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Archive for the ‘Stage 4: Crossing the First Threshold’ Category

Several friends have asked Rick exactly where in the Caribbean I am so I thought I would share a brief geography lesson with you.

Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica and has one of two airports on the island, the largest city being Kingston, which is also the capital of Jamaica. Montego Bay is basically a tourist destination and has a popular street called the ‘hip strip’ where most of the stores and restaurants are located. I live right above the ‘hip strip’ and go to sleep each night to the reggae beat on the street below me.

The largest English-speaking Island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is about 160 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and has an area of 10,990 square kilometers (4,243 square miles) and a total coastline of 1,022 kilometers (634 miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Jamaica is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, is located on the country’s southeastern coast and Montego Bay is on the northern coast.

The population of Jamaica was estimated at 2,652,689 in July of 2000, an increase of 7.5 percent from the 1990 population of 2,466,100. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 18.51 per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 5.51 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 0.9 percent between 1997 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 2.9 million by the year 2015.

The Jamaican population is primarily of African descent (90.9 percent), with mixed race people making up 7.3 percent of the population, East Indians making up 1.3 percent, and several other ethnic groups rounding out the total. The population is generally young, with 30 percent below the age of 14 and just 7 percent of the population older than 65. A majority of Jamaicans—54.7 percent— lived in urban areas in 1997, up more than 10 percent from 1975; it is expected that by 2015 more than 63 percent of the population will live in urban areas. The capital city of Kingston and its suburbs are home to the largest number of Jamaicans.

Since Jamaica’s closest neighbor is Cuba, many Jamaicans go there for holiday. Jamaica is also near Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Rick and I took one spring break and drove around the island. It was quite the experience. The only major city we did not see was Port Antonio, a popular destination where “The Blue Lagoon” and other motion pictures were filmed. I am happy to say that we are going to be spending our anniversary this year in Port Antonio, enjoying the Blue Mountains, the blue lagoon, biking in the Jamaican mountains and scuba diving (that would be me.) We can’t wait and I’ll be sure share our Port Antonio adventures with you which will include Rick’s incredible photography.

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I made lists, checked them twice, packed, unpacked and repacked and still there are several things that are at home in Palos Heights instead of with me in Jamaica.

• Razor blades- I only took a package of 8 and that will NEVER get me through until May. Shaving my legs is a necessary evil, but one I won’t give up.
• A sundress. I brought dresses for church and even a dress appropriate for a formal occasion if the need arises, but not a sun dress…so last night I ordered one on line and Rick will bring it when he comes to visit at the end of February. Yeah!
• More shoes? I have plenty but there are days that I want my lime green sandals or my turquoise flip-flops. Oh well, one can never have enough shoes!
• Hair spray- I grossly underestimated how important hair spray would be in this tropical climate. And even though I’m sporting a new, VERY short do, Rick is also bringing me a big bottle of hairspray. Thank heavens for husbands like him.
• A corkscrew for opening wine bottles. Even though Rick and I found an ‘imitation’ corkscrew at the grocery store (that’s the only way to describe this pseudo, wine opener) a real corkscrew would be great. Perhaps I’ll have to add that to the things for Rick to bring. After all, I did find a bottle of White Zinfandel at the local grocery store.
• Erasable markers and an eraser. Why I didn’t think of bringing this college staple is beyond me but here I am with no erasable markers. I am borrowing those of others but I know both how precious they are here in Jamaica and also how quickly they dry out so I’m anxious to get my own set.
• Different textbooks to leave at Sam Sharpe. I really did my best when trying to decide which textbooks, videos and DVDs to bring and even asked the head of the special education department if she had any special requests but she said to take whatever I thought was appropriate. Well know that I’m here there are several books that she is unable to get on the island but I can buy them used on Amazon for pennies (plus shipping). Once again Rick will come through by bringing my new order of books with him when he comes to visit.

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Now that I’ve spent almost a full month in Jamaica I can begin to assess both my experiences and my emotions and I find that they are across the board. I love my condo because of its’ magnificent views but realize how spoiled I am to have my entire house in Palos Heights air conditioned, not just my bedroom. I also realize that, even though I love the heat and would take it over cold ANY day, I am getting tired of feeling sticky and almost never entirely cool until I turn on my bedroom AC before bed each night.

