself on her art alone.  She has sold mostly to local people.  She has found the rules and regulations to set up a stand in Ocho Rios restrictive and confusing, so she sets up where she can and sells when she can.

Margaret grew up 4 years before me.  Some of these same things I was feeling, but from an American perspective.  I fortunately never faced a teen age pregnancy or knew of anyone self-inflicting abortions in my life.  I knew about gang violence, but that was an inner-city issue.  At the same time America was having issue with gang violence so was Jamaica and if you are interested in a great book that covers Jamaican gangs both on Island and a foreign read “Born Fi Dead” by Laurie Gunst.  Our culture influences theirs, and their culture influences ours.  I had no idea how in-sync our cultures are.  If you look at the development of hip-hop and rap you can see a parallel development of dancehall in Jamaica.  If you see our hippie movement, you see reggae in Jamaica.  Whatever our young people were feeling so were those here.  In those moments when you think your words and actions do not affect anyone else, think again, you may be influencing a whole generation of people you do not even know.  

*writer notes that there may be edits and misinterpreted information in this blog. It is the sole responsibility of the author to correct and interpret data correctly. I will be working on updates and edits over the next week, please let me know if you see information that you question it my interpretation of Margarets words.


Political Fanfiction it really is a thing!

Disclaimer:  This is a work of satire, I have no political affiliation and I wanted to make fun of all candidates!

Imagine a world where politicians lived regular people’s lives and regular people lived their lives!  Imagine how things would be different.  Imagine how people would lose site of their own perspectives and moral compasses.  Imagine a world where Donald Trump was not a hate mongering, border closing, big bankrupting doofus!  Imagine that when politicians talked rainbows and unicorns came out of their mouths!  Okay, so do not imagine that, just imagine if the truth were always spoken!

An overview of my political fan-fiction:   The setting current politics in the US.  The players are sadly going to be the same politicians that we currently see.  The focus is how the US and world would look if each won the election!

Donald Trump:  The wall would be built everyone with questionable ethnicity would be deported, to whichever country Mr. Trump saw as their country of origin. (ie: Hispanic/Latino=Mexico, Arab/Hindi=Palestine, Black/African-American=Kenya, Asian=China, that pretty much covers them all right?)  We would see a loss of many entrepreneurs and instead of an increase in white/Americans building up new businesses we would see new businesses across the globe, except here in good ole USA.  We would see women have less rights and more angry men.  We would see Mr. Trump on his 8th wife and 15th bankruptcy because, hey my political ads were financially overwhelming.  We might see less freedom in the poor neighborhoods and many more police brutality incidence.  We would eventually see a police state and an ultimate monarchy ran by big business and banks.  People would be eating whatever they could find and eventually there would be  a collapse of all social systems, because you know , socialism is bad!  MMMMK!  The rest of the World would see us as ignorant and unsuitable to be leaders in the world economy because we have no diversity, no social welfare system and most of the people have died off or are dying due to silly diseases that we had cures for but no one can afford medicine anymore.  Oh and the gays would be shoved back into the closet with the door locked, so no more beauty in the world.  Ministers would fear telling the truth and would simply preach about conformity to survive.  Yup, that is a beautiful vision is it not? (Played by Jack Black or Charlie Sheen)

Hillary Clinton:  Oh she would make a wonderous president for those big lobbyist who backed her.  Banks would be able to run unmitigated loan schemes, and we the people would buy into it.  College education would cost 3 times as much simply because of the interest rates alone.  No more small businesses, monopolies would exist because you know, big banks!  Too big to fail is a thing and we must push this economy through and by the way, no organics would be tolerated, no more growing your own food, no more seed saving and certainly no more choice!  You will eat the poisons from Monsanto and you will take the drugs from big Pharma to mitigate the diseases you get from the chemicals you eat.  You will conform to those big businesses and you will smile as they hand you your “Soylent Green”!  You will not question the intentions of big business and you will be happy to accept any helping hand they give you.  More GMO, more roundup, more coal, more pipelines! Yes progress is needed to move this country forward.  Yeah, this is a beautiful vision as well! TPP under-sided deal with the devil, or big business. (Played by Judi Dench)

Jeb Bush:  Do we really want another Bush in office?  Maybe Jenna she is pretty cool and stuff!  Bush believe in parents right to know about abortion and really are we still debating this issue?  He believe that the EPA should just be regulated, instead of it doing the regulating.  The fact that big business is allowed to oh, you know contaminate the water supply in Flint with lead and then the government covers it up, oh nothing to see here folk, move along!  He is kind of wishy/washy on environmental issues.  He would definitely close all public libraries or make them a pay per view situation, because yeah books.  He would abolish the Department of Education and put in more charter schools because yeah, those poor kids in inner cities can afford to pay a voucher.  Eliminating funding for public schools is better to ensure better education for those who are willing to pay a little.  Uhmm yeah because dumb kids is brilliant!  (Played by John De Lancy, you know Q from Star Trek Next Gen!)

