Tuesday, July 28, 2009

June 13

On Saturday Calvin drove us all around in the coaster. We stopped at the craft market where I picked up an abundance of jewelry and art made from coconuts, wood, and bamboo. Then we made our way to Bob's house. I was a little disappointed with the museum because there wasn't much to learn. Everything was communicated verbally and it all seemed rushed. I thought there would be information to read, however I really enjoyed the one room that was completely filled with photographs. Overall it was a tourist trap and the house and property was more of a tour than a museum. I did however only pay the Jamaican rate of $5 for the tour, so it was worth the experience.

This monument below stands in the center of National Hero's Park in Kingston.

June 12

In the morning we all went to lectures, by the authors of our class books, and then basically relaxed for the afternoon. Ali and I went to Half-way Tree and it was quite the experience. We went shopping for shoes that we could wear to the clubs because 'slippers' aka flip flops aren't tolerated. While walking the streets it was frequently pointed out that we were white. We were used to the attention, but in the hot heat and crowded streets it seemed overwhelming. We found shoes, bought mixed CDs and once again ate KFC mashed potatoes (one of our staples in Kingston). KFC is where the most interesting events of the day took place. A man literally followed us around for ten minutes and Ali's personal space was compromised by middle school girls, but at the end of the day we ended up getting super cheap and fabulous CDs. I can't even tell you the amount of phone numbers we had thrown at us, it was like we had signs on our heads reading:Single. All the attention was annoying and made us feel uncomfortable so we decided to go back to campus. While we were relaxing in the Italia dorms a friendly little lizard wandered in. Then we wandered out to enjoy this sunset and this polite young friend of Bruce's.

June 11

June 9

Tuesday was another day with RADA. Lindsey, Mark, Jack and I went out with the extension officer for Yallahs, Mr. Forrestor, and others. We talked to several farmers about hurricane preparedness and we also helped one farmer prepare for a fruit farm. The government in Jamaica is giving RADA free seeds for fruit trees and extension officers teach farmers how to plant and care for the trees.

Here is a collection of animals I saw on Tuesday. This baby lizard was at the villa; it was the smallest I saw there! This hen was among about thirty at a residence in Yallahs. The woman who raised these chickens was about fifty and she had an acre of land and a nice little villa facing the salt pond. The extension officers were advising her on the depth of her holes for grape vines. She showed me her squash and pumpkin plants and we swamped pumpkin soup recipes.

The first farm we went to in Yallahs was home to a variety of animals. Cows, goats, kittens, pigs and one sad donkey lived there. I helped feed the goats and asked a million questions as we were waiting out a classic morning rain shower. After the shower passed we staked out where the mango trees would be planted. One of the farmers climbed a coconut tree and cut down a bunch for us all to enjoy. I loved being out in the field and experiencing the extension officers day to day work.

June 8

This is a ship I managed to snap a picture of on my way home from RADA. The drive from Lysons to Yallahs is really scenic, but I never worked up the nerve to ask any of my drivers to pull over. I don't know if it was the relaxing music or the way the drivers were always speeding around, but I thought my request for a stop would ruin the vibe. I thought I was going to take a long walk one day during a long stretch of the ocean highways, but I guess I never found the time.
Monday was Jody's birthday celebration. We decided to have a big fire and invite a few of our local friends. The fire went great, neighbors from everywhere came to see what was going on. We couldn't eat smores because we couldn't find any marshmellows in JA! We did play some good old American drinking games though.

June 7

The full moon over the ocean was a beautiful scene. We were frequently enticed into swimming late at night. I remember the moon was so bright that night that I had trouble sleeping outside.

June 6

The entire crew woke up groggy on Sunday. The rooster started to crow around 4 am; luckily I was able to block him out, I was only woken up once. I had a great nights sleep, but I remember someone complaining that I stay up too late and cough too often. Thanks for the water Jack! After we packed up our things, Alex and I started off the day with a little yoga and a few headstands, but we were quickly evacuated from our quiet mountainside by the hungry mosquitoes. Everyone was ready to hit the trail, so we packed up and hiked up...for a few miles. Once we reached the second pit stop everyone was sweating and panting, but Shaggy assured us it was all downhill from there. We hiked for a few miles under the coverings of Jamaica's luscious green tropical forests. I kept comparing the different creatures and plants I saw here with what I've experienced hiking in Pennsylvania. I realized I'm substantially more comfortable in this climate and I enjoy the variety of plants, fruits, and animals more than those in the North. When I ventured on a moonlight walk on Saturday night, my only fear was stepping in deep puddles. In PA I can barely work up the courage to walk to my mailbox at night. I'm not sure why I'm so terrified in Pennsylvania's forests; my pop still laughs at me because I was terrified of coyotes when we were camping. The cold also gets to me, whenever I consider backpacking it has to be before November.
Before I knew it, the trees opened up and sun cut down through the forests. We took photos at the end of the trail and continued walking through the small meadow scattered with goats and small homes. As we walked up the mountainside through the meadow, Shaggy waved me over. He told me he was going to introduce me to his parents. We stopped at a light blue tin gate that guarded a windy dirt path lined with beautiful tropical flowers. Shaggy lead me into the small home that sat on the side of the mountain. His mother was in the kitchen and his fada was watching a Jamaican Soap Opera on television. His mother told me she has been to California three times and she was surprised to find out I had never been there. She was hospitable like every other Jamaican woman I have met. After filling my water bottle she sent us out the door and again we hiked until we reached our taxis at the Hayfield road.
Shaggy arranged for another taxi driver that was more experienced with the road to come pick us up, but since there was only one car a few of us chose to walk. The pictures below are ones I took on that long and sunny walk down the mountain side.

