Water shortages, I expected this in Liberia, Not Jamaica.


In Liberia I knew the infrastructure was damaged during the war and had not been rebuilt. I knew that I would have to carry my water and hand-wash all my things.  I also knew I would be setting up to wash dishes outside and boiling water was a must.  In Jamaica I have running water, a water heater and a washing machine.  All but the running water were unexpected perks.   The last 3 weeks we have had a water shortage.  Throughout my service I have had limited water in 3 occasions.  In each case I had to wait no more than 3-4 days for the water to return to the pipe.

Where I live the water system was not built for such large homes or so many homes in the area.  To help with this issues the water is regulated by the government and sections are allowed water access for 24-48 hours at a time.  Most homes have large rhino tanks that are filled on the days the water is in the pipe.  The home I live in has 9 families or single persons living in it.  This means we use a ton of water so a week of no water can really make us struggle.  The thing here is that when the water runs out of specific tanks the pump is turned off to prevent it from burning out.  The pump is what puts the water into our faucets and toilets.  This means that for the last three weeks I have not been able to do laundry, wash my dishes appropriately, take an actual shower or flush my toilet and wash my hands normally.  I am quite over this problem!

hand washed laundry

This last week I woke up with a mild case of diarrhea.  I also woke up with a very sore throat.  I began treating both with hot tea, lemon and honey along with mild foods to help calm my bowels down.  My diarrhea got a little better the same day but my throat got progressively worse.  After 2 days of this I began to wonder if the bucket water might need more than a water filter and I broke out my steri-pen (a UV water pen that I bought for Liberia).  I finally called the doctor and my diarrhea came back.   The result is antibiotics and antihistamine along with ibuprofen.    I must pause here to address my doctor aversion.  I was raised not going to the dentist or the doctor.  Several times in my life I needed to go to the doctor and my parents did not go.  When I was 6 I split my forehead open on the fireplace.  I now have a “Harry Potter” scar as one of my co-workers once called it.  When I was 11 I got a pony that dropped onto my arm when we slipped and my arm was sprained badly.  That one we did go fairly early for.   When I was 10 I got a bad ear infection and my mother did not take me or even look at it until I was in tears from pain and my grandmother insisted I go.  I cannot actually remember a doctor visit on that case but I was in so much pain I could have blocked it out.  I have permanent problems with swimmer’s ear and I suspect that day something was seriously damaged in my ear, I also cannot produce ear wax like normal people.  My ears are always dry and itchy.   When I was 16 I was running from my cousins in the garden as they were throwing apples at me and I stepped in a hole which forced my chin onto my toes from my momentum.  I was sent to school the next day on crutches that were too small.  The other students mocked me and knocked me off the crutches several times that day.  By the time my parents finally took me in my ankle was so swollen they could not x-ray it.  PHysical therapy was my only option and it was too painful to do on my own.  I never quite healed right.

no water dishwashing

I still fail to go to the doctor immediately.  I typically wait a day or two, part of my history, I cannot really change it.  Even when my kids were hurt, I hesitated for a small while before going in.  So even now I hesitate, especially if the symptoms are familiar.  The sore throat was the only reason I even called in.  About 15 years ago I got a sore throat that I just treated at home.  It got so bad that my throat closed up.  My mouth was so dry that I could literally scrape a plastic like material off my tongue and inside my mouth.  No amount of water helped.  I finally went to the ER.  They prescribed some huge anti-biotic that I had no way to swallow.  My roommate was pissed.  She crushed up some ibuprofen into some water put them into a syringe and shot it down my throat.  Within hours my throat was better.   Because of that one time I do not wait more than 3 days with a sore throat.  I live alone, if my throat closes who would be there for me?  So I called the medical officer and got an over the phone prescription.  Now I am just tired, a side effect from the antihistamines I am sure.  I hope to be feeling better in the morning, my throat is still tender but no longer so scratchy and apparently I look like I feel better.

water storage tank

All of this because I have no pipe water?  Maybe, maybe not.  It could be stress and it could be a virus.  Whatever it is, the fact that I have a water shortage is still an issue.  What is magical about this shortage is that it only affects about 5 homes.  So no matter what they have done the water is not getting to us.  Either there is a broken pipe that cuts off where we are,  a valve is turned off, or there is not enough pressure to get it up to our homes, we are the end of the specific line.  The pressure is the one that keeps me focused.  The pressure is so high that the pipes are breaking almost every time the water is turned on in each section.  I wonder why this is happening?  I wonder if the water department is wondering the same thing?  I wonder if they are investigating this or just trying to band-aid it up and we will suffer all summer from lack of water?  I hope not and I hope that they figure it out before Wednesday when we are supposed to be getting water in the pipe next.

