Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Unfortunately we aren't celebrating since this is one part of American culture that has yet to work its way to Jamaica. We do have two candy filled packages on the way, one from each of our mothers. (But we did get a package from Kaelyn's Grandparents which contained about 100 lens wipes which although not as tasty as candy are very useful.) I suppose we will celebrate when our treats come. But in honor of the holiday we compiled a list of the top 10 things we miss about Halloween.

10. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
9. Carving pumpkins
8. Eating roasted pumpkin seeds
7. Scary movies
6. The Time Warp
5. Candy apple suckers
4. Getting dressed up
3. Trick or Treaters
2. Putting up scary (and corny) decorations
1. Candy and more candy

Hope you see something that makes you say - Oooh Scary!

Trick or Treat -
Kae and Shane

More Peace Corps Talk in the USA Today

If you found the other article about Peace Corps interesting then you should check out these responses in today's USA Today. We don't really feel at liberty to discuss in what ways we agree and disagree with the articles on the blog but we would definitely welcome using email to explore the topic.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Water Adventures

Q: How do you clean everything in your apartment and get all the laundry done in one day?

A: Leave the kitchen faucet running while you go to work and when you come home the entire place will be flooded prompting you to clean and dry everything you own.

Sounds funny doesn't it? But it is the sad but true story of what did indeed happen to us on Wednesday. When we left for work in the morning we had no water. In fact we hadn't had much water at all in the past few days. We thought we had turned all the faucets tightly in the off position. Unfortunately the kitchen faucet got turned the wrong way. When the water came back it filled up the sink and since the pipe isn't very big it wasn't able to just keep running and draining. By the time we got home the water was covering the entire floor and running underneath the back door in our bedroom and draining through the balcony. It was a mess!

At first we just stood there frozen not really knowing what to do. Shane was speechless and stood there looking around in shock. I turned the faucet off and started surveying the damage. Then we started moving furniture out of the way. We tried calling our boss and landlady for extra supplies but they didn't have any. Then I started crying, had a mini breakdown and called my mom. After I was calmed down it was time to get to work. Shane went to the store and bought an extra mop and a squeegee. We moved everything out of the bedroom and living room so we could squeegee the water out the back door. Then we figured since the water was everywhere why not make sure the floor gets clean so we used bleach and water to mop the floors. After the floors were dry we put all the furniture back in place and took all the wet stuff out to the front balcony. The only furniture that was wet was the couch and chairs in the living room so we used the fan to dry them out.

Then we dealt with the wet stuff. We spread the mosquito net out to dry. The other damp things including our luggage that we stored under the bed was left outside to be put in the sun in the morning. Since our laundry basket had gotten soaked all our dirty clothes were now wet so we filled buckets with soap and water so they could be washed in the morning. Around 10:00 we were able to sit down, have dinner, do the dishes and shower. Then since we had water and weren't sure if we would in the morning we filled up all our water containers. Finally around midnight we were able to go to sleep.

We got up with the sun the next morning and got to work on the laundry. Luckily the water was running and kept up all day. We did about 5 buckets of laundry and had to hang more clotheslines in the front so we could dry all the clothes. We called our boss and told him we wouldn't be coming in to work because we needed to deal with our apartment situation. We were worried that if we put everything out to dry and left then we wouldn't be there to bring it in when it started raining, which we knew it would inevitably do - that was just our luck. We spread all the damp stuff along the front balcony. One of our luggage bags was being used to store clothes that didn't fit in our dresser and while they weren't wet they were damp so we spread those clothes out in the living room so they could air out. As predicted around 1:00 it started to rain. We moved everything in under shelter and put clotheslines up inside so the clothes could finish drying.

It continued to rain all afternoon and will probably keep up through the weekend. As I write this clothes are still strewn about the living room and hung up through the house. Our hope is that everything will be dry and ready to be put away this evening. We are a bit worried about the storms moving around out there. Jamaica is once again under a flash flood warning. Tropical Storm Beta is out there along with a vigorous tropical wave. We are worried the rain could cause the same effects it did last week when Wilma came through. We put the tarp back over our bed just as a precaution. Unfortunately, this has really dampened our plans to travel to Mandaville for a Halloween Party this weekend. Not only will it not be fun to travel in the rain but the road conditions that were already bad will just be worsening. There is also the chance that roads will flood preventing us from being able to make it home. Plus we won't be home to keep everything high and dry and I think we have dealt with enough wet stuff for this week.

