Monday, June 27, 2005

Found a new internet cafe

That's cheaper and has nicer computers, but all of the websites insist on displaying in some language that looks like German. Thankfully, I can sorta get my way through in order to do what I need to do with little heartache.

Well, your thoughts and prayers and support are so wonderful to me. The biggest news right now for me is that I have been telling Rev. Samuels about my problems living with Mrs. Francis, and this weekend it came to a head. He met with Mr. & Mrs. Francis and myself on Saturday night and it was determined that I would move. It was actually quite a painful discussion because everything I brought up, every hardship I feel I've suffered under her, she denied. The gist of the conversation was that Mrs. Francis was all right and I was all wrong. I don't know if the Reverend feels that way, but certainly Mrs. Francis would not give up on how awful I am and how lucky I am that she and her husband have taken me in. So, if she legitimately liked me before (which I find very hard to believe - some of her actions may be cultural, but she has only been living here for the last 8 months, coming from the US, and I sincerely believe that she has a problem in letting people be who they are and not be her). Anyway, if she sincerely liked me before, she certainly does not like me now and will not speak to me. This morning I asked her (innocently, as a means to try to make peaceful conversation) if she and her husband went to the nursing home on Sunday afternoon (Krista and I had a dinner engagement and couldn't go this week), and she snapped back in reply, "Don't question me, Jennifer." So...the times that I have felt crazy or petty for my experiences this past month in her house, I feel a little bit more validated in what I have been feeling/experiencing because of how she even continues to treat me, even though we were asked to part peacefully. She clearly cannot forgive me and she clearly cannot be around in my presence. That, to me, is very, very sad.

Anyhow, I do not know when or where I am moving, but I am content enough at this point to know that I am moving. I do have anxiety about moving (especially because I heard her calling someone this morning when I was having breakfast and complaining to them about how I am a horrible person), but at least I feel some semblance of hope. I have some bit of faith that it can get better. At the end of last week, I begun crying daily again because of my homesickness (had a horrible episode where I was listening to "Ventura Highway" by America on Tyler's iPod, where I became so homesick, so overwashed with sadness/hopelessness/depression/oppression, that I could not stand), but I was thinking on Saturday night, recalling the conversation to settle the contentions between Mrs. Francis and myself, I was thinking that perhaps the reason, or part of the reason that I am so incredibly homesick is because all this time I have not been able to feel at home. I dread going back to my Jamaican home, I dread meals, I don't feel like I can use any electricity or wash any of my clothes because I am constantly told about how expensive everything is, I feel like I have to walk on eggshells whenever I am home and I feel that I do not have space to be myself. So, maybe the reason why I am homesick is because I don't even have a place of refuge here to call home. Hopefully this transition into a new home will be what I need in order to feel like I can actually be here.

This past week we had our normal duties - visitation, Bible study, etc., but the special thing is that one of the churches was having its yearly Harvest Supper, a time for the churches and community to come together for a meal and entertainment in order to raise money for the church that they are trying to build. At the Harvest Supper, I attempted to learn how to play dominoes (a very common Jamaican pasttime), but the old men who said they'd teach me did anything but. I also had curried goat as one of my meat selections at the Harvest Supper and it was delicious.

The big thing is that yesterday and today have actually been pretty good days. Perhaps the first good days I've experienced here in Jamaica. Sunday was my preaching debut at Boscobel United Church. There was a part of the service where they were handing a check to Habitat for Humanity for $2 million Jamaican dollars, so they had TVJ (which is the Jamaican TV channel) there filming it, and a representative of RJR News (Real Jamaican Radio - motto is "concise, yet complete") there to record the whole service. So on my preaching debut, I was "professionally" recorded, but I don't think the service will make it to broadcast. But, I guess there always is that potential. I preached on Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac, and when I practiced my sermon, I think it was about 12 minutes long, at the most 15. Well, I think when I actually delivered it, I spoke much faster than I should have. I don't know how long it actually was, but I am almost certain it was shorter than my practicing. The nice thing is that when I was writing the sermon this past week, I found I enjoyed the experience. So, I thought, maybe I will not like preaching it and getting up in front of people, but, actually, half way through the sermon I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad..." One thing, though, is that the worst part of a service to me, now that I am in ministerial shoes, is to stand at the back, shaking people's hands as they leave. I usually avoid this when I'm at church back home because I think it is awkward, but, now as the minister, I have to do it. It is not only awkward, but you get people telling you whatever they want to tell you (about you, about your sermon, etc.). Most people are nice, but then there are people who really take the vulnerability of this position and use it to tell somewhat mean things. I guess I shouldn't take it personally.

