Fall Comfort Salad

I wish I had taken step by step pictures, I am sorry, I will try to remember next time.  Actually it had not occurred to me to even share a recipe until I sat down to lunch and my partner, who had sausage and tater tots cooked in bacon grease, said oh wow that salad looks really tasty.  I knew I had to share if his bacon fat drenched tater tots left him with food envy!

Early this morning I prepared a miso dressing.  It is basically the following ingredients, shaken hard until mixed in a small jar.

Miso paste, about 2 tbs

Rice Wine Vinegar about 3tbs

Soy sauce 1tsp, do not overpower the miso.

minced garlic, 2 cloves (for good measure)

Olive oil infused with ghost peppers, did not smell so spicy but it has a kick.  Olive oil to Rice wine Vinegar= 1/3  Always use more acid than oil.

As you shake this you will sometimes notice it gets pasty and thick like peanut butter.  No worries, just add  a little more vinegar and oil, ensuring that the vinegar is at a 3:1 concentration to oil.

*You can use regular olive oil or even sesame oil if you do not like spice.


I left that to marinate together for several hours.

I took a frozen piece of Nice crusty bread.  Any kind of glutenin  (chewy) bread works.  Sorry if you are intolerant I do not think gluten-free bread makes as good of croutons, but you can try.  I grilled it in a pan with some browned butter and cut it up as it defrosted to crisp it up.  I laid out a bet of greens and then got good and fancy!!


Step one spiral slice carrots, I used the purple ones with the orange center.  They are just pretty to look at.


I chopped some celery, and sliced some cucumbers and then took scissors and cut a scallion up.  Yeah like paper cutting scissors my favorite kitchen tool these days.

I then plated up a nice bed of baby greens with plenty of spinach.  I tossed the celery and scallions randomly, but placed the carrot ribbons and cucumbers strategically.  I then added the croutons.  I also added some spicy almonds and cranberries.  The final ingredient was supposed to be millet, but I accidentally pulled couscous out of the freezer.  I heated it up quick in a pan on the stove, I do not own a microwave so when I heat stuff up it is stove top or oven reheat.


The final touch was to drizzle the miso dressing over the salad and toss some Himalayan Pink Salt in a crystalline form.  If you have never used salt for texture, you are missing out!


Fun Food Friday: Jamaican Meats

I love having a cook on campus.  She gives me the opportunity to get some basic ideas of how Jamaicans cook up their meat.  This week was no exception.


We had a meeting this week and lunch was provided by the lab.  On Tuesday Ms. Precious and Ms. Junie were busy cooking and baking.  The coffee break was amazing, I got to sample some oatmeal cookies and sweet potato pudding.  Both were spot on!   I snuck back into the kitchen to see what gwaan for lunch!  They were frying and breading fish, frying some chicken and cooking up a roast.  Big tings gwaan!


I wanted to focus on the chicken today.  After defrosting and quartering it, they allow it to marinate in some herbs and spices for awhile, I believe this particular one was overnight.  The herbs consist of a blend from Maggi, some fresh thyme, salt and pepper.  Once she is ready, Ms. P pours a little bowl of milk and some seasoned flour for breading.  Now the fun, read mess, begins.  In  a large dutchie (a large aluminum pot with a lid) heat a lot of oil up.  Enough to cover a goo portion of the chicken as it cooks up.  Dip a piece of chicken in the milk and then dredge through the flour.  Drop it into the hot oil and add a few more pieces at a time.  Cover and let cook for awhile then turn meats over.  Cook until the meat is cooked through.  When making a large batch for a big crowd you can put it into a pan and cover with foil and bake to finish in the oven.   This is a very simple way to get a nice crisp but tasty chicken skin and moist chicken.

Fun Food Friday: Jerk Chicken!

There is nothing more Jamaican in food than Jerk Chicken.  It is iconic and from what I hear delicious.  As a vegetarian I had to go in search of the means to get photos and how to make it!  Which I did. The lab cook, Ms. Precious, as she is called, and Ms. Junie obliged my request to watch them make this.  We have  a group of University students from New York here and this worked perfectly into the time line.


