Monday, December 11, 2006

Sinkle Bible and Joseph Coat

Joseph Coat and Sinkle Bible

I have started a small garden at my apartment. Since it is on the second story, everything has to be in pots, but that still leaves a lot of options for smaller plants. I have one pot with aloe, called Sinkle Bible, that I originally bought at the Denbigh Agricultural Fair back in August. It started out slowly because I wasn't giving it enough water. It looks sort of like a cactus, but it needs more water than cacti do.

The other plant is Joseph Coat because the leaves can be any number of hues, from purple to green to yellow. It came from Ocho Rios, near the small craft market, where a man was selling different sorts of plants on the ground outside of the craft stalls. I was giving the Joseph Coat too much water at first, so one of the four plants died. But now it is under control, and appears to be thriving.

-Shane

Fun in Negril

Kaelyn and Merpickney

We went back to Negril with Caitlin and Khaled and our Jamaican friends a couple weekends ago and had a great time. Once again, we stayed at the Hearbeat Hotel, a reasonably priced place set right on the cliffs of the West End of Negril with great sunsets, snorkeling, and lounging opportunities. It was Khaled's birthday (the low sum of 30 years), and it was a compelling reason to enjoy Negril.

Cake Delivery

There were a lot of Peace Corps and other visitors in the area because of the Reggae Marathon. Four PCV's participated and did quite well. Of course, we weren't there for the running, but it was fun to see everyone and hang out together. Saturday was spent swimming with the Merpickney (our Jamaican friends' kids) and then eating dinner at LTU, a nice and friendly place to eat. It overlooks the sea and has a great view. To celebrate Khaled's birthday, there was two birthday cakes, carrot and vegan chocolate.

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On Sunday, we made the obligatory trip to Margaritaville. This time, we sampled the margaritas, and they are indeed scrumptious. Then, there was more time for sunning and swimming. Shane even took a bike ride all the way to the lighthouse at the other end of Negril. What a great time.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Away from Home

What to do when you are a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving and you need some stuffing/pumpkin pie/turkey love? Answer -- have your own Thanksgiving! This is what thousands of volunteers were doing all around the world last weekend, because Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in any Peace Corps countries (No, our neighbor to the north is not a Peace Corps country).

Desserts

There was a small Thanksgiving dinner at our house on Wednesday, with three of our fellow Volunteers. On Thursday at the Peace Corps Office, we cooked 6 pumpkin pies, 1 large apple crisp, and prepared a huge pan of stuffing. Thanksgiving was held for all the volunteers on Friday. It rained all afternoon, but finally let up so we could have the feast. There was a huge amount of food, but every bit of dessert was eaten. The only leftovers were savory items. Sneakily, I had saved some pumpkin pie at our apartment so I was able to have some sweet leftovers.

Happy Hour Girl Talk

After the feast, there was the traditional happy hour at the Four Seasons Hotel. Luckily, they haven't run out of German or Czech (Budweiser) beer. It was such a tiring weekend, and a rainy one, that we stayed home for the rest of it and recuperated.

-Shane

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hot New Dance

We were riding in the taxi on the way to work today, when I noticed the driver had a bobble head dog sitting on his dashboard. After a second of inspection, I complimented him on having a nice dog. This, for some reason, led to a fairly long conversation, at least compared to my usual taxi cab rides. The taxi driver said the doll was doing the dutty wine, a hugely popular dance for females. It has been criticized because it comes from the devil, and it can lead to horrendous neck injuries and even death. So I said I thought it was time for a new dance, because the dutty wine has been going on for months.

Lo and behold, the driver busted out the new dance, the Hot Wuk. He pantomimed shaking your fingers as if they had just been burnt in a fire. Then he even played the track for me. He promised me it would take over the dutty wine in no time. Once again, this dance is only for the ladies, though.

-Shane

PS - Apparently, I am behind the times because this has been going since at least September, as YardFlex will tell you, but it is still the biggest dance now. If you want the know the more controversial real meaning of the song, click here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo"

Do you recognize the line above? If so, you are one of the many people who have seen the new trilogy of Star Wars movies. It is one of the worst and most annoying lines from those movies, but the movies on a whole are quite good, even in comparison to the classic trilogy. The two trilogies are especially good if you watch them back to back. The new ones aren’t all bad dialogue, and the old ones’ special effects still hold up.

We were able to watch the Jedi and Sith over the past weekend because Cinemax showed all six Star Wars movies in a loop from Friday to Monday. We watched three of them on Saturday, and three of them on Sunday. Any more would have been overdoing it. For those of you haven’t read an earlier post about Jamaican cable, it is one of the perks of living in a developing country. Since piracy laws are either nonexistent or not enforced, Jamaican cable is outrageously cheap compared to the US (J$800 a month, or US$12). Plus, you get all of the premium cable channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime etc. They are pirated signals from satellite feeds coming from the US. So you may get channels from all over the US, ranging from Denver to NYC, and the reception comes in and out frequently as channels are blocked and unblocked.

I never would have thought of low price cable as being something I would get in the Peace Corps, but it’s here and I might as well take advantage of it.

-Shane

Monday, November 13, 2006

If You Don't Like Cats, Stop Reading

One of my PCV friends who lives nearby has a real passion for animals. So at least once a week, sometimes more, she volunteers at the Kingston SPCA. The facility there has about 20 cages for cats, 20 cages for dogs, a clinic, and space to let the dogs get some exercise. It is in a small renovated house, so it's really pretty cramped. Cats and dogs are not treated very well in many parts of Jamaica, although there are exceptions. Large guard dogs are usually fed very well, and many cats have good homes. But the large amount of stray, hungry, and dirty dogs shows that there is a great need for something like the SPCA in Jamaica.

Since the SPCA has so much work to do, and there is only one office in Kingston, it needs a lot of help. So me and a couple of other volunteers went to the SPCA last Saturday to clean up the cattery. My job was thoroughly cleaning out the cages, while others cleaned the walls behind the cages. Aside from a dirty cage looking bad for prospective adopters, cat waste can carry diseases that make others cats sick. So, with a bleach solution, I cleaned out every possible surface on the cages as best I could. In order to do that, though, the cats had to be transferred out of their current cage into a holding cage, in an exercise that closely resembled one of those puzzles with the little colored squares that must be pushed around to form a specific pattern. It was bad because we misplaced a few cats and they got put back in the wrong cages. But luckily one of the staff there was able to put them back in the right place.

So, if you don't like cats, or are allergic to them, this would not have been a fun experience. But seeing so many little kittens all at the same time was kind of fun, even if some of them did have severe diarrhea. I think I had my fill of cats over the weekend, so I don't need to adopt one to replace old Duodinho, wherever he is.

-Shane

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

We recently spent the weekend at our friends Caitlin and Khaled's house. It was the site for a spooky and fun Halloween party. Most people don't celebrate Halloween in Jamaica, but I have noticed it advertised on a few party fliers because the promoters always have to come up with some new reason to throw a party. Last year we didn't get to go to a Halloween party because our roof was leaking after so much rain from Hurricane Wilma. But this year there were no hurricanes to stop us.

In a perfect prelude to Halloween, the power went out the night before the Halloween party. We were staying at Caitlin and Khaled's in order to help them get ready for the party. Since the power didn't come on until about 10 PM, we weren't able to do much preparation. But we did spend a spooky time eating dinner and talking with only candlelight to see by.

Candy Making

The first thing we did to start off the Halloween fesitivities on Saturday was to eat ghostly pancakes. Then we formed candy out of a mixture that Khaled cooked up, mainly consisting of sugar, butter, and food coloring. It felt like silly putty. As you can see in the picture above, we rolled the shapes with our fingers and then put little designs on them with a knife. I also bushed a portion of the yard to make way for a fire circle for the bonfire later in the day.

Fire A Catch

After all the buildup, it was time to start the festivities. As you can see in the picture, there was a bonfire outside, complete with s'mores, burnt tongues from the roasted marshmallows, and acoustic guitar. Inside, there was a dance party and a card table. The card game of the night was golf. It's a great game and gets better as the party progresses and the players' memory gets a little slower. Everyone brought a little something to snack on: hummus, guacamole, trail mix, deviled eggs, popcorn. The homemade tortilla chips and margaritas really went well together. Plus there was pumpkin soup for everyone.

Costumes

Kaelyn and I both had a costume. She was a kitty, with the ears and tail left over from another volunteer from last year's Halloween festivities. I was a crab in a hat loaned by our friend Lauren, who brought bits of costumes for other people to wear. The other costumes that made an impression at the party were a nerd, a housewife, a freak of nature, and a radiohead. I think we did a good job of bringing Halloween to Jamaica.

