Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The End!

Today is the end of the Atlantic hurricane season! And what a season it has been, breaking all sorts of records and technically still kickin thanks to Epsilon which is hanging out by Bermuda. Having never lived in an area affected by hurricanes I found it all to be pretty unnerving and I was only around part of it. Beginning June 1st and lasting until November 3oth the Atlantic season is 6 months long. This year there were 26 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) which makes this the busiest season ever (the previous record being 21 in 1933). There were also the most hurricanes on record this year with 13 (topping 12 in 1969). And there were the most Category 5 hurricanes this year with 3 - Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Plus it was the first time ever that the official list of storm names had been exhausted and the Greek alphabet had to be used. I have never been one to rely on weather reports but here I find myself seeking out daily updates so that I can attempt to prepare for what may be headed my way. A storm doesn't have to be headed here for it to be worrisome. Even rain causes lots of problems and many would argue that the effects of Wilma were worse than some previous direct hits by hurricanes. I've definitely had nuff rain! While I don't know what challenges the dry season may bring, I am pretty excited to be putting hurricane season behind me - until next year at least.

- Kaelyn

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Clif Bars

I don't know if I've really stressed the point of what a treat Clif Bars are. I was explaining this to my sister on the phone last night who could not understand why I was so excited about receiving them in my recent package. See, to those back in the states you might just think - Clif Bars - oh those are yummy, I eat them when I go hiking, or whatever. But to us a Clif Bar is this special taste of home that can't be replicated by anything you can find here. When we get some from farrin (foreign) in a package they immediately go into a special ziploc bag that we keep in the fridge so that no pesky bugs or ants can get to them. Then we have an almost impenetrable rationing system. You must argue your case before the tribunal and then there is a vote on whether it is an eligible and deserving situation. Only then does one of those precious bars leave its sacred storage space. Now you might be wondering what sort of situations are deserving of this honor. Well usually it must entail some degree of struggle and pain on the part of the recipient. Perhaps a 2 hour long bus ride at 6:00am followed by a day full of meetings and no chance to eat until late afternoon. Or after a trip across the island when you haven't eaten or drank anything at all because there are no bathroom stops and you are drugged up on Dramamine. Because we never know when we will be blessed by the arrival of these wonderful treats as our supply runs down we get even more stingy in our approvals. But for now we are blessed because we have quite a stock at the moment and I was even able to sneak by with pretty sub-par reasoning Saturday to indulge in my favorite little treat.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Busy, Busy: BBQ, Doctor, Harry Potter, and more

We have had quite the whirl-wind of activity the past few days. Rather than spending the weekend at home reading and relaxing like we normally do, we found ourselves out and about with our Peace Corps friends.

We should start with our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night. It turned out quite successful and we were even able to leave work an hour early so that we could get everything cooked and still eat at a reasonable hour. Everything turned out delicious and we ate to candlelight and the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. We ended up having way too much food even after we had both stuffed ourselves. The leftover Apple Crisp with Cranberry Sauce and the Garlic Mashed Potatoes were contributed to the BBQ the next day. And the stuffing and vegetables were kept for us to eat on Sunday. Unfortunately the veggies weren't so good the second time around, especially because we had mixed them with the leftover gravy. In the future, we are not going to use the "Golden Gravy" recipe with nutritional yeast that we found online; it was gritty and odd. The highlight of the evening was when Shane's sister called - the holiday just isn't the same without family! The only downside to the event was that we were both too full and tired to do the dishes.

Friday we headed to Kingston to the Peace Corps office with our BBQ contributions in tow. We had a nice surprise we when arrived - 2 packages! The first was the Halloween package from Shane's mom in Alaska which had a bag of Reese's peanut butter cups, a bag of carmels, lots of carmel apple suckers and some Halloween books. Even though Halloween has passed this was still a great package and we don't mind celebrating Halloween all year if it means more candy! Our friends who we shared our candy with were very appreciative too! The second package was a total surprise send from Kaelyn's grandparents. It was full of Nutri-Grain bars and Cliff bars and was the envy of the other volunteers in the office. I think Cliff bars are the number one requested item of volunteers.

