The harsh truth about re-entry.


They try to prepare us for the bumpy ride back into normal life.  They offer us counseling sessions.  They even provide us with a ton of ways to prepare for life back in the states.  I have neglected my blog, one of my best outlets for my struggles, because I am struggling with my struggles.  I want to strong and invincible and pretend like life is just going to be peachy, but reality is, it is not.  Life is a struggle and without that struggle it might be boring but sometimes that struggle is too much to bear.

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I got back stateside on June 7.  Richard brought me pizza and met me at the airport.  It was incredibly comforting to have a familiar relationship that felt new all over again.  It was like moving back home to your parents house after years of being on your own.  It is comforting, but things have changed and you have to find your place.  I guess I am still trying to find my place.  I started back with a focus on healthy diet and exercise, but now I just have to force myself to do anything anymore.

Two days after I got home we went to Alameda to a RPCV meet up with other Returned PCV’s from Jamaica.  This was a Jamaica specific event and I met many new people.  But it was in the Bay area and that is not exactly where I am located.   The following Tuesday we took a trip to Tahoe so I could give a presentation on Peace Corps Service in Liberia and what life was like there, even though I had a limited view the insight I shared was much more than the students had before talking to me.

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We got home and the car was acting up so Richard told his daughters we were not going to Tahoe that weekend again, apparently our trip caused some frustration and anger in them since they had wanted to go.  So we made arrangements to rent a car and go back.  This turned out to be a disaster.  I joined the Peace Corps when I did because his daughters seemed to be jealous and dislike me.  I helped move him down to be closer to them and rebuild that relationship and then left to allow this to happen.  I was hoping that when I returned, they would be used to the idea of me being his partner and being in their lives.  I was so very, very wrong.  This issue caused us to break up back in 2011.  I did not want it to break us apart again.  I do not have an answer for this, but because of the weekend we have vowed to not allow other people to break our relationship apart.  I am not saying I do not want him to see his girls, I really want him to have a good relationship with them, but I realized they do not want a relationship with me.  This reality hurts some, but I am not going to force them into that relationship, it is not healthy for anyone involved.  So I am stepping back, but it is not currently an issue as they whole summer is booked up for them.  Maybe in the fall we will have to see.

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The other issue I am having is job hunting.  I am struggling with finding a job, I thought it would be a breeze, but the longer I go without work the worse I feel and less motivated I get.  I mean for real I am bored out of my freaking mind.  One can only watch Facebook and TV for so many hours in a day.  I had no idea it would be this hard to find a job or that I would feel so lost without one.  I am truly struggling with this lack of focus and my money is quickly dwindling down.  I know I am drinking far too much, mostly out of boredom but some out of depression and a desire to suppress those realities.

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I lost my Washington License when I was in Jamaica, it was found and I just got it back today.  Now I can go get my California license and food handlers permits, liquor license and whatever else I need to cater again.  I am at the point of not filing any job history and just applying to restaurants, because I need something to do.  I am going to go crazy soon, I just know it.

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This week I think I have hit pretty much rock bottom, or am getting close.  So now it is time to stop wallowing in self-pity and get off my butt.  I just wish it was easier to do.  First thing is to get my license transferred and get myself into counseling.  I had no idea these feelings of anger and frustration would manifest in such a way.  I have been unemployed before and remember drinking far too much to cover the pain, but this time I do not have to do it alone with kids to support, yet I seem unable to ask for help and support.  I hate that feeling of vulnerability.  It seems to manifest itself into anger and frustration and I am worried that I will lash out at the people I love the most.

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An answer to the question, “What do we tell our daughters about Trump?”


I will not lie.  This entire election cycle has broken my heart and made me feel things I am ashamed to admit.  It has brought out some of the best in people and most definitely the worst in people on both sides.  The results are heartbreaking, because it feels as if hate won.  Most of us wonder what do we tell our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our wives now that a misogynistic sexually assaulting man is in office?  I have an idea, a way to build up ourselves as women, and men and to survive the next four years.

