Archive | March, 2012

Quality over Quantity

22 Mar

In my opinion and in spite of the rain, February emceed the most valuable Farmers meeting Elim has ever seen. Attended by Mr. Price, St. Elizabeth’s newest Member of Parliament, over 100 community members showed up, actively participated, and worked together to ensure a relatively punctual start (merely 1.75 hours late). I was thoroughly impressed. People were involved! The two hour collaboration was full of insightful observations, remarkable inquiries, and constructive dialogue; reverberating with fresh ideas, innovative peanut plans, and a renewed sense of communal hope, my heart swelled with pride.

In unrelated news, Peace Corps Jamaica (group 83) arrived on island last week. Welcome, ya’ll! Hopefully Michael is among you and we will all linkup soon.

Alright, so my day. Since I woke up this morning I have:
– Witnessed Goose eating a diaper. It was terrible. Dogs are gross.
– Ran for 45 minutes and then enjoyed a hearty callaloo breakfast.
– Visited the basic school where the Principle had done nothing to prepare for our meeting like I had asked. Sure.
– Cracked peanut seeds (to be used for planting) while watching adorable piglets get delivered (by a truck) into mamas yard.

my name is Fluff

In vignette-y news, I recently overheard this outrageous, sexist conversation:
A Black River taxi driver wanted to maximize profits by squeezing two women into the front seat of his car; the women would have had to ‘small-up’ considerably. He authoritatively told the first woman “Move ova, now.”. She responded with Jamaican attitude, “Naw sir! Mi wuldn’t do dat.”. The taxi driver insisted, “Come now man, move ovah!”. The woman kissed teeth (translation: ‘rolled her eyes’) and explained, “Mi cyaan tek de squeeze up, squeeze up — Mi pregnant.”. “Oh gawd, Lord gawd”, the driver immediately reacted, “Oh sorry. Sorry miss! So sorry.”, he apologetically continued, “Mi neva kno say dat di job already done!”.

Ha! I couldn’t help but laugh because, despite this chauvinistic attitude, I am in love with Jamaica right now. Yes, it’s a patriarchal country and — of course — some things make me cringe. But, by golly, I am embracing my gender role and enjoying my life! Work and school are frequently productive, the fruit here is always in season/perpetually mouthwatering, and Elim is brimming with warm, friendly people. Not to mention this enchanting yard really feels like home.

Do you spy wid your likl eye Goose & Tyger?

That tree to the right with red things? Ackee and ‘tis the season! I have spent many recent hours harvesting, cleaning, and cooking this national food. To the left you’ll see cows and mango trees (soon come!). Behind the house (not pictured) are star apple, guava, niesberry, and palm trees (with yummy jelly-coconuts).

Oh, my roommate is here. He wants to say hello:

This lizard has seriously grown. We had one minor calamity in which our friend, a salamander, got completely flattened by a chair. It was tragic(ally hilarious). But you can see how quickly my scaly companion has rebounded after the trauma!; he appears to be mentally stable, completely un-trampled, and benefiting from some extra food indulgences. I just watched him pay his rent, aka eat a roach half his size.

More (exciting) news next time. Try not to contain yourself.
Miles of smiles,

Sanity Clause

19 Mar

Dear friends and family,

Yesterday marked two years since I arrived in Jamaica!
And how perfect that it was a Sunday – my favorite day. Also, you’ll note, a day of religion; an ideal time to tell you about last month when a crowd of black people prayed explicitly for your safety and wellbeing.

Story time:
I was in Santa Cruz when I saw a large assembly – complete with a minivan, tent, two folding tables, a microphone, stacks of speakers, and a sizable crowd. My instinct, you’ll appreciate, is to avoid. As I was casually crossing the street to establish distance I overheard (mildly put) multiple, fanatical “Jesus” shrieks and deduced that this was a parking-lot revival of sorts. Later, after having my spirit purified, I found out that this particular Church group is semi-famous; hailing from Kingston they are featured on TV Jamaica at 7am Sunday mornings performing “Revival Hour” (ironically, 30 minutes long).

Anyhow, back to the drama. I was skirting by, as unnoticed as a bruise on a banana, when a few of my dear community members spotted me, smiled, called my name, and wildly motioned that I should come and attend this service. They seemed happy but I’ve been to Jamaican services before…5 hours later I pledged to myself that I would never have to do that again. Color me white, but I am a grownup who does not break her promises. So, from across the street, I graciously gave a friendly wave of acknowledgment and then skillfully gesticulated that I cannot come stand over there because I am, in fact, Jewish.

