I think I may have the longest training in Peace Corps ever, but I can see the end coming soon. In the last few weeks we have focused not only on farming but also on environmental education in schools. We have had sessions on bee keeping, not a huge fan of hanging out with the bees, but I admire those who are. We have mapped farms and made recommendation on soil conservation and water mitigation techniques. We built a stop dam to help mitigate the flow of water and minimize the erosion caused by the water. We learned how to clear land with nothing more than a really, really sharp Machete. I also learned that you keep a distance from those working around you, like a huge distance. I had a machete fly past my head when it slipped out of someone’s hand. We worked on building bamboo terrace to help minimize the soil runoff from the hillside. Mostly I learned that hillside farming is not my forte. I am a small space farmer, I have no desire to level land and climb up and down hillsides.
Last week we were sent out on our own to test our ability to travel. We had to go to an assigned volunteer’s site and shadow them for a day and a half. I traveled with 4 others all the way across the island. We caught the bus at about 5:15 am. We travelled into Kingston and found the correct bus to transfer to and then headed west. If you have ever seen a clown car and wondered how uncomfortable it is to cram so many in there, this is what public transportation in most of the World is like. It is not fun, it is not comfortable and 90% of the time you get stuck next to someone who spends the entire time complaining or acting as though you have some dreaded disease. Headphones are a must to survive.
My site visit was with another trainee so we traveled all the way together and we happily did not get lost. We learned about working with locals and what it looks like to try to work in different schools. We also got an idea of how much rain is to be avoided. Just as in Liberia, Jamaicans stop everything in the rain. There is no walking, no trading, not catching a taxi and there surely is no excuse for trying to walk with no covering. One man saw myself and the other trainee following our volunteer in the rain. We had no umbrella and had not a worry about the warm rain, he was just appalled that we would walk in the rain, “goodness gracious, me, no a walk inna da rain!”
We also learned about shopping in the market as favored over the grocery store. Fresh local produce that you can negotiate prices on, opposed to the price is the price and everything is over packaged. I hate buying produce on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic, seriously let me just weigh out what I want into a little bag! The prices in the store are much higher than the market.
I have also learned that I have much thicker skin that other trainees and even volunteers. The men here will make a pssst noise at women and apparently it is highly offensive. I do not even notice it, but if they whistled at me, there would be hell to pay. Most of the unwanted attention is something I guess I just do not notice. I wonder if this is from dealing with so much as a child having truckers around me my whole life, or if living in the city has toughened my skin. Either way I am grateful that it is as thick as it is. I also have a very different philosophy, you give people power over you when you allow them to say or do things that offend you. You have a choice, you choose to be offended. My mother is offended by the f-word and I will f-bomb the hell out of her in casual conversation. It has more to do with a power struggle than anything else. When you allow yourself to be offended you give power to others and I refuse to give that power to anyone else. Sorry mom, if you read this, I don’t purposely to it so much anymore, but I did.
In 2.5 weeks we will have our site assignments and be headed to site for a visit before swearing-in. In any case my site will be fabulous, because I choose for it to be. I refuse to spend the next two years bitter about a location, it is after all, only two years. Again you can choose to be offended or you can make the best of it. I will always choose the positive, I saw my grandmother spend her life being negative and she was not a very happy person. As much as I loved her, she was not pleasant to be around. I choose to not be unpleasant. I choose to be happy in all situations, this is not to say I will not have struggles and want to quit, but I don’t quit. To me this is what will make my Peace Corps experience rich with experience and fun. Attitude is everything! They don’t call it Jamrock for nothing!