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A while back I realized that it was a crime to leave Jamaica with the only Bob Marley album being Legend (a best of). So I started finding all his albums and listening to them. If you’ve only listened to Legend, you really should check out the rest of his work. He was an incredibly gifted musician.

So in honor of OUR exodus, I thought it appropriate to post Bob Marley’s 1977 album, Exodus. It’s got some classics as well as a few you probably haven’t heard.



Guess Who’s Not Helping Pack…

Needing All Kind of Beauty Rest

These days, one cannot be too careful about (a) the food and drink one consumes and (b) the company one keeps.

I’m being goofy of course…however, these past couple weeks have been sick and rainy in the Hunter household.

Don't cry for me, Jamaica.

The up side: Not consuming calories means there’s no reason to burn any, right? Also, what better time for rain than when you’re sickly.  I’d be reading more books and writing more blogs if my pesky stomach and head would behave. Alas, this too shall pass.

Josh did his sick time before me and, although I think he had it for longer, it was lucky because he’s in Port Antonio celebrating the three-fold holiday with our friends…without me.  I’m here, being sick and listening to the rain soak and soak and soak our clothes on the line.

On the other hand, it’s quiet and beautiful and I never take the time to rest like this.

We gave our landlord the last rent this morning and it was kind of sad. They’ve taken such good care of us and it feels like family more than business. Cannot believe we’ll be going for good in less than a month….And I know I should be finding good homes for all our useful crap and packing up and coordinating, but honestly I don’t feel up to it at the moment. Maybe tomorrow.

Happy 3rd July 3rd on-island, fi mi group!

Happy International Reggae Day

That’s right. It’s International Reggae Day. I’m not entirely sure what one (especially a Jamaican) does on Reggae Day that’s any different from the other 364 days of the year, but I’m going to do my small part to help. Help what? Uh… Reggae?

So having said that, these are two of my favorite songs from this last year here in Jamaica. One’s a Phil Collins cover and the other, well, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s a cover. (Most of my favorite songs are.) Both are by the artist Busy Signal. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re damn catchy. “Biebi!”

Busy Signal – One More Night

Busy Signal – Night Shift

Even after hearing these a million times, I still enjoy them. Both of these have been on previous mixes but just in case you didn’t want to get the entire mix I wanted to repost them singularly here. Please enjoy.

The Final Countdown (by jess)

[Yep, I’m picturing Gob doing an ilLUSion]

Will be doing a LOT of this for a while!

An Education [by jesse]

(mostly for future Peace Corps Volunteers)

We recently attended our Close of Service (COS) conference out in Negril and it was a wonderful time of reflection, appreciation and transition.  Many of us–the 28 that remain–had mentally blocked out the fact that time here is getting short, at least until this conference, and once it was upon us, you could sense the inner freak outs occurring all over the room.  It’s not that we’re not happy to be moving on and it’s not like we haven’t seen this coming.  It’s just that we’re…finally here. We made it.  At times we wondered if we ever really would. And now we have.  So what now?

During COS, we discussed the best activities, skills and attitudes for a successful Peace Corps experience.  We looked at these in terms of the 3 goals of Peace Corps and I want to break it down this way too:

There are 3 specific goals the Peace Corps uses to accomplish this mission of peace & friendship:

