I know that it has been a very long time since I have written all of you giving tidbits of my experience here in Jamaica, and I apologize. I am going to try to make this letter detailed but brief (all that know me really well knows that that can be challenging for me, but I am going to try) because I am utterly exhasted from todays work, but let me tell you what I can.
“Pantan town” is a little community along Main Street, Old Harbour Bay that always gets flooded when the rains come. Part of the reason for this is because they have a drain in front of their community that is filled with dirt, sludge, and trash and therefore doesn’t drain, and the other part is that they have a gully along the back of the community, which isn’t that deep, but when it the rains come, i have heard that the overflowing is pretty bad. So in essence, this “likkle” community is sandwiched between two drainage systems and neither of them work very well. And of course, the land is flat, the houses lie low, and fine dirt/silt is the name of the game–no one has any lawns or plants growing because for one, the goats eat pretty much every nice plant (there are maybe three fenced in yards with nice green areas).
About a month ago, I was taking pictures of the drain on Main Street, and two community members approached me, asking me what we could do. It was decided that we needed to form a Citizen’s Association, which we did. We elected a board and decided that weekly meetings until the clean up would be best. Planning the day was a struggle and to tell you the truth, last night I really wasn’t sure how the day would fly.
I had promised them that I would bring what we call water boots (you call rain boots) and we collectively decided to write a letter to beg for some tools. A letter was sent to the Councillor and Member of Parliment for the area. The Councillor came through and donated $5,000 J (a little less than $100 US) towards our effort. I went ahead and bought a wheelbarrel, a shovel, two rakes, two machettes, and a file. We had also decided to install some signs that basically tell the public the consequences for dumping in gullies and such. So I also got the signs laminated and they should be installed some time in the near future.
The day was supposed to start at 6:30. Work really started about 8 or 8:30, but that is alright (Jamaican time). For the first 30-50 minutes, I was signing out boots and gloves. We filled about 23 bags, more or less. 22 very heavy ones for sure. In all, I think we had about 30-35 community volunteers involved. I wanted each bag to be filled as much as possible, but that also meant double bagging some of them which was fine.
The kids were my best helpers. Since a lot of the work today was picking up and bagging trash/rubbish, they were very useful in holding the bags and picking out stones and so forth (and raking and shoveling).
The men were able to tame a few overgrown thorny bushes and clear other plant rubbish. We were also able to clean up a certain area so that water pipes can be fixed (in three different places).
The rubbish truck came between 3:30 and 4 and oh was it good to see that trash go! The rest of the time was spent cleaning up and organizing the boots and gloves. The children had washed most of the boots and gloves. In trying to put them in some kind of order, most had to be re-washed. When the boots and gloves were ready to be put away, I wiped off each boot and every glove as each still needed it. This took me a long time, especially with all the “picknie” (children) running around and the dust they kicked up. “Stay away from the boots!” became a commonly recited instruction. Finally though, I did get all of the boots and gloves packed away and I was ready to be at home. Getting there was another issue though, with a wheelbarrel, 14 pairs of men’s water boots, 30 odd pairs of gloves, the shovel, rake, and two machettes! I did get a ride and thankfully all of the stuff came in one trip.
All day the chilren had been asking if we could go to sea to bathe and play. Everytime, I said Yes, when the work is done. As it got later, I had to rephrase that to maybe and then “Not this time” because the sun was almost down.
When I got home, I gave all the stuff to the person who agreed to store it. Then to my house. No one was there. I was so hungry and so tired, but the thought of going to the sea was nagging me and sounded so nice. Old Harbour Bayers are afraid of the sea at night and warn that dangerous things happen at that time. So, I looked for someone who would be willing to take me down, so I could be in the ocean for a few minutes and then come home. As it turned out, a good friend, his wife and family, and I all piled in for the 15 minute adventure. We went, I swam (the water was so heavenly and so were the stars!!), and then we were on our way. It was so nice and very refreshing to be in the ocean after that day of work, and of course, I am very grateful to my friends who took me there.
My little sister (back in America) asked me some time ago, “So Rach, are you totally tan??” and until now, I had to say, no, I am not at all. Today, I can finally answer, Yes! i have a deep, dark tan now!
(Color is another whole discussion which I will have to email you about later.)
Anyway, it was a glorious day and I am grateful for every bit. I had asked for prayerful support the night before and I am so very grateful that I did. (Thank you A.!!)
So much for the details! Anyway, I hope and pray that everything is wonderful with you and I always love comments!
ps–pictures of the day will soon be coming in my new photo albumn–I hope!