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What do we tell our daughters?  First off hate did not win, fear did.  People fear the threat of terrorism, they fear change, they fear the future.  Granted the most hateful parts of America raised up and became emboldened.  I will not lie, this terrifies me.  So what can we do?  We tell our daughters that we cannot allow a counter-fear to consume us, we must not allow the hatred we fear to consume us.  We must become supportive, and loving and less angry to survive, otherwise we will become just like those we are appalled by.

I challenge you to form support groups, groups of women who you chat with, have coffee dates with, dinner dates, lunch dates, reading groups, women who you connect with on the basis of being a woman.  We as women must stand strong and we must show our daughters how love can change things.  Support each other, build relationships and eventually invite our spouses, partners, sons, fathers into our circles.  Share with them our fears and our hope along with our dreams.  We learn to lean on each other and to support each other, we build ourselves up so that we may stand strong.  NO matter what the political view you hold, as a woman you have my support.  I will try to understand your viewpoint with a level head and an open heart, I expect you to provide me with the same understanding and acceptance.

If we cannot stand up and support each other, we will lose ourselves in hopelessness and despair.  We will become the thing we fear, angry and hateful, we cannot allow ourselves to become that.  We must continue to be the hope of the future, our daughters, sisters, mothers and lovers depend on us to become stronger than we ever thought we were, we must learn to forgive and let go of the anger.  We have to, or it will consume us.  I know because I have two modes of emotion, extreme happiness and extreme anger.  I try to stay as positive as possible, because I spent years in the darkness of my anger and it consumed me.

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Photo from Alli Brown

I challenge you as a woman to find a few other ladies to spend a bit of time each week with.  Check-in with each other, create art together, drink wine together, make meals together and build each other up and break down that fear!

Finding my feet, bracing for impact!


Hurricane Matthew Consolidation:

I have not written a blog in a while, for that I apologize. Last Saturday we were consolidated to Kingston due to Hurricane Matthew being upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 2 hurricane. Peace Corps has a specific set of safety and security actions that happen. We are first put on Stand-fast, this means that we are not to travel from our host communities and we should be prepared to leave at a moments notice. In a stand-fast we are required to have a “go bag” packed and ready to grab on the way out the door. This should contain a list of our personal belongings at site to be shipped home and instructions on what to do with the rest of our stuff. We should have several sets of clothes in there for a few days and our passports, money and important documents. We “should” also have some emergency food rations and items to give us comfort, because after a while, a large group of people cooped up can start to get on each others nerves.

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Prepared to be here awhile

Since I had a site change two weeks ago my new consolidation point is not far from my new site. Instead of going to Kingston, I am now to go to a hotel on the North Coast to wait out a consolidation. HOWEVER, we were instructed to all go to one hotel in Kingston when Matthew upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane and it was looking like a direct hit was inevitable. They also asked us to secure our homes and ensure stuff was packed to ship home. I am in the middle of moving in, as I was moved from the first flat I was put into, to a new dorm on Friday last week. To my benefit I still had boxes and just needed to organize them. So I did! My bags are packed and I have come to terms with the things that I will let go of when I move back to the states. I have soooo much stuff!

A brief look back at evacuation:

I must pause here to release my frustrations and my worst fears.  Having been through an actual evacuation my heart was breaking.  I called Richard and let him know, and being Richard he said absolutely are you not coming home.  We only have 8 months to go and if you come home now your 2 years starts over again.  I really love this man.  He knows exactly how to reach into my fears and make them look like little mole hills.  This calms me down, but it does not create this wall around my emotions to keep myself together, that is my job, not his.  I struggled with this the entire time.

Always the “boy scout”:

In all PC meetings and points where we have come together to spend time in a hotel, I have always brought a ton of food! I hate food waste more than anything. I tend to realize I cannot eat it all up, so I set myself up to bring it to share with others. They kind of joke about it, but when they are hungry and want something to eat they are not shy to ask for something. So when we consolidated they all looked at me and asked what I had brought, because they had no doubts. I brought a few canned items, tons of tomatoes and onions and cucumbers. I also made up a dip from what was left of my plain yogurt and sour cream. I brought some carrots and bought a few more along with splurging on broccoli and cauliflower. (These items were the things I miss from America the most, and I was happy to share them.) Other things that I brought aside from clothes and my laptop, iPad, and Kindle were two french presses, one for coffee and one for tea, which I also brought plenty of. I brought a cutting board and a knife, and everyone laughed at that until they realized that it was a pretty darn good thing to have! I brought few of my coloring books and markers/pencils. In the end I was prepared to keep myself as grounded as possible.

