Close Of Service-ing
When people said that your last few months of service move fast, holy crap, they weren’t kidding. In the rush to-do, visit, and climb everything possible, my posting and even my journal fell by the wayside. In an attempt to atone for this and to celebrate all of the wonderfulness that was PCJM Year II, I finally cut together some pictures and clips.
Wahhoooo. Wasn’t that an action packed thrill ride?!
My COS process was an emotional roller coaster, much like the first few months at site, with the emotional pendulum swinging from “I don’t want to leave” to “I am so ready to leave” and back again. There is always work to be done in Jamaica and deciding not to extend my service had more to do with sustainability at my organization and a lack of extensions available in Kingston and not with my love of the country or ability to thrive. Both the Infant School and the Center had small send offs for me which was really sweet and I had an amazing birthday party while my family was visiting in March and that felt like the big send off. It is very common for Jamaicans to ‘go a forign’ or emigrate for work or family and I felt at times that when I told people I was leaving, I was met with “oh you’ll be back” energy and that could be frustrating. I kept feeling like, I will never be living here again, I will visit but this will never be my home. Those were the times with I would reach out to the other PCVs in G83 who were working through the same things.
Fresh from Jamaica I flew to Arizona to be with my sister who has some complications in her pregnancy and was on full bed rest. After a week there I met my girl Claire, fresh from her COS, in DC so we could start our grande adventure. We flew to Istanbul to visit my friend Sanja who was living there, then on to Paris, London and lastly an amazing couple of days in Iceland.
Pretty sweet right?! But what happened when I stopped traveling and had to settle down? Well it wasn’t pretty at first. I felt disconnected from my family and friends in Jamaica, needing to get space to stop seeing it as home but also disconnected from life in the states, I didn’t feel like the same Marie that had left but struggled with a meaningful way to share the experience with people at home. The US was a wonderful land of 1,000 types of hummus but also the land of loan payments and health insurance. The way I used to describe it was that in Jamaica I was really good at choosing between A and B. What do I want for lunch; a Patty OR chicken soup? Do I want to meet the group on the North Coast or stay in May Pen? Back in the states there were seemingly infinite choices about who to see, where to go, what to eat and it felt a lot overwhelming.
For me, the biggest challenge was letting go of this self identity as Marie the Peace Corps Volunteer. By the time I left, it had been almost 4 years of working toward this thing, a Peace Corps Service, and when it was done it was hard for me to move on from something that I was so proud to be a part of. I didn’t handle all of this time well and I think there are people and relationship that I am still working on.
Now, a year later these things have gotten easier. It’s been a good 6 months since I have found myself wondering aimless and overwhelmed in a Target but I’m still working on a balance with staying connected and being fully present. So I guess my only advice to recent RPCVs out there is to be patient with yourself, tek time and sometimes you just have to make a choice and keep moving.
All the hummus is good, I promise.
It is so awkward to watch yourself on camera. I clearly treat the camera like a person and politely look away every so often as to not appear like a serial killer. Anyway I hope you liked the video. Everything that I listed here has been exposed to all the dropping, getting drenched and humidity that a tropical Peace Corps Volunteer can muster.
I would also like to apologize to the members of Group 85 who just arrived on Island. This was intended as a video that would help them pack but alas, life got in the way and I am posting it a few weeks late.
If you are interested in finding out more about the things I listed in the video you can see the links below.
Here are five everyday things that I was glad to have during my 2 year Peace Corps Service.
5. Kitchen Knife and Peeler
Similar items: http://www.amazon.com/Zyliss-31380-Utility-Knife-5-5-Inch/dp/B00421ATJK/ref=sr_1_12?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1394514325&sr=1-12
4. Lush Coconut Deodorant Powder
Sadly, it looks as though they do not make this anymore. Here are some other products http://www.lushusa.com/Deodorants/deodorants,en_US,sc.html
2. Timbuk2 D-Lux Messenger
My big brother Jake finally made it down to visit! It was a bit of a last min decision as he had been waiting for a good deal of the flight for a couple of months. We hit the ground running with his trip, the first day we woke up at 6:45am to play football. A group of friends and coworkers have been playing and when I am around (and can drag myself out of bed that early) I join them for a rousing pick up game. My friend Brandon came over from Kingston to join us and we got to it. Jake got bloodied up a bit after he took a knock on the crapy turf but it just made a cool battle wound. We treated it the way I treat every malady, fresh Aloe. It cures all.
Rehydrating with fresh coconut water and jelly after football.
Here are some of the hight lights from his trip:
Little Ochi for yummy lunch and Pigeon Island for beautiful views and fresh lobster.
Then Jake came with me to meet my cowokers and work with my little students.
Reading with Kerisha like a pro. Our Mama would be proud.
I also took him to explore my site and we went into the market to get dinner fixings and Jake tried a Jamaica Patty for the first time. He was a bit nonplused.
We also worked together to cook a YUMMY Filipino dinner for some of my Jamaican family. It was a big hit and everyone went back for seconds, the ultimate complement.
All in all it was a quick but action packed and I really feel like he got to experience my Jamaican life and that was very special to me. Love you Jaker.
The biggest event that I help plan as part of the Clarendon Crime Prevention Committee is the Christmas Treat. It is a huge endeavor with several thousand children fed, entertained and given a toy. The events go on across Clarendon Parish over the weekend at all of the parish Police Stations. The goal is to increase social and positive interactions between police officers and the members of the public. With the high levels of crime in the parish, there is rampant distrust between the groups and the Crime Prevention Committee aims to repair that relationship. There was a whole heap of food, games, bounce-abouts, and delightful dance contests.