I never knew water could cause so many problems - sometimes there isn't enough, sometimes there is too much, and sometimes it is all over your stuff! What an adventure!


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Should Peace Corps Be Reformed?

This editorial from USA Today seems to think so. Check it out.

Shane's Hair Mauled at Jamaican Barber Shop! Exclusive Before and After Shots!

OK. So it wasn't that bad. I decided that, rather than let the barber try to do a longer hairstyle, I would just get it all cut off Jamaican-style. It took about an hour. I also splurged for a warm-water shampoo after the trim. Needless to say, everyone at the office was surprised when I came into work the next day. I like it, though. It's easy to clean and style. My head is cooler. It dries much faster in the morning. Plus, as Kaelyn knows, it will grow back in time. So she does not have to be in curl-deprivation for too long.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


After spending more time on the bus to and from Kingston than I actually spent in the Peace Corps Office I was able to bring home one very exciting package! It was just one of the four that we are expecting right now but never the less it was still exhilarating to get it home and rip it open. But before I reveal the exciting contents let me explain a bit more the difficulties of my journey. I departed from home at 8:45 to try and make it to Kingston in time for a meeting that began at noon. The bus didn't come until 9:30 even though they are scheduled to come every 15 minutes. Then began the journey along the very "mashed up" roads - the result of all the heavy rain dropped by Hurricane Wilma. There are two routes to Kingston one which is currently impassable due to flooding and the other which is damaged and already slow due to the construction of the new Causeway and heavy traffic. I reached Kingston around 11:30. Usually this trip takes an hour including waiting for the bus and less time when there isn't traffic. I attended my meeting and got lots of books from the library as well as our package and Newsweeks. But the way home was much, much worse. There was a bus at the stop when I got there which would normally be a good sign. However, the bus waited at the stop until it was full and then it only went to the next major bus stop. At this point the driver told us he would be staying there until 7:00pm (it was 5:00 then). We could get off and get on another bus that was there but it was already pretty full. There was no way I was going to stay in Kingston after dark so I hauled my package and backpack full of books to the other bus where I found a nice spot to stand. The bus proceeded home in bumper to bumper traffic along very bumpy rounds. Lots of jerking and sudden starts and stops which really wasn't enjoyable while standing. Plus it was very crowded and hot. 3 hours and 30 minutes later I finally made it home - what a relief! Luckily I had running water awaiting me so I could shower away the agony of my bus ride. Then it was time to see what excitement my package held!

2 5-gallon solar showers (no more bucket baths!)
CDs - Damian Jr. Gong Marley's Welcome to Jamrock and Samantha's Square One
Cliff Bars
A bag of Fruit Snacks and Laffy Taffy
Bead supplies for making jewelry
A Donald Duck figurine from a McDonald's Happy Meal
Plus some photocopied news articles

Thanks Mom and Dad - it was a very exciting package indeed! Plus we have 3 more on the way - stay tuned for what exciting things those bring!


Banana Daiquiri

Just wanted to share a recipe that helps us make it through the wild Jamaica weather. We tried this out on Sunday evening and it definitely relaxed us after a weekend of laundry and airing out our apartment.

Banana Daiquiri

2 bananas (cut into chunks)
½ cup vanilla soymilk (or other flavor: malt, chocolate, cappuccino)
1 cup soyscream (almond, chocolate, coconut, etc.)
6 ice cubes
2 shots rum

Mix all ingredients in blender until ice is smooth.

Other additions: mango, ginger, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, cocoa, or instant coffee.
Omit soymilk and soyscream to make like a juice rather than a shake.