I preach again next week, but do not yet know what I will preach on, and then I will have a break in preaching (will do regular worship leading instead) until August 14th or so. After the service, I went over and had lunch with Krista at Miss Davis' sister Jennifer's house. It was just Krista and I and her and her sister for the lunch and it was so nice and wonderful. These ladies are very strong and nice and accepting, and for the first time, I got a feel that they genuinely liked having us there. So, that was really nice to spend the afternoon there.

Today, on our day off, Krista and I climbed Dunn's River Falls, which is this waterfall that flows into the ocean. Do a google search to look at pictures. It was a lot of fun, but also somewhat challenging in places. I liked it very much, but Krista thought it was too touristy.

Anyhow, I guess I should get going now. I'm trying to count the number of different species of mangoes I've eaten here so far. I am positive that I have eaten at least 5 different kinds, but I hear there are countless more.

Please keep praying for me. I hope that by the time I return next week, I can offer up a very positive entry, but we'll see. Right now, I am just thankful that I've had two good days in Jamaica.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Only 58 days left...

...which means that it's less than two months.

As you can tell, it is hard for me to get to the internet here. I really can only access it on my days off (Mondays and Saturdays), but those days are taken from Krista and I more often than we like. Last Saturday we had to go to lunch with a guy from the congregation and then do a wedding in the afternoon (wait until you hear the wedding story). This coming Saturday we have to do two funerals. Two Saturdays from now we have to do Vacation Bible School training. Today we narrowly got our free day (afternoon, really) because we had to fax some of our forms over to school, which was an ordeal in itself because of the lack of technological saavy of Jamaicans.

At least we have the afternoon today. Both Krista and I are having a very difficult time here (each in our own special way), but at least I am not crying every day anymore (I think). Thank goodness we have each other to talk to and be with. It seems that when I was very down, Krista was at least able to name some positives for me to look at. Now that I am a little bit more balanced (knowing it's less than two months before I can leave here helps me a lot), Krista is having a hard time looking at any positives, so now it's my turn to remind her that this could be way worse.

My bug bite count last week was 78 bug bites, of which at least half were bright red and at anywhere from .25" to 1.5" in diameter. I have not counted recently, but I would guess that my count easily reaches 100, if not more. It turns out that I am very affected by the mosquitos here. I knew I was allergic to mosquito bites, but I guess it's never been this bad before. Everyone (except for Mrs. Francis) is concerned about my bites because they are very apparent and grotesque looking. I have scabs all over my legs from the ones that I've scratched until they bleed (I know I'm not supposed to scratch, but sometimes that is impossible for me). I also have bruises from scratching I do on the ones that itch very bad. So, I've received tons of advice, anything from "don't scratch" to "use rubbing alcohol" to "use TSP" to "use Neosporin" to "sleep with a rotating fan on you", etc. It seems that everyone has their own home remedy for mosquito bites, some of which I have tried with little results. The ones on my legs still appear to be quite grotesque, but they may be healing and in return the mosquitos have discovered my arms and upper body. Today is the first day I've been able to come into town, and so one of my errands is to go to the pharmacy to see if they have a certain antibiotic ointment that was recommended to me by the pastor's wife Bev, a nurse.

Living with Mrs. Francis is horrible. Last week, midweek, I was under such stress that, when I was straining a lime into a strainer to make juice, the strainer fell into the juice, getting all of the seeds into the juice. Unable to think clearly, I burst out into sobs and just started screaming about how I wanted to go home and how I didn't want to be in Jamaica. It was really, really bad. I apologized to Mrs. Francis the next day for my outburst, but all I got was a short, curt reply about how it is an extreme hardship for them to take me on and how no one in the congregation wanted Krista or I to be here, etc. Ever since, I have had a very difficult time interacting with her because she is so very mean to me. Every day I am told at least one thing that I do not do properly, anything from setting the table correctly, to washing the dishes properly, to not addressing Mrs. Francis properly (when I answer yes or no, I cannot just say yes or no, I must say "Yes, Mrs. Francis"), to not ironing properly, to not having good etiquette because I drink while I eat my meal (instead of drinking at the end). The other night Krista was over and Mrs. Francis was clearly trying to set us against each other and praised Krista for how "prim and proper" Krista is (and, conversely, how horrible of a person I am). Living with Mrs. Francis makes me never, ever want to come back to Jamaica and is a huge part of the troubles I am having here.