-Shane

Monday, October 23, 2006

Canasta Craziness

On Saturday night we had an evening of cool air, good music, and nuff card playing! Our friend Brian bravely hosted the first annual Peace Corps Jamaica Canasta Tournament at his house in Christiana, Manchester. Twelve of us battled it out all night long for the grand prize of $1,200 - Jamaican $ of course! Most exciting of all was the fact that Kaelyn won!
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Canasta became a Peace Corps craze with our training group and we were happy to have 4 of the new volunteers join us so we could spread the love. In addition to canasta the evening also featured lots of snacking, eating out of cups, hair stylings by the neighbor girls, and a slumber party on the floor. There was even a hammock and cable TV!
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It was pretty fabulous and now we can spend all the winnings on supplies for next weekends Halloween Party!

- Shane and Kae

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Phrase of the Day: "Blouse and Skirt"

This is a mild cuss word to be used when you don't want to say anything too offensive, but still want to show that you are upset. Often used by pickney and Christians. A lesser used alternative is "pants and shirt."

-Shane

Word of the Day: Bandulu

Bandulu (noun): Fraud or corruption.

"Keep dat bandulu business out of government"

This is a word we learned from our coworker.

-Shane

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Volleyball and the Beach

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Kaelyn and I went to Trelawney and Montego Bay over the past weekend. On Saturday, we went to the parish of Trelawney for the third annual Burwood Beach Volleyball Tournament. It is a fundraiser for STEA (Southern Trelawney Environmental Association), an organization for which many Peace Corps Volunteers have worked. There were ample beverages, but the only food we ate was tortilla chips and yam salsa. The yam salsa was so good we bought some to eat at home. The yam pizza, on the other hand, was a dissapointment. It sounded like a good idea in theory, but when I went up to look at the result, there was a liberal sprinkling of sliced hot dog as a topping. These are the "Jamaican Reds", those red hot dogs with the artifical red dye number 5. Not too appetizing.

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Burwood Beach, where the tourney was held, has warm, crystal clear water. Unfortunately it is only about two feet deep, so you have to squat on the sand in order to actually be in the water. The other problem with the site is that it had the most disgusting bathrooms. There were flush toilets, but none of them flushed, they just filled up and then overflowed. It would have been better had there been latrines. And the nearby trees weren't very good for bathrooms because they were mangroves and quite swampy (mosquitoes and toilets do not mix). There was an abundance of Red Face Rum, a cheap Trelawney white rum that was sponsoring the tournament. It is no Appleton's Special, let me tell you.

After the volleyball tournament we spent the night in Montego Bay, which is near to the beach where the volleyball tournament was held. I had never been to Montego Bay before because it is a fairly long bus ride from Portmore. On Sunday, we ate lunch at Margaritaville, marking our third trip to the restaurant that we have now visited in all three locations in Jamaica: Ochi, MoBay, Negril in order of preference. This is called the Margaritaville Triumvirate and we can facilitate guests who would like to complete this taxing journey (especially if they pay).

We then went swimming at Doctor's Cave Beach. It is a famous beach in the area and Peace Corps get in free. We got to do some snorkeling and saw sea cucumbers, sting rays, snappers, and many small fish -- much more than in Negril. Sea cucumbers kind of look like turds that lie on the bottom of the ocean and eat sand. Two cool things, though, they can spit out their insides when agitated, and they conform to the shape of your hand as you hold them.

Sunday night was devoted to NFL football. Sometimes it's nice to just sit around and watch it. Not much thought is required. We left on Monday morning, and the bus ride took about 4 hours to get home. It's not bad as long as it is a three day weekend. We definitely want to go back and spend some more time in Jamaica's Second City.

-Shane

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bucket O' Fish

Monday evening we were on our way from Portmore to Kingston to have dinner with a friend and since we didn't feel like waiting we decided to take the first bus that came along. It was an executive class bus which is a $30 premium over the regular city buses. These exec buses are nice coaster buses with AC and tend to be faster than the other buses because they can weave in and out of traffic easily. To me these are a step above the rest and usually the rides are pretty uneventful without the colorful characters you might find on other types of buses. That all changed when I had to sit next to a bucket of fish.

The man with the fish got on 2 stops after we did and promptly sat next to Shane in the back row of the bus. I was sitting in front of Shane which meant that when the man put his bucket in the aisle the fish were sitting right next to me. Usually someone would have to sit in the aisle on the jump seat but not a soul would dare because that would mean their seat would have to rest upon the bucket. So I alone got the lovely pleasure of enjoying the bucket and it's fabulous aroma. But the joy of the bus ride did not end there because the fish man also felt it necessary to sing the entire way.

It was unforgettable - nuff said.

- Kaelyn

Monday, September 25, 2006

Moldy Shoes and Bees

Two slightly strange things happened over the weekend. The first was the discovery of mold growing in the soles of my absolute favorite shoes in the whole wide world - my Jerry Garcia Birkenstocks. Boo! Thankfully these aren't my original limited edition pair but only a substitute. The originals are badly in need of resoleing and the new pair might be too if I'm not careful. I guess I need to be better about wearing them more often - now that I've bleached and sunned them that is. I find it slightly strange that a pair of sandals would be suffering from lack of use in Jamaica of all places. But that's what happens when business casual dress is required at all times!

The second strange event was the visit some bees paid us inside our apartment yesterday afternoon. At first there was one and that was a bit strange but not too alarming. We tried to usher it back outside the window but it seemed a bit confused. Then there were three flying around and coming a bit too close for comfort so we decided we had better take action and Shane went after them with our oldest Newsweek (good thing we got two new ones on Friday). But unfortunately it didn't end there and at least 10 perished throughout the afternoon and evening. We ended up having to close all the windows and doors when we realized there were lots more of them flying around our veranda and balcony. That of course made things very hot and uncomfortable. Thankfully by the end of the night they had moved on and it was safe to once again venture outside.

-Kaelyn

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Everything Irie

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Including the toilet paper!!! This was just too good to resist - both buying and posting about. How cliche! Love it!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mario Mastered


Yes, both Kaelyn and I finally saved the Princess from Bowser, an occasion we deemed momentous enough to garner a blog post.

We got a Nintendo DS Lite from our friend Willy for Kaelyn's birthday, and he also sent the "New Super Mario Bros." game. It took about two months to beat the last castle, but now we can go back and explore all the levels we rushed through to beat the game.

-Shane

Church on the Bus

Jamaica has the most churches per capita of any country in the world. Pretty much on every street you will find a church (and interestingly enough a rum bar). And it is very important in Jamaica to be a Christian, although much less important to act like a Christian (as evidencied by the commonality of sex outside of marriage, corporal punishment, etc). And since so many Jamaicans associate themselves with Christianity it is also important to infuse daily activities with spiritual elements. For instance all schools start the morning with devotions, every meeting begins with a prayer, and every advisory board of the government has a member of clergy appointed to it. At first I found these things to be very striking because in the US seperation of church and state is so important and these types of activities would never fly there. And even though I went to Catholic school for 13 years and was used to prayer in schools I was not prepared for it in the office. I also wasn't ready to be walking down the street and be yelled at from the person preaching on the corner. Not to mention all the persons offering to save me.

One of the more interesting elements of spirituality in everyday life is church on the bus. This isn't any sort of formal event but it just so happens that 50% of the time you are on the bus there is someone preaching in the aisle. Mostly this occurs on the big city buses but it has been known to happen on country buses too. It usually begins with a song or two, followed by some scripture and then a sermon that usually lasts until the person preaching reaches their stop. Most of the time it is pretty low key and usually the other persons on the bus sing along or offer Amens and Yeses when they hear something they like. Sometimes it gets a bit fiery and the person preaching goes a bit overboard but thankfully that doesn't happen too often. While I still find it a bit awkward to be sitting on the bus and being preached to I have to say that it does make the bus ride much less boring. I'm even starting to learn some of the more popular hymns. Plus it makes me feel less guilty for not going to Church on Sunday.

