So much has happened in the past few weeks. So sorry that I still do not have any internet. It better be here by next week! Lets start with leaving Port Morant. It seems that in Peace Corps there are so many good-byes. I miss my family there very much. I do have them on Facebook now so I can catch up when I have internet. We left to go meet our new host organization and move into our new homes. My home is perfect. I am in my own little one bedroom. I have a hot water heater and my own washer. I may love living Posh Corps! Well until I realize how much it costs to do anything and how little money I make.
I now live in Three Hills, St. Mary. This is up the hill and about 8 miles from Ocho Rios. I am assigned to the Three Hills Farmer’s Association. The big picture is to look into eco/agro-tourism. Right up my alley really. My supervisor is a very intelligent man and the organization has suffered some set-backs prior to his leadership. Sadly it is hard to organize once a set-back has happened. I have great hopes that we will be able to work past these issues and move forward. The plan is very detailed and has great potential. I hope to see it fruit while I am still here.
Aside from the community and the Farmer’s group there is what is referred to as the scheme. There is some disconnect from the community and the scheme and this affects the farmers who are mostly located on the other side of the scheme. I am trying to determine the disconnect, but I suspect it has to do with a multitude of renters in the scheme who are not so interested in investing into the community. Ochi is right down the road, many people who work there live in the scheme. This means that you have more of a migratory population. Not like migratory workers but people less likely to stay for long periods of time. I hope I can connect some of the farmers with the rest of the community and then draw the homeowners that actually live in the scheme into the community. One thing I hear over and over as I have started to work on some analysis is that most desire unity but have no idea how to get there. It feels like a huge job, but I will focus on small steps and hope for a few minor successes.
After we did our official site visit, we were sent back to Hellshire to endure a final week of training. It was the hardest thing we had to do. Finally getting to see our sites and our communities and then dropping back to the beginning location again felt as though we took a few steps backwards. I was very happy to see my host family in Hellshire again. I even gained a new “sister”. One of the housing situations was not going to work out and my home had an extra bedroom so we shared with her. I was happy to share my family, I had already shared them with two girls on either side of me the first time around.
The first day back was just a day of rest and getting settled in. There was a huge party at Omar’s, the one local drinking hole. Funny how the rules that were so strict when we first arrived were being dropped. We no longer adhered to a 7 pm curfew but walked around late at night. (I still struggle with this in my site.) The next day was Sunday and we spent the good part of the day at the beach. For some it would be a long time before they see a beach once they get to site. I am lucky in that aspect, I also live right on the White River, which is another tourism project I am working on.
Monday we bussed into Powell Plaza to showcase our team building activities and have a virtually fun day! The environment group, named “Dutty Tuff” which is what the Jamaican farmers refer to dirt that is too tough to break, won the competition. I painted a banner for our logo, which was a difficult undertaking. Poster paints on fabric is not exactly ideal. I managed to make some recognizable figures and wrote the words “Connecting Hearts to the Water and Land”. Melissa painted Dutty Tuff on the bottom and sewed it up to make it look better. We had a group chant and revealed our sign, then we broke into a dance routine and then into a “talent/cultural” showcase. We set up as though we were on the show “Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall”. I was a judge and we had a poem read in dub poetry style, MaryAnn wrote the poem herself and it was pretty great. Then we had a group of musicians sing Mango Time and had Lois eat a mango on the stage. The final act was the Bill Boy Dem video. It was a fantastic video and I think these boys did a great job. Our Rasta was Bill and he was a more modern Rasta. The education group had Leslie as a Rasta princess and she blew us out of the water! Man I hope to find that recording one day soon. The dance hall queens were pretty amazing, Emily pulled it off quite well dancing on Jessica’s heels, and that was a hard act to follow.
I cannot remember much of the rest of the week, aside from getting a ton of posters to decorate my new place with at a resource fair. Thursday was a very laid back day, but also a very sad and tragic day for us. We had our final interviews. This was mostly just routine and handing us our invitation to swear in. Mine was the second to the last and so I spent the morning at the beach. I returned around two to get ready, but my interview was to be at four and they were already running late. I showed up early and sat back and watched some Star Trek Next Generation episodes to pass the time. Sadly one person was not asked to swear in. We found out about that at a meeting at 5:30 just before our goodbye party. It is really hard to find this kind of thing out, even harder to be happy for the party right after that. If you think that joining the Peace Corps is a cake walk, you are very much mistaken and at any point they will not hesitate to ship you home. I have no idea why this person did not make it, but I hope they are able to move forward from it. I cannot even imagine that happening and how tragic it would be.
Friday we packed up and said our final goodbyes. We got on the bus and driven to the Ambassador’s home. The Ambassador did our pledge and was a gracious and amazing host. One major highlight for us as group 86 was that 8 persons from group 1 were at our swearing in. One man gave a keynote speech for us, not a dry eye in the house! Funny thing about Peace Corps, once your service is over your heart never really leaves. One man never left Jamaica, another returns almost yearly. There are many Ex-pats here. In fact one lives in my neighborhood and another just down the road a bit. I find it both nice and distracting at times. I must say though, that once someone has lived on island for 20 years they truly are Jamaican! At the end of the program we sang a song for the audience. There is an old folk song that Dan, the Environment Program Director suggested we learn. It is called “Ram Goat Liver”. Most of the Jamaicans loved it, and many did not actually know the words to the song. It was a most glorious day and I told my supervisor that I would like to rest the whole weekend and get settled in. Sadly this was not to happen. In fact I have worked everyday on some project or another since I got home Friday night!