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.

 

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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…

Storm of Change | Tormenta de Cambio

By |Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

Hurricane Nate hit Finca Sylvatica a couple weeks ago. It rained torrentially for approximately 30 hours without stopping. Wind knocked over some trees and blew out one of my windows which was helpful as you shall discover. We handled it just fine. Since the storm, the weather has been very calm and dry. It feels a lot like the dry season already even though this month of October that we are in has historically been the rainiest month of the year locally.

We walked down to the bottom of the Metapunto waterfall.

The fluctuation in weather has been very similar to the degree of change and developments that have occurred over the past 7 weeks since I’ve been back at Finca Sylvatica. Milestones have been happening almost daily. A driveway has been built. We managed to have a truck to pull up only a few meters from the wood cabin and drop off two loads of construction wood. Before After

One of our neighbors who had hundreds of 2x4s, planks, and boards was kind and generous enough to gift us all this wood for free. A 7 m by 8 m surface has been flattened with shovels, pickaxes, and over 100 hours of digging by hand. 9 huge 50 – 250 kilo oak and corteza posts have been cut with our new chainsaw and mounted on to meter-long steel reinforced concrete underground columns. The design changed slightly from the original that was posted in the last blog entry. Before After

The smaller building (A) now has 9 posts instead of just 4 and will have a second floor attic for storage. It will be a wood working shop to process the abundant timber that is growing all throughout Finca Sylvatica. I was pleased to discover that each one of these 9 posts are worth between $40 – $80. All together, I must have already saved at least $600 by harvesting and processing these posts growing on site as opposed to importing them from elsewhere, which would have added transportation costs. It will house the already-built lockbox, which will keep it dry. There will be a walkway between A and the larger structure (B). The south end of the first floor of B will become a secure storage and kitchen with a fridge and washing machine. The second floor will be equipped with what is known as a “biofilter toilet,” which is a modification of the Clivus Multrum. It produces a liquid fertilitizer without adding any carbon, unlike the Clivus Multrum. Instead, the waste material is quickly broken down by microorganisms that we have already been cultivating here, which is a unique product that we would like to offer to the community.

Another would be the jackfruit, mushrooms, and rolinias that are growing here. Gardens are more productive and fruitful than ever. Virtually unlimited bananas, guavas, oranges, lemons, gotu kola, and salad greens have been perennialized.

 

I have been thinking a lot about the purpose and role of Finca Sylvatica in a broader context as far as it’s role and purpose in the local community and world at large. On my final day as a Teacher Assistant for BIOL 313 at the University of Washington, we went on a field trip to Lake Washington Technical Institute’s new Allied Health building, where they have one of the nation’s only funeral services education centers. We learned how the dead are processed and it inspired me to make the central region of Finca Sylvatica into what I am calling a “tree burial” center. One who wishes to have a tree burial will plant a tree of their choice in a container at Finca Sylvatica and nurture it. When they pass away, their loved ones will bury them in the center and plant the tree on top of them. This is how I wish to go. I feel it resonates with the “forest-loving” theme of the Latin word Sylvatica. I think it would also help with the issues of permanence described in my last blog entry.

Another role that Finca Sylvatica has is a language learning center. People from all over the world are constantly coming and speaking many different languages. For instance, there are 8 of us here now, 5 of whom speak French as their primary language.

Our tribe is currently a blend of volunteers, students, workers, and free rangers. My goal is for Finca Sylvatica (FS) to become more academic in nature, which requires support from my professors at the UW. The community at FS, including RCL, may need additional structure and organized governance in order for any kind of institutionalization to occur. A UW undergrad who flew down here with me told me that he really valued the experience here and that I should not give up on bridging FS to the academic world.

In a way, it feels like I have been stuck in a storm ever since I bought this property back in 2005. It is a storm that seems to be calming down. A patch of blue sky is appearing, and I believe it is university.

Pura Vida,

Scott

 

 

 

El huracán Nate golpeó Finca Sylvatica hace un par de semanas. Llovió torrencialmente durante aproximadamente 30 horas sin parar. El viento golpeó algunos árboles y sopló una de mis ventanas que fue útil, ya que descubrirás. Lo manejamos bien. Desde la tormenta, el clima ha sido muy tranquilo y seco. Se siente muy parecido a la estación seca ya, aunque este mes de octubre en el que nos encontramos ha sido históricamente el mes más lluvioso del año a nivel local.

