I would like to give friends and family an idea of what my life is like in Peace Corps, so the next few posts will be all about a sense of place. This edition is all about my living situation!
Every Peace Corps Jamaica volunteer has a unique housing situation based on what was available around their assigned organization’s project site when the partnership was being established. It is ideal that you have a host family (living in a shared space) in the eyes of Peace Corps (to maximize cultural exchange), but plenty of us have individual housing---again it is all about availability.
I have my own apartment on the bottom floor of a large house that is split into six living units. My “host-mom” is more like my landlord and lives in the main entrance to the house, and rents out the two stories (five flats) underneath her. She is the sweetest 84-year old woman you will ever meet, and returned to Jamaica after spending all of her adult life in England. Once I was having a particularly challenging day and to my surprise, she mixed us up a brandy and soda. The gesture was unexpected and I found it so comical that it actually did cheer me up. Don’t worry though, on a normal visit to her home, she makes me a strong cup of black tea and we chat over biscuits. Sometimes I help her granddaughter with her homework and read books with her to encourage her to turn off the television. Needless to say, I am happy with the relationship that I have established with my “host-mom” and I have felt nothing but comfortable coming home.
When I first entered my new apartment, suitcase in hand with little idea of what it was going to be like, I was in awe. This is the most space I have ever had to myself in my entire life. To be honest, I can’t believe this is my housing in Peace Corps, and I don’t know if the feeling will ever fade.
Most know I love to cook and bake and I have been blessed with a beautiful kitchen. I am going to make sure I use it to do lots of cultural exchange---I already made my neighbors some biscotti and chocolate chip cookies. I also made my supervisor a loaf of bread! Furthermore, I've been experimenting with making Jamaican dishes and I think I'm getting pretty good at it!
Oh! And sometimes I have visitors (not to mention the flies...):
My biggest challenge in my new living space has been dealing with the mold. My clothes, suitcase, travel pack, and woodworking projects have all been victim of mold so far. It is simply an adjustment I have to make to keep things dry, and air things out in the sun whenever I can. However, if that is the biggest conflict with my housing, I feel very lucky. Cold showers and hand washing clothes are just tiny adjustments, and I am starting to enjoy both of them. I have water, electricity, wifi, and lots of space to make art. Again, I never expected to have any of this in Peace Corps...but I am not complaining (In fact, I really love my place)! It is nice to know I have a fine place to kick my boots off after a day of work.
With that it is dinner time--time to cook up some pumpkin rice and peas! Tune in next time for Part II: Work!