Monday, August 30, 2010

Booked a flight home already...

So I had to book a flight home already. I'm not entirely too excited about it because I am loving Jamaica. In earlier posts I mentioned that I have to take the GRE's, so that is what I am coming home to do. Fly in Thursday, take the test Friday, have all day Saturday and fly home at the crack of dawn on Sunday. Quick "link up" with my CT people and then back to my new Jamaican life. So rather than totally freaking myself out about the GRE's because I am placing an ton of pressure on this one test by flying home and paying more than I ever would for an overrated standardized test that barely evaluates your ability to be a Grad Student (ditto for SAT's, maybe not for MCAT's/LSAT's, but for most). I am foreseeing this as an opportunity to experience what it would be like to study for a test that you only get one chance to take due to financial obligations. In the case of Jamaica, and graduate with a 4-year degree who wants to pursue an education in the US would have to fly to Miami at anytime or wait for the only 2 testing opportunities that come twice a year here in Kingston, and hope you get a spot and nothing goes wrong.

In the US we can take the GRE's at anytime. In Connecticut it is offered at 3 different locations, twice a day, 6 days a week, and you can only take it once per calender month. There are so many chances for increasing your score, seems unfair when comparing Jamaica's situation to ours. So this is a cultural experience for me, viewing the advantages of a functioning infrastructure that caters to our people quite well in some aspects such as standardized, re/certification granting examinations. These are only small examples of a vast number of disadvantages.

QUICK INTERJECTION: Not only have I noticed that my grammar is getting progressively worse, my spelling is slipping too. So are my massive screw-up's like switching two, for too, or to. Anita & I were laughing because when we do something silly or a bit idiotically at home are parents always ask us how we became Fulbright's? Anita's parents came up with the term "Halfbright" no need to say anymore!
Also check out the above Christian Science Monitor article that my buddy Dave posted on his Facebook. Yep, scary stuff. But good news, "The combat mission in Iraq is over, operation Iraqi freedom is complete". Now moving all troops, capital, and equipment (all-encompassing) into Afghanistan and maybe one day Pakistan. Yikes. Well Obama said it will end a year from now so lets give him the benefit of the doubt, since he stuck to this withdrawl date, that this could actually .

I have been trying to attach a soundbite that I took of constant car alarms from the balcony of my apartment. For some reason it is not entirely working. I think I am just doing it wrong, oh well if I can merge photos into panoramic images I am sure I can figure out how to attach a wma file.

At the suggestion of an undergraduate professor of mine, I spent roughly 7 hours on researching faculty at the graduate universities I want to attend, to see where my interests and my studies/experiences match theirs. Exhausting process. There are so many professors who are researching different things that captivate me. So I am narrowing it down by making it fit with my experiences. The Caribbean, the penal system, immigration, substance abuse prevention, education, economics, international law, refugees, forced migrants, intellectual property and copyright law. And believe it or not, after all that prattle about a nebulous career path, there were professors whom were experts in all various studies that complemented mine. I mainly found the best fit with professors all located in the North East, from D.C to up North. Looks like I'll be coming home at some point!

Okay so enough about the really uninteresting stuff. Look Lyme Caye photos.
It's totally sunny, the water is clear and amazingly warm; then the next minute it is pouring and you can barely see cause the rain is like splashing salt water into your eyes. Greg told us that by the time we leave Jamaica we will be able to see under the water despite the salt. I don't quite believe it. So I tested it out and tried to open my eyes under water and and spent the rest of the day hoping something would assuage my pain. So now I have a basis to compare my future attempts of looking underwater.

One of my favorite parts of Jamaica are the taxi drivers. All of them are so dynamic and have hilarious nicknames; Money, Mister Pinney, Barbie, Jacko, Llyod, Junior, Mister John and more. Usually they will show you around on your ride because your obviously a foreigner, the accents give us away immediately. Also our obvious lack of swagger. They tell you about their families, where they grew up, all the places they have worked, and they usually point out a few of Jamaica's famous locations named after hero's such as Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley. Taxi drivers make the best tour guides. Here in Jamaica they all have personal numbers so if you find one you like, for the right price you can get a steady driver. So we are interviewing because Ricard's car broke down and we are not sure when it will be fixed again.

This week has also been the week of the Jamaican Beef Patti for us. We went around and tried random Patti places only to come up with the same conclusion that we were told we would find. Tastee patti's are the best, good thing we can see one from our balconies! We figured that rather than take everyone's word for everything we would try most things out for ourselves. I also received a lengthy lecture from one of Jazz's friends, Omry, that I cut fruit wrong and actually eat it wrong too. He cut up mangoes, black spotted mangoes, pears, sweet sop, and june plums. Lesson learned. He also taught Jazz how to steam fish, Anita tripped out because the fish still had heads and skin! It was really delicious.

Our friend Kam, who brought us to Lyme Caye, picked us up and brought us to Medusa. It is an outdoor bar that is all inclusive drinks for $1000J. It's ridiculously cheap and they have great music and quite a diverse crowd. From UWI students, to professionals and travelers there are all kinds of people. I spoke to one guy from Botswana and one from Wales all in all of two minutes. This bar shuts down early in comparison to most, at midnight exactly the music goes off to keep in accordance to their noise ordnance. We will definitely go back here.

Grad Classes start next week at UWI, which I am incredibly excited for. I am taking Caribbean Political Institutions I and World Trading Systems this semester and next semester I am taking Caribbean Political Institutions II and International Political Economy. Wednesday will be my first day of Grad Classes ever! YES! More work! Speaking of work I really need to stop blogging and work again. Until something interesting happens, I'll be working and not blogging!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In Jamaica everybody knows somebody who knows somebody.

