As digital nomads, our concept of home is constantly evolving. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s hard for us to answer where “home” exactly is. It seemed only fitting, then, that as we returned to Jamaica, our friends here said “Welcome home” to us, additionally adding: “Will Jamaica be home?” We made sure to answer them directly. “No. But we do love Jamaica.” Continue reading “Homes for the Holidays – Part 1: Jamaica”
Quick life update: We just got back from two days in Kingston doing our final check out process with Peace Corps. We have only 4 days left in country! Wowza. Our upcoming travel itinerary is posted on our new travel blog if you’re interested.
We haven’t even left Jamaica yet, so how can I tell you what to expect from a returning volunteer? I guess I’ve experienced “re-entry” a few times before, albeit from shorter stints abroad. And I’m also basing this on some of the things we’ve been told through our Close of Service process and past volunteers.
First, I’ll share with you the abstract side, in poetry, then the practical, in bullet points. (I’m not really a poet but was compelled to compose my thoughts into a poem because it didn’t sound right any other way.)
Going Home: A Poem
A new place is a new world.
A blank canvas.
Before you experience it for yourself,
its image in your mind
is mostly empty.
The first time I went to a Caribbean island,
it was little more than a black hole
I tried to see into it,
but there was nothing there yet.
Coming to Jamaica,
I pictured the movie Cool Runnings
and the familiar colors of Caribbean islands.
But still, it was two-dimensional snapshots.
A pile of postcards.
Pictures without personal meaning or context.
Immediately upon arrival in that new place,
when you see it for yourself,
the blank canvas
starts to form a few nebulous sketches.
The longer you stay
and the more you experience,
the black hole transforms
into a world of colorful details.
Just as you can walk through your own bedroom
with your eyes closed,
you can picture so many now-familiar corners of your new world
without actually being present to them.
Now they are full of history,
that color them deeper.
A “new world.”
Although sharing the same planet
and the same humanity,
it does feel like you’ve been transported
to an altogether different place.
Going between the two
is so unreal
you almost have to forget the one you just left
in order to function.
Your mouth is incapable of translating
the world you hold in your mind.
You try speaking in text
to people who see only in postcards.
It becomes like a distant memory
or a story you once heard second-hand.
But if you take the time to remember,
to step out of the home that immerses you as if you’d never left,
it’s not a black hole
or a pile of postcards
that you recall.
It’s a whole world
and many stories.
This world of nostalgia
may haunt you
in the most unexpected moments-
the familiar nooks and crannies,
… the simpler life.
Practical Ways You Can Help a Returnee
- Don’t expect everything to be exactly the same
Returning home “should” feel comfortable for RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers). But in reality, it might not. Because we may not even realize how much we’ve changed on the inside, Returned Volunteers may feel conflicted or confused even when things are familiar. We will be seeing our former life from a different vantage point, good and/or bad.
- Support us by showing interest
Whether you see it or not, we’ll be processing the experiences we’ve had in Peace Corps for a long time coming. It’s a huge part of our lives that we don’t want to forget or minimize. If you do want to hear about our experiences, it can help to carve out a time and space to really talk. But we don’t have to sit down and hash it all out at once. Ask genuine questions that you’re curious about, as you think of them. Or, just hang around and our stories will come out naturally in conversations. However it happens, we’ll definitely appreciate your interest.
- Please try to ask specific questions
It’s basically impossible to answer the question, “How was it?” As my friend Brandi put it so well, this is as good as you’re going to get: “There were some really awesome parts, but honestly, there were some really awful parts. Most days were something in between.” Could you sum up the last two years of your life on the spot? Again, if there’s something in particular that you’re truly curious about, ask. (What kind of resources do the teachers have access to in Jamaica? What are the most common meals people eat? What was your apartment like?) If you don’t know where to start, ask to see a few of our videos- they’re a short and sweet way to share an overview of our experiences with you.
- Include us
Yes, we’ve lived apart from each other for two years, so we’re no longer in the habit of hanging out. And true, we may not be around on a regular or permanent basis even after we return. But we could sure use some friends to make home feel like home again! We’re leaving a highly relational culture and re-entering into a very independent one. Let’s reconnect!
Fellow RPCVs, what was your experience re-entering the U.S.? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Back in August 2013, we were thrilled to be able to participate in Peace Corps’ Third Goal Summit in D.C. with the other winners of the Blog It Home contest. We gained a renewed motivation to use our blog for PC’s Third Goal: to promote a better understanding back home of this new country and culture we’re experiencing.
The Summit also sparked a whole lot of great ideas for Third Goal blogging and allowed us to collaborate with the other blog winners from Thailand, Ethiopia, and Mexico as well as the Office of Third Goal.
We were learning so much from each other, we decided it would be worthwhile to put all our thoughts together and create a practical resource for Volunteers who want to use their blogs for the Third Goal.
This guide, created by volunteers, for volunteers, has already helped us become better bloggers and better Third Goal ambassadors. It is meant to be an ongoing and collaborative effort, so additional suggestions and contributions are encouraged. We hope Volunteers around the world will find it useful.
