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 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,

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

Morning Sun Interview

We did an interview by email with the Pittsburg, Kansas Morning Sun (Kaelyn's hometown newspaper) in our attempt to fulfill the 3rd Goal of Peace Corps and to generate publicity for the 45th Anniversary of Peace Corps which is March 1st. We thought we would share our answers with our blog readers.

-Kaelyn and Shane

How did you come to choose entering the Peace Corps? Was this something each of you had thought of individually, or something that you decided on as a couple?

Kaelyn: One of the things that we had in common when we met was that we were both interested in pursuing the Peace Corps after we graduated. However, we both had reservations about being able to handle the difficulty of being away from friends and family for such a long period of time. As our relationship progressed we decided that we would apply to Peace Corps together as a married couple, which brings its own challenges but also ensures that you won’t be alone in the process. However, we each had our own reasons for wanting to become Peace Corps Volunteers. For me, it fell in with my interests in Community Development and International Aid. Although I am most interested in working in Non-Profit Management and Grant Writing I wanted an opportunity to first work in the field. I feel that the experience that I am gaining is important in shaping my perspective and understanding of development work.

Shane: Kaelyn and I wanted to have an adventure together. In some ways, the Peace Corps is like an intense, working honeymoon. But, instead of spending two weeks lying on the beach, we get to spend two years working and learning. I knew that the two years in the Peace Corps would provide us with the time and freedom to undertake projects, travel together, and share the experience. That was part of the reason that I wanted to apply as a couple. For myself, I wanted to live and work in another country. I also wanted to learn a new language. Along with Kaelyn, I think the Peace Corps became a real possibility when I could go with a partner. Leaving behind family and friends was difficult, but bringing along both a member of my family and a friend would make the emotional side of the Peace Corps much more bearable.

Tell me about the type of work you're engaged in, what Jamaica is like, and so on. We've had a cold snap here, and I really envy you being in a tropical place.

Kaelyn: My assignment is to be a Small Business Advisor with the Planning Department of the Portmore Municipal Council in the parish of St. Catherine. The Council is fairly new and Portmore is the first Municipality in Jamaica. Most of my work revolves around systems and capacity building. I find ways to make the office more organized and efficient and to increase their use of technology. One of my main projects so far has been to create a database for cataloging the Building Applications submitted for approval. The next step will be to train the staff in use of the database and implementing it into their current job tasks. As a secondary project I work in the Peace Corps Office in Kingston with the Small Project Assistance (SPA) Grant Program. The grant money comes from USAID and Peace Corps works in partnership with them to fund Peace Corps Volunteer’s projects in communities they are living and working in. I coordinate the committee that reviews, selects, and monitors the projects. Jamaica seems like such a small island but living here I have realized how much there is to do and how diverse the different areas of the country are. We spend most of our free time visiting other volunteers in different parishes and enjoying those areas of the country. Because we live in such an urban area (Portmore is part of the Kingston Metropolitan Area) it is really enjoyable to get away for a weekend to visit our friends in more rural areas like the cane fields in Clarendon or the Blue Mountains in St. Andrew. Of course, the beaches are great too and Hellshire Beach, famous for fried fish and festival, is nearby our house in Portmore.

Shane: I also work in the Portmore Municipal Council, with the official title of Environmental Promoter. I collaborate with Kaelyn on some of her projects, like the Building Applications database, and also do some of my own. I conduct research on the history of Portmore, traveling to the National Library to find information on historical sites in Portmore that could be turned into heritage sites to bolster tourism. The historical information is also to be used for a Development Plan, which we will both assist with. On Fridays, I tutor reading and research skills at a local high school, while teaching tennis lessons after school. Both of these activities have introduced me to Jamaican Patois, the language spoken by many Jamaicans, although they use English in formal settings. Patois has English words and some from other languages, but spoken in a different syntax and with different pronunciation. Jamaican dancehall music is very popular. It is done in Patois and usually features a heavy drum and bass with a quarter note triplet pulse. You can hear it from every taxi and from Thursday to Sunday out of large sound-systems, with speakers as tall as the people listening to them. The food is interesting, too, although we don’t indulge in the meat dishes – such as curry goat, fried chicken, and chicken foot soup – because we are vegetarian. We do like fried fish, ackee (a tree fruit from West Africa that is used in the national dish of Jamaica, ackee and saltfish) and the dozens of varieties of mangos.

