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

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