Mixed emotions as I come to the end of my time abroad.


This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry BlogChallenge.

 

I am looking forward to going home soon, not because I want to go home, but because I miss my significant other more and more daily.  I feel like I am missing out on stuff.  I try not to think about going home that much.  In fact thanks to a guy I was in Liberia with I have found a way to stay grounded and present in my last few days.  On day 80 I started a countdown with something/someone/place I will miss when I am gone.  This keeps me focused daily on what I will post and keeps me present.  It helps amazingly.

paint party

This last week I attended my only real Jamaican party.  I went to Beach Jouvert, a seriously messy paint party.  I was covered in paint, in fact a week later and I am still covered in paint.  My toenails and fingernails are still green, I have green paint in my armpits, hair and even on my back.   This was incredibly fun and I Easter was spent with other volunteers having dinner at my apartment.  It was also spent with a huge hangover, well deserved and well earned.

Monday I headed to one of my host family home to visit one last time.  Lesson learned when I left Liberia, make certain you have contact information and ways to stay in touch.  I was glad I went on Easter weekend because the whole family was around and we got wonderful pictures together.  I feel like I got the change to say a proper good-bye.  I then headed to Kingston for my COS medical and spent until Friday there.  I got to spend time with volunteers also having medical and the two response volunteers left in country.

Friday afternoon I headed out to Hellshire to my very first host family pon di rock.  I am staying here until Tuesday when I go back into Town to meet the new interim Peace Corps Director.  I will then go back to Discovery Bay where I will not take any more time off except on the weekends to say my final goodbyes to friends and family in my original community.

Looking forward is quite daunting for me.  Many of the other volunteers are looking into grad school, job markets or potential future service.  I am not doing any of this.  My plan is to spend the first 2 weeks with just Richard!  I intend on just being in the moment with him.  Also it looks like he now has a job from home so we will need to look at job options/locations together as we now have the freedom to move wherever we want to.  I could easily allow myself to get pulled into this crazy guessing game, but in reality I want to remain focused on here and now.  By remaining focused I can better serve my current projects and finalize my time in Jamaica.  If I focus on going home, I serve no one.  And that is my biggest struggle.

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I thought I would learn about another culture, but I learned about myself.


A letter to my pre-PC self;

This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry Blog Challenge.

 

Dear ChaCha

There are things that will happen in the next two plus years that will be unexpected and sometimes difficult. The thing is, these challenges will change you in ways you never thought possible. They will tax your restraint and your reserves. They will make you uncomfortable and force you to confront deep dark buried issues that you have tried for 40 plus years to avoid. These things will pass, but they will change you and they will build you up, try not to fight them.

The first challenge will be how you see yourself. You view yourself as strong and as resourceful and able to stand up to confrontation. You must let those ideas go. In this new culture women do not confront men, they do not stand up to them and they most certainly never call them out and insult them. This will be the most difficult aspect to deal with. The daily marriage proposals, the constant cat calls and the attention that makes you never want to leave your home will become normal. What will not be normal is how you deal with them. Think about the fact that you are a cultural ambassador and even though you often feel like a slab of meat at the auction, you need to keep your interactions civil and not cross.

The second challenge is to let go of your view of not ever quitting. Sometimes quitting is not failure but realizing that the issues cannot be resolved and they tax your resilience too much. Understanding when to walk away is better than not quitting and drowning in despair and depression. Finding the balance between not quitting and seeing that there is no solution will prove to be an asset. It will be difficult and you will have to swallow that pride.  Remember to count those small wins to help balance those feelings of defeat.

 

The final challenge is confronting your past. Yikes, this really sucks. You moved to a place where most people from your past can no longer reach you, but the pain is still there. Being alone every night forces you to spend some quality time with yourself and your feelings. Ugh, I know that really sucks. Those angry and hurt feelings never really went away, they just got buried deep. Breaking down those walls and confronting them allows you to not only grow but to move forward. Your resentment of your childhood and upbringing, they keep your growth stagnated. Those feelings of anxiety about actually going home, pretending you did not come from your hometown, they hold you down and keep you angry and holding onto the pain. The denial that people hurt you, that your parents made you feel unloved, that holds you back. Facing these things and confronting them within yourself allows you to finally heal, grabbing that happiness is something you should embrace.