So I am going to attempt the task of recounting my second weekend in JA in one entry. I feel discouraged already! Friday! I spent the morning researching grants for the NGO I am volunteering with here. There are so many angles with which I could go for a grant but I need to narrow it down to a solid few. So that is my giant task for the upcoming week as well and then start writing! I always get completely distracted when researching on the internet so I tend to stumble across some pretty amazing stuff. Like ICED GAME. Iced Game is a video game that stand for "I Can End Deportation." The goal of this game is to become a citizen of the United States. Basically there are 5 immigrant Avatars who all come from different backgrounds and there game play geared to secure citizenship. GAME PLAY: "As an immigrant teen you are avoiding ICE officers, choosing from right and wrong and answering questions on immigration. But if you answer questions incorrectly, or make poor decisions, you will be detained with no respect for your human rights."
This intent of this product is obvious, but the means in getting the message across was genius. This game is really marketable too, the graphics are good, the ambiance of the game is rebellious but street smart, and the message is powerful! Schools have picked this up, particularly inner city schools with large immigrant populations. So while I wrote the above paragraph I skyped Brittney, signed up for a new mailing list on immigration, received an unknown phone call (more on this later), perused the eLibrary that exists on the Fulbright alumnus page, searched UWI's online Library, and almost bought a book on my Kindle. Distracted like no other right now! Yep so needless to say I played ICED until I realized time crept up on me and Jerk Day at work was approaching! So Ricard picks me up 40 minutes late and drops me at my parking lot were a volunteer had started cooking Jerk Chicken and serving it with Harddough Bread. So good. Ishon and I were able to have a lengthy conversation about his pastoral counseling master's and his thesis, aka 2 sermons written and orated. I've been enjoying getting to know my coworkers on a personal level and I am enjoying all of the work associated with FURI.

After some good conversation and work Ricard picked me up with his other sister and neighbor in the car. We were going to pick up Georgia, drop of his sister and neighbor then get Anita and go to Kingston's Downtown Outdoor Market. We were told it's best to take a local for your first time through cause it can be pretty confusing, the navigating and the purchasing part. But now that I have done it once, I will do it 100 more times. I absolutely love that place. Anita, Ricard, Georgia and I bought as much as my backpack could carry and that we could carry in our arms. Naseberrys, June plums, Sweetsop, Pineapple, Pears, Salad (quiz: what are these two really? You should know from previous entries.), Plantains, Bananas, Lettuce, String Beans, Mangoes and Carrots all for about 2000JA (20USD). Such a bargain, and its local, fresh, and tastes so much better.

After digging in on some of the new fruits we got, with google by our side for eating directions we got ready for a date night, for Anita & Ashley's one week anniversary. We walked to Devon House which is this beautiful old house and adjoining park that once belonged to the richest Jamaican, the first millionaire. It is now a park with shoppes, restaurants, a chocolate store, a famous ice cream place (I-Scream), and wine bar. Anita & I ate at Norma's which is very elegant and serves great food. A bit pricey but worth it. After over tipping the waiter (standard tip here is 5-10% max if at all) 22%, yup still learning, we went to I-scream for some ice cream. The city favorite is there Stout flavor but we tried something else. There will be many other opportunities for Stout I-Scream. We then hit the candy store, bought some really sweet sugarcane chocolate bar then grabbed a taxi home. We wanted to walk but we figured a taxi would be best. We were told we don't have the "Jamaican swagger" yet so we should taxi until then!
TANGENT: I brought my alarm clock from me & Pete's room and it's not operating correctly so it keeps changing time randomly so the alarm randomly goes off, it's odd. I should just unplug it but I'm oddly curious about why it can't count time right! I tried to count the seconds so I could mathematically add the intervals to see if there are extra seconds counted but I got lost in numbers and fell asleep. The voodoo clock lives on to tick another convoluted second.

Since the nightlife scene is hella confusing over here we decided to relax on Saturday so we could go out at night and celebrate Jazz's arrival. She was getting in around 5pm and that means she would still have 7 hours to unpack and settle in before Jamaican's even consider going out. Jazz and I went for a walk to grab Jamaican Beef Patties from Jucci Patti down the road, go to the bank and grab some red stripe, got slightly turned around looking for Scotiabank but managed to complete our journey by 8pm. Dinner, shower, relax, get ready, go out. Our real eastate broker picked us 3 up and we wandered off to the end of Knutsford Blvd, a hub for JA nightclubs. Mind you this is all walking distance and we could roam alone but until this swagger is developed we drive! We hit one club that was cool inside but was a bit dull, then we went next door to "Quad" a club that is considered more "downtown" and had a blast. Around 3 am a giant switch gets flipped and the dancing gets exponentially more serious. Also when a good song comes on everyone in the clubs yell "pop pop pop pop pop"! But if you do it at the wrong time your lame so don't mess this crucial social ritual up! They say it is comparable to the "WOOO" you hear in clubs in the states. I don't WOOO therefore I won't pop pop pop either. We scooted out a bit after 3am and passed out after eating Ramen noodles when we got home! Early morning ahead at Lyme Cay!

So this to the right is Lyme Cay. It is a very small uninhabited island off the coast of Port Royal. Port Royal is a famous pirate city, where Blackbeard and Bluebeard scourged! Kam & Greg, our friends we met through Anita's network, picked us up and brought us to the docking station where you catch a small engine powered boat about 25 minutes out in the Caribbean Sea. By the way Kam knows everyone hence my blog title today. Everything we need, he can hook it up. Good guy to know in Jamaica! The water is ridiculously clear the the island looks as halcyon as ever. We docked and made our way on to the island, greeted the boat party that was lined up in the water, and relaxed in the spa like water. It started to rain but I was imperturbable and we proceeded to stay in the water for at least 2 hours while it rained. The view was gorgeous and the Dance hall that boomed from the boats created a dream like beach party atmosphere. Only downside, the rain soaked all of our stuff cause there is no shelter so we rode home on the boat freezing carrying sandy wet towels and were soaking wet and sandy ourselves from the lack of usable towels. What a hot mess.

I made dinner, my Blue Dolphin job has made me better with Pasta sauces! So last but not least, Unknown Number dilemma. So I guess my new JA number is an old number of a women who lost her phone, so I have been receiving tons of random calls for her. But this unknown number keeps calling at really early morning hours and odd late night hours. Now I don't answer unknown phone calls but I want to put and end to this callers agony. I'll pick it up next time, but I now will leave you with a Dance hall song Jazz showed us to illustrate my unknown number trouble. Unknown Number- Busy Signal ---- click to hear <3

Now check out this ridiculous "pear" seed, had to measure it against a red stripe to really show you the enormity!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just walking about like I have been here for years

Since I spend way too much time on my balcony, which how I could not I have noticed a sound that seems to occur every few minutes between the constant beeping and bumping dancehall music. Car Alarm Symphonies. Constant car alarms are being set off. Now, I am not assuming the worst (car theft), I am actually assuming that people either struggle with there clickers or that people just go crazy with the panic buttons all day. Because I cannot come up with any legitimate reason for car alarms to go off that often!

