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12 Apr

My computers dead.
It won’t turn on.
I mean, I’ve looked at it and all, pressed the reset button, unplugged it, re-plugged it, left it alone, flipped it over, sweet-talked it, left it alone (for longer this time), took out the battery, blew on it, brushed it off, opened it, closed it, heaved a sigh, and completely exhausted my electronical knowledge. I have hope that someone in America will fix it. Until then, mi deh yah — that’s patwa for I am here — in Santa Cruz using the Internet Cafe.
Budgeting my “allowance” (aptly titled Peace Corps pay) to shell out for computer time during April has been unexpected and unwelcomed but not what I’m focused on. Because, guess what ya’ll???

That’s right; 3 goals, 2 years of service, and 1 love.
My 25 month emotional roller coaster is about to come to a full stop.
April 23rd, 2012
Congratulations group 81! Pop pop pop pop pop!

So, with a positive spin, this computer mashup is a blessing in disguise. I have been hyper-focusing on school (and adorable pickni), my farmers, relationships, sweet sweet Elim, and of course darling Mama. The love in my community is palpable and these past few weeks have been thoroughly enjoyable and full of celebration.

April is hot, no doubt, but life is good.
Really really good.

Up and Coming:
April 21st
Since no one I know is subscribed to Triathalete magazine (right?) and (turns out) I am a sucker for any ‘top 5’ nomer, as soon as I found out that Jakes Jamaican triathalon was voted “top 5 best off-road races in the world”, I signed up.
People in Elim expect me to win. Normally, I would banter and hedge, cushioning the blow for when I crawl across the finish line. However, my community members televisions have awful service (much static, flashing screens, and frequent, high pitch noises). This, combined with the fact that all white people look the same (whenever they show clips of white people my community members claim they saw me on TV– Mama is convinced I came in third place at Reggae marathon) has caused me to smile, nod, and give a thumbs up at any mention of the aforementioned race.
I’m excited because at least one day this month I’ll be exercising.

On April 24th I am island hoping.
2 weeks of Caribbean travel. Yip yip yip!
More details later.

May 10th
I land in Minnesota where dear Molly will (soon) be. Until then I get the luxury of chilling with Betsy and Dooey (holla!!)

May 17th
Solo road-trip to Piksburgh ❤
Molly is lending me her car for the summer (!)
I haven't driven alone in over 2 years. Freeeeeeeedom!

End of May
An uplifting reunion with M ‘n D along with fantastic sleep in a cushy bedroom.
PA friends gear up; Bring On Americana!

In June I will be updating my blog and, most likely, renaming it. Any suggestions? Realistically, you won't be hearing from me much between now and then (Macrash and huge life changes, withstanding ).

For now, I am living in the moment, soaking up the sun, and relishing Jamaica.

When I reach America, we should probably hang out.
Throw me a good offer and I may even come to you.

Present. Happy. Fulfilled.
All in all,
'mi (deh yah)

PS. June 23rd is my Welcome Home Fiesta. You’re invited. Save the date.

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,

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,

May Day

13 May

First things first:
Shout-out to my Mum, Emmy:
Happy (belated) Mothers Day!!
You are my role-model, inspiration, cheerleader, and constant support.
Thank you for all that you have done and all you continue to do.
I owe the woman that I am to you!
I will love you forever.
And ever.

Alright, Here’s what I’m thinking right now
– I renamed my tiny puppy — Tyger. ‘cause he’s ferocious and striped.
– I have an itch on my leg. And one on my neck, my back, my ankle…uh oh…
– I like procrastinating (I *should* be working on a lesson plan for school.)
– Having a clean house, clean clothes, and a ‘made’ bed is oh-so productive.
– Mangoes are VERY good. I eat them twice a day. Nay, Thrice. Fresh off the tree. (Yes, I’m gloating.)

Quick recap of wha gwan in May:
Allow me to start off by stating *just* how happy I am that it is, in fact, May!!!! Eeeeeee!! 😀
Big UP to Group 81 for making it to our Mid Service Conference! I’m proud to be part of such a cohesive, positive, respectful coalition of people.

At our Conference (the entire first week of May!) I got a chance to reconnect with friends, play beach volleyball, and most importantly, drink virgin strawberry daiquiris for lunch AND dinner. At times like these it’s easy to love PC Jamaica!

On a more serious note, I also got the chance to recommit myself to the Peace Corps service and hear about other peoples experiences/challenges. PC Jamaica has gone through many changes recently and I am inspired to report that we currently have a wonderful staff as well as an impressive set of volunteers. — it’s amazing the sense of solidarity and motivation that these people provide for me!

