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

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

Jamaica Coat of Arms

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bukid Sylvatica

By | Por: Scott Elliott

<ESPAÑOL ABAJO>

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

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

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

photocontest

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

cropped-climate-zones-map-revised-032814-21

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

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

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

shellfishmarket

fishmarket

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

snailhunting

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

monkeys

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

bamboobike

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

bamboocuring

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

snailcleaning

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

wallgarden

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

waterbottlecollection

 

waterbottleirrigating

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

bigjeepney

 

 

 

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

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

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

photocontest

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

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

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

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

shellfishmarket

fishmarket

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

snailhunting

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

monkeys

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

bamboobike

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

bamboocuring

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

snailcleaning

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

wallgarden

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

waterbottlecollection

waterbottleirrigating

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

bigjeepney

 

 

References

 

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

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

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

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

 

Mi Kyan Manaj

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

By: Scott Elliott

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

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

Before - 1

Before (August)

During - 8

During (September)

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After (October)

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

Story two: The waste of abundance.

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Velvet Apples I Collected

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

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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.

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.

 

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

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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.