Overstimulation leads to self-isolation:

Over the course of the next few days we were not allowed off the hotel grounds. As with most group events a lot of drinking happens, because we all cope in our own ways. I eventually soured on the atmosphere of the group as my coping mechanism is much different. I spent a lot of time huddled into my room. I colored, I watched TV and I read. I talked in small groups but the overall large group stuff wears me down mentally and emotionally in a crisis situation. Again this is my own coping mechanisms, but I found my tribe! I was not the only one that was too over-stimulated and just wanted to find solace and quiet. Our room became a kind of sanctuary and a place where people sought out to find quiet and peace instead of noise and chaos.

People forever impact our lives:

Normally I embrace chaos and noise, but due to the somber situation I could not manage it. Being an evacuee brings a ton of emotional baggage with it. I began to have feelings of panic and fear as I knew that I would be safe but the people I have grown to love might not be. In fact Richard texted me concerned about a community member he met when he was here. “I am worried about poor D****! His little board house cannot withstand a hurricane, is he going to be ok?” I was so touched by his concern that I passed the message along to my previous supervisor. I was sent back a voice message from this man assuring me he was fine and appreciated our concern but he was seeking a safe shelter.

Recognizing my weakness and faults:

Emergency situations bring out the best and worst in all of us. You begin to see some of your own faults and strengths. I learned that I need to address the people who I am upset with directly. I did not realize that by avoiding the conflict it just allows the wound to fester. In other situations I am too direct, but for some reason I am not direct enough with other people that I have spent enough time building relationships with. I need to find a happy medium on how to keep myself grounded but addressing the issue as to get it out in the open and not let it build up.  I might also be harsh to judge people’s actions or words, instead of trying to understand, I jump to the defensive and then I shut down.  I need to work on this.

Understanding my place in the World:

As the consolidation continued we watched Hurricane Matthew get up to a Category 5 for a short while but remain as a Category 4 for the duration. Then when it was finally going to hit our little island it moved northeast and missed us and hit the eastern part of Cuba and Haiti got a direct blow. My heart goes out to these countries as I know the devastation of a Category 4 Hurricane will be immense. I am grateful we were spared, and as irritable as we all are at this point I know that PC made the correct call in keeping our safety a priority, it just feels so much like “American privilege” right up in your face.  This is why I joined Peace Corps, to get away from my “American or White Privilege”  but it is part of who I am, I cannot ever really escape it.  I think this makes me saddest of all, equity is just a myth and no matter how hard I try life will never be equitable for everyone.

 

30 Things I learned in Jamaica that I never knew I needed to know!


This post is part of the #BloggingAbroad blog challenge.

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

You come to a foreign country and hopefully you have researched some about the language and culture and even the food that are consumed there.  But this is never enough to get to the root of the culture.  There are so many things no books can tell you and you will just have to experience them for yourself.  Here is my list of things I never knew I needed to know in Jamaica!

 

