Yea Mon - Me' Live Ere

Trip Start Jul 08, 2004
Trip End Aug 27, 2006

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Flag of Jamaica  ,
Sunday, November 7, 2004

Rogean's Entry

Dear friends, November 6, 2004

Greetings from the hills of Ewarton nestled in the foothills of Mount Diablo. We are getting acclimated to the local rhythms sights and sounds. Sure there are long lines, the human crush boarding buses at rush hour, taxi drivers that compete to get more passengers per square foot and those that give you rides for free in the pouring rain. Ya-cris man. (You owe me nothing.) There are even days when I can really say. "Yea mann - me' live ere. Me faine- gif tanks. Jai- meyka a mai- 'ome."

Apologies for such infrequent letter-writing, but we hope in a matter of weeks, versus months to get a landline in our apartment. We stand in line behind all the persons who lost their telephone lines in the hurricane. Our access to internet has been intermittent, but it is always fun to hear from you all when we do get a chance to check in.

To bring you up on what has transpired in the last month. Hurricane relief, although extremely organized, is slow in reaching the remote areas. The major govt. relief is currently focused on helping schools and clinics reconstruct as well as working in the most hard-hit portions of the country. Meanwhile, N.G.O's and the like are working in the balance to help the most affected. It has been an important learning process, but rather exhausting as well.

Three weeks ago we were headed to a Habitat for Humanity Jamaica retreat, when we stepped off a bus and into a pack of thieves and I got mugged in Mandeville. The whole incident lasted about 3 seconds and ended with Jonathan and another friend picking me up off the ground. Beyond the initial shock and sense of violation, with Jonathan's and other PCV friends support, I have been able to put the episode into perspective and move on. I am pretty much back to normal, while trying not to be too jumpy when disembarking from buses now and again. All one can do is try and be more careful the next time. My friends and neighbors were so kind and understanding. Turns out almost every Jamaican I spoke with has been pick-pocketed or the like at least once. I can chalk it up as sort of a bizarre initiation into the club. As you are probably curious to know-the retreat went well and was also a good place to hide out and put my head together.

Last weekend, we finally went to the beach! A bunch of PCVs, ex-pats gathered for a Halloween party in Long Bay near Port Antonio in Portland. The north coast is more the stuff of postcards; colorful shops and fishing villages. Picturesque port villages, waterfalls, lagoons, beaches and a vibrant Rastafarian culture, far more visible than many parts of the island typify the region. Even the pace and energy is more relaxed. We also passed a life-size wall mural of Veronica Campbell, the Jamaican Sprinting Gold Medalist-Heroine. To reach this paradisic destination, we had to pass over the mountains in Highgate, a quaint town, famous for its chocolate and a favorite gateway to the North Coast. The water was refreshing, views were breath-taking and we met some amazing folks from Canada, Sweden and France at the bohemian restaurant/ gathering place right on the beach. Some of the volunteers that work nearby brought their co-workers as well. We made some new friends and had a blast with some of our buddies from training riding the intense surfer-ready waves and lounging on the beach and in the tiki shops.

Go- Use the 2 legs God gave you. Yes man stretch your legs! Here in the mountains, people tether their goats but not their dogs. We have taken to walking with a few good sized stones in a pocket along with a bottle of water and always an umbrella for it rains almost daily. November is the last month of the rainy season, which will leave the island some time to soak up all the rain that continues to flood river banks, flood pit latrines and low-lying things.

Here shoes are only for the road and yard as all try and stop the cycle of spreading what one inadvertently picks up on the bottom of shoes. I use the term shoes loosely. Shoes are just for school, church and maybe, court. Most everywhere else its slippers (flip-flops) that are the thing. So when your Saturday is filled up with reggae music, talk radio, filtering water, scrubbing clothes by hand and negotiating the crowded markets teeming with produce, goods of every kind, most imports- undercutting local goods 30-50 %, coughing from the roasting breadfruit and the dozens of little cook shops with sweet jerk pork, chicken, pumpkin, grilling by the side of the road in a converted oil drums, you are having as normal a day as you can hope for.

One or two days a week, I rise before dawn to go to Kingston and if I hit the road by 5:30am, I can catch the bus in Ewarton a healthy half-hour clip from Polly Ground at 6 am and reach Kingston by 8:30am. It's a different world at that hour- all the dogs are still asleep, only the Rastas and farmers, with lunch sack over a shoulder and machete in hand are heading for the fields, the birds calling and roosters crowing. As the sunlight begins to shimmer and animate the misty landscape, it casts fresh rays of the makeshift dwelling while splotches of ubiquitous blue tarps, scavenged boards, doors, windows and zinc sheets, rusted and twisted, glint back. On this walk, I pass all the houses that were surveyed and many that never were. Down the winding roads, red with clay the sounds of the main below faint horns and the rumble of the bauxite trucks carry up on the walls and roof tops. At the split, the morning bus stop, we join ranks with the scores of groggy school children (yutes) bussing to Spanish Town or Kingston and the workforce that pours out of the hills every dawn to jobs that, along with industry, tend to cluster in the southeastern corridor around Kingston. Despite the backyard bauxite industry, its' mostly trained and imported workforce offers small employment relief to the farming community where literacy is a luxury and time still passes slowly. At the same time, a positive synergy of industry, government and local community activism exists in the form of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute/ Joint Community Council. Through this organization, Jonathan and I have met many people, those we joined with to do the sample hurricane assessment, and have been invited to participate in a variety of other sustainable development community projects.
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96degrees on

Jamaican Here!!!
I am amazed at how much you have immersed yourselves in the culture of Jamaica. I am actually studying in the US and when I read your entries a wave of homesickness overwhelms me. I truly am grateful that you have taken the time to help my fellow countrymen and not with any of the arrogance I tend to associate with forieners.
I can tell from the use of the terms and 'lingua' that you have really taken the time to understand the people, language and their culture. Keep up the good work.
Likkle more!!!

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