We’re officially done with community-based training in Hellshire!
I’ll give you the run down of what’s been going on in the past week or so. Last Thursday, we traveled to Kingston for more safety sessions in the morning, then the much-anticipated travel exercise in the afternoon. Everyone is in small groups with Language and Cross-Culture Facilitators (LCFs), and so every group had about 5 people total. Our task was to travel to Coronation Market in Kingston, buy something, and back to Powell Plaza using all forms of public transportation. We were given 4 hours to do this. Firstly, the main forms of public transportation in Jamaica are:
- JUTC buses (Jamaica Urban Transport), these are naturally only in urban areas (Montego Bay and Kingston)
- Coaster buses, mini buses that go all over the island. You have to be on the lookout for the red-plate buses, as they are legal and registered.
- Taxis, which can either be route taxis (like buses, they travel a specific route every day) or charter taxis (which take you where ever you want to go). Also look for red plates.
White plates on either buses or taxis means that they’re illegal. They’re typically young, unemployed men driving them. Obviously PC would vastly prefer that we take legal taxis. Unfortunately, in the rural areas that where we’ll be placed, we might not have much option. In that case, we find out who the trustworthy drivers are and go from there.
Before we start our adventure, some context:
Pretty accurate, except they forgot the pounding slow jams emitting from the speakers. Fun! Most buses and taxis will circle around to fill up their vehicles before they take off for your destination. I’ve heard tales from other PCVs about 18 people to a car, so I have that to look forward to! In these cases, you have to “small up yuhself,” or scoot to make room for more people. The concept of personal space is nonexistent in Jamaica.
We managed the coaster bus and the JUTC bus fine to get to Coronation Market, which is a vast open air food market, some under roof and some under tents. Every fruit you could possibly imagine is there. So much to see and smell and taste, it was sensory overload. Unfortunately, we were already behind schedule at that point to we didn’t have much time to spend there. We took another coaster bus and then sought a taxi. We managed to find one red plate taxi amongst a gaggle of white plates. We couldn’t (comfortably) fit in one, so we divided into 3 taxis. They were following each other fine until my [white plate] taxi took a shortcut. Sara, another trainee, and I exchanged nervous glances, but we wound up beating the other two taxis to our destination. Crisis averted.
The following day, Friday, was a little more laid back as it was Cross-Culture Day! We learned all about Jamaican music and dance, as well as some history. We learned about the origins of Jamaican music from reggae to ska to dancehall (most current). It kind of follows the mood of the country, from independence to economic troubles to now. Several of the instruments and dance moves originated from West Africa, where the majority of Jamaicans can trace their heritage. Dancehall is the most popular form of music and dance today and it can be unbelievably graphic. If you’re curious, just youtube it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. In summary, I still can’t dance (in fact, my host aunt just about fell out when I told her they taught us to “wind.” Yeah.), but a lot of Jamaican music is fun!
Saturday was our cultural tour of Kingston. All of us took a member of our host families, and my aunt, Veronica, came along. We first went to Port Royal, which is just outside of Kingston. A popular port for pirates as well as trade, it seems as if it was the rollicking good time depicted in Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, a 1692 earthquake sank two-thirds of the city, and it never really recovered its former glory. We then went to Hope Gardens, which is a beautifully lush landscaped gardens that is right next to the mountains. Our last stop was Devon House for ice cream. I’d heard tell of the Devon Stout flavored ice cream, and let me tell you. It more than lives up to the hype. Its not just a beer-flavored ice cream, it is malty and a little bit chocolatey and delicious. Amazing. After wandering around the grounds for a little bit (we didn’t take a tour of the house, but I intend on going back some time and taking a tour), we traveled back to Hellshire.
We had a big day at the beach planned for Sunday. We got up bright and early and we were there foreeeeever. I applied and reapplied sunscreen several times, but I still managed to get the worst sunburn I’ve ever gotten. I’m still peeling! Oy. *curses Irish skin* We then went to Two Sister’s Cave, which is about a 30 minute walk from Hellshire. Jamaica is riddled with caves, as the rock base here is limestone. Through the centuries, they have served as hide
The rest of the week has been training and more training. Friday was a holiday for us, so a lot of us just relaxed and in the evening, we had a little concert (several trainees brought guitars and other instruments. We are a talented bunch!). Yesterday, the host families got together and had a big dinner for us, which was, naturally, delicious. All of us have really enjoyed our first host family experience. They’ve been so welcoming and willing to teach us about Jamaica. I won’t soon forget mine!
Today, the Environment and Education sectors split off for hub-based training. We’re going to a small town east of Kingston in the St. James parish, and Education is staying in St. Catherine, just north and west of Hellshire. We’ll be with new host families for 5 weeks. I’ll miss my new Education friends, but I am anxious to get my hands dirty!
(I promise I will post an all-pictures post soon. Pinky promise!)