After the conference, I hosted three couchsurfers (Belgium/Panama/Canada)! All ladies. Two were dancers who stretched with me (super awesome), and the third spoke French and Arabic fluently so we practiced our language skills!
Yay de nouvelles cultures! 🙂

On the frustrating front..
…Um, one of my puppies was stolen.
What the….?? Yeah, I know. Jamal. Tiefed (aka, taken by a thief).
I wish I could explain this. It’s bizarre. Seriously. Like there aren’t enough puppies running/barely-moving-because-they-have-worms-in-their-bellies that are going to die a slow and painful death that they *had* to take the one that was going to live. Grrrr! This is why I renamed Tyrone, Tyger.
We are trying to move on after our very upsetting loss.

…My *waterproof* stopwatch got water in it and now it won’t work. It won’t even register the time. Hrumph. I was on a long bicycle ride and got caught in a powerful downpour that, apparently, submerged my wristwatch more than 100ft underwater!! It was epic!!!! To be honest, I wouldn’t have estimated us to be *exactly* flooded under 100ft of water but according to the manufacturer, “there is no other explanation”. I am very displeased.

…The spider population had a spike; they are HUGE, fuzzy, and everywhere.
…Also, the mosquitoes are extra prolific; sneaking their nasty selves indoors.
…And, I have an ant issue. In my bed, on my floor, the walls, my yoga mat…
I have bites all over! The itching is incessant and terrible. I can’t sleep.
…To add insult to injury, there is a new bug in my life; half moth, half worm, and as plentiful as blades of grass in the yard. There are thousands of them, every night! Ew. They squeeze their way through the cracks in my door to bask in artificial sunshine. They can’t all fit, though, and each morning I open my door to a carpet of dead bodies covering my veranda. In some places the debris is an inch thick! It’s gross. In a cruel turn of events, if I don’t sweep them off immediately their dead-worm-bodies provide fodder for ants which swarm, devour the bodies, and leave the wings. This then creates excess wingage that is lighter than a feather and susceptible to the slightest breeze (ie. a dog walking by). These wings get blown around and land inside my abode by the hundreds; coating my dishes, spice-rack, books ect. I am both rebuffed and repulsed.

…There is a rumor going around my community that I’m a lesbian.
I credit recent female couchsurfers. And while it’s not at all true (in fact, highly amusing) it does, potentially, pose a bit of a safety risk. Maybe I’ll start wearing a picture of Nick around my neck? I’m open to suggestions.

…Uggh, this bad-news-lady, Marsha, moved down the road from me, next to Mama. She got evicted from her house last night and is now living with her children up the road. This has very negative potential. Her bad pickni (kids) are young and rude! They beg, cling, and steal; I am dreading encountering them everyday.

…Lastly, errr, my hair is falling out. Hmmm. Dunno why? A hopeful hypothesis I have is that the weather is getting hotter. But all I know is I am shedding way more than usual. On the plus side, I think I remember this happening last year…

Highlights from last week:

At the conference:
– Emphasis on all-you-can-drink frozen strawberry daiquiris!
– And the all-you-can-eat cooked, delicious, food – with NO DISHES!!!!
– Room with an ocean view/swimming in the ocean/beach volleyball
– Dancin’ with the girls/feeling safe hangin’ with the boys!
– Watching a video in patwa, for the second time (the first was a year ago, in training.) What a difference a year makes; we all understood the entire clip!
Yay for comparable progress!!!

Since I’ve been home:
– Laundry was scrubbed, wrung, hung, CLEANED!!!! This was (way) overdue.
– I spent time with Ledah, one of my favorite farmers.
– I’ve been teaching consistently at the local High School (!)
– Saw a full rainbow – Both ends in my yard! (Yeah, Nick didn’t believe it, either)
– I’ve gotten better at catching mosquitoes in my hand and killing them (ie, not just letting them go). This is an acquired ninja skill and I’m proud.

Things I miss desperately…

…My *waterproof* stopwatch. This was crucial in motivating me to cycle several minutes longer or to run a few seconds more (hey, every moment counts).

…Drews Poppy Seed Dressing. Luxurious, tasty, and not-so-local. This was a departing gift from my dearest mother back in April. I’ve been eating a lot of salad as of late and, well, seems like I’m back to picking up preservative-laden-dressing in Santa Cruz.

…My multi-tool. I lent mine out (silly me) and, well it’s a long story. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you. The boy I lent it to claims it got stolen (wtf?). I’ll never see it again. Well now, you’re right, that wasn’t so long.

…Mason Glass Drinking Jar. Simone gave me this while I was in the generous United States of America. I carefully packaged it during my travels and it arrived safely in Jamaica. I used it everyday (until yesterday) when I carelessly I left it on the ground while I answered my phone, kicked it, and RIP glass-mason-jar.

