Tuesday, January 24, 2006

RIP: Iron

Our iron died this morning, in a most flashy exit. As Kaelyn plugged in the cord, the iron literally went out with a bang. There was a cracking sound and a large spark that I heard and saw from across the room. The cord separated from the plug and the copper wires inside were severed from the spark. Kaelyn's finger had a mild electrical burn, which we fixed up with 3-in-1 ointment and a bandaid. Needless to say, our shopping list gained a new item.

An iron is very important in Jamaica, so we will have to get a replacement right away. As our host-mother taught us, you cannot go to work without ironing your clothes. If you don't iron them, your clothes will be "crushy." And nobody wants that. Here's to irons, and to one specific iron that will live on in our memory, if not in our apartment.


PS - While the iron did not have a name in life, posthumously we shall call it Sparky.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Posh Corps?

We really enjoyed this article we found today on the Third Goal website. In case you aren't aware the Third Goal of Peace Corps is to "help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans." Which is something we try to achieve by sharing our stories through our blog ramblings.

A few excerpts:

While volunteers who know each other well talk about more interesting things, a common discussion among groups of volunteers, especially at the beginning was the level of “suffering” that we were going through. After all, everyone joins the Peace Corps expecting and hoping to live simple lives full of inconveniences that we would like to tell ourselves most Americans couldn’t handle.

The Peace Corps doesn’t mandate physical discomfort (“suffering?”) and apparently doesn’t believe it necessary to be a successful volunteer. So, when we talk about how much we “suffer,” at least on a country-by-country or region-by-region leve, maybe we are judging our personal suffering by those around us.

We, the Peace Corps volunteers, are not suffering. Not a one of us, whether we are in the Ivory Coast or on the coast of Sunny Thailand or in a country headed towards membership into the European Union, we are all in the Posh Corps together. And since we are all in the same thing, we may as well call it the Peace Corps.

The article resonated with us because when we get together with other volunteers in Jamaica we are always discussing which areas of the country are the worst (or best) and which volunteers are the most hard-core. People upon hearing we were serving in Jamaica used to assume we were joining the "Beach Corps". Which is true for some volunteers who seem to be on "extended spring break". There seems to be a hierarchy of suffering (or perceived suffering) within countries, between countries, and even between regions.

In Jamaica some volunteers are very "Babylon" and live in ways similar to those in the states. They have washers and dryers, cable, high speed internet, AC, the works. The least "Babylon" volunteers have no fridge; bathe, do laundry, and fetch water from a spring an hour away; and are about 4 hours from the nearest big town. We live in suburbia and are surrounded by neighbors living much nicer than us (cars, AC, washing machines, etc.) and our co-workers are appalled that we aren't allowed to drive out here. While we could easily obtain some of the nicer luxuries, we don't feel like subsidizing our living allowance to blend in with the Joneses. There are definitely vast differences between volunteers here in Jamaica, not only in the sites they were assigned to but in the decisions they make about how they are going to live.

There are so many ways to rank suffering that sometimes you end up going around and around, making it a pointless exercise. While we appreciate some of our suburban luxuries we often wish we lived in an area with more of a community feel to it and sometimes would happily trade the fancy supermarket for a bustling open air market. So how do you really decide who has it better? The volunteer in either situation could have a really powerful effect on the people he or she is working with. So maybe those aspects of the experience are the ones we should be comparing. But of course that isn't nearly as much fun as discussing who got worms and who walks the farthest every day.

-Shane and Kae

Friday, January 13, 2006

19th Day of Christmas

In our world Christmas goes on forever. Today we received a package from a friend of Kaelyn's family. It was the perfect Christmas package, complete with homemade cookies, white chocolate pretzels, Christmas music, the DVD Christmas with the Kranks, and our favorite - Clif Bars! And not just any Christmas cookies, Kaelyn's absolute favorite waffle cookies. And even after traveling all the way from Kansas they are still incredibly tasty! We were thrilled when we opened the box!


- Kaelyn and Shane

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

King of All Media

No, not Howard Stern, but our friend in Lawrence who sent us 5 DVD's packed with movies and music. There were about 20 movies in all, and about 30 CD's. We already watched The Chronicles of Narnia and The Life Aquatic, to much satisfaction. Big up to the Slice, who hath made our life more fun. A bottle of rum will surely find its way into his life when we visit.


Monday, January 09, 2006

From The Bluest Mountains, The Blackest Brew

The French Press and Grinder I received in the package from Kaelyn's family was really good with the Blue Mountain beans I got in Kingston the other day. The beans still cost a lot down here, about US$23 a pound, so I just got a half pound for the weekends and I will use the instant Blue Mountain coffee on the weekdays. We hope to hike up to the Blue Mountains where you can get coffee for only US$9 a pound.

