* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

Jamaica by Jamaicans

Peace Corps’s Third Goal Office is hosting a video challenge for this year’s Peace Corps Week. Being the wanna-be film-maker that I am (and being partial to the Office of Third Goal who awarded us a free trip to DC last summer!), I had to do something.

Peace Corps has three primary goals for its volunteers, and the third goal focuses on raising awareness about our countries of service among Americans. Hence, the contest to depict what you wish Americans knew about your country in two minutes or less.

My strategy was to let Jamaicans speak for themselves (not too many PC countries can capitalize on their English-speaking counterparts). I’ve collected a lot of great interview footage over the two years, so hopefully I’ll get motivated to share more of that eventually.

Continue reading “Jamaica by Jamaicans”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps

The Most Useful Travel Gear

Useful Travel Gear
From top left down – Reef Sandals, Totes Umbrella, REI Messenger, Croc Flat, Wustof Knife, Logitech Mini Boombox

Dear Outside Magazine – though I’m sure the demand is greater than the need, I humbly and officially submit my interest to become one of your honored gear testers and reviewers. My experiences as a Sales Associate at Recreational Equipment Inc., living and traveling abroad, combined with my passionate, yet slightly obsessive drive for product research make me a perfect fit for the position. I would also like to add that my wife, family, and friends, think I’m extremely trustworthy and that I provide useful information about many things (most of the time).

I am a gear junkie of the best variety. I’m honest to a fault, but mostly I just believe in great products and knowledge. Products that, when I pay for them, I expect them to do what they say they are going to do. Fair value. A great overall experience is much appreciated.

Having traveled to a variety of places and committing our lives to intentional and simple living, I’ve discovered that there are Continue reading “The Most Useful Travel Gear”

* Peace Corps

Jamaican Culture: Top Posts

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.Jamaica-Fi-Real-CoverThe 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”

* Life Updates

Annual Review Exercise 2013

annualreviewHappy New Year! As mentioned in our Year In Review post, we took some time off over Christmas to reflect on the past year and cast our vision for 2014. We followed the Annual Review shared by The Art of Non-Conformity and here’s what we came up with:

What went well this year? Continue reading “Annual Review Exercise 2013”

Uncategorized

Jamaican Public Transit (Part Two)

A large bus like this is called a Coaster. In our area, most are a bit smaller- like 14 passenger vans with a raised roof.
A large bus like this is called a Coaster. In our area, most are a bit smaller- like 14 passenger vans with a raised roof.

For more about Jamaican public transportation, see Part One. For more answers to current volunteer poll questions, see To Care Or Go Crazy and Current Volunteers Tell All.


Maximizing Space
Cramming as many people as possible in a bus or taxi is an all-too-common occurrence that we experience almost every day. The record that a volunteer has witnessed in a 5-seatbelt taxi is: 11 adults. Or 2 adults and 16 children. One person to a seat is just not that efficient (or profitable). Continue reading “Jamaican Public Transit (Part Two)”

* Jedd Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon

This past weekend we both participated in a Peace Corps Jamaica tradition: Jake’s Triathlon (http://www.jakesoffroadtri.com/). This was an event originally started by a Peace Corps Volunteer, which brings together both local and international competitors to help fund community projects in the area. Off the beaten path itself, Treasure Beach, the location of the race, provides a unique and laid-back setting for this off-road tri. We met some great people and were inspired by the defending champions (Jamaicans) who kicked some butt.

For volunteers like us, training in a hot climate with limited access to bicycles and places to run or swim, we tend to opt for the more manageable relay format. We each took the running portion (7k) on our respective teams, a Peace Corps all-men and a Peace Corps all-women team. Believe it or not, Continue reading “Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon”

* Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels, Videos

Redwoods and the Oregon Coast

Thanks for tuning in to our adventures! This is the final video blog post of our month-long road trip. After Yosemite, we had one of our longer driving days to get to the Redwoods. We decided to spend only one night in the Redwoods area so we could meet up with my (Michelle’s) family. It has been family tradition since the 1950’s for my Mom’s side to camp at Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon. I grew up going there every summer with all the cousins but now many of them have gone separate ways. So this time was a very small gathering of the clan. As you’ll see in the video, Jedd was very excited to end the trip catching two fish back to back since his other catches the week beforehand were too small to keep.

We are now in the Portland and Salem areas enjoying more time with family. What does the rest of the summer hold for us? Well, we’ve been pretty successful lining up house-sitting and work-exchange-for-rent (but we can always do more- let us know), so we continue to be nomadic. We’re excited to do some more traveling as well, with a trip to celebrate Mère’s (Michelle’s grandma’s) 90th birthday in New Orleans and then help Jedd’s great aunt get ready to move from Florida in September. Jedd is working about 3/4 time with Relevant Studios while I am basically doing odd jobs around other people’s houses. We expect to have more information from Peace Corps at the end of the summer, whether that be a final placement or more waiting.


