Greetings again from the Changs! It’s looking like we won’t have internet at home or work for at least another month- if at all- so we’re finding internet where we can in the meantime.
We have now been at our permanent site for over a week (not counting our orientation two weeks ago)! Pros of our site: great people, spacious and furnished apartment, beautiful property full of fruit trees, and a medium-sized town nearby where we can find just about anything we need. Cons of our site: sand flies are almost as prevalent as mosquitos and their bite leaves a painful and itchy welt for days, the road from our house is busy with no shoulder (but people walk it anyway), internet may not be available, and it gets pretty hot here.
Last weekend our host mother (who lives upstairs) showed us around the market in Sav (Savanna-la-Mar). She led us to “Onie,” so called because he only has one arm. We bought our onions, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, and chocho from him then walked around to the other vendors whom our host mother wasn’t familiar with. We picked up bok choy, chopped callaloo, plantain, red beans, limes, etc. Then we continued up the street. Sav basically has one long main street containing all its commercial enterprises. It starts at the edge of the ocean with the farmer’s market and continues for a mile or so to “uptown” with the nicer supermarket and the bus/taxi park nearby. I was happy to pick up a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery as well as to find familiar Jamaican stores for cheap clothing, housewares, and even fabrics. As is customary for any Jamaican city, there is also a Burger King and a KFC.
Saturday night we joined our host mother at the Westmoreland Festival Queen pageant, a culture (and poise) competition for young women who will then compete against the other parishes in the country. Despite the MC’s not always having a clear picture of what to do next and resorting to multiple readings of the list of sponsors to fill time, the event was entertaining and the live music was fantastic. Sunday morning our host mother took us to her church and it was overall an enjoyable experience. Perhaps a highlight was the unusual visitors at the church. I’ve seen geckos before, and even rats. But at this church, scuttling across the floor, are one- to two-inch little crabs! The guest preacher happened to be the chair of the PTA at my school, and we met a couple young people that seem like they could be budding community leaders. We also ventured out on Sunday to Bluefields Beach Park, a short taxi ride away, which was well-used by the locals.
This past week we experienced our first Jamaican Labor Day, which takes on opposite meaning here: everyone goes off to volunteer around town. We diagnosed the computers at Michelle’s school and then helped out with small projects at Jedd’s community resource center. We rounded out the weekend with our first “travel” to the Calabash literary and culture festival with a few of the other volunteers in our group. We were able to stay with another volunteer who lives near the festival (Treasure Beach area) and in general we had a very nice weekend.