Thursday, October 20, 2005

Damp and Smelly

Sorry if this post makes me sound like a Negative Nancy but we spent most of Friday through Wednesday at home watching it rain. I don't think we have ever wanted to go to work so bad as we did this morning. At least being at work will get our minds off all the water that has infiltrated our apartment. It isn't so much water in the liquid form but more in the dampness it has brought to everything we own. Besides dripping from the ceiling in 3 spots (one of the spots being the entire right side of the bedroom), the walls are also damp as if the water is seeping in that way too, plus when it rains hard enough the water splashes up on the balcony and comes through under the doors. This morning everywhere we looked we found more mildew - our pillows, backpacks, the kitchen counter. The worst is our bed - the mattress and sheets are damp and have been since Saturday. Now we are just praying for some sun so we can dry everything out - after we give it a good bleaching of course. The ironic thing is that we haven't had water coming out of the pipes since yesterday afternoon. Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink (or shower with)!

- Kaelyn

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Meet Hurricane Wilma!

Wilma is the 21st named storm and the 12th hurricane of the 6-month hurricane season, this ties the record for the number of storms (1969) and hurricanes (1933). Considering it is only mid-October and the season lasts until November 30th it seems highly probably that both records will be broken. There are only 21 names on the yearly list so the next storm will have to be named from the letters of the Greek alphabet. Be on the lookout for Alpha!


Heroes Day Hurricane

September and October is the rainy season in Jamaica, so it has been raining almost every day for a long time. However, this weekend was something entirely new. It started raining around 1 PM on Friday and is projected to continue through Thursday. All of this is the result of the "squall bands" (as the Weather Channel anchor put it) coming off of tropical storm, now hurricane, Wilma. The Gleaner headline was "Wilma Wallops Island", and this is how it felt to us. We did not get the worst of the flooding or landslides where we are. But neighborhoods and streets all around Portmore and Spanish Town are flooded, even the causeway that connects Portmore and Kingston has water covering part of it.

The main deleterious effect of the rains for us has been a steadily increasing leak over our bed. There is no crack in the ceiling, just droplets of water forming as the water seeps through the concrete. At first it was small, so we put a towel over the bed to absorb the moisture. Then we ironed the sheet to dry it out. Now we have put a tarpaulin (as they call them) over our bed. It is attached to the hooks in the wall and draped over our mosquito net. We have angled it so that (hopefully) the water will run off to the side and into a waiting bucket. Just in case the tarp fails, we have moved our pillows and sleeping bags away from any dripping water so that we could sleep on them if our bed became inundated.

So what did we do this fine Heroes weekend since we were cooped up inside? Kaelyn spent Friday night in Sligoville after helping out a fellow volunteer and came back Saturday. Shane did laundry Friday and Saturday. Needless to say this was difficult because it was raining the whole time. So he had to hang the clothes up inside with the fans blowing on them, and then iron them to finish off the last bits of moisture still remaining. Then, we cleaned up the house a bit. Saturday and Sunday night was Asian noodle soup with okra, while Monday night was some really good split pea soup that we modeled off of a Vegetarian Times recipe. In between we read and played solitaire. Kaelyn even got out the crayons and made some artwork to decorate our fridge and walls.

Monday we were off work for the Heroes Day Holiday. Normally, there are celebrations all over the island in honor of the seven heroes of Jamaica - leaders and important historical figures who have contributed greatly to Jamaican culture. Most of them were cancelled because of the inclement weather. CVM, one of the two TV stations in Jamaica, did its patriotic part by broadcasting Jamaican related movies and programming throughout the day. In the morning, they were supposed to show live footage of a ceremony in Kingston. However, the rain interfered with the signal so we got to watch Club Paradise, a 1986 gem with Robin Williams and Jimmy Cliff about a low budget resort in a fictional island that is very similar to Jamaica. Later that day was the very illuminating Cool Runnings, which gets at the heart of the complex Jamaican society (more or less). By Tuesday, after being cooped up inside all weekend, we were ready to get back to work. However, due to the storm and flooded roads all over the island all the schools are cancelled and public transportation is slow. There seems to be only about a 10% turnout at work today. We don't mind though since it is a nice opportunity to feed our Internet addiction.

-Shane and Kaelyn (trying to stay dry!)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A good pastry is hard to find

One of the things I miss most down here in Jamaica is the variety of food that I was able to get in the US. Even though many of these foods are available in Kingston, they are hard to get to and can be expensive, whether in restaurants or markets. In addition, I just can't find certain things. So here is a list of foods that I miss in no particular order.

