Claiming that I live in the valley would not be entirely accurate. I live on the top of the mountain, with only a few towns further up than me.
Cedar Valley is a small community located a mere twelve miles from the tallest peak in Jamaica. I live in the Blue Mountains, made famous by the coffee it produces. Up here, the weather is 10-15 degrees cooler than on the rest of the island, and the sights are beautiful! From my vantage point, I can look down on either side and see the surrounding regions. Looking up provides a spectacular view as well. As a girl from the coast, accustomed to life at sea level, I couldn’t be happier with the change.
The mornings are a touch humid, but by mid-afternoon, a light shower cools down the area and come evening fall, the clouds settle in around us. There are mango trees aplenty, which the children love to climb and pick, and a walk in either direction is a great work out!
On Saturdays, I take a taxi down the mountain to Morant Bay, the capital of St. Thomas, to do my shopping. I meet up with the other volunteers in my parish and have lunch, visit the beach, Internet cafes, supermarket, and the fresh market.
At home, I live a quiet lifestyle with a woman in her seventies. She’s sweet and accommodating in many ways, offering assistance when I ask for it, and giving me plenty of space when I don’t. My bedroom is a comfortable size with an adjoining bathroom, and no lack of privacy. I have many windows for ventilation, and sturdy shutters to keep the bugs out when I close them. My only complaint is an icy shower that makes bathing a troublesome chore. But at least I’m not taking bucket baths anymore.
My school is amazing. A few weeks ago, during Site Orientation, I was greeted by welcoming teachers and eager students. Four weeks later, and that still hasn’t changed. The teachers and staff go out of their way to make sure that I am comfortable and happy. They feed me lunch daily, offer me little tips and advice that help make my stay in the Valley a pleasant one, and ensure that I always have a ride to and from school.
The students are just as excited to have me. They run up and hug me, shout “Miss!” every time they see me, and ask if they can study with me. Unfortunately, this can get a little tiresome. The kids often have orange powder from their cheese doodles on their fingers, and if I’m not careful, they end up wiping their hands on my clothes. Eating lunch in the library makes me a sitting duck for children to bring their faces to the window and call for my attention. The other day, I looked up from my meal six times in two minutes, and finally realized there were eight students standing outside watching me eat. Celebrity status?
The building is sturdy, made of concrete, and doubles as a hurricane shelter for the community. It has a science lab and a home economics room, which are mostly unused, and a library with some precious gems hidden away. During the summer, I will be frequenting the library and beginning work on one of my side projects; improvement. The first step is to organize the books, whilst seeing what material is present, what can be replaced, and what can be updated. Later I plan to patch the hole in the roof, and implement a more functional book-borrowing system.
I’ve been given a spacious classroom to work out of come the start of the school year in the fall, and internet is available on site. As long as it stays up, of course. I’m still working on getting it installed at my house.