“Out of Many, One People,” is the Jamaican motto and there is evidence of this whenever you enter the shops and restaurants as the Chinese and Indians own many of these, but there are still many times that I am the lone white person. Does it bother me? Not at all, but I think that other people notice and wonder what a single white woman is doing walking the streets of Montego Bay.

But then there’s Pastor Mary’s husband, John, who I met on Sunday for the first time. And he’s not only from America, but is from Columbus, Ohio, my birthplace. I guess the world really is flat! But other than Pastor Mary, John and myself there are less than ten white people who attend The Meeting Place. As I gaze at each one I can’t help but wonder what brought them to Jamaica. Are they from America? England? Australia? Or are they white Jamaicans, descendents of the early plantation owners who have chosen to stay in Jamaica and make it their home.

And of course I notice the people, and particularly, the way women dress. On Sundays everyone is dressed to the nines; so different from Parkview where even Pastor Tim comes in his jeans. I dress up for school every day, wearing a skirt, cool top, a scarf or belt and matching jewelry. I KNOW that the girls on campus notice this but this is just who I am. Today one girl asked me for my skirt. Was she kidding? It was hard to tell and it would certainly be too big for her. But she assured me that there are dressmakers in Jamaica that can do alterations. ☺

And I can’t get enough of the flowers and the birds. Yesterday I found myself watching a small bird (sorry, Kathryn, but I have no idea what kind of bird) for about fifteen minutes thinking, when I get home in May the birds will be out in abundance again and my flowers will be blooming! But I could certainly live without the bugs. There seems to be an abundance of small gnat-like creatures everywhere and I have finally concluded that I will be sharing my home with geckos.

There are several fruit trees are on the property and I’m waiting with anticipation for the fruit to ripen. I haven’t picked fresh fruit from a tree since our family used to pick apples at Tremendous Fruit Farms in Michigan and picking mangos and papayas seems much more exotic and satisfying.

Jamaica has entered me through my senses as well as through my relationships. The hospitality that has been extended me by the lecturers at Sam Sharpe, the students and staff at CCCD, my driver, Mr. Johnson, and even the other couples who live at Court Manor has been extraordinary.  It truly has become my home away from home.

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I remember that my mom would often take a “first day of school” picture of me and then me and my siblings. We would be holding our new lunch boxes, wearing our first day of school clothes, and sporting big grins, ready to begin a new school year. I always loved school and especially the first day of school! I was the consummate student, which explains why I knew already in third grade that I wanted to become a teacher.

So on the first day that I would be working at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College, I asked my driver, Mr. Johnson, to take a picture of me outside of my condo. I felt a little silly asking him to do this but I wanted this memory kept on film for all time…my first day at Sam Sharpe.

I wasn’t exactly nervous driving to Sam Sharpe but my emotions were definitely heightened. I had already met the principal and vice principal of Sam Sharpe, Drs. Pinnock and Pinnock and the head of the special education department, Sharon Anderson-Morgan, and they were all more than gracious so I knew I would be getting to know and working with wonderful people. But it was still my first day and I didn’t know exactly what to expect.

I arrived with my four boxes of books and materials, sent via the US embassy in
Washington DC to the US embassy in Kingston, my matching (of course) desk blotter, notes cards, folders, pens and pencils as well as pictures of my husband, Rick, and my family. I also had lots of my favorite miscellaneous school supplies, my “faith” sign, my new piece of Wassi Jamaican pottery, my reams of paper and of course, my laptop. I was ready…. but when I arrived, the door to the special education office was locked and I found out, again, that I was on “Jamaican” time. I was told to be at school at 9:00 and the other three professors arrived between 9:15-9:30. Was I surprised? Of course not. My twelve years of working at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf, which is down the road from Sam Sharpe, have helped me accept this part of Jamaican culture. It’s the way things operate in Jamaica, there is no hurry mon, things “soon come.”

My next two days were very productive as the four of us worked collaboratively on developing special education curriculum for the college’s three special education majors, mild-moderate disabilities, severe-profound disabilities, and deaf education. It was such a pleasure to work with these three women and discover how similar our ways of teaching and approaching the field of special education were. I am looking forward to an incredible semester of learning and growing.

