Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sandy, Dengue, AVM, and More!

It is December now and that means I am officially past due on a blog post. A LOT has happened since my last post so I will try to sum it up with some bullet points:
  •   Hurricane Sandy struck the island and we lost power for 2.5 days. Luckily our water never went out on our road. Other parts of our community were not so lucky and are still trying to get their water back. There were a lot of trees and debris down in this area but nothing like the damage to the eastern side of the island. Kevin and I hunkered down in our little cabin with Dora for the majority of the afternoon while the hurricane passed over the island. The most exciting thing that happened during the hurricane is Dora’s discovery of herself in the mirror. To pass the time, Kevin and I played Yahtzee, where I beat Kevin 4 games in a row, in between wringing out towels soaked with rainwater coming through the walls of our house. Kevin blogged about the hurricane, you can read his post here.
  • Soon after our electricity came back on Kevin came down with dengue fever. There is an outbreak on the island and it has gotten worse since Hurricane Sandy. It can only be contracted through mosquito bites so I couldn’t get it from Kevin directly. Nevertheless, it was a miserable and exhausting experience for both of us. You can read about the crazy symptoms in Kevin’s blog post soon to come.
  •  Since October the ladies in Kevin’s organic farmers group have been meeting every week to work on craft items and baked goods recipes to sell at the upcoming 2nd Annual Bluefields Organic Expo and Sorrel Festival. During the Week of Dengue, the ladies in Kevin’s organic farmers group decided to start a ROSCA (Rotating Savings and Credit Association) which is a fancy term for a partner savings plan. Here in Jamaica they are just called partner plans. The partner plan was a way for the ladies to save money to buy the tools they needed to make their crafts and buy shares in the farmers group. They each put in $200 Jamaican Dollars ($2.30 USD) into a pot and 2 members of the group split the pot each week. This continues for 10 week (we have 20 people contributing to the partner plan including Kevin and myself). I attend the meetings every week and assist in making crafts to sell. I am knitting things like pot holders and rasta hats.
Crafts ready to be sold at the Organic Expo

Anita stirring up the fritter batter with sorrel
  • Also during the Week of Dengue my organization hosted a really big event to launch the Caribsave funding partnership for the Jamaican Fish Sanctuaries. You can read about it here on the BBFFS website that I am currently in the process of updating after a LONG period of stagnation. During the event I made some researcher friends from Canada and took them snorkeling in the bay the next week. We snorkeled around the ecoreef and coral reefs. It was fun!
Partnership launch at the Belmont Fishing Beach
  • Then, still recovering, Kevin and I attended a Bluefields CDC lionfish fry fundraiser. It was delicious.
  •   In the meantime, since we got back from the states in mid October, I had been furiously planning the All Volunteer Meeting (AVM) with the other Volunteer Advisory Council representatives. This was a BIG task and we spoke to each other many times every week to straighten out all the details of the meeting scheduled for the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. This was a monumental task and consumed a lot of my time. But in the end it was extremely rewarding. More on that later...
  • Then after the lionfish fry, Kevin and I went to Negril for a day because we needed to get out of the cabin! Kevin literally had cabin fever and I needed a day off. We spent the day watching OSU beat Wisconsin, jumping off cliffs into the ocean with fellow PCVs, swimming in a beautiful seaside pool, and then ended the day by watching the sunset at the western most point of the island. 
Negril claims to have the best sunsets in the world. I certainly can't complain :)
  • Revived by our mini R&R we headed off to Kingston to eat a real Thanksgiving dinner with the USAID Mission Director for Jamaica. It was truly a memorable experience.
  • Then we were off to the races again to actually hold a successful AVM. It was two days of mandatory PC meetings and PCV lead training sessions with fun games and a Thanksgiving potluck to boot. It is always hectic when PCVs get together but soo much fun. I am thankful for getting to know and working with the incredibly inventive and talented PCVs on this island. They are all inspiring people
  • Then this past week I had the most normal week in Bluefields since I can remember. I met with the lady farmers (as I like to call them) to work on our crafts and test out some sorrel recipes for the expo. They made sorrel fritters and sorrel fruit cake. Both were purple and tasty. I worked on the business plan for the Bluefields Fishers & Farmers Gear Store and Market Place and Made a Sea Turtle awareness flyer to be passed out in the community.
  • This last Friday and Saturday I went to Negril with other PCVs to volunteer at the Reggae Marathon. We all met up on Friday to check-in, get assigned a volunteer job, and to go to an endless pasta dinner provided by the marathon. It was an early night because the marathon was scheduled to start at 5:15am in order to ensure that the race is complete by the time the sun is high in the sky. By 5:00am on Saturday, cars with massive sound systems lined the streets of Negril, to blast some really good reggae. I passed out water and cheered on the PCVs running in the race. Fun times.
My life will probably slowdown a bit since we are entering into the Christmas season. Stores are stocked with decorations and sorrel is everywhere. Here, sorrel is to Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving there. However, the change in season has made it so I can’t stand listening to the radio right now because of all the shopping advertisements. The materialism of the season has permeated this culture as well and it really irks me to have to listen to the advertisements selling the ideal of “more is better” and pressuring people into buying “necessary” presents on credit when I am working to alleviate poverty in a rural community with high unemployment. On the bright side, my organization hosts an annual children’s treat day on December 26th for the families in the community. They rent a bounce-a-bouts, merry-go-rounds, organize other kid-loving activities, and pass out toys and food to the children. They also award a scholarship to a deserving youth to help fund their university education. If you want to donate to the children’s treat day please email ( ) to find out how you can help. 

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