A bit of a delayed update for everyone! We’ll start with our trip to the Appleton Rum Factory and YS Falls on the September 22. When we first walked onto the Appleton Estate, we were greeted by an interesting odor. It smelled like the fresh field of manure, to put it politely. Our tour started out with an educational video about the factory and its history. The tour continued to the other parts of the factory, including the warehouses where the rum is aged. We tried many new things during the tour, such as sugar cane juice and a mixture of molasses and brown sugar used to make rum. We found out how much of a cultural piece Appleton played in the history of Jamaica.
Our day at YS Falls was not what was expected. There had been heavy rains in the days prior, which caused the water levels in most places to be too dangerous to swim, but some of the students were courageous enough to attempt a quick dip in a safer area of the falls. There was a small pool filled with refreshingly cold spring water that our group was able to enjoy. Another highlight was the zipline. Some members of the group put the equipment on and braved the daring ziplines that stretched out over the falls. It was an exhilarating experience!
September 24 found us at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD) school in Knockpatrick, right outside of Mandeville. It was fun to be able to spend an afternoon with the kids. This was our first look at a Jamaican Deaf school. We had a lecture by Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the directors for all of the CCCD schools. We also were able to go on a tour of the school. We concluded with lunch followed by student interaction.
The storm from Hurricane Nicole almost prevented us from going on our Kingston trip. Thankfully, the weather cleared just in time for us to leave. Thursday was supposed to be our sight-seeing day in Kingston. After dropping our luggage off at the Immaculate Conception Convent, our bus started off with a little push from a couple of the students. The Bob Marley museum was closed on account of rain (even though it wasn’t raining that day) so we headed to the Devon House. It was the home of the first Jamaican millionaire, and it was very beautiful. The site is home to the best ice cream in Jamaica, so of course, we took advantage of the cultural experience. From there we went to see the Emancipation Park and some crazy students (and their Director) decided to run a lap around the park just for fun; it has a running track. Unfortunately for them, it started pouring when they were only half way done with their short run. We arrived at TGI Fridays soaking wet but happy for some good American food.
Friday was a relaxing day because our tour to the Jamaican Association for the Deaf was cancelled, again on account of the tropical storm and damaged done. Therefore, we had to improvise and headed to the Bob Marley museum after finding the zoo and Hope Botanical Gardens also closed. Our meeting with J-FLAG was fortunately not cancelled. We had a little trouble finding the site because it is intentionally hidden. The J-FLAG organization helps the LGBTQ community, which is very much oppressed and socially forbidden. It was interesting to hear the stories and experiences of the panel who spoke with us. Afterwards, we finally managed to squeeze in some shopping! The day was full and tiring, so we were very thankful to reach our beds that evening.
How does snorkeling and sunbathing on a small island right outside of the Kingston harbor, with only the sea urchins for company, sound as a Saturday afternoon activity? Jealous yet? It was a glorious and warm day spent in the sun. Even though the water was a bit murky because the recent storms, we still had a wonderful time. When we noticed some very dark storm clouds coming our way, it was time to leave on the taxi boat. On our way back to the bus, we met the storm and received some complimentary massages courtesy of good ole Mother Nature. The rain was coming down hard and fast and was quite a “deep tissue” massage! Even though the rain was stinging, our attitudes were still jubilant and we managed to crank out a few tunes. Back at the convent, we rinsed the salt water out of our hair and got dressed for our evening out. Of course, dinner was first, and some filled their stomachs with lasagna while others chose sushi. The Little Theater was next, and we appreciated the cultural differences in the performances. Ashe Dance Company was the featured event here. We finished the long day with a late night at Club Fiction in order to learn about the Jamaican night life culture. We had a small problem getting in because some people had worn flip flops. Fortunately, Josh was able to pull some strings to get us all in.
Church the next morning was a little difficult due to the lack of sleep from the Jamaican night life cultural experience. We attended the Deaf church, and the members were very friendly. A nap was needed before we visited an American missionary family for lunch at their house. It was wonderful to eat as a group around a big table. The lunch was followed by a stop at the Haagen Daz for a sweet treat. The rest of the evening was spent at the convent watching movies and playing Sardines before bedtime.
Our tour of the Jamaican Association for the Deaf was postponed until Monday. We met with several JAD employees and Deaf Culture Facilitators (DCFs), and then toured the neighboring Lister Mair Gilby and Danny Williams Schools for the Deaf. Mr. Martin, of JAD, was a great tour guide. It was exciting meeting the school kids. They were smiley and quite welcoming.
Lunch was at the Wendy’s, much to everyone’s delight. Our last stop in Kingston was the Price Mart which is comparable to a Sam’s Club or Costco. Since trips into town were not guaranteed during the six weeks of service, the students bought large quantities of comfort food for their time on service. The drive back to Mandeville was going smoothly until a large “killer” katydid (AKA a large harmless moth) “attacked” the students causing a major uproar. Thankfully Naomi kept her cool and grabbed the humongous bug and threw it out the window, sparing the rest of the group any “harm”. The event lasted about two minutes, and part of it was captured on video. It was two minutes of screams and laughter. The event was so exhausting that a stop at a Juici Patty restaurant was necessary to re-energize. We finally made it back to Mandeville. It was so nice to arrive at a place that we could call home.