First thing is to thaw chicken if it is frozen, quarter it and then season it.  There are a multitude of ways to do this, depending on your taste and style.  Ms. Precious used a pre-made sauce from Walker’s Wood, ST. ANN.  She poured it into the pan and slipped all the chicken into the pan.  Mixing it a bit before Ms. Junie blended up the scallion, onion and garlic into a paste.  Next they add in the Maggi seasoning and mix it all together and then the chicken sits covered for several hours before cooking.

Most people think that the seasoning is what makes it Jerk.  That is not entirely the case.  True Jerk is dependent on cooking over an open flame, preferably ignited pimento wood coal.  This usually happens either in a BBQ made from a metal drum on the side, or from car rims, literally, on a stand.  I have even seen old bed springs used to grill the meat.  Jamaicans are very versatile like that!  It is not truly jerk if it has not been cooked over an open fire.

Typically the jerk seasoning will consist of the following ingredients to some degree:  garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, ground pimento (allspice), scallion, onion, sugar, thyme, salt and black pepper.  Other spices can be added: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger.  These ingredients are all mixed in with oil and any of the following liquids or all of them: soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice,  and white vinegar. The final step is to blend this into a paste.   See the actual recipe here.

As the coals start to get white, this is when the meat is applied to the grill.  This can take awhile to cook as the meat is quite thick.  Chickens here look very different from chicken back home.  It tends to be meatier and thicker skinned.  The meat will be turned and brushed with the leftover marinade several times over the grilling process.  A surprise to me though, was that Ms. Precious sprayed the chicken with Red Stripe beer as it was cooking, it adds a little bit of flavor, keeps the coals moist but also keeps the chicken quite moist.

In the end, almost any meat eater loves this.  Even some of us vegetarians love the smell of the Jerk pan.  I know I do, but mostly I smell the coal and the spices, not really the meats!

Fun Food Friday: Akee!

Akee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s National Dish.  It is quite interesting that Akee is not originally native to the island, it was likely brought over by slaves.  Akee is considered a national pride and everyone who visits should at least try this dish.  Saltfish is also not from Jamaica, but rather dried and salt preserved cod shipped over from England.  To add saltfish you must first soak it, best if done overnight, but you can speed it up by boiling some of the salt out as well.  You will notices the texture remains rather stiff  and chewy but flakes well.  You should understand that there may be a few bones in your dish, as the it is hard to remove all of them.

Since I do not eat meat if I can help it and I most certainly am not a fan of saltfish, I cook my akee differently.  I also skip the process of boiling it first, as that makes it more watery and I like it a bit more solid.  Akee is actually poisonous until it naturally pops the pod open.  You must know who you buy your akee from, because people will “tief” it before it is ready, force it open and then sell it to persons on the street.  Anytime you hear of a large number of akee poisonings, you can almost bet they bought it on the street.


Nutritiously akee is much like avocado, mostly fats.  It is also a similar consistency to scrambled eggs.  If you get it from an Ital shop, which is how the Rastas would eat it, you will not have any additional oil or salt on it.  You also will  not find saltfish in it if you get it from an Ital shop.


The Akee must first be carefully removed from the pod.  Then you must cut the flower and seed out.  This takes time and sometimes you lose some of the akee, but it is better to remove all of the flower and seed than risk eating them as these are the parts which still carry poison in them.   If you are not familiar with how to cook it, let a Jamaican show you first.  Better safe than dead!

I do not cook Ital, I use salt and oil!  I start off with some coconut oil and saute down some onion and hot pepper.  I like to slice my pepper with a pair of scissors to get a nice fine sliver or two, not too much as it is hot!  I will also use scissors to slice my garlic into the pan, and if I am using scallion I cut it with scissors as well.  I love my scissors!  As soon as the onion starts to brown up I toss in the akee and sweet peppers.  I continually stir making sure it does not stick.  I then add some seasoning, be it salt and pepper or a blend of herbs or both.  To serve with the akee I sometimes steam up some cabbage or make callaloo.  Bread fruit is also good with the akee.  Roast breadfruit is so good and super nutritious.