Here was the highlight for the event for me:
I was crouched down taking pictures of the dancers and she comes over, climbs up on my lap, then grabs my face, kisses my cheek and says “I love you aunty.” It was so sweet and unexpected. She spent the rest of the day as my assistant, it was great. Jamaica is so random sometimes, I’ve learned just to shrug and go with it.
GRAND MARKET PEACE CORPS CHRISTMAS
I had such a great time last year at Grand Market with a group of PCVs (which you can relive HERE) that we decided to do it again. My friend Brandy has a home that can accommodate us, sleeping on the couches, floor and in hammocks, and it is self contained so we can cook and be loud without bothering a host family. I had so much fun cookings and spending time with the other PCVs. We don’t often get a chance to congregate in large groups so I really enjoyed catching up with friends and getting to spend time with the Group 84 Volunteers who are relatively new to island. We did a white elephant gift exchange and even watched some classic Christmas movies like Frosty the Snowman. I didn’t enjoy the Grand Market as much this year because it was raining a bit and things just didn’t click like they did last year.
It never quite feels like the holidays without my family and snow but as PCVs we do our best to enjoy each other and what Jamaica has to offer.
Happy Holidays Y’ll. (Two months late but still)
It feels disingenuous for me to brag about completing the Reggae Marathon. I did not run a marathon let me make that abundantly clear. As I stated HERE, I am very new to the strange world of running for fun but running in the Reggae Marathon was on my Jamaica Bucket list (which you can see HERE) so it was going to have to happen. I will say that my experiences with running outside at my site have been less than stelar. May Pen is pretty urban and my house is on a busy main road so my options are really to run on the main road which has been perceived as an invitation for harassment and unwanted attention or to run on side road which has it’s own security risk. So needless to say, training was a bit of a challenge. I did join the ‘gym’ (read: sweaty room with weights) and I have enjoyed the body pump classes, so that was most of my training.
Reggae Marathon is a bit of a Peace Corps Jamaica tradition and the last several years, we always have a at least one Volunteer place. We had about 20 Volunteers running the 10K/half-marathon/marathon and another 10 who volunteered to hand out water along the corse.
THE BEST PART: my sister and brother-in-law were vacationing in Negril to celebrate their one year anniversary so I was able to spend time with both of them. Joe said he would run with me but as I suspected, in about 3 min he was bored and ran ahead. Damn Marines. Here are Lex and Joe getting some of the great road side hydration.
Most of the Peace Corps Volunteers stayed at this cool Yoga Hostel in Negril that was along the race corse. The race started at 5:15am so we were up at 3:30 to get ready and catch a bus to the starting line. The race went well. Claire and I met our goal of keeping a steady pace and not walking at all. I must admit, the last mile as my feel ached, ankles creaked and knees shook, I pledged to look into this whole Barefoot Running thing. I may not be drinking the running koolaid but I do recognize the fun and encouraging atmosphere that surround runs.
After the 10K crew finished we tried to make it back to cheer on the Half Marathon runners and then the All-Stars who ran the Full Marathon. We even got to cheer on the Peace Corps Jamaica Staff who participated.
The rest of the day was spent, rehydrating and napping. Then we went to Ricks restaurant to watch the beautiful sunset.
Understandably we the ride home looked a lot like this:
Sorry again Brandon! haha
I made a trip back to the United States in the late Summer to visit my family, attend two beautiful weddings and eat yummy food. I flew straight back to Boise to spend time with my parents and pups. It was really lovely. Boise is beautiful in the late summer/early fall time. I must admit, it is a strange sensation to go from being the ‘whitest’ person in a community to being one of the ‘brownest.’ I am always surprised when I get called ‘whitey’ or ‘white lady’ on the street, as opposed to the usual ‘brownin’ or ‘Miss Chin’ that I expect. I usually roll my eyes and say something like ‘you should see my dad.’ Perspective is a funny thing. Anyway trip was amazing as usual. My head exploded at Whole Foods and I ate sushi, foccicia bread and kombucha juice at 9:00am, it felt right.
Please enjoy these adorable photobooth pictures with
my mom and brother from the wedding.
Right?! So cute.
But the extra cutest award goes to the pictures from the Western Idaho Fair with my godsons Judah and Jax. It is hard to feel so far from the boys, especially because they change and grow so quickly. But it was nice to play and laugh for the brief time that I was in Boise. They are growing into such fun personalities and I hope they remember my face when I see them again.
No trip stateside is complete without a visit to my adopted home. I shuffled between a few of my friends houses and thank you again Lizzie, Liz and Fyfy and Viet. You were wonderful hosts and incredibly thoughtful. Everyday was filled with fun activities like rafting, going to shows, a beautiful wedding, eating out and my personal favorite the magical activity that is Happy Hour.
It was strange, having people ask me “Is it everything you hoped it would be?” or saying “Eight months, you’ll be home in no time.” They had such a finality about them and for me it feels like something I am very much still in the midst of. It was comforting to know I still love Seattle and have a life waiting there for me when I get back but also it reaffirmed that I am not ready for it yet and I have so much to do and look forward to in Jamaica. So in the end, I was ready to get home. May Pen home.