Meeting Ethics, not what you would expect.


I wrote this several weeks ago and am just now publishing it because I needed to sit on it for a couple of weeks to really calm down and ensure I was not in an angry or agitated state.

Today, actually right now is one of my meetings.  I am obviously not there.  Why am I not there?  Well frankly because after a year of being here you would think meetings would start at least remotely on-time.  The president is often late.  In his defense he has much more to do than hours in the day and maybe he needs to appoint persons to start the meetings in a more timely manner, even lead meetings so he can step back and allow some of the burden to be lifted off his shoulders.  But why am I not there?  After a year I should be used to it.  True I am used to it by now, the issue is that the meeting place is located in a place with little to no shade and the evening sun tonight was blazing hot.  I got sunburnt just walking to the meeting and waiting for it to start.  I ran out of water and patience.  I should not be forced to make a choice between my health and upholding my duties.  In every instance I will choose my health, sorry but I am selfish like that.

working together

So what does a Jamaican meeting look like?  I can only talk about my groups, because much like the rest of the World, the meetings look different based on the dynamics of the group and the leadership.  My meetings never start on time.  I often just want to storm off and go home, much like I did tonight, for the first time.  They are often long and last up to 3 hours.  I want to cry sometimes because it is right in the middle of dinner hour or close to bedtime.  They are often boisterously loud, like OMG fists are gonna fly, but really this is just how Jamaicans stay.  They tend to “discuss” quite loud, almost yelling at each other and repeat themselves several times.  They look directly at you and say “yuh unnerstan??” Oh man I got it the first time you said it!

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Does anything ever get done at these meetings?  Actually yes.  After all is said and done, decisions are sometimes reached, or at least an idea is formulated.  In fact this is actually where I excel.  These discussions bring up many issues facing the community and I simply suggest a course of action, often finding a “champion” for this action in the process.  I never tell anyone what to do, but simply suggest things that can be done.  I look for that little in to accomplish small things under the much bigger issue.  An example of this is when there was an increase in property crimes in our area,  I simply suggested that civic pride is a crime deterrent and found several Jamaican news clips to back that point.  I also explained that civic pride is a clean and productive area.  Knowing your neighbors, seeing and reporting things are key components for this. This perpetuated several community clean-up projects.  We also incorporated Zik V prevention to touch on the health aspect.  There are areas of the community that are cleaner, but it still needs much work.   My next plan of action is to start an Environmental Club and have children help with clean-up projects and build community garden areas.  I can directly connect this back to the school in the fall.  I also hope to build more garden beds and have the garden producing year round as a way to showcase small space capacity and engaging the youth.

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So what will the Environmental Club meetings look like?  They will look like early morning projects before the sun gets too hot.  They will also look like children caring for the Earth, they will start on time, they will focus on subtle education within the projects.  They will end on time and I will leave, kids unattended will not be my problem because I plan on several small group sessions and for me to be on time for the next group I must leave on time.  This is the biggest issue I will face, parents in the summer will expect daycare to just be taken care of.  It will take one  child being left with a shop keeper for this to never happen again, but I will be very blunt with parents, if it happens their children will not be allowed to participate again.   Sometimes you must make an example for it to have meaning.

Part of my major issue here, and it will likely never change is that no matter what you do, someone puts it down.  Lately I have been told by a member of the group executive that I went about implementing my summer programs improperly.  I did not ask the executive about it.  Well actually dear, these are my projects.  I brought them up only to allow the group to support it, I did not ask nor do I need your permission.  I typically do not take credit for my projects, but in this case I am going to stand firm that it is my project, it is short term and something to fill my time.  The other reason I am standing on this is that there seems to be an accusation that it is politically motivated.  It is in fact  NOT politically motivated it is motivated by a desire to make my time here at least help some, not be a waste of 2 years, which is what I am feeling at this point.  In fact last week’s meeting I went home and took 2 days to talk myself out of leaving early.  I am at that point, needing to see some type of positivity in the area and all I am getting is a reason to stay in bed and never leave my house, and this is not a good place to be at all.