  1. There is more than one type of Banana
  2. There is more than one type of mango
  3. There is more than one type of avacado and they call them pear here and other parts of the world
  4. There is more than one type of pineapple, known as pine here, also pineapple does not grow on trees
  5. An apple is not always round
  6. You must always have clothes for the road and clothes for the yaad
  7. Your shoes must be clean when going on the road
  8. A taxi can hold 6-7 people legally
  9. No matter how you show friendship it never looks like it does at home
  10. How long it takes for a dead dog to decay and the smell associated with it
  11. The multitude of ways to utilize cabbage in meals
  12. Bok choy (pok chow) is a breakfast food as is okra and fish
  13. A man asking you to marry him is not likely serious.
  14. A man asking you to marry him at first sight might actually be serious
  15. A mongrel dog is not a stray even when it appears to have no owners, it has owners somewhere
  16. Fighting chickens have their lower pants feathers shaved off
  17. I might be crazy for thinking chickens or dogs have feelings
  18. Church is an all day affair most times
  19. Cricket is as long and as uninteresting as baseball, to me
  20. Tea can be chocolate, coffee or any hot beverage in a cup and most jamaicans will ask if they can have some of your tea and not really want it, just want you to offer to share
  21. Rum and beer are good at 6 am
  22. What breadfruit is and that it is real
  23. A stranger will beg a dolla from you and have more money in their pocket than you do
  24. Styrofoam and plastics make good cooking fires! (Yuck)
  25. To actually be Jerk, the food must be cooked in a jerk pan. It is about the smoke not the sauce
  26. There are reindeer in Portland Jamaica, I cannot prove or disprove this
  27. The burial of a loved one costs more money than it did when they were alive
  28. A thief will break into a place an sometimes only steal the food
  29. Children are never protected, no car seat, no seatbelt no supervision
  30. Everyday someone gets beat down at school, every single day!
  31. Bonus: Akee must open on its own and the flower parts removed or it is poisonous!

 

These are not unique to Jamaica but I have learned them here.

#22 BTW breadfruit is the most amazing and simple food for the future there ever was.

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#10 Dead animals can decay anywhere from 3-5 days depending on heat and if the vultures find it.

#24 People often do cook over burning rubbish and it smells disgusting.

#19 Cricket is long drawn out and if I liked baseball it might be fun but I do not and I find it boring and sitting in the sun is not my favorite sport.

#16 Cock fights are real and they do shave the bottom portion of the chicken, quite weird.

 

#25 A jerk pan is a kind of bbq and the secret is more the type of wood to make the coal and fire.

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#4  Pineapple actually grows from a bush and if you cut the top of a pine off and leave some fruit flesh attached you can put it into the soil and it will grow again!

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#3 so many varieties of avocado that one would never know if they never go outside the grocery store!

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Some of these items seem crass and downright horrific, but in reality they are just part of the culture and these are just s few of the things I have learned.

A day in a life: there is no day the same as another.


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

This is the third in a series of blogs for the #bloggingabroad challenge. I wish it was easy to say how a day in my life here looks, but it is not. This is due to not having a real schedule and days never looking even remotely the same. Unlike an ed volunteer I kind of just wing it, as the saying goes. It did briefly touch on a typical Saturday for life in Jamaica here! (click that lil link and read about that topic!) So lets break this down a bit.

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My days typically start out at 5:30am (man that is so early not even the rooster has crowed yet!) I start off with making coffee and a light snack and a sun salutation yoga series. Yes I do this almost daily. I then get dressed in my workout clothes and head out the door, do not forget the bug spray! I meet up with a few local women and we walk about 2.5 miles give or take. I have gotten used to my routine and even away from home have adopted to doing it. I typically get back around 7:45 and have coffee and start thinking about my day’s activities. It could be a school project or a visit to the community or even a trip to Ochi. It all really depends on the day and what needs to get done.

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Some days are spent focused on getting some paperwork done and communications out in emails, other days are spent at the local schools with the kids (these are my favorite days!) I am hoping that soon the farmers will want to work on a project again, but I am not pushing that agenda.  I spend time daily corresponding with my supervisor and going with him as he does deliveries and what not.  We have long conversations about how to address different issues in the community.  These conversations often direct how I approach the next day to address an issue brought up.  Monday and Thursday nights are spent working on adult literacy.  I really enjoy this project and hope that it builds more momentum.  More and more people are joining as either student or as mentors.  The more the community gets involved the more I see myself stepping back to allow for the community to grow the project themselves.

community cleanup with Counselman

Other evenings are spent at home cooking dinner and corresponding back home.  I spend a lot of time sharing my life online.  I think it helps not only myself and my family but others to understand much of the cultures here, my own culture and my struggles.  I think I excel at Peace Corps Goal 3!   (This is the goal to share my host country culture with those back home.)  I am currently trying to find people in my community that want to share their stories, either how they live or more interesting how they grew up.  I find these stories to be the best and most culturally diverse.   So some of my time is spent in gathering the stories.  Some of the time I tell my stories and share my culture.  Being that Jamaica is so close to the US and that the tourist come here often breaking stereo types is my biggest challenge.