After the two hour drive home everyone was ready for a shower and some breakfast. My breakfast of macaroni and cheese was great, my shower however was not. Being the great friend she is, Alex snapped these pictures.

June 5

On Friday, everyone except the graduate students ventured to Cunha Cunha Pass. It was about an hour drive east to the community of Hayfield. The drive was fine until we had to venture up a mountain, a pretty steep one at that. Our taxi driver Rowen wasn't very excited about taking his low-sitting Impala up the washed out road full of ruts, rock piles, and water run off ditches. It took the two vehicles about an hour to climb the mountain up to the trail head; needless to say we gave the drives a nice tip when we arrived. When we reached the top we met our trail guide, Shaggy. He is on the left in the photo below. Shaggy was a great guy and this was evident from the start. After all our greetings and a quick picture, we were off.

As you can see, Shaggy hiked the five mile trail in flip flops. Cunha Cunha pass was no walk in the park, it involves climbing up one mountain and down another. The trails snake their way through the Blue and John Crow Mountains, these trails were once used by the Maroons. I thought the hike was really enjoyable even though my pack was the heaviest of everyone's (damn cameras). Shaggy and the other guides even built two rest stop areas with shade, benches, and out houses. When we got to our camp, I was completely surprised. The facilities were exceptional; we weren't "roughin' it" like we were lead to believe. After stashing our belongings in our cabins and visiting the restrooms, which were better than some hotels I've stayed in, we ate lunch in the screened pavilion. After lunch Shaggy took us to a swimming hole on the river. We had fun cooling off and splashing around with our guide.

June 4

On Thursday Alex and I went to the Yallahs Basic School; this was our secondary work site. Alex and I taught art class to three, four and five year olds. Our first day was chaos. When we arrived at the school, all the kids were peeking through the open air slats in their class rooms to catch a glimpse at their visitors. We were exhausted from the attention already.
On this particular Thursday we taught the kids about colors and had them draw rainbows. We also played 'I Spy..' with them. They had a lot of fun telling Alex and I their favorite colors and trying to find them around the classroom. After the two three-year-old classrooms it was time for their morning break. All the kids either played or took a nap; Alex and I wandered to a deserted room to rest for a few quiet minutes.
We were sitting on the floor in the lunch room looking at posters on the wall when this caught my eye.

It is a poster explaining how you can't contract HIV. As you can see, the poster depicts common activities involving young children..A mosquito bite, sharing food, sharing utensils, sleeping in the same bed and playing with friends. This poster landed on me like a huge weight. It made me realize that HIV is a real fear among not only sexually active adults, but also young school children. I don't think I even knew what HIV was until I was 13. Also, all the other posters on the wall were handmade, but this one was manufactured. It is disheartening knowing that this poster is on the walls of schools across the island and from the looks of its design other African countries as well. I can't imagine the how it would feel to worry about HIV as a young child, the threat was unbeknownst to me. Although I am happy that this poster is available to educate the school kids, I'm sad to know it is needed. Before I could spend too much time thinking about this poster, little kiddies were peeking in the empty lunch room, which meant break time was over.

Alex and I then visited the four-year-old classrooms. It was easier to work with the older children because they are obviously more advanced, but it is also easier to understand them. Its hard to communicate with young kids to begin with, but when you are dealing with a language barrier it seems almost impossible. It was also hard to give the kids instruction or discipline because most of them didn't understand plain English. The four year olds were better than the younger kids at naming colors and grasping the concept of ROY G. BIV. When we got to the five year olds they totally surprised us. I guess I never realized how quickly kids develop that early in life; there were clear differences and advancements throughout every age group. The five year olds knew all their colors and wanted to have their colors in order. They even wrote ROY G. BIV on their papers without instruction or encouragement from Alex and I. After six classrooms of kids who just want to talk and touch I was definitely exhausted, but I knew I wanted to go back in a heartbeat. As everyone was leaving for the day kids were giving me flowers, drawings and even their taxi fares. I still have pressed flowers and I can remember the two cuties who gave them to me. I loved being with all the kiddies. Besides how ridiculously cute they all looked in their uniforms, it was nice to get so much attention and love from little babes.

June 3

Wednesday was a relatively relaxing day. Wednesdays were my work days at the villa. After breakfast I grabbed my book and went to read on my favorite bed swing. I was reading Carolyn Cooper's 'Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large.' After awhile I started to crave a nap in the beautiful breeze, but I dragged myself out from under the Almond tree to go play football. Lindsey and I went to the Yallahs Primary School to play and simultaneously catch a killer sun tan. Mr. Good invited us over to juggle before we started and it was shocking how fast everything came back to me. It was almost as if three years of dormancy was erased with five minutes of footwork, but I was definitely disadvantaged when it came to comparing my energy level to that of an eleven year old.
After football we walked to the square and grabbed festival and patties for lunch. Then I took a quick dip in the ocean and
met up with Alex to discuss the next day's lesson plan. We were preparing to go to Yallahs Basic School. We wanted to teach the kids a short lesson, but most importantly we wanted to interact with them and give them fun new art supplies to work with. So that night we planned a lesson around colors and the rainbow. We made posters depicting the rainbow and ROY G BIV. We gathered all the crayons and markers we could find and hoped for the best the following day.