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Living in Jamaica, in even what would be considered one of the most beautiful condos in the downtown section of Mo Bay, is not what I am used to. It is so very important to conserve energy, that no electricity is used unless it is absolutely necessary; which means that I only use the air conditioner in the bedroom (there are two window units, one in each bedroom) for 1-2 hours a night. I turn on the hot water heater around 5 pm so that I can take a bath before bed and then turn it off all day. I only turn on the power for the stove when I am going to use it. And, for the first time, I wash my clothes in a washer but dry them on a line outside – the Jamaican way to dry clothes because, as the Jamaicans say, “ We have the sun.”

When drying clothes in a clothesline, you literally show your dirty, or should I say, clean, laundry to the world. For instance, I know that the man who lives next door wears gray and black jockey briefs. Do I need or want to know this? NO!! So I decided that I would be hanging MY underwear on a wonderful dryer that I hang over the shower bar given to me for my birthday by my good friend, Kathryn Aggen. She must have known that I would be very uncomfortable letting the world, or at least my neighbors, see my “clean” undies.

I also appreciate more than I ever have the cooling power of ceiling fans and fans on stands. So far they have kept the condo comfortable during the day and night until I turn on the air before bed.

But sitting on my patio overlooking the Caribbean more than makes up for any of the inconveniences that I am experiencing. I eat my breakfast before school and often my dinner on that little patio, watching the cruise ships come and go and the pleasure crafts go out in the morning and come back at night. What a life this will be for four months!

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Moving into a condo downtown Montego Bay was fairly easy but shopping for groceries proved to be my undoing. What can I cook for one person? What will provide me with some familiar tastes of home? What can I pack for Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College for lunch daily? How can I possibly decide whether to buy the Jamaican brand or the American brand of the foods I am purchasing? And what did I find? Bacon is out of the question because it is so expensive. There are NO cookies that I like at all, but I guess that will help me stay away from sweets. I think I really can live on cheese and crackers and vegetables and fruit with a bit of chicken thrown in for good measure. And I should go back and buy paper plates and cups instead of washing dishes every day.

Once my husband, Rick, and I got back to the condo and unpacked the groceries, we heard an unusual sound and could not for the life of us figure out what it was. We soon discovered a visitor; a stray cat was meowing outside the open front door. To say that she (or he?) was persistent is an understatement. For at least 30 minutes she begged to come in and share both our space and our food. How in the world did she know that we had just returned from Mega Mart and had a kitchen full of food?

We discovered how to work the air conditioning in the bedrooms, how to turn on the stove, hot water and fans and I unpacked everything I thought I might need for the next four months. We got all of my technology up and running and then made a simple dinner of nachos. We turned in early because we knew that tomorrow would bring many new adventures.

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I’ve been coming to the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Montego Bay, Jamaica during Trinity Christian College’s January Interim since 2001. Each year I have the opportunity to experience anew seeing, smelling, hearing and enjoying Jamaica through the eyes of my students and each year I learn something new.

The 2011 Jamaica Interim team arrived safely in Montego Bay on Saturday around 12:30. After lunch at Burger King they headed up to the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Granville, a small community about 10 minutes up the hill from Mo Bay. Everyone got unpacked and settled into their rooms, had an orientation meeting and still found time to begin practicing their dance (I’ve Gotta Feeling) for the Thursday night program with the CCCD students.

Sunday morning found the team worshipping at The Meeting Place in the morning and spending the afternoon at Doctor’s Cave Beach Resort enjoying the sun and sand, two things Jamaica is known for. There were people from all over the world on this famous Montego Bay beach and everyone enjoyed being away from the Chicago snow and cold, enjoying the refreshing sea breezes and bright sunshine.

Monday was our first official workday at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in Montego Bay, Jamaica. After an early (6:30 am) breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and fresh fruit, the team split up and fixed a broken water pipe, painted the fascia on the principal’s house and a third group began painting the rooms in the boy’s dormitory.