Even bloggers outside of Peace Corps will find this guide useful for sharing about cross-cultural experiences, service or mission trips, and travel.
To access the guide, start with the links below. You can also find the pages in our tabs above, under Peace Corps Info.
> Includes: Why you should consider blogging about Third Goal topics, and serves as a homepage for the other resources
Resources in the guide are:
> Includes: Simple steps to improve the quality of your blog writing so that you can become a more effective ambassador of your host country’s culture and increase your readership
> Includes: Practical tips and tricks from blog settings to getting ideas for content, great for beginners and those wanting to up their game
> Includes: An extensive list of ideas for Third Goal-related blog posts, with examples from recent PCV blogs, so you can keep your content fresh and interesting
Again, we’d love to include tips, ideas, and examples from other Volunteer bloggers around the world, so if that’s you, don’t hesitate to provide suggestions using the comment form at the bottom of each of those resource pages.
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.
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”
Some grateful senior citizens recently gave Jedd the book Jamaica Fi Real!: Beauty, Vibes and Culture as a thank you for teaching them how to use computers. And it’s a keeper. The images are great; the content is relevant; the commentary is on point.The books is fantastic and its words resonated with our experiences of this country. For example:
It’s possibly the most contradictory country on the planet. Jamaica combines a Third World standard of living with an almost First World life expectancy. It is one of earth’s most stable democracies, yet has one of its higher homicide rates. It is reputed to have both more churches per square mile, and a higher out-of-wedlock birth rate, than any other place on the globe… (pg. XVII)
Are Jamaicans happy people? Well it’s hard to say; while few people go hungry, there are pockets of real poverty, and a fair amount of physical discomfort. Polls say about half of Jamaicans would emigrate to the US if they could, and a high crime rate is not usually the sign of a contented populace. Then there is the constant complaining, for people here are world-class grumblers. Yet Jamaicans interact with such vitality and humour, that it’s hard to conceive of them as being fundamentally miserable and disgruntled. There can’t be many places where people laugh as easily or as often, and no matter how bad things get, folks here always find reasons for outbursts of merriment. (pg. 11)
Throughout our Peace Corps service, we’ve tried our best to Continue reading “Jamaican Culture: Top Posts”
In March 2012, we landed in Kingston together. Now, almost two years later, we celebrate and reminisce on our time of service in Jamaica and prepare ourselves for the final chapter of PCV life. This week, group 83- our cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers on island- met up in Portland parish for our Close of Service conference. In less than four months, most of us will be heading home.
This video that a fellow volunteer, Marie, and I made is a recap of our group’s experiences, which we shared at our conference. Though full of meaning and memories for us PCVs in group 83, I don’t know many outsiders will want to watch all 11 minutes. But I thought some might be curious. And I think the video does a good job of representing what service looks like in this country without spending too much time on any one thing.
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…
The following photos were collected from current Peace Corps Volunteers around the island to share how they’ve gotten into the Jamaican spirit of resourcefulness and ingenuity. See the first set of crafty, make-shift items by Volunteers in the original post: Do It Yourself: Peace Corps DIY Ingenuity
Truly Trash to Treasure: Courtney (recently finished service) and Brandi
Bookshelf, purse, and table: Brandi sent in three photos, two of which were made by her former site-mate, Courtney. “Scandal bags cut into string and crocheted together into a purse by Courtney. A bookshelf made from cardboard, tape, and a Jamaica travel magazine.” Brandi says: “She was always much craftier than me. This one was so valuable to me that I carted it in a mini bus from her site to mine after she left.” And lastly, by Brandi herself: “My antique end tables made from my (full) PC issued water buckets and covered in fabric.” Continue reading “Peace Corps DIY Ingenuity- Part 2”
Peace Corps Volunteers live on a minimal budget and, often, the resources and supplies that were so readily available at home are harder to come by in our countries of service. This brings out some very creative ways to make do. The spirit of resourcefulness is also a big part of Jamaican culture. One of our PCV friends had a brilliant suggestion that we compile a list of all the ingenious, crafty, make-shift creations that current volunteers have made while living in Jamaica. We were pretty impressed with the results.
(And there were so many responses that we have to split them into two posts- so for all those PCVs out there who still have something to share, it’s not too late to send us your crafty photos for the second edition.)
The #1 Carpenter/Handy-man: Kevin
“Bamboo gutter: I made so we could catch water to mix concrete up on the hill of the demo farm. We have since put metal gutters up, but the bamboo did its job in the interim. Continue reading “Do It Yourself: Peace Corps DIY Ingenuity”
Yesterday was a special day for Michelle and I and the rest of the volunteers we arrived with on island, as we celebrated our 20 month of being Peace Corps volunteers. Below are 20 of my favorite photos from the last 20 months which, of course, doesn’t do any justice to the experience, but I hope you like them. (Also, you’ll notice that some of the captions have links back to related posts, in case you want to see more.)