- Kaelyn

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Baby Names

Several Jamaicans have approached us with the fantastic idea that Shane and I should name our child Shaelyn. Now don't get the wrong idea we aren't expecting a baby nor do we plan to be anytime soon. But we are still asked to promise that when we do have a baby we will name it Shaelyn. Because of course Shaelyn is what you get when you combine Shane and Kaelyn. Now personally I think it is a bit ridiculous and would probably be incredibly embarrassing and dorky for the child. And I really hadn't considered that the people recommending this were serious, I thought they were just being funny. That was until I realized that this is a common practice in Jamaica, just like having 2 or 3 different names and the strange ways of spelling names. What clued us in was when our friend's baby was born earlier this week and it was named T'Andre. Of course it was because the parents names are T'sha and Andre. I guess now I'll have to stop laughing when people talk about Shaelyn. But it's still pretty unlikely we'll make use of that name, and the same goes for Kane.

-Kaelyn

Monday, September 04, 2006

Drums and Space

Over the weekend, we went on a trip to visit our friend Frances in the St. Catherine hills and traveled to Ochi to visit the craft markets. We left early Saturday morning to meet up with Frances around 9 AM, because she had chartered a local taxi man for the day. We didn't take public transportation because then it is not possible to stop and linger at the different craft areas, since some of them are not located by the bus stops.

Frances' New Hat

We had visited the craft markets last summer, but didn't really have enough time to look around. This time, we were interested in finding some crafts to give as presents. The first part of the trip was the almost obligatory delay on Mt. Rosser. One trailer had stopped working, and it took about an hour to get it cleared off the road. Tons of tractor-trailers travel on this very narrow, windy, and busy road, because it is the main link between the north and south of Jamiaca. This is also a good road to travel on if you are into the whole motion sickness thing.

The first stop was Fern Gully, which has a number of craft shops. It is a paved over river basin that used to have an arch of vegetation over it blocking out the light, but air pollution has killed off some of the plants and now more sunlight get in. There are a number of craft shops with mostly wood items, but it seems like every shop has the same things. Carved fish, turtles, coasters, etc. Plus there are the carved men with the very large penises. I am not sure who buys them, but maybe they could be used in place of yard gnomes.

The main craft market in Ochi was the next stop, and it had good prices as compared to the shops outside the main market. There was no cruise ship in town, so the vendors were willing to go pretty low on their prices because there were so few buyers. Our big purchase was a conga drum that one of the vendors makes. It sounds really good and is carved from coconut tree. We also bought some assorted percussion instruments in order to complete the drum circle.

The views from France's area are incredible. You can see Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, and the surrounding plains. The night pictures did not turn out because I do not have a good enough camera or I don't know how to use it, but the daytime ones look pretty nice.

View of Portmore

Frances also lives in a place with a very large and well-manicured yard. It is like being at a botanical garden, but with more dogs running around. There are two puppies named Napoleon and Josephine, plus another dog who frequently comes by, one cat, and a donkey on the premises.

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We took a walk to see the local Great House where the British lord of the manor had lived. There is a large construction project going on up there. The Chinese have elected to build a large sporting complex. It is to be used by football teams to train in a cooler climate. It is taking up a huge chunk of land. After the enjoyable hike, we returned to sea level and the Jamaican coastal heat.

Sports Complex Construction

-Shane and Kaelyn

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rodents and Bugs

So 14 months in I've started to notice that things that in my former life would have made me freak out really don't phase me too much any more. For instance, over the weekend while at our friends' house we encountered a mouse and a cockroach in the same evening. Granted I wasn't the one with the broom batting the mouse out the door like a hockey puck (that was all Shane) but I also wasn't standing on a chair screeching. And I didn't even look up when the cockroach was being chased around with a shoe. The next day another mouse visited and this time it was trapped in the bathroom and knocked unconscious with a broom (once again all Shane). Not that I enjoy mice or cockroaches but I guess I've just learned you can't do too much to keep them away. It has lots more to do with poorly constructed houses where the doors meet the floor at an angle than with cleanliness. Not that cleanliness doesn't matter, but where we live in Portmore the houses are so close together that if your neighbors are messy and bringing pests around chances are they are going to visit you too. Plus there are always the pests that come in along with other items. Food for instance. On Tuesday night we cooked up a yummy pot of spaghetti sauce and when I was adding the noodles I found tons of tiny bugs at the bottom of the colander. Sure enough our other bag of newly purchased pastas was crawling with little bugs. The whole dinner was promptly tossed in the trash and while it was annoying to have to fix something else, there wasn't really much else that could have been done. Well we could have eaten the spaghetti bugs and all, but the transformation hasn't gone that far, yet. For now I'm just content with the fact that I can live with these annoyances and they don't cause me to go into a home sick panic. But I do think I'll enjoy the fact that in 10 months time I won't have to keep every single item of food in the fridge (packaged food included) to keep the ants away. For now I'll keep my crackers chilled, inspect my groceries closely, and make sure Shane is always around with the broom.

- Kaelyn

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How We Weathered The Storm

Well, thankfully Ernesto didn't turn out to be the threat we thought it was going to be. It headed to Cuba instead so we got off with just some rain on Sunday and Monday. We were stuck at our friends' house in St. Elizabeth until Tuesday but that had more to do with the fact we all came down with the flu. Well I don't really know if it was the flu but in Jamaica whenever you are sick it's either the flu or runny belly. Since we all had sore throats and runny noses we must have had the flu, right? At least that's what all the Jamaicans told us and then they recommended lime and honey to make us better. We just drank hot tea and relaxed, seemed to do the trick. And even though we spent the whole weekend watching the storm and blowing our noses it was still a really good time. I guess that is because the country is just so much more peaceful than our city life (how can such beautiful fog not put you at peace), plus we have such great friends to hang out with. We cooked up yummy meals including coconut shrimp pasta (the shrimp were a rare find at the Mandaville market), pumpkin curry, and banana crepes. The girls did crafts and the boys read and played computer games. And of course we played canasta, too bad the boys once again triumphed over the girls. But I'm sure there will be a rematch, we still have 3 more months of hurricane season to weather!

- Kaelyn

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"There are some banding features over the eastern semicircle"



Ernesto, you have our attention. It appears to be veering away from a direct hit on Jamaica, but will still affect us with strong rains and moderate winds. Spanish Town had some heavy rains on Saturday, but St. Elizabeth has not been affected by any hurricane bands yet. The trajectory has slowed down considerably, so it is hard to say whe it will hit.

We are staying in St. Elizabeth at our friends' house. Our hurricane preparation has been adequate, so there are enough supplies for us to stay inside for a few days and check the hurricane updates, eat yam, and play canasta.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Monday, August 14, 2006

Missing Kitty

So, it's been a week since we have seen our sweet likkle kitty, Duo. We've talked to many neighbors and looked all around but there has been no sign of him. Everyone is pretty sad and misses him a lot, which is sweet. Our neighbors suggested that maybe he was cat-napped since he is so darn cute and friendly to humans. We like to think that rather than that something bad happened to him. Mr. Kitty, his bestest cat friend, comes over to our house and mopes around. We understand how he feels. But what to do? We just have to accept it and move on. It's doubtful we will get another cat, as we're sure we won't find any others like Duo and we weren't really looking to get a pet before he came along. But here's to Duodinho for being the the best little kitty cat we've ever had!

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Love,
Kae & Shane

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Independence Day Celebrations

Jamaican Independence Day was Monday, August 7th. We attended two events to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Jamaica's independence from the British.

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First, there was the Portmore Municipality's recognition and flag raising ceremony. It was a formal affair, with most people wearing suits and dresses. We were a little underdressed, but I guess we were thinking of a U.S. Independence Day event like a parade or fireworks, where most people wear shorts or jeans. There was cultural presentations from two high schools; statements from the Prime Minister, Governor General, and Leader of the Opposition; and much thanking of all the important people who attended.

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After that, we went to Denbigh Agricultural Show, a long running annual event that traditionally coincides with Independence Day. Each parish has a small room in which they display the produce, agricultural products, and crafts that are representative of the parish. Many of them have the same things because the climate is similar throughout Jamaica, but each parish usually tries to do something a little different. For instance, the St. Elizabeth theme was Breadfruit, and they had dozens of breadfruit products such as wine, preserves, cake, pickles and more. We also found out that the parish staff, usually connected to the 4H, has to sleep on the concrete floor each night of the Show - not cool. We ended up buying a Jamaican color themed messenger bag for Kaelyn, coffee jelly, mango wine, and an aloe plant (also called sinkle bible in Jamaica) with a clay pot.

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The highlight of Denbigh was seeing the Prime Minister, who was touring the parish booths with her entourage prior to giving a speech at the Show. We happened to be in the same booths as her multiple times, and then a rush of people would come before and after her, pushing the normal fair participants to the side until she passed. It was cool because it was the closest we had ever been to a head of state (That's her in the hat with a green ribbon).