In this dish I sauteed up sweet pepper, hot pepper, onion, garlic, akee and tomato and served it with Steamed cabbage, which I will share in a future blog!

The rain finally falls

In a drought prone area there is much cause for celebration when the rains finally fall.  Since October we have supposedly been in the rainy season.  Though the air is much cooler, the rain has not fallen much.  It is essential for the survival of the next years crops that the rain sufficiently fall.  In some ways the farmer’s are much more aware of the climate change than the regular people.  As a general rule farmers are directly affected by climate and the changes occurring can reek havoc on their planting/harvesting schedule.


Farmers will talk about how the trees no longer call the rain.  There are some who think farmers are not very educated, but in reality there is truth to this statement.  Due to a chemical process called evaporations and transpiration water is released from the trees and other plants back into the air, which in turns creates air moisture, when enough of this builds up in the atmosphere and the temperature is right rain falls.  Sadly trees do the majority of this job and they have been over harvested and take a very long time to hit maturity which will increase the rainfall.  In areas of great drought you can see the direct effects of massive deforestation.

As a child I grew up in a logging town.  I do not often talk about this, mostly because I am ashamed of it.  I am ashamed of the mental model I was forced to hold dear for  so long.  I am ashamed of the ignorance that I was forced to perpetuate even when I saw the dangers.  I am ashamed that my growing up years were spent trying to adapt instead of personal growth because financially adapting was the only path to survival, or was it?  I saw the dangers of deforestation.  Right in my own backyard, we had a pond when we first moved out there.  I remember that first winter the pond was frozen over and we used it to “skate” that winter.    Over the years we had cows and logged some of the property, as did the neighbors.  What I noticed was the pond was shrinking.  I could physically see it and it concerned me.  As a child I collected frog and salamander eggs to chart and graph the growth rates.  (Yes I was  a dork and had limited friends and limited access of escape from home.)  Over the years, I noted that the eggs were not so easy to find.  As the water receded there was less and less available space for the new embryos to grow and thrive.

Eventually the water completely receded.  It went underground.  Essentially due to the cows and the logging that went on in the raparian zones the  grasses and reeds grew up over the water and it eventually seeped under the ground.  The temperature also rose in that area, you could see the change in wildlife, and the ground still muddy and wet was much firmer than it had been a decade before.  My family is probably not completely to blame but we certainly did not mitigate or preserve our resources appropriately.  Growing up in a wet area we had a distaste for marshes, swamps and bogs.  Our goal was to get rid of them, when what we should have done is try to understand their essential purpose.

A Walmart went up in a nearby town.  (I hate Walmart and all it stands for, but this is not what I want to point out here!)  To build it they had to “build-up” the wetlands in the area.  For months rock and gravel and sand was brought in to build up this area.  Two years after the Walmart was opened the worst flood to ever occur in that area happened.  Right near that Walmart the highway actually flooded over and had to shut down.  In fact there was not getting in or out to the north for almost a week in 1996.  They called it a 100 year flood, but an amazing thing happened and another 100 year flood occurred a few years later.  (100 year floods are supposed to be so  incredibly bad that they only actually happen every 100 years of so.)

What I am ashamed of is refusing to see reality in this case.  Defending a way of life that is so damaging that it might destroy us all.  I am ashamed that I refused to speak up, until it was too late.  People complained about environmental regulations and how it ruined jobs and destroyed entire communities.  The reality is you destroyed your own livelihoods and communities by not planning on and seeing the dark side of environmental destruction and lack of planning.  You did not see mitigation as a viable course of action.  Instead of strip logging, you could have logged sections and replanted leaving a large portion of forested areas in tact, but no you would rather cash that pay check.  Greed is the enemy, not the animals or the people who want to save the environments. Unmitigated greed is what the Bible was referring to when it said “for the love of money is the greatest sin!”  Since I grew up in a religious background my shame is directly related to the Christian religion in a general form.

