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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Integreshan | Integration | Integración

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

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

Wah Gwaan! Mi ina Jamieka an mi luv it. That is Jamaican Patwa for “Hello! I’m in Jamaica and I love it.” I am currently living with my second Jamaican host family in Pre-Service-Training (PST) in the Environmental Sector. Check out some of the photos below. This blog entry just highlights several things that have stood out to me during my experience so far as I reach the end of the first of 27 months here.

Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” is a slogan that I have seen around in Jamaica. It stands out to me as critical to making a significant impact in the environmental sector with Peace Corps (PC). Garbage, trash, and waste is tossed out virtually everywhere here, which is something that I noticed during my two trips to The Philippines and my bike trip through Central America. I must admit that nearly all of my exposure to pollution has been short-term. I have never had to live for extended periods of time in polluted areas. My pampered, previous life with the established waste management systems of the US and Costa Rica shall not be taken for granted again. Cleaning up all the waste will require a huge paradigm shift that is currently beyond my comprehension.

However, I have been assigned to co-creating a garden that I feel much more capable of. All 16 of us Environmental PC trainees in Jamaica this year have been divided into four gardening teams: A, B, C, and D. Each team has 4 trainees and is assigned one small terrace on a West-facing slope here in Jamaica. I am in team C and I have been hauling compost and manure up a steep hill with a wheelbarrow to prepare the soil. By looking at the photos below, see if you can tell which terrace corresponds to team C. There are another 15 PC trainees in Jamaica that are in the Education sector. The Environment and Education sectors will be competing on May 11th in Patwa skits. Education better get ready for the Dancehall King if you know what I mean. Wink wink.

You may also notice in the photos below that people have begun to feed me pretty well here. At first, I left my food preferences completely open to get an idea of what typical, modern, conventional Jamaican food is like. What I found is that it seems very conducive to aggravating the diabetic state. I also learned how to get more of what I want and less of what I do not. None of the Language and Cross-culture Facilitators or anyone within PC ever told me what I am about to tell you and what I have already told to several other PC trainees who have expressed a concern for diabetes in the local diet. The secret seems to be exaggerating preferences and repeating them so the Jamaican hosts don’t forget. In my case, my host would offer me sugary drinks everyday for the first week. Each time I would have to use some willpower to politely decline. He is obligated to prepare breakfast and dinner for me everyday through an agreement with PC. The first meals provided to me consisted of a mountain of rice on my dinner plate with a small portion of fried chicken or a stack of plain toast for breakfast with a banana or fried dumplings. Describing my food preferences as if I actually had diabetes may have made them sound more serious. More recently, I have been able to fine tune my food choices by asking for unusual foods. Instead of making my own food grown from my own garden and from my neighbors, I now rely on a Jamaican chef who used to travel the world on a cruise ship and now manages his own kuk shap. This has resulted in some very interesting foods such as his very own “cow skin juice” recipe, which is a blended mix of irish moss, strong back herb, peanuts, oats, nutmeg, Red Dragon Stout, condensed milk, ice, and the main ingredient: boiled, then frozen, cow skin. Ya kyaan get nuf!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wah Gwaan! Mi ina Jamieka an mi luv it. Esa es Criolo Jamaicano para “¡Hola! Estoy en Jamaica y me encanta”. Actualmente estoy viviendo con mi segunda familia anfitriona jamaicana en Pre-Service-Training (PST) en el Sector Ambiental. Mira algunas de las fotos a continuación. Esta entrada de blog simplemente resalta varias cosas que me han destacado durante mi experiencia en lo que respecta al final del primero de los 27 meses aquí.

Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” es un eslogan que he visto en Jamaica. Me destaca como fundamental para lograr un impacto significativo en el sector ambiental con Peace Corps (PC). Basura, basura y desperdicios son tirados virtualmente a todas partes aquí, que es algo que noté durante mis dos viajes a Filipinas y mi viaje en bicicleta por América Central. Debo admitir que casi toda mi exposición a la contaminación ha sido a corto plazo. Nunca he tenido que vivir durante largos períodos de tiempo en áreas contaminadas. Mi vida previa mimada con los sistemas de gestión de desechos establecidos en los Estados Unidos y Costa Rica no se dará por sentada nuevamente. Limpiar todo el desperdicio requerirá un gran cambio de paradigma que actualmente está más allá de mi comprensión.

