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2010 Xmas From Jamaica

Under The Light Blanket

Well, I’m not in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean it’s not always in the corner of my eye. Just came across an AMAZING Dancehall Christmas Mix that I had to post up here (if you want to avoid the possibly NSFW cover art, just click on ‘download’ below). It’s crude and loud and NOT safe for children (or work), but… it’s REALLY a great mix. Lots of new music with Christmas stuff.


Also came across two massive ‘best of 2KX’ mixes featuring all the hits from this last year.

(to download click on the ‘Download’ button just above the big orange play button)

Reggae Gold MMX, pt. 1
Reggae Gold MMX, pt. 2

And last, a hilarious Jamaican dubbed infomercial: Jamaican Slap Chop. I won’t post the actual video because it has a few bad words in it (not a ton, just more than is appropriate for a facebook wall) and at least this way I feel like I’m providing one extra level of safety for those that might be offended.

Hope you had a great Christmas! Happy 2k11.

Two Years Later

Well, I guess it’s about time to wrap up this blog. I think it’s only fair to give it a conclusion (in a sense). There are still photos and events that I haven’t posted about on here and maybe I still will, but it only feels right to try and wrap up the last two years of our lives before I lose my perspective.

our grocery store

As expected our last month of life in Jamaica was hectic. Between trying to see all our friends for the last time and getting all of Goob’s paperwork to the right people and distributing our stuff to other volunteers and Jamaicans and just packing up… it was hectic. And a bit blurry to recall. We were basically running around until the day before we left for Kingston. We used that day to pack and clean. Everything.

I had told people we were leaving the end of July for the longest time, but in that last week of seeing people around town and our house, most people were very surprised to hear it was so soon. Not only surprised, but some of our good friends even had a look of real disappointment. People who are always smiling when they see us and talk to us looked like I’d just told them I had cancer. Brows furrowed and faces lost all joy. I didn’t expect that. It was oddly comforting to know that us leaving was this big of a deal to them.

We wanted to throw a final party to get together and say ‘goodbye’s but it just wasn’t in the cards. A friend of mine’s birthday party was the friday before we left so we got to hang out there for a bit with folks. It was to be our final night of chicken foot soup, ting and white rum, and for me, DJ-ing. We were in a little shop with like 10 people crammed in while the Rio Grande Valley gave us one final flood of a rain. For me the night reached it’s peak when it was absolutely pouring down rain, we were all just crammed in there drinking and smoking, we’d been listening to dancehall and RnB for hours and I dropped Marley’s “Coming in from the Cold” followed up with some Alton Ellis. It was THE proverbial ‘icing on the cake.’ I think we  “pulled up” those songs about 10 times. It was a delightful last party.

rob, genevieve, craig, kathy, jerry, calvin (the portland crew)

The next day (Saturday… keeping in mind we leave Monday and haven’t packed yet) we went down to Porti for one last meeting with the Portland Health PCVs and our ever fearless leader, Ms. Genevieve. Even though it wasn’t convenient, it was nice to see most of our Portland PCV friends one last time. And it provided the opportunity for one last trip through Port Antonio. We walked over and said ‘bye’ to our incredibly accommodating Errol Flynn Marina staff and bought some personal souvenirs from Things Jamaican. We walked through the market for a few last items and to say bye to our market lady, Kelly. We had stopped to take a picture with her a few days before so I wanted to bring a copy by to give to her. When we found her she had gifts waiting for us! Two keychains, a picture frame and some homemade pepper (hot) sauce. I was dumbfounded. It was so nice of her.

kelly, our market lady

(i stopped writing here for a month or two. okay we’re back…)

Saturday night we walked up to say some last goodbyes. Our original host family and neighbors. Again, it was surprising to see how upset friends (now basically family) were about us leaving. I knew that people liked us and seemed to enjoy our company, but the Jamaican way is typically not one of expressing feelings and verbal praise/support. In fact, if we had never seen or known how people felt about us I would not have been surprised. But the fact that they were tearing up and giving us hugs… it just meant so much at this point. After two years of, well, almost nothing. Our original host mom could barely talk. We sat for a few minutes with her and our host brother, Junior and talked and reminisced. And then all we could say was “likl more.” “See you later.”

On our walk, people still asked us about if there was a movie this week. I was like, “Well, I’ve got some bad news and worse news.” Some kid stopped by and asked on the day we were leaving if there was a movie this week. Sorry guy.

We stopped at Garth’s (where we showed the movies) and had one last sit around and talk with him and Nat (another DJ/Selector). I don’t know if I ever mentioned on here or not, but I grew to love the slow pace of Jamaica. I loved having nothing better to do some nights than sit around with friends, enjoy a good smoke and some great conversation. So that’s what we did. Got to talk about some fun DJ-ing things that we’d never covered. And just reminisced on some good times we’d had. They all seemed so long ago and yet just so recent. Time is so bizarre.