Did you know that miming ‘yamaka’ is not universally understood?
I couldn’t believe it either so I re-mimed with clearer articulation.
The pastor with the loudspeaker detected something was amiss – A soul that needed restoration? – and paused his sermon. I froze. The air was pregnant with curiosity and rituals. How do you hide the fact that bunnies do not lay eggs?

“Whitie!” I heard over the megaphone.
The crowd of dark-skinned Jamaicans collectively turned towards me.
I smiled. Waved. Then casually tried to shuffle away ruminating, ‘I’m brown’.

“Come! The Lord is calling! The Lord is speaking to me!”, he bellowed. The preacher re-established his groove, his voice escalating, “In the Lords name! Can I get a Hallalujah for this Whitie?”

Barring any unlikely persons with pigment deficiencies, he was talking to me. I decided to take this in stride. Why not? I’d been in (almost) this exact situation other times in Jamaica so I had practice. “The Lord! In Jesus’ name! Come!! Let us pray!”, he yearned. I faced the throng; I was in a good mood and while the preacher spouted energetic blessings into the microphone, I walked into the nucleolus. As I maneuvered, I reflected how lucky I was; a group of people was about to give me strength.

When I reached the pastor he was covered in sweat, his white shirt soaked through and his black skin glistened. Seized by the spirit myself, I shouted a few “hallalujahs” and felt him take each of my arms and thrust them into the air. With his hands on my head he convulsed into the microphone, “Jesus! Jesus! He wants me to pray for you! Give you health! Safe travels! This beautiful country! Can I get an Amen?”
I heard murmurs of ‘Amen’.
“The Lord he ask nothing of you”, he continued, still touching the spot where my yamaka might lay, “in Jesus’ name! Bless this woman! Bless her family! Her friends! Those who know her foreign and those who know her community! Bless them! Provide for them! Their travels. We ask of you Lord! Care for her!” He was on a roll. An amplified, so-loud-it-diminishes-your-experience, passionate, heart-felt roll. “Make the devil not take she! Guide her! Jesus! Jesus! We ask you! Lord! Keep evil away! Jesus!”, his eyes rolled back into his head. I grew concerned until he jumped up with new urgency and I saw that he was okay. “Say his name!”, he commanded. “Say the Lords name! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”, he burgeoned on hysterical.
I closed my eyes, serenely smiled, and sent a silent, personal prayer of gratitude to Ms. Dawkins for all those elementary school acting class. “Jesus”, I started, my smile broadened; if Rabbi Art Donsky could see me now! “Jesus! Jesus! Thank you Jesus!”, it was easy once I got going. “Jesus! Lord Jesus, thank you!”, my heart rate was elevated and I started sweating; I was into this.

The preacher took his hands off of me and spun me around in a circle. “Yes, yes”, he muttered, “God Bless” and sent me out of the spotlight. Just like that, my holy session had ended. I noticed then that the crowd had gotten larger — which made sense because, in Jamaica, the only thing ruder than pointing and staring is not pointing and staring — and I caught the eyes of my community members as we sieved towards each other.
“Mah sah! That was quite a prayer!”, Mr. Higgler pronounced. “Yeah, I feel like I’ve been sufficiently protected from all sorts of evil!”, I declared, wiping my brow. “Not to mention your friends and family”, Rocky elaborated.
Ah yes, my esteemed friends and family.

So,if you’re counted among my friends and family – and let’s assume by reading this you are – this past month you were professionally prayed for, redeemed.

With (officially) 2 years of experience and all due veneration, you’re welcome.

Resume builder

11 Mar

Right, so I owe you all an update for February but this will have to do: My time in Jamaica is coming to a close and I have been busy with school work, busy with job work, busy with community work, and did I mention really really busy?

Among the recent things I’ve done? Update my resume. Here are some excerpts:

Samantha Travis
Jamaica, West Indies
Peace Corps Volunteer; March 2010 – Present

• Assisted in writing successful grant. Awarded $200,000US. Built new school.
• Developed curriculum. Taught leadership classes weekly; empowered students.
• Created parameters for J’can women to amplify recycled card enterprise.
• Conducted 12 workshops honing business, advertising, and financial expertise.

But then I was all like, ‘wait! there’s more’:
• Increased literature consumption; completed > 155 books.
• Received 32 marriage proposals. Improved sense of humor.
• Hosted parasite; eliminated 9 pounds of needed body weight in 9 hours.
• Administered shockingly cold bucket baths at least 2x per week.

And then I was all like, ‘I need to save space. Can this be simplified?’:
•Humbled by a 26 month third-world ego plunge. Retained buoyant optimism.

More soon come.
Until then,