Wednesday, November 02, 2005

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

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