When you preach about God and love and forgiveness and sin you pick and choose those subjects you want to pander to.  Instead of focusing on greed there is a focus on homosexuality and sin.  Instead of focusing on stewardship there is a focus on tithes.  Instead of focusing on loving our neighbors there is a focus on the sins of our neighbors.  I can look back and see how this is directly related to bad environmental practices.  Instead of being good stewards of the land understanding that resources are finite or that there is a limit to how long you can rape the land, instead there is a  focus on the perception of being a good Christian.  The fact that there is no direct correlation should have a God, if there is one, smashing us down with bolts of thunder and plundering us into eternal damnation based solely on our inability to recognize our own shortcomings.  But alas, this blog is not about the lack of environmental action on Christians, and pardon me if you fall outside of the spectrum I painted here, this is solely based on my experience growing up and my understanding and resentment of my childhood beliefs. So by all means if you are a Christian and this is not how you believe, then this is not about you but about me and my belief system and I apologize if it felt like an attack.

Back to my farmers.  Farmers are directly affected by climate change and they can see the changes in the seasons.  Most are very concerned and fear the changes are going to be more and more drastic as the years go by.  They are not far from the truth.  As I look around my beautiful adopted home country, I see the light and darkness of all that I know.  I see the plastic in the oceans and rivers, I see the random destruction of land for progress and I see the financial affects of the environmental destruction, but mostly I see a struggle to get access to water for longer and longer segments of the year.  How do we turn back the clock?  How do we reverse the damage?

First off, we cannot.  Secondly we need to take a deeper look and realize that Jamaica follows the “first World countries” in style and mind-set.  They cannot help it, they are so directly affected by them.  Jamaicans have said to me when America sneeze, Jamaica catch cold.  Not only does our economy directly reflect in theirs, our poor choices are also directly reflected in attitudes on the island.

Let me just give you an example of a day in the life of a typical Jamaican, doesn’t matter the job, just how life goes on.  You get up and if you have a job that requires a uniform you get up and press that uniform and put it on.  You get ready, ladies use make up and many styling products including hair weaves.  Going natural is hit or miss here.  Some do, some don’t, but most are very aware of their hair, not unlike women in most of the world.  You then catch a taxi, which may take some time.  If you have kids you get them off to school or to a person to get them to school on time first.  A taxi may be quick or it may take time to catch one. It all depends on how many taxis are running, how early they get going and how many persons are waiting for taxis.  Once you get to work, you might stop at a cook shop or a street vendor for a porridge in a styrofoam cup, or you might run into a patty shop to get a patty for breakfast.  Breakfast is often on the go.  Life can be hectic when you are totally dependent on taxi services.   At lunch time you might run to a fast food restaurant, BK and KFC are huge here, of you might find  a cook shop and get an inexpensive lunch served in a styrofoam box with a plastic fork, do not forget your soda bottle with a straw.  Then at the end of the day you head back, hoping it does not take so long to get a taxi home.  If the day has been long and tiring you might stop at a  local cook shop for a box dinner to go.  You could also skip dinner, or have  bun and cheese.  Mostly the day is over and time for relaxation or church.

reused foil to roast breadfruit inside

For those who do not have a steady job, the day likely consists of trying to get an odd job to buy a box lunch and a bottle of beer, or playing the cashpot.  In all of these situations the results are the same.  The food is served in a disposable way.  There is much trash produced and then it might go in a trash bin or just on the ground.  Sadly the bins have their own issues.  The dogs often break into the bins and strew trash around.  It is not always the people tossing things along the roadside.  If the garbage truck has not come in some time, then people will burn the trash.  They might do so even if the truck does come regular.  One thing Jamaicans love to do is burn things.  Be wary of getting pre-roasted breadfruit, they might have roasted it on a fire burning styrofoam and plastics!  So what does this have to do with rain?  Welllll………..