I only have 11 minutes left, so what else can I say?

My duties so far have been...ok. Sundays we go to morning service at one of the two churches (let's just say that Jamaicans aren't very...pleasant to listen to when they sing - I sit up front and try not to make faces when someone sings horribly off-key). Then we go to the nursing home in the afternoon, which houses elderly and mentally/physically disabled people. The nursing home is the hardest part of my week, since I get really nervous interacting with mentally & physically disabled people. I just don't know how to talk to them, how to pray for them, how to see the image of God within them. Then Sunday nights we go to evening service at Boscobel church. Mondays - "day off." Tuesdays we have our supervisory meeting, then we have preparation time for sermons/bible study/etc, and then have Bible study in the evening at Immanuel Church. Wednesdays we do visitation to homes (with no notice that we're coming over) and then have Bible study in the evening at Boscobel church. Thursdays we have visitation, and Fridays we have more preparation time.

I will preach for the first time this coming Sunday, then I'll preach the following Sunday and then a Sunday in August. I think for this coming Sunday I'll be preaching on Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac.

Quickly, in 6 minutes, the Wedding story. Well, last Friday we didn't have our preparation time because the man who Rev. Samuels was marrying the next day is a policeman and on Thursday night, there was a robbery/shooting at a bar that someone from the Immanuel church owns. Of the four robbers, one robber jumped out of the bar window, onto the cliffs of the ocean and died. Another robber was caught and died later on, and two robbers were on the lam for awhile, but I hear they were caught. This policeman was shot 4 times, twice in one arm, once in the other arm and once in the back, I think. He was taken to the hospital. So, we went to the scene of the crime and talked to some people there. Then we went to the police station and talked to some people there. Then we went to the church and got some paperwork together, then we went to the hospital to visit the policeman. It turned out that the policeman was in a ward that could not accept visitors, so only Rev. Samuels was allowed to come in, so Krista and I had to wait outside until he was finished. Well instead of putting off their wedding, the policeman and his bride had their wedding that Saturday anyway, so they took him out of the hospital, and he got married (both Krista and I had functions during the wedding - she said something about what marriage was about and I had to do a ministerial prayer) and then went back into the hospital. Crazy.

Rev. Samuels was leading a confirmation class yesterday and I listened in on part of it, as they talked about spiritual gifts and about love, focusing on 1 Cor 12 and 13. Well, Rev. Samuels said something to the confirmants that really struck me, focusing on 1 Cor. 13, the chapter about love. Everything, every motivation of ours, must be done in love, otherwise, it is useless. I can say right now, that my motivation to be here is not out of love at all. It is out of duty and obedience. Sure, there is a certain element of love in duty and obedience, but my base motivation is not love. Something I could use prayer for is being able to love being here and for my base motivation to be love, even though it is hard and the Jamaicans don't seem to care (other than to stare at the only two white girls in Jamaica) to know who Krista and I are (they frequently confuse us, which is weird because the only resemblance we have is that we're both white and tall). As always, I also require prayer for interacting daily with Mrs. Francis. Without a doubt, she is the hardest part of me being in Jamaica.

Well, until my next opportunity to come onto the internet. Please let me know if any of you have something you want me to pray for you about, since one of my goals while I am here is to devote myself to prayer daily, in a purposeful way.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

If I could come back now or stay here...

I'd come home. So far, I am not enjoying myself and am very, very homesick. Thank goodness I have Krista here with me, because she has been continual encouragement, reminding me of things that I know in my brain (that things will change once we start in our duties, that ten weeks is not so much time, etc.), but are hard to remember in my heart.

I am staying in Boscobel Heights, which is just above Boscobel, which is just to the east of Ocho Rios, maybe about four miles or so. The closest beach that I know of right now is James Bond beach, which is where they filmed some James Bond movie, or has something to do with the author of James Bond--it is unclear to me. I am staying with a family of one of the congregations, Mr. & Mrs. Francis. Mr. & Mrs. Francis are native Jamaicans, although they returned sometime this past year, after having lived 30 years in the U.S. Mr. Francis is an easy-going guy, and it is not hard for me to like him. It is harder for me to like Mrs. Francis, who is much more overbearing than I am used to and, at this point, more than I think I can handle for the next ten/eleven weeks. This is a situation that requires much prayer. Thankfully, I am not living in their home, but living in their guest cottage. The cottage is one room (fairly large), has a convertible loveseat that I sleep in, and its own bathroom. I'd try to post a picture, but I don't think I have enough time at this internet cafe. We have a beautiful view of the ocean and of the green hillsides.

