Colors of a rainbow gathering are one, not many | Los colores de una reunión de arcoíris son uno, no muchos

Disclaimer: “The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.”

Jamaica Coat of Arms

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

The colors of a rainbow are many but when they combine together, they are white. Should it be any surprise that Rainbow Gatherering (RG) participants are predominantly white and Caucasian? You will be hard-pressed to find many “colored” people in a Google image search on “Rainbow Gathering.” It has been quite the contrast for me to transition from the world of RG to my current life serving as a Peace Corps (PC) Volunteer in Jamaica, where the population is over 90% black and less than 1% white. Jamaica’s national motto is “Out of Many, One People.” There has never been an RG in Jamaica and for the following reasons, I doubt there ever will be.

There are several distinctions between RGs and the PC. RGs often show up without invitation and are met with conflict and authoritarian opposition, whereas PC only serves in areas in which they have been invited to.  RG is arbitrarily inclusive, whereas PC is strategically inclusive. RG participants often narcissistically self-select themselves to the site of placement, whereas only qualified PC Volunteers are matched to partnering organizations and homestays. RGs embrace freedom and liberation whereas PC embraces integration and commitment. RG stigmas include carelessness, drug use, and chaos; whereas stigma around PC revolve around constraint, restriction, and a perceived association with undercover spy agencies like the FBI or CIA. One thing that both RG and PC have in common is that they have acted as great steppingstones towards a better future for Finca Sylvatica. RG has helped to develop a sense of community and PC has helped to develop a structure of cooperation. One attempt at achieving that future was in the creation of Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL), which sought for the utilization of sustainability and permaculture principles to solve the inherent problems associated with RGs, such as environmental degradation and conflict with local communities.

It was naïve of me to promote the paradoxical concept of Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL) and for that reason, I am sorry. My original intention was to acknowledge the fact that a rainbow can exist in a crystalized or more permanent form. It was a metaphor for the long-term sustainability that I believe RGs need in order to persist as well as benefit the environment and local people. From the very inception of RCL, back at the 2012 Galactic RG in Palenque, I have favored the term “Rainbow Crystal” over RCL. However, due to majority support in a consensus group that was severely biased in favor of nomadic vagabonds, the term RCL was adopted into the lexicon. Focus on the dream of integrating permaculture principles into RGs was lost as the “Land” became the priority for RG participants. Land became exploited as they took for granted the unconscious strain that RCL placed on the local and much more permanent communities. RCL participants typically show up unannounced, stay for short periods of time, leave garbage, and do not contribute to the well-being of the community. Click this link to the RCL Facebook group for pictures of the state of disrepair and abandonment at the Costa Rican RCL.

For several years now at the Costa Rican RCL, recurring attendees have consisted primarily of Finca Sylvatica (FS) staff. The http://rainbowcrystalland.org website has been defunct for many years and https://thealternativenow.wordpress.com/, which centralized the RCL framework online does not appear to have had any updates in over four years. RCL forums are inactive and not moderated. After volunteering hundreds of hours cleaning up the abandoned temporary structures of RCL, our local consensus is to phase out RCL gradually so that we can focus our energy on viable projects that align with the purpose of FS such as:

  • We are developing regenerative silviculture and agroforestry systems to create management models that minimize maintenance costs and maximize productivity.
  • FS Ecological Timber Co., will harvest and process wood at FS. We will provide legal and sustainably harvested wood products for local people at an affordable cost and educate customers about illegally harvested and endangered tree species.
  • We will create thriving, dynamic, and multifunctional ecosystems in Coto Brus that will improve current and future generations.
  • We (FS) will generate a diversity of alternative livelihoods that are based on regenerative forest resources for people of Coto Brus.
  • FS is being developed to host Permaculture Design Courses and academic ecology courses with partnering institutions such as the Organization for Tropical Studies, The University of Washington, and The University of California, Santa Cruz.

So far in the transition, we have changed some of the staff positions. Check out our staff page here for more information. Bridget has been promoted to our Chief Operating Officer. We now have a new Property Manager, named Rasa, whose on-site presence has been a wonderful blessing to FS.  She has been working hard in RCL’s transition to “Crystal Land” and writing up guidelines for it, which may be accessed here. In her own words regarding RCL:

“The reason why it didn’t work was that there wasn’t any management or anyone that could stay and manage the situation. People were coming and disturbing the land and leaving trash. I personally loaded out 50 bags of trash. What a job! My friends Mike and Michelle from Switzerland also took out a lot of trash with their truck. Without guidance, structure, and people coming onto the land, it just wasn’t working. The land suffered a lot. Now it iss in a healing phase with Crystal Land. We are bringing structure. My kids and I and people now on site are committed. We are there. We are building, cleaning, and creating structure and a volunteer program.

I do want to hold some of the principles of the Rainbow community. I do like some of the principles; that we live close to the land; that we try to barter; and incorporate those things into the structure of community. A lot of young people and travelers don’t really know about Rainbow. I’ve been around it for about 20 years and I still can’t say I know a lot about it. It is very eclectic. What is Rainbow really? We need to understand how to have a community. It is different from having a gathering. It has been seen throughout the years.

Structure is so important. Mother nature has structure.  I’ve been visiting communities for over 15 years now and I have seen what is working and what isn’t working and sharing Non-Violent Communication. I can just say that it needs management, structure, commitment, and it needs someone who is connected to the land like Rio.  He loves working on the land and caring for the trees. We are looking for people who really want to come and who really want to be there and who really want to contribute and who really want to show up and be present instead of a lot of travelers coming and going.”

I believe that a rainbow looks different to everyone. As a deutan myself, I support the achromatopsic transhumanist, Niel Harbisson when he says, “we are all different shades of orange.” Categorizing ourselves as different races based on colors that cannot be agreed upon is no less paradoxical than a permanent RG. Popular transience of meteorological rainbows continues to obscure light emitted from strategically damaged crystals. But just like a tiny candle in a dark room, even a small source of light can cancel out a lot of darkness. That light shows me that although rainbows may always persist in crystals, RCL is fading away at FS.

 

 

 

Los colores de un arco iris son muchos, pero cuando se combinan, son blancos. ¿Debería sorprendernos que los participantes de Encuentro Arcoiris (EA) sean predominantemente blancos y caucásicos? Te costará encontrar muchas personas “de color” en una búsqueda de imágenes de Google en ” Encuentro Arcoiris “. Ha sido un gran contraste para mí hacer la transición del mundo de EA a mi vida actual como un Cuerpo de Paz (CP) Voluntario en Jamaica, donde la población es más del 90% negra y menos del 1% blanca. Nunca ha habido un EA en Jamaica y, por las siguientes razones, dudo que alguna vez lo haya.

Hay varias distinciones entre EA y la CP. Los EA a menudo aparecen sin invitación y se encuentran con conflictos y oposición autoritaria, mientras que CP solo sirve en áreas en las que han sido invitados. EA es arbitrariamente inclusivo, mientras que CP es estratégicamente inclusivo. Los participantes de EA a menudo se auto-seleccionan narcisistamente para el lugar de colocación, mientras que solo los Voluntarios de CP calificados se asignan a organizaciones asociadas y casas de familia. Los EA abrazan la libertad y la liberación, mientras que la CP abarca la integración y el compromiso. Los estigmas de EA incluyen descuido, uso de drogas y caos; mientras que el estigma en torno a CP gira en torno a restricciones, restricciones y una asociación percibida con agencias de espionaje encubiertas como el FBI o la CIA. Una cosa que tanto EA como CP tienen en común es que han actuado como grandes peldaños hacia un futuro mejor para Finca Sylvatica (FS). EA ha ayudado a desarrollar un sentido de comunidad y la PC ha ayudado a desarrollar una estructura de cooperación. Un intento de lograr ese futuro fue la creación de Tierra Crystal Arcoiris (TCA), que buscaba la utilización de principios de sostenibilidad y permacultura para resolver los problemas inherentes asociados con los RG, como la degradación ambiental y los conflictos con las comunidades locales.

Fui ingenuo de mi parte promover el concepto paradójico de TCA y, por eso, lo siento. Mi intención original era reconocer el hecho de que un arco iris puede existir en forma cristalizada o más permanente. Fue una metáfora de la sostenibilidad a largo plazo que creo que los GR necesitan para persistir y beneficiar al medio ambiente y a la población local. Desde el inicio de TCA, de vuelta en el Galactic EA 2012 en Palenque, he favorecido el término “Cristal Arcoiris” sobre TCA. Sin embargo, debido al apoyo mayoritario en un grupo de consenso que estaba severamente sesgado a favor de los vagabundos nómadas, el término TCA fue adoptado en el léxico. El enfoque en el sueño de integrar los principios de permacultura en los EA se perdió cuando la “Tierra” se convirtió en la prioridad para los participantes de EA. La tierra se explotó al dar por sentado la tensión inconsciente que TCA ejercía sobre las comunidades locales y mucho más permanentes. Los participantes de TCA generalmente aparecen sin previo aviso, se quedan por períodos cortos de tiempo, dejan basura y no contribuyen al bienestar de la comunidad. Haga clic en este enlace al grupo de Facebook de TCA para ver imágenes del estado de deterioro y abandono en el TCA de Costa Rica.

Desde hace varios años en el TCA de Costa Rica, los asistentes recurrentes han consistido principalmente en personal de FS. El sitio web http://rainbowcrystalland.org ha desaparecido durante muchos años y https://thealternativenow.wordpress.com/, que centralizó el marco de RCL en línea, no parece haber tenido ninguna actualización en más de cuatro años. Los foros de TCA están inactivos y no moderados. Después de ser voluntario durante cientos de horas limpiando las estructuras temporales abandonadas de TCA, nuestro consenso local es eliminar gradualmente TCA para que podamos enfocar nuestra energía en proyectos viables que se alineen con el propósito de FS como:

  • Estamos desarrollando silvicultura regenerativa y sistemas agroforestales para crear modelos de gestión que minimicen los costos de mantenimiento y maximicen la productividad.
  • FS Ecological Timber Co., cosechará y procesará madera en FS. Proporcionaremos productos de madera legales y cosechados de manera sostenible para la población local a un costo asequible y educaremos a los clientes sobre las especies de árboles cosechadas ilegalmente y en peligro de extinción.
  • Crearemos ecosistemas prósperos, dinámicos y multifuncionales en Coto Brus que mejorarán las generaciones actuales y futuras.
  • Nosotros (FS) generaremos una diversidad de medios de vida alternativos basados ​​en recursos forestales regenerativos para las personas de Coto Brus.
  • FS se está desarrollando para organizar cursos de diseño de permacultura y cursos de ecología académica con instituciones asociadas, como la Organización de Estudios Tropicales, la Universidad de Washington y la Universidad de California, Santa Cruz.

Hasta ahora en la transición, hemos cambiado algunos de los puestos de personal. Consulte nuestra página de personal aquí para obtener más información. Bridget ha sido ascendida a nuestra directora de operaciones. Ahora tenemos un nuevo administrador de propiedades, llamado Rasa, cuya presencia en el sitio ha sido una bendición maravillosa para FS. Ella ha estado trabajando duro en la transición de RCL a “Tierra Cristal” y escribiendo pautas para ello, a las que se puede acceder aquí. En sus propias palabras con respecto a TCA:

“La razón por la que no funcionó fue porque no había ninguna gerencia ni nadie que pudiera quedarse y manejar la situación. La gente venía y perturbaba la tierra y dejaba basura. Yo personalmente cargué 50 bolsas de basura. ¡Vaya trabajo! Mis amigos Mike y Michelle de Suiza también sacaron mucha basura con su camión. Sin orientación, estructura y personas llegando a la tierra, simplemente no estaba funcionando. La tierra sufrió mucho. Ahora está en una fase de curación con Tierra Cristal. Estamos trayendo estructura. Mis hijos, yo y la gente ahora en el sitio estamos comprometidos. Estamos ahí. Estamos construyendo, limpiando y creando estructura y un programa de voluntariado.
Quiero mantener algunos de los principios de la comunidad Arcoiris. Me gustan algunos de los principios; que vivimos cerca de la tierra; que tratamos de intercambiar; e incorporar esas cosas en la estructura de la comunidad. Muchos jóvenes y viajeros realmente no saben acerca de Arcoiris. He estado alrededor por alrededor de 20 años y todavía no puedo decir que sé mucho al respecto. Es muy ecléctico. ¿Qué es realmente Arcoiris? Necesitamos entender cómo tener una comunidad. Es diferente de tener una reunión. Se ha visto a lo largo de los años.
La estructura es muy importante. La madre naturaleza tiene estructura. He estado visitando comunidades durante más de 15 años y he visto lo que funciona y lo que no funciona y compartir la comunicación no violenta. Solo puedo decir que necesita administración, estructura, compromiso y necesita a alguien que esté conectado a la tierra como Río. Le encanta trabajar en la tierra y cuidar los árboles. Estamos buscando personas que realmente quieran venir y que realmente quieran estar allí y que realmente quieran contribuir y que realmente quieran presentarse y estar presentes en lugar de muchos viajeros entrando y saliendo”.