So after publishing last nights blog Holly & Jody linked (JA for got me) me up and rescued me from my ennui we went on a mission to surprise Anita by linking with her from school and canceling her driver! Then we drove around laughing and checking out different parts of Kingston. I felt like I was driving around Danbury with Brittney and Paul! They showed us a few more places in Kingston we can't miss and for some reason we all really love food so we end up talking about restaurants and foodie questions. One way to get to know another culture is by eating your way through it. Right across the street from the fortress that is the American Embassy there is a few guys cooking out of old oil drums that are sawed in half and turned into grills. Jody speaks fervently "You guys have to try pan chicken! And this is my favorite pan chicken guy!" Now you will never catch me saying no to street food cooked by piecemeal pseudo-oven devices. We park at the Shell and walked across the street looking right first then left which is an unusual sequence for me. Upon reaching pan chicken man Jody introduces us as his sisters from another country and that we should be taken care of. The guy tells us that he loves Jody and would do anything for him. Breast or thigh & leg? Pepper & Ketchup? Now on the grill there are at least 100 pieces of Chicken cooking you barely have to keep food warm in Jamaica its hot even at night during these months. Jody & I grab a Guinness from the cooler pan man opens them up and we drink on the streets of Kingston waiting for our chicken to get selected, chopped and topped. Lastly they throw on top two pieces (CAR ALARM sorry) of think dense white bread called hardbread I believe, also hence "pan" bread in Spanish. Given two us in tinfoil wrapped packages we go back to the car and head home. Now pan chicken is amazing. It is not jerk but it is a different series of spices and the ketchup is distinctly sweeter. A must try in Kingston, and certainly a re-do for us! Stuffed = Sleep.

It's pretty hard to sleep in here. The sun rises through the patio and bakes the room. I always wake up pretty hot and I keep the door open to catch a breeze. Usually the morning traffic wakes me up too. But I like it, compared to my room at home that can suck me in till about noon. Routine: Coffee, deck, cigarette, computer and amazing view of Kingston. Best way to wake up yet. I get an email from my boss Carmeta in NYC pointing out some germane organizations to find funding through for FURI. I spend the morning researching grants and pulling together some ideas and channels through which to apply for funds. I study again for the GRE's blasting through the analogies section. BRING IT sentence completion! I Skype a few friends, read the paper, deal with our electricity issue and shower and get dressed. I don't know what prompted me to motivate originally but I soon found out it was a good thing I did. My introductory BBM service for my blackberry expired. This has been the best way for me to communicate with people here so I better go "top up (purchase credit)" so I don't have a mini panic attack (I know pathetic). So I Google map the closest Digicel, sweet 3 streets away. Anita and I are addicted to Google since arriving here. So streets change quick in Kingston so of course the first turn I made was the wrong turn! After asking a for directions and walking through some hotel courtyard and a few parking lots I got to Knutsford Blvd where there is endless fast food, hotels, chain restaurants, and stores. Jucci Pattis, Island Grill, Tastee's, the BK lounge (burger king) and more. Now cell phones here are confusing, basically you get a Digicel SIM Card and you can do everything yourself from your phone, but everything requires a confusing code like *120*10*30# and you get 30 days of BBM. So I'm learning quick but I figure getting to a store one last time so they can show me the right way was worth it. Good forethought on my part because I ended up being there for over an hour. The counter is mobbed no one works in lines, you just shout over the person in front of you because the Digicel counter people are phenomenal multitaskers. People are shouting for credit anywhere from 100 to 1000 JA$ and the workers are printer slips tossing cash and fixing phone for inept users such as myself. Since I had BBM 7 day plan initially switching to BBM 30 was quite the hassle nothing I can do alone. Also you have to "batch up" which means take your battery out every other step to reset the phone. So... my Mac turns on faster then my blackberry so half the time I spent waiting for it to reboot. I also had to see two separate techs cause shit was going nuts on my phone! The storm 1 or 2 has also not been introduced to Jamaica believe it or not, they are barely compatible with Iphone data plans and Droid; what Droid? So most techs are confused by my phone not to mention that the screen is wrecked I am missing the pieces of the screen that cover the main buttons. Most techs who look at it tell me new phones are to the right. Well whatever my BBM is back. Walking home took me no time and I GRE'd it up and worked on my IRB package. Too much work, but tomorrow is Friday, so work stops when I leave tomorrow after our jerk party! Wait, doesn't sound to much like work anyways!

P.S. GRE words! Come on people give them a shot!

No wonder it's so HOT here!

EPIPHANY! My computer gives me hot flashes. As the hours press on and I'm working away on my computer the damn device gets hotter and hotter! Before you know it my thighs are on fire because my computer is about to overheat! Mac needs to really work on hooking up some AC to there laptops! Maybe it is because I spend my time trying to merge and upload photo's like the one above! That is the view from our balcony. I took this with my new camera my family got me before I left! I couldn't upload it any bigger so unfortunately your stuck with this blurry, small, does not do justice to our view photo! Sorry but you get the idea.

So Tuesday was really hot for me but I can't complain cause it was the most relaxing day I have had so far. I woke up at 8:30 to meet the cable guy so he could set up our internet and TV. Down here the service is called "Flow", there advertisements are hilarious! Jamaican advertising is a bit cheesy but its extremely entertaining! So my cable guys name is Andre and he is a really nice guy. He was telling me all about Jamaica and that he loves sports. Ends up he is going to take me and Anita to a futbol game! Everyone wants to show us there favorite part of JA.

The rest of Tuesday consisted of me sitting on my deck, Skyping my friends, getting tons of paperwork done and studying for the GRE's. I think I made enough flash cards to stretch from here to home in CT! Looks like a I may have to plan a trip back to the states just so I can take the test before Grad School deadlines in Feb-Apr. SIDE NOTE: Starting now we will be playing a game to help me study for the GRE's. In every blog I will put 3 newly learned GRE words in BOLD. I would like my readers to define them for me, WITHOUT looking them up in a dictionary. GAME STARTS...NOW!

I also was easily distracted by uploading photos, downloading music, and BBMing new Jamaican friends! Despite Tuesdays uneventful nature, I needed it. Anita & I topped off the night with a fair attempt to make fried rice without any spices and just Siracha chili sauce. That sauce makes anything edible, and that's exactly what it did for our rice.