recycled bottle herb terrerium

With all the food container waste around when the rain falls guess what happens to that which is not picked up?  You might find it in the river at the bottom of the gully or in the Ocean, where it will all eventually end up.  Why is this an issue, it gets cleaned up this way, right?  Well not so much.  It ends up in the rivers, where local tourism can be affected.  No one wants to swim in a river full of trash.  It also can kill off the local animals, they can eat it or it can create a chemical hazard to the local flora and fauna.  What about the ocean?  Well again tourism is affected, but more than that, there is an island of garbage that is huge in the ocean.  There is a prediction that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, in a culture that is dependent on fish this is concerning.

reuse styrofoam

What does all this have to do with the rainfall?  There is a direct correlation to rainfall and pollution.  First off let us just consider the burning of the trash.  This releases toxins in the air.  This causes air pollution and eventually it will affect the rainfall.  You may still get rain, but it will be toxic rain and do much more damage to the earth than the lack of rain does.   The plastics in the ocean limit the accessibility to the water.  When evaporation occurs water is released into the air. With trash in the ocean the bio-avialabilty of the water as it evaporates is inherently limited.  It is akin to sitting inside of a terrarium.  The water is trapped by the non-permeable substances at the surface and then returned to the lower sections.  The danger here is the toxins that can and are within the plastics.  We as a society have known for some time that most plastics are harmful.  The fact that they may have contained dangerous chemicals only increases the harm.  Plastics typically over time leach out things like phthalates.  So for me living here is very hard.  It weighs on my soul about the amount of plastics and styrofoam I use.  I try to limit my to go eating and I try to only buy fresh foods.  I do look for things packaged in glass containers and will be more likely to buy those items, sadly there are not so many of those around, shipping costs may have something to do with their usage.  I miss my co-op with refills on things like laundry and dish soap, shampoo, conditioners and lotions. Food items like maple syrup, vinegars, oils and various dried goods are much more economical and better for the environment.  I loved that here we could carry any ole container down to the local shops and purchase things like rum or vegetable oils for a much lower price.  Sadly these are items I do not purchase so readily, if they had coconut oil I would be in heaven!

reuse tp rolls

So my goals here are to try to showcase a way to reuse the plastics and styrofoam and help mitigate the droughts that have been plaguing the area, by coming up with drought resistant farming ideas, so if you have any ideas please let me know!  When the rain comes I spend a lot of time thinking of projects and ideas to come up with since most Jamaicans will not be out and about in the rain.

Staying Healthy on a Peace Corps Budget

So I am not the healthiest person in the World.  I am very aware of my health and I do what I can to reverse terrible decisions made in my younger years!  I am overweight, I have stiff knees but fortunately I do not have any diet related illnesses, thanks be for that!  My family has a high percentage of adult onset diabetes and I have no desire to ever get there.

In the beginning of your service you have little control over your diet as you are introduced to the cuisine in your newly native land.  This often plays havoc on your healthy, newly discovered bowel and stomach disorders, high amounts of salt, sugar, fats or carbs that you are not used to can add or drop pounds depending.  Once you get to your site, you can begin to take over your diet once again.  For me being a vegetarian in Jamaica was quite a challenge in the beginning.  Here they assume you eat fish if you say you are a vegetarian.  They also think eggs are eating chicken, which I have had to continually explain to people.

Once you get used to the new cuisine and the available food items then your challenge is to figure out how to budget yourself and maintain a healthy diet.  In Jamaica the local diet is quite carb heavy.  In the past 5 months I have dropped about 33 pounds simply by limiting my carbs initially.  I also cut back on my alcohol consumption, I really must emphasize this is a huge cut into your budget here.  Cutting it out means the difference between eating and not eating sometimes.  I refuse to live on ramen and mac and cheese for my service.

There is more to keeping healthy than just your diet.  You need to keep active and take time out for you as well.  Remember Peace Corps is a 27/7 job so escaping once in awhile is allowed.  I embrace journaling, blogging, drawing and calligraphy as active forms of escape.  I also enjoy a puzzle, movies, podcasts, listening to music and reading (my Kindle is my sanity device at times).  I have just discovered adult coloring books and they are fantastic.