 

I am not my skin color!


Never before in my life have I ever been equated to the color of my skin.  I have never once given my skin color much thought.  I know that is a huge red flag to white privilege, I get it!  Coming to a country that is primarily darker skinned than me, and the spectrum of skin color here is very diverse, I often hear “White Girl” or “Brownin”.  I am deeply troubled by this.  I notice that people from Asian decent are referred to as Mr./Ms./Mrs. Chin or Chiny boy/girl.  People of Indian decent are referred to as Indian.  Then there are the variety of flavors of darker names such as: “Blackie”, “Chocolate”, “Mocha”, “Oily” and the painful list goes on.

For the first time in my life my skin color means the difference between how I get services and how I will be treated.  Not that it was not so back home, I was just super unaware of this.  Again, White privilege, I totally get it!   The even more degrading part of this whole complex colorism is when you are female.  So not only am I white, but a girl and that means every man I come in contact with in some way expects me to worship him.  I lose my identity two-fold, now I am a white commodity as opposed to a brown or black commodity.  Men seem to think that it is ok to say things to women they do not know that they would never say to an Aunt or their mother.  Seriously it wears you down. In America I would verbally backlash him so hard his head would spin, here if you do so it can create a safety issue.  Women are expected to respond positively to this street harassment, and make no mistake this is harassment!

we all walk the same roads

For me it gets even worse when someone touches me without my permission.  This has happened twice.  Once on the street I was walking a man came out of nowhere and grabbed my hand and tried to drag me to a bus, a bus that I had no intention or gave no interest in getting on.  I stopped, a dead stop!  I have the best standing bitch face you ever saw, I promise!  He tried to drag me but I refused to budge.  He turned around and looked at me and said, “Why you mad?”  I replied, “You are touching me!”  His response was astonishment and he said “You vexed with me now?”  My anger deepening and my rage starting to show, I said, “Get your hands off of me!”  I was literally ready to throw down right there, I suspect he realized this and let go, called me some names and then went off to grab some other unsuspecting soul.    The other time was at the bus park, a man was leading me to a bus that I wanted to get on and another grabbed me and tried to drag me to a different bus.  I again stopped still, informed him to  “unhand me right now!”  Then he tried to shove me onto the bus but I walked away and refused to load the bus.  I made the bus wait a good 12 minutes before I returned.  This man saw me and stepped aside and pointed to the seat I should take.  I have not had much problem at the bus park since that day.  I think standing my ground silently was the most effective thing I could have done.

A Jamaican woman would likely not have been grabbed in such a manner.  At least I hope not, I have never seen them do that to a Jamaican woman before.  I have had the taxi driver make people get out of the front seat to put me in the front, but after I realized it was about my skin color, I refuse to allow them to do this anymore.  Not that I do not want the front, but I do not want it based on a perceived privilege that I have not earned.  Sometimes I am in the front at the taxi stand and I see a woman come up and I offer the front if they are frail or large, since it will be more comfortable for everyone if the larger person sit alone in the front.

working together

We have not had water to my house in 3 weeks, this means all the tanks are running low.  I cannot do laundry, I have to bucket bathe and dishes are not fun at all.  In fact today I finally cleaned house because the ants were overwhelming me.  The neighbors think I should call and complain because I am white and they will respond.  This is such a terrible way to get things done, but it is sadly true.  I got action on a sewer break that had been ignored for 2 years by simply stating that it was  health issue, but mostly because I am a foreigner and white.

ocean is not racist

I know that most minorities in America have to constantly be aware of their skin color because it defines them.  (Minorities?  Really I think the racial divide is no longer a majority/minority breakdown but a diversity breakdown, but how do you say people of other skin color than white without sound like a small-minded bigot?  In fact why does skin color even matter at all?)  This is a truly unfair and unequal paradigm.  I despise this privilege and wonder how I can make it better?  Firstly by acknowledging that it does exist instead of denying it.  The second thing that can happen is that we as a society can look for my inclusive languages to describe our diversity.  I personally prefer to use people’s names as opposed to he, she, it, and African-American, or Korean American.  It just compartmentalizes us all and tries to put us all in these neat little boxes for society interpretations, but really all it does is create bigger rifts.  I do not have an answer, but I know that even here where the majority of people have darker skin, there is still this inequality based on the tone of your skin.  (Many wars within Africa have been based on skin-tone, Rwanda, Liberia, South Africa, just to name a few off the top of my head.)  So racism or colorism as it is referred to here are very much part of human nature, and we must find a part of our nature that overcomes this fact.

