Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A VIEW FROM KINGSTON

Hi all -

I'm writing this one from the Peace Corps office in downtown Kingston, looking out over a spanish veranda with a mango sunset burning the dusk sky. I got very sick last week with a GI tract infection, and it flared up again this week so I had to come in and get checked again. As my good friend Kellen Arno told me when I was flustered this last week, "Something about you changes when you get so sick that at some point, death becomes a viable option."

Things have been going at a breakneck pace during training, many field trips to places like Botany Bay, Morant Bay, Yallahs, and the Riverton Dump to look at water sanitation practices and how Jamaica deals with health issues. The bottom line is, it seems as though they don't. It's national policy to perform vector control (mosquitos) by putting diesel fuel on standing pools of water. I had a principal of a local high school, a very distinguished member of the community, tell me I won't get anything accomplished here because there's no money and people don't want to change. Needless to say I feel a little deflated. BUT, the people in the Peace Corps are an incredible group of dedicated and brilliant people who have taken such varied and difficult routes to get to where they are today it's amazing.

Regardless of whether this is the right fit for me or not, I will have been irrevocably changed by this experience, and for the better. I know what it's like, in a very small measure, to go to bed hungry, cold, and tired, and to be with people who deal with it all with guts and gumption.

More to come soon as I decide whether Jamaica will work out. Love you all so, so much and miss you terribly.

Friday, July 22, 2005

WOW, SORRY FOR THE DELAY

Hi everyone -

It's difficult to know where to begin, so why not try the beginning. We arrived in Kingston, trained at the University of the West Indies, then moved to a small village named Heartease. I spent a night with an odd fellow who adorned the walls with porno pictures and was subsequently moved to another home with an older woman, Susan, who is as lovely as can be.

We just spent the last week traveling all over the island, doing small works and seeing what jobs people do in the sector I am working in, Water Sanitation. It's overwhelming, hot, the language is tough, and I'm tired. Sleeping in random community centers on cement floors, getting attacked by fire ants, dancing in the streets with the locals, it's a blur. I'm working through it though, and the country really is amazing. I miss you all like crazy and love reading your messages, so please keep them coming.

My contact info here, since internet is really expensive and shoddy, is this cell phone number:

1-876-470-1662

You can email this:

4701662@digitextjm.com

and I receive messages on my cell phone. I hope all is well back in the states and I look forward to chatting some more!

Friday, July 08, 2005

OFF TO JAMAICA!

Hi all -

If things go according to plan, and no category 4 hurricanes come our way, I'll be off to Jamaica this morning for training. We've been informed that we won't be placed in any of the large cities to due an uptick in crime, so that's disappointing but reasurring as well. The staging has been an exhausting, whirlwind experience complete with 4am runs with a drunk roomate, huge dinners, and really amazing people to meet and learn from. My feet haven't touched the ground in three days. More on the flip, take care.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

THE NOTORIOUS W.I.L.L.


Because we all need obligatory baby pictures...

We here at D'Yer Maker affectionately title this picture "Thug Life". My brother Joe and his wife Kathleen welcomed William into the world this past December. As you can see Will, at a tender young age, already has mad street cred yo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

WORDS FOR THOSE WHO STRUGGLE

The Kennedys, for most of those of our parents' generation, truly hold a special place in the collective American soul. Our parents came of age with each Kennedy's plea for dreams and for public service. When I was very young, my Dad took me to JFK's grave at Arlington and read me his famous inauguration speech, inscribed in marble overlooking the nation's capitol. As our breath floated white in the cold winter morning, my Dad laid his hand on my shoulder and imparted a bit of his youthful idealism through this remarkable family and this remarkable man; not for any other reason other than to understand that every man struggles, and those who are in a position to help ought to do so, and that every demon wrestled with, every small kind act, every inujstice righted has meaning no matter how significant or insignificant. The ghosts of dreams long gone and dreams still living hung in the air, and even as a very young boy I understood that certain ideas transcend individual men and hold onto our collective hearts, and they demand of us no less than to pursue our own path with no less vigor and desire.

This excerpt is from Edward Kennedy's eulogy for his brother Robert, and it just seems to be comfort for those who struggle.

"There is a discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere.

"These are differing evils, but they are common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility toward the sufferings of our fellows.

"But we can perhaps remember--even if only for a tirne--that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek--as we do--nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

"Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

"Our answer is to rely on youth--not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress. It is a revolutionary world we live in; and this generation at home and around the world, has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived.

"Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.

"These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

"Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

"For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

"Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

This is the way he lived. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

"Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

JUST A QUICK TEST OF THE EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM


Hey there again -

I wanted to try to attach an image in this post for two reasons; one, to show a picture of a robot and a giant can of Guiness and, two, to see how pictures work on this thing so I can post images of Jamaica as they come up. Thanks for your patience!

THE 23RD AND ONE HALF ANNUAL BLOG ENTRY:

Hi there -

Welcome to my humble blog. I hope to update this as much as I can during my time in Jamaica as a Peace Corps volunteer. I'll be leaving (in a rather terrified state if where I am two weeks away from it is any indication) for the pre-departure staging event in Miami on July 5th. Apparantly this is when they will tell you not to do dreadful things like organize a rebel militia and stage a coup, or being the big dumb American while in Jamaica...whatever comes first I guess.

I'll try to anticipate any questions people might have about doing this kind of thing, especially in Jamaica.

JAMAICA FAQ:
  • What kind of commitment is it? Two years and change. You earn vacation as you go along, so I hope to come home every six months or so. Jamaica is warm though, anyone can come and visit!
  • Does everyone there smoke some of that ganj? Dude have you heard reggae?......actually no. Marijuana laws operate there much like they do here in the States; it's illegal, but selective enforcement means there can be a wink and a nod and no one is the worse for it. That being said, that kind of thing isn't for me, and even if it was breaking the law as a representative of the U.S. government probably isn't in the job description. I mean, it's not like you can walk around in a drunken/coked up haze for 40 years and then just wake up one day and decide to be President.....oh wait.....
  • What kind of work will you be doing? My specific title is "Water Sanitation/Community Environmental Health". That could be anything from what we eloquently describe as a "poo doctor" to working for Habitat for Humanity to working at a marine park or sanctuary. I won't know where I'm even going to be in the country until we get there, so as far as the job is concerned it'll just develop on it's on I suppose. I really hope to get a youth swimming/water safety thing going though, as well as working with sustainable oceanic/fishing practices work. We'll see.
  • Do you get paid? You get a living stipend every month which is supposed to cover rent and food. At the end of the two years you can collect what's called a readjustment allowance of something like $6000, which will promptly be blown on every type of American luxury there is...up to an including beer, beer, showers, beer, chips, cd's, and beer.
  • What does D'yer Maker mean? It's a Led Zeppelin song off of Houses of the Holy. It was the band's first attempt at making a reggae-ish type song. The title of the tune is meant to be a joke; Robert Plant and John Bonham came from rural England and had thick accents. "D'yer Maker" is supposed to be what the word "Jamaica" sounds like when they said it (i.e. Jermaiker or something). Apparently they got a kick out of people, mostly Americans, telling them "wow man I really like that song Die-er Maker!"

If you have any others you can think of please feel free to let me know. I'm still getting used to the blog stuff here, so don't be surprised if I...a) suck or b) don't update much due to spotty internet access. I'll have my contact information in Jamaica up as soon as I know where that will be, as it will probably change pretty often.

I guess I'm really looking forward to getting that sense of awe back through all of this. If can get to seeing the world as it should be and then asking "why not?", and maybe if you can get there with me, then all of this will have been for good.

-Dan