-Shane and Kaelyn

Friday, August 04, 2006

Flours and Phones, It's a Happy Birthday


What do flour and phones have to do with one another, you ask? Well, throwing flour in your face is a Jamaican birthday custom. I though about doing this to Kaelyn, but instead I will just wish a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to the one person I would choose to be with if I were stuck on a tropical island for two years. Anyway, if I had thrown flour in her face today, the immense torrents of rain would have quickly turned it into glue. So it's better I didn't.

What about phones? I got her this phone, the Nokia 1110, for her birthday. It's a cool phone, which is very important, and it will help her stay in touch with other PCV's and everyone else. She got me a drum for my birthday.

Interestingly, both of these gifts are used for communication. I guess that is the theme for birthdays in 2006, FYI.

-Shane

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Emancipation Update

August 1st is Emancipation Day in Jamaica. It celebrates the day in 1838 when all Jamaicans were "finally free of the oppressive social and economic system in which they were treated as less than human," as the Jamaican Information Service notes. It only became an official holiday in 1997, while before that it was overshadowed by Independence celebrations. Emancipation Day is marked by vigils, speeches, and public celebrations. The city where we live is having a Food Fair with plenty of traditional Jamaican foods and music.

Smoothies

The parish of St. Elizabeth (affectionately known as St. Bess) and our friends Caitlin and Khaled have been our loyal hosts for the past weekend. We have been working on a Peace Corps Jamaica cookbook. It will be sold to Volunteers and others and help raise money for Volunteer projects. There was also time for tasty treats and relaxation in the cool mountain air.

Trainee Party


Last Friday night, we hosted a party at our house for Group 77 volunteers who live in the same neighborhood as us. The power was out from 1 PM to 9 PM, so we got out the headlamp, lanterns, and candles. We use the jack-o-lantern battery lamp whenever the power goes out. So we hung it from our clothes line to lend its glow over the festivities. It definitely contributed to the vibes.

Kae, Shane and Duo


-Shane

Monday, July 17, 2006

Disaster Training, Current Gone, and Pirates

Those three topics pretty much encompass our weekend.

First Shane worked really hard on the Disaster Shelter Managers Training that the Council hosted on Saturday. It was great to see people in the communities who were willing to sacrifice their time and comfort during a disaster in order to serve as shelter managers. Many of them also related interesting stories about past hurricanes in Jamaica. One such story was from a man who moved all of his belongings to the second story of his house because it was about to be inundated with water. Unfortunately, the roof blew off, so it all got wet anyway. The representatives from the national disaster agency and Red Cross were knowledgable and well spoken. Key points: 1) treat all people equally well , 2) don't bring your pets to a Jamaican shelter. It was a very fulfilling training as he not only helped prepare Portmore for a disaster, he also met a lot of persons who are movers and shakers within their communities in Portmore.

Speaking of meeting people, we have been doing that a lot more lately. I'm not sure if it has something to do with the fact that right now 20 of the Group 77 Trainees are living in our neighborhood and so everyone is being super friendly to all the white people they see. Or maybe after seeing us walk around for almost a year people have decided we aren't just passing through and they might as well get to know us. Whatever the reason, we just now found out about our neighborhood's citizen's association that meets monthly and we attended their meeting last Thursday. And on Saturday we hung out with some kids and young adults who live on our street. We learned the basics of cricket and played some card games with them.

Some of the friendliness extended by the persons on our street may have also been linked to the island-wide power outage that happened over the weekend. (In fact most of the weekend we were without water, current, or both - which did make us feel pretty sorry for all those new trainees in the neighborhood who aren't used to it yet.) Since it was of course very hot and getting dim, everyone was gathered outside thier houses to wait out the blackout. Once it got totally dark and we couldn't play cards any more we sat under the stars and talked until we felt we could take on the battle of the mosquitos and heat that would meet us when we went to bed.

Then on Sunday we went to see the new Pirates of the Carribbean movie. Note: we saw Pirates of the Carribbean in the Carribbean at a theatre called Carib 5 and located a few kilometeres away from Port Royal. How cool is that? We went with our co-worker Randy, which was awesome because he drove us and we didn't have to worry about the bus or chartering a taxi or anything. Plus we could go to the better theatre that is located in a worse part of Town. It had surround sound - which of course made the movie even better. We loved the movie and we loved the ac, popcorn, soda, candy, setting, everything. It was a great time!

- Kaelyn and Shane

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Welcome Group 77


The new group of Peace Corps Jamaica trainees (future volunteers) arrived on the island Saturday. We had a fun weekend greeting them at the airport, attending the welcome dinner, and participating in panels. We also just hung out and answered questions, which us seasoned volunteers now know all the answers to (well at least we pretend to).

This means we are no longer the newbies on the island and we have officially been in Jamaica one whole year! Yeah!

- Kaelyn

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Deserted

I step off the bus onto Knutsford Boulevard, the heart of Uptown Kingston. Sunday mornings are usually a little slow, but this is unreal. I feel like Jim in 28 Days Later, waking up after a coma (somewhat similar to the hot and sleepy bus environment) to find that no one is around.

A man follows me, shouting something. Why is he coming after me? Oh, he wants to tell me that the grocery is up this side, and I am going the wrong way. "Thanks," I say, "But I don't need anything." He turns away, his job completed.

Is there something going on today? Did I miss the news?



Finally, it dawns on me . . . World Cup Fever. I need to find a TV, and quick.

-Shane

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

As American As ...

So, I wanted to bring something to work to celebrate U.S. Independence Day, which by the way celebrates independence from the same country as Jamaican Independence Day (August 6th). I settled on making that most wonderful of pie varieties - apple. Apples do cost $32 a piece down here, but I figured this was a small price to pay to represent my country. I slyly built up the excitement for July 4th, revealing to influential first adopters in the office that I would be bringing pie to work. This seemed to work.

Then, on Monday night, I began the process of baking the pie. I had never actually made one, but my experiences gained during the production of such dishes as apple crisp, apple crumble, and baked apples would serve me well. Lacking a pie pan, I used a large rectangular tin pan, like those used for sheet cakes or lasagna. I sliced eight Granny Smith apples, peeling them with the large chef's knife because I had neither a peeler nor a paring knife (Stocking Stuffer Alert). The apples were mixed with a sugar syrup and placed into a simple pastry crust. For the top, I tried my hand at a lattice crust, with delicious results!

It was finished at 2 AM. I carried the pie, shielded with foil and wrapped in a scandal bag, onto the taxi to go to work, where I kept it in the fridge until the end of the day, to keep up the suspense. Then, the unveiling. It was a big hit. 16 out of 20 pieces were eaten (80 %, for those scoring at home), and I had to cut off the disbursement in order to save some to eat at home.

Not only did I represent my country tastefully, but I learned a little something about myself in the process. I can make pie.

-Shane

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Jamaican Day at the Beach

On Saturday we went to the beach with our co-workers for the launching of the Portmore Municipal Council Social Welfare Club. We were scheduled to depart at 7:00am from the PMC office, however in typical Jamaican fashion we left at 8:37. While we were waiting the girls went on one of their many food runs of the day to Tastee Patties for some breakfast (liver and onions or saltfish with food). Since there is only a little bar and restaurant at the beach we were instructed to bring along snacks and even though the girls brought coolers and bags onto the bus there was still an insistence for many food stops. Finally, we were off picking up the one last person on our way out of town instead of waiting on her to reach. Since there were so many of us, around 20 persons, we were riding in style in an air conditioned coaster bus with plush seats - the kind you see tourists traveling around Jamaica in, it was pretty sweet! And the cost of the bus ride (J$500 each/ US$ 7.70)was actually less then we would have paid traveling by public transportation which would have been way more cramped and sweaty.

We made it all the way to Spanish Town before our next pit stop. This time it was for ice, bathrooms, and KFC. Spanish Town is approximately 10km from Portmore so at this rate I figured we would be getting to the beach around noon. Once we were off again we journeyed over the imfamous Flat Bridge - a single lane bridge that washes out almost everytime it rains. And we of course all lifted our feet to prevent the duppies (ghosts) from grabbing hold of us and pulling the bus into the Rio Cobre. Then it was through the Gorge and up over the wicked Mt. Rosser where you can get stuck for hours when the big trucks break down. Luckily no trucks! Our next stop was off the side of the road to buy some juicy pine (pineapple). It was already peeled (the hardest part) and cut up in the baggies so it was ready for eating. Very tasty and only J$100 (US$1.50)!

