The last few weeks I have fallen into a slow-paced routine. I have had three site visits and a project, but mostly I have been working on my CASI. CASI= Community and Sector Inventory and it is a huge document not only for yourself but your counterparts and community and Peace Corps. You see in Peace Corps we spend a good portion of the first four months integrating and looking at how our community can improve. More important, this document is supposed to be driven by the community. We are given a set of PACA tools to utilize as we see fit. (PACA= Participatory Analysis for Community Action) What this means is I gather information in a variety of ways to get to know the needs of my community from the people in my community. Some of the issues with this process happen to be that rumors about you being a spy or part of some governmental conspiracy can and often do come up. So pulling out a large piece of paper to have people draw a map may look overly suspicious. Yes I have heard this rumor run around about myself, so I stopped writing in my notebook and just started having conversations. Each community and assigned volunteer is different. There is no one right way to gather this information and I have found group meetings and casual conversations to be my best options.
I felt like I did not have enough information until I started to write-up my CASI. I immediately realized that I have much more knowledge about the community than many of the people who have lived here their entire life. Funny how that works out. As a rule each individual sees different things that they find important within the community. No one person sees things the same and it helps direct my next move to know as many points of view as possible.
I spent much time the last few weeks working on this document. So much time that my head some days hurts so bad. I feel that I am headed in the correct direction and even on days that I feel useless I am actually doing something. This week has been extremely busy for me even though I have spent much of it just sitting around. This last weekend I went to visit one of my host families from training. I was asked why I had never invited my host sister over to visit during the summer she was so bored. I had no idea she wanted to visit all she had to do was tell me she was coming and I would have made sure she had a good time. So we now have an agreement that my host sister will come over whenever she has extra days off.
Monday was a cleaning day since I was to have a visitor on Tuesday. So I spent the entire day cleaning and planning. Tuesday I spent making coffee and having a site visit with my Country Director. It is nice to spend some time with staff and show off some of the things you have done. I love showing off the new mural. Even though it is not done it looks good and I am proud that I designed something the farmers embraced. Another painting day is to happen soon. It is funny that when you bring other Americans out into the community the people are more energized. The farmers seem to love having visitors and I love to see them get pumped up and excited about things. Even small things can change the demeanor of the entire group.
This week was the first week of a group of dental assistants and technicians and even dentist offering free dental in the community. This will happen for three weeks. I normally sit down at the community center during Wednesday mornings. This week I spend it talking with different community members, and there was a heap of them hoping to get teeth cleaned or more serious dental work done. So next week I anticipate the same type of group. It is very exciting to see people seeking any type of health care. Dental often gets overlooked but healthy teeth are indicative of healthy bodies.
I have not been to the beach of near any water body for 2 weeks. Wednesday afternoon was spent rectifying that! I have this lovely hotel on the beach that has a pool and a small bar with a restaurant. For the cost of a soda or coffee I can stay there all day utilizing their facilities. One of the best deals around! Sometimes the ocean is just what you need. The salt water and fresh breeze are often soul healing. I needed it and am so glad I took the time to go.
Thursday was an active day and when I say active it means I got off my butt and went out on my bike! I had made an appointment to meet the new group of tour guide students. I rode my bike the farthest and the fastest I have yet to ride. I stopped at one of the local primary schools to talk to the 4-H director and the principle. One of the main focuses of the Green Initiative, my sector, is to do youth education. The local basic school is on the fence about working with me so I stopped to talk to the local primary school. The Principal was more than happy to have my help. She has already found two small projects that will not cost a lot or take much time to execute. She wants to use the environment as a teaching tool! Good for her I support this a whole heap!
I then rode down the rest of the hill to meet the tour guide students. Not knowing exactly why I was asked to come down I waited to meet them until they had a break. The instructor asked if I could just explain why I was here and what my goals and focus were. I introduced the idea of Agro-tourism and Eco-tourism and why they were important and the new shift in tourism expanding outside of the all-inclusive resorts and more into a cultural exchange. I talked about how important trying to understand other cultures was the basis for World Peace, yes I still have this insatiable hope for this one day in my lifetime!
The problem with going down a hill, super fun and fast, I might add, is that you must at some point go back up said hill. Going up it feels more like a mountain! I made it past the halfway mark before I had to stop and rest, of course there was a man standing there when I stopped to get my water bottle out. He asked me if I remembered who he was, why yes I do. “Yuh know mi a leke yuh?” Yeah I know but I am married and happily at that. “To a Jamaican?” Seriously dude what difference does it make whether he is Jamaican or American, Japanese or African? I am married his cultural background changes nothing! Dear Jamaican men, contrary to what you believe, not every white woman comes to Jamaica for the Big Bamboo! Get over yourselves and learn some manners!
I did ride off and then had to walk up a steep loose rock hill to get off the main road. No way to climb that hill the rocks just slide under you. I got lost too. In my own community I got lost! I soon got directions in the right direction, luckily I knew the name of the road I was looking for. I finally made it back to the community and spent some time catching my breath, stretching and dreading my ride back into the scheme. I can tell you I slept very well that night!
Oh I missed the craziness of Tuesday night! In the middle of the night Richard texted my iPad! It woke me up but as I rolled over I had a great pain under my breast. I reached over and felt a large painful lump. So I panicked. Because you know it was a lump in my breast, I must have………. breast cancer! Shit! I cried and texted Richard for an hour about it. I finally fell back asleep but it was not restful. The next morning I looked in the mirror, because in the night the last thing I want to do is go turn the light on and look! As I looked at it I determined it looked much like a bite of some kind. The doctor agreed but told me to keep an eye on it. Crisis averted, or was it? As I was getting ready to make my breakfast I noticed a 40 leg in my apartment! I had heard these were nasty and prevalent but had never seen a live one here yet! I got a jar and collected it for Richard. (Do not even ask!) I suspect this little bastard is what bit me, or a spider, but since I caught this one I want to think it was him!
What is a 40 leg? It is what the Jamaicans refer to a centipede as. And they can be quite poisonous! My host dad was telling me I needed to spray. Man the last thing I want to do is spray. I was hoping to avoid it!
Friday I spent writing up my CASI and panicking. I had other things I should have done but the CASI sucked up my entire day! In the end there was a ton of coffee, and a ton of frustration. Overall I think I have a good base on the document, just need to finish a couple more sections, proof it and have my supervisor help me with a one-year work plan. As I was winding down my day I sat watching an old Alfred Hitchcock movie. I noticed what looked like a moth on my leg so I flicked it off. I have no idea why I even looked down on my leg, but lucky for me I did. That moth was actually another 40-leg! OMG! There must be a nest of them just hatched in here somewhere. I now know that there is a great need for me to spray now! I stomped on the stupid thing and it did not die! Holy crap, what in the hell? I stomped on it again and it still did not die! Are your freaking serious! What the hell I have an apartment full of super 40-legs! I am so gonna turn into a spray freak! The ants were vexing me but they are not going to poison me, just annoy me. The 40-leg must die! Where are all my damn lizards and toads? Or any other creature that will eat these bastards! I would rather deal with a cockroach! Seriously a cockroach is nasty but not lethal!
So now I have a new bedtime ritual! Pull all pillows and sheets off my bed. Shake out the mosquito net, shake out blankets and pillows. Encase bed in net until I am ready to crawl in. Shake out my sleeping clothes and cautiously crawl into bed and retuck the net. There better not be a need for a nighttime visit to the toilet because it aint gonna happen! The other part of my new ritual, to be so super focused on my skin that even a loose hair sends me screaming to the bathroom! Yeah I am totally a tough girl, right? Peace Corps, what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger, or makes your screams stronger!