Monday, February 27, 2012
January & February 2012 – Travel time!
Peace Corps has a policy that volunteers may not take vacation the last 3 months of their service. So Feb. 21 was the last day I could take time off. In January I travelled to Chicago to visit PC friends and my world wide school in South Chicago. Then up to Minneapolis for my niece Amanda’s wedding.
Visiting my World wide school was fantastic! I learned that they had been reading my blog! (Hi, Bradwell students!) I was suffering from some cold weather re-adjustment issues and left my bag with the Jamaican pictures and treats on the Red Line when I tried to bundle up with scarf, gloves and hat. It was about 9’ F. But I had the jumpdrive with the movie we had made in Jamaica and shared that with the grade 5 students in Ms Rose’s classes. It was great to see their classroom and school but the best part was how interested and attentive the students were. They had excellent questions to ask and shared that a couple of them had done reports on Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley. It is a small world! We discussed Rastafarism, devotion time, sports, and the GSAT exam. I noticed that Ms Rose’s classroom had a basket of Bone books and I shared that our library had 1 Bone book and it was always in demand. It was a great visit! I also learned that one of her student’s older brother is in the Peace Corps in Mongolia!
After the wonderful winter wedding, I traveled to Texas with my daughter and 2 grandsons for a day before returning to Jamaica. There I had a second opportunity to talk about Jamaica. I visited grandson Jackson’s first grade class and shared the movie and answered questions. They wanted to know about the food in Jamaica. They found Jamaica on the globe. Both of my school visits were great and are what Peace Corps calls Third Goal activates. The third goal of PC is to share about other countries with Americans to help build greater understanding. I plan to do more of this when I return to the US.
After about 2 weeks back in school, Ron and Carole Sand, fellow PCV’s and I took off for a vacation to St. Maartin and Saba joined by my sister Connie. It was a great trip to see a different Caribbean island, one that is a part of the Netherlands Antilles. We had lots of highlights including hiking, snorkeling, eating great seafood and Dutch Gouda cheese, crewing on a 12 meter America’s Cup yacht and taking off and landing on the world’s shortest commercial runway (396m or 1300ft.) Since this is my Jamaica blog, I won’t elaborate more on this trip. I do recommend the book I found in the St. Maartin airport called and a bottle of Rum, A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis. An informative and fun book.Sugar made the fortunes of a few in the Caribbean, and enslaved many more. Rum was created to use up the “industrial waste” of molasses and played a significant part in American history
The first day I was back at school was Jamaica Day- very similar to Culture Day. In the morning there was a student cricket match with the 2 male teachers heading up teams. I did get the chance to bat and managed to hit the ball (they use a tennis ball) but got out when I forgot I had to run to the other end. In the afternoon most of the classes presented an item (Jamaican for a presentation). Most classes sang a song or did a skit.
Last week on Tuesday was Mini Sports Day. This was not done last year so I was eager to see what this was all about. It was sort of what we would call Field Day. Students have been divided into 3 houses: blue, purple and orange, with each house having a mix of students from all the grades. So the competition was between the houses with each team wearing their colours and cheering their teammates on. Well, sometimes they were just horsing around and not watching the races- sounds typical? The races included the spoon and egg race, only limes were used instead of eggs. Then came a tug of war, 4 to a side using tied together jump ropes. There was a water race; each person had to fill their container to overflowing by running back and forth with a cup to a trash barrel of water. This race lead to a lot of controversy – about the containers not being on level ground, and what constituted “overflowing” etc. Later we had a potato race; with oranges- the runner had to pick up each orange and run it to their box, when all were picked up, they had to run the box to the finish line. The last race of the day was the math race. One runner received a slip of paper with a math problem on it, he/she ran to their partner who had to solve the problem and give it back to the runner to return it to the finish line. Only if the answer was correct did they win. The sack race and the three legged race were planned for the day but Ms Gowie the principal ended the event at 4:30PM so the students could head home. It was a long day in the sun- but fun for all. I have no idea which house earned the most points. On Feb. 27 we will have the “real” Sports Day at Walkers Woods school field. Then there will be 60 m, 100m 200m running races and relays in different age categories (under 9, under 11, under 13). That is another long day but track and field is Jamaica’s passion and both the boys and girls are really into running.
Wednesday, Feb. 22 was Ash Wednesday which is a national holiday in Jamaica. Schools and government offices and banks are closed. Jamaica prides itself on being a Christian country, devotions are held daily at schools and most everything starts with a prayer. So it seemed strange to me that there were not any religious activities or emphasis on Ash Wednesday- no ashes on the forehead, no church services or parades or carnival or special foods. I went to the beach- great weather, and that seemed to be a popular activity- the beach was crowded!
I have received 2 update emails from Ms Rose. The students there received permission to hold a coin drive to buy more Bone books for their Jamaican friends! They have raised over $200. Isn’t it amazing how love can spread! As Bob Marley sang “One love, one heart, Let’s get together and feel all right”
Photo- School coin drive with Jonetta and Jakobi