This last month has been a whirlwind of either not much going on, or so much my head hurts! Last week I went to a Fisherman’s Regatta at Pagee Beach in Port Maria. Two other Peace Corps and two ex-pats from Canada went with me. Originally I was told I could get free passes for all of us. Then I was told only three, in the end two were stolen so there was only one. If I had just gone with my gut and bought them all the day before I could have saved everyone $250 JD (Jamaican Dollars, $1 US is equal to $115 JD, generally.) In the end the cost was about $6 each and the gas money to help offset the cost of transportation. I thought it was great fun and we stayed until after dark. Sadly this is the first time I have really spent out and about after dark. I miss that very much.
One thing you will often notice in Jamaica is how the locals are not so fond of the beach. I am not certain if it is because they just do not really like water or that it costs too much for them to be able to afford it. Sadly the beaches that are not owned by foreign entities are operated by locals who really do not consider their neighbors and the level of poverty here. Everyone is looking to make a buck. Much of this is about survival but even more is just a mind-set that everything has a price. It is probably the ugliest part of Jamaica to me. Well that and the dashing of trash everywhere. So much styrofoam and plastic are thrown out and either end up in the sea or are burned and end up as air pollution. Unfortunately there is no real way to manage the trash. I would love to see plastic banning and styrofoam banning here, but that is really just never going to happen. That is right, I just admitted something cannot be done. I admit that simply because an endeavor that big would require such a huge behavioral change and the government to equip people with the means to make this change that is simply is not possible at this time. When you are too focused on survival you lose site of other things that are important.
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Sunday I planned another work party. This one was a groundbreaking for a demonstration plot. The plan is to use this plot to showcase several innovative ideas for farming, and to sell the produce to help offset the costs of the Association. I had about 5 people show up, which is nice for a Sunday. I wanted to start at 8 am, but this is Jamaica and that will just never happen. We ended up really getting started around 9:30. As I have set a precedent that there much always be a flask of rum for the farmers, it will remain a requirement. Incentive sometimes is everything. I have also requested that we look into getting a coal pot to make lunch for these events. It is much nicer to leave on a full belly after so much hard work. Just like most of the projects here, nothing goes as planned. The gas for the tiller was late, and we ended up working much later than I had wanted to. We need to set up another work party to till the ground one more time to ensure it is nice and deep. I also need to talk to some of the market farmers to find out what crops are best for the market.
I have selected a nice shady area for greens and a herb garden, again I am speaking of cooking herbs, not Ganga. I am looking forward to spending some time in the dirt and seeing the crops grow. Now that I have a bicycle getting to the farm will be much easier and faster. The surprising thing for me is that when I ask for help I get it from many different sources. It is always nice to see people helping each other and I am hoping to set up a way for this to be a permanent action of the association.
Another volunteer joined me during the day and I want to extend a great Thank You to Abou for coming up here to help and see what we are doing. I believe having other volunteers visit is also a great incentive to my farmers to show their knowledge and abilities. Even if the volunteers just want to visit, I highly encourage it! There is nothing better for a group than a big shot of praise and interest in their work!
After we were winding down the farmers decided we should go to the river. I love the idea that they wanted to go, it was their idea. So we all piled in Mr. Johnson’s truck and he gathered up his family who also came down. We visited another farmer in our group Chris. He has a nice area on the river, he calls Bridge Farm Blue. This will soon be a tourism attraction and it is looking amazing. When you go through the proper channels to get your permits, amazing things can happen. I love this site, and wish I could get there much easier. Chris talks to me about building a Food Forest and how to implement permaculture design. I just love that he even knows what these things are!
The most surprising thing of this weekend was that my farmers actually did get in the water and even used the swing to drop into the water. Seeing people have fun always puts my soul in a great place. I hope to see much more of this and hope that future projects will result in trips to the river! Hard work can be rewarding but some rewards are amazing, this was one of those unexpected rewards.