  1. To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers
    1. So many of us have this goal in mind when we join the Peace Corps–we want to help people to better help themselves. How we will help and the degree to which we are able to help in the time allotted is unknown and can be disheartening in the end.  When the recruiter says that HUMOR and FLEXIBILITY are the two most important traits of a volunteer, they are telling you the truth.  I would like to add INITIATIVE and HUMILITY, but those first two are very key!
    2. At the end of two years, you will not have made a huge dent in any one issue. What you DO with your time is secondary to the MANNER in which  you do whatever you do.  It’s who you are…and that brings me to Goal 2.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
    1. You cannot serve in the Peace Corps without achieving this goal to some extent, but it sometimes takes a lot of patience–a lot of listening and responding with respect, in order to get beyond the pretense involved in how Jamaicans view Americans.  It’s a very complicated relationship here.  My service spanned the 2008 Olympics when Usain Bolt (Jamaica) won gold in track and broke the record, the US 2008 Presidential Election of Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president.  We were in Jamaica while a powerful earthquake raged in Haiti, while civil unrest brought Kingston to a standstill as police searched for Christopher (Dudus) Coke in order to extradite him to the U.S. Now, we are watching the 2010 World Cup games.  These have all been opportunities to express my version of Americanism and also my solidarity as a world citizen.
    2. Most of what my neighbors know about Americans is what they watch on TV, DVDs and music videos.  To show them differently, you have to open up and share (this culture will not inquire about this stuff) or start conversations about similarities and differences, etc. You will have occasion to cook American meals for your host family and friends and celebrate American holidays with them.  One thing we’ve done is host a weekly movie night in our town square, providing family entertainment and exposing folks to a variety of film types and topics, and it ranges from interesting to a blast!
    3. Just as Jamaica isn’t “one big beach,” America isn’t one homogenous…anything.  You know this, but they don’t–be patient, be honest and be the best American you can be. Be for them the way you wish all of Americans would be. Or at least try.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
    1. This is the one I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, I’m told.  This also requires patience and pro-activity, in equal parts.  We decided to start a Peace Corps blog for several uses, and one of those is to educate and sensitize our American loved ones–show them the “real Jamaica,” at least a little more than if the blog didn’t exist.  Over the past couple years, we’ve been able to share about Jamaican language, culture in style, dance and music, social issues, foods and holidays and debunk a lot of the stereotypes that exist about this “tourist destination.”
    2. Aside from the blog, I think the most helpful thing I can do is continue to allow my experiences here and the lessons learned to inform my own life going forward.  Many people you know will tell you that they’ve always thought about living overseas or say, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that.”  You did and they didn’t, so be a friend and give a balanced account–there’s always going to be good, bad and ugly about living and working in a place.  It’s natural to see other cultures as “other” and our own culture as “normal,” but this is not a fact; it’s a judgment, an opinion from only one point of view.  Going forward, my attitude toward “other” peoples and places will have more authority, and that means it’s more important than ever for me to be open-minded and empathetic, as an example.  We have experienced Jamaica in a way that few Americans have.  The same is true for living overseas, becoming an instant minority, working in development, representing your country (not just yourself and your family), and being in the Peace Corps.  It seems like a heavy responsibility at times, but you know…I’m so glad to have this unique perspective and belong to such a unique, talented and caring group of people.  This goal is also my privilege.

If you’re an applicant who thinks you might be coming to Jamaica for Peace Corps service, I will say that our two years has been incredibly rewarding and challenging–and I would do it all over again (and probably do it way better).

I will also say that there are times when it does feel like Posh Corps or Beach Corps–when you think to yourself, “I’m so freakin lucky to have this two year quasi-vacation on a tropical island.”  At other times, it can be very trying, stressful and frustrating–perhaps more so than lots of other “hard-core” Peace Corps posts in other countries.  Because of the socio-political history here in Jamaica and because of its exposure and close relations with the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Jamaicans tend to not really “get” what we’re doing here.  They are often show suspicion, entitlement or even worse–apathy toward our time and efforts at first.  Jamaica is a culture of contradictions and nuances–You’re teetering back and forth between the 1st world and the 3rd as you walk the street or have a conversation or speak on the phone or stand in line.  You will be harassed on the street; You will be asked point-blank for money or your name or if you “like to party?”  It’s odd, but this is Jamaica…TIJ (you’ll want to remember I said this for later).  Don’t worry–you’re won’t be doing it alone. At the end of our service, some of the things that really irked us in the beginning are comforting and things we’ll miss later.  Others still really really aggravate us.  I think that’s all part of the experience.  TIJ.

I just DEVOURED a grapefruit. [by jesse]

And it reminded me that I’ve never liked grapefruit. Especially when I was little and picked them from our tree out back.
I thought they were really sour and gross.

But the grapefruit here is delicious, seems sweeter than the ones in Florida-I don’t need to put sugar on top. I’ve always known that it’s a great, healthy fruit to eat. This got me thinking of all the foods I have learned to enjoying eating and cooking in Jamaica during Peace Corps service (granted, I’m not listing the ones I dislike):

FRUITS like ackee, otaheite apples, tangerines, limes, guineps, guava, avocado pear, plaintain, sour sop, lychee, naseberry
VEGGIES like pumpkin, sweet potato, callaloo, cho cho, pakchoy, ginger, okra, scotchbonnet, breadfruit, eggplant
ASSORTED–bulla, patti, bammy, whole chickens, festival, fritters, rice & peas, soups, coconut oil, crayfish!!!

As usual, we as humans always seem to crave the foods we don’t have at our disposal instead of the ones in our refrigerator.  I’ve really missed all natural fruit juices (but we’ve learned to make fruit teas from boiling the peels) and the foods we can’t get here (like berries, sweet mint, good beef).  However, I think I’ve broadened my cooking and eating horizons quite a bit while here!

I remember when I thought cooking was as abstract as starting a painting–just so many choices and variables…too many.
Now, meals seems manageable.  I wonder if I’ll ever really enjoy cooking, because I still don’t consider it a hobby.  What I DO enjoy is feeding myself and my family healthy, delicious meals that don’t take a ton of time.  I enjoy using the same basic ingredients in clever ways to spice up our tastebuds.  I enjoy fresh ingredients and minimal grocery waste.

Thank you, Jamaica.