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Fingal O’Flahertie Wills*

“Productive use is not mainly an engineering issue, but rather a logistics and organizational issue.   Most of all, you need people in local areas who understand local needs.”

Although the Peace Corps prohibits volunteers from writing grant apps until after our Early Service Training (EST), my agency’s coordinator has asked me to give one a whirl.  It was supposed to be a piece of cake, since BPFA had gotten a grant from the same aid organization once before, a couple of years ago.  The idea was for me to look at the old proposal, make a few changes and additions and send it on its way.  Sounds simple, right? (NEVER simple, not in Jamaica) Apparently the organization has a big push right now for use of renewable energies at mitigation for climate change, so our proposal needs to incorporate some renewable technology (without any site research or true estimation by experts) along with our main project of planting 5+ acres of coco.  Oh, and did I mention that the proposal is due on Oct.15th (well, really Oct.11th, since we’re away from site for a health conference the 13th-15th)?  Yeah. Good luck to me!

So, I’m doing what anyone else in my position would do: Went to Port Antonio to quickly scour the internet for jargon on recent local RE projects, especially those funded by our aid organization.  A “uol iip” of copying and pasting going on, so that I could take the information back home to read and separate into helpful and waste. I did that yesterday and I think it went well.  The next step is to find out from BPFA’s illustrious coordinator what RE component she wants to use and how the hell we should try and pull it off without any technical research being done.  All throughout this process, I have to fight the idea that she gave me this task as my first try because she knew it’d be a doozy.  Maybe she really didn’t see its complexity…Then again, she’s the best BSer I’ve ever met.  Perhaps it just comes naturally to her.  Me—I  like to know what I’m talking or writing about. It’s a preference.

This week also kicks off our CDC house count project, which is the first installment of a process to create a Community Profile.  We are partnering with the SDC (social development committee), now a part of the Jamaican government.  They came up and gave a handful of us training on how to count houses and households in our districts and a little on how to map our community.  Right now, it looks to me like a logistical nightmare and a lot of work.  However, it we actually get it done, I think it’ll be a huge plus for any community groups present and future.  It’ll look really good on SDC too, so I’m hoping they will continue to be cooperative.

Out of 7 calls sent out yesterday, I received 2 responses.  I call that lucky!  I’m finding that usually I can coerce people to come and participate when there’s either free training going on or when there will be free refreshments.  They won’t show up on-time (no, not even close) and I may have to call and harass them on the morning of, but they’ll usually show up.  The hard part is trusting them to get out (of their own accord) and conduct the work they were trained to do.  I can’t be everywhere and I can’t afford to call every person twice a day.  I’m learning that I have my limits, financially, physically, mentally (the big one).  Sometimes, I get so disappointed with the way people in our communities respond to opportunities for positive change (and to Josh and I as individuals).  Anyone I’ve met here whose career has been in community development work has said that it’s hard, slow and infuriating.  It’s nice to know that it’s not just me with these feelings.  And the reason it’s this way isn’t cut and dry…it’s complicated.  What adds to my frustration is that I can see from several angles on this whole project aid stuff.  If you were an organization charged with efficiently disposing funds toward a certain end, I bet you’d be careful…so careful that you hardly ever gave the money unless the proposal was very convincing and full of accountability.  The Jamaican government—I believe they mean well, but they see that they cannot do everything and they love to put responsibilities back on the local communities…to try and fund their own progress through some international aid project.  When it comes to water & sanitation, roads, education and sufficient access to health care, I don’t think the national government has a leg to stand on in doing this.  When you subtract these issues, I’m not sure exactly what they do with their days.  Maybe it’s protecting the tourism industry? Community members have been burned before—They don’t see what good can come of grouping together, when most of them believe that groups form to benefit just a small percentage of group members.  No one wants to put out the effort without a guarantee of being paid back in full.  And that’s not how “volunteer work” works.  You’re supposed to give of your time/sweat/talents because you believe in an ideal.  You’re investing in hopes of a return in the long run, not immediately.  And it’s not all about money (oh but it is to many people).  If dollar signs aren’t there, no butts are in the seats.  Where the community is concerned, I understand that people are already busy and tired as they try scraping by to provide the kinds of things for their families that the governments fails to provide.  (Though, from the looks of things, people are cheating the government just as much as the government is cheating them.) Most community groups would rather spend months writing and waiting for a grant to come through than raise any funds themselves.  “You have to spend money to make money,” of course, but this world is so upside-down to me.  Other aspects are historical, cultural—this fatalist worldview that says, “Life is what happens to me,” combined with the growing Gen Y attitude of entitlement.  Yeah, it’s around me all the time and HARD, SLOW and INFURIATING certainly describes my natural response.