Yes you will still be angry and still be hurt, but it will no longer hold you in this space. Allow yourself the freedom to feel relief. To feel that anger and to confront it. To admit and name the things that happened to you, to move forward with more confidence and understanding how you actually process events. Sometimes those things that happen are not exactly as your perceived them. Sometimes people have no idea they wronged you at all, by learning how to recognize the hurt you can address it and confront the offender in a sane and safe way. These are the things you will learn from your service. The fact that there is always pain and hurt but there does not have to be residual anger and pain.

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Always look up!

Jamaica is not a single story!


This is the second in a series of blogs as part of the #BloggingAbroadBlogChallenge I was given the prompt about the Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story“.

http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge

I want you to close your eyes and think about what Jamaica means to you?   Does it mean fruity rum drinks?  The sand and sea?  Does it mean jerk chicken and fish fry?  Does it mean posh resorts and craft markets?  Does it mean high crime rates and marijuana smoking in public? Does it mean poverty and dirt roads?  Does it mean children in no shoes going to school?  Does it mean low education levels?  To me Jamaica is all of this and so much more.  As a joke this is considered Posh Corps in Peace Corps lingo.  Site envy is a thing among volunteers and many seriously think we spend our days at the beach and our nights drinking rum.  Sometimes that happens, most often we spend it trying to make some sense of how a country that by all outward appearances is rich and wonderful could be so impoverished and hard.

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You see when you come here as a tourist, you are limited by what the leaders want you to see.  They want you to take back stories of fun and fabulous times.  They do not want you to talk about crime rates, accidents or poverty, they wish you not to see any of that.  This is true for most tourist destinations.  You see only the fun and beauty, but you miss the poverty and struggles.  This is the single story that most people have of Jamaica.  It is where Bob Marley came from, Reggae, Rum and Ganga, beaches and beauty.  But Bob Marley could not have been such an icon without the struggles of crime, poverty and despair.  His music would not still haunt us to this day if he had no message to share.  The movie Cool Runnings, as silly as it is and hyped up Hollywood overdone, it still is a story of the great spirit of the Jamaican people.  To face such adversity and still get back up, only a people who have struggled their whole life could do that.

The diversity of the people here is similar to almost everywhere else.  You have rich, you have poor, you have a struggling middle class.   You also have criminals and scammers.  What you do not have is a single story.  You cannot say you know Jamaica if you come here and spend the entire time at the all-inclusive resort.  You meet Jamaicas, sure, but they are working and conforming to standards that are set forth for them.  It is a job for them to interact with you, not to get personal and share their true feelings.  They smile as though they are having a great time, but maybe they have a sick child back home and cannot wait to return their family.  They might agree with whatever you say, but deep down they know you have no idea what happens outside the walls of the resorts.  Even if you leave the resort it is typically by charter bus or taxi where you are taken to specific locations.  You will not be taken to the small school that has children who have not eaten since breakfast and will not likely eat until nearly bedtime when they get home.   They will not take you up into communities of captured land, where the electricity is tiefed from JPS and the cost is put back upon those who have legal electricity.  They do not take you into areas where scammer are polishing shiny new cars and looking for their next victim.  They do not show you how, much of Jamaica lives.

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You will not see domino games that go on into the wee hours of the night, often ending in a drunken brawl.  You will not see a dead yard (ded yaad) or meet a local family (yaadies).  You may see a few Jamaicans along the roadside bagging up trash and debris, but you will not stop and share a drink with them.  No you are going to be shown only what they want you as a tourist to see, what you came to see.  What you came to see is not really Jamaica, it is the brochure you bought when you purchased your tickets.  Not one place on this beautiful Earth will you ever see the real “” in a brochure.  You see what you want to see.  It keeps you coming back, because, hey you are on vacation and you paid to live in paradise for a week and forget about the worries of the world.  Sadly the worries of the world might be a direct result of you ability to forget about them.  How do you think you can find such a wondrous way to forget if not at a cost to someone/something else?  Do not kid yourself the cost is so much higher than any of us would ever want to pay.