The freshly grind beans make a very smooth cup. No milk is necessary with the Blue Mountain as it would be with the inferior brands, although addition of milk can be ok sometimes if you really need it. I mention the dairy for those stalwarts in my family, you know who you are, who for which coffee sans cream or milk is not really coffee at all. These same people are also appalled by my use of sugar and/or artificial sweetener. But I digress. There really is no one way to enjoy coffee. As evidence, the most popular type of coffee in Jamaica is instant, mixed with powdered creamer and sugar. Espresso bars are few and far between. In fact, few Jamaicans drink the Blue Mountain coffee and something like 90 % is exported to Japan. The Japanese get all of the good stuff.


PS-Does anyone know about the merits of leftover coffee grounds as a soil additive? I like to pour out the grounds into the potted plant we have on the patio in hopes that bacteria and insects will break down the grounds into soil. I know this experiment has been conducted millions of times in middle school science fairs, but where are the results when I need them?

Christmas Package

On Friday, after two previous Fridays of being disappointed, we finally received our Christmas package from my family. I had been warned that this was the "best package yet" and I think that was an accurate description. We took pictures to capture our excitement and to document the occasion and those will soon be on the flickr site if you want to see for yourself. I'm getting tired of listing what was in every package although I started that for the purpose of assuring my mother that everything she sent made it here. I also thought that would be something interesting we would want to look back on since this blog's main purpose is to serve as the journal of our Peace Corps experience. But since this package was particularly big and I already told my mother over the phone everything that was in it I think I'll just hit the highlights. We of course got our 2005 Christmas ornaments. Although they weren't labeled we figured the snowman with the coffee mug (saying "I can't, it goes right through me") was for Shane and the mini-gherkin pickle ornament was for me. Shane got an unbreakable French Press (just in time since his plastic travel one couldn't possibly make another cup) and a coffee grinder. I'm sure he will write later about the perfect cup of coffee he was able to brew on Saturday morning. I got many things to make me smell good and feel like I'm not gross and disgusting all the time from all the dirt and sweat. I truly have never been so excited about pretty new underwear and deodorant in my whole life. Plus two microfiber quick dry towels that look even better than the REI ones my friends got that I was so jealous of a few weeks ago. I also got some new shoes and a new purse which are super chic but now I am afraid of pairing them with all my wornout clothes. Oh well, in a few weeks they will be dusty and wornout too. We also got a new poster from Wakarusa (which if you don't know is the best music festival of the summer that just happens to be in Lawrence, KS) and so now we will be able to fill up a little more of the vast amounts of white space dominating our walls. Oh and the new KU Alumni calendar plus these cute little origami Jayhawks. So we really made an excellent haul! And we were even able to share a little bit of our package. On Saturday afternoon we heard some little kids playing futbol outside our house so we brought down our package of candy canes, that only would have made us fat if we ate all 12 ourselves. We made instant friends thanks to the "sweeties" and they even let us play dominoes with them. We felt special.
- Kaelyn

Friday, January 06, 2006

Why Whould You Ever Want To Leave?

Between the lush green foliage and the tranquil blue water, I could stay in Portland forever.

- Kaelyn

Portland Rocks

When I first drove through the Parish of Portland, on Jamaica's northeast coast, I realized that I was finally on a tropical island. Through the coaster bus windows, I saw lush jungle vegetation, banana plantations, and bay after bay of white sand beaches with water in a multitude of blue hues. Kaelyn and I stayed mostly in Boston Bay, and traveled back and forth to Port Antonio (the capital, also called "Porty) a few times for groceries.

Boston Bay is where jerk was invented. I didn't try it, but the 8 square yards of pork and chicken I saw on one humongous grill certainly looked authentic. Plus, the jerk stands are about 50 feet from where we stayed, at Great Huts. If you don't eat meat, there is still really tasty festival and breadfruit, but I would stay away from too much yam unless you have a lot of liquids to wash it down with.

Boston Bay itself is said to be the most surf-friendly place in Jamaica. The waves are fairly big, but nothing as big as I've seen in Costa Rica or California, so it's still swimmable. There is very little sand, since most of it was eroded by a hurricane, so bring your sandals so the rocks don't cut up your feet. It's still a very pleasant place to swim, or even rock dive if you are the adventurous type. Great Huts has a little ocean pool on the side of the beach where you can sit and enjoy the water.

Speaking of Great Huts, it's very rustic and chic. We stayed in a yurt with one other couple. There were built in stone bed frames and a very firm mattress. Fans and soft lighting are included. The shower is outdoors but has a bamboo screen around it and the water pressure is nice. The other fun thing is the communal kitchen where you can cook your own meals.

Portland is very beautiful. It rains all the time so it is always green. A far cry from the desert like conditions in Portmore and the South Coast. Check it out if you can.

-Shane and Kaelyn

PS-We posted pictures of Portland on Flickr site, with a link on the right side of the page.