The bus ride was pretty eventful with lots of dancing in the aisles and screaming, laughing, and drinking. I was surprised to see the "dutty wine" (a current popular, quite risque dance) being busted out at 9:00 in the morning but I suppose anything goes. The girls not only had mixed CDs for the driver to play but had a boom box of thier own in the back as well. Shane almost lost an eye due to some fast hair whipping action in the aisle next to his seat. But some would consider him a lucky man being so close to such movements.

Then we pulled into Ocho Rios, a cruise ship town on the St. Ann coast, and of course stopped for lunch even though it was only 10:30am. We pulled up to the main street and luckily it wasn't a cruise ship day so there weren't massive amounts of white people mulling around which made things much calmer than normal. We headed for Juici Beef Patties for vegetable patties and then stopped into Baskin Robbins for a rare treat. Others hit up Island Grill, Burger King, and of course KFC. Then it was off to the beach which was down the road aways and over the border into St. Mary.

Reggae Beach was a really nice, clean, low-key white sand beach. Since it is outside of Ochi it doesn't get so much tourist traffic and caters more to Jamaicans. We heard some music videos have even been filmed there. It was J$200 (US$3.00) each to enter but worth it for the cleanliness, bathrooms, and lack of harrassment. There were lots of shade trees and picnic tables and even a volleyball net. We had a tree swing near our spot and further down there were hammocks. Of course the Jamaicans mostly hung out in the shade (sun hot!) , snacking and napping. We chose to soak up the sun and do some swimming. Some of our friends did get in the water and there were a few attempts at swimming lessons. Dominoes and bingo were played and of course there was lots of eating. At some point in the day another KFC run was made too. After the girls were successful in building a pyramid in the water it was time to head home.

Of course the return trip warranted pit stops too. First it was to buy a big whole pine - but not for the tourist price of J$500 (they didn't even weigh it, the nerve!) but for the more reasonable price of J$200 that we got 2 stops later. Then we stopped at Faith's Pen for some jerk - it is a large string of roadside stalls who all sell jerk meats and roast vegetables. We got some roast corn, yam and breadfruit plus some festivals (fried dough). It was really, really tasty! We finally rolled back into Portmore around 7:30pm, tired with our bellies full!

- Kaelyn

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Tale


My journey began when I was unsuspectingly snatched away from my mother in the nice cool hills of St. Elizabeth and dropped into a shoe box that someone tied up with string and carried around as if a cake was inside. There were plenty of air holes which also provided me a view of my surroundings and allowed in the many smells of my trip. My first stop was Santa Cruz which I didn't like too much because big wet rain drops started to disintegrate my little house. Luckily my carrier had some tape handy and was able to patch it up. Then there were many bus and taxi rides. I tried to meow every so often so people would be certain that I was a cat and not a cake but there was so much loud music I'm not sure if anyone even heard me. I peeked out of my air holes but some of the other people on the bus were pretty stinky so I had to be careful which holes I used.

Then all of a sudden the car rides were over and I was being let out of my box. Everywhere I turned there was concrete, I was definitely not in St. Bess anymore. What had happened to the beautiful mountains, the crisp clean air, the grass and the trees? Most importantly what had happened to my mother? There were those pesky humans who I recognized from my mother's house, two of them who had always been there and the other two who had come to visit. I later learned that this new house belonged to the two visitors, not nearly as enjoyable as my former home but at least they had a litter box for me to use because after that long journey I had to go! I looked around for something to eat, no milk just hard food - boy was this going to take some getting used to.

The first night they made me sleep outside on the veranda, but soon they learned that those silly iron bars weren't going to stop me from adventuring. When they all left on Saturday I decided I wasn't going to spend my day all alone on the porch. I climbed around the roof tops and found lots of other humans to take pity on me and give me milk. Unfortunately, only having been at this new home for 1 day I didn't quite know my way back home. Luckily, my new owners searched high and low until they found me. But should they really be that worried, nobody would believe a fat, fluffy kitten like me could be a stray - of course they would take care of me until I was returned to my home.

But after that it was inside for me. Apparently, there are scary things out there I don't know about and I'm not big enough to defend myself yet. So now I just have to dart out whenever the door is opened, but that's okay because inside is fun too. There are lots of electrical cords to swat at and I have a nice little ball made out of newspaper and duct tape. I even got to watch my favorite football team Brazil play yesterday. Mostly I was mesmerized and sat staring at the TV but every once in a while I got inspired and showed off how I too could carry my ball across the floor like a ballet dancer. That's how I earned my full name - Duodinho. I'm pretty thankful they named me after Ronaldinho and not Ronaldo because I'd much rather be hip and cool than looking a bit fat and sloppy. Then of course there were plenty of naps to take and the heat here was really getting to me, sometimes I just have to lie on the floor and cool off. Those fans are nice too but they make all my fur stick up like a mohawk.

The humans are pretty fun too, they have nice laps to curl up in and I really crave the attention they give me. I couldn't believe it this morning when it was 6:00am and those silly owners of mine weren't up yet. I had to sneak into their room and convince them to come out and play with me. I mean really if they were planning on leaving me in the house all alone while they went to work today the least they should do is give me lots of attention in the morning! All in all I think I'll manage just fine in my new home, especially once they decide I'm big enough to venture outside on my own and if they keep giving me little treats like milk and tuna.

Meow!
- Duo

Monday, June 12, 2006

Picture Update

Since we have been a bit behind in updating there is a hodgepodge of new pictures on the Flickr site. But they do offer some more insight into what we have been up to the past few weeks. Two weekends ago we chilled around our house, for the first time in a long while not going anywhere or having any visitors. We hung out with one of the neighborhood girls, Regina, for a bit and even took a little walk to get some tasty ice cream. She is quiet the talker and told us all about her plans to go to the U.S. and all the things she is going to buy and bring back. She also drew a nice picture of me or I should say of Candee which is what she has taken to calling me. And she has informed all the other kids in the neighborhood of my name too, which they love to call out whenever they see me.

Then we had a visit from our friend Khaled who has been helping with our database project at work. He is convinced that I can learn Visual Basic in a week. But since I haven't had a week yet to go through his tutorial he has to come and do the programming for now. We had a bit of a scare when Access went berserk and locked us out thanks to some security corruption. But luckily the solution came to Khaled in a dream and everything was back up and running again the next day.

Quarterly meetings happened the first weekend in June. Those are always a good time to catch up with everyone. And of course there is Happy Hour at the Four Seasons which is always lots of fun. But there are also lots of meetings which can last forever. What we need is more Happy Hour and less meetings! Another exciting note of the weekend - we discovered some sunflowers in New Kingston. As we walked along between the bus stop and the Peace Corps office there they were giving us a lovely reminder of our Kansas home. Ahhh, the things that make you smile!

After Quarterlies I ventured to Malvern, in exchange for Khaled's help I was off to help the St. Helena's Womens Group with their accounting system. They are a group of weavers who live in Retrieve, St. Elizabeth who Caitlin assists as a secondary project. She is working to help them market their baskets and other woven goods, which are quite gorgeous and I must admit I own a few pieces myself. I spent part of a day up in Retrieve (which would definitely be considered deep bush Jamaica) working with the woman who is in charge of keeping their records and attending a meeting of all the women in the partnership. It was truly one of the most rewarding days I've spent as a Peace Corps volunteer and I hope I have more opportunities to help this group in the future.

While in Malvern I also spent some more quality time with the kitties. Their rank has sadly gone from four to three but they are still as cute as ever. We had previously selected the squeaker as the one we would adopt but he is pretty much a scaredy cat and we don't know that he could handle the bus ride to our house. So we have decided to go with the most outgoing one in the bunch, Duo. Although Brownin is the sweetest and Caitlin's favorite we are pretty sure she is a girl and we just don't think we could handle baby kitties of our own. So Duo it is and he should be arriving at our house this coming weekend which will be all sorts of exciting!

Otherwise we have just been dealing with our "Adventures in Plumbing" and the lack of power at our office. Unfortunately no pictures of the enormous holes in our bathroom floor. The sight was just too much to bear and I really didn't want any reminder. I will say that we are getting better and better at adapting to these annoying instances of no showers, lack of power, and constant rainfall. These are some interesting times!

- Kaelyn

Drains, Rains

It has been a long time since we posted, so we wanted to give everyone a little update on what has been going on with us lately.