The beaches in Jamaica are mostly pay beaches.  The spots on the river are starting to be the same.  This equates to pushing the poor away from their own inheritance of a beautiful sea and fresh water resting place.  Imagine if you had to pay $100 every time you wanted to relax with your family?  How do you feel now that you have to pay for day passes or a yearly pass to most state and federal parks in America?  I resent it.  That land is owned by us, why do we, the taxpayer have to pay?  The same is happening all over Jamaica and it is frustrating.

So now go back to your original thoughts on Jamaica, but add watching the catch from the fishermen coming in, cooking fresh fish on the beach on a Sunday morning, buying produce from the farmers at the market, buying callaloo from the Rasta peddling it from his back or bicycle.  Imagine instead of fruity drinks an icy cold Dragon Stout blended with some Foska Oats, peanuts and Supligen vanilla milk, this is called  Strong Back and if a man is drinking it run ladies run!   Imagine lazily floating down the river without a care in the world, looking at the canopy of fruiting trees overhead.

Imagine the back breaking work in the fields to bring in the harvest just to make enough money to pay the children’s school fees.  Imagine being a small child in an overcrowded, hot classroom that is not separated by actual walls but by chalk boards, imagine being the teachers trying to talk over the noise from the other classrooms.  Now imagine all of this hardship and struggle and you still having a smile on your face?  Why?  Because Jamaica, No problem, mon!  It is really hard to keep a Jamaican from enjoying the simple pleasures in life, because for many of them, it is the only pleasures they have ever known.

All the World is a Stage: Global Citizenship, understanding our roles.


This is part of 2017 #BloggingAbroad Blog Challenge.  For the next 10 weeks I will be given a blog prompt to inspire me to dig deep into my cultural experiences and find a way to best present the idea.  This is the first challenge the theme is Global Citizenship.

As a PCV I am in a unique position. I wanted to experience life outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to understand the struggles that others go through that I have never experiences. I wanted a greater understanding. I got a greater understanding. Not only of life outside of my comfort zone but of life in a completely different perspective.

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Global citizenship, to me, means to be able to see outside of your own life and understand outside perspectives. It is about letting go of your prejudices and finding a way to understand the struggles and joys of others. It is about understanding relationship and understanding yourself. Once you peel back the layers you are left bare and exposed. You are left uncomfortable, but this is where you grow. This is where a new way of seeing something happens. You have to peel back your history, your belief system and your prejudices and get to the core of what makes you, well, you. You have to know yourself, even to the most uncomfortable level. Once you get to that stage, then, and only then, can you begin to understand the perspectives of others.

Last night is a perfect example, please understand that I am trying to explain a very personal experience and my interpretation of the experience, because no matter what I do, I will never understand the struggle that are part of everyday life for a Woman of Color (WOC). I have spent enough time with my new host “mom” to be comfortable asking questions that might not be appropriate in any other situation. We have been walking almost daily since I moved in and we have deep discussions about things I am trying to understand. Sometimes my understanding is quite painfully incorrect, but it does not harm our relationship, which I am thankful for.

Back to last night….. My host mom was showing me how her hair got ripped out in the back because she had some braided extensions put in for the Holiday season. She actually hates that, she prefers her hair natural, but she tells me it took a long time to get there. You see there is big money to be made in WOC hair products. Straighteners, oils, extensions, wigs, you name it, the majority of WOC buy it. Why? Because since the time of slavery WOC were told that their hair was not beautiful, their skin was not beautiful their,,, whatever was not acceptable. (These are my host mom’s words and my understanding of this.) I get it, we see it all the time. The models that are WOC are often shown with long straightened hair or short straightened hair, or sometimes shaved bald, but almost never natural. Most stars are the same way, unless the show/movie is somehow mocking them. Back in the 70’s/early 80’s we have a few shows showing natural hair, but for the most part, in my lifetime, it has been hair made to look like white women hair. There I said it!

