Books, free time, work, etc…

Dear Friends and Family,

I have had several requests to hear what books I am reading, and about what my free time looks like, etc.

Books: I am currently reading a little pamphlet (50 pages) that the SDC (Social Development Committee) put out called Planning Community Projects. It is part of a series of seven. The booklet is very useful and helpful in understanding what the process is and how to engage with the community when embarking on a project. I have renewed my effort to read Science and Health on a regular basis.

Finally, when packages from home arrive, included are the famed Harry Potter books that I have not read yet. One idea is that maybe I’ll set up a reading club where we read the books outloud. this would be quite challenging though, because many Jamaican children–even though they love school–don’t read very much (it seems). This might be all the more reason for the club, but I am saying that their attention span is very short, so I would need to find some students that are very special.

Restaurants: Most restaurants in the immediate community where I live are kind of “country style” and pretty much serve all the same thing. Of course there is variance, but ususal dishes are fried chicken, BBQ Chicken, Jerk Chicken, chicken foot soup, and oxtail (meat from the cow tail). Of course, white rice cooked with red beans and coconut milk is a staple with almost every meal. Jamaican salad is very similar to cole slaw (carrots and cabbage) except for less mayonayse. I eat at restaurants sometimes, but I admit that other times, I’ll go for just having a “spice bun” or a raison bread bun or maybe a cheese bun–bread with chedder cheese in the middle–kind of like jelly donuts.

The other thing that I didn’t mention was that Jamaicans love dumplings: flour and water kneaded into flattened balls about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 an inch thick. These are then fried or boiled and are believed to give you “strong back”. They are very dense to say the least! In addition to rice and dumplings, ground provisions such as potatoes and yams, and fried green bananas give lots more starch options. The local fish fare is, well,… let me just say that I don’t like so much the way that Jamaicans cook fish. They overdo the cooking and the fish is very, very dried out when it reaches your plate. Also, Jamaicans don’t debone the fish that they cook, so when you are eating it, you have a lot of bones to pick out and sift through. The same is true for the soup mentioned earlier, chicken foot soup–a whole lot of small bones and joint parts are left on the plate when you are done :).

The restaurants around here are often the style that you pay at the counter and then pick up your food when it is ready and then sit and eat. I think that you only get to have waiters and waitresses as you get closer to Kingston, such as in Spanish Town (maybe).

Free time: When I am not in the office or at community meetings, I might be here in the lab, but ususally you will find me at home, cooking (or watching and helping others cook), eating, dishes, laundry, talking with Karen, writing in my journal, or sleeping :). Usually the sleeping part doesn’t start until sometimes as late as 12 or 1, which is not so good, but hopefully as my service progresses, I will be better at claiming more time for myself for earlier bedtimes. I might as well keep dreaming though, because I don’t think it will relax that much.

A Jamaican’s perception of my work: Well, I haven’t asked anybody really how they feel about social development, but there are those that work along side me in various fields, and then there are those who ask what I do and I tell them and they say “Oh, okay.” My schpeel continues and I tell them why I need their help and participation in this work of community development.

Last night I went to two community meetings–one with 8 people from a rural community pretty far up north (Ginger Ridge), and the other in Spring Village (not so rural) with 48 attendees. The very act of showing up at these meetings shows that they care about the work that the SDC/DAC is doing.

I work with a team that is very smart, proactive, and upbeat. Everytime I go to these meetings, I watch in awe at their ability to field questions and facilitate the development of the community. I am really glad that I don’t have to build this structure, but that it is already in place and all we need now is community participation and involvement.

I have to go for now, but I will keep you updated and I thank all of you that keep me updated with what you are up to as well 🙂

Much, much love,
Rachel :)!

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