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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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