Caminamos hasta el final de la cascada de Metapunto

La fluctuación en el tiempo ha sido muy similar al grado de cambio y desarrollo que se ha producido en las últimas 7 semanas desde que regresé a Finca Sylvática. Los hitos han estado sucediendo casi a diario. Se construyó un camino de entrada. Logramos que un camión se detuviera a pocos metros de la cabina de madera y dejara dos cargas de madera de construcción. Antes

Después Uno de nuestros vecinos que tenía cientos de 2×4, tablas y tablas fue amable y generoso para regalarnos toda esta madera de forma gratuita. Una superficie de 7 m por 8 m se ha aplanado con palas, picos y más de 100 horas de excavación manual. Se han cortado 9 enormes postes de 50 a 250 kilo de roble con nuestra nueva motosierra y se han montado en columnas subterráneas de hormigón armado de acero de un metro de largo. El diseño cambió ligeramente del original que se publicó en la última entrada del blog. See Antes Después

El edificio más pequeño (A) ahora tiene 9 puestos en lugar de solo 4 y tendrá un segundo piso en el ático para el almacenamiento. Será una tienda de trabajo de madera para procesar la abundante madera que está creciendo en toda Finca Sylvática. Me complace descubrir que cada una de estas 9 publicaciones vale entre $ 40 – $ 80. En conjunto, debo haber ahorrado al menos $ 600 cosechando y procesando estas publicaciones que crecen en el sitio en lugar de importarlas de otros lugares, lo que habría agregado costos de transporte. Contendrá la caja de seguridad ya construida, que mantiene la mantendrá seca. Habrá una pasarela entre A y la estructura más grande (B). El extremo sur del primer piso de B se convertirá en un almacenamiento seguro y una cocina con nevera y lavadora. El segundo piso estará equipado con lo que se conoce como “inodoro biofiltro”, que es una modificación del Clivus Multrum. Produce un fertilizante líquido sin agregar carbono, a diferencia del Clivus Multrum. En cambio, el material de desecho se descompone rápidamente por microorganismos que ya hemos estado cultivando aquí, que es un producto único que nos gustaría ofrecer a la comunidad.

Otra sería la jaca y las rolinias que están creciendo aquí. Los jardines son más productivos y fructíferos que nunca. Prácticamente ilimitados plátanos, guayabas, naranjas, limones, gotu kola y ensaladas se han perennizado.

He estado pensando mucho sobre el propósito y el papel de Finca Sylvatica en un contexto más amplio en cuanto a su rol y propósito en la comunidad local y en el mundo en general. En mi último día como asistente de maestro para BIOL 313 en la Universidad de Washington, fuimos a un viaje de campo al nuevo edificio Allied Health del Instituto Técnico del Lago Washington, donde tienen uno de los únicos centros educativos de servicios funerarios de la nación. Aprendimos cómo se procesan los muertos y me inspiró a convertir la región central de Finca Sylvática en lo que llamo un “centro de enterramiento de árboles”. Quien desee tener un entierro en un árbol plantará un árbol de su elección en un contenedor en Finca Sylvatica y lo alimentará. Cuando fallecen, sus seres queridos los enterrarán en el centro y plantarán el árbol encima de ellos. Así es como deseo ir. Siento que resuena con el tema “amante de los bosques” de la palabra latina Sylvatica. Creo que también ayudaría con los problemas de permanencia descritos en mi última entrada de blog.

Otra función que Finca Sylvática tiene es un centro de aprendizaje de idiomas. Gente de todo el mundo viene constantemente y habla muchos idiomas diferentes. Por ejemplo, ahora hay 8 de nosotros aquí, 5 de los cuales hablan francés como su idioma principal.

Nuestra tribu actualmente es una mezcla de voluntarios, estudiantes, trabajadores y guardaparques gratuitos. Mi objetivo es que Finca Sylvatica (FS) se vuelva más académica en naturaleza, lo que requiere el apoyo de mis profesores de la UW. La comunidad de FS, incluida la TCA, puede necesitar una estructura adicional y un gobierno organizado para que cualquier tipo de institucionalización ocurra. Un estudiante universitario de la UW que voló aquí conmigo me dijo que realmente valoraba la experiencia aquí y que no debería renunciar a unir FS al mundo académico.

En cierto modo, parece que estuve atrapado en una tormenta desde que compré esta propiedad en 2005. Es una tormenta que parece calmarse. Aparece un parche de cielo azul y creo que es universidad.

Pura Vida

Tino

Bahay ng Buhay

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

In the Filipino language of Tagalog, the word “bahay” means “home” and the word “buhay” means life. “Bahay ng buhay” is a home of life. The similarity of these two words in Tagalog hints at synchronicities they share with one another.  Wouldn’t you want to live in a home full of life? Wouldn’t you want your home to be the place for you to spend your life? The main intent of this blog entry is to propose cooperative construction (or is it constructive cooperation?) to not only you the reader, but to all life forms that value the home. The proposal will then be followed by various updates, accomplishments, and announcements on behalf of Finca Sylvatica (FS) and the Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL) Community.

