Girls Empowerment.


Since Obama has been in office there has been a focus from the White House, specifically Michelle, to push for girls to get an education World-Wide.  This is an issue in many countries, where an education for girls is prohibited or not prioritized.  In 2012 a young woman named Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by the Taliban for advocating girl’s education, and education for all.  She was about 15 years old.  She had already become an activist and after this incident she became the most famous teenager in the World.  In wake of this tragedy the idea of #LetGirlsLearn is even more important.  All over the World we find that young women are either never educated or limited in their education.  Keeping women in traditional roles to keep societal roles intact is one aspect, but when you leave half your population behind, you find that the whole population is effected.

 

In Jamaica girls are often more highly educated than boys.  It seems that they dynamics are different here.  In reality though women are not paid as much as men and they can reach middle management fairly easily but becoming part of the top rung is still out of reach for most.  Equality and equity are two different beasts and when you focus on equal opportunities, you miss the fact that the playing field is uneven and those born with more ability will reach farther than those who are born with lesser abilities.  We must change the field to create a more equitable access for all.

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Last week we held the first ever Camp GLOW Jamaica.  GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World.  This is a Peace Corps initiative, started by a PCV and has taken on a beautiful, inspiring role in the world of young women.  The idea is to bring girls age 13-18 together with a volunteer and create support networks and help build up leadership roles in all.  Each girl must be accompanied and vetted by a volunteer.  They travel with the PCV and are fed both physically and emotionally for several days.  There were some wonderful people who made this happen.  The volunteers worked tirelessly to get together food donations, catering services, a location, speakers and activities, and then the rest of us worked to get the girls to come to camp.  It was very successful and there were tears in the end as we all said goodbye.

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One of the most powerful things that happened was a local author joined us.  She helped us write a poem based on ideas from the camp that we had experienced.  (On the page listed above you will find a few videos of girls reading their poems.)  Finding that spark of creativity and knowing that your words will not be dismissed was very powerful.   Later the author A-dziko Simba read small portions from her first novel.  When you hear the girls say “don’t stop there” you know you have a powerful story to tell.  I bought a copy for myself and a copy for the girl who came with me, thanks to extra money given to me for incidentals. (The book for the girl was paid for by a community member ensuring a successful experience.)   I actually lent my copy out to a young man who came to my adult literacy program looking to learn how to comprehend and read better.  He read 2 or 3 chapters last night and I could hear him laugh to himself as he was reading, so that was successful.

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Photo Courtesy of Alli Brown.

Other activities included: tye dyed T-shirts, journal making, talent show, group discussions, Colored Pencil Project and learning from Jamaican women about intentional communities and honoring our ancestors.  By the end we were covered in glitter dust, glue, market and we saw some powerful journaling and artistic expression come out.

The girls appreciated the “Respect Jamaica” group the most.  They found their presentation on Women’s Equality powerful.  The girls even worked on creating a video based on #WhatIReallyReallyWant

Overall the week was long but too short.  I left inspired and feeling positive for the future of Jamaica.  The male PCV’s also worked on getting a boys camp going, maybe we will finally find equity in gender!  We must remember that to have true equity we must not focus on half the sky!  You should read that book or watch the movie for a clearer vision of how women need this kind of support worldwide.

Unique Birthday Traditions in Jamaica.


So if you come to stay in Jamaica, at least in the North Coast areas, be cautious about letting persons know when your birthday (Earthday) is.  In my area this is a treacherous and messy tradition.  So what is to fear about your birthday, spankings? Loud Singing?  Pinching?  Nope, being floured!   Yup they surround you and they take a heap of flour and toss it on you!  Remember this is a humid and hot place so that flour pretty much makes a dough on your skin!

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Back from the Library.

Last week one of my Environment Club members had a birthday.  We had already planned on taking kids to the library that day, as part of the read-a-thon competition to ensure children have access to books.  I would love to see someone continue to take the children to the library throughout the summer next year and the following years.  Back to Michael’s birthday.  We carried the children to the library and they all got books.  Instead of dropping them off at their homes on the way back we took them back to my supervisors shop where all the girls got a handful of flour and as he came to the other side of the truck he got bombed with flour!  His mother had given permission since she would be the one to wash the child up when he got back home.