Now Wednesday (today) is a different story. We woke up early for our Embassy Security Briefing at 9am. Genius me left my passport at home and had to made the Taxi turn around to go get it! Therefore I was late but I quietly wondered to myself..."Does the American Embassy in JA run on Jamaican time?" So I walk inside I have to wait for about 15 minutes for Bernadette to come get me and bring me to where Nicole and Anita are waiting. So we meet finally meet Angela Harvey (Cultural Affairs Specialist) and Yolanda Kerney (Public Affairs Officer). Both women were absolutely amazing and there were very honest with us about what they expect from us as Fulbrighters in JA.
Basically they broke it down into a few canonical rules:
1) Do not do anything that will get you arrested, not only does Jamaican law apply to us, but US law still does too.
2) You are a cultural ambassador of the US always remember this when in public.
3) Do not make the Embassy call your parents with bad news.
4) Do not ask about Visa's for people just because you have an "in" with the Embassy the answer is NO and will always be NO.
5) This one might be my favorite. DO NOT FALL IN LOVE, he will not be coming back with you to the states no matter what! They explained to us that we did not get any prettier or smarter or funnier on the plane ride to Jamaica so do not be fooled by all the attention! We are walking visa's according to most.

Needless to say it was very informative and we will be getting set up with Temporary Registration Numbers, TRN (similar to social security), extended visas, and multi-entry visas. See ya later another $200 USD just to stay in JA for longer than 2 weeks! Whatever it's all worth it in my book! Oh and they wrapped on the session with one more lecture, "The American Embassy doesn't find Jamaican time funny". Shit, I was wrong there is always a piece of the American way in every country behind the fortress that is the American Embassy. Why do I feel like that was probably directed at me! Whoops, my first JA time arrival!

UPDATE: Jazz is now coming on Friday, I think she is having too much fun in Negril without us!

After the Embassy I went to work for a few hours. I took photos of the facility and met a second deportee who will be one of my informants for my research! We will call her "T". T was deported to Jamaica last month (for so far unknown reasons) and has left three children in the states. She has a 17 and 16 year old that are still in school, love to skateboard and are very independent in NY. She also has a 5 year old that is currently a child of that state. She is tirelessly working to get her son down to Jamaica because she knows she will be able to make it here and provide a good home for her child. She lived in Jamaica through primary school and does believe this is home. She referred to her native countrymen as "backward" intermittently through our conversations. Because of the reference I asked her how they have received her? She replies, "it's like I'm not Jamaican; you will get treated better than me 'ere." (Jamaican's don't use the letter "h") She agrees to help me in my research and publicly be named once my research gets reviewed by the UWI IRB and the proper paperwork comes through. T is passionate about being an advocate she is happy to dedicate her time to FURI as well. As you can tell her alacrity is pervasive!

"A" came back in today like he said he would, but without meeting his challenge of bringing two other deportees today. He said he would try harder next time but he was really happy about just getting there today. He lives in St. Elizabethtown which is about two hours each way by bus, so he only leaves the country when he has to and will stay for a few days. He lives in the country so he can start his endeavor in agriculture on a piece of land his family thankfully owned. The country is bucolic He is luckier than others in this regard. He is leaving Kingston on Sunday so I am going to have my first interview this weekend! WOW! super exciting I have all day tomorrow to get a good draft of my questionairre and interviewing questions. I know that won't be the last time I see A because I plan on being in touch with each deportee at least once a month and for a few in particular every week if they will be volunteering with me at FURI. Oh so, yeah I took photos! Check these out.

The above in this order: A) The main entrance of FURI, B) Ishon & his machete trying to empty flower pots so we can "put some life in these concrete blocks" said by Marleen. As you can see this is as grassroots as it gets. C) Old Grafetti encouraging me to think this was once a school. D) That's the lovely Marleen! E) This is a shot of the outside space we have. At the end of the parking lot there is a fresh butcher who sells for a fair price. You can constantly see children particularly little girls run back and forth getting meat for their mother.

So one more pretty important thing we did today at FURI was try to get electricity. Our space does not have that yet. The electrician came today, he showed up in a Ketchup Sales Van. Now I dont understand anything about this trade but I do know there are barely any outlets and I also know that for a computer center and photo booth, you need a lot of outlets. We have a problem! But despite no power we have a desk and we have more chairs, there are also two tiny offices upstairs with another bathroom, the first one being downstairs, but it has no sink.* see bottom We also have a pantry where we can store some food and outside in the parking lot we have a pretty large shed where we hope to sell some of the produce we harvest one day. Painting will happen soon but not before our Sunday trip to Mobay to follow Martha. I told you about Martha before, I have yet to meet her but she was getting her hair done for her big trip back to Mobay's deportee community under the bridge. They have yet to receive word that Martha is still alive, and not only is she still alive but she is employed and is bringing us to come help them too! Soon Come that story.

I spoke with Carmeta on the phone for the first time today. She was thrilled that I was here (as am I) and that she would like to welcome me to the FURI family! Hooray! Ricard was due to arrive at 2:30 which of course was 2:48 and we left to drop me at home and pick up Anita so she could go to class. When he arrived his sister Paulette and niece Georgia were in the car and he was moving Georgia up to UWI to start her third year. In the backseat me and Georgia laughed about best friends and even talked about tradegy. I told her about my dog Rex, whom I miss so much, and the whole car started roaring with laughter! They proceeded to tell me they once too had a dog named Rex and then found out later in lilfe they had a brother name Rex too! Obviously a fond memory for Ricard & Paulette. Me and Georgia exchange BBM pins and we start talking about my fellow Fulbrighter's projects. I told them about Jazz's and that it had to do with the sex industry (prostitution), which by the way we have a few on our corner, good news for Jazz! Paulette started laughing and told us a hilarious story about hotel employee prostitution rings, since she has worked many years in the hotel industry. She says this practice, still to this day astounds her.

So now I am home sitting on my deck uploading more photos and writing this blog. Jody invites Anita and I too get some Jamaican BBQ this week and of course I said "yes". Grocery shopping tomorrow and also getting a head start on finding grants for FURI, mini-grants most likely. If you know of any send them my way. Or if you feel like researching this too, please be my guest; overseas blog volunteering would be great! Now for dinner tonight, stumped...Oh well at least I have a variety of Reggae music all night <3 Soon Come! _________________________________________________________
* I despise Grammar, and I am also not great at it. Maybe that is why I deride it so much. Sorry had to throw in a fourth one!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day in the "M"! JA resembles CT so eerily.