The food has not been bad at all. In fact, it has been mostly good, with the exception of ackee and swordfish (with festival, a cornbread donut, of sorts), which we ate for breakfast yesterday. Ackee is, I guess, Jamaica's national vegetable and this is a traditional dish. I didn't like it at all, but what was nice is that I didn't have to eat it. Otherwise, the food has been good. We had jerk pork & chicken (with festival) yesterday afternoon when Krista and I were out with Rev. Samuels, being introduced to various people in the congregations, etc. We also have the US's national landmark here - Mc Donalds. (Along with Burger King, KFC, Baskin Robbins, etc.)

I have my fair share of mosquito bites (about 10), all on my legs, the only place I applied the anti-mosquito lotion. I think I also learned this about Thailand, that I got more bites when I applied that dasterdly stuff, than when I went free. So, I think this is the end for that stuff for me for now.

Our duties start tomorrow, I think. I will read a passage from Luke in the church service we will attend at Boscobel (the other congregation is Immanuel Church), and then after that it is unclear to me what we will do. Monday will be another day off, and then Tuesday we will meet with Rev. Samuels to go over our weekly schedule. I am looking forward to beginning this, to worshipping with these congregations, to meeting new people, to having something to do with my time here.

I bought a cell phone to call home with. I can also receive text messages. Please email me if you would like the number to give me a call. Your call (or text message) would be more than welcome.

But as for right now, the next ten weeks seems like an eternity. Please pray for me, that things would fall into place here, that I wouldn't regret my decision to come here, that I would just trust in the purpose God has for me here, and that I would not let my attitude spoil things.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

All packed...and ready to go

Fully PackedI just finished zipping up my suitcase. I feel pretty calm right now and fairly certain that I have everything that I need (also fairly certain that I packed things that I absolutely will not use while I'm's my inevitable superpower). The reason I feel so collected is that my friend David Anderson was very nice to go to both the Post Office and Target for me today while I packed and cleaned. If I would have gone to the Post Office, the line would have been ages long, and if I would have gone to Target, I would have been lured by all of the aisles thinking to myself, "I must have forgotten that I need this, too." So, thanks to David, I was able to concentrate and pack and clean and not buy things that I do not need to buy.

Both Carrie and my dad commented on my neatly organized suitcase. The secret is that by packing that way, I am actually able to fit more than I would if it were not neat and compact. So, I guess that's just my sneaky way of accomplishing my aforementioned superpower.

Anyhow, I leave tomorrow morning very early (7:20 a.m.) and fly to Miami and meet up with Krista. I hope the movie they show will be good. Well, I just checked and it's The Wedding Date, which I have heard negative things about. But, I guess it'll be a way to occupy my time.

It's time to go for dinner. Not sure when I'll post next, but I do hope to post sometime soon.


DSCN0110Well, as you can see, I am half-packed. I have much more to do today; yet more errands to run (from stuff I forgot to do yesterday), some more stuff to pack, etc. It is suddenly very real to me that I leave very early tomorrow morning.

I've been asked a number of questions, so I thought I'd write them down and answer them:

Where are you going?
I will be in the parish of St. Ann in Jamaica, around the tourist area of Ocho Rios. Incidentally, this is also the birthplace of Bob Marley, although I read that reggae is out and dance hall is in, with such people as Sean Paul.

What will you be doing?
Pastoral duties such as:

  • Visitation - hospital, shut-ins, nursing home, general membership and community

  • Preaching

  • Worship Leadership, worship planning

  • Leading Bible Study and prayer meeting

  • Leading devotion in schools, counseling

When are you leaving? When will you return?
I leave tomorrow, from Los Angeles at 7:20 a.m. Then I meet up with Krista in Miami, and we fly together to Montego Bay, landing there around 7:30 p.m. (FYI, Jamaica is in the east-coast time zone.) I return from Jamaica on Wednesday, August 17, at some time in the afternoon. The worst part of it all is that I have a layover in Miami on the return from about 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.).

