This is the second in the #bloggingabroad challenge. I have previously done a blog of a tour of my home. (Click that little link to see what my home life looks like.) In this blog I really want to focus on my community, because the building I live in is not the only piece I call home. I live in the Three Hills District of St. Mary. It is located between the White River Watershed and the Rio Nuevo Watershed in St. Mary on the St. Ann border. I am about a 25 minute drive to Ocho Rios.
If I walk outside of my home I can actually see Ocho Rios and I always know when the cruise ships are in. If I can avoid going to Ochi on those days, I do. I can also walk a little ways up the road and see the water slide park on the White River. One day I may actually get off my lazy butt and walk over there, but so far I am easily able to get a ride there! On the other side of the community I can see a community along the main highway along the North Coast called Tower Isles. So I can pretty much find my grounding in 3 directions from my home. I find water to be very grounding for me. I am truly a water sign. I get quite anxious if I am not near water, which explains my discomfort growing up land bound.
I think I live in the most beautiful place in the World. My community is very diverse and spread out. My apartment is located in the Liberty Estates Scheme. It is divided into 3 sections, Phase 1 (my area), Phase 2 and Phase 2 Annex. There is a large section of farm land behind the scheme. This is full of small subsistent farming and small modest homes. The Scheme, as it is called, is full of McMansions. What I have realized is that many of these homes were built with the intent on renting out apartments for a sustainable income. This totally makes sense due to the tourism in Ochi and the easy access to work for those that work in this industry.
When you walk out of the scheme you see several shops along the main road and a beautiful ball field with a underutilized community center. This has been my base for many projects, so it is getting so much more usage lately. In the shops you can find soda, liquor, bread, flour, sugar, some canned goods, some frozen chicken, chips and candy. In a few shops you can find tasty cheese, which is quite like velveeta and scares me, along with a few fresh veggies. I have found a local farmer who runs a restaurant and sells some things out of her home. I have also found a “Rasta” who may or may not actually be a dred, and he sells quite a bounty of produce out of this little tiny board shop connected to a bus stop. He calls to me daily on my walks to try to interest me in what he has. I do buy things from him because the ‘Ras’ culture is more likely to have more “naturally” grown produce, ie: no chemicals.
My community is also comprised of so many churches and bars. For every church there is likely a bar nearby. It is not illegal to walk out with a drink, so I do not frequent the bars and will sit outside and drink a beer with some locals people, but not often. On a Peace Corps budget, at least here, alcohol is a treat not a norm (at least for me). We have two cook shops that is open every day. We have two that are open on Friday and Saturday and Mrs. English has started doing jerk chicken mostly on weekends but sometimes during the week. As a vegetarian, I rarely go to the cook shops as I am only going to be able to get rice and peas or french fries. I pack and carry lunch or simply go home to eat. Eating in public invites begging and I just do not want to set up a habit of this, I cannot afford to feed everyone. One of the local shop keepers is my neighbor. They found out that I love red wine, Malbec and Syrah in particular. They have stocked a few bottles for me to grab when I need one. This my friends is integration level: EXPERT!
There are two basic schools locally, these are what we would call pre-school and kindergarten. The two primary schools are quite a trek down the hill for the children. It takes me 35 minutes to walk down the hill to the first school, about 15 minutes more to the second one, although there is a steep shortcut which I do not use. If I ride my bike it is about 12 minutes to the first school and 17 minute to the second one. The ride back up is exhausting because it is mostly up hill, and a little scary as taxis fly up and down these narrow roads.
I walk or bike my community when I go out. No point in taking a taxi to save me a 35 minute walk. There are so many unique locations in my community and there are shortcuts or as the Jamaicans refer to them “cut thrus” that can shorten your travels. I still get a little lost on those but I can mostly find someone to help me out!
Ultimately I live in the most beautiful place in the world with amazing people and amazing environments. I wake up everyday and am thankful to be alive and in this beautiful paradise, with its own set of problems. I live in the most perfect place for me, the only thing missing is the love of my life, but he will be here soon!