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First of all, I must give utmost thanks to FS’s Chief Architect, who is my beautiful girlfriend, Bridget, for being tremendously supportive overall. The two of us have been using the free software, Google Sketchup, to create a floor plan and model for one of the first long term structures to be built at FS. It will serve countless purposes, including:

  • A workshop
  • Lodging
  • Kitchen
  • Storage space
  • Communal Area
  • Internet cafe
  • Classroom
  • Meditation and yoga space
  • Hospital
  • Art Gallery
  • Long-term welcome center

The structure will replace the 45-year-old cabin that has been on site since the 60’s. The original cabin never had a cement foundation. It was built on wooden stilts that were placed directly on the soil floor. Somehow it has managed to survive many decades of Costa Rican weathering with nothing more than a single coat of paint that was applied to the exterior when it was originally built. I have spent nearly 6 years of my life living in this cabin during its final years. Bats, cockroaches, mice, opossums, armadillos, snakes, termites, wasps, and ants have spent much longer living in the cabin than I have. It has been home to hundreds of FS volunteers and RCL participants over just the past few years. And it shows.

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The cabin is at a slfight slant. Put a bowling ball in the center of the floor and it will always roll to the North-East corner of the house. None of the windows operate like they used to. The house has been broken into so many times that none of the windows nor the door have locking mechanisms anymore. Anyone could easily walk in the house at anytime of the day or night without even having to turn a door knob. Affixing locks to the doors or windows is a waste of money because an effortless kick is enough to break down several sections of the termite-ridden walls. There are holes all over the roof. Water drips down into the house and soaks nearly every inch. The largest dry space under the roof is barely big enough to squeeze a bed into, which has been where I have spent hundreds of rainy nights. Somehow the floor, and only the floor has remained in great shape.

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The design phase is nearly over and we are ready to move into construction. We will start by flattening an area to the North West of the old cabin. The area will be used as a temporary living space and workshop area while the old cabin is torn down board by board. Nearly all the wood from the cabin will be burned except the floor planks and some of the beams and rafters. The area will then be flattened with lots of volunteers and shovels. Our local construction expert, Mercedes, will help guide us through the process. Our materials will all be obtained, harvested, or otherwise sourced locally from either neighbors or the hardware store in Copabuena.

The most important purpose of the new house, which is being called “Bahay ng Buhay” or just “Bahay” for short, is to encourage more long-term intention at FS. This structure will shape the definition and purpose of FS and even the RCL. It will help neighbors and the surrounding community understand what we are all about. It is the seed that will grow and flourish into a reproductive state that will then seed more and more homes of life.

This sort of seed has the kind of vitality that I experienced during the Total Solar Eclipse on Aug 21st, 2017 in Oregon, when I broke 20,000 miles on my bicycle. Below is footage from the epic event.

And life just gets better. I fly out tonight to Costa Rica and plan to arrive at Finca Sylvatica on Tuesday afternoon. We will be getting underway immediately on the construction of the Bahay ng Buhay. We will be implementing a lot of what I learned as a Teacher Assistant for the University of Washington’s BIOL 220: Introductory Biology and BIOL 313: Civilizational Biology from Spring and Summer 2017 respectively. One of our interns picked up our BIOL 313 textbook and read it all the way through. We will most likely refer to it throughout the duration of the internship period. It is called “The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm,” by Lewis Dartnell. I learned a vast amount of knowledge about plant microbiology and beekeeping last quarter at the Center for Urban Horticulture and now all of my coursework is finally finished. I managed to get 4.0s in all of my classes in Winter, Spring, and Summer quarters for a final cumulative GPA of 3.92, which is well above the 3.80 minimum to join the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honors Society! With that weight off my shoulders, I can finally put my new skills to use at FS. If you would like to get involved, shoot us an email at info@fincasylvatica.com.

Pura Vida,

Scottino

 

 

En el idioma filipino del tagalo, la palabra “bahay” significa “hogar” y la palabra “buhay” significa vida. “Bahay ng buhay” es un hogar de la vida. La semejanza de estas dos palabras en Tagalo sugiere sincronicidades que comparten entre sí. ¿No querrías vivir en una casa llena de vida? ¿No querrías que tu hogar fuera el lugar para que pasas tu vida? La intención principal de esta entrada de blog es proponer la construcción cooperativa (o es una cooperación constructiva?) No sólo para el lector, sino para todas las formas de vida que valoran el hogar. La propuesta será seguida por varias actualizaciones, logros y anuncios en nombre de Finca Sylvatica (FS) y la Comunidad Rainbow Crystal Land (RCL).

