Peace Corps Jamaica arranges a “Visit a Volunteer” adventure for their trainees where they travel to a currently serving volunteer for a three-day visit. The purpose of the trip is to shadow the volunteer and observe the volunteer’s life, such as their living situation, projects that they are working on, and tactics they used to integrate into their communities (the volunteers that trainees visited just passed their one year mark or are at the tail end of their service). Another learning objective of the visit is to confirm that trainees are comfortable navigating the island by public transportation, including easily using patwa and the Jamaican dollar. Last year, I had my very own “Visit a Volunteer” adventure and last Monday, it was surreal (and exciting!) to be on the other side of the experience; two new Peace Corps Jamaica trainees, Paula and Kristen, showed up on my doorstep ready to see what service looks like through my lens.
On the first day, we kept it pretty simple and went for a walk around my community. I showed Paula and Kristen the community center and introduced them to some of the many characters of my community.
The next day we planned to go to Knox College for a tour of the school and a gardening project. Paula and Kristen got to see how it sometimes (okay, most of the time), takes a while to get anywhere because we stopped and chatted with almost every person that we passed.
We were checking out some snails that were munching on my my neighbor Ms. Reid's plants. Paula was admiring their cuteness, and gently removing them from the plants and placing them in the grass across the street. Ms. Reid, curious to why all of these whiteys were hanging out near her plants, came out to chat. She detested the snails pon her plants, and greatly contrasting Paula's tender handling, she showed us her method of removal for the snails munching on her garden flower leaves; "I just pick dem up and...," ----CRACK! All to be heard was the sound of terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk slamming against the road. Well, that's one way to do it. There was a humorous difference in the snail removal between Ms. Reid's brazen road bashing and Paula's gentle touch.
Eventually, we made it to Knox College!
We assisted with land preparation of garden plots that will be planted with lettuce next week.
After gardening and checking out both of the greenhouses on Knox Campus, we also stopped by the primary school where my friend and counterpart, Ms. Murphy, talked about the goals of 4-H Club and introduced Paula and Kristen to the club members. Most Peace Corps volunteers end up working with 4-H in some way so hopefully it was a good introduction to the environmental education side of things.
Soon, our bellies were grumbling and it was time to go home and make our final dinner.
Paula and Kristen left early the next morning, but my adventure wasn't over yet! A few hours later, I solo-traveled the same direction as them to Port Morant, St.Thomas, (where I trained last year), where the entire new batch of trainees were stationed for their six weeks of technical training in agriculture and environmental education. My role was to answer any questions that trainees may have, simply meet the new group, and facilitate a lesson on vermicomposting.
It was great to meet the new trainees because their fresh energy recharged me and made me feel excited about my projects all over again. The need to stay motivated and stir the pot of enthusiasm seems to a theme in my service, and I am glad I got to do so by welcoming a new batch of Peace Corps Volunteers to the island.
And to top off my trip to Port Morant, my friend Jah Rubal came to visit and share a dance...
Until next time :)