Friday, we arrived in Hellshire, our new home for 2 weeks. Hellshire isn’t actually that far from Kingston but has an entirely different climate than most of the island. It’s rather arid and dry (there are actually quite a lot of cacti around here), so some of the rain we’ve been having is quite unusual for this time of year.
After alllllll day training on Friday, we met our host families! Hellshire isn’t all that big, and everyone’s family is within easy walking distance of each other and the training center (a big church). They put all of the trainees in a circle with our backs toward each other and then gave us a slip of paper with a word on it. Then all the families came in and made a circle around US. We had to find each other by matching up our slips of paper. I got a great host family who really knows the ropes, I think I’m the 6th trainee they’ve hosted. I was greeted with ackee, potatoes and bananas (which were boiled, bleck) for dinner and then I was off to bed. Long day!
Saturday was more laid back. I slept in a little bit and then had callaloo (a lot like collared greens) and MORE boiled bananas for breakfast. In the morning, my host mom, Deserene, showed me her haul from the market earlier in the morning. She described all of the vegetables and what they were used for, and what they tasted like. She went outside and picked a guava RIGHT OFF THE TREE and made me eat it. They also have a mango tree, and I ate one of those too. There’s this funny little fruit they call a star apple that my host sister, Imani, made me try. For my Riley readers, it tasted JUST like a paw-paw. Delicious!
My host family’s neighbor has a PCT, so I ran into her and we walked down to the football (soccer) field with a bunch of Jamaican kids. A few other trainees were down there playing, and I watched the Americans get decimated by the Jamaicans, although the kids totally let a few goals in that they shouldn’t have 🙂
A few of us decided to head down to the beach, which is supposed to be some of the best in the country. Pictures (which I have, and will upload soon) don’t do this place justice. GORGEOUS. If I get homesick (which happens), I just have to remind myself that I’m living in paradise for 2 years. After hanging out for a few hours and getting sunburnt (I will never learn to put enough sunscreen on. Ever.), we headed back. Chicken foot soup was waiting for me when I arrived!
Chicken foot soup is a pretty common occurance so far in Jamaica. It is just a big vegetable stew with dumplings and chicken meat…and a foot. I’ve become a more adventurous eater the last few years, but I draw the line at chicken feet. I might work up the courage to eat one before my time here is up. Maybe.
Sunday morning came and I knew that church was happening. (For breakfast I had porridge, what we’d call oatmeal. And oh my word, it was wonderful. Best oatmeal ever!) My host…aunt? (she’s my host mom’s sister, Veronica), is a preacher at the Church of God close to the house. My Disciples of Christ upbringing in no way prepared me for this. It was three hours of awkwardness and discomfort. I’m just not used to such EMOTION in church. There was singing (a lot of singing), crying, speaking in tongues (I kid you not), shaking, and some preaching. About the end times. It was…something else. Two other volunteers and their host families were there, so it’s not like I was the only white person, but still! AWKWARD.
After church, I met up with a larger group of folks and we went back to the beach. We didn’t stay too terribly long, as Sunday is a pretty popular time to go to the beach and there was some kind of musical event happening and the crowds aren’t as fun. Nonetheless, beautiful beach and very relaxing!
Rice and peas (peas = red beans) as well as chicken was waiting for me when I got back. So good. I could eat that stuff every day and twice on Sundays. I think my host family is pleased that I eat pretty well, because they said they usually have to force their trainees to eat. What can I say? I’m a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club.
Earlier in the day, my host mom and sister made a juice with guavas and mangos off the tree, plus carrots and ginger and I had some after dinner. It was SO GOOD, you guys. A little bit of rum would have been heavenly.
That’s a summary of my first weekend on the Jamrock! I have some PC reading to do (as well as mourning with my fellow UK basketball fans) and then I’m off for another action-packed week of training.
In the meantime, I need my readers to brainstorm ideas of what I can cook for my host family. A lot of trainees cook a traditional American meal or dish for their families and I want to do the same. I’ve heard suggestions of guacamole and puppy chow. Right now, I’m leaning towards peach cobbler (if I can get my hands on the ingredients). Comment away!