Learning to co-exist.


I often pride myself as being super accepting and non-judgmental.  I take pride in this considering my upbringing from a super religious Pentecostal and judgmental.  For me to look beyond the outside of a person and see them for who they are is a great stride for me.  I grew up in an almost exclusively white background.  I grew up in a small-town with a small-town mentality.

I used to look down on my sister, who was a drug-addict.  I raised one of her sons from diapers to adulthood.  I raised the other one from 2-5 while she served her time in prison.  I looked down on her for her poor choices.  My mother always defended her and I resented that.  She never stopped supporting my sister, which is great from a parent.  But, she never admitted her faults, which is not so great as a parent.  I still resent these things.  I guess I resent that my mother never supported me like she did my sister, who in my eyes was forever a screw-up and left her problems for others to fix.  (My sister is now clean and sober and doing very well, but the emotional trauma is still felt.)  There, this is my one judgment that I cannot let go of.  I cannot forgive and move on, I guess until someone recognizes the sacrifices I made and the struggles I went through.  If that even makes sense.

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I brought up my past to understand my present.  I do not often realize that I carry the past into my present.  I cannot separate where I came from, as much as I want to, I cannot.  I was raised small-minded, slightly bigoted and very judgmental.  I can reign those aspects in but I am often unaware of them, so sometimes I need it pointed out to me.

This week I was privileged to attend a Diversity and Inclusivity training.  Several revelations came out of this.  I have issues with people who I perceive as having wronged me and cannot move past those aspects.  I have a need for an apology.  Without this acknowledgement I cannot move forward.  It is a long dated hurt from my childhood.  So kudos to the training for allowing me to find that perspective.  But there is oh so much more.

One of the things touched on that I wish would have been a focus was intent vs. impact.  This one hit the ball right out of the ball-field for me.  Intent of your words are not relevant to the impact they make.  In a situation where someone from a culturally different background feels hurt by something you say, your intent does not matter.  If you try to defend the statement, which is often exactly what I do, it only words to invalidate the person’s feelings.  This is where all the good deeds in your life can just fall flat.  If you invalidate the feelings of anyone you are essentially saying that your feelings are wrong.  You took my words and made them something they are not.  In reality a simple apology is all that is needed.  An apology is so much more important than an explanation.

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For the longest time I thought things that I said, which were coming from a place of love and admiration were interpreted as such.  The reality was they were offensive and hurtful.  I had no idea.  The sadness I felt is likely nothing to the pain I had inflicted.  And worse than the pain was the fact that I then tried to justify and quantify my statements.  In reality I should have just said, “Man I am really sorry that I hurt your feelings, it was not intended and I apologize for that.”   If the person then asks you to explain what you meant, this is your opportunity to then quantify your statement.  Unless they ask for this, your intention is not important.  The impact is what you need to focus on.

So in my need for an apology it is more about the impact of actions and words than the intention.  The intention may have been from a place of love, the impact bruised me to my core.  Justifying the intension only serves to invalidate my feelings.  All this does is deepen the hurt.  The impact is what drives the pain and anger, not the intention.  This rings true for intercultural relations as well.  Saying people are just too sensitive only serves to invalidate a real hurt.  There are those who just think people need to suck it up and move on, which is something I did, but that only serves to fester that hurt.  Without addressing it, it most often sits in the person and fester into a real burden.

I feel more at ease now.  I finally understand not only my own feelings but how to apply this understanding to my interactions with others.  This is not just about the cultural other, but about the other in general.  The most important thing for me is that I am the other.  Because I know exactly how much words hurt, I am the other, so if I am hurting someone with my words, no matter the intent, I am hurting myself.  I have never intended on hurting others, so if I have said anything that seemed hurtful or disrespectful to you, I apologize.  I feel an immense amount of pain when I find out I hurt someone.  My intention was never to hurt anyone nor was it to create hostility in any way.