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When I tell community members that I have not owned a car in the states since 2004 they look shocked and confused.  I explain that the cost of owning a car outweighed the benefit of having it.  Explaining how public transit is different is also somewhat shocking to them.  The idea of one person in a taxi is so strange to them, unless it is a chartered taxi.  These cost much more.  For a trip directly to my door from Ochi it costs me  $250 JD, a chartered taxi cost me $700 JD to my door from the exact same location.  So I obviously just “small-up” and ride along with the local people, I am frugal like that!

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Some days I get the opportunity to go to the beach or to the river, but these days are not as common as days spent seemingly lazy around my community.  I tend to facilitate and direct projects rather than actually do them.  I find people learn a concept more when it is hands on and they do it themselves, plus once they start the project they might see another way to do it.  This my friends is when you know you have made a difference, this is showing ownership in the project and I encourage it.  I do not want people here to remember me and my projects, I want them to remember that they built up their community and created  greater relationships in the process.

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Raised beds farm consultation.

So what does a typical day for me look like?   I have no idea because no day is ever typical and no two days are ever the same!  Some days I might challenge the men who cock fight that those chickens have feelings and they should be ashamed of themselves to which I get blank stares and whispers that the white girl might be crazy, until I wink at them and smile.  I love to tell them that there are no pants chickens in their yaard and they might need to get some pants for their chickens, again to whispers that the white girl might be crazy!  In the end my days run together and look much like building a home, but with relationships and not blocks.  The mortar is the human experience which binds all of our interactions and relationships together.

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Fighting cocks, or as I call them no pants chickens!

 

My Why,,,, in other words, what is my purpose?


This blog is the first in a series for #bloggingabroad

http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
http://bloggingabroad.org/blog-challenge
It is human nature to feel there is a reason we are here. If you are religious this question is often answered within the framework of glorifying God. If you are like me and more agnostic or humanist that why is often devoid of this higher purpose and more focused on direct impact. Since I was a child I was fascinated with missionaries and their stories they brought back from exotic places around the globe. These are my first memories at a pull to service.

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I have also, always dreamed of seeing other nations. As a teen I wanted to be a foreign exchange student, but never pursued it because my mother was so closed about allowing me to explore anything outside the religion I was raised in. My passion dwindled as I sought out an escape from my strict home.

So what is my why?  What is my purpose?  Why am I here?  These burning questions are not unique to me alone, but to the whole of the human experience.  I believe that the Why is an ongoing and evolving answer.  It changes with each new step we take.  So I will focus on my why am I on this little island in the middle of the Caribbean beating my head against the wall trying to make things better.   I was asked why Jamaica when I arrived.  In all honesty I did not choose Jamaica.  In fact I wanted to be as far away from my own country as possible.  I had that in Liberia, but that service was interrupted.  As offensive as it may seem, I did not choose a specific location, I accepted an invitation.  You see, Jamaica chose me!  Before my service invite to Liberia I was told I had been invited to service in the Agricultural sector and would be leaving in March of 2014.  I missed a medical document deadline due to the Government Shutdown, thanks Republicans!   Because of this I was then resubmitted into the pool and was invited to serve in Liberia to teach science.  I am not really a teacher but Africa was my dream.  So I accepted.  When I was finally COS’ed (Cease of Service) the term for successfully ending service, I was then offered an invitation to Jamaica.  The time of departure seemed somehow familiar.  Then I remembered the original assignment was leaving right about the same time the year before.  I often wonder was I originally set for Jamaica?  So you see I feel that I did not choose Jamaica, Jamaica chose me!

When you first get your assignment you often dream of how things might be.  These dreams are often unrealistic.  I thought I would have farmers and homeowners knocking on my door begging me to help them grow in a more sustainable manner.  I expected it to look much like my Grad School project (Alleycat Acres) a sustainable urban farm movement.  My service looks nothing like this at all.  I only farm on the school one to two days a week.  I do not even have my own garden, but I do grow herbs in bottles in my kitchen window!  My biggest challenge these days is the lack of water.   It is not easy  to farm without water.  My second biggest challenge is to convince the local people to stop burning plastics and tires and I have  no idea what else they burn, but it cannot be good.

