The idea that I need to spend time integrating is sort of lost for me. Not that I am not trying, but I have had difficulty not only getting people to take me around the community but I am continuously “on duty” almost daily. Those times I am not are spent at the river or the beach or shopping, which is still quite a bit of work. In general I think about how to help this community unify.
In the process of integrating there is a woman from Seattle who lives here. She has been here for the last 20years so I suppose she is a local. No not suppose, she is a local. She has not only introduced me to many people she has also taken me on a walk through the community to better understand how it is situated. On top of all this she has shown me many of the wonderous things about living here. The White River which is our Parish border is not even known by some of the long time residents. The various beaches available are something I love more than anything else. As a water person being so close to both a river and the ocean is like I fell into a piece of heaven. Without her, I would never know such things.
I have started projects on top of trying to start my CASI report. A CASI is the Peace Corps report on the Community Assets and Sector Inventory. It is an extensive report broken down into sections. Each section is 1-2 pages long but the CASI is about 40 pages in final form. I am the type of person that enjoys not only researching and writing but I like to start as soon as I can. I like to write-up pages as I get the information. I reread it toward the end and then find a whole section of missing information or data that could be displayed better. This is how I operate, so yes I have a page already typed up and one that is hand written for now. The problem is gathering information is not so easy. People want to share their stories, but they never really answer questions directly. You have to be a great sleuth to garner the unstated part of the story.
So since I have arrived in Three Hills I have spent many days in the river and ocean. I have also seen a crocodile sanctuary, built a potato box with a couple of local farmers and even taken them to the river to get bamboo for a second box. I have spent countless hours in meetings. In America I tried very hard to be excused from meetings. I am not a fan of meetings, but I am most certainly not a fan of meetings with a stoic structured set up. Jamaicans follow the British way of doing most things. They read the minutes from the last meetings, they have to motion to approve things and have these things seconded. The meetings last for 3-5 hours and in the end it feels like only one things was accomplished. It is not such a wonder that people will not show up at meetings.
Last night we had a meeting and I thought I was going to talk about why I was there and how I could help. I was very much mistaken. And although my Seattle lady is a no-nonsense person and stated that this meeting was far off the agenda, I did appreciate here taking the reigns that I was so confused to try to take. In the end we accomplished several things. I now have a better idea of who is vested in the scheme, I found there is a youth club that is not active and I also found that people really want to unify. This has been the most encouraging thing I have found so far. This is a group that I can work with. I really wanted to do an initial needs assessment, but found that this was impossible for several reasons. The biggest is that I need flip chart paper. I really, really, really need this and a light weight easel. Secondly it is impossible to really do a needs assessment with only a few people. What I did accomplish that a monthly meeting is not enough. We all agreed that a bi-weekly meeting was best. I think maybe by having meetings more often not only can they be shorter, we can not let things fall to the wayside. I suspect this is why things are so hard to get accomplished here. It is not for lack of desire but the lack of apparent priority.
Last night was a great night on several levels. I also found and talked to a group that comes out to the ball field nightly to exercise. I can use a group exercise and I could use the group to meet more people. The group costs $300 JD per session, which is a US price for a class. I am not certain I can afford this. I know she will take less, so I may cut a deal and just pay her a specific price monthly and show up when I can. I am mostly interested in meeting these people so I can know them better. Every little step counts, literally.
My greatest concern these days is that the ZikV virus is here in Jamaica. It will soon come here. Thankfully my landlord is going to put up my mosquito net today but he also wants to add some screens to my windows, which I never close. There is this amazing breeze that comes into my apartment daily, most of the day and I keep my windows wide open. I did harvest a bunch of lemongrass this week to try to mitigate the mosquito problem. So far in my home they are not so bad, but around the community they are terrible. So bug spray and sunscreen are on my wish list! Wink Wink! Learning to live on about $250 a month can be a struggle when the beaches and river cost a few dollars and things like bug spray and sunscreen can cost $3-$12 each. Lucky for me, if I can get to Kingston or have someone carry it back the Peace Corps does provide this stuff at no cost.
My biggest purchase in this place so far has been wine and a pair of boots hand-made to fit my foot exactly! I love my boots! My foot gives me grief so having the boots will help, especially when I get Richard to mail my orthotic inserts, which I like an idiot forgot. When asked what I miss the most about America, I can honestly say a feeling of community. That is the one thing that I will strive the hardest to get done here. I think it is possible, I just think people need to have someone talk about it. I am really feeling like things can happen, I may not even accomplish the original goals that I was sent here to do, but I will accomplish so much more if I keep myself visible.
Tomorrow is my first day sitting in the Community Center as an “office day”. I hope to not only meet people but to get much accomplished. Who knows I may need to spend a few days in the “office” if enough people start coming to me. I gave out my number last night, I hope that was not a mistake, but people are really wanting to establish a community and that to me is the best news ever!