* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

To Care or Go Crazy

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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? 

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

The Big Fat Jamaican Downtonish Wedding

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Our awesome host sister

Being part of a host family during your Peace Corps experience can be a “make or break” experience for both volunteers and host family. Not all volunteers around the world live with a host family, but we do….and we are so thankful for them.

This past weekend we had the amazing privilege to be a part of one of our host sisters’s wedding. Preparations in the yard have been in the works for months, culminating in a 36-hour, three-dozen people effort to transform the front yard into a wedding reception area complete with dance stage and head table.

The yard before and after decorations
The yard before and after decorations

Michelle described the scene like something out of “Downton Abbey” where a lot of neighbors, family, and friends came together to put on this event. It was bustling. I described it more like Continue reading “The Big Fat Jamaican Downtonish Wedding”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

America The Possible

by the Center for the New American Dream

Our intention for living abroad and joining the Peace Corps was to take a “sabbatical,” a time set apart where life looks different from the normal and where we can grow, learn, and reflect. Throughout this whole journey, we’ve been asking ourselves: What’s next? Well, we have a lot of ideas. Turns out they all kind of center around two common themes. One: more travel. And two: making a change in first-world values.

It’s seeming more and more like our vision for a sabbatical may become less of a break-from-“real-life” and more of a long-term reality. That is to say, there’s a very good chance we won’t be going back to the 9 to 5 world and, instead, will continue to pursue an unconventional, nomadic lifestyle (maybe it will only last a year, maybe it will continue indefinitely). We even have dreams to grow Simply Intentional and make blogging part of our livelihood.

I think we’ve come to realize that the consumer-driven American Dream was pointing us in the opposite direction of our true values. We want to learn how to live outside the box. And we’re passionate about seeing more first-world people break free of materialism to embrace a simpler, happier, healthier, and more generous life.

Little by little, as we explore all of our various options for life after Peace Corps, I’ve been doing some research online by finding like-minded bloggers. Three sites stand out to me for the quality of their work and for showing me that a meaningful, “location independent” life is possible. Continue reading “America The Possible”

* 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

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

An End to a Stormy Summer…

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Unpredictable weather means unconventional and creative laundry hanging solutions

I’m thankful that summer is coming to an end.  You will probably never hear me say those words again.

When we lived in the typically gloomy, dank Northwest of the states, we always look forward to summer. Those heavenly 2-3 months of spending long days with family and friends (the sun setting around 9pm) helped us forget about the other 80% of the time when life seemed colder, cave like, and sometimes depressing. NW summers meant hiking in the Columbia River Gorge to see waterfalls, enjoying the great harvest from farms, and enjoying festivals and events. It’s a bit dramatic, but that’s how much people in the NW really enjoy their summers.

Unlike the NW, in our little area of Jamaica (and I suspect in many parts of Jamaica and the Caribbean), summer is something we endure. The days are wickedly hot and humid.  We live on a plain at a low elevation shielded by some hills, which in turn means: no wind. No wind means a sauna-type climate with daily afternoon thunderstorms/showers. This might be my favourite Continue reading “An End to a Stormy Summer…”

* 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.

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Sustainable Community Development

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One of our community volunteers assists a youth during our 1st summer camp

As Michelle and I look toward the next year (our last year) as Peace Corps volunteers, we can’t help but wonder: what should we be doing? In some ways, two years is a long time and in other ways, very short- especially when you consider trying to create a sustainable community development project. What do I mean? Michelle and I ask each other the following question:

“Will what we create here and now be something that can be sustained once we leave?”

We ask this question for a couple of reasons:

1. Isn’t this what Peace Corps is all about?
Sometimes we as PC volunteers can get caught up in all the focus on creation of projects and the “doing” aspect of our job. No hard feelings or misunderstanding between me and Continue reading “Sustainable Community Development”