A tropical depression developed near Jamaica from about June 4-7. It caused some rain, but nothing heavy enough to cause problems. It mainly meant getting wet and not being able to dry clothes. The power also went out at our office a few times due to the rains. The last week, though, the power at our office has not been functioning even though it has stopped raining. It is due to faulty wiring, and the contractors have not been able to correct the problem yet. It should be fixed soon, and then we can get back to work.

We had been having drain problems since May. At first, the water would take a few minutes extra to go down the drain after you showered. Then, it started pooling around your foot as you bathed, which isn't very pleasant. Finally, it would not drain at all. Why, you ask, did we not get this fixed sooner? The main reason is that we wanted to wait for a our landlady to get back into Jamaica, so we could ask her about it and see if she could reccommend a plumber. In the meantime, we did try using drano and a long piece of wire to try to remove the obstruction, but neither of these worked.

We got a hold of the plumber, and his solution was to dig up our bathroom floor, remove the blocked pipe, and replace that section. I did get to learn about how Jamaican floors are constructed and deconstructed while observing this process. He first removed one tile using a chisel and hammer. There is tinset surrounding the tile and underneath it to hold it in place. Below the tinset is concrete, and the two are about 4 inches thick combined. Then, there is just loose rock and soil and various stuff for about 8 inches underneath the concrete through which all the pipes run. So, he takes all of this dirt and stuff out of the hole in the floor. Unfortunately, no pipe. He tries another one with the same result. I tell him that there are only three good tiles to use as replacements. Finally the third one is paydirt. Instead of removing the pipe, he just knocks it, and this dislodges the "choke" in the pipe. Let's hope this process does not have to be repeated.

-Shane and Kaelyn

Jamaican Migration

After talking to a few Jamaican acquaintances, I learned some interesting facts and stories about how they split their time between Jamaica and the United States. For half of the year, they live in Jamaica, where they own a home and consider it their permanent residence. For the other six months or so, they live in New York City with relatives, working there to earn money to bring back to Jamaica. This lifestyle allows them to work very little or just do odd jobs while they are in Jamaica, since they already own their home. The amount of money they get paid in New York is also much greater than they could earn for equivalent work in Jamaica.

There is also an interesting gender division in their women. The men do construction or painting, while the women work as nannies or live-in household help. The male work is seasonal, since most construction is carried out during the summer months. One couple I talked to even goes at opposite times of the year, so that someone is living in their house throughout the year.

The funny thing is that many Jamaicans can relate stories to me about New York City, like how they were up there during the blackout in the summer of 2003. One of them had to walk all night to get back to his apartment because the buses were not running when there was no transportation. Since I have only been there a few times, the Jamaicans know a lot more about NYC than I ever could, and it is their main image of the United States. I try to describe the Midwest, and how it is quite different from New York, but it is hard to explain.

An interesting example of migrant labor, but one that does not fit the common stereotype of people coming from Mexico to do farm work.

-Shane

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Creepiness


I have a creepiness on my hand. It started last week on my knuckle and then spead to my fingers over the weekend. It is mainly just dark splotches with a little but of skin peeling on the fingers. It isn't raised or red and it doesn't itch. It mostly just tingles and sometimes it hurts a bit. I showed it to the Peace Corps nurse and she didn't know what it was so she sent me to the dermatologist. He looked at it and said "strange, very strange" over and over. He couldn't identify it or its cause. He didn't do any tests either, just perscriped dermatop cream and told me to come back in 3 weeks. I hope it goes away by then, it is really creeping me out!

-Kae

Goodbye Michelle


On Sunday our friend Michelle left the island. She came with our group in July of 2005 so her time wasn't up yet, instead she early terminated (et'd). She isn't the first person from our group, she is actually the 15th out of our original 62. Everyone has different reasons for leaving - health, frustration, boredom, and better opportunities back home. Before being here, back when I was anxiously awaiting Peace Corps, I could have never imagined coming and leaving before my time was up. In fact I hardly even knew that was a possibility. And considering all the time and effort put into applying and the many things you give up in preparation for Peace Corps it would seem crazy not to see it through. But once you are here and are actually part of the experience you can understand why people leave and you support them in their decisions because you know that they have made the best decision for them.

Of course we were sad to lose Michelle as she had become a very close friend, but we are also very happy for her because she is much happier now. However, we didn't let her leave without a proper send off. On Friday night we gathered at Christopher's, our favorite bar in Kingston, and then we went to dinner at the Mediterranean/Latin American restaurant down the road. This was followed by a slumber party at our house, what fun! On Saturday, Maggie, Anne and I went with her to Porty to pack up her things. That was when Jamaica gave her very own send off to Michelle - there was no electricity or running water in all of Porty! So we got to pack by lantern light, what a romantic way to spend your last night in Jamaica. We helpers made off with some good loot too since she could only leave with 2 bags. If anyone wants to have a Halloween party this year, I'm the girl to see as I was bequeathed two bags of decorations. All in all, we had a good time and made sure that as few tears as possible were shed.

- Kae

p.s. We miss you already Michelle! Think about us often and be sure to feel guilty for living the good life!!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Negril

We journeyed to the west coast this past weekend and hit up the resort town of Negril, known for its hedonistic atmosphere. Our friends, Caitlin and Khaled, traveled with us and since it is such a trek for us (4-5 hours) we stopped at theirr house on the way to visit their new kittens and eat some tasty bagels. But we made sure to make it to Negril early enough on Friday to swim, whip up a tasty Cinco de Mayo feast, and watch a beautiful sunset. We were staying on the cliffs side of Negril (as opposed to the 7-mile beach side) but we were right on the ocean so in the morning we were able to roll out of bed and go snorkeling. The reef is pretty dead but we did see some pretty fishies and some jelly fish, as well as a brightly colored ginger beer bottle that Shane retrieved from the bottom. We decided to splurge and be a bit touristy by having dinner at Margaritaville Saturday night. It was almost more trouble than it was worth because we had to fight with the taxi driver who was trying to overcharge us on the fare. But the Margarittas were tasty and we really enjoyed our veggie cheeseburger in paradise. We also got a souvenir mug showing a rasta parrot, that will now be used during happy hour to pour the drink for the person who had the worst day. Sunday it was back home, and after the 4 hour bus ride (including Shane's short frisking interlude with the Jamaican authorities) our butts hurt so bad we needed a relaxing vacation all over again!

-Kae

Kittens are Cute

Our friend Genip had four kittens a week and a half ago. It may sound a bit surprising to those who know us well that we have made friends with a cat, but she is really cute and we are good friends with her owners, Caitlin and Khaled. When we heard about her adorable babies that looked just like her we decided to adopt one. So on our way to Negril we stopped by to visit the babies and pick out which one would be ours. It was a pretty easy decision - we picked the squeaker. It won't be able to come home with us for at least 6 weeks but when it does we are going to name it Coco. For those who don't know, Coco refers both to coconut flavored rum called Coco-Mania and also to the wonderfully sturdy root crop, coco. Coco, may you be hungry for roaches, lizards, and creepy crawly things.

- Kae

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dinner and a Movie

We volunteers who live near Kingston or other cities get to enjoy certain creature comforts that other volunteers may not get to access very often. Our rural counterparts do have other quaint pastimes, such as "parachuting," that we do not get to enjoy very often. If you're like me, though, and you like movies, you might as well take advantage of the movie theaters and restaurants in Kingston. That's just what Kaelyn, myself and another Peace Corps volunteer did the other night.

The dinner part was best. Habibi Latino is a Middle Eastern restaurant off of Knutsford Boulevard -- the heart of New Kingston -- above the Burger King. They also serve some Latin American dishes, such as patacones. The restaurant is so popular among a certain set of Peace Corps volunteers (by that I mean, those who like Middle Eastern food such as myself) that its reopening, after a temporary closing, was trumpeted via email to every volunteer on the island. I have to say, the food was very good, even if they were out of Diet Coke. We shared the hummus and baba ganoush, while Kaelyn had the lentil soup and I ordered the falafel sandwich. It was also tasty and fresh, with colorful presentation. The atmosphere of the restaurant is relaxing and warm, with a TV playing off to the side, but not in a position to distract from conversation, just provide a little respite when their is no conversation. Paintings of Arabic scenes line the walls and fabric hangs neatly from the ceiling, taking you away from the Jamaica scene quite effectively. I definitely recommend it, and the prices are all in the 200-500 dollar range.