Since Sunday's sleep came so early I automatically woke up Monday morning at 7 am to pass Anita who is getting ready for work so I can make coffee. Now behold, rarity, I am happy and chipper. I open my laptop walk on the deck and drink my coffee and feel the temperature rise about 20 degrees in about 45 minutes. It gets hot quick. But I suck it up and read the Jamaica Gleaner on my Mac while drinking Blue Mountain coffee. I have no complaints even with it being before 8am. My straight hair suffices through the nights sleep even while being accompanied by some wacky dreams. I always dream when I am sleeping somewhere different much more vividly then most, which is pretty vivid anyways; you can only imagine. I then pay a few bills, manage to skype my dad after golf/between work, research Naturopathic Doctor (N.D) Programs, and send a feisty email to and inquire why there is not a single testing center on the island! How do they expect people to go to grad school if all over the world people have to plan a mini vacation to a GRE TESTING CENTER! Sorry tirade.

Since Island time rocks now, well at least since today when work started at noon, I spent all morning being incredibly productive and doing a side french braid in my hair that resembled a half head band. Yeah...I was impressed with myself too. I would take a picture had I not been hot all day because my job has no AC, I will explain that later. Spoke with Elly, which rocked she straightened out my dream chaos. By the way, Reiki has been a huge help already with this trip!
I have talked to Brittney, Maggie, and Christian quite a bit which has made me so happy! I miss noodle bowls, for all who don't know about Noodle bars ask Christian to take you to dinner back home. Mmm. Or call my dad for directions. But anyways my back home friends on Skype are amazing. By the way everyone has a Blackberry here so BBM is the cheapest way to talk to me. Back to before work...drank almost a pot of coffee got ready for work and waited for my taxi Ricard who was 20 minutes late. Go figure.

Now we took Mountainville Road into Downtown "M" and yes the neighborhoods just significantly more impoverished. But the streets are bustling and the shops are lively the music is loud, buses, taxis, dirt bikes, motorcycles, bikes, walkers and cars are flying and traffic resembles a subtle potential suicide mission. Ricard grew up down here and his Sister and her daughter and husband still do, so does his ex-lady and few of his children. He is pointing out some of the Garrison Communities and kinda but not really getting into that part, he is incessantly talking about how JA is truly a gem. I believe him wholeheartedly despite how JA is painted in the news right now. I love it here. I will press him for more details later; obviously knowing me and my interest in criminology, prisons, offenders, politics and anthropology this is fascinating for me. We then turn left onto Windward and we are looking for a Shell gas station, a KFC (national landmark), and address 171 which is supposedly a bright multicolored building. After pulling into the right driveway, thinking it was wrong cause I was shocked by the exterior and the lack of a sign, tried one more stop then went back to the first location after getting Marleen my "supervisor in JA" on the phone. The odd looking no sign building was the right spot with the alphabet painted on it really was the building! And yes I got there 20 minutes late but right at the same time as the staff.

So about 12:30-45 we are about ready to go! The exterior of the building is concrete and a odd dirty peach color. There is leftover graffiti from all the past occupants of this space and they appear to be old butcher and fishhouse signs. The building is shared with what appears to be a run room school house and the little kids from 5-10 are roaming the parking lot at indiscriminate times. The inside was half white and half lavender and only had a few chairs, some missing cushions, and one desk. Maybe there was a plant or two. I have just walked into a completely grassroots operation that is operated by two full-time volunteers Marleen & Ishon (both recent deportees 3-6 yrs). There is a board of 10 that is fairly active and volunteers there time freely. One member, and elderly gentleman, Barrington Camron, a retired specialist in Agribussiness who studied in Georgia after high school and eventually got his Masters. More on his part in a bit. Marleen is a very well spoken Jamaican women who was deported 3 years ago that has an incredibly strong faith and really took her reintegration into JA seriously seeing it as an advantage to build a new life, even though the old one was not that bad. She is sharp spoken and quick to ante up on anything she believes in. Ishon came to the states very young and when he introduced himself he said he had been locked up from 22-57 (almost positive he said a totaly of 35 years). No details given but he received a Master's in Pastoral Counciling and provides social work sessions and free counseling to newly released inmates and deportees. He teaches them asset building and Marleen helps with resume's. Between the two of them they do the majority of the work but they encourage their clients to volunteer and offer their assistance and experience to incoming deported migrants. Peer to Peer support, doesn't this sounds familiar? Oh and Carmeta Albarus in NYC overseas all of this she is Founder and President, she wrote me my Fulbright recommendation letter. She is the leading social worker on the case of the younger comrade, Lee Boyd Malvo of the DC sniper crimes in 2002. She is currently in Kentucky visiting him on his life in prison stay before she comes to meet me in Jamaica on September 7th.

I don't know about anyone else but maybe Greg and my parents, but this Kingston operation FURI sounds just like Connecticut Turning to Youth and Families CTYF. Donna (Carmeta), Ashley (Marleen), Greg (Ishon), Board (Dad, Dr. Williams, Alf, Joe, Dan, Ken and I think a few more or potential nominees). No money, no real facility, volunteering and trying to recruit there clients for peer to peer support. Dumbfounded with Deja Vous.

Basically a lot of what I will be doing for FURI in exchange for access to deportee informants is grant writing, fund raising, building clientele, and strengthening administrative services. Also some work around the office such as painting, cleaning up and setting up the space! It is a good thing I worked for Craig Stewart over the summer doing some minor construction! I have some skills to offer! Marleen, Ishon, and Mr. Camron explained to me there roles and how they have gotten to where they are so far. They collaborate with the Salvation Army and Food for the Poor here in JA. the S.Army provided them with the new space that they are in now. On Wednesday I will bring my camera to take some photo's of the facility. Throughout the year I should have some great before and after photo's as we build up the space. It looks like not only will my project focus on deportation, but it's growing into a first hand experience of walking into a new grassroots organization in an impoverished country! What a phenomenal opportunity for me since I'm fascinated with NGO's and the like. It keeps getting more perfect everyday.

