Monday, July 16, 2007

What an INSANELY, eXtremeLy Far-Out Weekend!

Before I begin, I *am* genuinely blessed to have this opportunity to do every activity in this past weekend. I am still awestrucken that I was able to do it all in a single weekend.

First, on Friday, I climbed to the PEAK of Blue Mountain, the highest elevation of Jamaica. I was veryyy fortunate to be granted this opportunity to hike with the CEO of "Global Deaf Connection," Dan Lundberg! We hiked together through Jacob's Ladder path and past Portland Gap to reach to the top. We started to hike from the elevation of 3,500 feet to 6,000 feet within three hours, then returned back down for 2.5 hours (back at 3,500 ft). The view was... blinding. Literally, the fog was so thick so we could not see anything down below.

Second, on Saturday, a different group of volunteers, 4 of us, climbed one of the MOST Beautiful Waterfall in the world, Dunn's River Waterfall. We needed to have non-slippery shoes in order to climb over those slick boulders. That place is located in Ocho Rios; it is not steep but a long descending/ascending level of waterfall. We all were constantly amazed by the beauty and serendity of the waterfall--until late that morning the tourists came swarming around. We were so lucky to explore this location almost alone at 8:45am.

Last, on Sunday, 3 of us signed up at the infamous Dolphin's Cove. We did many water activities: kayaking (with a glass bottom), snorkeling, and... (you will NOT believe this!) swimming with Sting-rays! I'm currently swelled by the whole phenomena! I get more speechless and awestrucken by the magnititude of amazing beauty within a single weekend!

Some issues...

issue #1
The infamous Blue Mountain coffee is nowhere to be found here in Kingston! Instead, some cafes will serve us instant coffee, not freshly brewed kind. I mistakely bought a coffee bean bag (Ungrounded) and now am stuck with it. Decidedly, I'll toss this bag of BM beans to Sandra who requested it. THere are other 2 volunteers who are also coffee addicts and we all suffer together through coffee-withdrawal. I recently formed my own method of brewing another bag of (grounded!) coffee to serve a single-cup. It takes longer than a typical coffee-maker back home... so you can figure i'm currently homesick. :/

issue #2
$1 USD = $67 Jamaican Dollar.
This may be true but it misleads us profusely!
It aint cheap to live here (we technically moved here in the dorms for one month after paying our "bills" such as food, laundry, cooking equipments, bedsheets, etc.)! Most of the food and gifts are in the same value as it is in America! It sometimes makes us (the volunteers) wonder how the people get by here. I often feel like I'm in the South of USA, such as Mississippi or East St. Louis, not in a 3rd-world country!

issue #3
"Dumb" is often used here as a word substitution for "deaf."
After discussing with other volunteers (Deaf and hearie) and Deaf visitors from America, we agreed it that term is almost as bad as being called or saying the "n" word for black people. It puts a rock in our stomach to hear that archaic term and boils us up to try to enlighten whoever calls us/them "dumb" to the corrected term--DEAF! I recently learned the reason--it is the British way to say it. Our Jamaican roommate explained to us that it does not mean as in "stupid" but just mute. Well, Deafness and muteness are still *not* the same thing.

Never again--07-07-07!

Indeed, this location is one extravagant beach retreat. Montego Bay (Mo'Bay) does not truly represent Jamaican culture or nature but polished and decorated, all aimed for the tourists off from any cruise. I'm just glad to explore this place. Four of us chilled out on a lovely private beach, "Doctor Cave Beach" and stayed at... "Doctor Cave Hotel." We had our firstttt coffee here! Hallelujah! Oh, funny--during the evening time, our hotel had a fun activity and I turned out to be *Limbo Queen*! I convinced other 3 volunteers to go out to Cool Runnings Cafe! Yes, the original bobsled of Jamaican Olympians is located there. I learned the "cool runnings" does not mean "Journey on the Earth" as it was said in the movie but just "no problem!"

The unexciting part about Mo'Bay was the locals/vendors around the hotels, who were like hawks. It was unease sometimes when we walk around shopping (or window-shopping). They'd pester us down to sign up for any beach activity or tour. It'd get tiring to say "No, thanks" all the time.

On the other hand, I am truly hoping I am able to return Mo'Bay to attend the great concert of Reggae Sumfest. I read it in my co-volunteer's book saying it is one of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die." I hope I will accomplish this. We succeeded seeing another place from that list, "Pork Pit" and ate there with their most delicious Jerk Pork (and Chicken)! We stayed here for only one night and had to travel 3 hours each way. It is probably not enough but I have somewhat a clear idea of this location. It is definitely a better developed city than Kingston but... expensive. Well, we can't have it all, mon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It can be a drag when the electricity goes out here in Kingston. Sometimes the WHOLE island of Jamaica go out too. This does terrify me and the other Deaf volunteer. If nighttime, we will consider ourselves deaf AND BLIND. It's an awful feeling when i'm away from my flashlight. It soothed our tense away when other people turn on their cellphones to give them little light and guidance around the dorm or outside. If daytime, oh, forget it! We barely can stand the heat without our precious F-A-N-S! We just pray for the electricity to return functioning properly within an hour to maintain the progress in the class.