  1. Portabello Parmesan Sandwich from Free State Brewery. These are really good, and have even been written up in cookbooks. It's hard to find mushrooms, other than canned and dried, in the supermarket here. Let alone a restaurant that serves portabelloes.
  2. Beer. OK, this is a large category, but there are so many microbrews available in the US that it's hard to transition to the few that they have here (Red Stripe, Red Stripe Light, Heineken, Guinness Extra Foreign Stout, Dragon Stout; not even Budweiser). My favorites back home would be Free State Beers (especially Jon Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout), New Belgium Fat Tire, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Boulevard Wheat, Boulevard Pale Ale.
  3. Margaritas. Tequila is very expensive here, and there are few Mexican restaurants. You have to go to Margaritaville on the coast to get one. I miss the ones at La Parilla, El Mezcal frozen, and my homemade special.
  4. Dunkin' Donuts. The french cruller, chocolate glazed, medium coffee combo is so choice. They have very good coffee there, I assure you.
  5. Wheatfields. The best cinnamon rolls ever (excluding home made of course). And their coffee is even better than Dunkin' Donuts, and it's organic to boot. I used to get the cinnamon roll and coffee and read Marx and Nietzsche in grad school. Makes the social theory go down smooth.
  6. La Parrilla. I already metnioned their magaritas, but I have to give a shout out to the veggie rice bowl, chips and salsa, guacamole, fried plantains with black bean sauce.
  7. Chips and Salsa. Deserves its own listing. Nuff love.
  8. Homemade Rice and Bean Enchiladas. The tortillas are very expensive and only found in Kingston. Plus, we try not to turn on the oven too often so it is doesn't heat up the place.
  9. Indian Food. We have found some good places in Ochi and New Kingston, but we don't go there as often as we would like.
  10. Good Breads. Whole wheat hearth fired bread, scones, focaccia, and ciabatta are all hard to find.
  11. Waldo Pizza with Soycheese. They make a great soycheese pizza there with a basil and tomato sauce. Check it out if you are in KC. Their regular pizzas are also really good.
  12. Sub Sandwiches. From Yello Sub to Subway to Quizno's, always a good vegetarian option.
  13. Middle Eastern Food. Pita, falafel, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, lentil soup.

That's all for now, but I may think of some more later.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Home Remedies

My last post got me thinking about home remedies. This is something I wish I had thought more about in my Peace Corps preparations. I think having brought along some books on this subject would have been useful. Like the one Rick mentioned, Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson, or this other one I found, If I'd Only Listened to Mom : Hundreds of Household Remedies by Jean B. MacLeod. I have to admit that in the states I was very reliant on solving my everyday problems with the numerous products available rather than using practical on-hand solutions. I also had the internet and my mother (via phone) at hand which provided an easy solution to any problem. Now the products I might have used are unavailable or just plain expensive. Only having Internet at work doesn't help me much at home. And while I love talking with my mom on the phone, I don't really want to use our time discussing how to remove stains or keep bugs out of my rice. (Although the hair cutting tips she gave me for Shane's hair were very much appreciated.) These types of home remedies are also very prevalent in Jamaican culture - I've come to discover that they use rubbing alcohol as the solution to everything. I am picking up a few tips talking to my co-workers and landlady, which I will be sure to store away in my recently expanding bag of tricks. I also found a wonderful medical resource called Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by David Werner which was available as a PDF. So I will be checking this out digitally and maybe I can pick up some good first aid refreshers. If anyone else has any good resources I would love to hear about them (especially ones that I can access electronically or they are willing to send me). Perhaps by the time I return I will have all the answers just like my mom does!


