Our first post! We anticipated this coming much sooner, but they days always seem to get away from us. We landed safely on Jan 3rd, and were met by Mr. Brown, our onsite coordinator, at the airport. We loaded the bus and headed to Petersfield! The ride was quite the experience for our students, as the traffic and winding roads left some students at the edge of their seat. Once we arrived, we had an orientation to the program, met members of the local community, and were treated to our first Jamaican meal. We then headed home to spend the evening with our host families, and rest up for the beginning of our adventure.

Our second day brought us to the Galloway Early Childhood Institution (ECI). We began by cleaning up the yard around the school, and leveling the floor in a newly constructed classroom so the floor could be laid. Using picks, shovels, and buckets, our students installed a drainage pipe, and began to level the floor. Over the next two days, we hauled piles and piles of dirt and stone, and mixed cement for the floor by hand. Our bucket brigade began, and slowly but surely, the floor began to appear before our eyes. It was exhausting work, but having Bluefields Beach as an incentive provided the light and the end of the tunnel! After three days of work, the drain was installed, the floor was finished, and we also were able to finish an entryway and ramp. It was great to see the finished project!

But, it hasn’t been all work for our students either. We have had a great opportunity to live and learn about the Jamaican culture. Jean Brown was kind enough to spend an evening with our group  teaching them about the history of Jamaica, and educated us on different cultural aspects. Our students sang traditional folk songs, learned local phrases, and were talk different dances (which would come in handy later in the week!). We also were able to sit in on the Petersfield Sport and Community Club Meeting and interact with local community members. We even had a chance to attend a Sunday Church service in Galloway. Our group also participated in the Maroons Annual Celebration in Accompong.  This was quite an opportunity, as we were able to celebrate 274 years of Maroon Indepenence (Jamaica itself will be celebrating 50 years of Indepence), and witness traditional ceremonies and services. The day continued with dancing and speeches, which truly gave great insight into what this day was really all about. It was truly a unique opportunity.

Our students have also been able to have a bit of fun as well. The community hosted a Reggae night for our group. We arrived to find the park lit up and the music blasting. Our students put Jean Brown’s dance tips into use, and together with members of the community, danced the night away.  We also took our students to Negril, a tourist hotspot, for an opportunity to compare and contrast. They spent the afternoon strolling the beach, swimming, and jumping from the cliffs at the world famous Rick’s Cafe.

Today marked the first day of classes for students here in Jamaica, so they had a chance to get into the classroom and see what the education system looked like. Our students were split up at four different schools with different age groups, giving them a diverse cross section. Many classrooms had over 4o students, which took many of our students by surprise.