The movie we saw was "The Sentinel." Really, not that good, but up to the task in diverting one's attention. There are a few too many characters to focus on, so some such as the villains have very little screen time. The use of a blackberry to tap phone lines was intriguing, though. The real fun is going to the movie theater at Sovereign, at the corner of Hope and Old Hope Read. This is one of four movie theaters in Jamaica. I prefer the one in Mandeville, as it is newer, but Sovereign affords you the chance to examine the upper class of Kingston, and you can sip your Miller Lite through a straw.

-Shane

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Portmore Gets Healthy

In other great news two wonderful new shops have opened in the Plaza where our office is located. The first is Vibrant Health, a health food store that has lots of dried nuts and fruits and even some rare finds like Tom’s of Maine Organic Toothpaste, seaweed, and miso paste. The other is Earl’s Juice Garden which is a new location of a vegetarian restaurant we eat at sometimes in Kingston. It is only two doors down from our office and tonight is the Grand Opening complete with Earl himself and a menu tasting. We are excited to attend but even more excited at the thought of replacing our boring PB&J with healthy veggie lunches from Earls. Jamaicans complain that health food is too expensive but to us a few extra dollars (Jamaican dollars) is definitely worth it if just for the Good Vibes!

- Kaelyn

The First Mango


Mango season has officially begun. I knew it was coming, ‘cause the last time I was in Kingston, the Friday before last, I saw someone eating one. However, there have not been any on sale anywhere and most people I have asked have said “mango soon come”. The trees in our neighborhood have definitely been hanging lower, weighed down by this wonderful fruit. It has really been quite taunting and I have been getting pretty anxious. Then Shane saw some in Kingston last Monday at a streetside vendor but he didn’t have any extra money with him so he couldn’t bring me one. That was pretty disappointing. When we were in St. Elizabeth we checked out the market in Santa Cruz but all we could find were some puny blackie mangos. Since I have been waiting for it so long I really wanted the first one to be good and those kind are pretty stringy so I decided to pass and wait a little longer. And boy was I rewarded for my patience. When we came back to work yesterday from our little Easter vacation our friend Randy surprised us with 4 mangos fresh from the tree in his yard. It was a thank you for the big chocolate bunny and KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce we had carried him back from the States. I made myself wait until I got home to eat the first one; I wanted to be able to document the momentous occasion and they are pretty messy so not really good for the workplace. I had it for dessert and it was fabulous – scrumdidleumptious in fact! What a great start to the wonderfulness of mango season!

-Kaelyn

Easter in the Fog

We spent the last week, from Wednesday to Tuesday at our friends Caitlin and Khaled’s house in Malvern, St. Elizabeth. Malvern has a much nicer climate than Portmore. Read: It’s not constantly hot, since it’s at a higher altitude. Instead, it is cool and the fog and rain roll in off the Santa Cruz Mountains during the afternoon. It’s also very calm and quite compared to the hustle and bustle of our Metropolitan Area.


We went there on a working vacation. Our goal was to relax, play cards, eat and drink, and work on the database and some grant applications. All of these were accomplished plus we even got to do a little site seeing. We ventured over to the local waterfall at the YS river and on the way got to drive through the famous Bamboo Avenue. YS falls was beautiful, although the water was a bit muddy. We couldn’t help but stare at all the tourists there, as strange as it sounds white people look a bit funny to us now, especially in big groups. Shane finally learned how to play Canasta, so now he can enter the Peace Corps Jamaica Canasta circuit and compete. We opted to skip the Yam Festival in Trelawny on Monday and instead attened the Easter Fest at a local school. There was a cricket match, fried chicken and even a Talent Contest. We took 3 of the neigbour girls and they seemed to enjoy it a lot. But most of the time we sat around, read, and went for walks in the hills of Malvern. Very chill!

Our friends should really consider opening a local bakery because the treats they made us were out of this world! The baked goods list included Dutch baby (a quick souffl√©) with bananas foster topping, √©clairs, biscotti, cinnamon rolls (with coffee and reading material, the ultimate breakfast), and banana cupcakes. There were also some really good dinners like pasta primavera with coconut cream sauce, soy meat loaf, and stuffed peppers. Luckily, we didn’t eat lunch usually so there was room for all the tasty breakfasts and dinners. Us city folk were in awe at all the garden goodies brought over by neighbors and we had lots of fun at the open air market in Santa Cruz. Buying your fruits and veggies at the grocery store just isn’t as nice as getting someone’s abundance for free or chatting with the market ladies. We did bring back a few local treats though, some lemons and a nice big bottle of St. Elizabeth honey.

It was a really wonderful time and with such great company, yummy treats, and a cool climate Malvern definitely tops our list of escapes from the hot, hot Sunshine City of Portmore.

- Shane and Kae

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bun and Cheese Update


Bun and Cheese 02
Originally uploaded by Shane and Kaelyn.
Here is my very own bun and cheese meal that I ate for breakfast the other day. As you can see, the cheese did not melt. But it did taste good. Also, check out this article from the Gleaner for more info about Jamaican Easter traditions.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bun and Cheese

Buns and small cakes are extremely popular in Jamaica. People eat them for lunch, breakfast, or a snack. They are basically a sweet bread with various ingredients to flavor them. Spice (they never tell you exactly what kind, but I think it's allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg), raisins, fruit flavor, and cheese are some common fillings. For Easter time, though, nothing beats the Easter bun and cheese.

Easter bun and cheese is the quintessential food for the holiday. Now, I used to think that it was only eaten on Easter weekend. But I was wrong. People eat it for up to an entire month before Easter. And some people eat it everday. The bun is basically a sweet, dense bread, with raisins and the aforementioned spice. There are different kinds, but I have found the HTB brand (Haflway Tree Bakeries) to be very good. The cheese has to be Tastee cheese, which is pasteurized process cheddar that comes in a tin. You open it with a can opener. It is very hard and, unlike Velveeta, will not melt no matter how long I put it in the toaster oven for. I actually like the bun and cheese, and have had it for breakfast and lunch.

You can order your own Easter bun and cheese here.

-Shane

p.s. Isn't it funny how they have Easter Bun in Jamaica and in the States we have the Easter Bunny? I think they must be connected somehow, perhaps the lack of bunnies in Jamaica explains it.
- Kaelyn

Monday, April 03, 2006

Fun Citi

I spent the past Saturday helping out at a Kid's Day celebration for about 300 kids living in youth homes around southern Jamaica. It was sponsored by Food for the Poor, one of the largest charitable organizations in the Caribbean. A number of Volunteers serve with Food for the Poor, and one of them was organizing this day of fun. Fun Citi, in good old Portmore off Port Henderson Road, was the venue for this event. It started at 10 AM and the kids left around 6 PM.

There were many activities for the kids. Sports like soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Swimming was the most popular, as the facility is located right on the beach. There is a skating rink. I helped kids put on their roller blades and tried to teach them to skate. A number of boys preferred just wearing one skate and racing around as if they were on scooters. There was also an old plastic electric motorized car (pink, with no batteries left) that kids would push each other on and then ram into the walls and trees around the skating rink. Hours of enjoyment.

My favorite thing, and the scariest thing, was the hand-operated ferris wheels, of which there were three. I operated the largest one, with six carts and standing about 15 feet high, for quite a while. It sat on railroad wheels, and so used to be towed around on rail. But it was sunk into the ground with poles at each corner of the platform. To operate, you pulled the wheel on either side (sometimes easier with two people) and loaded the kids into the carts, which had a safety bar the kids were supposed to hold onto. Then you would keep pulling down on the wheel to spin it, the kids shouting "faster!" until one of them wanted to come off. The scary part was when kids would try to climb on before it had stopped moving, or climb down from one of the top carts. At one point one of the carts flipped all the way around, but the girl inside was able to hang on. Towards the end of the day, a safety pole came off of the cart. That's when we realized it was time to stop, and we made everyone get off. I had to play the role of the boring adult, always worrying about safety, but it wasn't too bad.

The kids got their chicken and rice lunch, which took about four hours to feed them all. Before that, there was hot dogs, snow cones (I got one), Chubby brand soda, and popcorn for snacks. The talent show at the end was fun, just like Rising Stars, with dancing, singing, and poetry. At the end, I got a free red stripe, chocolate bar, and Bob Marley shirt. The kids had fun. I had fun. A day well spent.

-Shane

A Trip to the States

We just got back from our nearly two week trip back to the USA. It had been nine months since we left for Jamaica. Was the readjustment shocking? Not too much, but there were certain phenomena that gave pause. For instance, the first taste of the US was the airports (Miami, O’Hare, and Kansas City, for those scoring at home) and every other person had a Starbucks. Coffee is not that popular in Jamaica, and most people drink instant if they drink anything. Wow, people in airports are very caffeinated, unless it was decaff. Getting into Chicago was when we remembered the Midwest. The scene: lots of large white people – again drinking Starbucks. But it was colder than Miami. It was snowing outside, and most people had coats on because it was cold in the terminal. What, are the O’Hare Fat Cats trying to cut down on the heating bill?