Martin O’Malley:  Pretty middle of the road for a Democrat.  I am not even certain who he is to be honest.  (Played by Quentin Terrantino, because yo, QUENTIN TERRANTINO)

Marco Rubio:  Balance the budget at any cost, except cutting military funding, because IS, you know!  Climate change is real, but man has not caused anything.  Keep burning up the atmosphere, over fish and clog up the ocean with plastics, because we are man and we are top dog in this world!  Medical insurance, let it self regulate, repeal the Affordable Care Act and give tax credits, you know poor people they will invest in insurance because it is the right thing to do.  Net neutrality, I have no idea what the hell this even means, but in any case it is likely that no governmental intervention is a good/bad thing.  I have no basis because I frankly am not that interested at this point.  Immigration=reform slowly over time, from the child of immigrants!  He would not overturn marriage equality but does believe that there should be allowed discrimination against gay couples by wedding industry folks based of course on religious bigotry!  Oh and abortion after 20 weeks ban except in some cases, not exactly that conservative, he saw a losing battle and went for the mainstream!  (Played by Antonio Banderas)

Ted Cruz:  The underbelly of the demon here!  TPP fast track that bad boy.  Let us rape and pillage the lands of other people before they understand what the hell just happened. Well maybe not that evil, but still this document is an ugly side of big business in politics.  (See Hillary Clinton!)  Taxes, well I am kind of a fan of the idea of a flat tax, but abolish the IRS, hmmmmm maybe, not sure how that would work.  He does not like the idea of raising the minimum wage, but then he does not have to survive on it!  Again why are we rehashing the abortion issue.  Only when it endangers the mother’s life, what about if the fetus is not viable or if the child will not be valued or cared for?  What if the child is born into a minimum wage family and wait, we will not raise that wage and we will give a flat 25% tax no arguments!  Uhmmm, well this seems to shoot one’s political standpoints with another of one’s political standpoint!  Are we pointing guns are ourselves here?  He would negate the affordable care act, because again health care is a privilege not a right.  And finally he denies that climate change is a thing.  So there you have it.  Science is trumped by religion and personal beliefs!  (Played by Javier Bardom)

Ben Carson:  Uhmm yeah is he even still in the race?  (Played by Michael Clarke Duncan)

And finally, Bernie Sanders:  Well we would definitely have less racism less police violence.  We would definitely have a balanced budget and the military spending would be cut down.  We would focus on social issues and the environment would be cared for.  Big business would no longer run the country, but the people likely would not know how to function without big business.  It would be similar to Mad Max in the beginning, where we would wander the wilderness and not trust anyone.  We would fight over resources but eventually the hope is we would all get along.  Since no one has more than a pistol or a rifle, gun deaths go down, but apathy rises.  In the end socialism is great for the people but bad for business and bad for politicians.  It is not a utopian paradise, but a functional community or maybe there will be a rebellion and people who just do not understand take over governmental buildings like the Bundy’s!  It could happen!  (Played by Tommy Lee Jones, because he just insane sounding enough to pull this off!)

And there you have it the basis for a political thriller.  Maybe soon I will write a story with these characters, but for now remember this is totally satire, I pulled most information form Wikipedia and political blogs and not real hard news sites, those are few and far between these days.  Instead of having some erotica, I thought I would just play with the issues as though these peoples ideas as we see them portrayed really happened.  Cheers!



The rain finally falls

In a drought prone area there is much cause for celebration when the rains finally fall.  Since October we have supposedly been in the rainy season.  Though the air is much cooler, the rain has not fallen much.  It is essential for the survival of the next years crops that the rain sufficiently fall.  In some ways the farmer’s are much more aware of the climate change than the regular people.  As a general rule farmers are directly affected by climate and the changes occurring can reek havoc on their planting/harvesting schedule.


Farmers will talk about how the trees no longer call the rain.  There are some who think farmers are not very educated, but in reality there is truth to this statement.  Due to a chemical process called evaporations and transpiration water is released from the trees and other plants back into the air, which in turns creates air moisture, when enough of this builds up in the atmosphere and the temperature is right rain falls.  Sadly trees do the majority of this job and they have been over harvested and take a very long time to hit maturity which will increase the rainfall.  In areas of great drought you can see the direct effects of massive deforestation.