Creo que un arco iris se ve diferente para todos. Como deutano, apoyo al transhumanista acromatopsic, Niel Harbisson, cuando dice: “todos somos diferentes tonos de naranja”. Clasificarnos como diferentes razas basadas en colores que no se pueden acordar no es menos paradójico que un RG permanente. La fugacidad popular de los arcoíris meteorológicos continúa oscureciendo la luz emitida por cristales estratégicamente dañados. Pero al igual que una pequeña vela en una habitación oscura, incluso una pequeña fuente de luz puede cancelar mucha oscuridad. Esa luz me muestra que aunque los arcoíris siempre pueden persistir en cristales, TCA se está desvaneciendo en FS.

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 A Call to Pioneers | Una Llamada a los Pioneros

By | Por: Rio Tattersall

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

Five years ago, I heeded a call to come help the Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL) in Costa Rica, which at that time was just beginning. I was fortunate to have caught an echo of all the creations that were ensuing on this land back then— an earthen oven in a spacious kitchen, a cob house, colorful rainbow art all around, many plants were being sown, and busy jungle hippies were happily greeting the cameras. Those were just some of the attractive things I saw on pictures and videos through social media. I’ll admit that it took me a while to show up since I came by bicycle from Fairfax, California. What I found in the mountains of southern Costa Rica was much different than what I’d expected though; although the treasures of my perseverance have paid me back tenfold. Now I am making a call to others, as I’ve already done a couple of times in the past. What we hear through the grapevine doesn’t always resemble reality, and the only constant in reality is that it is changing. Finca Sylvatica has received a boost in growth in the past year while the RCL has withered and wilted with the lack of attention and love. What is the fate of the RCL and Finca Sylvatica? Who is currently on site and how did we get here? What type of help do we need? These are the questions which I will focus this post on.

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(Rainbow Crystal Land kitchen being constructed circa 2013. Photo credit: Jamal Wilson)

Inspired by a friend I had cycled with between Montana and British Colombia in 2013 with the Rainbow Bicycle Caravan, I felt called to come help the RCL in Costa Rica the following year. I hadn’t originally thought of riding a bike to Central America but upon telling my “uncle” Richard, who I was living with in Fairfax, my plan to come here he immediately asked, “on a bike?” Thus, the idea was sparked. It took me a few months to prepare my departure and just over a year and a half to ride into the Rainbow Crystal Land on a dark night. Like I mentioned earlier, I had seen media of several happy campers and many projects in action at the RCL. That image gave me strength and put a pep to my peddle, especially in my toughest moments on the road when I was alone and far away from any semblance of comfort. When I finally arrived at the RCL the reality of what was going on here was in stark contrast to my imagined dreams and expectations. One French brother, Arturo, had been attempting to hold up the community and the Rainbow culture mostly by himself, and there were two Ticos who were still learning what Rainbow was all about. Many structures had been built, which was evidence that there had been a surge of energy here at one point. There weren’t enough of us who were motivated to give all of the structures life and function though. I was barely able to learn all the essentials for surviving here before Arturo was forced to leave because of his immigration status in the country. The Ticos also left and in just five months, I became the most experienced individual living on the land. This happened while we were experiencing a surge in population after the Costa Rican annual Rainbow Gathering that year. The swell in population resulted in several people staying for a couple of months, a few people stayed for a few months, and in the end, it was just me and one brother from Luxembourg, Arnauld, who stayed for about six months total. One of the Tico’s came back but he was thieving, and I had to force him out in a difficult ordeal. After which point it was just me, the dog, and the cat. All in all, it was a very unstable and transitory time. I had come to learn how to live in community but instead I came to learn how to be a pioneer.

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(Baja California early 2014. On my way to the Rainbow Crystal Land)

A community of one person does not exist, neither of two people, and I would argue that it would take at least more than three or four people before we could call ourselves a true community (and a micro one at that!). We’ve had many helping hands who have come by before and during my time— several of whom have stayed for a few months.

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(Rainbow Crystal Land kitchen being constructed circa 2013. Photo credit: Jamal Wilson)

The help that these people provided was invaluable. The work of those before me inspired me to keep at it, and the help of those who’ve shown up since I’ve been here have given me the boosts I needed at the toughest moments. Nevertheless, it was tiring upholding the “community” for an endless number of passer-byers because our goal of permanence was never realized. My let down expectations used to cause me grief over that fact. To cope with my disappointment I’ve largely refrained from calling this place a community (nowadays I usually say “farm”), I haven’t been making calls like this for help lately, and I’ve relinquished the idea that a permanent Rainbow community is going to thrive here— I’d love that scenario, but I’d rather be surprised than constantly disheartened.

A year ago, the last residents of the RCL moved out and we took up residence across the creek in the “Longhouse” on Finca Sylvatica. That’s when the RCL officially became dormant. The owner of the land, Scottino, needed people to take care of the Longhouse which had just been built. Scottino was being deployed on a two-year Peace Corps Masters Program in Jamaica and he wouldn’t be able to be here for the duration of his service. The new “digs” at the Longhouse was far more stable and comfortable than any buildings at the RCL— many of which were already falling apart last year. Naturally the energy flowed over to Finca Sylvatica. Scottino returns next year and he has the intention of living in the Longhouse, and of turning Finca Sylvatica into an academic research center. It is in our best interest to rebuild the structures on the RCL side in this time.

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(Finca Sylvatica Longhouse 2019)

We are calling upon pioneers to help us in this endeavor. We don’t know if the RCL will be revived or if a new community will be built in its place. What is for sure is that we currently have a canvas upon which we can cultivate and create on. As far as the permaculture is concerned, we already have a 14 years of reforestation and landscaping begun since Scottino began working here in 2005. If we don’t act now, then the RCL side will very likely be converted back into Finca Sylvatica and private properties eventually. This may sound like a copout, but it’s already been five years and if a community is to thrive here than continuity and sustenance are required— which means persistent dedication and maintenance. We will never be resilient if our community solely consists of an unsteady string of sporadic and temporary helpers. The thieves, moochers, and “bliss ninnies” have taken their toll as well and our reputation has suffered. I have acted poorly in response to certain challenges and have been over-protective and even brutal in my defense of this place. Without making excuses the “community” has felt heavy on the shoulders when we’ve been few for a long time— even more so when I was alone. I cannot guarantee more than a year of additional service here. Which I plan on focusing mainly on taking care of the Longhouse and the permaculture of this land as a whole. With my partner Rafael we’ve also discussed rebuilding the kitchen and some of the homes on the RCL side. We will need a place to live when Scottino returns if we are to remain on this land. We would like it to be a community and we invite anyone who is looking for a different way of life in nature and who has the commitment to see projects through to their completion.

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(Rainbow Crystal Land kitchen in its current state 2019)

RCL’s reputation and even Rainbow’s has suffered in Costa Rica. Rainbow has unfortunately become synonymous with lazy mooching vagabonds—or something like that. Naturally, rainbows’ seemingly carefree and flamboyantly disheveled ways, cause friction with the Tico’s contrast of impeccably clean and pride at being orderly. Although not all Ticos are the same and we get along well with many of them. It seems however that several folks choose to fixate on the negative aspects of Rainbow Culture while looking right through the positives. Many wonderful things happen here and at Rainbow Gatherings— which is why the reputation situation is sad. Aside from the help we need building structures we also need to recreate our reputation. I’ve only given so much of myself here as I have because Rainbow gave me so much, and because this land has so much of its own magic and sustenance. Rainbow Gatherings and this land both have their own enchantment but together they don’t seem to be working; at least not in a permanent sense. Although glimpses of fusion have occurred where the two flowed together wonderfully. As usual, in my experience, Rainbow works best temporarily. Like a flower that only blooms seasonally.

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(Glimpse of Rainbow spirit at Rainbow Crystal Land kitchen in 2017)

As a pioneer I’ve learned that perhaps the most important trait for survival is persistence. When trying to do something which is radically different and progressive than the norm many forces seem to challenge the dedication and fate of the project. Persistence is the only possibility of surviving these challenges. I just have to stop cutting the African pasture grass for a couple of months and mother nature will assert her dominance once more— reminding me of the importance of persistence. At the end of last year, I spent three months in the US helping my father who’s getting ready to retire. When I returned here the grass had all but eaten the RCL in full. My partner Rafael did a good job maintaining the weeds around the Longhouse, the driveway, and the paths at Finca Sylvatica. However, all of the RCL and many sections of Finca Sylvatica had been left to fend for themselves. This land is so big it is exceedingly difficult for a sprite young chap like myself to maintain on my own, so I can understand what it must be like for a “silver fox” like Rafael. At Finca Sylvatica Scottino has had many more years of influence and the reforestation is far more advanced, which makes managing the weeds easier. On the RCL side we’ve had less of an impact so far, and the pasture grass still reigns supreme over much of it. I pick up the machete once again each time because if my legacy here culminates to at least assuring the survival of some bushes and trees than I will have done something productive in the long-run. I won’t be here to do this forever which is why this call is important if a community is to exist on this land.

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(Grass eaten path on the Rainbow Crystal Land 2019)

There are currently two permanent members here; myself and Rafael. Rafael was on a spiritual quest when he came upon the RCL over a year ago. He didn’t find what he was looking for as far as a spiritual community is concerned, but he certainly found a place where he could work on his internal growth and his connection to mother nature— both of which invigorate the spirit. Like myself he’s fallen in love with this land and he has persevered here despite the many challenges that we face living in such a natural and wild environment. We would both like to help rebuild a community and the structures by which one can survive and thrive. All the potential for success is at hand. I have already documented the many species we have cultivating and harvesting here on other blog posts in the past. The plants which I would like to focus on in this post however are the “pioneer species.”

There is never a need to sow a pioneer plant in a natural environment— they just show up. They either spread their seeds via long-reach, the wind, the birds, animals, or insects. Often, they appear to materialize out of thin air. Most likely they came flying in with the breeze or they were dropped out of the digestive tract of a living being with ready-made fertilizer. Pioneer species are ones with a keen capacity to interact well with their environment for quick and abundant propagation. They are the species which will show up early and fend off competition whenever there is any perturbed soil or on our tilled and fertile garden beds. Many of these species are important natives which aside from helping us fend off the grasses— by creating a quick shade canopy— they also feed and provide shelter to many native animals and insects. Many of these animals and insects are the pollinators which pollinate the plants that we rely on as well. Several pioneer species also have functions for human use; such as the Saragundi tree (Senna Reticulata) which has potent anti-fungal & anti-bacterial properties. One reason these pioneer species are so good at survival and propagation is because they give back abundantly to their eco-systems. Pioneer species are also finessed at withstanding the storms and the dry-spells. If there are any species which we most need to emulate in this time it is certainly the “pioneers.”

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{Saragundi tree (Senna Reticulata)}

Scottino, Rafael, myself, the builders of the RCL, the gardeners, landscapers, artists, and everyone who’ve left a bit of themselves here have been a tiny bit like pioneer species; we’ve flowed through and we’ve left our mark on the landscape. We’ve sown seeds into the ground, we’ve aided in shaping the earth, we’ve created canopies, we added color to the environment, we’ve survived through challenges and we’ve lived at least parts our lives here. It will take nothing short of a resurgence of this type of energy to lift the RCL back up, and to keep it up even more! That’s what pioneer species are best at though— persistence. The pasture grass is a foreign pioneer who constantly threatens our reforestation attempts because of its magnificence at persistence. I suppose that in an abstract way the pasture grass is kind of like the thieves and moochers. The grass constantly pops up to suck out the nutrients and riches while hardening up the fertile soil we make nice for the exotic/sensitive plants and trees. The moochers and thieves pop up to extract our nutrients and riches but in the human realm, and in result they contribute to hardening up our souls by making us not want to share as much. I suppose that exotic and sensitive plant species would be akin to all the foreigners and travelers who we host here. If we don’t soften up and fertilize the ground many plant species don’t survive or thrive here. Just the same as if we don’t make nice living spaces and cozy hang out spots than many people won’t stay here. I love eating exotic fruits and I love sharing time with interesting travelers who pass by. Those aren’t going to be the entities who ensure that this land thrives though— but they’re the entities who will make this place more interesting and diverse. Again, what we need now though are pioneers who will fend off the challengers and who could survive on their own. Our dreams though are of reforestation and community, so we hope that nobody must live here on their own. This is why we need to remove the pasture grass— a species which doesn’t let any other species thrive— and is why we are making this call for more motivated pioneers with a drive to cultivate fertile land!