Sin embargo, me han asignado co-crear un jardín del que me siento mucho más capaz. Todos los 16 practicantes de PC ambientales en Jamaica este año han sido divididos en cuatro equipos de jardinería: A, B, C y D. Cada equipo tiene 4 aprendices y se le asigna una pequeña terraza en una ladera orientada al oeste aquí en Jamaica. Estoy en el equipo C y he estado acarreando abono y estiércol hasta una colina empinada con una carretilla para preparar el suelo. Al mirar las fotos a continuación, vea si puede decir qué terraza corresponde al equipo C. Hay otros 15 aprendices de PC en Jamaica que están en el sector de Educación. Los sectores de Medio Ambiente y Educación competirán el 11 de mayo en sketches Patwa. La educación es mejor prepararse para el Dancehall King si sabes a qué me refiero. Guiño guiño.

También puede observar en las fotos a continuación que la gente comenzó a alimentarme bastante bien aquí. Al principio, dejé mis preferencias de comida completamente abiertas para tener una idea de cómo es la comida jamaicana típica, moderna y convencional. Lo que encontré es que parece muy propicio para agravar el estado diabético. También aprendí cómo obtener más de lo que quiero y menos de lo que no. Ninguno de los Facilitadores de Lenguaje e Interculturas ni nadie dentro de PC alguna vez me dijo lo que estoy a punto de decirte y lo que ya les he contado a muchos otros alumnos de PC que han expresado su preocupación por la diabetes en la dieta local. El secreto parece estar exagerando las preferencias y repitiéndolas para que los anfitriones jamaicanos no se olviden. En mi caso, mi anfitrión me ofrecía bebidas azucaradas todos los días durante la primera semana. Cada vez tendría que usar un poco de fuerza de voluntad para rechazar cortésmente. Él está obligado a preparar el desayuno y la cena para mí todos los días a través de un acuerdo con la PC. Las primeras comidas que me dieron consistían en una montaña de arroz en mi plato con una pequeña porción de pollo frito o una pila de pan tostado para el desayuno con plátano o albóndigas fritas. Describir mis preferencias alimenticias como si realmente tuviera diabetes puede haber hecho que parezcan más serias. Más recientemente, he podido ajustar mis elecciones de alimentos pidiendo comidas inusuales. En lugar de hacer mi propia comida cultivada en mi propio jardín y en la de mis vecinos, ahora confío en un chef jamaiquino que solía viajar por el mundo en un crucero y ahora maneja su propio kuk shap. Esto ha dado lugar a algunos alimentos muy interesantes, como su propia receta de “jugo de piel de vaca”, que es una mezcla de musgo irlandés, hierba de espalda fuerte, cacahuetes, avena, nuez moscada, Red Dragon Stout, leche condensada, hielo y el ingrediente principal: piel de vaca hervida, luego congelada. Ya kyaan obtener nuf!

 

Peace Corps Agroforestry in Jamaica

By: Scott Elliott

Welcome to my Peace Corps blog!

Direct link: https://fincasylvatica.com/category/peace-corps-jamaica/

This is a new blog. The Finca Sylvatica / Rainbow Crystal Land (FS/RCL) blog now has 33 posts to date that each have specific, on-site information about FS/RCL. This blog, however, is to document and publicize information about my Peace Corps (PC) service in Jamaica as an Agroforestry volunteer. Since Finca Sylvatica truly embraces agroforestry, we have decided to keep both blogs connected to this website. I hope that this blog can serve as a means to connect Finca Sylvatica to the academic world by involving science, research, and education. We plan to keep both the FS/RCL and PC blogs active, so stay tuned to both for optimal Finca Sylvatica reading experience.

The Longhouse | La Casa Larga

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

The storms have persisted while we continue to persevere well into the dry season.  We are now in a new moon with a new and improved plan. Instead of destructing the old wood cabin and installing two new houses, we have decided to just build one larger “long” house and just fix up the old cabin. Wikipedia claims that long houses are normally “built from timber and often represent the earliest form of permanent structure in many cultures.” What structure makes better sense than a longhouse for our first permanent structure? This question was only a minor topic of discussion from a recent talking circle at the Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL) community next door. The primary focus of the circle was to unify us as a community in equality and to delegate responsibilities, contributions, and tasks in a way that is fair, just, and harmonious.

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The framing of a two and a half story longhouse

Mercedes, Alexi, Rio, Brigida, Rafa, Christian, and everyone else who have collaborated to build what may be called “The Longhouse” have set an inspiring example if not standard for not just the RCL community, but for our surrounding community and beyond. We have been mainly working weekdays from 7am to 2pm with a potluck style lunch break in the middle. We all bring, share, and prepare our food together as a solid and productive team.