This is a fun but messy tradition and I have managed to escape it both years I was here.  I am grateful that I missed this tradition but also happy to have seen it done.  Birthday cake after the flour shower makes everything better in the end.  All children love sweets so they will endure a great deal with a good outlook if a sweet is provided after the fact.

Small update on a positive note.


So my last blog was quite dark and negative.  I spent the weekend basically isolated at a friend’s home in the community.  We had amazing food, played games and tried to make sense of the culture around us.  (She is from Seattle so she understands much of how I see things.)  It was a weekend of rebuilding my broken ego and rejuvenation.  I had the most American thing I can think of this weekend, Bloody Mary’s.  I love them more than anything else and I miss them the most.  In a country with bars all over and juice for almost everything, tomato juice and Bloody Mary’s are hard to come by and they are typically not great when you do find them.

bloody mary

Last week a firetruck drove up and down the road looking for a house fire that they could not find because, oh right there are no street signs and the few we have people have been destroying.    On Sunday morning my friend drove out to help fix her tractor, some men came up to her and told her that the police could not find a home to respond to an emergency call because there were no street signs.  They told her about how upset they were that there were a few who sought to discourage group efforts. These men were a small voice that told us that it is not all of the people here who do not want help or change.  These men were the small voices in the darkness that keep moving us forward when everyone else seems to be telling us to quit.  These men helped inspire me to continue to try again. These men represent relationships that I was not even aware I/we had made.  These men may have just saved my service.   Sometimes all we need is a bit of validation, everyone needs it.

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This week is a huge week for Jamaica.  Today is Emancipation Day, the day we celebrate the slaves being given their freedom.  (See more information on Emancipation Day here.)  Today is also the day that a Tropical Storm is supposed to hit us.  On the 6th it is Independence Day here.  Much like our Independence Day, it is a celebration of self-rule.  Unlike ours, there was no war to be fought, the British gave up rule of the island and Jamaica gained full independence in 1962.  Since this time there have been two parties JLP (Jamaican Labour Party) and PNP (People’s National Party).   These two parties are harder to find a unity than the Democrats and Republicans in American politics.  This is where my issues in my community generally fester.

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Trying to find some grounding.

I have not talked about this much, but it is apparent that I must address it.  The scheme land used to be part of the Industry Plantation land.  The plantation owner sold the land at a very cheap or free price (I am not certain the transaction details) to be used to help the members of the community gain land access.  His dream was that it would remain farm land.   Much of the scheme land is now owned/occupied by returning residents or by people from outside of Three Hills. The fact that people refer to it as the scheme and not Three Hills is a major flag that there is division in this area.  I often hear that a person is a born-to, which means they grew up here.  They show a great love for the area but appear to show negative feelings  toward the influx of outsiders.  I equate this to gentrification in America, when an area is depressed and has a poor economy then people with money come in and drive those original people out by increasing land sales and value and create an economy that is too expensive for those original people.

The small piece of farmland is also not necessarily occupied by outsiders, some is some is not.  In fact the farmer’s are not really farmers in the way we think of farmers at all.  They are people on the land hoping to one day get title to the land.  Not that they do not grow food back there, but they do not see the land the way a real farmer see the land, as a source of life and connectivity.  Some do, most do not.  Much of the persons who have lived here for a long time and have farmed see the good farmland turned into housing and this also causes negative and hurt feelings to fester.

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Sometimes we just need to turn around to see what others are seeing.

Going back to the politics of the area.  There is a great division in the area.  Much of the original occupants, or those politically active ones, are PNP.  Persons that have come in from the outside are often viewed as JLP or not steadfast PNP so this creates an issue with unifying the community.  Often my work because my supervisor is viewed JLP is considered some type of political ploy.  This is a perception that much like my negative outlook in the past month is hard to overcome.  I would never make a good politician, I am afraid, because I just do not care to argue political points.  I cannot spend off my time defending my motives continually.  It is a basic human need to find a basic ground of trust and confidence in each other. My motive is as transparent as I can make it, I want to help you succeed, please tell me how,  in a way that builds us all up?