So from 12:45 till 2 we all got acquainted and I was informed about the history and the future projects that FURI has their hands in. The most interesting part of the work day started at 2pm when a new client came for his initial intake. "A" *name abbreviated*, like myself, heard of FURI online when searching for support systems once he found out he was to be deported. He has left a fiance and a family back in the states. He has only been in Jamaica since June. I am not going to go into detail about their stories and personal information till I conduct in depth interviews and fill out the proper confidentiality consent forms that are being reviewed by and IRB board here at UWI. (I will be dedicating the majority of today to getting that paperwork ready for submission). But I will tell you that "A" was living in Bridgeport, CT during his stay in the states! How Ironic! We knew all the same places and were able to identify that way. I believe me being there comforted him a lot because I remind him of home a place that he has only been away from for about 2 months.

On Wednesday's at work we have a set time for deportees to come and mingle and get to know each other over some traditional Jamaican food. They can make friends, get information about JA, and find comfort through the FURI staff. Marleen challenged "A" to bring two other deportees on Wednesday, this is one of the methods they use for recruiting clients. I am looking forward to my day tomorrow so I can meet more deportees and observe social interaction amongst the population. Tomorrow morning Anita, I and Nicole (another Fulbright from NYC who is not living with us) have our meeting with the Embassy to have a security briefing and fill out the necessary paperwork for our extended stay. After I rush straight to work for a super long day! Combined with the heat I suspect I'll be asleep by 6pm.

Lastly I learned about a progressive initiative regarding agriculture and small scale microfinance. Basically FURI is looking at a large farm (over 100 acres) so they can generate some income for the organization and for the deportees that would work on the farm. Long term, they are looking into Coconut water and a bottling facility since coconut water is experiencing an increase in demand because of the boom in alternative medicine and natural botany as a means of maintaining heath. Most people I have met in Jamaica know how to farm or raise animals, and if they do not have the first hand experience they are at least aware of agricultural concepts and plant growth time lines. Coconut trees are usually ready for harvesting and bottling between 4 and 7 years therefore inter-cropping to make some quick funds is desirable. They can plant crops such as plantains and papaya to cover some of the investment funds while growing coconuts. This is all new for me. I learned how to compost from Alf before I left but that is my extent with farming. I wanted to have a garden while I was here so this just might be the way to do it! You always get what you ask for!

It also looks like on Sunday I will be taking a work trip to Montego Bay to visit a deportee community that has constructed itself under a bridge. Martha (a recent deportee I have yet to meet) volunteers with FURI and she came from the community in MoBay. She will be leading us there and introducing us to the population. Despite our meager funds we will at some point attempt a satellite office on the North Shore.

After and incredibly interesting day at work Ricard picked me up and brought me to his sister's (Paulette) house downtown so I could meet her and her 21 year old daughter Georgia who is studying Accounting at UWI. We spent a half an hour there talking about JA and about my stay so far. Ricard wants us to meet his mother too, he is a big family man! We found out he has 6 kids from 21-2 but he is no longer with the mother for he says "the love has left".

We then ran over to Scott & Kim's so we could babysit the girls while they went out on their wedding anniversary. Our babysitting set up is working out so far in exchange for EVERYTHING they have done for us. They brought us home around 9:30pm and shortly after Anita and I could not keep our eyes open. She had an early morning for work and I had to wake up for the Cable/Internet guy from "FLOW" to come! Tuesday will be dedicated to computer work, I'll explain tomorrow if my eyes don't fall out of my face from staring at this screen all day!

SOON COME! (Translation: See ya soon*)
*Soon in JA could mean, minutes, hours, days. Vagueness in time always for island time to exist, no promises and your never late!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Popped... according to Holly!

I forgot to show you guys my new tattoo that me and my best friend Brittney got before I left on Monday. It's Kokopelli! Koko is the Hopi god of fertility, transformation, and creation. It is not the type of fertility I know your thinking about cause those who know me know I am not about having kiddies! I'll leave that to little Aaron. It is more about fertility for a fruitful life and embarking upon a newly transformative path!

So I was woken up at 7am this Saturday morning by my lovely landlord Desmond with our third bed for Jazz. So much for sleeping in! He said he would come back to move the beds around on Sunday so I was able to get back into bed without it being transported to the other room. I would have made him move it while I was in it I was so tired.

In case you did not know, I despise grocery shopping; oh and dusting but that's another day. I hate grocery shopping even more if I don't understand prices and what I am buying. Anita and I went to Sovereign Center which is similar to a mall but it is more outdoors and open. Since I have only been in Jamaica 5 days I am still getting used to the money down here, therefore grocery shopping is exponentially more difficult for me! Coming from the states JA provides you with some serious sticker shock. It is roughly 85 JA$ to 1USD. The trick is cut of two zero's or move the decimal two points to convert it to USD. This way you are clearly over estimating and it works well in the mind cause you know your over budgeting therefore saving some money! So a loaf of bread costs about 175 JA which is roughly equal to $1.75. But imagine walking up to a register with a full cart and they tell you its 11,000 $JA! It's really about $110 but still
THOUSAND makes you panic a bit.

Before I get to caught up in our weekend I would like to introduce you to Anita's new friend! Yep, a lizard! She doesn't fancy them much but I happen to love creepy crawly's! Needless to say I tried to hold him but he was much to quick for me. Mr. Lizard also had a bigger lizard friend which really made Anita happy, he had one of those inflatable sacs on his throat that expanded with his breath, he was photo shy! I love that I live amongst lizards, call me the lizard queen (I hope everyone got that Jim Morrison reference).

After a long hour and a half grocery shop that encompassed more math than desired we took a nap, a well deserved beautiful restful nap. These first five days have been nothing but non-stop.

After napping from noon till 3 (perhaps that is more like sleeping) Anita and I decided to attempt to straighten our hair. Now this may not sound like a big deal but in this humidity this task is almost futile! Oddly enough our bathroom are missing sockets, perhaps that is a sign that no one actually does there hair here, especially with heat radiating devices like straighteners and blow dryers. But despite the odds we prevailed! Running back and forth from mirror to a high powered fan I finally have straight hair!

We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon basking in the glory of straight locks and waited for our friend Rochelle to come over and see the new place. She works in the International Students Office at UWI and she is from Miami but her family is originally from Trinidad. She is been in JA for about 8 months so she has been a great resource and friend!

Anita got us a great connection through her secretary at work. His name is Jodie and his girlfriend is Holly. They took us out for our first Saturday night in Kingston! They picked us up at our apartment which they also informed us was central to almost everything! We went down to South street to eat at a little restaurant called Suzie's. After spending about 2 hours with them talking about everything we have to do while here we figured we might as well get started! Jodie brought us back to our place and left Holly with us to freshen up for our night out. In JA people dress really nice pretty often. And despite the heat most people go out at night in jeans! Mostly everything inside is air conditioned so your bound to cool down once you hit your destination.

