* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Our Peace Corps Process: From Application to Moving In

bamboo avenue
Bamboo Avenue, South Coast highway, Jamaica

Values: Choosing Freedom October 2009. You could say this is where it all started. We were well on our way to buying a house but instead, we changed the trajectory of our lives.

The Waiting Game The challenges of being nominees in the Peace Corps application process- a process which apparently has changed since we’ve been serving in Jamaica (hopefully for the better).

You Want to Send Us Where? Things with our placement did not turn out as we expected. This was a difficult bump in the road but it turned out for the best.

Looking Back At 2011: Our Year In Review (VIDEO POST) With almost nine extra months on our hands before our new departure date, the door of opportunity swung wide open. 2011 was packed full of adventures we never dreamed were possible.

Peace Corps Invite!!!!!!!!! (VIDEO POST) A short video capturing the very exciting moment when we opened our official invitation. We knew the region in advance but were surprised to learn our country.

Crossing the Waters (VIDEO POST) In March 2012, we were finally off to meet the other 36 members of PCJ Group 83. The video depicts our transition from home- farewell parties and packing- to staging in Atlanta.

Community-Based Training (Part One) (VIDEO POST) Upon our arrival in Jamaica, we moved quickly from orientation in Kingston to our first home-stay community for several weeks of general training.

Life Pon di Hill and Rise and Shine: A Morning in the Life of a Trainee Here’s a glimpse into each of our “Hub” communities where we spent about 5 weeks doing sector-specific training while living with host families. The video on this page also shows more of the education sector’s Hub training.

Volunteer Shadowing (VIDEO POST) Having the chance during our training to shadow a currently serving Volunteer brought our soon-to-be life as a PCV that much closer.

Shortly after we arrived, these two were born.
Shortly after we arrived at site, these two characters were born in the yard. They’ve grown with us ever since.

Swearing In After about 10 weeks of training, we were finally sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. Jedd was chosen to give one of the speeches at the ceremony (his speech transcript is included in this post).

Home Sweet Home (VIDEO POST) Before swearing in, we found out our permanent site placement and were able to visit for a few days. After swearing in, we got settled in to our apartment, got to know our amazing host parents in the house above us, and started work at the community center and school. (We also celebrated our 4th anniversary!)

There are many more posts from our Peace Corps journey, experiencing the ups and downs as well as sharing what we’ve learned about Jamaican culture… Browse here.

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

On the Road: Jamaican Public Transit (Part One)

First bench of a bus: two adults smalling up with six kids

I don’t know why we haven’t really addressed Jamaican public transportation on our blog until now. It plays a major part of our daily lives and can be quite fascinating for those who are new to it. There’s a lot of fun stuff to cover when it comes to our route taxi and bus system, so we’ll break it up into two parts.

Who’s Who on Jamaican Public Transit Continue reading “On the Road: Jamaican Public Transit (Part One)”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Current Volunteers Tell All

I thought this would be a fun experiment and, thankfully, a good number of my fellow volunteers were willing to help out. The following information comes from a poll I conducted via text messages, thanks to our Closed User Group phone plan which allows us to contact each other for free. I want to thank the 39 volunteers who are participating in this “experiment” for sharing their responses!

When you applied for Peace Corps, what countries or regions were you most hoping for?

region prefs
• As you can see in the chart, most volunteers had the quintessential Peace Corps experience in mind: Africa. Continue reading “Current Volunteers Tell All”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Life Updates

Intentional Eating

My go to lunch – Fried Chicken, macroni salad, and rice and peas underneath

(two weeks ago)

Peace Corps Nurse: “Jedd, I don’t like that number, you are borderline for high blood pressure?”

Me: “What?”

It didn’t make any sense to me. Michelle and I workout 6 times a week in the morning, going against my Myers Brigg personality type that would rather sleep in and work out when I feel like it. I’ve lost weight since moving to Jamaica (which is an incredible feat in itself because of the tasty, sugary, starchy, and fatty food). I’m pretty sure I weigh less than what I weighed in college.

So how could I be borderline for high blood pressure?

Nurse: “Are you sleeping well?” “Are you anxious about anything?”

Me: “Been sleeping ok and feeling ok.”

Nurse: “Are you eating a lot of salt in your diet?”