Much of the daily struggles we have is that we seek equality but we fail to see the difference between equality and equity.  You see equity is a fair distribution of resources.  Equality is equal distribution.  There is a great picture here.  The thing that we as aid workers should really be focusing on is the systemic barrier that creates the inequality in the first place.  The system is not fair, so instead of focusing on creating equality we need to focus on the systemic barriers that can be broken down.  If we are truly going to find peace we need to start not only with finding words to express ourselves without a negative impact.  The second step is to be vigilant about recognizing the systemic barriers and trying to break them down.  Without recognizing the inequity in the World, we can never move those who are pushed out back into the strength of society.

Independence day away from home.


This is in fact my 4th year of not being home for Independence Day.  This is in fact not even an eye blink for me.  Why?  Because I basically have no love for this holiday.  I am not a patriot, I am not always proud to be an American, in fact more often than not lately I am overly embarrassed to be an American.  Why?  Because somewhere back home a hugely ignorant sector (read media firestorm of distraction)  of our society is making us look like racist, gun-toting morons with little to no education!  No really I am dead serious.

rootbeer and potato chips

Almost daily I get asked about America, and that Trump dude, is he really going to win?  Well crap, I have no idea, he seems to just open his mouth and hatred spews out, how is this the best we could find?  And Hilary?  Really?  Why is she so important?  I hated her back with slick Bill was in office, I thought it was because I was a right-wing religious nut-job, but nope, now I am a socialist and I still hate this woman!  I do not trust her, I think she is not the best woman to run for president and I think she will take this already sinking ship to Titanic mode, if you catch my feeling! (These are my own personal views and I must stand firm that this is not the opinion of Peace Corps or of the Jamaican government or people, I accept full responsibility for these statements.)

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So how can I share my culture with a culture that is exposed to the worst aspects of my life back home?  The aspects that I ran away from to get a new perspective?  I came to Jamaica with an open mind and heart.  I anticipated seeing a culture outside of my own, but what I see is a culture reflecting back in the murky underwater of the ugliness I left behind.  I anticipated finding a rich loving culture.  One that took care of its most vulnerable members.  One that was looking for ways to move forward as a nation, not individuals.  One that took pride in their country and their homeland.  This is not what I found at all.  I found people who do not know their neighbors, let alone who is struggling the most.  I found people who are more focused on what they can get out of an interaction rather than what the whole community can achieve from these interactions.  I found a people who are the very mirror of what I tried to leave behind.  Oh how my heart breaks that this aspect of humanity is not isolated to the top of the capitalistic model.  Oh Jamaica what happened to your ability to let go of self and embrace a unity that stands strong?

real jamaica

This is not a very positive blog, this is my personal experience and some days I struggle with the question “Why the hell am I here?” “Am I really making things better?”  “Would my time be better spent back home?”  It is part of the emotional roller-coaster that is the Peace Corps Experience.  This is not to say we all experience it the same way, but we all have down times and we question our purpose and our reasons and often regret the decision to leave our homes.  Some people end up leaving early due to this type of emotional abuse, because in reality we do emotionally beat ourselves up.

As I get ready for my next site visit this week I had to fill out a form and really reach deep inside to answer questions that I tend to ignore.   “How are you emotionally/mentally?”  Oh hell I do not know, I simply just exist on more days than I care to admit.  By the end of the form I am ready to crawl back in bed with a happy book or movie, but I cannot, I have things to do.  So I push those feelings back down.  Instead of joining other Americans in the celebration of the 4th of July this year I held my Adult Literacy class and organized a Read-a-thon for the summer to get children excited about reading.  I also worked on planning of a homework help group to encourage parents to get involved and learn how to help their children out.  (arggghh I cannot use the term kids, here that means baby goats!) I just could not find a joy in my American side this week.  I am struggling to share this aspect with the community.  I did buy a Mug Root Beer with the intention of finding vanilla ice cream to enjoy an American Classic.  Mr. Johnson suggested I drink this at the square!  Uhmmm that is weird, no really I do not have enough to share with a group of people, the soda was expensive and I really just feel uncomfortable enjoying that in front of others.  Imagine eating your birthday cake in front of children and not giving them a piece, this is what it sounded like to me.  I know his intention was to share something very American, but that is not exactly how I envisioned that.