Is this a cultural thing? Or do I just not understand people?


The last year has had many ups, and a few downs.  And let me tell you sometimes a down spirals out of control and feels like a major failure.  Sometimes you just have to let that go. Are my feelings hurt?  Hell yes, I gave up two years of my life and put it on hold to come help make life a little better in a culture that is not my own.  The last two weeks have been very rough.  Why you wonder?  Well maybe it is a cultural thing, or maybe it is just in my community but when things start to move forward almost always someone is angry over the chosen action plans.

Let us start at the beginning.  When I first got to my site, I had a CASI to complete  (Community And Sector Inventory).   This is where/how I find out what my community has, who is in the community and what they actually need/desire/want.   I base most of my work on what the community tells me.  Originally I held meetings on Monday nights and very few people showed up.  My supervisor wanted this to form into a community group.  I pulled rank on him and said you cannot register this as a group or treat it as a group without the census of the group!  At some point there was an influx of crime in the community and the meetings got seriously big due to the police attending the meetings.  At this point the group decided to become a group.  They banded together got signs with the police phone numbers posted all over the community, road signs were made and roads were named (that did not have names), a few community clean-up events happened and a grant was accepted for the building of two trash skips (dumpsters essentially).  Wow this group is really moving things forward.  They had agreed upon a constitution and they voted in an executive.  Things have been moving along for several months, until the group went to register and a problem presented itself.  The registrar stated that they would not/could not register a second group in the same geographical area that an already existing group is that can claim to land.  The Farm Group that I am assigned to has that legal right for all of the area, according to the registrar.  There is also a matter of a court case that does not directly involve a the farm group but someone collecting money for land under the guise they represented the farm group.  (This is a major fraud case and a senior police woman and the previous SDC Parish manager were both arrested and face charges)  (SDC=Social Development Committee)

The group was disappointed and then my supervisor did something that I advised him not to do.  He suggested that for future funding we could umbrella under the Farm Group, which was steamrolled in a most negative manner.   This created a huge dissention within the group.  The idea of the group was to help unify the different segments of the community so it was not longer the Scheme and the original community or the farmland.  There was much anger and I had to leave the meeting for safety reasons.  I heard later that my supervisor made a decision to umbrella under the farm group and that concerned me as it was going to divide the group.  I talked to some members and found that was not the case.  The next week on a WhatsApp group chat my supervisor kept making the Farm Group look amazing, stating all the things they had done, which I am quite certain were more my supervisor than the actual group.  I pause here to say that the Farm Group does have a small handful of dedicated people who work together and try hard to improve things on the farmland, but a few people cannot carry the entire load.    This activity on the WhatsApp aggravated several people who then accused him of some political mischief or agenda.  I finally had to remove myself from the executive WhatsApp group because it became rather negative and I felt I did not need to be involved.

The last meeting we had there was a great amount of anger and accusations.  I decided that for the summer I would start a read-a-thon, a youth environmental club and another group member decided to host a family game night teaching parents and kids games that would help them improve their students numeracy and literacy abilities.  These programs were presented to the community group as what was going on this summer.  The group asked some questions about how things were going to happen, which since I just came up with the ideas, had not been ironed out.  One of the executives got angry over the other WhatApp group and accused my supervisor of forcing a decision on the group. They felt that they were not consulted and that my supervisor decided for the entire group that they would support the programs.  This was all presented at the meeting that this person and my supervisor did not attend.   I responded with he only presented them and I was doing them anyway.  The group can support the initiatives or not, I really just needed something to do this summer.   She then went on to tell me that they were great ideas but I went about it the wrong way.  Uhmmm, what the hell?  I do not understand why she thought that it was not presented in the correct manner?  I simply wanted the group to be aware of the programs I had decided to focus on over the summer so I had something to work on.   The summer programs are to create an Environmental Youth Club which I had intended on rolling into the school program this fall, sadly none of the kids participating are in the Three Hills Primary School. There is also a reading competition, which I again wanted to roll into an ongoing school program and get the school kids to connect to the library to enter the Island-wide competition next April.  Expanding the school garden is also on my summer to do list.  And finally not even something that is my idea or that I am orchestrating is the family learning game nights.  I just support the idea of helping parents learn fun ways to help their children with some of their learning struggles.  I can only see positives in these programs but culturally maybe I am missing something.  I am now being informed that people were not aware of the programs, which is incredible to me since they have been announced in 5 different mediums.