When I arrived I had hoped and assumed that I would instantly make friends and that my service would show some kind of positive impacts.  I also thought I would have gardens in every home and that people would “want” to do better.  So the positive impacts have happened, but not as I saw them happening.  As far as making friends, I have a few, but friendship is not like it is back home and I have had to adjust my expectations.  I miss having dinner parties and drinking wine all night talking about community improvement projects.  I miss being able to go to the coffee shop to relax and read when the day is too wet to really go out and farm.  I also miss that being a friend with a man would not progress to romantic if it was firmly set up in the beginning.  I miss having friends to just hang out with, but mostly I miss places to just hang out at.

People here do not necessarily “want to” change.  They see a need to change, but the expectation is the government will fix things.  As part of my mission here I firmly remind them that they have been waiting for decades for the government to fix things, when are they going to realize that the government cannot fix everything?  In a place that proclaims to be super religious, I have found a focus on Biblical principles to be the best reinforcement I can have.  I remind them that “God helps those that help themselves”  and that we are obligated to “be good stewards of the lands, waters and all that God had provided, because the Lord holds the title”.  This is a tad strange I suppose coming from a “heathen” or non-believer, but remember I was raised in a very strict church and much of those teachings stuck with me.  I am not completely lost on the significance religious upbringing has on people.

So my why is currently bound to my what.  You see your why can change with your situation, if it does not you lose sight of your reason.  Ultimately my why is to learn and to teach, it is a give and take and a balance.  My why is balance and understanding.  One unexpected unintended consequence of my service is a much deeper understanding of who I am.  You never realize how much you do not know about yourself until you spend long lonely nights with yourself.  So one could say I have a much better relationship with myself, which makes me much better at creating relationships with others.  This in the end is really where your ultimate why lands.  Our why is our relationships with each other and that is the deepest most moving why there can be.

 

Hold onto those little successes


In Peace Corps a little win is a huge win.  For me if you cannot see the trees in the forest how are you ever going to see those impacts you have made.  Sure your ultimate goal is to share culture and improve quality of life, but what exactly does that look like?  Does that look like your hometown?  Does it look like your education level?  Does it look like how you would see the world if you had a choice?  NO it does not.  Improved quality of life has to be in the eyes of those you are trying to help.  If you see substandard housing as an issue, but the people see the roads are a bigger issue, you tackle the roads not the housing.  Do not ever tell people that the way they live is bad or wrong.  Maybe that little shack that houses 8 people is the coziest and cleanest home you have ever seen in your life.  Remember not everyone uses a home to spend time in.  Many cultures only use homes to sleep in and do everything else outside.  Is a lack of television in every home a lower standard of living?  You best check yourself on these kinds of assumptions.  I have for the better part of 20 years not had cable hooked up.  I prefer to read and control what my children can watch.

goats because they are goats!
goats because they are goats!

An amazing thing you find in service is that resource sharing is quite handy.  One family may own a car and another may have television.  These two families can and often do share resources as needed.  By sharing resources both families are able to save money that either would be spent on these shared resources or they would just go without.  Think about this, if there was only a few televisions in the American neighborhoods what would happen?  In Liberia no one even had power all the  time.  They used gas-powered generators and not everyone had one.  They would pay neighbors to charge things or string a light into the homes.  The idea of watching television just was not a priority.  I found it amazing that people went to cook shops to watch futbol games during the World Cup last summer.  Even more amazing was that they were happy to watch it on a 19 inch black and white or color television.  We are talking huge groups of people watching a small television set.  What is even more amazing is that these people were outside of their homes.  They were communing with neighbors and strangers over a television.  Tell me that happens at home!