Me: “So fried chicken twice a week and adding salt to other meals isn’t a good thing?”

I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I feel like it, and I eat what I feel like eating. There’s never been a science to me regarding what I ate. I love to eat and I eat what gives me pleasure. Looking back at this past summer, I went through a stressful time running summer camps and I think I coped with my stress with eating. Did I think about the consequences for what I ate? I didn’t really think too much about it till recently. A warning for high blood pressure was a good wake-up call for me, I needed to make a change. Continue reading “Intentional Eating”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

It Starts with a Seed

Co-workers at the community center check out the pear (avocado) seed
Co-workers (and daughter) at the community center check out the pear (avocado) seed

Most days, on my commute to work in a jam-packed mini-bus, I try not to bring more attention to myself than necessary. I stand out. But today was a good day to stand-out as most of the eyes glaring in my direction weren’t directed at me, as if to say, “What is this Mr. Chin doing here?” Instead, most of the attention was on the glass cup with the pear (avocado) seed I was carrying to work. Now the eyes seemed to ask, “What is this Mr. Chin doing here and why is he holding a pear plant?” Continue reading “It Starts with a Seed”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Jamaican Style: Fashion with Flare

Teachers’ fancy nails

In Jamaican society, looking good is highly valued. It is not unusual to see prom-style gowns at a grade school graduation. Acceptable attire in a Jamaican church is often more formal than you would find at some American weddings. And the weather has almost no effect on Jamaicans’ choice of clothing. You will see longsleeves, jackets, polyester pants, ski hats, etc. every single day of the year. Comfort is not part of the equation.

Work Attire
The rules for acceptable attire, especially in work and ceremonial situations, are often different than what we’re accustomed to- providing a Continue reading “Jamaican Style: Fashion with Flare”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Money Money Money

The equivalent of $1 US:

  • 2 medium plantains
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 pound of tomatoes
  • Bulk baking flour (1 pound?)
  • 1 hour of internet time at the community center
  • 8 mile ride from home to town in a route taxi
  • about 2 rolls of toilet paper
  • postage for a letter to the US Continue reading “Money Money Money”
* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

For the Smiles: Summer Camps 2013 Video

This video makes me smile.

I coordinated two youth camps at our community center.  The goal of these camps was to unite youth from different communities, teach Continue reading “For the Smiles: Summer Camps 2013 Video”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

On Thankfulness

Blog It Home 2013 winners at Peace Corps headquarters with acting PC Director and Third Goal staff. Photo courtesy of OTG.
Blog It Home 2013 winners at Peace Corps headquarters with acting PC Director and Third Goal staff. Photo courtesy of OTG.

The past month has really taught me a lesson about the things I’ve taken for granted. It’s one of those lessons that you thought you already knew, but a certain experience makes it really come to life and sink into your heart.

For one, I realized how much more thankful I am when I have less. Returning to the “first world,” I became blissfully happy at simple things I used to take for granted. Some of them were material things- like a hot shower, fast internet, comfortable pillows. Others were more nostalgic- eating raspberries, walking in a park. Most were linked to a particular luxury I had never truly considered before: freedom. The freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want to, Continue reading “On Thankfulness”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Summer Youth Camp

Scroll over or click on a picture to see the caption:

One of the first things Jedd participated in as a Peace Corps Volunteer was a summer kids camp at the brand new community center put together by a group of sweet, hard-working, elderly Jamaican ladies. With that under his belt, he crafted a new summer camp especially for teens, combining inspirational videos, computer and dance lessons, life skills activities, and motivational speakers. A year later, he has coordinated the “second annual” of both camps while training a core group of young leaders who can hopefully carry on the tradition.

For the teen camp happening this week, we were lucky to recruit the help of a Response Volunteer named Doug. Response Volunteers have already served their 27-month term with Peace Corps and then choose to apply for a Response position, which is usually in a new country and usually for a shorter time commitment. Doug’s assignment in Jamaica is with a local football (soccer) club. At camp, he is doing HIV/AIDS education sessions using a program designed by Grassroots Soccer which uses interactive, soccer-related activities to break down myths and teach healthy life practices. While AIDS is not the epidemic here that you will find in places like South Africa, Peace Corps is making an effort for prevention before it’s too late.