 

 

 

Hace cinco años, yo respondí a una llamada para ayudar a la Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris (TCA) en Costa Rica, que en aquel momento apenas estaba comenzando. Tuve la suerte de haber captado un eco de todas las creaciones que se estaban produciendo en esta tierra en aquel tiempo: una cocina espaciosa de bamboo, una casa de barro, coloridas obras de arte del arco iris, muchas plantas se estaban sembrando y hippies obreros de la selva estaban saludando alegremente a las cámaras. Esas fueron solo algunas de las cosas atractivas que vi en fotos y videos a través de las redes sociales. Admito que tardé un poco en llegar desde que salí en bicicleta de Fairfax, California. Lo que encontré en las montañas del sur de Costa Rica fue muy diferente a lo que esperaba; aunque los tesoros de mi perseverancia me han pagado diez veces. Ahora estoy llamando a otros, como ya lo he hecho un par de veces en el pasado. Lo que escuchamos a través de la vid no siempre se parece a la realidad, y la única constante en la realidad es que está cambiando. Finca Sylvatica ha recibido un aumento en el crecimiento en el último año, mientras que RCL se ha marchitado con la falta de atención y amor. ¿Cuál es el destino de la RCL y Finca Sylvatica? ¿Quién está actualmente en el sitio y cómo llegamos aquí? ¿Qué tipo de ayuda necesitamos? Estas son las preguntas en las que enfocaré este post.

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(La cocina de la Tierra Arco-Iris Crystal siendo construida en 2013. Credito de la foto: Jamal Wilson)

Inspirado por un amigo con quien yo había pedaleado entre Montana, USA y Colombia Británica, Canada en 2013 con la Caravana Arco-Iris de Bicicletas, me sentí llamado a ayudar a la TCA en Costa Rica el año siguiente. Al principio no había pensado en ir de bicicleta hasta América Central, pero al decirle a mi “tío” Richard, con quien vivía en Fairfax, mi plan de venir aquí inmediatamente me preguntó: “¿en una bicicleta?”. Por lo tanto, la idea fue encendido. Me llevo unos meses para preparar mi partida y un poco más de un año y medio pedaleando hacia la TCA cuando finalmente llegue en una noche oscura. Como mencioné anteriormente, había visto fotos y videos de varias personas felices y muchos proyectos en acción en la TCA. Esa imagen me dio fuerza y ​​me animó, especialmente en los momentos más difíciles en la carretera cuando estaba solo y lejos de cualquier aspecto de comodidad. Cuando finalmente llegué al TCA, la realidad de lo que estaba sucediendo aquí estaba en marcado contraste con mis sueños y expectativas imaginados. Un hermano francés, Arturo, había estado tratando de sostener a la comunidad y la cultura del Arco Iris solo, y había dos Ticos que todavía estaban aprendiendo de qué se trataba el Arco Iris. Se habían construido muchas estructuras, lo que era evidencia de que había habido una oleada de energía aquí en un momento dado. Sin embargo, no había suficientes de nosotros que estuviéramos motivados para dar vida y función a todas las estructuras. Apenas pude aprender todo lo esencial para sobrevivir aquí antes de que Arturo se viera obligado a irse debido a su estatus migratorio en el país. Los ticos también se fueron y en solo cinco meses, me convertí en la persona más experimentada que vivía en la tierra. Esto sucedió mientras estábamos experimentando un aumento en la población después de la reunión anual del Arco-Iris en Costa Rica aquel año. El aumento de la población provocó que varias personas se quedaran por un par de meses, unas pocas personas se quedaron por varios meses y, al final, fuimos solo yo y un hermano de Luxemburgo, Arnauld, quien quedo durante aproximadamente seis meses en total. Uno de los Tico regresó pero estaba robando, y tuve que obligarlo a salir en una dura prueba. Después de lo cual fui yo, el perro y el gato. En definitiva, fue un tiempo muy inestable y transitorio. Había venido a aprender a vivir en comunidad, pero en vez de eso, aprendí a ser un pionero.

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(Yo en Baja California bajando hacia la Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris en 2014)

No existe una comunidad de una persona, ni de dos personas, y yo diría que se necesitarían al menos más de tres o cuatro personas antes de que podamos llamarnos una verdadera comunidad (¡y una comunidad micro seria!). Hemos tenido muchas manos que nos han ayudado antes y durante mi tiempo, varias de las cuales han permanecido por algunos meses.

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(La cocina de La Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris siendo construida en 2013. Credito de la foto: Jamal Wilson)

La ayuda que estas personas proporcionaron fue invaluable. El trabajo de los que me precedieron me inspiró a seguir adelante, y la ayuda de los que han aparecido desde que estoy aquí me han dado los refuerzos que necesitaba en los momentos más difíciles. Sin embargo, ha sido agotador defender la “comunidad” para una cantidad interminable de gente de paso porque nuestro objetivo de permanencia nunca se realizó. Mis expectativas decepcionantes solían causarme pena por ese hecho. Para hacer frente a mi decepción, me he abstenido en gran medida de llamar a este lugar una comunidad (en la actualidad, por lo general, digo “finca”). Últimamente no he estado haciendo llamadas de este tipo en busca de ayuda, y he renunciado a la idea de que una comunidad Arco-Iris va a prosperar aquí. Me encantaría ese escenario, pero preferiría que me sorprenda a que me desanime constantemente.

 

Hace un año, los últimos residentes de la TCA se mudaron y establecimos una residencia al otro lado del arroyo en la “Casa Larga” da Finca Sylvatica. Fue entonces cuando el TCA oficialmente quedó inactivo. El dueño de la tierra, Scottino, necesitaba que la gente se cuidara la Casa Larga, que acababa de construirse. Scottino estaba siendo desplegado en un programa de maestría de dos años con el Cuerpo de Paz en Jamaica y no podría estar aquí por la duración de su Servicio. El nuevo chante en la Casa Larga es mucho más estable y cómoda que cualquier otro edificio en la TCA: Muchos de los cuales ya se estaban cayendo a pedazos el año pasado. Naturalmente, la energía fluyó hacia Finca Sylvatica. Scottino regresa el próximo año y tiene la intención de vivir en la Casa Larga, y de convertir a Finca Sylvatica en un centro de investigacion academica. Esta en nuestro mejor interés reconstruir las estructuras en el lado de la TCA en este momento.

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(La Casa Larga en Finca Sylvatica 2019)

Estamos haciendo una llamada a pioneros para que nos ayuden en este esfuerzo. No sabemos si la TCA será revivido o si una nueva comunidad se construirá en su lugar. Lo que es seguro es que actualmente tenemos un cuadro sobre qual podemos cultivar y crear en cima. Al respecto a la permacultura, ya tenemos 14 años de reforestación que comenzó desde que Scottino empezó a cultivar aquí en 2005. Si no actuamos ahora, es muy probable que el lado de la TCA se convertirá de nuevo en Finca Sylvatica y propiedades privadas con el tiempo. Esto puede sonar como una excusa, pero ya han pasado cinco años y si una comunidad va prosperar aquí, se requiere continuidad y sustento. Lo que significa dedicación y mantenimiento persistente. Nunca seremos resistentes si nuestra comunidad consiste únicamente de una cadena inestable de ayudantes esporádicos y temporales. Los ladrones, y los vagos han tomado su peaje también y nuestra reputación ha sufrido. Yo he actuado mal en respuesta a ciertos desafíos y he sido sobreprotector e incluso brutal en mi defensa de este lugar. Sin poner excusas la “comunidad” ha sentído pesado sobre los hombros cuando hemos sido pocos durante mucho tiempo, incluso más cuando estaba solo. No puedo garantizar más de un año de servicio adicional aquí. El cual planeo enfocarme principalmente en cuidar la Casa Larga y la permacultura de esta tierra en su conjunto. Con mi compañero Rafael también hemos discutido la reconstrucción de la cocina y algunas de las casas en el lado TCA. Necesitaremos un lugar para vivir cuando Scottino regrese si vamos permanecer en esta tierra. Nos gustaría que fuera una comunidad e invitamos a cualquiera que esté buscando un lugar diferente con una forma de vida natural y que tiene el compromiso de llevar a cabo los proyectos hasta su finalización.

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(La cocina de La Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris en 2019)

La reputación de la TCA e incluso del Arco-Iris ha sufrido en Costa Rica. Desafortunadamente, Arco-Iris se ha convertido en ser sinónimo con vagabundos perezosos, o algo así. Naturalmente, los del Arco Iris parecen ser despreocupados y con sus estilos extravagantemente despeinados, causan fricción con el contraste del Tico de ser impecablemente limpios y con su orgullo de ser ordenados. Aunque no todos los Ticos son iguales y nos llevamos bien con muchos de ellos. Parece sin embargo que varias personas optan por fijarse en los aspectos negativos de la cultura del Arco Iris mientras miran a través de los positivos. Muchas cosas maravillosas suceden aquí y en los Encuentros Arco-Iris, por lo que la situación de la reputación es triste. Aparte de la ayuda física, necesitamos recrear nuestra reputación. Yo solo he dado tanto de mí aquí como lo he hecho porque el Arco-Iris me ha dado tanto, y porque esta tierra tiene mucho de su propia magia y sustento. Encuentros Arco-Iris y esta tierra tienen su propio encanto, pero juntos no parecen funcionar. Al menos no en un sentido permanente. Aunque se han producido destellos de fusión donde los dos han fluido juntos maravillosamente. En mi experiencia Arco-Iris funciona mejor temporalmente. Como una flor que sólo florece estacionalmente.

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(Un momento “rainbow” en la cocina de La Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris en 2017)

Como pionero, he aprendido que tal vez el rasgo más importante para la supervivencia es la persistencia. Cuando tratamos de hacer algo que es radicalmente diferente y progresivo que la norma, muchas fuerzas parecen desafiar a la dedicación y destino del proyecto. La persistencia es la única posibilidad de sobrevivir a estos desafíos. Solo tengo que deja de cortar el pasto africano por un par de meses y la madre naturaleza afirmará su dominio una vez más, recordándome la importancia de la persistencia. A fines del año pasado, pasé tres meses en los Estados Unidos ayudando a mi padre que se está preparando para retirarse. Cuando regresé aquí, el zacate casi había comido la TCA en su totalidad. Mi compañero Rafael hizo un buen trabajo manteniendo el monte alrededor de la Casa Larga, la calle de entrada y los caminos en Finca Sylvatica. Sin embargo, todo la TCA y muchas secciones de Finca Sylvatica se habían dejado a la defensa de sí mismos. Esta tierra es tan grande que es extremadamente difícil para un joven como yo mantenerla en mi propia, así que puedo entender cómo debe ser para un “zorro plateado” como Rafael. En Finca Sylvatica Scottino ha tenido muchos años más de influencia y la reforestación es mucho más avanzada, lo que hace que el manejo del monte sea más fácil. En el lado de la TCA hemos tenido menos impacto hasta ahora, y el pasto todavía reina por encima de mucho. Recojo el machete una vez más cada vez porque si mi legado aquí culmina al menos para asegurar la supervivencia de algunos arbustos y árboles, habré hecho algo productivo a largo plazo. No estare aqui para hacer esto para siempre, por lo qual esta llamada es importante si una comunidad va existir en esta tierra. Actualmente hay dos miembros permanentes aquí; yo y Rafael.

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(Un sendero comido por el pasto en La Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris 2019)

 

Rafael estaba en una búsqueda espiritual cuando llegó a la TCA hace más de un año. No encontró lo que buscaba en sentido de una comunidad espiritual, pero ciertamente encontró un lugar donde podría trabajar en su crecimiento interno y su conexión con la madre naturaleza, ambas vigorizan el espíritu. Como yo, se ha enamorado de esta tierra y ha perseverado aquí a pesar de los muchos desafíos que enfrentamos viviendo en un ambiente tan natural y salvaje. Nosotros quisiera ayudar a reconstruir una comunidad y las estructuras mediante las cuales una puede sobrevivir y prosperar. Todo el potencial para el éxito está a la mano. Ya he documentado las muchas especies que tenemos cultivando y cosechando aquí en otras publicaciones del blog en el pasado. Las plantas en las que me gustaría centrarme en este post sin embargo son las “especies pioneras”.

Nunca es necesario sembrar una planta pionera en un entorno natural, simplemente aparecen. Se propagan sus semillas a través del largo alcance, el viento, las aves, los animales o los insectos. A menudo, parecen materializarse de la nada. Lo más probable es que vinieran volando con la brisa o fueron abandonados del tracto digestivo de un ser vivo que paso por allá, con fertilizante ya preparado. Las especies pioneras son aquellas con una gran capacidad para interactuar bien con su entorno. Para una rápida y abundante propagación. Son las especies que aparecerán temprano y se prosperan en frente de la competencia. Siempre que haya suelo perturbado o en nuestros lechos de jardín fértiles y labrados ellos llegan. Muchas de estas especies son importantes nativos que además de ayudarnos a controlar los pastos, al crear un dosel de sombra rápida, también alimentan y proporcionan refugio a muchos animales e insectos nativos. Muchos de estos animales e insectos son los polinizadores que

polinizan las plantas de las que dependemos también. Varias especies pioneras también tienen funciones para uso humano; tales como el Árbol de Saragundi (Senna Reticulata) que tiene potentes propiedades antifúngicas y antibacterianas. Una razon por la qual las especies pioneras son tan buenas en la supervivencia y la propagación es porque devuelven abundantemente a sus ecosistemas. Las especies pioneras también son finas en soportar las tormentas y los períodos de sequía. Si hay alguna especie que nosotros necesitan emular en este momento definitivamente son las “pioneras”.

