Saturday, July 28, 2007

What a long strange trip ...

We are now back in the US and have officially completed our Peace Corps service. We are very proud of ourselves for making it through and getting our official Close of Service. But there are a few fun things left to talk about at the end of our Peace Corps journey.


At the Portmore Municipal Council they gave us a nice little sendoff party. It actually involved two parts. First, there was a lunch at Prendy's on Hellshire Beach with our closest coworkers in the building and planning departments. This is a restaurant we had been to a few times, and they have really good fish. The only issue is that it takes a long time to get the fish. So this time, we all pre-ordered so that the fish didn't take too long to get ready. The fish lunch was fun, and then the next day we had a little going away meeting in the conference room. I can't really call this a party, since it involved us sitting around the conference room table while speeches and testimonials were given about our service. Then we got some nice gifts: a wooden carving of the Portmore Causeway in a frame, two PMC tote bags, and a thank you card. It lasted about an hour, and then it was over. The main sentiment expressed was that they really appreciated the database we helped build, and they wish they could get more Peace Corps volunteers. Click here for more pictures.


The weekend after we stopped working, we went to a bush party. By that I mean a party in a rural part of St. Elizabeth hosted by our Jamaican friend Sania in honor of her work with our friend Caitlin. A few Volunteers attended, and a lot of Jamaicans. They had food made over a fire, using three stones to prop up the huge pots of mannish water (goat soup), fish tea, rice, curried goat, and oil for fried chicken. The fish tea was very tasty, and we tried a sip of the mannish water, which wasn't too bad. There was also big sound and a dance area. It started out with Jamaican oldies, and it didn't get busy until after midnight, when more people started showing up. Then a few people got crazy on the dance floor, grinding away, while most others watched or just danced a little bit. We left around 3:30 AM, when our taxi man returned to get us because he was too tired to stay up any later. A good experience to have before we left the island. More pictures can be found here.


We got home safe and sound on the 27th, only about 20 minutes behind our scheduled arrival. And only one bag was missing, but it should be delivered to us in a few days. We did only get 3 hours of sleep, because we had to get up at 3 AM in order to get ready and catch a taxi for our 6:40 AM flight. And we didn't finish packing until midnight. But we did get it done.

Our Peace Corps experience taught us a lot. We are glad that we stuck it out and know that it will have a profound affect on our lives in the US. Those things that we took for granted before, like washing machines and other luxuries, will be appreciated much more now. But more than that, the many friends we made amongst the Volunteers and the Jamaicans we got to know will stay with us. It was definitely a rich experience that we will think about for the rest of our lives.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Monday, July 16, 2007

Port Royal

Shane and Kae

For the first time since we have been in Jamaica, we got to explore Port Royal. What we found there is an utterly pleasant and cute community. We took a walking tour of the historical sites before dark and then we went to the Cabin for a fish dinner. We got to sit on the dock and listen to the waves lap and watch the boats go by as we ate our conch soup, fish, festival and bammies. After we finished we walked over to the main dock and checked out all that was happening. It was a Friday night and the place was hoppin - oldies music was playing, people were eating fish and festival at tables in the streets, and there was even an oyster bar set up. Then we got an ice cream and enjoyed it at the Sitting Park while watching lots of kids run and play. In the morning we took a walk on the beach and collected smooth colorful rocks and beach glass.

All in all Port Royal is a great place to go and we wish we had visited sooner.

You can see more of our pictures of Port Royal here. And you can check out the pictures of how we spent the rest of our weekend -- cruising around Montego Bay on the Fiesta Queen.

- Shane and Kae

Monday, July 09, 2007

Inverness Primary and Infant School In the News!

Our Peace Corps friend Malaika works at the Inverness Primary and Infant School in a small rural town in the southern part of St. Ann Parish. Her school is without a lot of basic resources and was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and still needs repairs. But her kids are really deserving and are getting some help from students at a school in southern Florida. Their donations of school supplies were organized by one very helpful student at the school. Check out this news story and video, which have links that allow you to donate to the school as well.


End of Service Celebration Season

Since our Peace Corps Group is winding up its service, there has been no shortage of fond farewells. After getting to know such nice people, it is going to be hard for us all to go our separate ways and only be able to see each other rarely. Here are links to some pictures from our recent bouts of nostalgia and celebration, along with pithy descriptions.

-Shane and Kaelyn

New Group Arrives!


The new group arrived on island on July 3rd. Check out this article from the Gleaner and we have some pictures up on Flickr. Here's to a great two years on island!


At the same time, the international director of Peace Corps came down to visit Jamaica for a couple of days. He came to our office, along with the Regional Director for Inter-America and Pacific. We didn't have any electricity, so our office was hot and dark. But they got the generator hooked up and we were able to showcase our database and have a meeting with our counterparts at work.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Load Shedding

So we were asking our supervisor why the electricity keeps going off at our office. It has happening a lot lately, often for 3 or 4 hours at a time, after which we usually go home if it hasn't come back on for that amount of time. The answer he gave was load shedding. Specifically, the fact that our office is in Portmore, which is right next to Kingston, the town where the majority of people who live in Portmore work during the day. In these hot summer months, all those Kingston workers are using a lot of air conditioning and other electrical devices. So in order to accommodate this peak load, they cut off the power to Portmore, assuming that not very many people are in Portmore during the day. The truth is, they're right about the small number of people working in Portmore. But for those of us that do, no electricity really cuts down on the amount of work you can do.


Drum Shop

We recently spent the weekend in Negril because we had won a free trip at Merrill's, a hotel on the beach. The prize was for entering a raffle held by our friends Caitlin and Khaled. We entered the raffle sometime in October 2006, but the prize was still valid in June. Mostly, we just sat around the hotel, swam, and relaxed in the luxurious room that was about as big as our apartment. I did make one trip to into Negril in order to get a drum and some guinneps. I was successful on both counts, eventually.

First, I went to the drum shop, but Lloyd, the Rasta drum maker, was not there. So I asked after him at the cook shop next door. They suggested calling the number written on his sign. So I did. It turned out Lloyd was at lunch, but he told me he would be back soon. So I went down to small fruit vendor area in Negril, which was prety close to the drum shop. I talked to the fruit ladies there, and I was lucky enough to get the last bag of guinep.

Row of Fruit Stands

After talking to the ladies for a while, I went back to the drum shop. But it was still closed. So I went to the cookshop and got some coconut water. They were out of their classic tuna water, but that was OK because I didn't really want to drink tuna water. Eventually, the drum maker returned and we were able to talk for a couple of hours and I chose a drum made of guango wood. Here is Lloyd and his shop. He makes really nice drums under the name Lion Claw out of various woods such as guango, saparilla, and coconut.

Drum Shop and Lloyd, the Drum Maker

Make sure to check Lloyd near the round-a-bout in Negril if you are interested in drumming or want to buy a nice hand drum.