Thursday, July 3, 2008

more deets

Day Three:
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.



thetomboyeffect said...

Larry sounds like an ass.

The Working Girl said...

pretty much.

did you leave that anonymous comment on the other post?

emilysuze said...

What an amazing experience to see the cultural differences.

And I agree--Larry sounds like an ass.