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{Árbol de Saragundi (Senna Reticulata)}

Scottino, Rafael, yo, los constructores de la TCA, los jardineros, obreros, artistas y todos los que han dejado un poco de ellos aquí han sido un poco como especies pioneras; Hemos fluido y hemos dejado nuestra marca en este paisaje. Hemos sembrado semillas en el suelo, hemos ayudado a dar forma a la tierra, hemos creado toldos, agregamos color al ambiente, hemos sobrevivido a través de desafíos y hemos vivido al menos partes de nuestras vidas aquí.  Solo un resurgimiento de este tipo de energía puede levantar la TCA otra vez y para mantenerlo aún más! Eso es lo que mejor hacen las especies pioneras: la persistencia. El pasto es un pionero extranjero que amenaza constantemente nuestros intentos de reforestación debido a su magnificencia en la persistencia. Supongo que de una manera abstracta, el pasto es algo así como los ladrones y vagos. La hierba aparece constantemente para succionar los nutrientes y las riquezas del suelo, mientras lo endurecen, igual que los ladrones y vagos que emergen para extraer nuestros nutrientes y riquezas pero en el reino humano, y como resultado contribuyen a endurecer nuestras almas haciendo que no queramos compartir tanto. Supongo que las plantas exóticas y sensibles serían similares a todos los extranjeros y viajeros que alojamos aquí. Si no ablandamos y fertilizamos el suelo muchas especies de plantas no sobreviven o prosperan aquí. Igual que si no hacemos buenos espacios de vida y lugares acogedores para pasar el rato muchas personas no se quedarian aquí. Me encanta comer frutas exóticas y me encanta compartir el tiempo con interesantes viajeros que pasan. Esas no serán las entidades que garantizarán que esta tierra prospere, aunque son las entidades las que hacen este lugar más interesante y diverso. Una vez más, lo que necesitamos ahora, sin embargo son pioneros con la capacidad de encarar a los retos y que podrían sobrevivir solos. Aunque nuestros sueños son de reforestación y comunidad; esperamos que nadie tendría que vivir aquí solo. Por eso necesitamos eliminar el pasto, una especie que no permite que ninguna otra especie prospere, y es por eso que estamos haciendo este llamado para pioneros con ganas de cultivar tierras fertiles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bukid Sylvatica

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

“Bukid” is “Farm” in Filipino. Sylvatica and the love for forests have come to The Philippines and taken me with it. The Philippines shares so many similarities and parallels with Costa Rica and Jamaica, but it also has so much that is unique about it. The climate is basically the same as Costa Rica and Jamaica. Many of the same agroforestry staples grow in all three of these countries, such as bananas, plantains, pineapples, okra, sweet potato, pumpkin, avocado, mammey sapote, coconut, guava, cashew, jackfruit, mango, cocoa, star apple, noni, madre de cacao, and water apple. It has been so interesting and such a blessing to have the opportunity to spend most of my recent life in these three countries. With so many similarities in climatic and vegetative qualities, I have become increasingly perceptive to cultural and ethnic qualities that make each of these places so unique.

Costa Rica, which is the origin of Finca Sylvatica, is a place that thousands of permaculturists call home. It has the ecological awareness and regulations in place to keep the environment relatively protected, resilient, and adaptive to climate change. For decades it has been extensively exposed to the tourism industry, and in particular, the ecotourism industry. As a result, much of the population in Costa Rica has become very international.

In Jamaica, the population is almost completely composed of descended West African slaves. Much of them are now subsistence farmers that rely on a limited selection of exotic agricultural products that have been naturalized and distributed domestically (Swabey, 1939, 1942, McDonald et al, 2003; Headley and Thompson, 1986). There is only one active permaculture center on the island that I know of, called The Source Farm, which holds only one or two Permaculture Design Courses per year. Thanks to many of you, I officially won the 2019 Peace Corps Jamaica Cover Photo Contest, which means that it will be featured as Peace Corps Jamaica’s official Facebook cover photo.

photocontest

The Philippines has by far the lowest gross national income of the three (General Assembly Resolution, 2016), yet in my experience has by far the richest and most generous and friendly culture of them all. I must admit that I am biased since I am half-Filipino. Like Jamaica, Permaculture is not well known yet, but the principals are already in practice. The Philippines is also located very close to Australia, where there is an abundance of permaculture courses.

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Currently, all three of these places feel like home to me. Even though they are all so far apart, they all share the qualities that happen to be most important for my Peace Corps Masters International research at The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at The University of Washington (UW). The qualitative half of my research methods, titled “Farmer Perspectives in Jamaica,” have now been approved by the UW’s Human Subjects Division, which means that I can now officially begin conducting at least 36 ethnographic interviews with local Jamaican farmers. In a nutshell, my methods are based in naturalism, immersion, understanding, and discovery. It is a semi-structured, long-term, narrative, literary, non-fiction oral history that relies heavily on participant observation. So far, I have completed 8, all of whom have been very receptive and allowing of audio recording. I can already see that these interactions will be very valuable to my overall research, which is likely to revolve around a technique that I learned about in permaculture, called “chop and drop.” The definition of this technique that I give to Jamaican farmers is: “a sustainable farming and forest management practice in which the branches and leaves of plants are cut and left to decompose directly on the ground.” Usually the definition requires follow-up to describe how contrary it is to “slash and burn,” but in my mind, it goes much further beyond, in that it is a form of pruning that maximizes and improves the economic, social, and environmental impact of ecosystem management. If any of my readers have discovered this technique in the scientific literature, please let me know. The closest thing that I have found to it is the term “coppicing,” which doesn’t seem to capture the element of time to me as well as I would like it to. Regardless, my overall research will look at coppicing over the long term, specifically at my Peace Corps site here in St. Mary, Jamaica. The quantitative side of my research is just getting off the ground as well. So far, it just involves taking measurements of various trees before and after pruning to monitor regrowth. Perhaps down the road, it could expand to observe all the products and services that come from the process.

For many of you, the last paragraph that you read could have been the most boring one you have ever read in your entire life. The lack of audience interest is more common than I anticipated for thesis writing. To congratulate everyone who made it this far, I will let you in on one of the most amazing and mind-blowing secrets I have ever discovered in the agroforestry world, and that is the makapuno. Check out this mini-documentary I made while in The Philippines last month:

The food in The Philippines is so diverse, so delicious, so affordable, and so creative. Check out all of the produce I found in the seafood markets in the two pics below. There were three different kinds of seaweed, a dozen or so different kinds of shellfish, and several dozen different kinds of sundried fish.

shellfishmarket

fishmarket

The permaculture principle “creatively adapt and respond to change” was well utilized by Bridget and me when we realized that the pests damaging these rice paddies we were standing in were even more delicious than the rice itself at the Cabiokid Permaculture Center in The Philippines.

snailhunting

Monkeys in The Philippines are also considered pests. There were about 10-20 of them gathered around a filthy smartphone on the side of the road while we were bird watching. We considered taking the phone for several minutes until abandoning the idea. It was not worth having them attack us, bite us, steal our food, phones, poop in our car, give us rabies, or any of the myriad reasons that people avoid them. I couldn’t help but consider how Bill Mollison said, “the problem is the solution,” and that “you don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency.” In our case, we didn’t have a monkey problem, we had a Philippine Eagle (also known as ‘monkey-eating eagle’) deficiency.

monkeys

This is a bamboo bicycle frame that was made at the Cabiokid Permaculture Foundation in Nueva Ecija, The Philippines.

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At Cabiokid, they soak their fresh cut bamboo in their rice paddies to prevent decay.

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You don’t have a snail problem, you have food abundance.

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This is one of the most efficient and low maintenance vertical gardens that I have seen. It utilizes a small strip of sunlight and roof rainwater to provide resources for a wide variety and abundance of plants. I really admire Ate Inday’s ingenuity in utilizing this niche to create something that is both beautiful as well as productive.

wallgarden

Here is another idea that I discovered here in The Philippines. Repurpose 2-liter plastic bottles for drip irrigation devices. Just cut off the bottom of the bottle and attach it to a bamboo stake. Loosen the cap so that the water comes out in a slow trickle to irrigate plants. It works especially well for recently planted trees, such as the cocoa tree below.

waterbottlecollection

 

waterbottleirrigating

The large vehicle below is one of the many different models of “Jeepneys” that are so commonly found in The Philippines. This one is probably used for transporting agricultural goods. Just like so many things in The Philippines, it is so customized and adapted to the local climate that you will never find another one like it. And just like all my trips to The Philippines, it is so unique and fascinating that I know it will keep drawing me back.

bigjeepney

 

 

 

“Bukid” es “Granja” en filipino. Sylvatica y el amor por los bosques han llegado a Filipinas y me han llevado consigo. Filipinas comparte muchas similitudes y paralelos con Costa Rica y Jamaica, pero también tiene muchas cosas únicas. El clima es basicamente igual a Costa Rica y Jamaica. Muchos de los mismos productos básicos agroforestales crecen en estos tres países, tales como bananos, plátanos, piñas, quingombas, camotes, calabazas, paltas, zapote, coco, guayaba, anacardo, papa dulce, mango, cacao, manzana estrella, noni. , madre de cacao, y agua de manzana. Ha sido muy interesante y una bendición tener la oportunidad de pasar la mayor parte de mi vida reciente en estos tres países. Con tantas similitudes en las cualidades climáticas y vegetativas, me he vuelto cada vez más sensible a las cualidades culturales y étnicas que hacen que cada uno de estos lugares sea tan único.

Costa Rica, que es el origen de Finca Sylvatica, es un lugar que miles de permacultores llaman hogar. Tiene la conciencia ecológica y las normas vigentes para mantener el medio ambiente relativamente protegido, resistente y adaptable al cambio climático. Durante décadas ha estado ampliamente expuesto a la industria del turismo y, en particular, a la industria del ecoturismo. Como resultado, gran parte de la población en Costa Rica se ha vuelto muy internacional.

En Jamaica, la población está compuesta casi por completo de esclavos descendientes de África occidental. Muchos de ellos son ahora agricultores de subsistencia que dependen de una selección limitada de productos agrícolas exóticos que se han naturalizado y distribuido en el país (Swabey, 1939, 1942, McDonald et al, 2003; Headley y Thompson, 1986). Sólo conozco un centro de permacultura activo en la isla, llamado The Source Farm, que tiene solo uno o dos cursos de diseño de permacultura por año. Gracias a muchos de ustedes, gané oficialmente el Concurso de fotos de portada de Peace Corps Jamaica 2019, lo que significa que se presentará como la foto de portada oficial de Facebook de Peace Corps Jamaica.

photocontest

Filipinas tiene, con mucho, el ingreso nacional bruto más bajo de los tres (Resolución de la Asamblea General, 2016), pero según mi experiencia tiene, con mucho, la cultura más rica, generosa y amistosa de todas. Debo admitir que soy parcial, ya que soy medio filipino. Al igual que Jamaica, la permacultura aún no es conocida, pero los principios ya están en práctica. Filipinas también se encuentra muy cerca de Australia, donde hay una gran cantidad de cursos de permacultura.

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Actualmente, estos tres lugares se sienten como en casa para mí. A pesar de que todos están muy alejados, todos comparten las cualidades que resultan ser más importantes para mi investigación de Maestros del Cuerpo de Paz Internacional en la Escuela de Ciencias Ambientales y Forestales de la Universidad de Washington (UW). La mitad cualitativa de mis métodos de investigación, titulada “Perspectivas de los agricultores en Jamaica”, ahora ha sido aprobada por la División de Sujetos Humanos de la UW, lo que significa que ahora puedo comenzar oficialmente a realizar al menos 36 entrevistas etnográficas con agricultores locales de Jamaica. En pocas palabras, mis métodos se basan en el naturalismo, la inmersión, la comprensión y el descubrimiento. Es una historia oral semiestructurada, narrativa, literaria, de no ficción a largo plazo que se basa en gran medida en la observación participante. Hasta ahora, he completado 8, todos los cuales han sido muy receptivos y han permitido la grabación de audio. Ya puedo ver que estas interacciones serán muy valiosas para mi investigación general, que probablemente girará en torno a una técnica que aprendí sobre permacultura, llamada “picar y soltar”. La definición de esta técnica que doy a los agricultores de Jamaica es : “Una práctica agrícola sostenible y de manejo forestal en la que se cortan las ramas y las hojas de las plantas y se las deja descomponer directamente en el suelo”. Por lo general, la definición requiere un seguimiento para describir lo contrario que es “cortar y quemar”, pero en mi opinión, va mucho más allá, ya que es una forma de poda que maximiza y mejorar el impacto económico, social y ambiental de la gestión de los ecosistemas. Si alguno de mis lectores ha descubierto esta técnica en la literatura científica, hágamelo saber. Lo más cercano que he encontrado es el término “coppicing”, que no parece captar el elemento del tiempo para mí tan bien como me gustaría. En cualquier caso, mi investigación general se centrará en el reparo a largo plazo, específicamente en el sitio de mi Cuerpo de Paz aquí en St. Mary, Jamaica. El lado cuantitativo de mi investigación es simplemente despegar también. Hasta ahora, solo implica realizar mediciones de varios árboles antes y después de la poda para monitorear el rebrote. Quizás a lo largo del camino podría expandirse para observar todos los productos y servicios que provienen del proceso.

