Day 29- Day 31: The weekdays

When the week started on May 20th I was looking forward to what was in store. My cousin was off on vacation so I wasn’t sure how I would be making it to Kingston. On the first day, I woke up drowsy. It seemed that the weekend had taken a toll on me (waking up so early and spending the day in the sun at Dunn’s River falls) then waking up early on Sunday to attend Church. Plus my period started so all of that just made me tired and unmotivated to plan the day. After eating breakfast my cousin prepared, I crawled back into bed and I slept the rest of the morning. I officially got out of bed around one in the afternoon. Then ate lunch and found my way under the sheets again for another nap. This time I got out of bed and stepped out on the verandah where the breeze was nice and cool. My cousin sat next to me and we talked, me with my very lethargic voice.

After six that evening my cousin’s wife returned from work. We decided we would go for a hike up the mountain. This has been a weekly thing for the family since I’ve been here in the last month. We are preparing to climb the famous blue mountains! So getting in tiptop shape is important. Apparently it takes roughly 4 hours to climb, so this is not a journey for the weak. We are all anxiously looking forward to it.

On Tuesday, I woke up early. I was placed on the bus at the Portmore shopping centre. Taking the bus to halfway tree by myself is not as scary as one may think. I found a single seat by the window and I watched the conductor as he called out, “ahf-e-chee” “ahf-e-chee” and how he spots potential passengers from afar and solicits them for the journey. Before the bus arrived on the toll road highway it was packed. Not long after, the bus arrived in halfway tree. When I got off the bus, I had to walk through crowds, avoiding eye contact with street vendors and taxi drivers alike. Normally on Tuesdays, I leave the YMCA early so that I can make it to the soup kitchen for 12pm but this time I decided to stay. At the end of the day, my Canadian friend, who volunteers there too decided we would go to Devon House. It was just a walk across the street. Yes I have been there before-to see, this time I was going to relax. We bought our ice cream, me the soursop flavor and him the devon stout. Then we found a bench in the park to sit and chat about our life in Jamaica so far and what we hope to do with the experience when we returned home. Three hours later were still chatting and picturing ourselves living in Jamaica. Just after five in the evening, my ride called and so it was time to say goodbye to Devon House. This day will be banked away in the file of treasured memories.

By Wednesday, I was back at YMCA. This time I arrived at 8:30 am with my cousin. I worked on a ┬ápresentation and when I arrived at my designated classroom, I had the children’s undivided attention as the video of Barack Obama which I chose to use started. I waited for my cousin when classes ended and he arrived shortly. We went into the plaza called Twin gates to purchase sneakers, in preparation for Blue Mountains. The teachers are happy because Thursday is Labour Day, so no school for them. I’m looking forward to the long weekend myself!


Day 22 to 25: School system in Jamaica

Although there are some aspect of Jamaica that is changing like wildfire- in particular the homosexual culture, there are other things that haven’t change- prayers in school. It almost seem odd to watch these boys clasp their hands and repeat a prayer, something they have been doing since they entered the school system, before being dismissed for lunch. They say another prayer after lunch and still another to be dismissed from school. Although I do not arrive early in the morning to watch them stand in lines at the front of the school for devotion, I know they do not go a day without doing this. Let’s just believe in the name of Jesus Christ, that these prayers will be immovable.

On Wednesday this week, I had an appointment to visit one of the primary schools in Portmore. One of the ladies working there, unlocked the large gate to let my cousin and me in. After sometime, the guidance counsellor greeted us and took us to her office. I explained my line of work in Canada and what my studies entail, then she began to spill the issues they have been struggling with. A few of those issues are: Boys kissing each other, two seven-year-old boys attempted to rape a little girl, boys ‘exhorting’. Many of the issues they were having had to do with boys. And although they seem so huge, she alerted me that these are the minorities. Overall, the school has been doing well; in particular, they did exceptionally well at the primary school champs (track and field events). For the coming school year, she said, they have space for 164 children, but over 200 have already registered, “I don’t know what we’re going to do with the extra children” she said.

Male mentors are needed, I told her. Parenting is becoming an issue. It’s not only in Jamaica, Canada too, but at least schools and churches here realize that that’s where the issues lie. Children are being abused in every way (physically, verbally, sexually)…sometimes there are no parents. On my first day volunteering, one student disclosed to me that his grandmother had beaten him with a broomstick which prevented him from doing his school work that day. He did not inform the teacher. Thus, you can imagine her frustration as he stared into space the entire morning without as much as  to remove his backpack. I pulled up a chair next to his desk to inquire the reasons. Tears ran down his cheeks but no words came. I had to coax him into going to buy lunch, that way I would be able to get him to divulge whatever was on his mind. It was on this walk to the tuckshop that he shared the details. So when we returned to the class, I suggested that he take out his book and hold it in his lap since the desk was unreasonably higher than where his hand could reach. The school in general could do well with new furniture and more space. To think one teacher is in charge of up to 18 of these children, who are functioning at such a lower level. The children would do better with more individualized attention. I suggested it to one teacher. It would be useful to make good use of their volunteers, seeing that tons of us go in and out. Yet there is no set program for us. A volunteer coordinator probably would have been useful. But who has money to fund this position.

To be honest, I was thinking about how effective I would be if I found people in Canada who would be willing to volunteer- at this point, I can see that schools are in dire need of help. Let’s see how it goes…

Monday and Tuesday I spent at YMCA and facilitated a presentation for the class I had been working with. In general I think I had their attention. This Thursday I decided to go to the soup kitchen a little earlier, causing me to skip YMCA. I had to help package groceries. There were large bags of flour, sugar, cornmeal, and rice everywhere. The other ladies and I had a bag each. Some were moving considerably faster than others. I used a cup to pour 1 1/2 cup of sugar into a clear bag. I made 118 bags in total which took me roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes. By 12pm, I prepared myself to serve. There were two other ladies who prepared the large pots of rice and peas and stew turkey neck in the meantime. They are the cooks. And today they used the leftover soup from Tuesday. While another lady shared the soup in styrofoam cups, I neatly arranged them on a tray to serve the men and women sitting around tables.

When all was done, we had to clean up, I was in charge of rinsing, another person did the washing and drying.  It was a good day and another excellent week. Looking forward to the weekend!