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I actually understand this personally as I have always been told my hair could only be done this way or that.  I have hated my hair until a few years ago, when I cut my hair the way I wanted it, I wore it the way I wanted it.  My host mom was talking about this last night and her daughter heard her and got upset. Twenty minutes later she came back and told me her daughter said she must apologize to me. We both agree that if we had not built up some form of a relationship this conversation would be totally inappropriate, but at this point it is not.

Why did I bring this up in a blog about Global Citizenship? Because it is vitally important, not the topic but the candid conversation and the expanded understanding. I understand now how it feels to be the minority, how it feels to be the “only”, how it feels to be stared upon all the time. It makes me ashamed of how I may have come across in the past. In fact a few months ago PCJ started a diversity and inclusivity group. One of the girls from my group that has been immersed in this program bared her feelings in one of the sessions. I suspected that I had at some point said something that she felt offended by, but she never said anything. I finally got the courage to just go up to her and apologize for anything I might have said that was offensive. I never meant to offend anyone, but my upbringing is pretty white-washed (lets be real about it). Her eyes got misty and she informed me that yes, in fact I had offended her. She then told me what I had said, and for the life of me I cannot even imagine what I had meant by the statement. I was offended by it when she told me what I had said. I told her that I was not even going to try to justify the statement, defend it or try to quantify it. It was offensive and I was so sorry, I wished she had not waited over a year to say something. She carried this pain for so long. She told me she appreciated my apology as it was sincere and that she is learning to voice herself when she is offended, this is actually why I am using WOC, she stated it was the preferred terminology and I appreciate knowing this instead of saying things that are offensive because they are accepted by society.

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Had either of these incidents occurred before I understood my mental model, well they just would not have occurred. I might have continued on in my life offending people and not even knowing it. I might have also not understood how someone in a minority feels had I not been in a minority myself. The first step in becoming a Global Citizen is to understand the “other”. Putting yourself into an uncomfortable situation to try to get a basic understanding of how other people feel is not the easiest thing to do. I used to pride myself in being color-blind and we white people like to put it, but in truth that is a lie we tell ourselves.

There is diversity and there are “others”, by trying to be color-blind we are denying those different from ourselves their own story. WE begin to weave their story into our own and never allow them to weave their own story. Or we silence their story for long enough, they forget they have a voice, we become the storyteller and the audience and they take the role of puppets. This is denying their very humanity, we do this so often we forget that there are no actual strings attached and that we are playing this opera in our own heads. Reality gets lost and then the truth is forgotten and then we lie to ourselves enough that we eventually forget they are human, too.

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Global citizenship requires us to cut those imagined strings, to let the opera play out, aloud and in full color. It requires us to be the audience and allow another to be the storyteller. It requires us to allow a full orchestra instead of a solo that silences everything else. It requires us to become part of the story within the story with others intertwining the stories into a beautiful art-piece to be appreciated for what it is, not what it could be. An orchestra of voices telling a multitude of stories all at the same time creates an amazing, wonderful novel to be cherished by all, with no solo performances, because the entire orchestra, the dancers and the audience must all be part of the story. The story is incomplete without all of us, this is what Global citizenship is.

Jamaican Proverbs; Cockroach no business in a fowl fight.


This the final of a series of blogs with #bloggingabroadblogchallenge.  Today’s prompt is Proverbs or sayings you hear around your community.  The saying I am focusing on is not heard around my community so much, but it has a deep meaning to me.  Focusing on the meaning and why it is very important I hope it will shed some light on things here.

http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge

Cockroach no business inna fowl fight, means do not involve yourselves in others quarrels that do not concern you.  Typically I would say this is great advice, but being me and having a focus on conflict resolution I am that cockroach in the fowl fight.  Every day when I work in the schools I see fights and break them up.  Just yesterday a grade 6 boy went after a grade 2 boy with a machete.  I had to intervene and send both back to class, I struggle with giving the kids tools to work the farm due to this kind of behavior.  Sadly the kids go through life without intervention and then become adults who solve all disputes with violence.