Then Shane headed upstairs to the kitchen to work on preparing food for the BBQ. He cooked up some yummy sauteed potatoes and onions, baked potatoes, and sauteed squash! The BBQ turned out to be a really fun event. The Peace Corps staff all brought side dishes to go along with the sides brought by a few of the volunteers and the burgers and veggie burgers. There was a wonderful veggie chili, jerked turkey, festival, mac & cheese, brownies, black forest cake, rice krispie treats, and tons of other yummy things. While everyone was eating there was a fashion show put on by the Peace Corps staff which was really funny. Then there was lots of music to keep up the festive atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Kaelyn missed most of the BBQ because the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) sent her to the doctor since her sore throat and ear ache hadn't gone away in a week. The doctor visit wasn't too traumatic but she was put on 4 types of medication to treat her ears, throat, and sinuses. The worst part was trying to find the way back to the Peace Corps office which resulted in a bad blister on each heel and giving up and chartering a taxi. Luckily there was still lots of food left at the BBQ and Shane cooked her up a yummy veggie burger to make her feel better.

After the BBQ was over and cleaned up there were the quarterly meetings for the various volunteer groups: IT, Literacy, Small Business, and Gender and Development. Most meetings were short this time since everyone was in the BBQ spirit and not much was really accomplished at either of the meetings we attended. Then it was off to the various Happy Hours around New Kingston to socialize with everyone. We went to Christopher's first which is a piano bar and has a very nice atmosphere. There was quite a crowd of volunteers and we all pulled chairs together and enjoyed the Rum and Cokes that were 2 for 1. Then Shane headed to the German Happy Hour but Kaelyn stayed at the first place with some other people because they had a very appetizing menu and she really wanted to try the Mediterranean salad - which was delicious! Shane finally got to sample the German beers that he had been thinking about since the last time we were there for quarterly meetings when they ran out. Then we met back up and headed home with 3 of our friends who were opting to crash at our place rather than get a hotel in Kingston.

Unfortunately, we don't have the greatest accommodations for people wanting to stay at our place but we made do with having them sleep on the coach, 2 armchairs pushed together, and the lounge chair from our balcony covered with a sleeping bag. In the morning Kaelyn and one of our guests had to head to Kingston early for a meeting but Shane fixed up omelets and coffee for the others. When they got to Kingston they went to the Coffee Mill which is a coffee shop close to the Peace Corps office that is frequented by volunteers. It appears to be the only US-style coffee house on the island. After Kaelyn's meeting we met up again in the office and 4 of us headed out to Mandeville which is in Manchester for the rest of the weekend.

To get to Mandeville we caught a bus at the country bus park in downtown Kingston (our first trip there). It was an hour wait for the bus to fill up and then a two hour ride there. We headed to the volunteers' house who we were staying with which is a really big neat old house split up into smaller apartments and has lots of balconies with great views of the city. We also appreciated the cool air that everyone living in Mandeville brags about. The main purpose of our trip there was to see the new Harry Potter movie with our friends (unfortunately the Portmore movie theatre is closed indefinitely). So we headed out to the show and met up with 2 of our host's co-workers. The movie theatre there was really nice and we got there early so we had good seats. We thought the movie was good but not as good as the last one. It seemed to jump around a lot and there was lots of stuff missing compared to the book. After the movie we all went out to eat at a really good Chinese restaurant which we will definitely be making trips back to Mandeville to eat at again. The next morning it was back to Kingston for us, this time it took a bit longer for the bus to fill up since it was a Sunday but we were still back home by noon.

The rest of Sunday was spent eating our leftovers and recuperating from all the socializing. We were both exhausted! I'm sure that we will be playing catch up from our weekend away for a few days especially in trying to survive without having done laundry in over a week. But all in all an overflowing laundry basket seems worth it for all the fun we had with our friends!