…Granola. I just love granola.

– Two couchsurfer girls from Sweden (let the rumors keep on!)
– High School presentations on healthy lifestyles. Should be good.

Thank you for your patience while I took two weeks to get this blog posted.
I’ve actually been BUSY!!!
It’s been wonderful 🙂

I look forward more interactions/emails/blog comments.
Thanks for being involved my life.
And thanks for reading.
You guys totally rock.

I Love You,

P.S. Oh, and sorry there’s no photos…the internet won’t load them…also…I didn’t take any. AHahaha. I’ll work on that.


17 Apr

Happy Sunday, ya’ll!

I’ve been in Jamaica for over a year now (I think I just like sayin’ that) and I’ve learned…well, something.
Here are some Pearls of Wisdom:

-Fruit is always in season and it’s delicious!

-Roosters do not crow only at dawn (although I wish they did).

-It’s routine – regardless if you know their name– to call people by:
1) Skin color or Ethnicity
2) Occupation or Current activity
3) Unique feature or Body part
Eg; Black man, Mr. Chin, Driver, Tall man, Big woman, Brown girl, Red shirt, One eye

-The louder the music, the bigger your cock.

-The ‘load basic html’ buttons were designed for developing countries.

-A letter/package with your name on it makes you the most loved person in the world!!

-Chicken tastes better when you saw it running around the day before you eat it. I can’t tell you why.

-No matter how many people are on a bus/taxi/coaster they can (and will) fit more.

-Stuffed animals are dirty, hard, decorative, and not to be snuggled.

-In patwa, three and tree are pronounced exactly the same. This gets confusing during a rousing game of word association.

-Everywhere – market, taxi park, a full bus – can turn into a place of worship with the addition of a preacher. Or a vocal man who thinks he is a preacher.

-A ‘salad’ is not green but rather, pale. It consists of a spoonful of shredded cabbage, grated carrot, plus a pinch of sugar.

-I can bathe with one gallon of water.

-It is normal for black, ‘fluffy’ women to wear skintight shirts with white pop-starlets screened on them. (what?!). Yes, Jessica Simpson, Shakira, Ashley Tisdale (who?) all s t r e t c h e d until they are barely recognizable. – I won’t pretend like I haven’t worn shirts like this at points in my life (I am a Britney fan) – but the contrast of big black womens bosoms distorting young blond airheads is pretty incredible. This being true, I’d like all of you to rest assured that when you see a shirt for sale that has a picture of someone really trivial/obscure pasted onto it (most likely because it was misread how popular said pop-star was going to be), it will be worn somewhere in the world and it will make a person who understands the absurdity of the situation laugh.

-If asked, say you’re “de pon da Gully side”.

-It is NEVER a good idea to be too lazy to refill the water bottles and put them in the fridge (see primero blog-o when I drank the last of the cold water). You never know when the water is going to cut out.

-Underwear can be worn inside-out for added longevity before washing.

-Popcorn is a cheap, fun vegetable.

-There is no way not to stand out if you’re a white person. This means nothing can be done under the radar ie, nonchalantly; nod head to music, scratch an itch in your nose, fix a wedgie.

-Wearing a ring and saying you’re married does not deter persistent Jamaican men. Wearing two rings also does not work.

-Laundry is best washed early in the morning so that 1) You don’t die of heat exhaustion and 2) It has ample time to dry before afternoon rain. Mold is terrible to get rid of. And stinks like death.

-If you have a dog she is going to try and eat poop; act accordingly.

-Don’t give your number out to women you’ve just met on a bus, they might text it to their son/brother/cousin or obsessively call you.

-Given the choice between spilling copious amounts of salt ALL over the floor or *catching it just in time* and sacrificing only a teeny amount of sugar in what seems to be one spot — spill the salt.
-In a very related ‘pearl’, ants are sugar FIENDS.

-If the right side of the road has too many potholes, drive on the wrong side.

-Mosquitoes are not, as I previously thought, a “dusk” bug…as in they only come out in the evening. I’ve been bitten by 8:30 AM, 1PM and Midnight.

– “It was raining” is an acceptable excuse as to why you didn’t do something/go out (as long as it did really rain for a few minutes on the day in question).

-Bring your own toilet paper.

-Sometimes your text messages don’t really send…sometimes they send x100…sometimes only half is sent; coming off like a jerk, psychopath or having ADD is to be expected.

-Always charge your phone/ipod/computer when the battery is low. You never know when you might be without power for an extended period of time.

-Oh, and don’t bother to quickly dry your soapy hands and then excitedly rush to the phone when you get a new text message – it’s probably just Digicel…again.