Para muchos de ustedes, el último párrafo que leyó podría haber sido el más aburrido que haya leído en toda su vida. La falta de interés de la audiencia es más común de lo que anticipé para la redacción de tesis. Para felicitar a todos los que llegaron hasta aquí, les contaré uno de los secretos más sorprendentes y alucinantes que he descubierto en el mundo agroforestal, y ese es el makapuno. Echa un vistazo a este mini documental que hice mientras estuve en Filipinas el mes pasado:

La comida en Filipinas es muy variada, deliciosa, asequible y creativa. Echa un vistazo a todos los productos que encontré en los mercados de mariscos en las dos fotos a continuación. Había tres tipos diferentes de algas, una docena de diferentes tipos de mariscos, y varias docenas de diferentes tipos de peces secados al sol.

shellfishmarket

fishmarket

El principio de permacultura «adaptarnos y responder al cambio de manera creativa» fue bien utilizado por Bridget y yo cuando nos dimos cuenta de que las plagas que dañaban estos arrozales eran aún más deliciosas que el propio arroz cuando estuvemos en El Centro de Permacultura de Cabiokid en Las Filipinas.

snailhunting

Los monos en las Filipinas también se consideran plagas. Había alrededor de 10 a 20 de ellos reunidos alrededor de un teléfono inteligente y sucio al costado de la carretera mientras estábamos observando aves. Consideramos tomar el teléfono por varios minutos hasta abandonar la idea. No valía la pena que nos atacaran, mordieran, robaran nuestra comida, teléfonos, caca en nuestro coche, nos dieran rabia o cualquiera de las miles de razones por las que las personas los evitan. No pude evitar considerar cómo dijo Bill Mollison, “el problema es la solución” y que “no tienes un problema de babosas, tienes una deficiencia de pato”. En nuestro caso, no teníamos un mono problema, tuvimos una deficiencia de águila filipina (también conocida como ‘águila comedora de monos’).

monkeys

Este es un cuadro de bicicleta de bambú que se hizo en la Fundación de Permacultura de Cabiokid en Nueva Écija, Filipinas.

bamboobike

En Cabiokid, empapan su bambú recién cortado en sus arrozales para evitar la descomposición.

bamboocuring

No tienes un problema con los caracoles, tienes abundancia de comida.

snailcleaning

Este es uno de los jardines verticales más eficientes y de bajo mantenimiento que he visto. Utiliza una pequeña franja de luz solar y agua de lluvia del techo para proporcionar recursos para una amplia variedad y abundancia de plantas. Realmente admiro el ingenio de Ate Inday al utilizar este nicho para crear algo que sea a la vez bello y productivo.

wallgarden

Aquí hay otra idea que descubrí aquí en Filipinas. Reutilizar botellas de plástico de 2 litros para dispositivos de riego por goteo. Simplemente corte la parte inferior de la botella y fíjela a una estaca de bambú. Afloje la tapa para que el agua salga lentamente para regar las plantas. Funciona especialmente bien para árboles plantados recientemente, como el árbol de cacao debajo.

waterbottlecollection

waterbottleirrigating

El gran vehículo de abajo es uno de los muchos modelos diferentes de “Jeepneys” que se encuentran tan comúnmente en Filipinas. Este es probablemente utilizado para el transporte de productos agrícolas. Al igual que muchas otras cosas en Filipinas, está tan personalizado y adaptado al clima local que nunca encontrarás otro igual. Y al igual que todos mis viajes a Filipinas, es tan único y fascinante que sé que me seguirá atrayendo.

bigjeepney

 

 

References

 

Headley, M.V., Thompson, D.A., 1986. Forest Management in Jamaica. In: Thompson, D.A., Bretting, P.K., Humphries, M. (Eds.), Forests of Jamaica. The Jamaica Society of Scientists and Technologists, Kingston, Jamaica, pp. 91-96. 1986.

M.A. McDonald, A. Hofney -Collins, J.R. Healey, T.C.R. Goodland. Evaluation of trees indigenous to the montane forest of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica for reforestation and agroforestry. Forest Ecology and Management. Elsevier. 175 (2003) p. 379-401.

Swabey, C., Forestry in Jamaica. Source: Empire Forestry Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (July 1939), pp. 19-29 Published by: Commonwealth Forestry Association. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/42595019

Swabey, C., 1942. Forest Planting in Jamaica during 1940. Caribbean For. 3, 184.

 

Mi Kyan Manaj

Disclaimer: “The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.”

By: Scott Elliott

I’m now approximately 1/3 of the way through this Peace Corps service, 1/3 of the way through my expected lifespan, have performed yoga for almost a 1/3 of my life, and I have now had dreadlocks for a little over 1/3 of my life. There is no turning back on Peace Corps at this point. Life can be tough here, but as we say in Jamaica, “mi kyan manaj” (I can manage). My adaptation strategy basically involves taking it easy, going with the flow, taking everything one step at a time, embracing the moment, settling into my niche, not rushing into anything, and really just enjoying my free time. Like so many of the things that I find myself doing here, this blog has nothing very urgent in it. Rather, it is a compilation of three memorable stories that should help my readers understand what makes life hard here and how I have figured out “ways to manage” here in Jamaica as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).

Story one: “Dem did mash op mi faam.” (They bulldozed my garden)

Before - 1

Before (August)

During - 8

During (September)

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After (October)

What once was my biggest project at my site has recently been bulldozed over. It started back in May 2018, just after I was first sworn in as an official PCV. Nearly all of the 15 or so regular attendees to our Scotts Hall Past Students Association (SHPSA) agreed that we needed a demonstration garden planted in a weedy area on the left side of the pic above captioned “Before (August).” They wanted an edible garden that could hold the soil on the steep hill and prevent any more landslides from occurring in the future. It was my first assignment, so I regarded it as my big chance to make a good impression on my community. In about a couple of months, I thought I had several types of useful plants well established. Dozens of huge pumpkin plants were flowering and just starting to bear fruits. About 100 moringa and castor oil plants had gotten about waist height. I planted another 100 vetiver grass plants along the road for their great erosion control properties. When the “Before (August)” pic was taken, about half of those vetiver grass plants were turning vibrant green and looked to be holding the soil well. At that point, it was apparent to me that the land slippage issue was solved. However, the Jamaican Transportation Authority somehow decided that the whole hillside needed a concrete retaining wall, a project that would cost many millions of Jamaican dollars. I did not agree with the plan, primarily due to their extremely poor timing. Summer break was just ending at Scotts Hall Primary School. Students and staff were about to start using the road again. Peak rainy hurricane season was just about to start. Bulldozers plus wet dirt equals lots of mud all over the road. Worst of all for me is that it would mean that the hundreds of hours I had spent terracing and planting that garden would get bulldozed before I could even harvest my first pumpkin. To make matters worse, the day after it was bulldozed, there was a hurricane off the coast that caused a huge landslide and mud to cover the whole road. Cars could not pass for a while. Some school time had to be canceled. The workers spent about a week just trying to clean up the road. I would estimate that this million-dollar project would have been half the price if they just did it in the dry season, a few months earlier. Rather than complain or participate in such malpractice, I found my niche in utilizing all of the soil that had so conveniently been tilled by the bulldozer to create several new gardens. I sowed them with string beans, okra, kallaloo, and velvet apple seeds. The new gardens will be even better than the previous.

Story two: The waste of abundance.

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Velvet Apples I Collected

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Fresh ackee I picked from a few trees by my house in an hour (probably about 25 cans worth)

IMG_20181001_115509

Inferior ackee that I did not buy in a grocery store for $590-675 JMD/can ($5-6 US each)

The pictures above are of two fruits that are in season currently in St. Mary, Jamaica. Neither is native, but they both thrive here as enormous and non-invasive trees. It is a good thing that I love climbing trees and picking fruit. The two fruits are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum of Jamaican awareness. Velvet apples are native to The Philippines and are virtually unknown here, whereas ackee is a part of the national dish of Jamaica. When I found the velvet apple trees, I didn’t even have to climb them. The velvet apples were all over the ground and dropping from the canopy above as I was picking them up. I collected a bag full of them and brought them to a room full of Jamaicans at the Castleton Botanical Gardens Cafe. Not a single person there had ever tried them or heard of them. Ackee, on the other hand, is a fruit that I rarely find in abundance all over the ground. They really need to be picked and collected right away because the ackee here does not fall off the tree on its own when it ripens. Unlike me, most people in my community are far too afraid to climb the towering tall trees to pick ackee along the roadside. Millions of pounds of ackee must go to waste in this way every year in Jamaica. I believe that ackee could become a booming export for Jamaica, if not another tropical country that wants to take advantage of such amazing fruit. I have only heard bad reviews of all the commercial ackee products and I think it is because they are just not preserving it correctly. My host mother and supervisor tell me it should be frozen like blueberries, not canned. Today I made ackee ice cream and it was amazing. If only I could figure out a way to make it a commercial product, I could make Jamaica rich! Here is my recipe in case any of my readers want to start up this kind of business venture. Let me know if you need any help or someone to pick your ackee tree. I just boiled some water in a pot, threw the ackee in the boiling water for a few minutes until it turns bright yellow, drained off the broth to be used for soup, froze the ackee, then blended the frozen ackee with ice, coconut milk, coconut kefir, and a little bit of honey, bitters, and apple cider vinegar. Wow, that was probably the best ice cream that I’ve ever had. Somehow it feels even more special to know that it is quite likely that no one else has ever tried such a yummy combo. Until I can make it a commercial product, I suppose I’ll just keep enjoying my recipe and sharing it with others.

Story three: Farmers, Yogis, Wrestlers, and Boxers Unite?

Think about how many people you know who can claim to be a farmer, yogi, wrestler, and a boxer? I don’t know a single person that participates in all of these physical activities on a regular basis, and I am by no means an exception. I would consider myself a farmer and yogi, but not a wrestler or boxer. When I purchased Finca Sylvatica back in 2005, I instantly became a farmer. As some of you may already know, I broke my first decade of never missing a day of yoga this summer. In the early 2000s, I used to practice a lot of breakdancing. In 2005, I attempted a head spin in the grass, which caused the worst injury of my life. My neck tweaked out and I haven’t been able to break dance ever since. Sometime back in 2006, I started doing yoga. It helped my neck and spinal column get back into place. By the summer of 2008, I was practicing yoga every day without exceptions. I remember a few occasions in which it was particularly difficult to practice yoga. One of them was while I was on a small sailboat deep in the tumbling waves of the Caribbean for three days straight. Another was on a foot of snow during my bicycle trek through a winter blizzard in New Mexico. I have done it more consistently than sleep on a daily basis for the past ten years.

On the other hand, all of the wrestlers and boxers in the community that I am living in do not practice farming nor yoga. So why would anyone who gets more than enough physical exercise through farming and yoga have any desire to start wrestling and boxing (or vice versa)? Well, I don’t, but the Project Partner that Peace Corps assigned to me happens to be a professional wrestler and boxer. He owns a gym down the street from my house and has asked me to teach yoga classes there. However, the best place to do yoga is in the wrestling/boxing ring. There are no yoga mats at the gym and I don’t want my yoga practice to morph into wrestling, boxing, or anything else that would likely cause myself any physical injury. When I learned that my Project Partner get his front teeth knocked out last month during a fight, I decided that I would rather remain a spectator in such activities. Fortunately, Peace Corps recently approved my Program and Design Management application to attend a training where I may receive funding for yoga mats and a yoga class. I’d rather people around me take care of one another than kill each other for entertainment.

Click here to watch my Peace Corps Project Partner come up on stage and perform a suplex about 100 meters from my house.

Story four: What Happened to the Water?