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Bridget making yummy tortillas

Bridget, AKA Brigida in Costa Rica, is our architect. Mercedes and Alexi are our two experienced handyman carpenters. I have been taking on a strong leadership role in the project. Rio, Rafa, and many of the WorkAwayers and HelpXers have been extremely helpful as well. I am pretty sure that we all learn many new things from one another everyday.

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Alexi building a roof with kocoro wood

We finished installing the electricity yesterday and tomorrow we are planning on using it to put the roof up. We also just finished digging our second tilapia pond. Both have an elongated oval shape and run parallel with one another on contour with the slope of the land. The new upper pond will hold our big fish and have a screen that allows baby fish to move down to the lower pond. That way, our big fish won’t eat our small fish.

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Mercedes making a tilapia tunnel

These milestones have made us very excited about planning an inauguration in approximately one month to celebrate accomplishments that have come from the past 5-6 months of hard work.

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200 meters of 2×3 gauge electrical cable

Meanwhile, there are and have been a few individuals in the RCL community that either refuse or abstain from contributing to the Longhouse project as well as obeying the established RCL rules and norms that anyone can view in our archive tab. I believe that this lack of respect and knowledge of our rules is what caused shouting and arguments to erupt in last night’s talking circle. During the hostility, I felt afraid for the second time yesterday. The first was when I climbed 30 meters up a wobbly tree with a machete to clear out branches for the electricity line. The second was a different kind of fear, but just as intense.

It was a scary feeling of déjà vu, reminiscent from last year, when I had left the property partially in the hands of someone that I did not fully trust. It erupted into confusion at first, then abuse, and climaxed with localized violence and resulted in the deteriorization of the image of RCL communities, myself, and even the surrounding Costa Rican community. I feel guilty because I allowed that individual to live in my house when I was not completely sure about that person’s stability and long term state of mind. Fortunately, this has given me insight into who will harmonize and who will deteriorate Finca Sylvatica during my physical absence if I become a Peace Corps Agroforestry volunteer in Jamaica.

We now ask all prospective volunteers to submit a resume and commit to a minimum stay of two weeks before accepting them. Our screening process will most likely become even more strict in the future. One of the most important things that I have learned as a HelpX and WorkAway host over the past 10 years is that having high quality volunteers is far superior to having high quantity volunteers.

In general here at Finca Sylvatica, quality volunteers make a good impact that lasts. I find that these people tend to be very industrious and skilled. In particular, permaculture advocates the skill of observation. They observe the native, indigenous, endemic, and endangered species and become conscious of them. I have now been observing how longhouses have been built with some of these very same timber species over millennia across the globe as communal dwellings. It is a blessing to have observed how The Forest Stewardship Council, the World Wide Fund for Nature, CINTRAFOR, and other establishments have put so much love and work into protecting these species. My understanding is that all of the timber that was used to build this longhouse was all locally sourced and from mostly native species. I harvested nearly all of the posts for the bottom floor from on site white oak and corteza. Other woods used include kocoro, quina, dorada montaña, cedro dulce, eucalyptus, pine, and amarinllon. Finca Sylvatica’s new longhouse could easily become a research facility for regenerative timber and agroforestry management. Stay tuned and stay in touch. The long wait for this long house is reaching it’s end…

 

 

 

Las tormentas han persistido mientras continuamos perseverando bien en la estación seca. Ahora estamos en una luna nueva con un plan nuevo y mejorado. En lugar de destruir la vieja cabaña de madera e instalar dos casas nuevas, hemos decidido construir una casa “larga” más grande y arreglar la vieja cabaña. Wikipedia afirma que las casas largas normalmente se “construyen con madera y, a menudo, representan la forma más antigua de estructura permanente en muchas culturas”. ¿Qué estructura tiene más sentido que una casa comunal para nuestra primera estructura permanente? Esta pregunta fue solo un tema menor de discusión de un círculo de conversación reciente en la comunidad Tierra Cristal Arcoiris (TCA) de al lado. El enfoque principal del círculo fue unificarnos como una comunidad en igualdad y delegar responsabilidades, contribuciones y tareas de una manera justa, justa y armoniosa.

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El encuadre de una casa comunal de dos y media pisos

Mercedes, Alexi, Rio, Brigida, Rafa, Christian y todos los que han colaborado para construir lo que se puede llamar “The Longhouse” han establecido un ejemplo inspirador, si no estándar, no solo para la comunidad de TCA, sino para nuestra comunidad y más allá . Hemos estado trabajando principalmente de lunes a viernes de 7 a.m. a 2 p.m. con una pausa para almorzar estilo comida en el medio. Todos traemos, compartimos y preparamos nuestra comida juntos como un equipo sólido y productivo.