-Saying, “I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer” doesn’t get much street credit (I know, I’m surprised, too). Not only do Jamaicans not know what Peace Corps is, they are often not familiar with the verb ‘volunteer’.

-Don’t pet the dogs. Better yet, avoid dogs.

Sure, it’s a work in progress. But all this after a year?!
Try not to let your head explode.

Until next time:

Make good choices, play word association, eat your salad, don’t buy ridiculous pop t-shirts, and fill your water bottles.


I’m Married!!

16 Apr

….okay, okay. I’m not married. I’m not even engaged. Put the phone down, Dad. Mom, don’t worry, I’d never let you miss it. Calm down, Nico (we just talked about tying the knot in Niagara Falls – we didn’t actually do it).

I’m off to market today but before I go I wanted to write a quick post detailing previous encounters I’ve had in Santa Cruz— in this way we’ll be going to market together! Gear up, this entry pertains to being a ‘single’ woman (no visible man living with me) in Jamaica. As a result I have to — put politely -– perpetually field questions about my love life.

Here goes:
“pssst, white gyal. You look sexy.” A common compliment from Jamaican males across the island.

“mhm” I sometimes mumble as I try to quickly walk by (best to minimally acknowledge)

“Mi like ya, ya hear?”, as they step into your path so conversation can not be avoided…

“yeah, I hear.” I say unenthusiastically, while avoiding eye contact and continuing to try to move past them.

Sometimes they step right up next to you (umm, personal space?!) and look at you with such intensity and lust and sexuality that you can’t help but cringe. When this happens I squeeze my left hand between the tight space he has formed with out bodies and place it in front of his face while emphatically wiggling my left ring finger (which, un-coincidentally, has on it a pink ‘diamond’ ring that I bought from Claires, like, 8 years ago).

“I’m married.”, I pointedly say, “occupied.”

“Where your husband de? ‘im foreign? Yuh need a black man.” They so needlessly assert. Perhaps they will say something like “Yuh need two men. One man kyaan please yuh”. Or maybe they will charmingly quip, “yeah? Mi married, too. Nuttin nah wrong.”

I roll my eyes.

“Mi huzzy do a fine job. Now, excuse”, and I (try to) walk away.

“Just a minute, please”, they’ll say. “White man kyaaan please you. Black man strong-like bamboo. You waan fi ride my bamboo?”, clearly niceness stopped when they insulted my husband and his bamboo.

“Rude!”, I usually exclaim, outraged, and continue with major attitude, “Ya naaaa know me an ya naaa know mi huzzy, ‘im. Who teach you fi chat like suh? Mi never tink your wife (or mother) wan fi ‘ere ya say dem naasty tings. Ya out of order.”

I wish I could proudly tell you that at this point they back away and respect me, thinking, “wow, yes, that smart girl has a point: I don’t know her husband and she seems confident that she does not need another boyfriend. I think I’ll stand out of her way, give her space, and let her pass.”

Unfortunately, what usually happens is I have to push past them with shouts of “Mi kyan get your number?? Mi waan ur number. Mi like ya, ya ‘ear? Alright den, next time” echoing in my ears.

As I walk quickly, regain my composure, and try to reinstate my guard, the next man (almost immediately) comes over to me and says “pssst. Sexy. Mi waan ya…”

…And the beat of the Jamaican jungle goes on.

In the Peace Corps training they drilled into us “maintain a sense of humor”. Sure. That’s all well and good the first five times. But after 20 minutes and 10 different men, you just want to walk down the street!! So, in an attempt to keep things interesting for myself, I sometimes alternate tactics: Like, I’ll try and change the subject saying things like “Isn’t this really nice weather we’ve been having?” or “Do you like dogs, too?” in the hopes that I’ll stun them for a few precious seconds while I escape.

Occasionally I’ll pretend I heard them say something other than what they actually said: “Nope, it’s not yet 3:00.” Or “Yeah, I did see the new Harry Potter and I thought it was awesome. K, bye!”

I’ve also put together some lame combination of excuses about “not talking to strangers” or “I don’t chat patwa on the weekends, weekends are for resting” (yeah, I’ve said that).

To be sure, it would be awesome if all of this attention was because I’ve got a stellar personality, killer sense of humor, and am really really pretty… It seems a bit more likely that it’s because I’m white, American, and female. You’ll understand, though, if I still cling to the stellar personality bit 🙂

Had I made up that my boyfriend and I were married (and started wearing a ring to ‘prove’ it) while I was living in the US I feel like my friends would’ve been, well, concerned. But here? I shared my lie with several volunteers and was met with nothing but support and reinforcing examples of why it’s a good idea to lie to people about the status of your a significant other.

Dear dear.

Maybe today at market will be different…??
I’m gunna try and wear TWO rings!

Love and vegetables,