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En primer lugar, debo dar el máximo agradecimiento al Arquitecto Jefe de FS, que es mi hermosa novia, Bridget, por ser tremendamente solidario en general. Los dos hemos estado usando el software libre, Google Sketchup, para crear un plan de piso y modelo para una de las primeras estructuras a largo plazo que se construirán en FS. Servirá a innumerables propósitos, incluyendo:

  • Un taller
  • Alojamiento
  • Cocina
  • Espacio de almacenamiento
  • Área Comunitaria
  • Café internet
  • Aula
  • Meditación y espacio de yoga
  • Hospital
  • Galería de arte
  • Centro de bienvenida a largo plazo

La estructura reemplazará a la cabina de 45 años que ha estado en el sitio desde los años 60. La cabina original nunca tuvo una base de cemento. Fue construido sobre zancos de madera que se colocaron directamente en el piso del suelo. De alguna manera ha logrado sobrevivir a muchas décadas de la erosión de Costa Rica con nada más que una sola capa de pintura que se aplicó al exterior cuando fue construido originalmente. He pasado casi 6 años de mi vida viviendo en esta cabaña durante sus últimos años. Murciélagos, cucarachas, ratones, zarigüeyas, armadillos, serpientes, termitas, avispas y hormigas han pasado mucho más tiempo en la cabaña que yo. Ha sido el hogar de cientos de voluntarios del FS y participantes del RCL en los últimos años. Y eso nos muestra.

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La cabina está en una ligera inclinación. Ponga una bola de bolos en el centro del piso y siempre rodará a la esquina noreste de la casa. Ninguna de las ventanas funcionan como antes. La casa se ha roto en tantas veces que ninguna de las ventanas ni la puerta tienen mecanismos de bloqueo más. Cualquiera podría caminar fácilmente en la casa a cualquier hora del día o de la noche sin siquiera tener que girar una perilla de la puerta. Colocar las cerraduras a las puertas o ventanas es un desperdicio de dinero porque un golpe sin esfuerzo es suficiente para romper varias secciones de las paredes de termitas. Hay agujeros por todo el techo. El agua gotea en la casa y empapa casi cada centímetro. El mayor espacio seco bajo el techo es apenas lo suficientemente grande como para apretar una cama, que ha sido donde he pasado cientos de noches lluviosas. De alguna manera el suelo, y sólo el piso se ha mantenido en gran forma.

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La fase de diseño está caysi terminada y estamos listos para entrar en construcción. Empezaremos por aplanar un área al noroeste de la antigua cabaña. La zona se utilizará como un espacio de vida temporal y área de taller, mientras que la cabina de edad es derribado bordo por tablero. Casi toda la madera de la cabaña será quemada excepto los tablones del piso y algunas de las vigas y vigas. El área entonces será aplanada con muchos voluntarios y palas. Nuestro experto local en construcción, Mercedes, nos ayudará a guiarnos a través del proceso. Nuestros materiales serán obtenidos, recolectados o obtenidos localmente de cualquier vecino o la ferretería en Copabuena.

El propósito más importante de la nueva casa, que se llama “Bahay ng Buhay” o simplemente “Bahay” para abreviar, es fomentar una intención más a largo plazo en FS. Esta estructura dará forma a la definición y propósito de FS e incluso el RCL. Ayudará a los vecinos ya la comunidad circundante a entender lo que somos. Es la semilla que crecerá y prosperará en un estado reproductivo que luego sembrará más y más hogares de la vida.

Este tipo de semilla tiene el tipo de vitalidad que experimenté durante el Eclipse Solar Total el 21 de agosto de 2017 en Oregon, cuando rompí 20,000 millas en mi bicicleta. A continuación se muestra el episodio épico.

Y la vida se pone mejor. Vuelo esta noche a Costa Rica y planeo llegar a Finca Sylvatica el martes por la tarde. Nos pondremos en marcha inmediatamente en la construcción de Bahay ng Buhay. Vamos a implementar mucho de lo que aprendí como Asistente de Maestros para la BIOL 220 de la Universidad de Washington: Biología Introductoria y BIOL 313: Biología Civilizacional de Primavera y Verano 2017, respectivamente. Uno de nuestros internos recogió nuestro libro de texto BIOL 313 y lo leyó hasta el final. Lo más probable es que se refieren a él durante toda la duración del período de prácticas. Se llama “El Conocimiento: Cómo reconstruir la civilización en las secuelas de un cataclismo”, de Lewis Dartnell. Aprendí una gran cantidad de conocimientos sobre la microbiología de las plantas y la apicultura en el último trimestre en el Centro de Horticultura Urbana y ahora todo mi trabajo de curso está finalmente terminado. Me las arreglé para obtener 4,0 en todas mis clases de invierno, primavera y verano trimestres para un GPA acumulativo final de 3,92, que está muy por encima de los 3,80 mínimo para unirse a la Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honors Society! Con ese peso de mis hombros, finalmente puedo poner mis nuevas habilidades para usar en FS. Si desea participar, envíenos un correo electrónico a info@fincasylvatica.com.

Pura vida,

Scottino