Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Since we had a visitor we had the fortune of receiving many things that wouldn't be as easy to send in a box. Shane's Mom brought us a duffel bag stuffed full of treats, more than we ever imagined we would be getting. The highlight was a queen size air mattress so now we can have guests and they won't have to sleep on the lawn furniture. We are hoping this will increase our popularity among the Peace Corps crowd, especially since Portmore isn't a popular destination spot on the island. No ThermaRest pads needed at our house; we offer superior comfort and only need 8 hours notice to charge up the pump! The rest of the duffel was crammed full of Clif Bars, Mike & Ikes, and Fruit Leather, oh my! As luck would have it Costco carries these things in bulk so we now have an ample supply. No more Clif Bar rationing - yippie! Our other treats were candles and incense (now we can combat the burning trash smell); magnets; licorice; lotion, soap, and body spray for Kaelyn; 2 huge bottles of hand sanitizer; and the card game Phase 10 (which Kaelyn kicked Shane's butt at yesterday). It was a truly overwhelming experience and we are well set with treats to send us into the new year! Plus Shane's Mom brought some super yummy homemade cookies from his brother's family and a cute snowman ornament made by our niece.
We also got a Christmas package on Friday from Shane's Dad which was filled with lots of festive treats, including: cocoa and Christmas chocolates, holiday scented candles, clothes, and Christmas kitchen towels. Also in the box was a wall decoration which reads Welcome to the McCalls and has a different hanging piece for each holiday and season. Right now we have a cute snowflake hanging from it. It really transforms our apartment and makes it feel homey! So while we may have been a bit lacking in the Christmas spirit before it definitely found us before it was too late. We realized that with a few touches from home we could still feel connected to the Christmas Past that we had been longing for. And it isn't over yet, we must have been extra good this year because there are a few more Christmas treats in transit!
A very special thanks to our wonderful family and friends who through their emails, cards, phone calls, and treats have helped us to be far away yet still feel connected!
- Kaelyn and Shane
- The Treasure Beach hotel is pretty nice. It has a different feel than many of the other lodgings down here: stately rather than funky. However, it is owned by a Jamaican and many Jamaicans stay there. Their breakfast is also quite good, although the rest of the meal offerings seem way overpriced (e.g. US$45 for lobster?). The grounds are really beautiful and it's a good place to chill out and has easy access to the beach.
- Jack Sprats restaurant is really good. Try the conch soup and pizza. (We can give you the conch soup recomendation on good authority now because we have just begun eating seafood after a 5 year hiatus.) There is also a nice stretch of beach here. The atmosphere is casual and the prices are very reasonable.
- Floyd's Pelican Bar is a must-see. It is a bar built on stilts on a sandbar a half-mile out from the coast. You can get a boat ride from Treasure Beach. The drinks are cold, the water is clear and warm, and there are sea creatures to look at underneath the bar.
We also shared Christmas with a group of volunteers at another PCV's house, which was a lot more fun than eating at a hotel buffet. There was stuffed chicken, gungo pea stirfry, roast yams, and homemade carrot cake, among other things. We opened some crackers which had 8 whistles inside. Each of the whistles had a number that corresponded to a note in the C scale. The set came with songs; each person blew the whistle when the conductor pointed, and you could recognize the Christmas Carols. You haven't been moved by "Silent Night" until you have heard it done by eight kazoo-whistles blown by people who are laughing so hard they sometimes get confused about when they are supposed to blow.
Definitely check out Treasure Beach if you are looking for a relaxing place to spend a few days and unwind.
-Shane and Kaelyn
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Well it has been a busy couple of months here Jamaica. Thanks to the end of the rainy season we have been able to get out and about much more often and have been enjoying seeing more of the island.
In mid- November we attended our Early Service Conference (ESC) in Runaway Bay, St. Ann which is on the North Coast. Although the purpose of the event was to go over more Peace Corps policies and forms for us it was more about catching up with our friends and indulging in all the hotel had to offer. We had a really busy Thanksgiving weekend. For Thanksgiving Day, we prepared a lovely meal for the two of us, using our oven for the first time for roast vegetables and apple crisp. On Friday, we went to a Staff Appreciation BBQ at the Peace Corps Office (complete with jerk turkey). The next day we traveled to Mandeville (in Manchester Parish) to visit some friends, enjoy the cooler climate there, and see Harry Potter 4. The theatre in Portmore is now closed, so we have to go elsewhere for our movie fix.