-Kaelyn and Shane

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Feast For Two

Happy Thanksgiving!

Although we have to work today we are still going to have a little celebration when we get home tonight. We did some of the prep work and cooking yesterday so that we could eat at a decent hour tonight. It was a bit of a challenge to find some ingredients and a bit pricey for a few things but we mostly worked with what we could get and it is looking like it is going to turn out to be quite a feast. We even had a special holiday breakfast of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins. Too bad there was no parade to watch. We plan to continue the holiday festivities at a Peace Corps BBQ tomorrow. Then on Saturday we are going out for Chinese food and to see Harry Potter 4 with some of our friends. We have definitely found many things to be thankful for this year, most especially the love and support of our family and friends. It is a bit sad to be celebrating the holiday so far away from those we love and we are very thankful to have each other and the new friends we have made here.

Jamaican Thanksgiving Menu

Roasted Vegetables - pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrot, turnip, cho-cho, corn, string beans, and hot pepper

Stuffing - with celery and walnuts

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Gravy



Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Apple Crisp

Cranberry Juice

Chilean Chardonnay


It is tradition in Kaelyn's family to write down what you are thankful for and then these are passed around in a cornucopia and read during Thanksgiving dinner at her Grandparent's. We sent ours in via email but thought we would share them here as well. You will have to guess whose is whose!


My wonderful partner in adventure who keep things fun; e-mail, packages, and phone calls from my friends and family; and jellied cranberries which we unexpectedly found and will give us a little taste of home.


My family who came with me to Jamaica, family back home, new friends and old, toast.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas winds

There is a refreshing breeze blowing through Portmore. It's called the "Christmas Breeze." The weather is again a topic of conversation because something new is happening. It starts in November and lasts through January. Today, it almost felt like fall because it is overcast and breezy, with temperatures down into the 70's F. At night, we almost don't need to use our fan. The air conditioner is still blowing hard at work, but it doesn't feel hot when you step outside. We kind of like it. As long as it doesn't start snowing.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Comfort Food

I have to give a "Big Up" to the wonderful chef in our house. Since we got home from Runaway Bay on Friday I've been feeling rather ill (actually I was sick with runny belly on Thursday night and Friday too) with what I believe is a cold. Doesn't that seem like a strange concept - coming down with a cold in Jamaica. But for the past 4 days I have had a sore throat, ear pain, and have been tired and achey. And of course my wonderful husband has taken exceptional care of me by fixing me all my favorite feel-better foods and lots of hot tea. On Saturday he made grilled (soy) cheese and vegetable soup. On Sunday, egg-drop soup and popcorn. And last night he made mashed potatoes (with green bananas and garlic) and stir fried vegetables (pak choy, carrot, and onion with lots of soy sauce). I have to say I have been very well taken care of and there is just something nice about being treated with your favorite comfort foods when you are feeling sick.


Highlights from ESC

Just a few things to let you know about what we did last week from Tuesday to Friday. Amidst all of the meetings and going-overs of Peace Corps policy, there was time for relaxation, reflection, and refreshment.

First, the food. We got to eat about five times a day. For breakfast, there was always porridge, muffins, coffee, johnny cakes, eggs, and some sort of meat and vegetable. The porridges included banana and hominy. There was sauteed cabbage most days that was very good. This was served at 7:30 AM. Then, around 10 AM, we had more coffee, fruit (pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe), and pastries. At 12:30, we had lunch, which included a soup, dessert, starch, vegetable or two, and two kinds of meat entree. There was always enough for vegetarians. The second coffee break was at 2:30 PM, with more coffee, juice, fruit, and this time cookies and banana bread. Then dinner at 6:30 or 7 PM, with a different dessert, soup, vegetables etc. Desserts included white cake, fruitcake, sweet potato pie, coconut cream pie, apple pie, cheesecake, and pineapple moose. Needless to stay, most everyone was stuffed.