Sunday was a blur of packing and giving away and throwing away. Our friends Dwayne and Kimani came over and while we packed and went through things, we’d say “hey you want this?” This worked very well. Three piles: leaving with us, staying in the house, leaving with them. When they left Kimani looked like me. He had a hat and backpack filled with stuff of mine. This is all I remember from Sunday: packing.

rob's host brother, rick, and his makeshift bag

kimani dressed as me

dwayne and kimani

Monday morning we finished up all the packing and said goodbyes to our landlord family, Cecille and Lorna and Antwain and Keneell. They are such a great family. Terrific neighbors. When it came time to go, I called my friends and they all came over and helped us carry our luggage down the road and over friday (probably 1/2mi). It meant the difference in 4 trips for me and one. It was a lifesaver. They all just jumped in and helped without me having to explain anything. I always loved this about Jamaicans: when they see someone working on a project or trying to accomplish something, they just jump right in help or just take over completely and do it themselves. If someone’s backing a car up, whoever’s walking by just stops and directs them and lets them know how much room they have left. If you’re doing some construction, you’ll have 5 people stop and show you how to do it better or just take over all together. You can’t get them to show up to a meeting on time to save your life, but they are helpers of everyone.



So we said bye to our friends and jumped in the bus for the final trip to Kingston. Stopped for some jerk chicken and a few other errands  on the way back. Having a car at your disposal just really makes Jamaica a lot more enjoyable.

We spent the next few days finalizing our checkout from Peace Corps Jamaica. Turns out no one in Peace Corps even knew we were leaving this month. So we had a Chinese fire drill of a day getting that sorted out at the last minute. I was like, “You better tell me what to do because I’m getting on that plane Thursday.” Obviously it all worked out. A hectic last few days. Jamaica no problem.

Oh did I mention we did all of this traveling with Goob? In a little Goob-sized carrier? The week before we packed up I took Goob down to Porti to get all checked out. Riding with a cat in a taxi? Oh yeah, that’s pure fun. But to his credit, Goob was the man. He complained a lot (A LOT) but he went along with it and we got where we needed to go. Since having a pet just isn’t the same in Jamaica as it is in the States we got a lot of strange looks from people as we carried our cat around town. People at the Kingston airport were definitely confused. One lady in the Atlanta airport actually ran away when she saw we had a cat in our container. She ran away to the other side of the security area. Never came back. Craziness. During the travel day Goob went into this like, travel coma. He didn’t eat or poop or anything. He just slept until we arrived. Pretty amazing. Jamaicans would always talk about how this volunteer or that one found a wife or husband and brought them back when they left. I would tell them since I already had a wife the best I could do was a cat.

And that’s it. We were back in TN that evening gliding smoothly down the interstate, getting Mexican food to-go and drinking a Dos Equis (not all at the same time).

The last few days were so rushed and busy that I didn’t have time to really process anything. Too many things were up in the air in my head as far as traveling logistics went. After 2yrs in Jamaica I’ve gotten to where I don’t assume anything until I set foot at my destination. There are too many uncertainties in that country and they pop up more often than the term “island time” can even convey. But on that last leg of the trip to Nashville I did rest. And then I cried. Because it was finished. I made the mistake of listening to Bon Iver and all the hustle and tribulations and friends and knowledge and pain and joy and people I might never see again came rushing forth. I could barely keep it together. It was this enormous sense of joy and relief and sadness. Because it was done. That chapter was officially closed.

molly, me, liza, tom (last grp79 gathering)

Fast forward to today… we’ve spent the lest few months at my parents just relaxing and regrouping and preparing for Denver next month. This time has been wonderful and easy and frustrating. I feel like I’m on a vacation from Jamaica, but like I’m still going back to Jamaica in a few weeks. It’s this frustrating limbo. And it’s quiet. I wake up to silence. No one waking me up to buy plantains or yams. No one asking for help repairing their computer, copying a CD. No Lester asking for tobacco. No bad smells. Plenty of hot water. (The novelty and beauty of a hot shower has still not worn off. It’s amazing every time.) A car to drive anywhere wherever. Did I mention how quiet it is? One of the first things I did was set up a stereo so I could have music going whenever. There’s food everywhere. I’ve probably put on 15lbs. I miss the outdoors. There’s not much reason for anyone in Mt Juliet to go outside. Everyone rides with the windows up in their cars. There are 1400 channels on TV. The internet is actually faster than me. I blend in everywhere (which is kind of nice). Every story or anecdote (everything I bring to a conversation) starts with, “Well in Jamaica…” It’s a fine line between talking too much about something no one can relate to and keeping it interesting. Most people don’t understand that “my trip to Jamaica” was actually 2 years of my life.  Some days it’s like it never happened. It’s like a dream. Like I dreamt I spent two years in Jamaica and just woke up. It’s offputting.

