Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
You never really know who reads your blog. And even though certain people have made it VERY OBVIOUS that they do not want to be my friend anymore, I can't help but wonder if every now and then they try to find out what I'm up to on one of the endless social networking sites we are all addicted to these days. I sincerely doubt it. But I sometimes wonder.
I've had to cut my internet habits down quite a bit. I realized early in this year that it is ridiculous to publicly rank your friends in order of importance on a website. I realized it is also ridiculous to determine your self worth based on where you land in a "top friends" list.
You'd think this was something I discovered earlier in life. In some place like middle school, perhaps? But I've never been treated this way by girls before. It was always the boys who hurt my heart. Girls were always a go-to comfort for me.
I've never been so purposefully pushed away. I've never felt like I wasn't good enough. I've never been told I was "too much drama". I've never met people who don't accept apologies. I've never been held to high standards by girls who don't hold themselves to the same.
Basically, in my life thus far, I've been spoiled.
My big sisters always protected me. Even though we bickered as kids, Janine always made me feel like a priority in her life. She always made sure that no one hurt me and that I never hurt myself. Levana constantly gave me the courage to be different and take risks. She's always been my rock star.
Hilary is basically the closest thing I have to a soul mate. It's an incredible blessing for me to have someone so insightful and understanding in my life. She always makes me want to be the best Lindsay I can be, and she always makes me feel like it's okay when I'm not. In fact, she tells me it's ridiculous to think there is a part of me that isn't good.
The plethora of other ladies in my life are also insanely incredible. Hanging out with Heather, my one college friend, is like being with a sillier, slightly more neurotic version of me. No one laughs at me more than she does. No one remembers me in the positive more than my British buddy. Kat, my Peace Corps African Queen, found time in the midst of her travels to help Aids orphans to respond to my tearful letters about a boy and a broken heart. My cousin Star and I have been freakishly linked since we were babies, and it's nice to have someone in your life who is able to pick up wherever you left off.
Then there's my church friends ... Jami, Laura, Marcia ... I can't really say enough about how our friendship stood the test of time since our days as kids at FPC. They are my positive Ocala association, along with Jenni, who fills my memory with crazy band trips and days at FHS. My Fletcher friends, especially Erin and Lynn, serve as awesome mentors for me in more ways than one in my five years of teaching. Also, my internet gals who leave me comments and make me feel like my life is worth reading about ... I heart you bunches!
The boys are good to me, too. Danny, who still takes an active interest in my life and encourages me to find time in each day to dance around the house in my underwear. My brothers, Joe and Jeremy, who laugh at my jokes and give me big, reassuring hugs. The guys at work, who listen to my dating issues and buy me beers and paint my bookshelves, find ways to make me smile when I'm about to cross over the line.
Even with all this wonderfulness in my life, even with all these fabulous friends of mine ... what these girls did still really hurt. I know that I made mistakes that hurt them as well. I know that I made mistakes and said hurtful things. What I don't know is why they didn't accept my apologies. What I don't know is why they think I'm a bad person. What I don't know is why I wasn't good enough to be their friend anymore.
The bottom line is that I am a good person. I know this to be true. One on hand, I know my friends spoiled me because I do not have the best communication skills, and they always forgive me and love me just the same. But ... I do the same for them. And I will always do that for them. They are good people. No one is perfect. There are a million reasons, but simply... that is what friends do.
Do these girls know how much it hurts to be pushed away? I think they do. They made choices that I can't control. It's not up to me.
In most breakups, I claim the title of Victim. It's role I've comfortably found myself playing a lot in my life. It's not something I'm proud of. This time, however, I am determined not to let myself think I am a victim of their mean girl behavior. After all, every break up ends in a lesson. My lesson for this - my friends are perfect, fabulous, and irreplaceable in every way. I will continue to think this for every new friend I make.
I will continue to love all my friends. I will love the new and the old. I will love the people who no longer love me. I will love the people who never loved me.
Because I am Lindsay, and because that is what I do.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I was sad to leave the friends I made. They wouldn't let me check my bags yet, so I waited at ticketing for two hours. When I finally made it through, I found a restroom and got sufficiently chewed out by a Jamaican cleaning lady who didn't think I could understand her Patois. It isn't my fault it took three flushes for the damn tampon.
I perused the duty-free shopping and bought some dominoes to practice with until I can come back again. I would like to go back to Jamaica, specifically Mt. Vernon, one day. The people were so friendly. I'd like to bring the children some new books.
When the plane left, I was sad to leave, but I couldn't wait to get back to the comforts of home. I may be a spoiled American, but I couldn't wait for a hot shower! As Zulu told me, even prisons in America have hot showers.
