* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Jamaica Nuh Easy: A Case Study

We have very rarely written blog posts describing the events in our day, but today I am making an exception. This is a true story of one afternoon this past week, which I think will enlighten you to a number of things that happen in this country.

JA bus town story

Our story begins at 2:37pm on a school day. The bell should have rang seven minutes ago to dismiss classes. Instead, for no apparent reason, it is rung just as rain starts to dance on the zinc roof.

I pop open my trusty umbrella, one leg of its frame permanently out of joint, causing it to dangle like a loose limb. I bee-line to the front gate of the school yard where the south coast “highway” (think: small, two-lane farm road) is quickly amassing more and more puddles.

I have one mission this afternoon: get a new phone. In Jamaica, you cannot have more than one mission in a given afternoon. You can try, but it’s not recommended.

As I stand on the side of the road with my Continue reading “Jamaica Nuh Easy: A Case Study”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Thoughts for New Peace Corps Volunteers

We’ve started to hear from the incoming group of Volunteers (about 30 come to Jamaica each year) who will start their training in March. I know it’s an exciting time for them. When I was in their shoes, I was soaking up all the information I could find about Peace Corps in Jamaica. Being less than five months away from our departure, there are inevitably a good number of lessons we’ve learned on our journey. Maybe they can help the next generation of PCVs…

Continue reading “Thoughts for New Peace Corps Volunteers”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Cultural Lessons Learned from Event Planning

Westmoreland Parish Show
Westmoreland Parish Show

Last week Michelle and I represented the community center where I serve in the Westmoreland Parish Show, a town fair-like event for our area of the country. What was suppose to be one of- if not the- largest events of the year for our area, turned into a disappointment for the organizers because of the lack of attendance. It was a great example of some of the cultural challenges that Jamaicans face in community development, a lack of community involvement,  and organizing issues. I never realized how much I could learn from not a lot happening. Continue reading “Cultural Lessons Learned from Event Planning”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

To Care or Go Crazy

Scan 2
Following my recent post, Current Volunteers Tell All, I’ve continued to send questions to my fellow PCVs via text message. This time the poll question gives some insight into the various obstacles we face.

If you had to choose your #1 challenge or stressor here, what one word sums it up? 

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Topics in PCJ #5: Transportation

See past topics: Attrition, Culture and Effectiveness, Goals, Patriotism

jamaica busWhen I ask myself and others ‘what is the single greatest thing that would most change your life as a volunteer in Jamaica’, I usually get the same response. It’s not hot water or cable TV or high-speed internet at home (although that would make a difference too). In close second might be a laundry machine- for those who don’t have it. But more often than not, the answer is: a car.

People at home might not be aware of Continue reading “Topics in PCJ #5: Transportation”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Topics in PCJ #4: Patriotism

Continued from other posts here and here on topics frequently discussed by PCVs in Jamaica

Among the many discussions we’ve had with fellow volunteers, we have also concluded that most of us have a new-found love for America. Ironically, many of us left home with criticism in our hearts for the way the U.S. imposes its will on other nations, or how Americans are so obsessed with material gain, or any other number of issues. And it’s true that, since we’ve left, there have been a number of things happening in the U.S. that we are not proud of.

our patio with country prideBut by living in Jamaica, we do see our country differently now. We are all the more grateful for the privilege of growing up in a land of opportunity, a place where success stories happen every day to all sorts of people. We are proud to identify with all the people who came (and continue to come) to America because they wanted to make life better for their families. And perhaps most of all, we are astounded simply by how well things work! From the school system and the DMV to the line at the grocery store, we have a new-found appreciation for American efficiency and reliability. Though our systems in the U.S. aren’t perfect, they’re a lot less effort to navigate than those we’ve become accustomed to as PCVs.

We’re not saying that any of these things are the fault of Jamaicans as a people- we have come to understand that there are complex historical, political, and social factors behind everything. And it’s not really about comparing Jamaica and the U.S., because they each have their roses and their thorns. Rather, it’s the age-old adage that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. So, in the end, leaving home has given many of us an unexpected appreciation for the country we left behind and its ways.

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Topics in PCJ #2: Culture and Effectiveness

Continued from previous post

Finally a working computer at the school, thanks to a donation from USAID specifically for literacy education
Finally a working computer at the school, thanks to a donation from USAID specifically for literacy education

Jamaican culture is full of beautiful, colorful, and praiseworthy things. We feel blessed to take part in it and plan to adopt some aspects of the culture into our lives back home. And Jamaican culture, like any other, is full of diversity. Depending on where you are and who you interact with, you can encounter a wide range of experiences, life philosophies, and cultural norms. Today’s post is about some aspects of the culture in general that present a challenge to volunteers on the island. Continue reading “Topics in PCJ #2: Culture and Effectiveness”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Topics in PCJ #1: Attrition

In Jamaica, Peace Corps volunteers live relatively close to each other, which means we are able to visit anyone within a day’s worth of travel. It seems that whenever we PCVs do get together, we can’t help but to try to process our common experiences in this country. Oftentimes the conversation is a means of venting because it’s a rare opportunity to be in the presence of other Americans who know first hand all the crazy things we go through. Through these discussions, there are a number of common reflections that have become apparent. In my next few posts, I’d like to share some of the topics we’ve discussed and some of the lessons we’ve learned collectively.

PCJ Group 83 swearing in with the U.S. Ambassador and Jamaica's Governor General
PCJ Group 83 swearing in with the U.S. Ambassador and Jamaica’s Governor General

There are many and varied reasons why volunteers leave their service early. Sometimes the volunteer’s family or life circumstances require them to return home, some people find they don’t gel with Peace Corps’ policies or approach, others leave for health reasons, and a few have issues with their site. In our original group of thirty-six who arrived on island back in March 2012, twenty-nine remain. I found this chart from a former volunteer’s blog, which shows the average number of volunteers who go through each step of the application and service. Continue reading “Topics in PCJ #1: Attrition”