I guess I wasn’t done earlier, when I said I was. ::wink::

On a lighter note, we had a nice time with our very first visitor to Comfort Castle—PCV Nick Kot.  He was the most gracious guest ever and I hope he enjoyed the cool, mountain air and whatnot.  We went to Woods Island on Saturday with Sean and then stayed in the valley on Sunday and walked to Dry River Falls.  Good times.

Madge says October is the beginning of rainy season (while still being in hurricane season) and I’ve already noticed a general drop in temperature.  It’s still humid and hot/sunny, but not nearly so miserable as in July when we first arrived.  Plus, I bet it’s 5 degrees cooler here than in Kingston…at least.  So far, the rain hasn’t cramped our style much.  Every other day, we have showers-sometimes violent little things!-but they are gone as quickly as they come.  They tell us that it could rain for continuous days, so we’re looking out for that. Remember that our piped water goes out when it rains? Yeah.


Also, here’s some fun scenery-Kim, I thought of you when these little beauties tromped into our front yard. Huh huh. Cow-pigs? Pig-mations?

This is Williams Street, the road where we go to get a ride home to the valley.  It’s the one street in Port Antonio that we were told to stay off of after dark.  But it’s our home street and we know people there.  Friday and Saturday nights are pretty rowdy on this one-way!

Also on Williams Street, I loved this window décor made of Nintendo controllers.  Do they really have SO many superfluous controllers that they want to hang them out the windows? Maybe they are advertising- come play video games here!  Who even knows.

And Josh, Sean and Nick being really manly in placing our lean-to atop the Island.  (This might have been posed.)

Things I Miss the Most
•    thinking that I myself and my rooms are “clean”
•    feeling pretty
•    coming “home” to a place of my own
•    tortillas
•    sour cream
•    readily available fresh fruits (strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples, pineapple) and veggies (broccoli, artichokes, mushrooms, sweet peppers, etc.)
•    restaurants with variety of fare
•    Target
•    easy online shipping to my address
•    control over my transportation
•    mutual understanding between people w/ minimal effort

* Your reward for reading all the way down. It’s Oscar Wilde’s real name. (dang dude!)

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7 Responses

  1. aw, sorry about your frustrations, Jess. It DOES sound infuriating! i know there’s nothing i can do to make it better, but i’m thinking of you and praying for you guys :)

    on a lighter note: Jonas Fingal…. quite a ring to it

  2. Here is a Peace Corps STAPLE recipe:

    2 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 c butter or shortening
    1/2 c water

    Cut the butter/shortening into the dry ingredients. Mix /knead in the water until you have a nice, firm, but elastic dough. If too sticky, add more flour. If too stiff, add more water. Divide into 10 or 11 balls. Let sit for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface (a Nalgene bottle works great for this). Cook in a dry skillet until each side had some brown spots.

    Yup, tortillas! We make them ALL THE TIME. We can do a quick lesson at quarterlies if you want some assistance. :) I actually am not sure I want to go back to store-bought ones now…

    -Carrie

  3. And you wonder why David and I can seem so cynical in our older age? How true it is that we can’t fully realize your circumstances because we’re not there where you are and in the same positions, but realize the same things are everyday occurences here back home…..different people, companies, systems. We deal with the same lethargic, lazy, money hungry hyprocrites every way you turn. Perhaps when you return home you’ll see more of it than before. Idealism fades fast and it’s a damn shame there’s little to combat it. Sad times. But there is a God! Thank goodness for His mercy and grace. I suppose the glimpses of hope found here and there sustain most of us. No one could have warned you sufficiently for all the frustration you’re facing. Know that your continuing efforts are worthy and you’ll do what you can. Trust in that…..I do. On a much lighter note….you may find that you’ll miss things where you are when you return home. Take it all in…find the good in what you’re doing and make memories that will last your lifetime. You’re creating and living what will become stories you’ll tell…..a wonderful journey into the unknown…the twilight zone…who knows! Have you had a good laugh lately? I love you girl!
    Mom
    xxx ooo xxx
    :)

  4. Thanks for reading all the way down and for the encouragement. Next, I need to write a list of things I LOVE about this place. :)

    Will mos def try these tortillas!!!

  5. I miss all those things too! And I miss you, and you are beautiful, even when you are dusty and dirty and sweaty!

  6. J&J,
    Well I was feeling a bit down about Belize, till I read your blog. We have a lot of the stuff you miss (except for the transport). I wish there were more places that had good jamaican patties, those things are delicious, and I propably wouldn’t have lost 12 pounds already. Anyways, Belize is really nice overall, we aren’t terribly stoked on our assignment, but it has some real advantages, like at the local store we can buy snickers and apples! We will try to keep up with your blog. Thanks for making Belize look better!

    p.s. I really would like to go cliff jumping/climbing in jamaica, too bad we don’t have no money!

  7. Pretty much just scrolled down to the asterisk/answer, dude. Totally worth it, tho!

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