All in all, it was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. It's something I can always look back on and appreciate. Thank you to everyone who helped make it possible :)
Monday, July 21, 2008
I went to school in the morning and got a list from the main teacher of supplies she would like for next year. (I want to have a drive at my school so I can ship them to the school in Mt. Vernon.) We went back for lunch, during which Larry announced that he would take the whole team into town. We were a little annoyed - we wanted to escape him! - but what could we do? Rach and I set off to meet Jennifer while Larry loaded the others into the rental car.
The ride with Jennifer's son was terrifying on many levels, to say the least. He drove as fast as possible, passed semi-trucks on one-lane streets, and stopped frequently to pick up strange people who climbed into the back seat with us. I spent the trip praying that I would a) survive and b) not get car sick.
Morant Bay was nothing like Mt. Vernon! It was much more urban, and the streets were packed with people. We were the only white people. We were reminded of this with shouts of "Whities!" or "''Ey white girl!" as we walked past. I didn't mind it. I liked being the odd one out, but Jennifer kept shooting them dirty looks.
Jennifer took Rachel, myself, and the two young boys through the open market, to the bakery, and (ick) the butchers. We wandered by ourselves for a bit when she went to order supplies for her store. After buying bootleg sunglasses and hats, Jennifer wouldn't let us walk around alone anymore. Apparently, we were sufficiently ripped off.
On our way back to meet Larry, we discovered our ride's car had a flat tire. Jennifer let the two boys walk back by themselves and then got worried about them being lost. She kept stopping and asking people if they'd seen "two white guys".
Eventually we found them and then met up with Jennifer's husband, Leighton, at a bar near the beach. I was itching to get out to the ocean, even though the coast was rocky. I couldn't get over how turquoise the water appeared. There wasn't an easy way to access the ocean, though, so I had to settle for the view from the parking lot of the bar. Leighton and my future husband, Mr. Johnson, were pretty sauced by the time we showed up. Larry was pretty ticked that we were half an hour late - but we couldn't help a flat tire and the two MIA whiteys.
After Larry took the boys back, Leighton told me how he really felt about Larry. We were basically on the same page. I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one feeling this way, even though I knew my team members were also frustrated. Then Mr. Johnson kept trying to convince me to be "his waitress" and I kept trying to change the conversation.
On the way home we got another flat tire. The great thing about being with locals, though, is that they know everybody! The first car that pulled up instantly recognized Jennifer and gave us their spare. We were one life-threatening car trip away from home.
That night, Rachel and I went down to the shop for one final farewell. We took pictures with all the kids and indulged ourselves in Red Stripe Lights, which you can't find in the U.S. Later in the night, the younger guys in town showed up and we talked them into teaching us how to play dominoes. The first time I played with a coach, I won! When I played by myself, I lost a lot. I finally won a game, but I think the guys let me win. I didn't care, though. They were incredibly nice...they made sure to blow the smoke from their weed in the opposite direction.
That night, as I felt asleep with the rain dripping on my toes in my cot, I said a thank you prayer to God for letting me meet these people and spend time in Jamaica. It was an adventure, and not always the most fun. But meeting the Jamaicans, especially the children, really helped me gain perspective on my general daily outlook.
We are so lucky in this country. Not only do we have every opportunity at our fingertips, but we often take them for granted. I spent a week around toddlers who never once had a tantrum or needed a nap...children with a handful of clothing and one pair of shoes...babies with ringworm in their legs and open wounds from machete accidents. And not a one of them complained.
I feel asleep to the sound of Jamaican June bugs, and woke for the last time to the sound of our neighborhood rooster. It was time to go home.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The day got much better when I left the house. I went back to the school and for the first time on the whole trip, I knew my presence was appreciated and expected. The grade six teacher never showed up, so I spent the entire day with his class of four boys. They were a blast! We did some math (which I had to double-check without a calculator - yikes!) and then Language Arts. After lunch, we did a writing exercise. Afterwards, I taught them a song in about greetings in Spanish. Ironic, since I speak very little Spanish, but they wanted to learn.
After school, Rachel and I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids at the church. It was hot and exhausting, but a lot of fun. We stayed until dinner time and promised the kids we'd be back in the morning. Later that night we went up to the shop and were invited by Jennifer to spend the day in Morant Bay, the largest town nearby. We knew the next day was supposed to be a half-day as far as work was concerned, but we didn't know how Larry would react to our fieldtrip. We decided to risk it and made plans to meet Jennifer after lunch.
The party was a sight to behold. An elaborate table was decorated and then covered with a veil. A master of ceremonies, Mr. Johnson, was appointed. Many people gave spoken tributes to Shaffay, the birthday girl. She was praised as a quiet, thoughtful, and beautiful young lady. Even I was asked to say something on behalf of the volunteers!