Monday, October 10, 2005

Minor First Aid

We had a bit of excitement on Saturday night while cooking dinner. Shane was peeling the pumpkin for our soup and sliced open his finger. He called to me in the other room requesting some "minor first aid". When I went into the kitchen blood was gushing from his finger into the kitchen sink and was also on the counter, his shirt, and even his glasses (it had squirted up when he cut it). Using a wash cloth we were able to contain the bleeding and then from our nifty Peace Corps issued First Aid Kit we bandaged it up. It wasn't a large cut but it was deep and in an difficult place going from the tip down to the side of his fingernail. When we put the gauze and waterproof tape on it looked like his finger was wearing a graduation hat. Since we had to tape it over the top but couldn't go too tight it was like a little white mortar board on top of his wrapped finger. Then we had to deal with the blood stained cloth and shirt. Using on of our handy tips from our Peace Corps Jamaica Cookbook we soaked them in cold salt water. Surprisingly enough this worked! Then everything went back to normal and the soup turned out mighty tasty. However, we did ponder why we hadn't received any sort of First Aid Training from the Peace Corps and why we hadn't been given more household solutions like the cold salt water trick. Those are definitely things we felt should have come with training but didn't. My last first aid course was in Fall 2003 and I feel pretty rusty now. I wish we would have brought some more books or other resources for these kind of situations.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Our Apartment and What We Eat

As requested we put some pictures of apartment on our Flickr site (see link on right-hand side of this page). We only put up pictures of the inside though and none of our veranda or balcony because we didn’t want our location to be recognizable. So if you want to enjoy our wonderful view you will just have to come to visit and see it for yourself.

Our apartment is an upstairs flat with an external staircase leading up to a nice big veranda. Hopefully sometime soon we will get clotheslines hung out here as there is much more room than on the back balcony. The part of the veranda leading into our apartment is enclosed by grills (bars; our landlady told us she would “burglar our windows” too) and we have some beach chairs and a plant there. When it is nice and breezy outside this is a good place to sit and read a book. Then, as you can see from the pictures, you enter the front door into the living room/kitchen area. Off of that is the bathroom and our bedroom. From our bedroom is a door leading onto our back balcony where there is a wash sink and clotheslines as well as another set of external stairs leading into our landlady’s house.

We have also posted some pictures of the yummy food we have been eating. Although we try to add new dishes into our repertoire we have gotten into a bit of a routine. Things mostly vary on the weekend when we have more time to shop and prepare. Our typical menu is as follows:

Breakfast: Caribbean Crunch Cereal (oats with dried coconut and bananas) with Wheat Germ, and Soy Milk; on the weekends we mix it up with Banana Pancakes, Fruit Salad, or Jamaican style Callaloo and Fried Plantains

Lunch: Peanut Butter and Guava Jelly Sandwiches, Plantain Chips, and Coconut Cookies; for non-work days we make a Pear (Avocado) Salad or Popcorn with Sea Salt and Brewer’s Yeast

Dinner: Pasta with Sautéed Vegetables, Beans and Rice (or Jamaican style Rice and Peas), or many varieties of Soups (Egg Drop, Lentil, Vegetables in Broth)

Treats: Soy Scream (Coconut and Pistachio are the best flavors) and Peanut M&Ms

Drinks: Coke Lite, Fruit Juice (sugar free), Red Stripe and Dragon Stout; we also drink a “whole heap” of water which amuses the people at work

Good Stuff!

-Kaelyn and Shane

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Things

There is something so exciting about getting something new. On Thursday we got a copy of Scrabble for our computer from a co-worker. This has been very fun and we are getting quite good - we even beat the computer on the advanced level. Then on Friday we received a package from my parents which contained pictures of my sisters for our fridge, two cds, a copy of Vegetarian Times, nutritional yeast for our popcorn, and a poster to hang on our very bare walls. And yesterday evening the living room furniture our landlady bought for our apartment was delivered. We now have a very cozy love seat and two big chairs for all of our book reading. Having all these new things to entertain us has been a bit overwhelming!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Happy Birthday!

In honor of my father's birthday I am dedicating this post to him. I have constructed a list of the Top 7 Things he would like about Jamaica. It is a Top 7 list rather than a Top 10 because that is the way they do it every morning on Irie FM.

Top 7 Things My Dad Would Like About Jamaica

7. Devon Stout Ice Cream

6. The Peace Corps Office in the former location of Island Records

5. Chicken Foot Soup and Mannish Water

4. Bob Marley Museum

3. Irie FM Radio Station

2. Dragon Stout and Red Stripe at its ultimate freshness

1. Hellshire Beach and its ample offerings of fresh fish

Hope you have an Irie Birthday!