Here is the video

For me this cycle of violence is unacceptable.  Jamaica’s biggest murder motive is domestic violence.  By people minding their own business this will never change.  In America we have the same issues, but being one who suffered with an abusive partner and survived, I will never stand back and allow it to happen.  I always step up.  I cannot understand why good people sit back and watch it happen and not intervene.   Just the other day a video went viral of a man beating a woman on the bus, instead of stepping up people just recorded it?  Seriously wt actual f?

 

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth133707.html

The recent murders of American missionaries has rocked the island, and even more so in those communities where foreign aid workers live and work.  My community is scrambling to ensure me that I am safe and no harm will come to me.  Though I believe them, I still take no chances and focus on being extremely diligent as I go through my days.  I look forward to closure in this case and justice being found.

As I have so often mentioned Jamaica is a paradox of super-religious background and hyper-sexuality add in a good quantity of violence and apathy and you will understand why the Peace Corps is still here.  Jamaica has a need to find inner peace and non-violent conflict resolution.  I struggle daily with how to assist with such things.  In a normal every day conversation between community members, it often sounds as though it is escalating into violence, but it is not.   I am not saying violence runs amok here, it does not.  What I am saying is that violence is always in the undertow and it takes so little to bring it to the surface.  A man can have multiple women and cheat on his wife/lover, but if she leave him or cheat on him she will get her just rewards.  It is a very patriarchal society and that might be stemmed in the strong Christian base that it has.  I have long wondered if a pastor, Jamaican or otherwise, focused more on scriptures of love and forgiveness if this world would be far less violent?  Many wars are started rooted in religion and Christianity is the biggest offender in this.

So I wonder if we can stop pretending bad things do not happen around us and instead stand up and display our sense of justice and step up when needed?  I advise you to remember your personal safety, but if one man is beating a woman and there are 4 other men, step up.  Stand up in your faith, find your strength and face injustice with the anger it deserves.  Stop thinking you are a cockroach, you are the farmer and you can squash the violence, you have the power, will you use it?

Remember this is not just a Jamaica problem, this is a human problem.  We have the abilty to end it, we just have to choose to.  I pray that Jamaica finds her strength and that the people learn to stand up for justice and fight the violence with love and compassion, we all should learn this.

**Author’s note:  “This blog is written as a response to a blog prompt and since I do not hear many proverbs spoken, unless I use them, I found one that is fitting for the moment. Please do not think that I am scared to go anywhere here, or that it is dangerous all over, it is not.   Most often foreigners are not targeted for such violence, the missionaries are a unique case and most people I know cannot stop talking about jungle justice and how they hope the perpetrators are quickly caught, brought to justice and incarcerated.

Also note that I am currently working on a violence prevention and conflict resolution progam at the local school I work at.  I have been trying for months to make this happen and by month’s end I hope to see it come to fruition.  (If I did stay a third year this would hopefully be my focus, do not hold your breath, Jen!)

That one time in the market…..


Blog Challenge

This blog is part of the #Bloggingabroad Blog Challenge. Jamaica is such a paradox at times.  At least for me it is.  Growing up I was raised Christian and that meant sexual repression and fear of God and respecting elders.  In Jamaica almost none of this exists, yet almost every Jamaican will claim to be some sort of Christian or have faith in something, in this I am including the Rastafari, but this is not a religion, more of a spirituality.

In almost every community I have been in there are many churches, and there are just as many bars.  Most of the bars have a picture of a nearly naked woman on the exterior wall, I almost 99% guarantee you there are no women in there aside from the barkeep.  ***Special side-note, do not ever ever ever call a male behind the bar a bartender, it is like calling him out as a homosexual and this country for the vast majority is still either homophobic or just too religious to accept it. This can get you into a fight very rapidly.  In most of the markets you will find skimpy sexy and revealing clothes, some of which they may as well not even wear clothes.   There are sex clubs and pornography is readily available.  (I am not judging here, I think my growing up experience has just jaded my viewpoint, I would rather see open sexuality than repressed sexuality.  I just do not need to see all parts of it.)