Rachel had spent the day going to fetch her luggage. She finally came back and we busted out the container of granola bars she'd stashed in her suitcases. That night at the party, Larry offered them to our hosts and then turned to ask Rachel if she minded sharing. Obviously, she didn't mind, but it was awkward. It was fun to watch the kids try the granola bars for the first time though.
The table was unveiled and Shaffay took part in the cake-cutting ceremony. She and Kenar, another 11 year old local boy, stood on opposite sides of the cake and simultaneously cut a slice. Rachel and I were asked to help cut the cake into tiny pieces and roll them into napkins to disperse among the guests. I carried the pieces on a silver tray. I walked over to a group of men. One of them was earlier introduced as the "Justice of the Peace".
He said to me, "I want the waiter and the waitress. Come back when you're done."
I didn't get it. I said, "Excuse me?"
He said, "I want the waiter and the waitress."
Again, puzzled. I mean, I know what flirting is, and I gathered this was some form of flirting, but was I supposed to find a guy for him, too?? I felt so clueless.
Then he said, "The waiter, you know, that silver thing in your hand with the cake on it. That's the waiter and you're the waitress."
"Ohhhhh. Yeah, I'll be right back."
I basically ran.
Rachel and I spent the night, literally, avoiding the clouds of weed smoke and the advances of many Jamaican men. We bought Jamaican-colored belts from a woman selling them out of her van. We tried to hang in for the dance contest, but were a little disturbed when the young kids started doing graphic dance moves. We ended up calling it a night around 11pm, even though Mrs. Graham, our eighty-something neighbor, was stilling going strong.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
At breakfast, I told Larry that I was going to walk up to the school and look for work. He had some crazy idea about me going back and forth between the school and the toilet project. Now, here's the thing about the church toilet project. It was a much needed project. The town has no area large enough for everyone to get together with functioning bathroom facilities. Also, the church service lasts for hours and everyone was having to go back to their houses (read: hike the mountain) if they had an urge to purge! However, there were plenty of people to work on the project. Also, the Jamaican men were not real big on letting the women close to the construction. They tell us, "Go relax, go relax, I got 'dis," and then send us off with a wave of the machete. I didn't see the point in my going back and forth between the toilet and the school, so I decided to walk up to the school and see if they needed my help.
After breakfast, Stephanie, Riel and Cheviess left for the airport. Cheviess had been sick since Day One, and her mom wanted to take her home. Luckily, Rachel was able to catch a ride with them to get her luggage, but it also meant that she would be riding back the 2 hours alone with a man from the community. I gave her my cell phone just in case. Why Larry couldn't take them in the Global car, I don't know, but whatever.
(Oddly enough, my cell phone worked in Jamaica. I can't get a signal inside my condo, but I got five full bars in Mt. Vernon Jamaica. Way to go, AT&T.)
When I arrived at the school, I was greeted by Mrs. Pauline. She looked instantly relieved to see me. I watched the children go through their morning devotion, which consists of saying the pledge, the Lord's prayer, the Jamaican National Anthem, and ends with the children saying "Good morning classmates, good morning teacher." I instantly fell in love with the Jamaican National Pledge. It is so uplifting and positive compared to our Pledge of Allegiance. My mood did a complete 180.
The school, although small, is a happy little building. Mt. Vernon Primary serves children ages 3 to 12. It basically consists of one giant room split into three sections. One section is for the "basics" school (age 3-6), another section for grades 1-5, and a third for grade 6. There were approximately 20 kids present that day. I spent the morning reading to the children. The sixth grade teacher showed up, and Mrs. Pauline sent me to the "basics" school to wait for their teacher while she started the lessons for grades 1-5.
Taking the 8 little ones was a bit daunting for me. I know kids. Big kids. Preteen, awkward, hormonal kids. I don't know three year olds. However, the kids energy and smiles won me over and gave me the confidence to wrangle with them for an hour until their teacher arrived. I was very impressed at how many of the littlest ones could write not only their name, but the names of their classmates! I read about three books, and broke up some minor fights about who got to sit closest to the book. (At some point, Larry came by and took pictures.)
When Cari-Ann, the basic school teacher, arrived I went back to help Mrs. Pauline. I sat with the first graders and helped them with spelling and penmanship. I taught a lesson about the difference between "is" and "are". It was difficult, because I had to share a chalkboard with Mrs. Pauline and the 6th grade teacher (who was writing on the opposite side of the board). The kids seemed unfazed, and I couldn't help but think of all the "accomodations" we make for kids in the U.S. who have trouble paying attention. They'd flunk out of Mt. Vernon's school.