This last week there was an emergency meeting called and the entire executive but the two people, who are were not there and have been the hardest to understand working with, resigned.  It seems the group wants to start over and re-elect an executive and try to re-register as a non-profit group.  In all this the negativity on the WhatsApp is still going on.  To top it all off some of the road signs have been maliciously torn down.  One of the signs for the summer programs announcement was also ripped down.  This is heartbreaking.  I called Richard and told him I was ready to come home.  I really wanted to give up. If the community does not want me to do anything, than why am I here?  This is what it looks like to feel like a failure.

Lucky for my service and state of mind,  I have the best partner around.  He listened to me and then stated this is not like you.  You need some time to just calm down.  Do not make any rash decisions you will regret later.  I told him the only thing that is keeping me here is the school garden and the adult literacy.  These two projects show a great amount of pride and support.  The summer programs, although sparsely attended, are showing some amazing results.  We are seeing kids stay up late into the night reading books to get credit on the read-a-thon, we are seeing kids participating in the environment club and learning words like substrate, sterilization and drought resistance.   We see children understanding basic scientific concepts, which is truly amazing.  We are seeing community member and farmers working together to expanding the school gardens.  We are also seeing men who could not read, starting to read and showing improved self-esteem.  These are my wins.  These are things I take great pride in.

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My losses are those times that my feelings are really bruised and a few things that are destroyed  possibly on purpose for unknown reasons.  I know change is hard, but what blows my mind is the change is not asking for a behavior change other than to just work together.  Why is it that people do not participate but when a decision is made they get upset about what is happening and how they were not involved in the decision?  It is not like we hold the meetings in a private and require membership to attend.  We invite anyone and everyone to attend.  This constant destruction of things so that only you are benefitted is known as “bad mind” here.  I am trying to understand what is being asked of me?  What can I do to assist in creating a more united community?   I do not design projects unless the community is backing it, but currently I am moving away from this idea, because too many times I get a resounding positive to move forward and then there is some serious backlash.

There are many good people who simply remain silent here and silence is essentially agreement with the prevailing voices.   The thing I dislike the most about my service is that I am becoming very cynical and harboring hurt feelings.  I do not like this about myself, which reflects back onto my perception of the community at large.  My supervisor keeps telling me of his conspiracy theories and I guess those ideas have taken root in my heart because I am having issues trying to see positivity in the mired negativity.  This is my own personal burden and it is no one else’s fault but my own.  I thought I was stronger, but it appears I am not as strong as I thought I was.  I wonder is it the same for all service?  Does PC service tear you down to the bone just to see how much you can take?  I cannot imagine life is easy anywhere where you are an outsider to a culture and I thought I was prepared for it, but it seems I was not.

School garden expansion

My focus for the rest of my time here will be the children and the adult literacy and not community development.  There was so much more potential for community development here, but I am exhausted and I can no longer bear another 3 hour meeting of brutal verbal abuse and accusations.  I am stepping back now.  I am untethering my feelings from community development and refocusing on those successes I do have.  Children, adult literacy, and school gardens.  For me to think that two years is enough time to accomplish any more than this is a reality check in progress.  Those things are enough, they have to be, otherwise I can only see myself as a failure.  And that is the hardest pill to swallow.

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.