open fire cookpot

So I am currently standing at an abyss, how to share my culture when I am very disconnected from my culture?  How do I find a way to connect Jamaica with something that is not on TV or the Movies and how do I convince them that I am just as broke as they are?  How do I find a way to convey that I live on very little money and my money is very tight as of late?  Living outside of a tourist area makes this even more difficult.  The people here see the worst of American Culture in the way tourist treat shop keepers and service personnel.  Tourist drink too much, dress too skimpy and give off the impression that they are here to see resorts and not the real Jamaica.  This sends out the message that they have money and are not willing to share.  The real message is that the tourism industry has a tight control of tourism and makes them scared to travel outside of the designated areas. It also means that tourists may have saved all year for this trip and they have very little money left and a day pass in an all-inclusive means that they spend a specific amount that they may have budgeted for and they will have no time, money or energy to explore the culture outside the resorts or tourist attractions.  This is not the message that the local people get at all.  Sadly I understand and I hate that I understand this and can do nothing to fix it.

Personal Growth


There are several reasons people join the Peace Corps.  Your reasons are often made fun of as in here.   There seriously are so many types of people, and some do not always mesh with the group/community/Peace Corps/humanity but many do.  One thing you will not always be prepared for are the hours that you spend alone with yourself.  This is where coping mechanisms really come in handy, people!

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So why did I join?  I liked the idea of going to a very foreign place and learning to fit in among the people there.  I loved the idea of travel.  I loved the idea of cutting all remaining ties to where you are from most of all.  You see I have much pain in where I came from.  I loathe going back there, I do not even call it home, it never was home.  I get great anxiety about stepping foot out there.  I could look back and blame this on my mother/father/whoever else, but ultimately I have to stand up and stare in the mirror, where the blame really belongs.  This is what life as a Peace Corps Volunteer has taught me.  That (wo)man in the mirror is who you ultimately must face, and you best like them because they will never leave you!

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If you have never sat down and listened to John Lennon’s Imagine, do so now, I can wait!

It is the most amazing work of music ever written.  This one touches my soul, and it inspires me to a place that nothing else ever has.  It spoke to me as a child.  In all my hatred towards home, this song always gave me a sense of reason and a place to find solace.   Something that most people search for their whole lives is that sense of purpose.  I too, searched for many years for this.  I finally joined Peace Corps as part of a dream but also looking for that sense of purpose.

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What does purpose look like?  How do you find it? When do you know you have found it?  These are all pertinent questions in our search for self.   One thing for certain is that as long as you stay busy and surround yourself with distraction, you will never find it or know you found it.  I tried for years to distract myself, marriage, raising kids, college, parties, friends, just about anything to distract myself from this feeling of uselessness.  When you become a volunteer you seek those times of silence and solace.  Being always on is exhausting and for me I spend most nights home alone.  In my  situation there is a large distance to travel by foot to get to and from my home to the community.  In the past I have had persons escort me but this turned out badly for me.  (No threat to myself, just uncomfortable with the affections presented.)  So to avoid a potential danger I keep myself home at night.    The amazing thing about this is that eventually you have to face yourself.  You cannot hide from yourself forever.  In my quite moments at home I have had time to look very deep and very hard at myself.  I still have much more to depth to see but I am beginning to see past the hurt and anger.  costumes

Over the next few months I hope to engage my neighbors in some games of dominoes and Yahtzee.  The kids will be home and up later and the neighbors work at the schools so they will be home more often than not. I look forward to really cementing these friendships with fun and games.