I know things will get better with time, but time takes time.

But the point of writing this wasn’t to complain about readjusting. It was to let other PCVs know that regardless of how you THINK your service is and how you are perceived and appreciated, wait till the end to fully judge your experience. That second year changes everything. People really do care about you. I still talk to my friends on the phone. Just don’t give up and assume you aren’t making a difference to anyone.

Would I do Peace Corps again? Yep. Was it the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Yep. The most fun? Yep. Did it advance my career? Nope. Did it advance me as a human? …giving me a better understanding of other peoples in the world? In ways I never could’ve imagined. I don’t think the Peace Corps program is perfect, but it is hands down one of the greatest foreign aid, humanitarian, and international relations programs in the world. It’s an amazing organization to be a part of and I’m forever changed because of it.


As for this blog, I don’t plan on continuing it (for obvious reasons). But there might still be random additions here and there. The fact is, things and lessons and pictures from Jamaica will continue to come up over the next few years. I left that country with 250GB of images. I will be sorting them out the rest of my life. And if you’re a soon to be PCV and you come across this feel free to comment and ask questions anytime. We will still get emails when someone comments so we’ll always be in touch. Give us a shout.

Josh ::  joshhunter.blogspot.com

Jesse :: jessehunter.wordpress.com


I also wanted to say ‘thanks.’ Thanks to everyone… family, friends, complete strangers. Thank you for keeping up with us and supporting us and mailing us things through this amazing 2.5yrs. It’s always nice to know someone cares about you and what you do. Your comments and questions (and criticisms) (and Crystal Light) have been greatly appreciated and kept us company along the way. So, thank you.


There’s No Good Way to Give Bad News

I’m sorry. This wasn’t the follow-up blog entry I wanted to write.

This morning at the doctor we discovered that our little Jamaica baby in Jesse didn’t have a heartbeat anymore. We went from being on the road to parenthood right back to just being “us” in the few seconds it took to say, “I’m sorry I don’t see a heartbeat.”

There’s no word for what I felt after hearing that. It was like I was imploding. Like all the blood had just run out of me. Like everything in my mind just started collapsing. I didn’t know whether to cry or to scream, “Look HARDER!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t even think this was a possibility at this point. You read everything’s on autopilot for the first few months. I don’t get it. Neither of us do. And I guess it doesn’t really matters. The doctor said it wasn’t anything we did. We read that if the genetic stuff isn’t lining up properly then it will automatically shut down “the operation.” Sometimes God’s will is confusing. But I know it would’ve hurt a lot more happening 9mo+ down the road.

I was really looking forward to being a dad. I remember the joy that swept over me when I saw the pregnancy tests in Mandeville. It was like nothing I’d felt before. I know this isn’t the end, but man it sure does hurt a lot. Just an overwhelming, crushing hurt.

I can’t even begin to think about how much of a u-turn our lives just took without crying. I feel numb and sad.

…really really sad.

You can call or write if you want to, but I know there’s nothing really to say. I just wanted to give you the news this way because I can’t bear to tell each of you personally. I’m sorry.

The Comfort Castle Cineplex

The fisheye distorts the distance. The road is only about 25ft wide.

Some of you may remember us begging for money last year for a projector to use in our community. Well, we got it (over a year ago I think) and we’ve been using it every week since then. We’ve used it for computer classes, community workshops, and movie nights. Every Sunday for over a year now, excluding ones we’re out of town or it’s raining, we would carry my laptop, the extension cord, the projector, some cables and string and the twin sheet up to my friend Garth’s place (which is very near to the square) (about 1/2mi from our house) and spend the night playing movies on the twin sheet with the sound through his big sound system. We typically show an educational show first (Planet Earth, Life, Bill Nye, etc), a family/kid friendly show next, and finally something more grown up like a Western or Action or Comedy (if you can get all of those in one movie, you’ve hit the jackpot. Blazing Saddles? A smash hit). By that time it’s around midnight and we pack up and walk back home.

We setup all the electronics under a tarp drapped over the speakers cause in Portland, rain can fall any time, any day.

As with anything, trying to please a large group of people can be frustrating, but also really rewarding. Since most of the movies they see are on tiny TVs and a camera copy from some other country and they aren’t really the good movies; typically some cheesy Kung Fu, or Cinderella 4, or just a really really low budget something from who knows where… we really wanted to show good, high quality films in a fun public setting. We definitely could’ve improved on things with more crowd interaction and whatnot, but I think we did a really good thing just giving people and the youth something to do every Sunday night when usually absolutely nothing is going on.