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Brigida haciendo deliciosas tortillas

Bridget, también conocido como Brigida en Costa Rica, es nuestro arquitecto. Mercedes y Alexi son nuestros dos experimentados carpinteros. He asumido un fuerte papel de liderazgo en el proyecto. Rio, Rafa y muchos de los WorkAwayers y HelpXers también han sido de gran ayuda. Estoy bastante seguro de que todos aprendemos muchas cosas nuevas el uno del otro todos los días.

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Alexi construyendo un techo con madera kocoro

Terminamos de instalar la electricidad ayer y mañana planeamos usarla para levantar el techo. También acabamos de terminar de cavar nuestro segundo estanque de tilapia. Ambos tienen una forma ovalada alargada y corren paralelos entre sí en el contorno con la pendiente de la tierra. El nuevo estanque superior sostendrá nuestro pez grande y tendrá una pantalla que permite que los peces bebé se muevan hacia el estanque inferior. De esa forma, nuestro pez grande no se comerá nuestro pez pequeño.

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Mercedes haciendo un túnel de tilapia

Estos hitos nos han entusiasmado al planear una inauguración en aproximadamente un mes para celebrar los logros que han venido de los últimos 5-6 meses de duro trabajo.

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200 metros de cable eléctrico de calibre 2×3

Mientras tanto, hay y hay algunas personas en la comunidad TCA que se niegan o se abstienen de contribuir al proyecto Longhouse, así como también obedecen las normas y reglas establecidas de TCA que cualquiera puede ver en nuestra pestaña de archivo. Creo que esta falta de respeto y conocimiento de nuestras reglas es lo que provocó que estallaran los gritos y los argumentos en el círculo parlamentario de la noche anterior. Durante la hostilidad, tuve miedo por segunda vez ayer. El primero fue cuando trepé 30 metros sobre un árbol tambaleante con un machete para limpiar las ramas de la línea eléctrica. El segundo era un tipo diferente de miedo, pero igual de intenso.

Era una sensación aterradora de déjà vu, que recordaba al año pasado, cuando dejé la propiedad parcialmente en manos de alguien en quien no confiaba plenamente. Al principio estalló en confusión, luego en abuso, y culminó con violencia localizada y resultó en un deterioro de la imagen de las comunidades de TCA, yo mismo, e incluso la comunidad costarricense circundante. Me siento culpable porque permití que esa persona viviera en mi casa cuando no estaba completamente seguro de la estabilidad de esa persona y el estado de ánimo a largo plazo. Afortunadamente, esto me ha dado una idea de quién armonizará y quién deteriorará Finca Sylvatica durante mi ausencia física si me convierto en voluntario de Agroforestería del Cuerpo de Paz en Jamaica.

Ahora solicitamos a todos los posibles voluntarios que envíen un currículum y se comprometan a una estadía mínima de dos semanas antes de aceptarlos. Nuestro proceso de selección probablemente será aún más estricto en el futuro. Una de las cosas más importantes que aprendí como anfitrión de HelpX y WorkAway en los últimos 10 años es que tener voluntarios de alta calidad es muy superior a tener voluntarios de gran cantidad.

En general aquí en Finca Sylvatica, los voluntarios de calidad tienen un buen impacto duradero. Encuentro que estas personas tienden a ser muy laboriosas y habilidosas. En particular, la permacultura defiende la habilidad de la observación. Observan las especies nativas, indígenas, endémicas y en peligro y se vuelven conscientes de ellas. Ahora he estado observando cómo longhouses se han construido con algunas de estas mismas especies de madera durante milenios en todo el mundo como viviendas comunales. Es una bendición haber observado cómo el Consejo de Administración Forestal, el Fondo Mundial para la Naturaleza, CINTRAFOR y otros establecimientos han puesto tanto amor y trabajo en la protección de estas especies. Tengo entendido que toda la madera que se usó para construir esta casa larga fue de origen local y de especies principalmente nativas. Recogí casi todas las publicaciones del piso inferior de roble blanco y corteza. Otras maderas utilizadas incluyen kocoro, quina, dorada montaña, cedro dulce, eucalipto, pino y amarinllon. La nueva casa comunal de Finca Sylvatica podría convertirse fácilmente en una instalación de investigación para madera regenerativa y manejo agroforestal. Estén atentos y manténgase en contacto. La larga espera de esta larga casa está llegando a su fin…