Tell me what you feel about the worth of the Peace Corps, both to the people you're working with and to you. Would you recommend this experience to others? How do you feel that your experiences in the Peace Corps will influence the rest of your lives? How long are you in for? What are your plans afterward?

Kaelyn: I have really enjoyed my experience with Peace Corps thus far and I would definitely recommend it to others. However, it is important that you don’t go into Peace Corps with too many expectations. We have really tried to keep an open mind about the experience and I think if we hadn’t we could have been easily disappointed. Our situation is a lot different than one might envision in the Peace Corps; we live in a very urban area, shop at supermarkets, work in an office, and the country we live in is very familiar with American culture. We feel like we are making an impact by assisting our agency in areas they are interested in making improvements in. I feel that my experiences in Peace Corps will affect the rest of my life in many ways. I have become more patient as things always take much longer in Jamaica than you would expect them to. Also, I will definitely be more appreciative of the conveniences and freedoms of life in the States. But most importantly I have learned to see the world from a different perspective and have become more able to appreciate and understand the motivations and hurdles of those in situations different from my own. Our commitment to Peace Corps is 26 months so we will be closing our service in August 2007. After Peace Corps I am hoping to continue working with a non-profit doing community development work. And we are definitely considering doing Peace Corps again as older volunteers after retirement.

Shane: I have contributed to the office where I work by sharing my research, writing, and computer skills. The Peace Corps has been very beneficial to me, foremost by showing me how people live in the developing world. This puts my US experiences in context. Peace Corps is not for everyone. Sometimes the sites do not work out. Other times it takes six months to a year for a volunteer to get acclimated and figure out how they can contribute. Patience is definitely a virtue in the Peace Corps. But you also can’t forget that you are here to do a job and contribute. In other words, it is bad to be too patient. I would recommend the Peace Corps to people, but only if they have both the patience to figure out how to operate in another country, and the tenacity to work through the many hurdles that exist. I plan on going to law school when I return from the Peace Corps. I hope to ensure that systems work efficiently and that everyone has equal rights before the law, things which are often lacking in developing countries.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Close Encounter

On Monday, as I was walking to work, a man on a bike riding the other way asked me if I would give him some money, and if I was Mormon. "No," I answered, to both questions. As he rode away, I surmised that was the end of our conversation. But then he rode back and crossed to my side of the road to talk to me again. And this is where it got strange.

He said his name was Michael, that he likes making love (not his words, but perhaps you can imagine what they were), and he would like to have my number and/or know where I live. For those of you who don't know, Jamaicans are for the most part viciously and violently opposed to same sex relationships. In light of this fact, I told him that I was married and not interested in seeing other people ("I'm in a monogamous relationship, sorry"). All the time, I kept walking so that I would be closer to my workplace. Finally, he relented and rode off.

After speaking to others, and I tend to agree, I do not believe this was a mild-mannered offer of companionship. It may have indeed been a ruse to root out, and possibly act on, the liberal opinions of a non-Mormon Peace Corps Volunteer. I never felt in danger in this situation, but it is a good idea to be cautious out on the street. Sometimes it's best not to reveal your feelings; it can be a form of protection.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Shane's 15 Minutes

Check out this news article in the Lawrence Journal World about Peace Corps 45th Anniversary. It features an interview and photo of everyone's favorite volunteer, none other than Shane McCall.

Very Exciting!


p.s. I am also mentioned as Shane's gorgeous, brilliant, and very funny wife. Or maybe just as Shane's wife but you know that other stuff is implied.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

RIP: Porky

My sister just called with very sad news. Our beta fish that we left in her care during our Peace Corps service has passed away. Porcus Puff, known to close friends as Porky, was a wonderful fish. He never asked for much, just clean water once a week and a few sprinkles of beta food each day. He liked to excercise by fighting his own image in a mirror. Getting him out of the city and moving to the country in our absence did wonders to his health. He lived to the ripe old age of 1.5 years. Which is a record in our fish owning experience. Thank you, Erin, for your wonderful job as a caretaker - we couldn't have asked for anyone better. And thank you Porky for all the memories. We hope you enjoy the big fish bowl in the sky.
Peace & Love,
Your Owners - Kae and Shane
Note: The picture isn't really Porky, he wasn't very photogenic so he asked us to use a model.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Shane & Bob


That's the Jamaican birthday song. Imagine it sung really fast with lots of clapping. Fun stuff! Friday was Shane's birthday and the drum pictured above was his gift. It's a Maroon drum called a gumbe made by a Rasta in Accompong, St. Elizabeth. Today is Bob Marley's birthday, so you are all obligated to drink a Red Stripe and toast Shane and Bob while singing along to Legend.