See more from our road trip here (videos included):
Epic Road Trip Day One: 4 States in 2 Days
Yellowstone  Jackson  Exploring Utah   Bryce and Zion
Grand Canyon  Las Vegas National Park
Sequoia and King’s Canyon  Yosemite!
A Snapshot of Our Trip So Far
Away We Go! Our National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

 

* Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels, Videos

Yosemite!

Many say Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the country, so we decided to spend five nights there. After an arduous hike, the view from the top of Yosemite Falls was well worth the climb. Another hike took us to an unforgettable waterfall at Hetch Hetchy Resevoir in a section of the park that has fewer visitors and allowed us to escape the weekend crowds. One of Jedd’s college friends, Tyler, was able to fly out to meet us to experience this leg of the epic road trip together. We’re appreciative that he made the effort to join us! As in many of the other parks, we also took advantage of the Ranger programs, which always provides deeper insight to our experience (and usually good laughs from the cute things enthusiastic children contribute to the talks).


See more from our road trip here (videos included):
Epic Road Trip Day One: 4 States in 2 Days
Yellowstone  Jackson  Exploring Utah   Bryce and Zion
Grand Canyon  Las Vegas National Park
Sequoia and King’s Canyon  Redwoods and the Oregon Coast
A Snapshot of Our Trip So Far
Away We Go! Our National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

 

* Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels, Videos

Sequoia and King’s Canyon

We had a great three nights camping in King’s Canyon where we could explore the canyon, rivers, lakes, huge trees, neighboring Sequoia National Park, and- of course- encounter more wildlife! The highlight of this part of the road trip was definitely the bear on our hiking trail.


See more from our road trip here (videos included):
Epic Road Trip Day One: 4 States in 2 Days
Yellowstone  Jackson  Exploring Utah   Bryce and Zion
Grand Canyon  Las Vegas National Park
Yosemite!  Redwoods and the Oregon Coast
A Snapshot of Our Trip So Far
Away We Go! Our National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

 

* Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels, Videos

Las Vegas National Park

Though not a National Park and not on our list of places to see, Las Vegas was on the way from Grand Canyon to Sequoia. And so we spent the weekend there. Fortunately, Michelle’s parents and brother, Tyler, were able to join us as well.

If we weren’t already, we are now officially big Cirque du Soleil fans. We were able to see both “O” (the water show) and “Mystere” while in Vegas, and they were absolutely spectacular. We were in awe of all the crazy things human beings are able to do and of the intricate, creative thought that went into every moment on stage.

We likened the city of Las Vegas to a grown up’s Disneyland, a comparison that has no doubt been made before. It’s a land where reality is set aside for the time being, buildings are constructed with no other limit than imagination, and each resort plays its theme out down to the smallest detail.

But it’s not all fun and games. On the streets, a silent story was being told that deeply saddened us. Most people are probably familiar with what happens on the streets of Vegas: the distribution of pornographic prostitution flyers. Many people laugh these off or simply ignore them. But who is distributing these flyers? Is it the pimps? People who want to promote prostitution? I don’t think so. It was people desperate to support their families. People who would have exhausted any other alternative for making a clean living. People who had to set aside their values and moral beliefs in order to scrape by. Can you imagine what kind of situation would cause a person to make this choice? More often than not, it’s someone of hispanic background behind those flyers. Immigrants who have to be paid under the table can be taken advantage of by “employers” because, without papers, they can’t go to the authorities to report unfair wages or other abuses. Behind their stoic faces and the snap snap of the flyers between their fingers, dutifully pushing a flyer at each male pedestrian who passes by, you can start to see that there is more to their story. Something that we push behind facades because it’s too ugly or sad to bear. You can tell that behind all the glitter and lights, something is not right in Vegas. There is plenty to distract us from thinking about it- that’s what Vegas is about: distraction. But it’s definitely there in the dark corners, and we’re all at least a little relieved that someone is covering it up so we don’t have to think about it. For the time being.


See more from our road trip here (videos included):
Epic Road Trip Day One: 4 States in 2 Days
Yellowstone  Jackson  Exploring Utah 
Bryce and Zion  Grand Canyon
Sequoia and King’s Canyon  Yosemite!
Redwoods and the Oregon Coast
A Snapshot of Our Trip So Far
Away We Go! Our National Parks Road Trip Itinerary