On Thursday night, there was a hotel band with bass, guitar, and drums. The drummer let me sit on a few songs and he switched to guitar. While other volunteers sang, I played drums to reggae favorites including Bob Marley and Jah Cure. I had to practice my reggae stylings, which had not seen much use back in the states. We also played "Sweet Home Chicago" and (oddly) "The Piano Man" by Bill Joel. I think the piano player wanted to play that one. It was really fun
and the night ended around 1 AM.

All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable week that got us recharged at least until the holidays, when we will have another break.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Northern Hospitality

Sorry it has been almost a week since we have posted! But don't worry about us, everything is fine - just a case of being without Internet access. Last week we passed a Peace Corps milestone, we attended our Early Service Conference (ESC) which occurs three months into your service (service starting when you reach your site). Our conference was held in Runaway Bay, St. Ann at the HEART Hotel which meant that we got to spend 4 days on the North Coast. We also got to enjoy some of the luxuries that come with staying in a hotel for 4 days, 3 nights. It doesn't take much to get us excited but having a room away from home where we didn't have to cook or clean for ourselves was definitely luxurious. The hotel was a training facility for students who are training to work in the hospitality industry but that didn't really detract from the experience in fact it may have made the staff more hospitable because they were being tested. We ate extremely well not only for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner but during the two breaks of the day too when they would bring out tray after tray of fresh fruit and pastries. They would also prepare a special vegetarian meal for lunch and dinner in addition to what was on the buffet. Although the hotel wasn't on the beach there was a pool and we had one free afternoon when we were able to go enjoy the beach and local attractions. The hotel did have hot water although our room lacked it which was one downside, luckily Kaelyn got one hot shower in by going to our friend's room. But we did have satellite TV and were able to catch a few episodes of Sex and the City and Seinfeld which we have definitely been missing. Oh yeah and we went to meetings during the day which can be expected from any conference but we don't really want to dwell on the boring parts. Overall just getting away and being with all our friends was the best part. The conference was only for those volunteers who came with our Group (Group 76) and out of the 62 who we departed Miami with in July there are 54 of us left. It was nice to hear from others who are feeling and experiencing the same things we are. It was surprising to hear how many people where going home for Christmas. It was also nice to make plans to do exciting things with other volunteers because now that the rain has stopped we are definitely ready to get out of the house more and see more of the island.

-Kae and Shane

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

3 Month Blahs Setting In?

We had a nice talk on Sunday. After three months of actually being in our site, we both realized that our Peace Corps service isn't exactly what we thought it would be. Of course, we don't want to leave early or anything. It's just easy to look forward to Summer 2007 when we will be leaving. It is hard because there is such a definite ending date and you can't help but plan ahead. Again, not that we want to leave now. But our job is still pretty boring. We like that we can use the internet, but the projects we are working on seem like something that we could be doing back at home. We want to get to the point where we feel like Jamaica is home, not just someplace we happen to be right now. This could easily happen over the next year and a half, and maybe by then we won't want to leave. We shall see.

We hope to have something more exciting to write about soon. Stay tuned.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Now I've Heard Everything

The other day I decided that I had heard it all. It happened when I was at work chatting about going to the beach last weekend. The owner of our favorite spot - Prendy's On the Beach - happened to be in the office and I was telling her how we didn't stay long which is why we didn't stop in to eat. In fact I told her the only thing we got while we were there was a sunburn. She took this opportunity to let me in on a little secret - Red Stripe Beer makes an excellent tanning product. You just puncture a little hole in the cap so that you don't get too much at once and then you spread it over you body. Can you imagine? Not only would you leave the beach smelling like salt and fish but beer too. But perhaps it is crazy enough it just might work - because in Jamaica Red Stripe is the answer to everything!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This is a Test. This is only a Test . . .