One exciting part of being with the Portmore Municipal Council is the commemorative events. For Christmas, there was a tree lighting in front of the Portmore Mall, complete with a holiday choir of public bus drivers (Feliz Navidad was their big hit) and a 30 foot tree. There was also a Christmas office party held at the fancy Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston. We dressed up in our best clothes, sent down from the States, which was appropriate because everyone else was very dressed up too, "Cinderella Ball" style. It started out tame with dinner, awards, and oldies Reggae music, but the dancing got really crazy at the end, so we chose to watch and not partake.
December has brought the end of the Hurricane season and also the Christmas Breezes which have cooled things down considerably. Although it is still too hot to sleep without the fan here in deserty Portmore. We have also enjoyed some of the Jamaican Christmas Traditions, especially Christmas Drink (made from Sorrel) and Fruit Cake. And last weekend we visited the Devon House Craft Fair in Kingston where there was lots of local fare and goods. This was a great place for us to pick out our Christmas gifts!
Right now we are busy preparing for our first guest! Shane's Mom will be getting flying into Kingston on Thursday evening to spend Christmas with us. We are planning to spend most of her visit on the beach, what better way to celebrate Christmas in Jamaica? Then we are meeting up with 2 other couples from our group and will be ringing in the New Year in a bamboo hut. We will post pictures of these two trips on our Flickr site! We are very excited about checking out some new places on the island and about getting to celebrate the holidays with family and friends!
Some other exciting news is that we are planning 2 trips home for next year one in March and one in December. As much fun as Jamaica is we are definitely elated to be coming back to visit our favorite places and favorite people!
We wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season!
Kaelyn and Shane
Sunday, December 18, 2005
We got into the room about 2:30 PM. It had hot water, and cable, and internet. Hey, that was just what we were looking for. That worked out well for us. Plus the big bonus was that the room was carpeted. The last time we saw carpeting was at the hotel in Miami. It was almost too much for our barefoot feet to handle. It was so great not to have to wear flip-flops (Jamaicans call them slippers) while inside plus it felt so soft and clean. We spent the afternoon watching TV, showering, and using the internet. All at the same time. Well almost. At one point Shane was checking his email, watching the KC Chiefs game, while switching back and forth between "Sean of the Dead", which is a funny movie by the way. Kaelyn took two hot showers, to make up for all the cold ones in our apartment.
We went down to the party/banquet around 8 PM. The food was ok. We think it might have been a little funny because it had been sitting on the buffet line for a while. (We started at 8:30 rather than 7:00, typical Jamaican event) We both got a vegetable plate, and it was really good, with about 12 kinds of vegetables (corn, potato, cabbage, tomato, mushrooms etc. ). After the food, members of staff wowed us with their musical talents. The City Engineer sang some smooth R & B. The accounting staff did a skit and a dance routine. Our boss, the planning director, is a bit of a comedian and did a little standup. We were so proud.
After the performances, the DJ's went through some 70's funk and pop (e.g. Jackson 5), then into oldies reggae and dance hall. We danced a bit, but bowed out when it got a little too hot and heavy for us. Jamaican dancing can sometimes make grinding from back home seem quite tame. It was a fun night, and then we had the next morning to chat online and take more hot showers. Afterwards we went to a Christmas craft fair at Devon House and went out to eat at the Thai restaurant.
All in all, a very nice holiday weekend.
-Shane and Kae
While teaching them how to play tennis, I was continuously reminding them that, if this had been a real tennis match, their shots would have to go over the net. Then I would point to a spot in the air (approximately 36 inches off the ground) and say, "See that shot, that was a little bit too low, so that would not have gone over the net in a real game." I think they got the point of the whole net thing, but it's kind of hard to practice while trying to visualize the net.
So, last Friday, I finally unveiled my big plan for showing them -- kind of -- what a net would be like. I took two volleyball poles that the school had and tied a length of clothesline between them. I measured the height at the middle so it would be 36" and a little bit higher at each end, as a real tennis net would be. Even though it was the last day of school before the Christmas vacation, I still got 5 kids to come out and practice. Success: the net thing worked, in my opinion. I said, "See, you have to hit it over the net", as I introduced a new concept into my tennis pedagogy. For the most part, they remembered to hit it over the clothesline instead of under.