As a child I grew up in a logging town.  I do not often talk about this, mostly because I am ashamed of it.  I am ashamed of the mental model I was forced to hold dear for  so long.  I am ashamed of the ignorance that I was forced to perpetuate even when I saw the dangers.  I am ashamed that my growing up years were spent trying to adapt instead of personal growth because financially adapting was the only path to survival, or was it?  I saw the dangers of deforestation.  Right in my own backyard, we had a pond when we first moved out there.  I remember that first winter the pond was frozen over and we used it to “skate” that winter.    Over the years we had cows and logged some of the property, as did the neighbors.  What I noticed was the pond was shrinking.  I could physically see it and it concerned me.  As a child I collected frog and salamander eggs to chart and graph the growth rates.  (Yes I was  a dork and had limited friends and limited access of escape from home.)  Over the years, I noted that the eggs were not so easy to find.  As the water receded there was less and less available space for the new embryos to grow and thrive.

Eventually the water completely receded.  It went underground.  Essentially due to the cows and the logging that went on in the raparian zones the  grasses and reeds grew up over the water and it eventually seeped under the ground.  The temperature also rose in that area, you could see the change in wildlife, and the ground still muddy and wet was much firmer than it had been a decade before.  My family is probably not completely to blame but we certainly did not mitigate or preserve our resources appropriately.  Growing up in a wet area we had a distaste for marshes, swamps and bogs.  Our goal was to get rid of them, when what we should have done is try to understand their essential purpose.

A Walmart went up in a nearby town.  (I hate Walmart and all it stands for, but this is not what I want to point out here!)  To build it they had to “build-up” the wetlands in the area.  For months rock and gravel and sand was brought in to build up this area.  Two years after the Walmart was opened the worst flood to ever occur in that area happened.  Right near that Walmart the highway actually flooded over and had to shut down.  In fact there was not getting in or out to the north for almost a week in 1996.  They called it a 100 year flood, but an amazing thing happened and another 100 year flood occurred a few years later.  (100 year floods are supposed to be so  incredibly bad that they only actually happen every 100 years of so.)

What I am ashamed of is refusing to see reality in this case.  Defending a way of life that is so damaging that it might destroy us all.  I am ashamed that I refused to speak up, until it was too late.  People complained about environmental regulations and how it ruined jobs and destroyed entire communities.  The reality is you destroyed your own livelihoods and communities by not planning on and seeing the dark side of environmental destruction and lack of planning.  You did not see mitigation as a viable course of action.  Instead of strip logging, you could have logged sections and replanted leaving a large portion of forested areas in tact, but no you would rather cash that pay check.  Greed is the enemy, not the animals or the people who want to save the environments. Unmitigated greed is what the Bible was referring to when it said “for the love of money is the greatest sin!”  Since I grew up in a religious background my shame is directly related to the Christian religion in a general form.

When you preach about God and love and forgiveness and sin you pick and choose those subjects you want to pander to.  Instead of focusing on greed there is a focus on homosexuality and sin.  Instead of focusing on stewardship there is a focus on tithes.  Instead of focusing on loving our neighbors there is a focus on the sins of our neighbors.  I can look back and see how this is directly related to bad environmental practices.  Instead of being good stewards of the land understanding that resources are finite or that there is a limit to how long you can rape the land, instead there is a  focus on the perception of being a good Christian.  The fact that there is no direct correlation should have a God, if there is one, smashing us down with bolts of thunder and plundering us into eternal damnation based solely on our inability to recognize our own shortcomings.  But alas, this blog is not about the lack of environmental action on Christians, and pardon me if you fall outside of the spectrum I painted here, this is solely based on my experience growing up and my understanding and resentment of my childhood beliefs. So by all means if you are a Christian and this is not how you believe, then this is not about you but about me and my belief system and I apologize if it felt like an attack.

Back to my farmers.  Farmers are directly affected by climate change and they can see the changes in the seasons.  Most are very concerned and fear the changes are going to be more and more drastic as the years go by.  They are not far from the truth.  As I look around my beautiful adopted home country, I see the light and darkness of all that I know.  I see the plastic in the oceans and rivers, I see the random destruction of land for progress and I see the financial affects of the environmental destruction, but mostly I see a struggle to get access to water for longer and longer segments of the year.  How do we turn back the clock?  How do we reverse the damage?

First off, we cannot.  Secondly we need to take a deeper look and realize that Jamaica follows the “first World countries” in style and mind-set.  They cannot help it, they are so directly affected by them.  Jamaicans have said to me when America sneeze, Jamaica catch cold.  Not only does our economy directly reflect in theirs, our poor choices are also directly reflected in attitudes on the island.

