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!


  1. Very cool Ash - tell the people from FURI together we can build it, would love to learn more about them - rock on!

  2. Ashley,

    Your dad gave me the blog address, so I am now caught up with you. Your excitement and happiness is fully evident!

    Maybe CTYF can do training for FURI. I wonder what grantor could fund that?