I walked back to the house for lunch and found that it was quite empty without Rachel, Stephanie, Riel and Cheviess. However, we had cock stew (read: rooster soup) for lunch and I couldn't stop giggling. It cheered me up.
After lunch, I power-walked it back to the school with Maureen and Larry. Maureen helped me work with the kids and Larry taught a math lesson to the 6th grade boys. The afternoon sun was microwaving that building in the Jamaican heat. Mrs. Pauline rang an actual bell to release the students, who had to say a prayer of thanks before leaving. The kids hugged me and said, "We'll see you at the party!!"
"The Party" was a birthday party for eleven-year-old Shaffae. It was the most culutural experience of the entire trip. And therefore, you'll have to wait for it to get it's very own post. Until then, I'll leave you with the Jamaican National Pledge:
Before God and All mankind.
I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart
The wisdom and courage of my mind,
The strength and vigour of my body
in the service of my fellow citizens.
I promise to stand up for justice,
Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively,
To think generously and honestly, so that,
Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship
and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare
of the whole human race.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
A new day! We awoke as a team rejuvenated and ready to work. Luckily, there was work to be done! The men headed off to work on the church toilet project and the women stayed behind to paint the volunteer house a vibrant shade called 'Caribbean Blue'.
We began our project. There were four of us and four paint brushes, so we didn't have to stop and switch off. We were having a good time.
Then Larry came back.
He was very upset that no Jamaicans were helping us, however, we really didn't need the help. We only had four brushes. He commented that the policy of Global Volunteers is to work with the community, but the people in the community can't take a vacation to help us! Most of them had work to do on their farms. We didn't mind doing this project solo, since it would only take a day to complete. But Larry was very adamant and stated, "If they're not working, neither will I." He spent the day walking back and forth between the projects and threatening not to offer any of the Jamaicans lunch even though there was plenty of food and money in the budget for that purpose.
Needless to say, I was pissed.
My teammates and I tried not to let it bother us. Eventually, some young guys showed up and helped us paint the parts of the wall we couldn't reach. Rachel and I took turns with the paint brush and giggling when giant bags of ganga fell out of the painter's pockets. We bonded with our other teammates by complaining about Larry. I know that's immature, but it made me feel good to know that I wasn't the only one feeling disgruntled. He just seemed to have tunnel-vision about the way things ought to go. Also, he was doing nothing to help Rachel get her bags...even though Global rented us a car for two weeks. The frustration was adding up.
Later in the day we had another cultural shock. Since the painting was done, some of us grabbed trash bags and gloves and began picking up litter. The Jamaicans were appalled. It was unnecessary, they said, even though there was a significant amount of trash lying around. Then they told us this was the top of the mountain and the rain would wash all the trash down to other places below. Hmm...okay. The only other system for getting rid of trash is to burn it. Obviously, they don't have government trucks driving around to take garbage away. We didn't want to argue, so we stopped the litter patrol. It was hard not to try and explain the environmental and health hazards of throwing trash into the valley, but, I didn't come to lecture people. Also, who am I to tell them to stop doing something they've been doing for decades?
The other awesome thing is that when we met people, they wanted to ask us about Barack Obama. One man, Zulu, told me that electing Obama is America's opportunity to get back in the good graces of the outside world. Zulu introduced himself by telling us he used to live in the states, then proceeded to rattle off all the prisons he'd frequented. But he was friendly, kind, and loved showing off Jamaica for us. He quickly became our "go-to" guy on the island.
So, after lunch, Rachel and I finished painting and then rounded up the kids to play at the church. We were worried that since the house was done, there wouldn't be any work for us to do in the daytime for the rest of the week. After some discussion, I planned to walk up to the school the next day and look for opportunities. It made me slightly uncomfortable, because I knew the students were supposed to be preparing for their national exams the next week and I didn't want to interrupt.
After playing with the kids, I was covered in a tasty combination of bug spray, sunscreen and sweat. So I decided to risk it again and...shower. Rebel that I am, I stayed in as long as I could bear it (so, like 5 minutes tops) but was dismayed when I got out to discover half my team went on a hike to Zulu's farm. When they got back, they told me about how he pulled out his machete (they almost took off running) then used it to hack his way through trees to get to his farm (which was a bunch of random vegetables interspersed among a bunch of weed). He told them to watch out for his limp, because his leg still had the bullet when the cops shot him. I wish I could've been on the hike with them.
After that, we all met for dinner and pondered what work there was to be done the next day. I decided to go up to the school and find out. Little did I know what I'd find when I walked up the mountain the next day.