Since Kingston is the nightlife city of JA Holly and Jodie brought us to a nightclub called Fiction. Nothing here gets started early so around 1:30 am the dance parties get going. Looks like I am going to have to readjust my sleeping time on the weekends. So needless to say we danced and laughed for about 3 hours and at that point resigned for the night and were desperate for some ZzZ's. Holly & Jodie were amazing and we are so thrilled to have met them. According to Holly she is going to pop the bubble we live in here and show us what Jamaica is really all about!

Sunday = Sleep! Lots of Sleep. Monday afternoon is my first half day of work in the "M" so tune in later for an update on that adventure!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Settling In JA style

Waapm (Translation: What's happening)? Well I'll tell you what's happening here! Our second day of orientation was hilarious. We were being taught how to understand more Patois and were asked to write skits to perform in front of all the students. Anita and I were selected to present our groups skit and to see us speak Patois gave everybody a good laugh. We also had to write a love poem about a door! I figured I'd attach a video so you can see how ridiculous Patois sounds coming from a non-JA. The speaker is from Trinidad, and for the life of me her name is evading me but she obviously has a leg up on us! All CARICOM accents are pretty different but they somewhat resemble each other and they can put on a Jamaican accent much better than we can!

We were served a very traditional lunch by UWI and we were able to sample some very different foods. We had Ackee and Saltfish, Jerk Chicken, Roasted Breadfruit, and a Slaw Salad. The food here is really good but most of the time I don't have a clue what I am eating, perhaps it's for the better! Truth is if you complement anything with a local Red Stripe it's always better!

So our brokers Jason & Jennine got us hooked up with apartment number 1 which totally blew our minds. We officially moved in on Friday after spending the early evening with Scott & Kim's beautiful daughters playing Qwarkle (board game) and eating pasta! Anita & I bought the Genzer's something to show our appreciation for their hospitality; I got them Wesconn T-shirts so they can support our school abroad! Seeming how they have lived in Gabon, Poland, and Zambia, WCSU can get some serious representation.

We called Ricard our taxi driver and he picked us up from Scott's with all of our heavy bags, brought us to a grocery store to grab some Red Stripe and then brought us to our new home for the year! Figured we might as well move in and celebrate while doing it! For a whole album of photos of our apartment check out FB, but this is the outside of our New Kingston high-rise. And check out our rocking view of the Blue Mountains. Those mountains are where the infamous JA coffee comes from which by the way we picked up today from the grocery store; mmmm so good. Our broker Jason came over Friday evening to give us the low-down on JA nightlife which was very informative and it sounds like we are about to have the year of our lives. Kingston is known as the nightlife hub for Jamaica. The word is there is something to do every night. Kingston is home of Dancehall, Ska and Reggae music; we can hear it from our apartment pretty much all night long. You will also hear other island music like Soca from Trinidad which is considered "Soul Calypso". The music down here is meant to dance to, I should probably learn how to dance. I plan on learning how to cook Jamaican food so maybe I can get lessons from the lucky person who has to deal with me in the kitchen. After a long day of moving and unpacking it was time to go to sleep. This is just the start of my first weekend in Kingston.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Island time? I think not!

Ok so, island time... I am fairly confident everyone knows about island time, perhaps this only exists for native islanders because I have not experienced a minute of it within the 3 days we have been here. I have done more in these 3 days than I have done in the last 3 months! Up at 7:15 am, which by the way I have not done in about a year (seriously that is not an exaggeration). Straight off to UWI this maanin (translation: morning) for the International Student Orientation!

I met about 60 international students from all over the world. The majority of the students were from CARICOM countries. CARICOM is the "Caribbean Community" made up of 15 nations and dependencies. By far the largest student population other than the Jamaicans are the Trinidadians and don't forget about the Tobago part of that country. The Toboggans will immediately correct you. I am not even sure if you call them Tobaggans, when I say the word out loud I feel as though I am referring to an Olympic sledding team. Anyways enough about sleds. There are also students here from outside CARICOM such as Germany, France, Canada, Sweden and The U.S. Every student has a different story as to how the ended up at UWI. It varied from biochemist's taking a semester studying fungi or whatever the hell they do anyways, to linguist's studying creole and student who just wanted to do there undergrad in JA.

So we were told to "Hush" today which was fairly out of context for the conversation. We were asked to introduce ourselves to the large group of students and one from Grenada made some sarcastic response which probably would of came out of my mouth; and the women leading the discussion told him to "Hush". Everyone in the CARICOM nations laughed very loud and the others (including myself) had these blank stares. We were then told that "Hush" means nevermind and that if we were ever told to "Hush" we were NOT being told to shut up! Getting used to Caribbean terminology is going to be difficult. Even amongst the CARICOM nations certain terms may be offense in Trini but are playful in Barbados. Moral of the story, I'm sure I'll inevitably offend people, which is not uncommon for me back home!

I also learned a ton about the history in JA. An Archeology professor spoke to us today about what Jamaica has to show for its rich history... the answer is RUINS. If you want to know about JA and is colonial counterparts just admire the ruins. The UWI campus is actually an old sugar plantation from back in 1655 when the English took Jamaica from the Spanish. Ironically enough the English did not want JA they originally came for Hispanola (Haiti/DR) but were promptly blown away by the Spanish and then settled for JA. Both the Spaniards and the English exploited the populations of JA. The original inhabitants, the Tainos, were killed off by disease brought by the Spanish during there mad search for "El Dorado (gold)". To there dismay JA had no gold to offer but they did have people they could exploit! Shocker! So the Tainos died off due to disease and being overworked. When those cats died out the English came in and brought African slaves with them, hence today's Jamaican's ancestry! Another cool fact about UWI is that during WWII the campus was a refugee camp for displaced peoples from Malta and Gibraltar.

Alright now for the brief hilarious language course. Patois sounds like shitty English.
Now this is an example of an unwanted attention conversation!

Stranger: Yu riili luk laik a nais liedi duo. So we yu a du ya so bai yuself?
You really seem like a nice lady. So what are you doing here by yourself?

You: Dat a no non a yuur bizniz sar.
That is none of your business sir.

Stranger: So ou yu a gwaan so?
Why are you behaving like that?