So recently I was going into a shop and this man with a large wire hanger with small bags of white powder tied to it,  was walking through the parking lot.  His exact words evade me now, but it went something like this “Sale, keep your beautiful vagina nice and clean, you gotta keep your honey pot smelling nice, mon!  Tighten up with alum! Medically approved!”  My friend and I just looked at each other with a similar horrified expression.  My friend, a Jamaican woman looks at me and we both said “Like I am gonna put some powder up my ahem that I have no idea what it is or where it was made or who touched it?”  I was so glad I was not alone in this assessment.

no window no door mobile store

There is one sex toy shop in Ochi and it is tucked back in a plaza that you have to search for the store.  One time I was there with friends and we were ready to check out, and if you have ever gone into one of these shops the people in the shop will take out products for display and allow you to touch them and to turn them on and such.  They will even explain how to use something if you are confused by it.  To be honest I have mad respect for a sex shop worker, they have to know about all kinds of things most of us do not really want to think about, and they have to discuss it without laughing or blushing.

small apple banana

As we were at the register and we had touched and turned on much of the store’s inventory, a man opens the door barely steps in and says: “Mi ave banana for sale, $100 a finger, $30o a hand.”  He just acted like it was an everyday occurrence to offer ladies in a sex shop bananas.  We however lost it!  We laughed all the way home and to top it off, one lady looked right at him and said: “We are way past the hand at this point!”  I have never laughed or been so uncomfortable in all my life.  To the men here sex is to be explored and discussed and acted upon.  To the women some are very pious and some are open about everything.

bananas

I was at a local bar one night with some friend, 2 men and a lady.  The lady leaned over and asked the girl behind the bar if she was interested in a three-some.  I was completely floored that this would be discussed in such a manner.  The girl behind the bar had a long discussion with my friends and at that point I decided it was time for me to excuse myself.

I am not a prude.  I believe in open sexuality and I love the diversity that this brings.  However, I am still quite often shocked by the attitude of the younger generation about sex.  Coming from a very strict religious background this paradox almost always knocks the wind out of my sails and shocks me.

I am unable to get pictures in the market for a few reasons.  It can be awkward to ask permission to take a photo, some people want you to pay for the photo, and to get candid moments is impossible.  Also my biggest reason is to not show off that I have anything of value on me, I do not want to be a target for a pickpocket, therefore I keep my technology hidden if I am in a crowded place.

 

Travelling, it’s the little things…..


http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge

This blog is part of a series for the Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge. This blog is going to focus on details. Since my last blog was on money and I focused on travel I am going to stick with the theme of travel.

In Jamaica there are many modes of transit:
• Walking
• Biking
• Route Taxi
• Personal vehicle
• Commercial vehicle
• Hackey or Charter Taxi
• Robot or White Plate Taxi
• Route Buses
• JUTC Buses
• Tourist Buses
• Fishing Vessels
• Pleasure Vessels
• Donkey Carts
• Horses
• School Buses
• Coasters and mini buses
The list is long and I am going to describe some of these forms of travel. By far my favorite is walking or biking for short distances. I refuse to pay a small fee for travel I walk or bike to. In the larger cities there are JUTC buses and these are much like city buses world-wide. They are large, they have comfortable seating and they usually have AC on. These buses cost between $100-$150 JD (Jamaican Dollar is equal to ~$119 USD) depending on the distance you plan to travel. These buses run on a route and are typically on a schedule. This is the only form of transit I have found to be on a schedule.

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My bike lives in my dining room.

The tourist buses can cost steep money. I have heard a bus from Falmouth to Ochi is about $80 USD. I have never used these because the cost is prohibitive when I can get to the same distance for $500 JD. Richard learned the benefit of local travel this last month. I do want to mention one other form of travel here, the Nutsford Express. This is also a route bus on a schedule that cost between $2000-$3500 JD. These buses run all across the island and they have comfortable seats with AC and free WIFI. These buses are used by persons trying to get to a flight on time without staying overnight at a hotel. Again I have not ridden these, but I hear they are nice.