Physical activity might include running, walking, yoga, bootcamp style dvd’s.  The list can be endless, but remember you have to pack some of this.  I can tell you here in Jamaica I can get and have bought many items, they tend to be quite expensive though.  I bought 2 small 2 lb dumbbells for my shoulder workouts.  I also purchased a bicycle for traveling, and I am finally able to bike almost all the way up the hill home.  (A very proud moment when I finally am able to do this!)  I bought a pair of Tennis Rackets that I have used a couple of times.  I did bring a yoga mat and resistance bands with me.  I use the yoga mat daily to do a sun salutation and a moon salutation along with a series of strength training sessions.   I am now using an old tire as weight and balance for my squats and certain lunges.  It is also used to  get a quick cardio on days I cannot walk due to shortage in time or rain.  I have been walking about 2.5 miles daily and it really helps.  Oh do not forget a tracker!  Those cannot be bought here, they can be mailed to you.  I have had two and a third one on the way, since I am so hard on them, please note, do NOT swim with one in the ocean!  And my favorite exercise equipment is my therapy/balance ball.  I like to sit on it when watching movies, doing puzzles or working on my laptop. (I do not recommend it for eating, you tend to spill much more.)

Workout Center!

I must confess, I love to cook and even more I love to shop for food.  Sadly I often have food go bad because I simply cannot eat it fast enough.  This month I have really tried to only buy what I can consume and limit my trips to the grocery store.  I am focusing on buying from local farmers and the local markets.  I am finding three very important things this way.   First I am putting back into local people’s pockets.  Secondly I am saving money by purchasing what is currently in season.  Third and finally, I am not brining home fruits and vegetables wrapped up on styrofoam plates.  I really hate those things!  I know where my food is coming from, I know how it was grown and I am aware of growing seasons and what is imported and what is local this way.    Major bonus is that I am finding I have a little money left over this month.  I hope to eventually find a balance and begin paying for my phone and internet with my local budget instead of my US cards.

It helps to find balance and grounding.  Once a month we are given a 48 hour leave to do as we want.  I have not used this much.  I have just not found a need to escape so much, maybe because I try to stay grounded and I do have a few ex-pats living in the area that I work with on community action projects.  I am also a huge advocate for rituals.  I have specific sequence of things that have to happen for my day to be good.  If things are not right it throws my day into  chaos.

In the morning I have added this hour long walk with Tressa at 6:30, this means I had to adjust my day to start at 5:30 in the morning.  I get up brush my teeth and hair, wash my face and get dressed in comfortable walking clothes. I do a quick yoga sun salutation.  I then grind my coffee beans by hand, I have a serious coffee ritual!  As I grind the beans I boil the water in an electric kettle.  I then proceed to French press my coffee and while it steeps I sometimes drink a cup of hot lemon water with cinnamon and clove.  I also pack my small bag with a face wiping rag, water and chapstick.  I spray myself with bug spray, I refuse to get the Chick V or the Zik V!  After all this I grab a cup of coffee in my fabulous to go cup, and I suggest not only do you bring a water bottle with you, you should definitely invest in a nice to go cup especially if you enjoy coffee or tea!  I then head out the door with my fitbit, which may or may not currently be working, and a timer just in case it is not.  (I am a little overly obsessed with active minutes and step counting, there are worse obsessions trust me!)

After my walk, I may join Tressa at her home for breakfast and coffee to discuss current projects we are working on, or if I already have a busy day I will leave her and head back home to get ready for my day.  I try to only have one day a week that is not occupied.  Some days my work is in the evening, other days it is morning/afternoon.  If I am going to be out through lunch I try to pack and carry my lunch as I find it difficult to find inexpensive nutritious food on the road.

My evenings when I do not have a project will include dinner making and clean up along with some kind of relaxing activity, unless there is something going on in the community that I should attend, such as a dead yard (ded yaad).  I tend to spend my evenings home sipping tea and watching movies, listening to music or any combination of activities to help wind down.  I try to meditate before bed along with my moon salutation.

And this is what I do to stay healthy and grounded when so far from everything I know.  It might sound as though there is no time to get any work done, but trust me there is!  I have something going on almost daily.

Learning to live like a Jamaican, cultural similarities.