We typically have any number of people in attendance from how many you see in the pics to about double that. Lots of kids come out (especially during the summer). We get lots of old men. In fact, they’re our most regular movie watchers. It’s great. They come and stand around and watch 4hrs of shows. And the few compliments I have gotten from community members have mostly come from them (it’s common for Jamaicans to tell everyone else how great you are, but never actually tell you). And out here, women don’t have much to do at night. Men go out and socialize and drink and play dominoes but women dont have a lot to do, so it’s been cool seeing them out with us.

I wish I’d kept a log of all the movies we showed. It took a while to figure out which kind of shows they’d understand and enjoy (understand as in, understanding the English dialogue). Transformers 2, Avatar, Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle… oh, 3:10 to Yuma, The Good the Bad the Weird, Blazing Saddles, Shoot ’em Up… They even liked Up, How to Train Your DragonPrincess & the Frog was excellent, so multi-culticultural. OH, they loved ATL. That was really fun. It’s really difficult to find good films with darker skinned people as the protagonist. Seriously. Have you tried? This last week we showed the new Karate Kid which was literally the perfect closer. It had all the things they loved: Kung Fu, comedy, it was in China, hiphop in the soundtrack, action, and Will Smith’s kid was the protagonist. It was delightful. OH, and Jackie Chan! Oh man, they love that guy. We have shown a lot of classic King Fu too. Legend of Drunken Master, Fist of Legend… and Ninja Assassin (not classic, but excellent action). Tombstone… a HUGE hit. The Planet Earth series were big hits. They love “nature shows.” It’s great getting to show them insects and plants that they they’re used to seeing but in a completely new light. I think they loved it.

Every now and then I’d take a chance on something I thought they would like, but didnt know for sure. Hot Rod was awesome. Star Trek was good (they typically aren’t in to sci-fi, but it’s just a great film). Nightmare Before Christmas was a bit odd to them, I think. I showed Good Hair, but got a lot of flak from the youth about it. Wankers.

Some interesting things happen when you watch familiar movies with other cultures. Back at Christmas we watched Fred Claus, which is a funny uplifting Christmas movie. But towards the end it shows all the kids around the world in their nice beds, in their nice living rooms getting gifts around the tree in their pajamas by the fireplace with the perfect family unit. Generally, I wouldn’t have thought a thing about it because frankly, that’s how my life was, but the fact is, very few people in this world have a life like that. These Jamaicans sure as hell don’t. And I never thought anything about it till we were watching it with everyone. I felt embarrassed. Not because I did have that life, but because, I don’t know… it felt insensitive. It made me preview movies a lot more closely. I guess I never realized how foreign and possibly confusing some aspects of our culture can be to others.

We finally started putting everything on the other side of the sheet and flipping the image around. This kept ell the equipment out of the road and out of sight.

As for the projector, we’re selling it for less than half of what we paid. We ended up getting almost half the funds from you guys and we put in the rest (including a nice $200 import tax coming through the airport). The plan is to sell it to another community for their use. I think it may actually be a church. We didn’t want to carry it back with us, so I think this is best option for it.

So on that note, thank you everyone for your support on this. Without your help, this fun little project would not have been possible. If they could, I know a lot of kids and farmers who would thank you for giving them something to look forward to every week.

So on their behalf (and ours), thank you.

Junior Graduates (on Facebook)

The Facebook Album

I’m Workin’ On It

One more mix for the road? Lots of new stuff here. Some HipHop, some Dancehall, some… other. All pretty fun. If you’ve got an internet connection, there’s really no reason not to download this.


(there should be very few unacceptable words
since almost all of these are clean versions)

Drake’s new album Thank Me Later is really great. I think he’s got a great voice and it works well on his more subtle songs where there’s just a great beat, some backup synthesizers, and him. Really diggin’ his latest.

The ‘World Cup Anthem’ on there is the song that they play for all the World Cup goin’s ons here.

Robyn just came out with a new album, Body Talk (pt. I) (I guess the first of three planned for this year). I highly recommend it. It’s excellent. I put one of my favorites on here. So if you like it, you should definitely check out the rest of the album. Great electro-pop ‘n b. One of the songs I had put on the last mix, but this copy is MUCH better quality than the leaked one on it. So if you don’t plan on hearing her whole album, please grab this copy below. Diplo helped produce this song with her and it really shows with that fat dub bass on the track. I just love this song.

Robyn – Dancehall Queen


Benefit of Living in the Rural Tropics no.6: Cheap Fresh Fruits.

And I’m probably paying too much! Doesn’t matter though. I make it through the month and someone else gets money for dinner. I also get a dozen grapefruit for $2+. And they’re so freakin good. Just thought I’d take the opportunity to rub it in (we don’t get a lot of those).