Here in Jamaica, we are now at the peak of the rainy season, yet nothing was coming out of any of my house’s water spigots for nearly a week.  Running water came back on as a trickle for a few hours after being cut out for five days straight. It is a good thing that I have been collecting water storage containers that I find thrown out on the side of the road. People litter so many things here. In the past few months at site, I have managed to find and clean two 5-gallon buckets and three-gallon jugs, along with some other nice treasures such as a pocket knife, knife sharpener, and a lot of seedling trays. For five days, I heard my host family, neighbors, and school staff complaining about the lack of water until Yesterday. That morning, my host brother and I drove up the hill past Scotts Hall Primary School, which also has had no water for the past week. My host brother is, by the way, not an employee with any water company or the government. He is Jamaican in his 20’s that drives a white-plate (unofficial) taxi around town. We got out by a Jamaican Water Commission (JWC) facility and sign and followed the community water line up a steep hill. Apparently, the JWC workers stopped managing the water source a while back because nobody would pay them to do it. It was a good thing that we each had our machetes with us because the path to the spring was overgrown with weeds. We chopped our way down the old path and eventually reached the community water catchment tank. We looked inside this ~10 cubic meter concrete box and discovered it to be completely empty. We then followed the 3-in metal source pipe up a bit higher to the spring. There were three rotten breadfruits floating in the uncovered pool. The metal pipe coming out of the spring had a foot-long hollowed out piece of bamboo jammed in it, which was used to connect it to the rest of the metal piping. Water was spraying out where the bamboo connected with the pipe. We propped the catchment pipe up with a taller piece of bamboo so that the source pipe lined up on the ground nearby each other. A lot of water still leaked out of our jerry-rigged contraption, but we just hoped it made enough of a difference to get water to our house. Sure enough, about 10 hours later, a few droplets started coming out at my kitchen sink. It seems to take about an hour for those droplets to fill one of my gallon jugs. All I had to do then was to make sure to come back to the sink every hour or so to change out the jug so it wouldn’t overflow. The whole experience reminded me of all the times I spent fixing the spring water at Finca Sylvatica. This time, rather than fixing it for myself and whoever was living at Finca Sylvatica, I was fixing it for a large community, two schools, several shops, and a church that all seem to lack the initiative to do it themselves. And rather than the water cutting out for just a few hours, this water had cut out for five days. Living here in Jamaica makes me feel that I have taken water security for granted, especially at Finca Sylvatica, where there is some of the highest quality year-round perpetual spring water with nothing to pollute the watershed except the indigenous jungle.

I am really starting to miss Costa Rica. Thank you so much to Rio and Rafa for caring for the farm against invaders while I’m away. Thanks for maintaining and utilizing the abundance of Finca Sylvatica. Thank you for keeping the vibes mellow and peaceful. And lastly but not least, thank you for being guardians to the greatest water source I have ever had the privilege to drink from.

A Solid Structure | Una Estructura Sólida

By | Por: Rio Tattersall

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

When I think back on my two years living at the Rainbow Crystal Land it often makes me think of the story “The Three Little Pigs.” Most of the RCL structures are reminiscent of the lazy piglet’s house of straw. A strong storm comes through and poof! The plastic sheets tear at the corners or the strings that hold the plastic in place snap. It’s a guarantee that I’ll have to fix two or three of the roofs on the RCL after each heavy storm. If we were facing wind blowing wolves instead of storms we would have already been eaten; luckily for us at the at the RCL we were only getting wet. The structures at the RCL are very natural looking and make one feel immersed with nature. Honestly, there are still facets of those constructions that I admire such as the live caña india posts and the light which comes in through the transparent plastic sheets. In a practical sense, however, the plastic roofs are a nightmare that requires constant maintenance. The cob house roof is an exception and a good example of how even a plastic roof can be made to last longer. The difference is that the brothers who built it put much more time and attention to make it solid. Even so, after three years standing the wood and bamboo that holds the cob house roof together, which has been the most solid roof at the RCL, is rotting. The cob house is kind of like the second piglet’s house of sticks— it stood up to some damage but in the end, it wasn’t made to last several years. Living in a place where the roof could potentially fly away or leak was part of what made my life seem unstable to the mother of my son, who has had good reasons not to believe in the RCL vision for some time. Since helping to build a new house at Finca Sylvatica with Scott, and then moving in to take care of it, I have not been able to maintain all the structures at the RCL — of which a few are falling apart. It certainly makes me happy to live in a solid structure now where I don’t have to pray that the roof will hold. The Longhouse is certainly homogeneous with the third piglet’s house of brick.

1

House of Sticks

In September of last year, Scott came from the United States with the intention of building a new house on site. A house that would stand up to the tropical storms of southern Costa Rica. He had seven months to do it and so we got ourselves busy right away. The first action was digging and flattening a space large enough for the house. Simultaneously we built a road to haul in materials. For roughly two months all we did was dig, transplant/remove trees, and move earth. When we finally had a site we could work on the construction began. Around then is when Scott contracted a carpenter neighbor of ours, Mercedes, and his son Alexi to guide us in the process. The frame of the house is all wood and most of the pillars are oak and corteza trees from Finca Sylvatica. Progress on the house was slowed because we started in the midst of a heavy rainy season. Nevertheless, we managed to finish the majority of the construction in the week that Scott had to leave to enlist in his Peace Corps service23

The stability of a proper house has been a testament to our commitment and hard work. Around the end of last year, the mother of my son, Carla, surprisingly reached out to me. At Finca Sylvatica we’d been quite a ways along with the house and the prospect of such a project was instrumental in generating trust and harmony between us. We hadn’t spoken in nearly six months and Carla hadn’t visited the land since around the time when we’d met nearly two years prior. The house had the power to change all of that. During the inauguration party for “The Longhouse” Carla arrived with my son Luca. They both spent the night here in what was for me a turning point in our relationship.

4

The Longhouse represents a solid base from where we can effectively face the wet jungle in our day to day mission of caretaking this huge and beautiful land — with a dry place to come home to in the evening. I see this house as a sort of payment for the two years I spent at the RCL and the seven months helping to build it. I didn’t do it for the house but now I find myself living and caretaking this awesome home in paradise. The cost of spending so much time helping to build the house, and then moving into it, has resulted in my inevitable negligence of the RCL. I’ve limited my attention to the RCL to solely work with the plants and a tiny bit of work on the social structure of the ghost community. The community, if we could call it that, is essentially nonexistent at the moment, as it has been for most of my two and half years here. The only RCL core group members currently live in Finca Sylvatica, and most of the structures on the RCL side are falling apart.

5

House of “Bricks”

In a sense, all the “piggies” are now living in the solid house where we’re safe from the water and winds. There is hope and those of us who are here envision a rebirth at the RCL. Nope, I am no longer the sole land steward on site anymore, and I haven’t been alone here for nearly a year! If you’ve read my blog posts from the previous year you’d know that my prayers have been answered. A couple of months after Scott arrived a former school teacher from San Jose came to the RCL looking to find a community where he could come to further his spiritual journey. His name is Rafael (Rafa) and he’s been here ever since. The two of us are responsible for caretaking the Longhouse and Finca Sylvatica together as well as the only ones around to figure out the immediate fate of the RCL. Scott was very clear with us about his intention to return to Finca Sylvatica with his fiancée Bridget in two years, and they intend to live in the Longhouse. It is in Rafa and my best interest to rebuild and revive the RCL in this time.

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When Rafa first came to live here he romanticized the Rainbow culture just as I had when I was new to it. In time he’s seen for himself the glaring issues we face with too much openness. Reality is that “Rainbow” as it exists in the setting of a Rainbow Gathering cannot exist permanently in one place. For the sake of any semblance of sustainability, or as Scott would like us to aim for —regenerative resilience, we need more social structure at the RCL. Being completely free to do what one will is great and we wish that those who come here will freely choose to rebuild our community and move forward with the permaculture just for the love of doing so. Unfortunately, people who come here of that nature are a minority. We are clear though that those are the sorts of people whom we wish to attract and who we need here in this critical time. The hardworking and determined piglet is the one who saves his brothers from doom. Our community’s survival is at stake and if we don’t take action soon all that will be left of the RCL is ruins. We have a lot to do and so to ensure that we don’t waste time on problems of the past we’ve edited some of our consensuses to create a stricter vetting process for new RCL members. Our hope is to filter out those who aren’t ready to be fully immersed in a permaculture/community building atmosphere so that those who are can move forward with fewer distractions. Our goal is to create a thriving community and that within the framework of a solid social structure we can pursue the dream of living autonomously free.
Cuando pienso en mis dos años viviendo en la Tierra Crystal Arco-Iris me recuerda la
historia, “Los Tres Cerditos”. La mayoría de las estructuras RCL me parecen la casa de
paja del cochinillo perezoso. Una fuerte tormenta viene y poof! Las lonas de plástico se
rasgan en las esquinas o las cuerdas que sostienen el plástico en su lugar se rompen.
Es una garantia que tendré que reparar dos o tres de los techos en la TCA después de
cada pesado tormenta. Si nos enfrentáramos a lobos que soplan viento en vez de
tormentas, ya tendríamos sido comido; Afortunadamente para nosotros en el TCA, solo
nos mojábamos. Las estructuras en TCA tienen un aspecto muy natural y hacen que
uno se sienta inmerso en la naturaleza. Honestamente hay todavía facetas de esas
construcciones que admiro, como los puestos de Caña India en vivo y la luz que entra a
través de las láminas de plástico transparente. En un sentido práctico, sin embargo, los
techos de plástico son una pesadilla que requiere mantenimiento constante. El techo de
la casa de baro es una excepción y un buen ejemplo de cómo incluso un techo de plástico puede durar más tiempo. La diferencia es que los hermanos que la construyeron dedicaron mucho más tiempo y atención para que fuera sólida. Aun así después de tres años la madera y el bambú que sostiene el techo de la casa de baro, que ha sido el techo más sólido en la TCA, se está pudriendo. La casa de la baro es como la casa de palos del segundo lechón, resistió algunos daños, pero al final no fue hecha para durar varios años. Vivir en un lugar donde el techo podría potencialmente volar o caer fue parte de lo que hizo que mi vida parecer inestable para la madre de mi hijo, quien ha tenido buenas razones para no creer en la visión de TCA por algún tiempo. Desde que ayudé a construir una nueva casa en Finca Sylvatica con Scott, y luego a mudarme para ocuparme de ella, no he podido mantener todas las estructuras en la TCA, de las cuales algunas se están
cayendo a pedazos. Ciertamente me hace feliz vivir en una estructura sólida ahora
donde no tengo que rezar para que el techo se sostenga. La Casa Larga es ciertamente homogéneo con la casa de ladrillos del tercer lechón.

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Casa de Palos

En septiembre del año pasado, Scott vino de los Estados Unidos con la intención de construir una nueva casa en Finca Sylvatica. Una casa que resistiría las tormentas tropicales del sur de Costa Rica. Tenía siete meses para hacerlo y así nos empezamos de inmediato. La primera acción fue cavar y aplanar un espacio lo suficientemente grande para la casa. Simultáneamente, construimos un camino para transportar materiales. Por aproximadamente dos meses todo lo que hicimos fue cavar, trasplantar / cortar
árboles, y mover tierra. Cuando finalmente tuvimos un sitio donde podríamos trabajar,
la construcción comenzó. Alrededor de entonces es cuando Scott contrató un vecino
nuestro carpintero, Mercedes, y su hijo Alexi para guiar nos en el proceso. El marco de
la casa es todo de madera y la mayoría de los pilares son árboles de roble y corteza de
Finca Sylvatica. El progreso en la casa se atraso porque comenzamos en medio de una
temporada de lluvias intensas. Sin embargo, logramos terminar la mayoría de la
construcción en la semana que Scott tuvo que irse para empezar su servicio de Peace
Corps.

23
La estabilidad de una casa real ha sido un testimonio de nuestro compromiso y trabajo
duro. Al fines del año pasado, la madre de mi hijo, Carla, se acercó sorprendentemente a mí. En Finca Sylvatica estuvimos bastante lejos con la construcción y el panorama de
tal proyecto fue instrumental para generar confianza y armonía entre nosotros.
Nosotros no teníamos hablado en casi seis meses y Carla no había visitado la tierra
desde alrededor de la época cuando nos conocimos casi dos años antes. La casa tenía el poder de cambiar todo eso. Durante la fiesta de inauguración de “La Casa Larga“, Carla llegó con mi hijo Luca. Ambos pasaron la noche aquí en lo que fue para mí un punto de inflexión en nuestra relación.