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In these long months of nights spent home alone I have learned a few things about myself.  On top of losing weight, (30lbs yay!) I have also done some soul searching and healing.  I have confronted my biggest problems with where I come from (continual sexual harassment) and my weight (again sexual harassment, it was an emotional protection), my hatred for my past, my lack of confidence, and my insecurities.  It sometimes is a lot of baggage to carry around and it feels so much better to have found a way to address these things.  The more time I spend with that (wo)man in the mirror the more I like them.  I find them sincere and thoughtful.  I find them compassionate and passionate.  I find them very human.  This is the greatest thing I have gained from my service.  This ability to like myself and to see my true self.  For years when I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw.  I saw a very insecure little girl with no ability to defend herself.  That same girl who went home and cried every day of high school, until the last few months of her last year when she would have beat the holy crap out of anyone who touched her.

mustache

That last statement needs some defining:  In my high school days two boys, sometimes more, would drag me into the locker room and try to strip me violently everyday!  One would touch my breasts daily and if I tried to make him stop I was sent to the office because I was a distraction.  It was frustrating. It was maddening.  It royally pissed me off.  A week before graduation I had had enough of this BS!  One day I opened my locker and a fire extinguisher fell onto my feet from my locker.  I threw my books down and screamed my biggest tormentor’s name picked that fire extinguisher up and ran down the hall after him.  Years later he told me he had never been so scared in all of his life.  He thought I was going to kill him, he is lucky I cannot run so fast because I am positive that I would have bludgeoned him to a pulp if I would have caught him.  See I can empathize with the school shooters in a way most people cannot.  I know what it is like to be tormented non-stop for years without anyone ever stepping up for me.  I understand pain and helplessness all too well.  This has fueled my adult life.  I have been in three fights in my life all of them were with men trying to abuse me in some way.  In all cases I knocked the snot out of them.  Do I regret this?  Hell no!  I am no longer going to be the victim, the only things I regret are staying in relationships long enough for them to escalate to this point.

beach day

All of this has made me a much stronger person, because I know how to defend myself, I know when to walk away.  I know who I am and that I am not that weak girl in the mirror.  I am a warrior and I am also a advocate for others.  I like who I am, but I did not always, even when I started my service I did not really like who I was.  I hid these insecurities in many ways, alcohol was one of my biggest friends.  It made me numb to the feelings I could not accept.  It is only now in my times of clarity that I can see this.  I still love alcohol, but I do not need it all the time.  I cannot afford it all the time!  I also cannot afford to be in a fog every day!  I need that clarity and once you find it, you can function so much better.  I now see the gifts I have, and I also see my service so much clearer.  I see my role not as a savior but as an advocate and delegate.  I am not a leader, I am the person that finds the leaders!  There need to be more of those types of people in the World!  People who can sit on the sidelines and find those who can lead.

in the beginning

I have healed many of my old wounds during my service.  It has been liberating.  I used to think that my pain was useful to me, that I would never forget and it would drive me.  It did drive me but it has served its purpose and it is time to move forward.  It is time to strip off that layer and expose a whole new being.  One who will shine in a different light.  One who will find more energy and strength in more positivity and less negativity.  This is my final battle, letting go of that broken little girl in the mirror.  Letting go of the pain and the anger and finding peace and joy instead.  It has not at all been easy, but the journey is not one I would change for one single second.  By the time my service is over I will be ready for the next phase of life and that is something I am almost ready to embrace.

Optimism is like doing the ChaCha, two steps back for every step forward.


Sunday was an exciting day, which follows a pretty hard couple of weeks.  The aftermath of my very poor handling of a situation still weighs heavily on my mind.  I would like to have some kind of excuse for it, but I sincerely do not.  I simply just lost my temper and my cool.  It has required Peace Corps staff to re-evaluate my site and safety and the terrifying aspect that I might be placed in a new site were all results of my personal actions.  The reality is that my actions brought to a head multiple small incidents that were of minor concern to the safety officer, and since I am honest to a fault, she wanted to re-evaluate my situation.

Happily I will continue here, but my role will be refocused.  I have taken the last few days off to figure out an action plan, and I have one.  I am not quite ready to share it to the public yet, but I do have a plan of attack for the next year and I think it will accomplish many of the Peace Corps goals that are assigned to my department.

Sunday, however was planned a week or so before all this happened.  It actually strengthens my plan of action and focuses some of the fine points.  Sunday  UNEP (United Nations Environmental Protection) and the US EPA visited my site with a focus on clean waterways.  This falls in line with the clean-ups that my community has participated in.  It also showcases the need for trash skips and a better trash handling program, including eliminating styrofoam and recycling programs to help deal with the massive number of plastic bottles that are typically tossed in the “bush” on the way up from the taxis.