Yesterday we had an island-wide test of our emergency procedures. Actually the test started on Monday evening when we went into prep mode. When we were contacted by our warden about this he assured us that they had not hinted there would be any more to the test and that we should just stay home and chill out. During prep mode we would be expected to stay at our site and begin to prepare for an evacuation by securing our house and packing our emergency supplies. Since we thought they were just testing the communication channels we spent Monday night making dinner and watching The Young and the Restless as we would most every evening. Big surprise on Tuesday morning when our warden woke us up at 7:00am telling us we would need to be at our meeting point in Kingston between 10:00am and noon. Luckily we are close so we were able to get all our things together and make it there by 10:00. Lesson learned - we should have had our bags packed and house ready because we might not have had the luxury of so much time to get there. In fact we only forgot two things in our emergency bags - sleeping bags and toilet paper. Good thing it wasn't really an emergency or we would have really been in trouble without the toilet paper. Unfortunately, in the process of packing our stuff and making our list of possessions we were leaving behind we realized that some things have gone missing from our apartment (some jewelry and our camera). But we have realized some ways we can better secure our place to hopefully prevent anyone from entering again. So perhaps this test was a blessing in disguise. As for the test itself we went to our assigned point in Kingston (there is also one in Montego Bay for the volunteers on that side of the island) and were able the hang out with the other volunteers for a while in the nice air conditioned conference room. They even had fruit, muffins, pastries, and sandwiches for us to snack on, plus they provided lunch. Things wouldn't be so nice in an actual emergency but it was a nice treat since they had turned our day upside down. We had debriefing session about how the procedure worked and what could be done better and then we were released to return home. It was nice to practice because it is definitely possible with the weather situation here and occasional civil unrest that at some point in our service we would experience it for real. Other volunteers had to during Hurricane Ivan last year. So we got the test out of the way and now we all know what we need to do better in the future. Plus we got to see all our friends and we didn't have to go to work - so who's complaining?


It's the Great Halloween Enchilada, Charlie Brown

Note: This is a post describing our weekend festivities which we meant to put up on Monday but couldn't because the internet was down. There are more pictures on our flickr site (see link to the right).

At least, enchiladas were in our plans when a package containing a mysterious item arrived for us in Jamaica. Because the box was too large to carry, Kaelyn opened it and placed the contents our canvas tote bag. This is a bag I had received as a gift from the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Division when I worked there as an intern. It said “Local, Perennial, Indigenous” on the side and had pictures of native wildflowers that Lawrencians should plant in their gardens. But what did this tote hold?

Well, when Kaelyn got home, I was just finishing up teaching a tennis lesson for the students at the local high school. I hurried home and met Kaelyn at our apartment. We decided to go to the store and get some supplies for the weekend, and we left so quickly that I did not have a chance to really look in the bag. All I noticed at the top was some Zeiss lens cleaners. “Well, those are useful,” I thought to myself as we walked to the store. But really, I had been expecting something more exciting, since we had received lens cleaners in our last package. While at the store, Kaelyn let it slip that there were tortillas in the bag.

***In case you didn’t catch that, Kaelyn's mom had sent some very exciting tortillas! ***

That was a big surprise. It’s amazing how the little things like burritos can instantly remind you of home. Kaelyn let me in on the secret so that we could pick up supplies to make Mexican food. So we got some chili powder and canned tomatoes. We already had black beans, tomatoes, and hot pepper at home.

On Saturday, I set the beans to soak while we went to the beach. When we came home, I rinsed the beans in a colander. I cooked rice and set it aside. Meanwhile, I chopped onion and garlic and sautéed them in the pan with a couple tablespoons of chili powder. Then I added the black beans, hot pepper, can of tomatoes with juice, and some water. I let that cook for an hour and a half, adding a little water. It thickened up into a nice sauce, quite like enchilada sauce. Cubed avocado and corn rounded out the meal. The star was the tortillas; they were soft and luxurious. We filled them with the beans, rice, avocado, corn, and some Caribbean hot pepper sauce. We put our Halloween pumpkin light on the table and ate off of our Halloween plates and napkins that also came in the package. It was our Halloween feast, as you can see in the picture.