How will you spend your time?

Well, beyond my duties, I am not really sure. I'd really love to learn about cricket - by watching games and/or learning to play myself. I have also heard that I'll need to wait a lot, so I plan to bring some books along to read during my spare time. One book that I am bringing that I have not yet read is The Brothers Karamazov. I also plan on bringing and finishing Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, a book that I have been reading that is amazingly wonderful.

Are you going to get your hair braided?
No, for several reasons. First and foremost, I think it looks horrible when blonde-haired people get those little braids close to their scalp. Secondly, I would be afraid my scalp would get sunburned. Thirdly, sometimes really tight hairstyles (tight braids, ponytails, etc.) give me an enormous headache. I could go on and on but I think, by now, you get the point that braids are not in my future.

What language do Jamaicans speak?
Jamaicans speak British English as their primary language. My (dumb) joke is that I'll have to work on my accent. :) Seriously, though, when the school was choosing where I should go, they knew I only speak English, and so they have sent me to an English-speaking nation. Jamaicans also speak another language, Patois. Patois is often debated as to whether or not it is a real language, or just slang (because it is composed of English words with alternate meanings). For more info, see this page.

What kind of food do they eat?
I have been told Jamaicans eat a lot of meat and that they have this jerk seasoning that makes everything spicy and delicious. This site has some recipes that you can try, to experience a little bit of Jamaica in your own home.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Two days left

Two days left before I leave early on Wednesday morning. There is much for me to do, everything from packing my suitcase (which includes washing some of the clothes and going out to get stuff like toothpaste) to faxing a letter to Dr. Samuels, my supervisor, and head of the church, down there. The letter will indicate Krista's and my travel schedule. Both of us attempted to email him this information, but apparently his email box is so full, it is not accepting new email. So, there is potential that Krista and I will land with no one to pick us up.

I've heard that the 2005 hurricane season is predicted to be big this season (June-November), which is fun because I'm not at all scared of going through a hurricane. Just look at the Caribbean weather satellite map, and you'll see that there is some strong activity down there (although I don't think it's quite a hurricane just yet). Jamaica is in the middle, where none of the stormy stuff is. I have heard that Jamaica doesn't get too many of the hurricanes, but that still doesn't make me feel nervous about going through one.

Yesterday at church we had a guest speaker, and it was very interesting to hear what he had to say. Beyond that, though, we sang a hymn (Take thou our minds, dear Lord) that was probably the most meaningful element of yesterday's service (to me, at least). The last verse, in particular, was helpful to think and remember why I am going to Jamaica - to serve God:

Take thou ourselves, O Lord, heart mind and will
Through our surrendered souls, thy plans fulfill
We yield ourselves to thee - time, talents, all
We hear and henceforth heed thy soverign call.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

One week to go

As of this morning, I officially only have one week to go before heading off to Jamaica. I am starting to get a little more excited about going, but for the most part, I regard it as a chore I have to go and do, instead of a delight to go and serve in another culture. I think I feel this way because everything about Jamaica is unknown to me. The people, the land, my duties, etc. Typically, it is hard for me to be excited about unknowns.

I've started to have rough sleeping nights. This is not because of the anxiety of going to Jamaica, per se, but more because of all of the things I have to do before I go to Jamaica. Things I have to get from the store, figuring out a packing list for three months (what should I bring, how much should I bring, what should I get there?), various engagements to go to before then, graphic design projects to finish, etc. I really should make some sort of list and be diligent and stick to it, but I can't seem to make myself sit down to do that.

The idea of not taking my computer to Jamaica is a tough one for me. Really, it is not safe to do so. The minister I'll be staying with has had his car stolen twice in the past four years, or at least that's what the girl who went last year reported to me. So, I regard that as not safe. I will, instead, be relying on internet cafes in order to communicate back home and in order to write any sort of papers that I may have to write while down there (lessons, reports for school about my internship, etc.). Because I've always had a computer I could call mine (even if it was my family's) and also because up to now, a lot of my adult life has been connected to performing on the computer, the idea of sharing one and not having one immediately available is unsettling to me. I wonder if it can be done, but at the same time, I know it can be done because of all those people I know who do it regularly, by going to the computer lab at school or by going to the library to use the computers there. I feel like I sound rich and arrogant when it comes to this issue, but these are thoughts that seriously go through my head. It will probably be very good for me to struggle with this over the coming weeks.