The rest of the time being in the States wasn’t too weird. We saw our family, including the four nieces and one nephew that belong to Shane’s siblings. There was lots of eating out (Mexican, Thai, pizza twice, Indian, Pittsburgian chicken, subs, Central American, brewpub) with some good beer. The Jayhawks lost. Taxes were paid. Shane gave a presentation on Jamaica to his brother’s class. They liked it, especially the candy – bustas, coconut drops, and tamarind balls. Family, friends, and food was the order of the day. What more do you need?

On the way back, we happened to sit next to someone who works at Peace Corps Jamaica in the Miami terminal. We were able to hitch a ride halfway home with her, a lucky break. Being back in Jamaica was a harder adjustment than going to the US. Was it really that hot before? Answer: pretty much, but it might have gone up a few degrees since we were gone. We brought back a chocolate bunny for our co-workers. Nothing says Easter more than that. Kaelyn carried back an infectious disease. Luckily, she has now recovered. Shane brought chunky natural peanut butter (Oil separation is natural). Two possible scenarios that greeted us when we returned to our home:
a)A neighborhood welcome banquet was held upon our arrival (false).
b)We ate Thai noodle soup and trail mix from the States while watching cable (true).

Back on the island . . . The Red Stripe is brewed right down the road. You can’t take your grocery cart outside the supermarket. The nut man’s piercing steam whistle fades away into the distance. A large cloud of smoke from a grass fire obscures the setting sun, grey mixing into the pink and orange.

-Shane and Kae

P.S. Thanks bunches to all our friends and family for their wonderful hospitality. We already miss you guys but now we have new memories to cherish until we see you again at Christmas. You're the best!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Margaritaville B & B


Stats for this past weekend.
  • Consecutive days with overnight guests: 4
  • Total guests: 6
  • Meals served: 5
  • Tequila consumed: 400 mL (1/4 gold, 3/4 blanco)
  • Oscars watched: 1
  • Frank Capra films viewed: 1 (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  • 12 A bus tickets purchased by all guests: 20 (J$50 per)

Looking past the numbers reveals an interesting aspect of the Peace Corps ethos. Letting other Peace Corps stay at your house is fun. This is one of the great undavertised perks of the Peace Corps experience. You don't have to get a hotel, because there's always a floor (and sometimes even a mattress) to sleep on. Some volunteers even go to other countries and sleep on the floors of the volunteers there.

So, for quarterly meetings, since we live so close to the Peace Corps office and have cable, many people sleep at our place instead of a hotel in Kingston. It's cheaper, and we all cook together, which is fun. Plus, we have finally perfected home made tortillas, after the third try. (Thanks Caitlin!) Karma dictates that if we let people stay at our house, then we get to stay at their house. Works out nicely.

-Shane

Happy Hour

There are certain rituals that must be observed in the Peace Corps. One of these is happy hour. I would venture to guess that posts all across the globe have their own version. Some may be smaller, others swankier, more frequent, or featuring different drinks. But they all have them.

The biggest happy hour ritual in Peace Corps Jamaica happens during quarterly meetings in Kingston at the Four Seasons Hotel. Part of the appeal of happy hour is cheap drinks, and this one is no exception, serving everything half price for one hour. Since this hotel is owned by German-Jamaicans, though, the really fun part is the German beers which cannot be found anywhere else in Jamaica - Hofbrau and Beck's. The restaurant serves sausage and potato salad as well. Happy Hour is one of those time when you really feel like part of the expatriate community. It's a time to reconnect with your fellow Peace Corps and relax. We all need that sometimes.

Here's To Happy Hour!


-Shane

PS - Sadly, at the time of this writing, the Four Seasons had run out of German Beer. We will give them until the next meeting to restock.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Happy Birthday Peace Corps!

Yesterday was the 45th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. It was also Ash Wednesday which is a national holiday in Jamaica, so we are a day late in our recognition.

As President John F. Kennedy said in his remarks on March 1, 1961 when he established the Peace Corps:

"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed--doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language."

"But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps--who works in a foreign land--will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

- Keeping Kennedy's Promise

In doing our part to achieve the 3rd goal of the Peace Corps (“Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.”) we reached out to our local newspapers back home and encouraged them to cover the 45th Anniversary of Peace Corps. We previously shared the article in the Lawrence Journal World in which Shane got his 15 minutes of fame. Yesterday, Kaelyn's hometown newspaper wrote a story so now she's had hers as well. This story was taken from the email interview we previously posted about.

To commemorate the event in Jamaica we had a booth at the U.S. Embassy's Blues on the Green concert which was held last Friday night at Devon House. We promoted Peace Corps by showing a slide show and video and handing out stickers, bookmarks, and brochures. Be sure to check out our pictures of this event, including a few of the new Ambassador.

- Kae and Shane

Thursday, February 23, 2006

This One's For You Dad

Apparently my Dad isn't the only one who thinks Bob Marley's Legend is a disgrace to his legacy. This article entitled "Free Bob Marley!" from Slate.com really drives the point home. I officially apologize for my blasphemous comments in an earlier post. I will burn my copy of Legend and never again allow it to be played in my presence.

One Love,
Kae

Interesting Tings

Below is a list of interesting things we could have blogged about over the past month or so but didn't (mostly because we have gotten a bit lazy and more busy at work).

  • We spent the weekend of Shane's birthday at our friends' house in the cane fields of Clarendon. They had piglets in their back yard and made an awesome feast of lentil burgers, sweet potatoe fries, hummus, and vegan chocolate cake. We provided the wine. They borrowed a projector and we watched a movie on their wall. Good times!
  • We made chocolate chip cookies and hummus for our Super Bowl party for two. Commercials were sub-par in our opinion. The buff he is sporting in the picture was courtesy of a birthday package from Kaelyn's family, it also had a new KU t-shirt (his old one got bleach on it) and a t-shirt for the Swizzle Stick Club.
  • Our friends from St. Elizabeth, who we spent Christmas with, came down to our house and we had a Mexican Fiesta and watched nuff cable TV. They also had the luxury of sleeping on the air mattress in our living room.
  • The next day the 4 of us went up to the Blue Mountains of St. Andrew for the Woodford Hold 'Em Poker Tournament, a benefit for LTAG (Literacy Tutoring Advisory Group). Kaelyn dealt and Shane made it to the final table. Everyone loved the candy we brought from the birthday/valentine's package Shane's Dad sent, especailly the Hot Tamales. During a raffle at the tournament Shane was the lucky winner of a Vote for Pedro t-shirt. And to appease the crowd he even quoted Napoleon ("This one tastes like the cows got into an onion patch").
  • On our way from the tournament to the cabin where we were staying 7 of us took a midnight hike up the wrong mountain, twice, before eventually finding the right road on the 3rd try. It's a good thing cell phones work in the Blue Mountains.
  • Once we got to the cabin we were exhasted and promptly blew up the air mattress that the 4 of us were planning on sleeping on. Of course it found a nail and promptly deflated. Sleeping on the floor = not good times. But we did eat noodles at 3 AM.
  • Kaelyn attended a week long training in Kingston so that she could become a Peer Supporter. It was great: 5 days of hot water, free food, and socializing with other volunteers. While in Kingston she also discovered an awesome Mediterranean/Latino restaurant, drank way too much wine, and spent lots of time at TGI Friday's (located across the street from the hotel).
  • On Valentine's day we had a 7 1/2 hour dinner with two of our friends. It invovled checking out and quickly leaving Bob's Cafe (at the Bob Marley Museum) which was way too commercialized. Eating wonderful food at a Devon House restaurant. And concluding with drinks, then dessert, then more drinks and an appetizer at TGI Friday's.
  • Our friend delivered Shane's birthday drum from Accompong and pictures of the Rasta who made it. We'd never seen a square drum before but it sounds great!
  • Last week we got a 600 gallon water tank installed at our house. Now we can take a good pressure shower any time of the day. And we no longer have to haul water from downstairs to do laundry and flush the toliet between 8AM and 5PM when the pressure isn't strong enough to come upstairs. We are very, very happy!
  • Thanks to a patch, super glue, and duct tape we believe the air mattress has been fixed!

- Kae and Shane