Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day in Jamaica

Nativity scene at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
 Christmas is a big celebration in Jamaica.  The excitement is felt in the air in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  On Christmas Eve the masses gather at Grand Market to do their Christmas Shopping. Celebrations go on all night and end around 7 or 8am the next morning.  On Christmas day many attend church and have a big Christmas meal with chicken, pork and goat as the main dish. 

My Christmas experience was wonderful. I ventured out on the 23rd during the day and caught some of the crowd and culture. I was intrigued  by the Junkanoo characters that dance around the streets in their scary masks, pointing pitch forks and asking for money, all in good fun and a tradition from the past. I didnt have a camera to capture the Junkanoo but believe me they are some of the scariest masks I have seen. I spent Christmas eve with my host family helping bake traditional Jamaican fruit cake.  It turned out really good!  Christmas Day I attended church with my host family. I was so happy to see the alter decorated with a Christmas tree and Nativity scene. I hadn't seen many decorations or trees leading up to Christmas as I am accustomed to in the US. It made me appreciate the decorations all the more when they were put up on Christmas Day. I was so happy to finally sing some Christmas songs in Church on Christmas Day, as we had not sang any Christmas songs before then.  I could listen to Christmas songs all year around I love them so much.  Yay Christmas Carols to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After church we served communion to the sick who could not attend church that day.  We were offered Jamaican fruit cake and Sorrel juice (traditional Christmas drink).  Soon after I headed to Ocho Rios to celebrate with other PCV's on the beach. We caught some rays and soaked our cares away in the warm waters of Jamaica.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Beach

Mammee Bay, Jamaica
My senses were soothed ,with sand as soft as a bunny on my feet,  warm gentle waves, and calming shades of  blue. God is good.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Meet the Tireless JASL Crew

Meet the tireless Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) crew, Alfonso, Nurse (Masie), and Milton. This was taken at an intervention last week in Race Course at the Youth Advancement Development Center .  As part of the intervention, they poster the walls, set up a table with pamphlets and condom demonstrations, hand out free condoms, do free HIV testing and counseling and do a presentation on JASL and STI education.  This team of volunteers works hard. Please pray for them to have strength and motivation to continue to volunteer their time  to continue to reach the at risk population.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dispelling Myths

HIV in Jamaica is complex.  I'm just skimming the surface with this entry in trying to create a picture of the situation. In Jamaica there is a stigma associated with HIV. Myths and misinformation about HIV feed the stigma and the fear which obstructs testing, treatment and support which contribute to the spread of HIV and increase in AIDS related deaths.  Hence, a large component of HIV reduction is education and desensitization.

Below is a picture of Milton (Jamaica AIDS Support for Life Volunteer), giving a demonstration on how to use a female condom to a very interested group of high school girls. Our table generated alot of interest with our demo penises and vaginas (used for condom demos). Jamaicans are not shy in talking about sex.
 In the month that I have been here, I have  read every pamphlet and booklet in the office, I have assisted with interventions, health fairs and educational sessions. I have talked to the health care providers,  counselors,students, and people living with HIV. All of this to try to get a better understanding of the HIV situation in Jamaica and how my assignment aligns with this big picture. The stories that I have heard are heartbreaking.  My project partner told me the story of a 7 year old girl who had been raped  by a person infected with HIV.  She then became HIV positive. When her caregivers found out that she was HIV positive they put her in a cage and kept her there until my project partner heard about her case and became her advocate. They kept her in a cage due to the fear and the stigma that is associated with HIV.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No More "Smalling Up" of Me

"Small up" is a term used in Jamaica when riding the bus. Bus drivers get paid based on the number of people they transport,so they try to pick up as many passengers as possible. The bus "loader" helps the bus driver find passengers and squeeze people into the bus. When the bus appears full to the untrained eye the "loader" scans the bus and finds space where another person might fit. That's when the loader says "small up".  He means, "Move over and make room for someone else".

All that said to explain the name of the poem below.  I saw this poster up at a social service agency and wanted to share the poem. I liked the message that children should be encouraged to express and to be themselves. 
No More "Smalling Up" of Me
No more meekly saying
'yes' when my heart is is 
screaming 'no'
No more taming of my feelings
so my power won't show
No more hiding my exuberance
from disapproving eyes
No more watering down myself
so my spirit won't rise.

No more "smalling up" of me
pretending I'm not here
No more running from the music
and the spotlight's glare
No more living in this prison
barricaded by my fears
No more turning and retreating 
in the face of new frontiers.

Even as I am speaking
I am taking shape and form
harnessing my powers like a 
gathering storm
There's no obstacle so bold
as to dare stand in my way
I am taking back my life
and I am doing it today.
- Jean Wilson 
Kingston Jamaica

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Living in Runaway Bay

Meet my host mom, Macie.  Everyone calls her Nurse. She lives in a residential area of Runaway bay and works as a nurse at the Jamaica Aids Support for Life. The day of this picture, we had our morning coffee and then went out to the side yard to pick some ripe guavas. Yummy, sweet and tart. Macie has been blessed with several fruit trees including june plum(looks like a mango), bread fruit (looks like a melon), cherry, guava, ackee and plantains. The neighbors enjoy the fruits also.  One morning, Macie went outside and to her surprise saw a little boy, way up  in the june plum tree, picking june plums to sell. No climbing for us, we just wait for the fruit to fall.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Swearing In Ceremony - Peace Corps Response, Jamaica

On Friday Nov 4, 2011 I had the privilege of meeting the USA ambassador Pamela Bridgewater for the  official Peace Corps Swearing In Ceremony. It was an intimate ceremony with one other Peace Corps Response Volunteer. We met in Ambassador Bridgewater's office, where she  took a few minutes to thank us for our service, welcome us to Jamaica and ask us if we had any thoughts.  Then we continued with the reading of the official Peace Corps vows. Soon after I was put on a bus, destination Ocho Rios.  I was on my own for the first time since arriving in country.  Awaiting my arrival, in Ocho Rios , was my project partner, Oral Higgins.  What a relief to get out of the capital and to the northern coast of Jamaica. Ya Mon! I hope you are all well. Laura

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peace Corps Response in Jamaica

Welcome to my photo journal!
(pic from La Romana Domincan Republic)
Come visit me in Jamaica or visit my blog. Here I will be sharing a weekly picture throughout the 6 months that I will be working as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Ocho Rios Jamaica.  Through my pics, I hope to share a little piece of what life is like in Jamaica.  I hope you enjoy the walk with me and that we can stay connected.

My assignment as a Peace Corps Response volunteer is  "Database Website Consultant for the National Aids Committee".

I am scheduled to arrive on Monday Oct 31, 2011 feeling excited and anxious