Life in my site is not that different from life in America.  I can get cheese, wine and yogurt just like at home.  Although, I pay a premium price for these items!  Many people own cars here, but many more do not, or a family has one vehicle so a taxi is utilized often.  Ahh the taxi, the first glaring difference from America.  Taxis sit and wait in Ochi to fill up.  That means 4 people in the back seat and one in the front, sometimes two if they think they can get away with it.  The ride is not exactly comfortable but it is not awful unless they fill the taxi up with pickney!  Pickney are children and they will stuff them in tight.  Unlike America where each child has a special car seat, Jamaicans will just smash them up together, the idea is more is safer.  You do not move as much if you are packed in like sardines!

Buses are way worse than a taxi.  You sometimes have to wait for almost an hour for a bus to fill up enough for the driver to consider leaving.  I would rather take a taxi just to ensure it leaves sooner.  The fare for both taxi and bus are similar.   These are decided by the route drivers and should be set in stone.  If a driver try to tell you wrong price and the bus/taxi full most people will call him a teif!  They will accuse him of stealing, so they typically charge correct prices.


Most Jamaicans have electricity and at least water tanks in their homes.  Hot water tanks are a luxury.  Most have a fridge and some form of running water if they can get water.  I still turn the water off to soap up, shampoo and shave.  I actually run a bowl of water before my shower to shave with.  I wet up and wet my soap.  I then turn off the water and soap up and shave.  When I wash my hair the same procedure.  Since we are in a drought it makes no sense to allow the water to run down the drain if you are not using it.  Sadly most Jamaicans that have no water shortage do not do this.  In fact my host family washes cars almost daily.

Unless you own a car there is always a walk to catch a taxi.  They are not always easy to catch leaving the area, but easy enough to get one in Ochi.  Most of the people walk quite a distance to catch a taxi.  In certain areas it can be difficult to find one, often they will be full before they reach your area.  I have learned that it is easier to go to the crossroads than it is to go to the head of the scheme.  I was very spoiled in the beginning when Tressa carried me all over the place.  I now see how much more troublesome traveling can be if you have to rely on public transit.  Unlike Seattle where I just pay one fare and the transfer is good for 90 minutes and most trips do not take hours, here I have to pay multiple fares.  Just to find my way around.  I bought a bicycle to avoid paying all the fares to do the work around my community.  It has helped when the bicycle is not broken!  I did the same thing in America, I would rather bike than pay bus fare, it is a source of hardship for me.

With so much walking to access taxis you would think Jamaicans have great health, this is so far from reality.  Jamaicans suffer from the same diet related diseases Americans do.  Much of a Jamaican diet is canned or boxed.  The rest is carbcentric.  It is not uncommon for a meal to consist of a whole irish potato, a hunk of yellow yam, a boiled banana and dumplings.  There might even be a huge pile of rice on the plate.  Most Jamaicans see vegetables as a little serving of sliced cabbage and carrot or a breakfast of callaloo, which is a type of Amaranth green.  They chop it up fine and steam it with onions and sweet peppers.  This is often the only vegetable served in a day.  If they make a pot of soup it will have okra and scallion and hot pepper sometimes carrots.  Fruit is often juiced so the fiber content is lost.  I have noticed that Jamaican drink cans of Ensure like it is the greatest thing on Earth.  I am guilty of taking a multi-vitamin just to ensure my B-12s are up to level, but I like to eat real food.  I love a good salad, some kale with mushrooms or eggplant and zucchini cooked up onto a pasta sauce.

veg meat

I am fortunate that I live outside of Ochi, where I can get all these things, sometimes the price is very steep, but I have access.  I have learned to enjoy callaloo and okra, I also have found that breadfruit is amazing.  Breadfruit is a major carb so I tend to eat it with my greens and keep my consumption to a reasonable amount.  My host family thinks I might not like it, but I just simply am not going to eat a whole one in one sitting, or two or four.  Depending on size a single breadfruit is about 8-15 carb servings.  I also love cabbage and pok chow (Bok choy).  I eat all kinds of thing probably not on a typical Jamaican diet, but as a vegetarian I am limited.  If I do not want to woof down an entire meal of carbs, I have to be creative.  I do like the vegetarian meat option they have here.  They have dehydrated things called vege chunks that resemble dog food, but once it is cooked it is not so bad.  I can get any Morning Star product, but prefer the Jamaican products because they are way cheaper.  The secret is to not consume large quantities of them.  I have managed to lose over 30 lbs in the last few months.  I still have more to lose but I am feeling pretty good about that.