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La Casa Larga representa una base sólida desde donde podemos enfrentar con eficacia la jungla húmeda en nuestra misión diaria de cuidar a esta enorme y hermosa tierra – con un lugar seco para volver a descansar en la tarde. Veo esta casa como un tipo de pago por los dos años que pasé en la TCA y los siete meses ayudando a construirlo. No lo hice por la casa pero ahora me encuentro viviendo y cuidándo esta increíble casa en el paraíso. El costo de pasar tanto tiempo ayudando a construir la casa, y luego mudarse a ella, a resultado en mi inevitable negligencia de la TCA. He limitado mi atención a la TCA únicamente a trabajar con las plantas y un poco de trabajo sobre la estructura social del fantasma comunidad. La comunidad, si podemos llamarlo así, es esencialmente inexistente en el momento, como lo ha sido durante la mayor parte de mis dos años y medio aquí. Los únicos miembros del Grupo Núcleo de la TCA actualmente viven en Finca Sylvatica, y la mayoría de las estructuras en la TCA se están cayendo a pedazos.

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Casa de “Ladrillos”

En cierto sentido, todos los “cerditos” viven ahora en la sólida casa donde estamos a salvo del agua y los vientos. Hay esperanza y aquellos de nosotros que estamos aquí imaginamos un renacimiento en la TCA. Ya no soy el único cuidador del sitio, y no he estado solo aquí por casi un año! Si ha leído mis publicaciones en este blog del año anterior, sabría que mis oraciones han sido respondidas. Un par de meses después de que Scott llego un maestro de San José vino la TCA buscando encontrar una comunidad donde pudiera venir para avanzar en su camino espiritual. Su nombre es Rafael (Rafa) y ha estado aquí desde entonces. Los dos somos responsables de cuidar la Casa Larga y Finca Sylvatica, y los únicos por aqui para descubrir el destino inmediato de la TCA. Scott fue muy claro con nosotros sobre su intención de regresar a Finca Sylvatica con su
prometida Bridget en dos años, y tienen la intención de vivir en la Casa Larga. Está en
Rafa y mi mejor interés reconstruir y revivir la TCA en este tiempo.

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Cuando Rafa vino a vivir aquí, él idealizó la cultura Arco Iris tal como yo lo había hecho
cuando yo era nuevo en eso. Con el tiempo él ha visto por sí mismo los problemas
evidentes que enfrentamos con demasiado apertura. La realidad es que “Arco Iris” tal
como existe en el entorno de una reunión Arco Iris no puede existir de forma
permanente en un solo lugar. Por el bien de cualquier apariencia de sostenibilidad, o
como a Scott le gustaría que apuntemos a la resiliencia regenerativa, necesitamos más
estructura social en el RCL. Ser completamente libre de hacer lo que uno quiere es
genial y deseamos que aquellos que vengan aquí libremente elijan reconstruir nuestra
comunidad y seguir adelante con la permacultura solo por el amor de hacerlo.
Desafortunadamente, las personas quienes vienen aquí de esa naturaleza son una
minoría. Sin embargo, estamos claros de que esos son los tipo de personas a las que
deseamos atraer y a quienes necesitamos aquí en este momento crítico. El lechón
trabajador y determinado es el que salva a sus hermanos de la perdición. La
supervivencia de nuestra comunidad está en juego y si no tomamos medidas pronto,
todo lo que quedará de la TCA es ruinas. Tenemos mucho que hacer y para
asegurarnos de no perder el tiempo en problemas del pasado editamos algunos de nuestros consensos para crear un proceso mas estricto para nuevos miembros de la TCA. Nuestra esperanza es filtrar a aquellos que no están listos para ser plenamente inmerso en una atmósfera de permacultura / construcción comunitaria para que aquellos que están listos puedan seguir adelante con menos distracciones. Nuestro objetivo es crear una comunidad próspera y en el marco de una sólida estructura social podemos perseguir el sueño de vivir autónomamente libre.

First Impressions of Final Site Placement in Jamaica

Disclaimer: “The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.”

By | Por: Scott Elliott

This entry serves to provide my initial impressions after my first six weeks at my final two-year site. My previous blog left off with a brief written description of a site in the mountains of St. Mary, Jamaica. On May 22nd, 2018, I swore in as an official Peace Corps volunteer. Click this link to see footage of the Swearing-In Ceremony. Immediately after the ceremony, I was driven to my site by my supervisor and welcomed by my host family and neighbors on the veranda of my living space. They first showed me my room, which I am pretty happy about overall. I get my own fully furnished flat, which consists of a private bathroom, kitchen and living room in addition to my bedroom. I set down all my things, showered, changed, and joined everyone in the veranda.

Two dogs and one cat had all just given birth the previous week. In total, there were 10 little puppies and 4 kittens running around loose. Click here and here to see video footage of them. I was asked if I wanted to adopt any of them. I declined because I don’t want to commit to taking care of them. If it were a laying hen, quail, dairy goat, tilapia pond, truffle-sniffing pig, or anything functional then I probably would have responded differently. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have two years to stay in this area. That is about enough time for a person to build an attachment to an animal and only make it more difficult for Close of Service. Adopting a puppy or kitten would have been a financial burden for me. Pet feed, medications, fleas, potty training, and teaching overall obedience are not services I am willing to exchange for the companionship and loyalty that a pet might or might not give. Sadly, all 10 puppies and one kitten perished a few weeks later due to disease and neglect.

Besides the puppies and kittens, I was introduced to a few pigeons and pigs that they held in small cages between the back of the house and the river down in the gully. They appeared to be getting enough attention to live to adulthood, but it seemed far from an optimal life. Just like my host brother in Hellshire, they were fascinated with the idea of having pet pigeons and not using their eggs. Their chickens and goats appeared to be thriving the most, since they could walk around and forage like a wild animal. There were about 25 humans there, three of whom were to be my roommates for the next two years. The rest of them had come to greet me or maybe just get some free food at my welcoming party.

Just like at my previous host stay, my site evaluation form claimed that my host father is considered a trained chef. Peace Corps gives me the option of using in-country allowances to choose between paying host families to be fed prepared meals versus purchasing and preparing food on our own. We are supposed to sign a written agreement that includes information about meal planning. When he came out of his kitchen to serve all of us that evening, I was ready to see whether I would be preparing my food for the next two years. He cooked up some standard Jamaican fair for everyone. It consisted primarily of a scoop of bony meat and a heaping mound of white rice. Each plate also came with a typical Jamaican salad, which consisted of shredded cabbage, cucumber, tomato, and carrots. The only difference from the Costa Rican salads that I have had is the absence of lemon, which I find only makes it inferior. Then he came out of the kitchen with a large cup of red liquid that people call “juus,” which is a mix of cold water, white cane sugar, and food coloring. Everything was served in styrofoam and all of the cutlery was disposable plastic. I took one sip of the juice and one bite of the rice and gave the rest to the person sitting next to me. He promptly devoured it. I found none of this to be very spectacular, but I was still not ready to decide. I was just excited to meet people and frantically write everyone’s name down so that I would not forget. People were excitedly telling me things like “im mek nais dumplin, I bad, yu afi chrai I ina di moros. Yu gwan laik I,” which I later found to mean that “he is good at frying bleached wheat flour in canola oil with imported ingredients and putting it in styrofoam. You have to try it tomorrow. You will like it.” Those who know me should know that I did not. In fact, I decided at that point with certainty that I will make my own meals for the next two years of service.

So far so good. One of my favorite things about my site is that there are about 20 coconut trees that I have access to everyday. Sometimes they fall from the trees and roll all the way down the hill to my doorstep. I have learned several new ways to use the coconut. Bringing my Vitamix blender down here was one of the best items that I packed down here. A high-powered blender and the coconut make a fantastic pair. I feel blessed to have a refrigerator and freezer that now works as of last week. I store coconut milk in there, which is known locally as coconut juice. After a couple of hours in the fridge, the oils rise to the surface and the water sinks to the bottom. Then the oils begin to solidify into a coconut cream. Sometimes I put the coconut cream into the freezer and it turns into the best ice cream I have ever had. It is so simple! It is very low in sugar, vegan, gluten-free, paleo friendly, organic, and probably even healthy, dare I say. I also discovered a wonderful use for the shredded coconut that is left over from the coconut milk extraction. I spread it out on a metal tray and put it in the toaster oven that came with my kitchen. I turn it on the lowest heat, which happens to be the only setting that works with the voltage in my house and stir it with a fork once an hour until it dries out. Just as it starts to turn a golden brown, I throw it back in the blender once more and I’m left with an extremely versatile coconut flour that seems to last forever in a sealed bag in the fridge. I sprinkle it on food to thicken it up and give it a nice coconut flavor. I made a couple of coconut-breadfruit cakes that were great too.

Almost all of the trees in my area are fruit trees, such as jackfruit, ackee, mango, breadfruit, star apple (caimito), cola nut, moringa, sweet sop, lychee, Jamaican (Water) apple, cashew, mamey sapote, niisberry, tinkin tou, and guinep. The ackee and tinkin tou deserve special attention, considering how abundant, globally unusual, and nutritious they are here. Both have very unique flavors and nutritional profiles, and both appear to be very unique to Jamaica. I see a lot of economic potential for Jamaica in processing the fruits of these two trees. However, much research and experimentation must be done on proper harvesting, handling, preparation, and marketing. Ackee has already been banned in the US due to deadly poisons it has from improper processing. Tinkin tou grows to become an enormous tree, which can make harvesting hazardous. It also has a very strong odor, which may be as offensive as durian. The only large non-fruit trees that I have identified in my community are cedar and mahogany. I purchased a copy of “Manual of Dendrology Jamaica” and had it autographed by edidtor and tree taxonomist Mr. D’Owen Grant from the Forestry Department.

Mr. Grant

What I learned in the book is that virtually all indigenous trees were removed decades ago, and used for charcoal. Bambusa vulgaris, also known as common bamboo, was planted in its place in hopes to quickly replenish charcoal stocks. However, the bamboo was found to be too low in carbon density to produce charcoal efficiently. Instead of harvesting the bamboo, it spread all over my community and has become a pest that competes with agricultural crops.

Much of what I have learned about forest management comes from botanical gardens. The Wilson Botanical Garden and Las Cruces Biological station is just as far from Finca Sylvatica as the closest botanical garden is from me. The paralleling walking distances have profound implications. In fact, today I just did the two-hour one-way walk to Botanical Gardens to get Wifi access to publish this blog entry. I have another two-hour walk back home after this. The next nearest place for me to get Wifi access would probably take all day to walk there. My phone does have a data plan, but the service is very spotty. If I hold my phone out the window, sometimes I can get enough signal to read or send out a Whatsapp message, but internet browsing or anything more advanced than that is out of the question. The most convenient way for me to do that is to use some of my limited data, walk up a really steep hill after school hours, spray on a layer of mosquito repellant, and sit down on the far north-west corner of the pavement a primary school up the hill. Today, however, I am using the Gardens’ Wifi to replenish my podcasts, download some files, and use more internet than my data plan allows. I just got accepted as a member of Technology For Development (T4D), which is a Peace Corps group that provides technology resources to PCVs. I have also been in contact with the Universal Service Fund (USF) to put together an internet program at the primary school. I hope these connections will help me become better connected as well. At the very least, this trip to the Gardens should be much easier because I just got myself a used bicycle. The only problems it has is the brakes, the chain, the back intertube, and the lack of gears and working racks. It only has one gear and is a women’s bicycle, but I don’t mind. Once I get it up and running, I will be pedaling around again somewhat like old times. It is better than attempting to maneuver the bus system here. Just look at this bus stop.

shitty bus stop zoom

The environment is manageable. Even though I am living in the coldest place that I have ever lived in Jamaica, it is still 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. To stay cool, I keep lots of things in the freezer, like my water bottles and food and clothes. Quite a bit of what I eat and drink comes straight from the fridge or freezer. Sometimes I take numerous quick showers throughout the day. Other times I just wear a shirt after washing it and let it dry on my body instead of on a clothesline. The vegetation appears very lush and organic, but upon closer inspection, you will find garbage that has been swallowed, but not digested by the jungle. Usually after I dig down through the plastic bottles, tin cans, calcium geology, and subsurface roots to about one foot deep, I find what appears to be a very dark, silty, and fertile soil. I have dug holes to plant things in hundreds of places around here and have yet to do so without finding at least one piece of garbage. It is as if it has become incorporated into the overall humus layer.

sand sifter

I had the chance to visit a stone and sand quarry and see how sand is mined. It was surprisingly simple. A tractor just drives into a rocky area beside a river and picks up a load of rocky sand. It then drives about one or two minutes up to the top of a hill and dumps it over a cliff so that it lands on top of a big triangle-shaped screen. The rocks roll off the screen to the side and the sand falls straight through the screen. The tractor then drives around and scoops it up. It was as simple as I could have ever imagined.

