The first term of the school year has already gone by and I haven't even updated you on my summer!
Since the summer break is during the hottest time of the year and I literally have nothing to do during those weeks, this year I got out of dodge! Well, after three weeks of summer classes, that is. In Jamaica, the teachers at any given primary school can volunteer to hold summer classes at their convenience, but as you can imagine not many do. So I teamed up with a couple of other Peace Corps Volunteers to do a little extra for the kids and do it our way! Kate came to my school the first week of summer and we held enrichment sessions from 9-12pm for the grades 4-6, focusing on graphs (for the maths hour) and poetry (for the literacy hour) with a craft component each day. The next week, I joined Courtney at her school to assist with the 20 plus students who showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed everyday. Finally, I stayed in Kate's community and did the same graphing and poetry lesson plans that we taught at my school the first week.
After a year of educating myself in how to teach literacy at a primary level, I finally figured out that being prepared and having very structured lessons not only takes stress off of me, but also forces the children to learn more. Who knew? Below are some pics highlighting these adventures. For the same reason, I feel really on my game this year and was ready to hit the ground running when September rolled around.
Kate helping a student count candies for a bar graph
Making friendship bracelets
For the next three glorious weeks I took my only vacation back to the states during my service. I got to catch up on my American media as well as learn all about the novelties I've missed being isolated for the previous year and a half. I felt like a Neanderthal when I had a million questions about the e-cigarettes that everyone I know seems to be smoking now as well as how to use a tablet to pay at local stores. Although these were things when I was last in the land of plenty, I had forgotten all about HD tv, crazy fast internet, froyo, bubble tea, MEAT and all the other foods and IPA’s I’ve missed. During the 20 day trip I visited 4 states, enjoyed the cool weather, A/C, hot showers, cheap shopping, visited an amusement park, played board games with my besties, caught up with old friends and sharing in their life events, watched the entire first season of “orange is the new black”, explored the latest innovations in the nail art industry, recycled, discovered imgur, took a break from constantly frizzy hair and obligatory pony tails as well as public transportation, saw a brand new movie in the theatre, and figured out my next steps after Peace Corps. But I must admit I had little interest in making a trip to the beach in Connecticut or Lake Erie because I know it simply can’t compare to the Caribbean experience. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, because after just a few days in the land of plenty, I started to realize all of the things I love and missed about Jamaica.
To counter my last post which focused on some of the deeply ingrained problems of this country, here I have for you a list of things I personally believe are better in Jamaica than in America. Also, I included a bit of Patwa, as a cultural interest.
Plain like paki: Here we call people who tell it like it is “plain like paki” after the paki vegetable, which has a very smooth plain exterior. It was traditionally dried and hollowed out for a bowl. I have always been one of those brutally honest people, which doesn't go over well with many Americans but here is simply a way of life. It is possible to take things too far with this, like when someone notices my weight gain by saying, “Yuh get broad/fat!”
The Prime Minister is a woman: ok, Portia Simpson-Miller isn’t the Governor General (the highest ranking official in Jamaica), but it’s still super cool for a developing country to have a female as second in command. Am I right??
Tek it easy/Hush: The stereotype that most Jamaicans are super laid back is quite right in my experience. I think patience is in abundance among Jamaica's people because things really do move a lot slower here when it comes to getting things done, and people get used to it at an early age. Jamaican babies are definitely the quietest infants I've ever heard, even when a mother is holding a newborn in the back of a very full taxi (I have literally never seen a child car seat in this country) careening around mountainous pot-holey roads. It makes me wonder if there's something genetic going on since it's such a contrast to the dread I would feel when trapped with a baby on a long car ride or flight under any other circumstances. Another Patwa word that exemplifies this way of life is 'hush'. They don't mean 'shut up', but rather 'don't worry yourself' or 'you're alright, calm down'. Hush may be the most common words I hear parents say to their children, so maybe that factors in to the relaxed adults this country produces.
Pssst: This cat call (among many others) is the sound I hear anytime I leave my community and have to encounter males who don't know me. Even though unwanted attention is the bane of my existence, I’m counting over confidence as a positive because on many levels Jamaicans (and impoverished people all over the world) struggle with a lack of confidence. Most people here don’t lack confidence in anything, even when they probably should. It is evident to me that there is no fear of rejection when an 80 year- old married man hits on me and is genuinely surprised when I don't snap him up on the hot offer. But I digress... the point is that in general, Jamaicans believe in themselves no matter what the task and that's pretty awesome.
Maanin: here in the bush, everyone greets everyone all the time. If I'm walking to school in the morning and pass by a group of 5 adults, I had better say 'maanin' 5 times or else I will have one of them yelling at me down the street about how I never greet them. While I saw it as a chore at first, sometimes trying desperately to make eye contact or yelling greetings at someone when they're just far enough away that the social custom obligation is iffy, I now look forward to this ritual. It keeps me in contact with most of the community members and solidifies my relationships with them which comes in handy later when I'm trying to get community projects off the ground. I am truly going to miss my morning greetings.
Nutin a gwaan fi mi (Homlessness, or the lack thereof): The previous phrase directly translated means 'nothing is going on for me', but implies that one cannot find work or other life ambition. Although there are plenty of homeless people in the capital city, Kingston, in my tiny community of 400 there never will be. Don't get me wrong- we have mad men (and no I don't mean like Don Draper) but if the needy and mentally challenged people don't have any family to speak of someone else from the community takes them in, feeds them, makes sure they bathe and wear at least semi-clean clothes. This even happens with abandoned children. Can you imagine someone in America taking in a total stranger simply because they have no family or friends left? Although it speaks volumes to a system that is much less regimented than what we're accustomed to in the good ol' U. S. of A., Jamaicans have found a way that works to care for their needy.
Wi likkle but wi tallawah: This phrase means 'we're little, but we're strong'. Jamaicans are raised from a very young age to be proud of their heritage. While certainly there is a good deal of national pride in particular pockets of America, I think it's safe to say that one would never see a Jamaican child exercise his or her right to abstain from saying the national pledge like so many of my classmates did in rebellion. And my favorite part about this is that Jamaicans don't use patriotism to excuse their bigotry.
Formal manners: I couldn't think of a Patwa word for this, but manners are of paramount importance here to the point that I have had to change a good deal of my behaviors to avoid quarreling with people. From excusing yourself from a room and eating properly with fork and knife to ridiculously long ceremony formalities, Jamaicans do things by the book and I love it for the most part.
Well that's it for the months-old update. I'll work on telling you all about the last couple of months happenings as well as my prep for leaving Jamaica. Unbelievably, my probable close of service date is only about 4 months away! See you all soon!!