You: Bikaaz yu a distorb mi an mi a get opset. Mi no waan taak tu yu.
Because you are disturbing me and I am getting upset. I do not want to talk to you.

The above conversation was in a manual given to me from UWI on how to start participating in the Jamaican language. Ironically enough they also taught us how to get rid of creepsters! GREAT! Or in case you haven't checked refer to my Facebook and watch the video of Craig Stewart showing me how to scare people away in times of crisis!

So I also found out that I start my job a FURI on Monday! Yep there's no time like the present! But also here is the deal about my job and where its located. So in Kingston if you look on a
map, such as this one, you will see a big M made up of four main roads. The "A" bubble is right about at the middle of the M. We are told "Hey, best you should stay out of the M!" So when work calls, I ask where I should go and they tell me this street called Windward. So I pull out my handy dandy map and see that Windward is... IN THE M! Like just to the right of the middle of the M! Awesome. Can't wait. More on that adventure on Monday for sure!

Anita and I also settled on an apartment tonight and we get to sign our lease tomorrow! So very soon some rocking photos of our proper apartment in New Kingston will be posted! Oh yeah and in case your interested I french braided my hair today and it still looked like shit so day three hair sucked as much day one and day two. Every time I skype my father he insist on telling me my hair looks like shit, thanks pops. On a happier note the house we are staying at has a pool and I promptly got home from orientation and jumped in and pretty much fell asleep on a lounge chair in the Jamaican sun. Yeah I know tough life, it gets even tougher just wait! Kim and the girls got home tonight from Canada and they are SUPER GREAT! The girls Katie and Sarah are so bright and mature for 6 and 8. We went out to dinner tonight to this place called StarApple and the food was great, again there hospitality was amazing and they REFUSED to let us pay!

So here we are back in our tiny cozy room blogging and laughing at how crazy the past three days have been only to wake up tomorrow have our second day of orientation and move to New Kingston! Hope your not bored yet cause this is just getting started.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here FINALLY... now what?

Wagwan! So for everyone who would like to be updated on my travels while in Jamaica this is the place to check me out!

I arrived early yesterday and the reason for my trip is because I have received a 10 month Fulbright Grant to research alternative methods of reintegration for deported person in Jamaica. As of right now I have some ideas how this will be achieved but really... I'm winging it! I am affiliated with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a non-profit, FURI, that attempts to secure familial ties for deported persons back on the island. I am here with 4 other ladies who are also on Fulbrights, Anita, Jasmine, Nicole, and Iris.

The good news is... I have a temporary place to live with a lovely family who took in Anita and I while we get settled. Funny story how we got set up with this family, The Genzer's. At my job in the states, The Blue Dolphin in Katonah NY, I met a couple who once taught music classes in high school to Scott Genzer. Scott Genzer is now the principal of the American International School of Kingston (AISK). And as how all good stories start, I was on Facebook, and shot him a message and a few months later he picked Anita and I up at the airport! They have been so gracious with letting us stay with them and our ONLY condition is that we offer our babysitting expertise every so often! I have yet to meet Scott's wife Kim and his two lovely daughter because they are still in Canada, but they arrive tomorrow and we will be one big happy family!

So our first day involved a lot of sweating cause it's HOT, a trip to the local mall to get our cell phones set up, which by the way required unlocking our phone and just replacing the SIM's with a Digicel SIM from here! Scott and his friend/coworker Josh took us out to get some Jerk for dinner only to be complemented with some local Red Stripe. We promptly fell asleep at 8:30pm sweaty, happy and exhausted.

First day fun facts:
  • Jamaicans really love KFC... who knew!
  • Everyone is super friendly.
  • Straight hair is impossible therefore curly will always suffice.
  • Tomatoes are called "salad" and avocados are "pears"
Anita, Jasmine and I will be living together for our year abroad. Anita and I flew in the 17th and Jaz will get here on the 23rd or so. So the second day consisted of apartment hunting and setting up our student status at UWI. A referred taxi guy, Ricard, picked us up at 9:30 and brought us to UWI. So imagine you have been told that you can take free classes and you have been automatically accepted into a university... right awesome. SO THEN WHAT! We walked into the registrar's building, immediately found the International Student Center and met a LIFESAVER, Rachelle! She showed us around and brought us to our individual schools which I will be attending the UWI School of Social Sciences and I will be a part of the Governance Department! I signed up for my first graduate class ever, Caribbean Political Systems! I figure as I attempt to dive into my research which is transnational, political, and economical in nature I should probably understand the set up of Caribbean politics. Since the Caribbean was colonized by Europe they primarily function off the parliamentary system, one I am unfamiliar with. So needless to say this class will help my research a ton AND ITS FREE! Tuition at UWI is waived for Fulbright's!

I made it sound super easy to register for classes and what not but truly everything is a slight hassle and you will absolutely have to run from office to office and make call after call to get things done. Island time will take time to get used to!

After a crazy morning at UWI... hunger struck. Now refer back to fun fact number one.... yes correct, we got KFC. Jamaican's will tell you the KFC down here blows American KFC out of the water. I have gotten two separate reasons why. 1) local chicken = less hormones and therefore a tastier natural chicken. 2) they season the chicken before the batter and fry it. With that being said... fast food is fast food, not my thing. But I was starving and my Jamaican Colonel Sanders Chicken Sandwich did the job.

RING RING, Anita's phone goes off and there is our real-estate brokers Jeannine and Jason who are about to find us a place to live! They pick us up at KFC and were off in a whirlwind of apartment hunting! 6 places on the list to check out! I wont bore you with the details of every apartment but needless to say we narrowed it down to our favorite one in New Kingston. It's a high rise (for JA) and its a fully furnished two bedroom, yes that involves bedroom sharing! But in the grand scheme of things, who cares. I now live in Jamaica I will now not care about stupid stuff! This whole fully furnished things is totally new to me but it is BADASS. It includes everything from utensils to throw pillows and fresh linens in your closets! The apartment is 1450 so between the three of us I think we are just right for price. And we also get a super view of Kingston and of the Blue Mountains. One more apartment to check out tomorrow but I think our minds are made up! I will post tons of photos of the new place don't worry!

After this busy day I am ready to grab a box of Kraft mac and cheese, toy story shapes to be exact (i brought lots of boxes), and slip into a cheesy coma! More to come tomorrow!!

I have arrived!

This post is somewhat of a test to see if I even know what I am doing in the blogosphere. So here it goes. I made it to Jamaica!