On Sunday, we added another onion, garlic, another can of tomatoes, chili powder, and veggie mince. We mixed it all together and heated it up. Instead of avocado, there was guacamole. It was very good. Then, to finish off the mixture on Tuesday morning, I refried it and had it with an egg, Costa Rican style. A very fun Halloween celebration, which should continue next week when we get my Mom’s package with some more candy.


The Legend of Zorro

Okay so this review is a bit late considering we say this movie last Tuesday but better late than never. Unfortunately, we will have no movie review for this week or next week because the theatre is closed so they can fix the AC. We had been looking forward to seeing A History of Violence this week but now we will just have to wait for it to come out on video.

So now onto our review of The Legend of Zorro which we managed through without the AC. Luckily we got a seat right under the fan, the only downside to that was being in the second row. So our necks hurt a bit but we didn't sweat as much. We also indulged on cool drink and popcorn during the intermission even though we had treated ourselves to Veggie Burger combos at Burger King before the movie.

The movie itself was better than some we have seen here but not one we would recommend others rush out to see.

Kaelyn: *** (out of 5) Good, clean fun. A nice family film.
Shane: ** (out of 5) The little kid was annoying, but I liked the wacky plot involving nitroglycerine hidden in soap smuggled into California. I felt that CZJ and the two Pinkertons should have gotten more screen time as they were more interesting than Antonio and his fear of being cuckolded. A mindless diversion that should have been more diverting.

-Kaelyn and Shane

Friday, November 04, 2005

Halloween Package!

I picked up our Halloween package from my family today! And usually I wait until I am with Shane to open packages but today I opened it here so I could put everything in a bag for carrying it home on the bus. Plus I just couldn't wait!

For your information the package included:
A Halloween paper lantern - with batteries
Halloween paper plates and napkins
A ghost wind-up toy
Candy - including Halloween Peeps (my fav)
Vegetarian Times magazine
The program from Winfield - now I'm really jealous I didn't get to go
Tortillas - this was awesome and totally unexpected, I think I'm going to try and make black bean enchiladas with them
Lens cleaners
Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume One
Two CDs: Audioslave - Out of Exile and String Cheese Incident - One Step Closer
Plus a card that I have yet to open - I have to save something for Shane

It was a very exciting package indeed. But unfortunately the one Shane's mom sent for Halloween has yet to make it here yet. It is coming all the way from Alaska though. Maybe next week.


p.s. Our friends got something really neat in their package - a XL Pack Towel, its ultralite and extra compact. The ones they got were msr brand and they think they came from REI. They dry really quick and are easy to hand wash! Just in case anyone wanted to send us some too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No Peace In Spanish Town

Lately there has been quite a bit of violence going on in neighboring Spanish Town. On Sunday the leader of one of the city's two gangs (who has been on the wanted list for over 10 years) was killed by the police and for the past two days there have been roadblocks and a gun war in retaliation. If you want to read more about it there have been several articles in today and yesterday's Jamaica Gleaner and Observer newspapers. We just wanted to assure everyone that we haven't been affected by it in any way. Luckily we can still get to Kingston without having to go through Spanish Town. Although avoiding it does make traveling to other parts of the island a bit difficult. However, for some of our fellow volunteers living in St. Catherine that is their only option for getting groceries and I'm sure it will be much more difficult for them. For now it seems that things have calmed down and the ban for PCVs to travel there has been lifted. Now it joins Downtown Kingston as a restricted area that we are only permitted to travel in after notifying Peace Corps first. Hopefully, the worst is over and things will fully return to normal in the old capital and No Peace In Spanish Town will return to being a song rather than the status quo.


October Update: Rain Mash-Up Every Ting

Note: We do a monthly update to our friends and family by email. We thought we would include it on our blog too just in case others were interested.

