Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jamaica so far

With my new job, majority of the projects I manage are located in Jamaica. The last week I've been going around the island getting to know the various partners and projects they run with our financial assistance. Luckily I was able to travel with the colleague who had been managing the projects temporarily. He brought his wife and it was great to have fun people to go around with.

I'm probably one of a handful of people who have traveled to Jamaica without setting foot on a beach. I'm surrounded by water but since we work in poor areas, we go far away from the water. Although I've yet to see the ocean from anywhere other than the plane, I have been able to spend a lot of time in the mountains, which are absolutely beautiful.

The largest of our projects here are reconstruction projects in response to Hurricane Dean, which hit Jamaica in August 2007. Although many houses here are made of concrete, roofs are often made of just zinc sheets and wooden boards, so when the storm hit many people were left without adequate shelter. We distributed zinc sheets, boards, tarps, construction materials, etc through our local partners.

We began the visit in Kingston, meeting with all the big-wigs. We visted one of our projects with Mustard Seed Communities, Jamaica. They work with mentally and physically disabled children who have been cast out from their families.

After two days in Kingston, we went to Mandeville. The Mandeville to Kingston trip was my first test of left-side driving. I drove to Mandeville and later around Manchester Parish. I thought I was driving well until our poor partner contact, Kevin, said to me, "Leslie you are making me very very nervous." Whoops! Apparently I was driving a little too close to the left side of the road. Eventually I got my spatial judgement back, if nothing else to put Kevin at ease.

Our next stop was Montego Bay. MoBay is better known for its resorts and tourism, but it is also Jamaica's second largest and most dangerous city. We visited a high school where our partners run an after-school education project.

This trip gave me my first taste of Patois. Although we all technically spoke English, I could barely understand pure Patois. I love the sound of it and hope to learn a bit of it. Here are some examples:

Patois: Were dat ol'daddy? Him dat live up der hill?
American English: Where's the elderly man who lives up that hill?

Patois: Da wind done come and mash up dis 'ere 'ouse.
American: The storm came and ruined this house.

Now I'm back in Kingston, this time alone, my colleague and his wife having gone back to Ecuador. I'll make the same loop next week, this time tackling the much less interesting issue of financial management. Exciting! I don't have my camera cable with me, so pictures will have to wait until I get back to Santo Domingo.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Apparently, despite the name, there's little to no French in Jamaican patois. My old sailing coach was Jamaican (though blond & blue eyed, and descended from European immigrants) and, given enough liquid lubricant, would slip into patois.

Glad to hear that all is well!