In parts of Jamaica the same can be said.  My first week here I was taken to a local cook shop.  There was a large group of men sitting on benches watching a 19 inch television.  They were watching a bootleg DVD, which are prevalent here.  Sadly my DVD player on my laptop is just not going to work on those.  I do, however know where to go to watch such things now.  I was given a television in my apartment when I moved in.  I was told I could hook up to cable for about $3000 a month.  I am already unable to support my internet let along television.  I declined and had them take it out.  I find television to be a soul killer.  Some days I hate that Richard has one.  I honestly might be happier if we just ditched it all together.  My children hated my firm hand on the television issue, but I have the tendency to get sucked into the television and then my whole day is gone and nothing is done.

The young men and women here embrace sports as a social activity.  During daylight hours in the early evenings groups will get together and play futbol or netball.  No netball is not like basketball. It has so many more players and rules.  I cannot even figure out what is going on.  Netball is primarily a girls sport.  Futbol is primarily a boys sport.  Cricket is played by both genders, but organized games seem to only be mens teams.  Track events are universal and Jamaicans love their sports heroes.  Never question a Jamaicans loyalty on sports, ever!

They tend to be very competitive at everything.  Dominoes is a beloved past time.  Just watch your hands as they will slam the dominoes down on the table as they play.  I am still learning how to play, but I do win a few rounds here and there. The fact that even though I am not a great player, they invite me a play is huge.  This is a small win.  Just being invited to the game!  Of course when I ride my bike though at top speed sends the young men into a tailspin.  I am not a great rider, but I am competent and that seems to be a source of confusion.  Sometimes I wonder if they understand just exactly what I biked across America they think means.  I know some ask if it was a motorcycle and then look confused when I say no a bicycle.  This is a small win as well.  They now want to talk to me about bicycles and get excited to try to ride with me.  Sorry boys I climb those hills when I can, not gonna beg a ride or walk it unless absolutely needed.

I am currently on an all-time high over my farmers.  They are organizing their own work parties and I never know what I will find done when I go back there!  I often wonder if that new mural has anything to do with this renewed energy in the group.  The idea that the farm will soon have some income generation to help offset overhead is fantastic, and it seems to be building confidence and unity in a once fractured group.  Sometimes we have to let go of the principle and embrace the fact.  The fact is that not everyone wants to participate, but there are enough who are to move forward.  Sure the principle is that all should participate, but is it worth losing the momentum of the active members trying to pull those not active in?  The answer is absolutely not.  Keep that momentum up, once it falters it may never move forward again, do not allow it to stop.

teamwork
teamwork

My plan today was to bike to the local school, but I may just grab a taxi instead, the weather is not looking promising.  I just need to drop some documents off and get the principle’s phone number, and try to set up a weekly time to drop by and look at starting this program.  I might also get going on the environmental club idea.  I would love to have that start soon.  I know I am getting a late start, but I have had some set backs.  I also lose track of time.  Poor Richard is seeing time drag on and I am losing time faster than I can think.

I do know that I am more aware of community events now.  This is huge, that and the fact that a new group is forming from my community meetings.  I love this.  I am feeling like king of my own world currently.  One thing I know is that there will be some down time soon.  I will feel lost and out of touch.  It is those times that I need to look back at my old blogs and my journal and embrace those moments where I had a small win.  It is also the time I call on other volunteers to pick me up.  Fortunately my personality is quite manic.  Actually I am not bi-polar only manic so down is not very down for me.  This is a blessing and a curse.  You know all of those silly memes that say things like strong people need support too?  Yeah, that is true, but it doesn’t look the way it seems.  Sometimes I just need someone to tell me it is ok to not do something or that this particular failure can be a win.  I know about failure as learning experiences, but there are those moments when I cannot really see that side.  Sometimes you just need a new perspective, and that is what your Peace Corps Family is there for.  Your host family is also there to support you, but you have to build that relationship first.  Not all host families situations are as great as mine is.  I have a lovely family who talks with me and listens when I need something.  The key is to know when you are slipping down that slope and ask for the rope before you cannot reach it.

Government issued family
Government issued family

Hold onto any success you have had, be it finding a farmer who gives you a little more than you pay for, or the school girl who wants to sit and read with you.  Whatever it is, hold onto it for these moments during your service where that darkness closes in too much.