Pine suckers in back of truck

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) came by the primary school up the hill a few weeks ago with a truckload of pineapple suckers. We proceeded to plant them in this humus layer on a steep hillside between the school and the road that I live on, where soil erosion has caused landslides to cover some of the road. According to RADA authorities, pineapple is good for erosion control. We made an A-frame and demonstrated how to use it with students from the school as well as local farmers and community members. We then formed a contour line with wooden stakes that we drove into the ground. We cut off the bottom end of the pineapple with machetes, which is a practice that I have never seen before. Then we made a triangle shape with some 2-foot-long wood pieces and string to measure out the distance between holes so that each contour line had two rows of alternating pineapples. We used a pick axe to make a hole in the humus-garbage and stuck a pineapple sucker in each hole. Later I came back and picked out the visible garbage by hand. I guess I just have a hard time with the concept of growing food in a place that looks like a garbage dump. Another plant that is recommended for erosion control is vetiver grass. Since there were several clumps of it growing wild, I transplanted off-shoots of it along the road border to prevent more landslides from occurring in the future. I moved the soil that had already collapsed into the road onto the lower side of the road and built a pumpkin and spinach garden with it.

Cape Clear Garden

My garden at Cape Clear during training is still thriving. I have gone back twice and been able to harvest bags and bags of kale, lettuce, kallaloo, and okra. It is hard to get out there to pick veggies, so the level of production is beginning to dwindle. On my first week at my final site, I started a garden with about 30 cucumber and 30 bak choi and now they are almost ready to harvest. I started a small fruit tree nursery that already has about 30 baby tinkin tou trees, 20 sprouting cashew trees, 5 mamey sapote sprouts, and 30 sprouting miracle berry trees. I planted a few trees with the primary school principal around the parking lot. Just last week, my oldest host brother let me clear out and prepare approximately 100 m2 of flat garden space on the north side of his house to plant ginger, turmeric, scallion, peppers, cerassi, moringa, tomato, kallaloo, cabbage, bak choi, and lettuce. During the soil preparation, I hauled out about 5 big rice sacks full of garbage that was buried in it. Just yesterday I looked at the garden and noticed that people had thrown a few more plastic bottles in the garden.

Miss McKenzie and tree

Getting people to stop littering is hard! I can’t count how many times people have thrown garbage at me as if to assume that I am equivalent to a garbage bin. Garbage is often just doused in kerosene and lit on fire, such as this burning mattress down the street from my house.

burning mattress

The agricultural department at St. Mary High allowed me to give a talk on garbage management to their sixth-grade students. I had the students participate in a group quiz activity to help increase awareness on how long it takes materials to break down. Some of these teenagers thought that an orange peel takes over a thousand years to biodegrade and that a styrofoam cup takes three days to break down. It took a great deal of persuasion to convince them otherwise. It is hard to blame these children either. The older generations, including staff that I engage with, litter nearly every time they have the chance. Even as I am on my way to put something in a waste receptacle, I have often been encountered by individuals who snatch what is in my hand and toss it deep into the bushes. They then turn to me with a smile that demands gratitude for helping me dispose of the item. One strategy that I am trying out is boycotting the use of new disposable utensils and plastic bottles. On 8 occasions since arriving here in Jamaica nearly four months ago, I admit that I made an exception to this rule. Yes, I accepted two styrofoam cups, one styrofoam plate, two styrofoam boxes, and 3 plastic bottles. However, I still have 5 out of those 8 items and continue to reuse and repurpose them. I write my name on them with a sharpie to signal to others that it is not to be thrown in the bushes or somewhere inappropriate. Two of the other three were far to mangled to be reused and the last one was thrown away without my permission by an unknown suspect. People have come to know me now as that guy who wont accept styrofoam or plastic, even if it contains their favorite Jamaican food. I have done much more difficult things with my willpower, such as being vegetarian for 7 years, vegan for 5 years, raw vegan for 3 years, 80-10-10 raw vegan for 2 years, fruitarian for a year, water fasting for three weeks, and dry fasting for 100 hours. I’d rather make my own food on a real plate, thank you very much.

Another strategy that I have worked on with my supervisor was to paint our garbage receptacles with fresh paint. They do look much nicer to me now that they have been painted. Perhaps the strategy is to just have patience, resilience, and perseverance, which are the three words that my program manager defined, printed, and laminated for me when I received my site placement. My program manager also just approved me for a three-day visit to Denbigh, the largest agricultural exposition in Jamaica from August 4-6, 2018. It will be full of environmental education programs that I hope can be transferred to my site. In the case that funding is the best strategy, I applied for a grant to the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) and plan to apply for another one to Kusanone Grass-Roots Human Security Projects.

Education is a bit different here than what I am used to. For one, graduation is held about two weeks before the last day of the school year. Another is that graduation is a much bigger deal than what I have been accustomed to. The ceremony can last many many hours and go on all day. Speeches, awards, songs, prayers, vote of thanks, national anthems, school anthems, pledges, and guest speakers will take up the whole day. I watched a graduating class of 13 go on for 4 hours. There were about 30 gold-painted plastic trophies handed out, half of which went to two students. I am a bit excited for the summer season. It might reduce the amount of time I spend picking up garbage and give me more time to grow something in the green space surrounding the school.

Last weekend we had the first annual “Elderly Banquet” at the primary school where we honored all of the elders in our community. We went around the area for a whole month and invited over one hundred guests. It was a great way to meet the older generations and bring them together and treat them with the respect that they have earned. I designed a logo and banner for our organization. During the event, I was tasked with handling the “Certificates of Acknowledgement” for all of the attendees. I asked all of the guests what their name was and the correct spelling, which turned out to be one of the most difficult tasks that I have been given during my Peace Corps Service. About half of them seemed to know how to read. A few of them didn’t want to give me their name. One of them kept repeating the letters “bs.”

She would yell loudly, “jus rait BS!” (Just write “BS”)

I would reply, “So a dat yu firs niem? (So is that your first name?)

“Yes!”

“And yu las niem?” (And your last name?)

“BS!”

“So yu niem ‘BS BS’?” (So your name is “BS BS?”)

“Yes!”

It went on longer than that, but I had to stop because she was starting to yell and I didn’t want to give the poor old lady a heart attack. Someone later found out what her real name was and told me she was “mad.” Eventually, I managed to get about 40 names and spelled about 38 of them correctly. The rest of the attendees either didn’t get a certificate, or they walked up at the end and requested one.

It was a great way to practice my Patwa, especially since so many of these elders could not speak anything else. I was truly forcing myself to speak the language. Some aspects of the language involve a deep understanding of the Jamaican culture, even if it may just be in how it adjusts to another culture. For example, one of the biggest tourist destinations around here is a place called “Tapioca Village.” My project partner took me there and I expected to get some tapioca, but apparently the name is metaphorical. There was not a sign of cassava growing or pudding on the premises. Only one person on site, who was the owner, knew what tapioca is. He said that he tried it once or twice a long time ago. My supervisor and project partner just thought it was some name with no connection to a dessert. The owner’s reasoning for the tapioca name is that tapioca sticks together and that people with solidarity stick together. It was a stretch for me to see his vision. I wandered around the place with my project partner while we waited for lunch and we found a repurposed bus. It was an old school bus that was turned into to dormitory. My project partner laid down on one of the beds at around noon and fell asleep to my surprise. While waiting three hours for him to wake up, I chose another bed and fell asleep too. So it goes here in Jamaica.

 

A Dancehall King is Swearing in as an Environment Volunteer

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Jamaican Government.

Pardon the jargon, for I have been “a foren,” in the land of reggae music and Jamaican Patwa (JP) for the past 10 weeks. For clarity sake, all words and phrases in quotes (“”) throughout this blog entry shall be defined in this blog. Also, this entry will be given only in English with a little bit of “chaka-chaka,” which is a blend of Standard American English and JP. On Friday, May 18, 2018, I won bragging rights for the most prestigious “Dancehall King” role at an event that is known here as “The Language Olympics.” On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, I attend a “Swearing-In Ceremony” to become an “Official Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV),” rather than just a “Peace Corps Trainee (PCT).” So now that jargon in this title has been defined with more jargon, please allow me to try and elaborate with less jargon.

“A foren” comes from “A foreign” and is like “away” in JP. This is just one of many examples that shows how I view JP with much more of a kind of twang that conjures up the emotions. I have come to find over the past 10 weeks of Training that JP has a beautiful way of adding color and depth to an ordinary word. Throughout Training, we have been taught the “Cassidy” form of writing, which is very similar to Tagalog by happenstance. It drops off repeatable letters such as “C,” “Q,” and “X” by replacing them with “K” or “S,” “K” or “Kw,” and “Ks,” respectively. Pronunciation is very easy, straightforward and has no exceptions to its very simple rules. The easiest part of learning the language, in my opinion, is the verb conjugations or lack thereof. Currently, JP is not an official language yet, but there are many active efforts to make it one as soon as possible. It is exciting to be learning the meanings of so many of the reggae songs and a language that is on the cusp of emergence like JP.

The “Language Olympics” is a highly competitive battle between the two different Peace Corps sectors in Jamaica: Environment and Education. I have been on the Environment team, which we appropriately re-named “Raiz an Peace.” It is a wordplay on “Raise in Peace,” “Rhizomatic Peace,” and “Rice and Peas (a staple food in Jamaica that is cooked with coconut oil).” The event represented the 10-week culmination of over 30 PCTs in our language and cultural integration development. Other competitions included a best music video, best in trivia, Dancehall Queen, best in laundry hanging, dub poetry, chanting, best in dominoes, and best greeting. I wrote the lyrics for the music video, which can be viewed at this link. I also played the drum beat for Ras Dru’s dub poem with what locals call a “combo,” which is a hand drum that I am borrowing from one of our Language and Cross-cultural Facilitators. Besides the fact that we also won the dub poetry competition, this combo is very interesting. My host brother here in Hellshire tells me it was carved from a coconut palm’s trunk. Even a foren, I’m always discovering amazing things to add to my list of coconut’s uses.

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With just a little preparation, winning the “Dancehall King” competition was surprisingly easy. In hindsight, I suppose the 15 years that I happen to have of shaking my dreadlocks to Jamaican music has given me an advantage. This brings me to a major change that I have gone through here in Jamaica. As a Filipino-American that is familiar with cultural differences among people from The Philippines, Central America, and the United States, I have noticed that people here in Jamaica are much more direct and confident in the way that they communicate than the people that I grew up with. They never seem afraid to speak their mind and I believe it really shows in the music of Jamaica, especially the dancehall genre. Even though I have never really enjoyed listening to dancehall music, I decided to compete. I competed because I knew it would help me understand the closely-related roots reggae genre more, which I love. Ever since I obtained a guitar and drum here in Jamaica, cultural integration has catalyzed beyond my belief. I’ve written a few songs in the local language and have finally learned how to play some Bob Marley songs on the guitar. Before coming to Jamaica, I never anticipated myself up on stage in a Dancehall competition with the stage presence to win without question. Big Op to the Peace Corps Jamaica Language staff. It couldn’t have been done it without you.

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Training was not just in language and culture. Much of it was in developing technical skills related to the environment. The Environment sector that I was in split into four groups: A, B, C, and D. Each group had four Trainees. I was in group C. We competed for the best garden demonstration after 7 weeks given that we all start with the same size plot, same seeds, seedlings, soil quality, and initial vegetation. If you look at the chart below, which shows the amount of produce that was ready to harvest on demonstration day 7 weeks later, it would seem as if our group would have won the competition without question. However, it was group A that won. Group A had a lot of visibly creative, albeit dysfunctional features to their plot. This was very attractive to the judges because they expressed a need to observe new ideas, even if they do not work on a practical level. Our group’s main distinguishing strategy was to mulch and plant with high diversity and density, which was a significant attributor to our high production level and my prior success in Washington State and Costa Rica. Overall, I am very happy and excited to see how easy it is for me to grow a lot of food in a very small area here in Jamaica, and how that can inspire other local Jamaicans to do the same.

To be as precise as I can be while abiding by the Peace Corps whereabouts and mass media policies, my final site placement will be in the St. Mary Parish of Jamaica for the next two years. I will be living in a Maroon community in my own fully furnished private flat. It is attached to house that is owned by a Jamaican family.  My host father is a trained chef. In a local primary school, my assignment activities are to develop a nutrition program, physical education program, and garden for a local “primary school” and cafeteria. On a community level, my assignment is to build awareness of organic agroforestry practices, watershed regeneration, and ecological technologies such as a ram pump. On an organizational level, I’ll get to work with the Forestry Department, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and the 4H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) Office. I might even be able to co-teach my 5th Permaculture Design Course (PDC) here in Jamaica in August 2018. According to my original PDC instructor, I need to co-teach 6 PDCs before I can start teaching them on my own. That means if I complete this one coming up in August, I will just need one more.

The big “Swearing In” day will be Tuesday, May 22, 2018 in Kingston, Jamaica. This is a momentous occasion in which those among Peace Corps Jamaica Group 89 who have successfully completed the 10-week Training are officially sworn in as a two-year Volunteers. There will be “live coverage of <the> Group 89 Swearing In Ceremony on Facebook <and> Instagram.” Please contact me directly at haribon@uw.edu if you need the direct link. Immediately after the ceremony, all Volunteers will be scattered and escorted around the island to their respective and individually customized sites.

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