One Love,

My Adventure in Jamaica

Note: This is a guest post by our very special visitor. If you want to see pictures of the mitten's adventure click here.

I traveled 1,807 miles from Missouri to Jamaica to visit Aunt Casey’s friends, Kaelyn and Shane. The climate here is much warmer than in Missouri. The sun stays out for about the same length every day instead of being shorter in the winter as they are in the United States. It gets dark around 6:00 PM throughout the year. Since I journeyed such a long way, I had to see some of the wonderful sites in Jamaica.

The best place I went was the beach. There are pictures of me at Hellshire Beach. It is near where Kaelyn and Shane live, in the city of Portmore on the south coast of Jamaica. It’s famous for fried fish and festival, which is a fried biscuit made of flour and cornmeal. The sun and sand were nice and warm and the fish was very tasty. I enjoyed the beach, but there were other fun things to do on the island.

After being at the beach, I got a little bit sandy, so I decided to clean up. In Jamaica, people hang their clothes up on clotheslines to dry, so that is where I went to dry off after washing the sand off. The sun is very strong in Jamaica, so it did not take long.

Finally, I tried some of the local Jamaican foods. The red fruit on the tree is ackee. Jamaicans eat it with dried fish, onions, and tomatoes for breakfast. It’s very popular. Ting is grapefruit flavored soda – so refreshing. The fruit is called an ortanique; it’s a mixture of orange and tangerine. Those little peppers are called scotch bonnet peppers. They are really spicy, but very common in Jamaican food. There are many hot sauces made from them. Jamaican food is really fun.

Finally, I had to say good-bye to Jamaica and return home. I had a wonderful time. It was fun to explore a new and exciting part of the world.

Yours Truly,

Magellen the Mitten

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Aged Musings

I am starting to feel a little bit different with the weight of 25 years soon to be hanging from my neck (tomorrow). It certainly feels a lot older than 18 or 21 years old. I think 25 is pretty much the age when you can't be considered a child or young adult any longer, no matter what your station in life or are how hard to try to keep being treated like youth. Before then, maybe you can get away with it if you are in college, or some other circumstance where you are not "earning your keep." At 25, though, it's in with the new, and the new is the old.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Packages and Cable

We got three packages last Friday. I would have written about them earlier, but it has taken us this long to look through all the goods that were inside of them. Just kidding. Kaelyn and I really enjoyed the packages we got from the States. It always reminds us that the most significant thing that we gave up in joining the Peace Corps is our friends and relatives.

One package was from Kaelyn's grandparents and included lens wipes and our favorite rectangular meals - Clif bars, Brewer's Yeast (great for protein in soups and popcorn) and a can of tennis balls for the tennis team. My friend sent tennis balls, jelly beans, reading material and oodles of music (and comedy recordings), along with a very nice note written on quite small paper. Finally, members of our KC connection gave us a box stuffed with books, organic chocolate, dried fruit, energy bars, and Harper's magazines. They also sent us a traveling mitten that we took to see some of the sights in Jamaica, like the beach. It is an educational activity which Kaelyn will explain more in her post later.

Thanks for making us feel special. The experience of getting packages has convinced us that we really need to send letters and packages to our loved ones when we return to the states. They're so cool to receive. Just one of the many things you learn (or recognize) in the Peace Corps.


PS - If you are still reading . . . We got cable installed yesterday. It only took two working days for them to come out, making it one of the faster processes in Jamaica. You get about 90 channels, including movies, for the basic rate here (US$12.50).

PPS - Peace Corps can be spelled Pea Score and still sounds the same at loud. As a fun game for all of our readers, how would you answer the question, "What is the Pea Score?"