It hit the other volunteers how hard it can be to teach the children at this heat everyday. We try not to grime about the weather conditions here because some Deaf Jamaicans have to live with this more than just ONE month as we do. The volunteer is a teacher for Deaf children and she mentioned that it is already difficult to teach and keep the attention of those young kids. So, it is hard to imagine to deal with Deaf Jamaican children and keep their energy ongoing year-round at this school. The students who we are training are all adults, thus we all bear this heat all together. It can be tough to stand or be in the spotlight and not look tired, sweaty or grumpy, but to stay awake and active, bouncing around the room to get them into ol' sweet ENGLISH writing course!

I have to applaud those Deaf Jamaican Adults for their great passion for this course. Most of them travel 1-2 hours from their hometowns just to attend this program. In addition, their writing ability is still outstanding, comparing with many Deaf Americans, they have whole lots of potential to pass the college exam. I believe some of them WILL pass. I cannot wait till November to hear from the results. I tip my hat to this program coordinator who dedicated 1.5 year all alone, Becca Hamm, a literacy specialist from America, who was involved in Peace Corps for Deaf Education in Kenya. This world needs more of Hamms around here. I am grateful to learn and meet specatular people. This is definetely an inspiration.

Maybe i could be a teacher....

Did you know that...

They drive British way here! Yup, i was embarassed to find that out by myself outside of the airport. It is totally mind-wrecking at *everytimes* we cross the streets here! Right now, we (group of volunteers) are starting to forget which direction the American way drive! ;) Maybe it will be best if i dont drive immediately at my arrival back home.

Something else is odd here. You know, the locals here tend to do it in Jamaican time. They are usually laid-back and *always* say "No problem, mon." This is a contradiction to their driving skills/style! They drive insanely, yes, worse than Italians! The mini-buses speed up frenzily and the cars normally pass around the slower vehicles on single-lanes. How can this be? They cannot take it easy like Jamaican-style on the road. The locals always laugh at this oddity.

Nope, the police do not moderate the driving speed here but... only check if the DRIVER (not the passengers) is wearing Seat belts. How considerating.

Monday, July 9, 2007

No Key Lime Pie here

To reach the magnificient beach getaway from Kingston, we travelled to Lime Cay/"Key". To be honest, Kingston is a rough inner-city which is close to the slums of LA or any large American city. (I will take a photograph someday of the city where im staying in.) Sometimes it can be depressing and low-energy, so the weekends are only our time to go out of city, revive our souls and learn about the beauty of Jamaica!

Once we reached to Lime Cay, we soared throughout the sands of the island, an uninhabitated island off from Port Royal, a town that has striking resemblances as Massawa, the deserted city. It was refreshing to swim again in the ocean--actually, SEA of Caribbean. It's very hot and humid here, thus the cool water there made it like heaven!

I noticed the great difference in the class and race of those people who travelled to Lime Key (not very far from Kingston, approx 1 hour away). Most of the people who laxed on the beach weren't completely black (dark-skinned) but mixed/cosmospolitian or has Latin roots. I'd say I blended in this type of ethnical group. The class of people who reached there wore glamour sunglasses and cool brand name clothing and brought proper beach equipments. It did not cost much to reach here so this is still making me wonder what exactly it is dividing the type of people (or class) to venture to this island. This trip is somewhat a preparation for my next exploration in Jamaica: Montego Bay ("Mo'Bay"), Ocho Rios and NegriL.

Since i dont have that much time beside teaching and reading for the class, I have so little chance to modify and update this blog or my photo. There isnt any computer that allows me to rotate my vertical photos. :( Anyways, there is so much left to see and i'm counting the days until every friday!! Eureka!--I truly unds "TGIF" now. These getaways are truly necessity for me to explore more about this lovely green (or white--from the sand) country!

Like the local coordinator normally says, ..."When you return for next summer, we could do this... or that..." Maybe he is right, I just may return for some more adventure! Waitamin, its only second week and i have 3 more weeks to go but im already thinking of returning here.. That must be a good sign. ;)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Yah, Jamaica, mon!!

here i am, located in Kingston, Jamaica--here for a Deaf Adult program to aide their English reading and writing course. It is an intensive English reading-comprehension program called "July Fast-Track," that will only last one month. yah, typical of me, making a haste decision of summer plan. if you knew me well, this shouldnt be a surprise of my anxiety of staying "home" in America w/o learning and venturing any other country, especially those on my Want-List. Matter of fact, Thailand was originally on my mind during June. It is the primary country i want to visit of southeast Asia. If i did go to Thailand, i would only travel without being involved in any program of any assistance. So i decided to investigate for any country with volunteer program on the internet, and this program, "World Endeavor" attracted my attention immediately to become volunteer in teaching English for the Deaf. It's the only affordable airfare (comparing to other 2 options) and... its a country i have never visited before. All the points resulted my current status as a teacher assistant.

There will be more info and interesting adventure to come. enjoy my new blogspot. Dont worry, my previous blogspot (muddyturf) is still up there and waiting for me to update for my next visit to Eritrea. ;)