Some of the outcomes of this meeting will not be seen for some time, but now that these agencies understand the challenges we have improvements and support are bound to follow.  For example:  citizens just dash trash on the side of the road with the mind-set that they are creating jobs.  The NSWA (National Solid Waste Administration, I think) hires people to clean-up the roadsides every so often.  So technically it does create a short-term job.  Sadly if we focused on hiring more garbage men and less clean-up had to take place we would have more stable jobs that were not a simple day job.

skip needed

Other implications are that due to the truck being too full and not always picking up, (last month it was 3 weeks without a truck pick up) citizens will resort to burning trash.  This includes styrofoam and plastics, which increases greenhouse gases and asthma in the elderly and young.  The people who do have regular pick up also have issues with dogs and birds tearing into the trash.  This creates more clean-up problems.  These are all issues that I see in my community on a daily basis.  How can I convince them to pick-up if there is no one to carry it out and no place to properly dispose of it?  This is where the trash skips are so needed.  By putting in large bins that close up, it eliminates the dogs and bird issue.  It also has the potential to keep persons from burning trash that they simply have no place to put.  By building skips and running educational campaigns our newly founded Citizen’s Association is trying to address these issues.

news

Other issues are also at play, something I have not talked about, politics.  Just like back home, there is a two-party system and it is just as non-functional for the common man as ours is.  Trying to get anything done is like pulling teeth because you have to go through so many ministries and then they do not really communicate to each other what is going on and so you sit around with a big confused mess as to what to do!  In some cases it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission and that is a sad place to be.  In a perfect World, you would simply need to go in and register your complaint/idea/group plan/action agenda/etc.  with one entity it would have a list of all other ongoing projects/groups/disputes of the same area and tell you either yes or no based on what is going on around you, but this is not even close to how any government works.  Sometimes I think government is just a way to frustrate the holy hell out of anyone and the only ones to ever get through are those who are serious about their proposals.  I have worked in government on two different levels and I can tell you it is no better on the other side of the table!  Rules and regulations should make things go smoother, but instead they just collapse the idea of unity and working together, no wonder the world is now a to each his own attitude. ( If you cannot move everyone forward I am just going to get myself a better deal.)  This puts the environment at great risk.

Another great Jamaican phenomena is captured land (captcha land).  This stems back to Emancipation and freeing of the slaves.  Those persons, just like former American slaves now have freedom but no land or way to support themselves or a family. So here they just cut up a slice of land and call it their own.  The government accepts this and by all rights it should be easy enough to get title for the land, since the government has released much of the land back to the people, but it is not simple at all.  In fact it leads to murder and boundary disputes and jungle justice and inability to get things as a group done.  This has been my life for the last year.  I do not talk about it because I can do nothing about it.  The farm land is all captcha land and there is bickering and fighting and politics involved.  Politics here can get you killed!  Not beat up, not frustrated, straight up killed!  People are passionate about who they support and you have to tread lightly on how to approach persons with a belief system so deep.

find your passion

The reason I bring this up is that the new group is supposed to unify the community, but there is a distinct separation with political beliefs.  It sometimes gets difficult to navigate. I have managed to stay clear, but it does rear up occasionally. I find this dynamic exhausting and frustrating.  I am trying to figure out a way to bring both sides together in a civil and unified matter.   One thing I have noted is how things are presented, instead of demanding, statements should be made in an asking format.  Stop telling people how things are to be done and instead ask them how to get things done, it works so much better.  I also like to “lead from behind” as I call it.  I am not a leader, I hate the idea of leadership.  I like to think that empowerment is so much more effective.  I observe and find persons passionate about specific areas, then I suggest a way to improve or get something done.  I simply suggest it, I do not tell them it needs to be done, I suggest it and give them an idea of how it can be done.  I then step back and watch them expand the idea and create a tangible outcome.  This is probably my biggest strength.  I do not want to be the one to do the project, because when I leave that will just die off with me.  I need them to be passionate about it, only then will things become sustainable.

My summer will be filled with community development and environmental clubs.  I want to get the kids in the dirt, cleaning the community, planting trees and flowers to show others how easily it can be done.  Now all I need are some adults who are willing to help launch this project, so wish me luck!