* Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels

Post-Peace Corps Road Trip

We’ve been in the States for a full week now! Our goal to reunite with friends and family has been successful, and we’ve been enjoying the many amenities and foods that are now available to us. It’s still hard to believe that Peace Corps is completely behind us. Although we’re enjoying our freedom and return home, it’s bittersweet. Even though we can always return to Jamaica- it won’t ever be the same as when we were living there as Peace Corps Volunteers. We’re forever grateful for that opportunity.

We are posting trip recaps with more photos from our road trip home on the travel blog: Intentional Travelers. Please stop by!

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Jamaica in “Winter” Photos

The other day, a family member back home asked me if there were any flowers blooming in our yard here in Jamaica. It’s something hard to fathom, coming from the Pacific Northwest where everything is dead and gray right now, but the flowers here are always blooming. That’s one thing I love about the tropics. It never gets dreary. Here’s a glimpse of what’s growing in our yard:

jamaica flowers Continue reading “Jamaica in “Winter” Photos”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

20 Months in 20 Photos

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.)

Our group’s first photo when we landed
photo 3(1)
Famous Hellshire Beach

Continue reading “20 Months in 20 Photos”

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Summer Soon Come: An Update

The colors and textures of my classroom
The colors and textures of my classroom

The photos above come from my little room at the school where I do pull-out groups and one-on-one sessions for struggling readers. On especially chaotic days, this place becomes my haven. Can you tell what each photo is? (I’ll post the answers in the comments section of this post.)

What’s Happening
The Jamaican school year continues through the first week of July. I’m currently wrapping up my last full week of classes as we will be attended our Mid-Service Conference all next week and then graduation is the Tuesday after we get back. The Mid-Service Conference (MSC) is the second of three Peace Corps conferences, strategically placed around the one-year-of-service mark. We gather with the other volunteers from our original training group and also bring a Jamaican counterpart for the first three days. We’re both really looking forward to it. Once summer break hits, we’ll be involved in some summer camps, both at my school and at the community center where Jedd volunteers; then we’ll get to take our first, big two-week leave! This summer is going to fly by.

Progress Reports
At school, I’ve done some end-of-year testing to see how the kids have progressed. I started with grade three and was sort of underwhelmed at first. There were 13 third graders that I worked with at least 20 times in the past school year (some up to 38 times each, a combination of group and one-on-one sessions). Everyone improved in one way or another, but none of them are all the way up to their grade level yet. Two of them are close. When I got to the fourth graders, I was surprised to see that many of them had advanced by two whole grade levels. I thought about how these kids had been stuck at a kindergarten level for the past three years, many of them not knowing what sound the letters make, not recognizing the most common two-letter words. With just a little more individualized attention, they finally started to move ahead! It feels really good to see that tangible improvement. I have a feeling the effect is even more significant with my grade one and two students. Next year, I plan to narrow down my classes so I can invest more time into each student and hopefully push them even further.


* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Rise and Shine: A Morning in the Life of a Trainee

This was going to be “A Day in the Life” post, however, just covering the morning hours seems to be plenty for one post. The following is a description of an average training day at my Hub:

One Morning

It’s a Monday morning. I wake up around 5:45am as the sun is just beginning to glow through my windows and illuminate the pastel green walls in my bedroom. My earplugs have fallen out at some point during the night, so I do a quick sweep of the linen sheets to feel them out. The temperature has been much more agreeable now that we’re further up in the mountains of Jamaica, so I had switched my fan off late in the evening. I roll out of bed and my bare feet guide me across the tile floor, out my back bedroom door (the front bedroom door leads to the patio/entrance of the house). A quick zigzag down the hallway brings me to my own private bathroom which my host family has reserved for me; it is nearly the size of my bedroom but painted pastel pink. (I’ve already used the facility twice during the night because of how much water and juice I’m ingesting, and yet I still have to go again! TMI?) Continue reading “Rise and Shine: A Morning in the Life of a Trainee”

Other Travels

The Land of Haiti

Hey Everyone. So many of you have been asking us questions about our experience in Haiti (what did you do, what was it like, was it safe, etc…) Hland8 and we are going to try our best to answer and share as much about it as possible. It’s hard to truly capture everything that we experienced in a blog, but definitely feel its necessary to try (one of us could actually talk forever but thankfully, his better half keeps him grounded, or at least tries to). In these series of posts, we hope to share with you about the people (Tuesday), the land, the amazing services taking place everyday supported by local leaders and the Haiti Foundation of Hope, and of course, our thoughts and feelings about everything. But we might miss something  and we’d love to hear from you, especially if you have any questions or things you want to know about Haiti and our experience. Please leave a comment or email us. We want to help you know more about this special place. Back to the land….


I realized with the “people” post I did a lot of talking and in sharing about the land, I plan to let most of the pictures speak for themselves. The main thing to think about when you look at each one is the relationship between humans and the land. I’ve never been a true advocate for environmental issues and even remained a bit skeptical of the “green” movement and other issues raised. My friend Mike Abbate shares in his book (Gardening Eden) multiple examples of human impact on their local environment. How greed (both from foreign and local businessmen), and unsupervised monitoring and regulation of human activity caused devastating affects, not only to the land and the animals, but more specifically, to the people who called the land home. Haiti is such an example were deforestation obliterated, and literally washed away the land. In simpler terms, humans have cut or burned the trees to make charcoal (notice the coal part) for energy (fires and what not) without any reforestation plan.

Because of the geographical placement of the island (the Caribbean), rains are frequent (thunderstorms and annual hurricanes) which are normally good, but there are no trees (some),

Haiti from air
Notice there are hardly any trees, green from the rains, still no trees

which means the ground is saturated and flooding occurs. Floods lead to accelerated erosion of the land, especially top soil good for farming. There are some good seasons (we witnessed re-growth of plants and farms) but know one knows when the next major flood might wash out everything. The government doesn’t do enough to protect the trees. There are no incentives or alternative programs for people to get energy another way.  There is little in terms of education to teach people the importance of trees. Pastor Delamy shared with us a Haitian proverb, “Sometimes prevention is better than healing”. Proactive measures such as education are important and effective means to fight this battle in Haiti (and in the world). If not, life and land will continually wash away.

Once a road, now a river for constant floods until they can repair it permanently
Once a road, now a river for constant floods until they can repair it permanently
Water flows from the mountains but most are polluted from trash
Water flows from the mountains but most are polluted from trash
and here's why they are polluted. Notice the dump truck in the upper left corner
and here’s why they are polluted. Notice the dump truck in the upper left corner
Fields of Rice (only in one area of the country from what it looked like)
Fields of Rice (only in one area of the country from what it looked like)
See how close everything is built next to each other? Taken from the air by Janan
See how close everything is built next to each other? Taken from the air by Janan

NOTE:  I realized after looking over this post, you might think Haiti is not beautiful. That’s NOT true. These are just the major things that really stood out to me. I also didn’t want to duplicate using pictures I posted before. Haiti IS beautiful and I think that’s what makes these pictures important to me: if nothing is done, the beauty of this land and others will be swept away…

Related posts:
The People of Haiti
Haiti Recap Video