Then I took the clothesline home so that I could still use it to hang clothes in my apartment. Beautiful. My hopes are that we can have a net donated by Jamaica Tennis Assocation or another source sometime in the spring school semester. Then, in the next school year, we could play competitions against other high schools.
One other thing we need is tennis balls. Right now I only have two that I bought in Kingston. It was a can of three, but we lost one in the tall grass. Now the two we have left are turning brown from dirt and have quite a few burrs (macka is the Jamaican word I learned for burrs) stuck in them. So if anyone out there has any old (or new) tennis balls they would like to send down, feel free to ship them down in with another package or as a separate box.
The address is:
United States Peace Corps
c/o Suchet Loois, Peace Corps Country Director
8 Worthington Avenue
Kingston 5, Jamaica, West Indies
Thanks for your help.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Just in case you happen to get your hands on some sorrel here is the classic Jamaican recipe. Cheers!
RECIPE - SORREL DRINK
1 pound sorrel
2-4 oz. ginger
2 quarts water
8-12 pimento grains
1. Wash sorrel thoroughly, using the fingers to lift it from the water.
2. Put into a stainless steel container.
3. Scrape and wash ginger. Grate and add to the sorrel. Add pimento grains.
4. Boil water and pour over sorrel.
5. Allow to stand four to six hours. Strain.
6. Sweeten to taste and add rum to taste.
7. Add optional wine.
8. Serve with ice cubes.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Likkle more (little more) - see or talk to you later
"Okay, likkle more." (At the end of a phone call or conversation.)
Come - used when you want someone to follow or bring you something
"Bring the book come."
Lick - to hit or beat
"Him lick me sir." (What Shane's students tell him constantly at school.)
Hush - be quiet or stop teasing (A nice replacement for shut up.)
Whagwan or Whampum - what's going on or what's happening?
Lattah (later) - goodbye
Mawnin and Eveling - Good Morning and Good Evening (Said to everyone you pass.)
Beg ya - Can I have some money?
"Beg ya $20"
Mi soff (me soft) - The answer to beg ya meaning you don't have any money.
Pickney - children
"Da pickney dem chat too much." (The kids talk too much.)
Ya so or deh so - over here or over there
"Mi live deh so."
One stop or bus stop - please stop the taxi here
Nuff - a lot or enough
"Mi ave nuff pumpkin." (I have a whole bunch of pumpkin.) ~ This happens sometimes in our fridge when we don't cook it fast enough.
Ole eap (whole heap) - plenty or too many
"Ole eap of violence in Spanish Town."
Mash up - damage or destroy (can be a verb or a noun)
"Wilma mash up da road." or "Da road mash up."
Mi cyaan boder (me can't bother) - I can't deal with that
Faarin (foreign) - the States
Ya'unerstan (do you understand) - you know? (This follows pretty much every other statement.)
- Kae and Shane
Monday, December 05, 2005
There were a few exciting things there that I could not find anywhere else. Corona, tequila, and tortillas, will make for a wonderful Mexican night. I also picked up some pretzels and a scented lemongrass citronella mosquito-repellent candle made in Jamaica. You really cannot find these things at most supermarkets. So it is a treat when I found them and, of course, I had to pick some up because I have only been out to Mega Mart three times in six months. I had a fun time wondering the aisles, almost imagining I was back in the states. Shopping is one thing that the states does very efficiently, I must admit, and there is a definite difference down here. On the plus side in Jamaica is that there are little shops all over the residential areas that sell a limited amount of goods like non-perishable foods and a few vegetables and toiletries. I just can't imagine the suburban neighborhoods in the US where every third house is either a shop, barber, bar, or restaurant. Hello zoning, goodbye next door neighbor with bar and gambling games or other neighbor cutting hair in garage.
In other interesting weekend news: Shane was presented with a customer appreciation gift basket at our grocery store - we aren't exactly sure why but it made us feel very cool. We found out that our landlady plans on getting a tank so that we can have running water during the daytime - which means no more waking up super early just so that you can have a decent shower. We bought a portable closet and rearranged the apartment to accommodate this new piece of furniture. And Shane made a really yummy vegan chocolate cake from a recipe in our Peace Corps Jamaica Cookbook.
But the most exciting thing of all were the treats Shane brought back from MegaMart! Coronas and Tequila! Isn't he just the awesomest husband ever! He also got some tortillas so now we can have Mexican Night Part 2. I can't wait!