Route Taxis are a set fare and you ride packed in. For me a route taxi will cost $130 JD to get to my community $250 to drop at my doorstep. Route taxis will deviate from the route for extra money. This is convenient when you have much to carry. I do want to note that most grocery stores will send a young man with a cart to the taxi park to carry excessive groceries for you. A tip is generally expected but there is no extra charge for this. If you get to a taxi that has room for one more you consider yourself lucky to not have to wait for the taxi to fill up. You see a taxi driver does not want to carry less than 5 persons up the hill to make it worth his time. Yesterday I was first to get to the taxi and I was lucky to get the front seat. My driver took off about 5 minutes after I got in, there were no other passengers and I began to worry that he thought it was a charter. My worries ended when at the hill bottom he picked up a single woman and a man with a baby. We rode up and dropped them off and I realized this man was getting a charter of goods to carry up in the community and that is why he left when he did. The three passengers were just a bonus for him. A normal taxi ride consists of 4 persons smashed into the back seat, if there are kids there are more since the kids here do not count as fare or a person. If they know there is not police check-point they will put 2 persons in the front seat. The idea of a seat-belt is silly at this point. I once watched the driver of a coaster bus put on and take off his seat-belt 6 times in the span on 20 minutes due to police check-points. I found this oddly amusing. Technically seat-belts are required for children under 18 but I have never seen a taxi with children buckled up. If you see a woman with a child you do not offer her the front seat. This is the one safety precaution they do take, no children in the front seat unsecured. I do believe this would give them a huge fine.

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This often how a large group will travel.

A route bus can either be a coaster or a mini-bus. A mini-bus is a van with 4 rows of seats in the back. I read the maximum capacity on my bus yesterday was 12, we had 20 in that bus! The back seats have a 2 person seat with an aisle and a single person seat. They will put a board or a hand fashioned seat in the aisle and put 5 across if they can. I felt lucky yesterday we only had 4 across. The front seat will have at least 2 facing the front and sometimes they have a 3rd person facing the rear. As dangerous as this sounds once the bus gets going you all pretty much settle in and it is packed enough that no one is being thrown forward much.

 

A coaster bus is a lot bigger. It has a higher capacity and most seats have a jump-seat attached to it. These are often put down on a support to strengthen it and they put 5-6 across depending upon size of people. The hardest part of travel is that people often set themselves in the back and want off early in the ride. This requires those in the front to get out to let them out and readjust ourselves. It is like playing tetris with people!

A charter taxi is a taxi that you pay a steeper price for and you are the only one in the taxi. It is not picking up random people along the way. The best example are the airport taxis. You pay $20-30 USD to get to and from the taxi. Then later I discovered that the JUTC bus goes right there, if only my flights had not be too early or too late for the buses I could have save so much money.

A robot taxi or a white plate is an individual who is simply offering rides. The rates of the ride varies since they are not approved by the transit authority. I only use these late at night or when there are no red plates available. At night when the bus park is closed it is hard to find a taxi and after an hour of waiting you take whatever is going in your direction.

Most of the time there will be 2-3 different music playing on the bus. The driver has his own station or cd and then someone might have their cell phone on without headphones. For some reason this is accepted and no one ever tells them to turn it off. Often times people will be singing along and I have been tormented with hours and hours of Kenny Rogers on repeat. I miss my iPod! One thing you will learn here is that a DJ never plays a song all the way through and they always talk over the song. They love to play a section of a song on repeat over and over again and again. I tend to only listen when in transit. At home I listen to my very large and very diverse selection of music. Thank you Richard for gifting me your old iPhone so I can at least have some of my own music with me. It is greatly appreciated.

Transportation in Liberia and in Cuba is much like this as well. You pile as many into the vehicle as possible to ensure you make a profit over the gas. Instead of raising prices you raise the load. To us Americans this might seem crazy but to much of the rest of the world it is just a fact of life.