Friends and Family,

It's been a while since our last group email because we have decided to do about one per month so as not to fill up everyone's inboxes too much, and so we can amass some interesting anecdotes to relate. Remember also that we usually update our blog ( at least a couple of times a week, if you want more information. Note the subscription form on the right-hand side of the blog page, if you are interested in receiving our updates through email.

As the subject of this email suggests, October has been marked by rain, water, and dampness. October is always the wettest month in Jamaica, with an average of 7.0 inches, versus 4.0 inches for the next highest month, May. This October was record breaking with all the storms that have come through the Atlantic and Caribbean. December through April are the months with the lowest average rainfall, averaging 1 inch or less. December through April is also tourist season, because who wants their vacation interrupted by rain. This means this past month we spent most of our time when we were not at work staying inside reading books. Then, when the sun would come out, we rushed to do laundry and dry everything out so it would not mildew.

The biggest weather event was Tropical Storm, later Hurricane, Wilma, which dropped many inches of rain all over Jamaica by parking near the island and raining heavily for nearly a week straight. The rains started on Friday, October 14th, around noon and did not let up until Wednesday, six days in all. Monday was the national holiday, Hero's Day but most of the celebrations were canceled or rescheduled. On this day, Jamaicans celebrate their heritage through civic ceremonies and raucous parties. The heroes in question are seven great Jamaicans who contributed to the evolution of the country. The rain damaged many roads, including the main roads out of Portmore, and flooded a few communities around Jamaica. Some volunteers were stranded in certain parts of the island because the roads to return were blocked.

On Halloween weekend we were going to go to a party hosted by some volunteers in Mandeville. However, all reports, and even the Peace Corps office, indicated that there was going to be severe rain and flooding that weekend. So we chose to stay home and not risk getting stranded in Mandeville or returning to find our home flooded.

There were some other non-water related noteworthy events in October. Shane went to a hazard mitigation workshop in Ochi hosted by ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management), during which he was treated to a nice vegetarian meal at the hotel where the event was hosted.

We have both settled into projects at our job. Kaelyn has been working to create a Microsoft Access database to track the building applications that come through the Municipal Council. In the process she has also done an audit of the previously collected information in an attempt to make the database as accurate as possible. This has involved comparing the paper files, the building application book, and the minutes from the planning meetings. Shane began a project focused on the history of Portmore. Often schools call into the office requesting this information but it has never been put into a collective format. He will be utilizing his research skills and compiling a story that starts with the Tainos and ends up with the formation of the first municipality in Jamaica.

On Fridays we work on community projects outside of the Municipal Council office. Shane is working at a local high school doing literacy tutoring during the school day and tennis lessons after school. He has teamed up with his brother, Zach, a teacher in Kansas City to participate in the World Wide Schools program. He has his literacy students practice their writing by communicating with Zach's class and through this they share information about the culture of Jamaica. The tennis lessons have been infrequent due to the rain. There is also the issue that while the school has 10 tennis racquets and a court, it lacks tennis balls and a net which can make forming a serious team a bit difficult. So far they have been making due with just learning the basics and using the 3 balls that Shane was able to buy in Kingston. Kaelyn spends her Fridays in Kingston at the Peace Corps office working with the SPA (Small Project Assistance) program. This is a fund from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) through which Peace Corps volunteers apply for grant assistance of approximately US$2,000 for their projects.

Needless to say, October hasn't been our favorite month on the island with all this rain. We definitely wouldn't recommend anyone plan their vacation here during the high point of rainy season. So "Welcome November, we hope you brought sunshine!"

Hope this gives you an idea what our life is like here in Jamaica. If anyone has any specific questions we would love to hear them; it is hard for us to know what people want to know about. Plus we love to get email!

Love you all,
Kaelyn and Shane

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Jamaica to Lawrence


We have sent a bit of Jamaica to Lawrence so if you are in the neighborhood you should definitely check out this show! You can pretend like you are in "Jamrock" with us.

GRANADA THEATER - 1020 Mass. St. Lawrence, KS
Tickets: $20
Visit for your chance to win FREE TICKETS to this show!