After lunch and showers the team then went into the classrooms to begin working with the students while vice principal, Daviot Reid, Jay Bee,

a technology specialist, and I worked with the teachers on using Mimeo Boards and creating PowerPoint presentations for their classrooms. . The theme for the week is “zoo animals” since we will be taking the students to the new Jamaica Zoo on Tuesday so much of the academic work in the classrooms is centered around zoo animals. I love getting to know the new teachers each year and thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Tuesday proved to be an exciting day both for the team and the CCCD students, the teachers and the Daniels’ family, the CCCD missionary family. At 8:30 we loaded two buses and made the 2 ½ hour drive to the Jamaica Zoo in Lacovia, St. Catherine. Everyone got to see the “real” Jamaica that most tourists never see or experience…. small roadside stands selling shrimp, coconuts, bammy and fish, stray goats, rastas riding their bikes on the road, and potholes galore. When we finally arrived at the zoo we were treated to a show of the tame animals at the zoo and then went to see two of the four lions on the island. After a lunch of fried chicken and french fries (chips) or rice and peas (the national dish) we took off to see the other animals including several zebras, raccoons, macaws, crocodiles, and our favorite, the squirrels. We all had a good laugh over that exhibit since Trinity is overrun with squirrels. Then after indulging in ice cream treats we made the 2 ½ hour drive back to CCCD, just in time for dinner. It was a GREAT day!

On Wednesday and Thursday the Jamaica team continued their work projects in the morning and planned their afternoon lessons around our trip to the zoo including writing stories, teaching new vocabulary and a host of other activities. Wednesday and Thursday found Daviot, Jay Bee and I again helping the teachers learn to create and use PowerPoints more effectively in their classrooms and will ask each to prepare a PowerPoint appropriate for their grade level. I had the privilege of going around and helping individual teachers who were struggling with changing fonts, inserting text boxes, adding pictures and icons and changing the “theme” of their PowerPoint. At the end of the day on Thursday, everyone had made so much progress and I was so proud of the hard work accomplished by everyone.

Every year our nightly devotions are one of the highlights of our day. We have a chance to get to know each other better as we share our hearts with one another. What a great group of Trinity students I have the privilege of working with each year and this year is no exception! We are each growing and stretching our hearts and souls as we grow closer to each other and to the Lord.

Please pray for one of the boys in the youngest class, Dante, as we just found out that his father was shot and killed. The principal, Ms. Russell, and his family have the unfortunate task of telling him this difficult news and he will be devastated as he lives with his father. Life in Jamaica can be very hard…violence, extremely high prices, a volatile government and few natural resources, but the people are warm and generous in every way and we have grown to love them very much.

On Friday and Saturday we had the opportunity to see and experience what most tourists see when they come to Jamaica. On Friday the team traveled to Ocho Rios to climb Dunns River Falls, had lunch at the Pizza King in Ocho Rios and then shopped in the Straw Market. Rene Hernandez earns the title of best shopper and bargainer…. we even had to go and find him in the market because he was still bargaining with the vendors. After a sleepy ride back to Mo Bay, we took some time to clean up, dress up, and eat dinner at Margaritaville with some of our new CCCD friends. We ended the night by going across the street to Coral Cliffs and dancing the night away.

Saying good-bye to the children and staff of CCCD is always hard and this year was no exception. After a few tears and many hugs we said good-bye to our new CCCD friends and then drove the short distance to the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort to spend our last night in Jamaica at this lovely all-inclusive resort. Everyone took advantage of his or her last day of beauty and warmth in Jamaica by soaking in the sun and sea.

On Sunday the team boarded the 11:30 bus for the airport and arrived back in cold and windy Chicago around 5:50 pm. Everyone was anxious to see his or her family and friends but it is always difficult to leave this beautiful island. A part of each team member will always be in Jamaica and many hope to return to both Jamaica and CCCD. Some even hope to sponsor a child that they grew particularly close to. It’s a great way to both support a student and the school and stay in touch with our new friends…or should I call them family.

One of my favorite parts of this year’s trip with meeting Daviot Reid’s new wife Kay and baby Daneigh Kay. Since I consider Daviot to be my adopted Jamaican son, I got to meet my new daughter-in-law as well as my first grandbaby. I may be grandma #4 but that’s fine with me and I loved getting to know these new “family members.”

If you know anyone from this year’s team, ask to see his or her pictures. We probably have around 3000 pictures between the 23 of us! I will be staying in Mo Bay, Jamaica until May 11, teaching at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College courtesy of a Fulbright Scholarship. So my Jamaican adventure has just begun.

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