Unless there is a party or a dead yard most Jamaicans go home in the evening and just relax.  This is something I do as well.  Sometimes I go to the ball field to watch the young men play soccer, but more often than not I come home make my dinner and put on a movie or read a book.  Sometimes I can get a rousing game of dominoes going with my family at night.  That is always fun.  I will start having game nights with the children, I have UNO and basic cards and Yahtzee along with Dominoes.  Dominoes is the Jamaican past-time.  Beware and keep your hands off the table when playing with Jamaicans!  They tend to slam the tiles down on the table and often I am confused by the rules.  I do win sometimes and since I am not competitive I am ok with losing, but many are not.  Be cautious Jamaican men can be sore losers, especially if there is money on a game.

Just like back home, I kind of fall into a routine here.  Unless there is something going on, I tend to stick around home.  I chat with the neighbors and if I go into the community I chat with the locals.  I tend to avoid certain types of people, mostly young men who are persistent in asking me to marry them.  I simply tell them that I have no time for their non-sense.  This typically ends the encounter.  Just like America there are local watering holes, unlike America typically the only women in them are behind the counter.  It makes it difficult to just start-up a conversation.  Again I avoid these kinds of encounters.

Life here is similar yet very different from America.  The similarities are how the people here live.  They live in homes, most have electricity and running water.   Most have toilet facilities indoors, many have jobs to pay the bills.  The similarities end when you begin to see interactions between people.  The people here tend to seem cold and uncaring.  They tend to not show any or limited forms of affection.  They tend not to trust each other.  They tend not to trust the police.  They tend to just want to be left alone.  This is not like my life at home, yet there are times when you see this in America.  In America people tend to come home and lock their doors and many do not know their neighbors.  The times that Jamaicans show compassion are in times of emergency and death.  It is not that they do not care, it is that culturally it is not appropriate to show concern or care.  That shows weakness unless there is an emergency.  In a country where the culture promotes a certain amount of corrupt behavior, showing weakness sets you up to be taken advantage of.  The people here are not innately bad the culture just promotes an underlying sense of besting others.

In America this kind of behavior is linked to criminal mentality.  Here it is not necessarily a criminal intent, more like a desire to gain above one’s place.  It is hard to explain, but a great example is how men view women.  Here when a man hits on a woman it has nothing to do with desire or attraction, it has everything to do with his right as a man.  He has a right to have her.  She should support him or support him having many women to support him.  It is the strangest twist in a super-religious culture.  For an ultra conservative religious culture the view on sex and relationships does not fit in the same ideology.  There are a few men who are not like this, just like there are a few women who will not put up with this.  There are exceptions to every cultural norm.  My host family and my supervisor’s family for example are not like this at all.  They are secured families with men who are committed to their wives.  So not all cultural norms are displayed by all persons.  I am happy that my family and the families that I am closest to are more in line with how I see normal relationships.  I do not hear beatings of the children daily and I do not see side women slinking around the homes that I frequent.  For this I am thankful.

Babs and Killa prepping chicken, my host family watching.
Babs and Killa prepping chicken, my host family watching.

I do not judge this part of the culture.  Having been in multiple open-relationships, it is not in me to judge others.  I simply find the prevalence of such behavior a little odd.  The acceptance of infidelity among men and not women to be unfair and the relative passive attitude toward safe sex unsettling.  It scares me and even if I wanted to date someone here, I would be very cautious as to what they will give me and what they will take from me.  You see a woman in the relationship has to be willing to open up her purse strings and that is just something I cannot afford.  I also cannot afford to get some STD, no one really can.