Let me just give you an example of a day in the life of a typical Jamaican, doesn’t matter the job, just how life goes on.  You get up and if you have a job that requires a uniform you get up and press that uniform and put it on.  You get ready, ladies use make up and many styling products including hair weaves.  Going natural is hit or miss here.  Some do, some don’t, but most are very aware of their hair, not unlike women in most of the world.  You then catch a taxi, which may take some time.  If you have kids you get them off to school or to a person to get them to school on time first.  A taxi may be quick or it may take time to catch one. It all depends on how many taxis are running, how early they get going and how many persons are waiting for taxis.  Once you get to work, you might stop at a cook shop or a street vendor for a porridge in a styrofoam cup, or you might run into a patty shop to get a patty for breakfast.  Breakfast is often on the go.  Life can be hectic when you are totally dependent on taxi services.   At lunch time you might run to a fast food restaurant, BK and KFC are huge here, of you might find  a cook shop and get an inexpensive lunch served in a styrofoam box with a plastic fork, do not forget your soda bottle with a straw.  Then at the end of the day you head back, hoping it does not take so long to get a taxi home.  If the day has been long and tiring you might stop at a  local cook shop for a box dinner to go.  You could also skip dinner, or have  bun and cheese.  Mostly the day is over and time for relaxation or church.

reused foil to roast breadfruit inside

For those who do not have a steady job, the day likely consists of trying to get an odd job to buy a box lunch and a bottle of beer, or playing the cashpot.  In all of these situations the results are the same.  The food is served in a disposable way.  There is much trash produced and then it might go in a trash bin or just on the ground.  Sadly the bins have their own issues.  The dogs often break into the bins and strew trash around.  It is not always the people tossing things along the roadside.  If the garbage truck has not come in some time, then people will burn the trash.  They might do so even if the truck does come regular.  One thing Jamaicans love to do is burn things.  Be wary of getting pre-roasted breadfruit, they might have roasted it on a fire burning styrofoam and plastics!  So what does this have to do with rain?  Welllll………..

recycled bottle herb terrerium

With all the food container waste around when the rain falls guess what happens to that which is not picked up?  You might find it in the river at the bottom of the gully or in the Ocean, where it will all eventually end up.  Why is this an issue, it gets cleaned up this way, right?  Well not so much.  It ends up in the rivers, where local tourism can be affected.  No one wants to swim in a river full of trash.  It also can kill off the local animals, they can eat it or it can create a chemical hazard to the local flora and fauna.  What about the ocean?  Well again tourism is affected, but more than that, there is an island of garbage that is huge in the ocean.  There is a prediction that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, in a culture that is dependent on fish this is concerning.

reuse styrofoam

What does all this have to do with the rainfall?  There is a direct correlation to rainfall and pollution.  First off let us just consider the burning of the trash.  This releases toxins in the air.  This causes air pollution and eventually it will affect the rainfall.  You may still get rain, but it will be toxic rain and do much more damage to the earth than the lack of rain does.   The plastics in the ocean limit the accessibility to the water.  When evaporation occurs water is released into the air. With trash in the ocean the bio-avialabilty of the water as it evaporates is inherently limited.  It is akin to sitting inside of a terrarium.  The water is trapped by the non-permeable substances at the surface and then returned to the lower sections.  The danger here is the toxins that can and are within the plastics.  We as a society have known for some time that most plastics are harmful.  The fact that they may have contained dangerous chemicals only increases the harm.  Plastics typically over time leach out things like phthalates.  So for me living here is very hard.  It weighs on my soul about the amount of plastics and styrofoam I use.  I try to limit my to go eating and I try to only buy fresh foods.  I do look for things packaged in glass containers and will be more likely to buy those items, sadly there are not so many of those around, shipping costs may have something to do with their usage.  I miss my co-op with refills on things like laundry and dish soap, shampoo, conditioners and lotions. Food items like maple syrup, vinegars, oils and various dried goods are much more economical and better for the environment.  I loved that here we could carry any ole container down to the local shops and purchase things like rum or vegetable oils for a much lower price.  Sadly these are items I do not purchase so readily, if they had coconut oil I would be in heaven!

reuse tp rolls

So my goals here are to try to showcase a way to reuse the plastics and styrofoam and help mitigate the droughts that have been plaguing the area, by coming up with drought resistant farming ideas, so if you have any ideas please let me know!  When the rain comes I spend a lot of time thinking of projects and ideas to come up with since most Jamaicans will not be out and about in the rain.