Let’s Talk About The Rooster

greenpoint-rooster-537x373There is a rooster that lives across the street, adorned by his many clucking hens. Throughout the day, they make quite the ruckus, and oftentimes I find myself pausing to lift my head and think, what on earth is going on over there?

The avians are always partying. At least, one would think so, due to the amount of noise that comes from within the henhouse.

But I am never jealous at having been excluded from festivities. After all, I am human, and have no business attending a rooster’s wild frat party. I have no quarrels with the rooster either, because come nightfall, the party always winds to a close. The birds settle in for the night, and for once, all is quiet.

Until 3am.

That is when I take issue.

My first night sleeping at site, I was rudely awoken by this vicious, inconsiderate beast of a bird who clearly didn’t own a watch. 3am! Let me sleep!

But alas, he did not. He started up again at 4am, 5am, and 6am, pretty much on the dot. With bags under my eyes, I rolled out of bed and consigned that I would not be getting any more sleep that morning.

Come nighttime, I was exhausted, and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Although this was over a month ago, I still remember the dream I had that night. I was at home, with Mom and Devon, and they were arguing with each other. But instead of words, they were crowing like roosters. Sometime later they stopped, and the house became calm. Then suddenly, there was crowing again. I squeezed my eyes shut and covered my ears with my hands. Make them stop! I cried out in agony.

April, what’s wrong? Mom asked me.
The roosters! Can’t you hear them! Make them STOP!!!

I have been at site for six weeks now, and like clockwork, the rooster starts up at 3am every morning. How, you wonder, am I handling this situation?

First, I told my host mom and my supervisor that I was comfortable and happy with the exception of the rooster. I was assured that I would grow accustomed to it, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

cvs_http-_www.cvs_.com_shop_product-detail_cvs-foam-earplugs-advanced-protectionThe next thing I did was reach for my earplugs. I have never in my life used earplugs, and it was only at the suggestion of a currently serving volunteer that I thought to purchase and pack them. They worked like a dream. I slept through the rooster’s incessant bellowing and enjoyed pleasant dreams night after night.

But the earplugs are uncomfortable, and I usually struggle to make them stay in my ears. Sometimes, if I don’t push them in deep enough, they don’t work as well, but if I push them in too deep, then they hurt and irritate me. So Plan B was put into action.

(Sorry, but it’s not as exciting as it sounds.)

I fall asleep without my earplugs, and allow myself to get woken up at 3am. By this point, I am usually in the midsts of a pleasant dream, one that is quickly made irksome by what is known as the “Wilhelm scream.” (You may recognize it when watching a horror film, as a pretty blonde usually produces it moments before she’s killed.) At that point, I’ll wake up, realize it was the rooster, and then grab my earplugs.

This plan is not foolproof. I would prefer having not been woken up at all, or perhaps that someone would eat the rooster and vanquish this evil entirely. But this is Jamaica, and I am city-bred girl living inna di bush. This is one of the many cultural adjustments I am making, and for what it’s worth, it’s not too bad.

However, when Plan B ceases to work, I’ll need to come up with Plan C, and I think for that one, I’ll get a little more vindictive creative. If he’s not paying close enough attention, Mr. Rooster will end up de-feathered and in my soup pot.

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Here are some other examples of cultural adjustments were animals are concerned:

Insects
I’ve seen some pretty large insects here, and in many different shapes, sizes and colors. For the most part, they stay out of the way, and as long as it’s not a roach or a spider in my room, I’m good. However, there is a breed of beetle that emits a nasty stink when in distress, and it often likes to fly into my door (literally, with a bang), and end up upside down on the veranda. I usually know this has occured when I wake up and smell something foul. Also, there are crickets and cicadas that chirp so loudly, even my mother has heard them from the other end of the phone line.

Mongoose
In America, possums and raccoons frequently dart across the road. In some states, it’s a deer. In Jamaica, it’s a mongoose. They’re smaller than cats, and have a long, semi-bushy tail. I wish I could say they’re cute, but in honesty, I’ve only ever seen the back half of one before it disappears into the tall grass.

Cats & Dogs
These beloved household pets are not so beloved here. In fact, back during the days of slavery, dogs were used to keep the Jamaican slaves in order. As a result, there is an inbred, cultural fear of dogs. However, this is slowly disappearing. In Kingston and in other urban parts of Jamaica, people are beginning to allow dogs to live on the property to protect the home. An even smaller amount of people allow the dogs to live inside the house. For most dogs, however, they live outside, are underfed, and are perhaps more fearful of humans than we are of them. They are often fed our scraps and are shooed away.

Cats have the same stigma, and many are treated in the same regard, but they’re kept around because they chase off the mice and rats.

Goats & Cows
Goats are everywhere. They are most often seen on the side of the road, either eating, sleeping, or playing. Little kids like to dart across the road, and taxi men are quick to avoid hitting them. Most often a goat will be seen tied to a stake to keep it from wandering too far, but other times, the goat will come free, and it can be seen walking down the road with a length of rope trailing behind it.

Cows follow a slightly different story. In order to get from Cedar Valley to Morant Bay, the road drives right past a diary farm, with fields and fields of cows. Occasionally, one or two of the cows will get loose, and will be seen on the side of the road grazing as well. Forget free-range goats; we’ve got free-range cows!

Pigs & Donkeys
Many Jamaicans who live inna di bush have farms, or large plots of land in which they grow their own fruits and vegetables. They also keep donkeys to help with the plow, and to carry loads of produce from one place to another.

And let’s not forget how delicious a pig is. It is also pretty common for a family to own a piglet, raise it, and then, well, you know…

Chickens
Need I say more?

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You Don’t Overcome Arachnophobia By Beating It With A Shoe

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Meet Anansi. A trickster God from West African folklore, Anansi takes the shape of a spider and has made his way from oral tradition, to popular children’s literature in the Caribbean. As a teacher, I’ve been made familiar with him.

But this is the real anancy.
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He’s about the size of your palm, and luckily, completely harmless. However, for someone with arachnophobia, this knowledge doesn’t help much. Besides, all logic flees when you’re preparing for bed and you catch a glimpse of him scurrying down your curtains toward your nightstand.

I felt my heart literally lodge itself in my throat. I felt the blood drain from my face and became momentarily paralyzed. It was 11:45pm and my host mother was asleep. What the hell was I going to do?

But in that instant, I knew two things; If I didn’t kill that spider, I wasn’t going to sleep that night. And if I couldn’t kill that spider, I wasn’t going to last two years in Jamaica.

I snatched my phone from my desk and called a PCV friend from Group 82. “I’m freaking out! There’s a giant spider in my room and I don’t know what to do!”

“Ohhh! An anancy. So you’ve finally seen one. Don’t worry – they’re harmless.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is you can relax.”

I screamed again, a blood-curdling scream that probably forced my friend to pull the phone away from his ear. “He’s on my bed now! He has to die!”

“Then you’re going to have to kill him.”
“How do I do that? I’m scared out of my mind.”
“Well you’re going to have to get over that. Do you have a shoe handy?”
“I have a phobia! You just don’t get over that by beating it with a shoe!”

We went back and forth for a little while before I finally decided that a broom might work. I could chase him out the door perhaps… But that didn’t work out as well as I’d planned. Anancy scurried back and forth across the wall and went everywhere but back outside.

I could tell that he was tiring though, because the broom was coming closer and closer to him before he moved again. Finally I took a deep breath and stepped back. “Alright. I’m going to put the phone down, and I’m going to beat him with the broom. I think I’m ready. I can do this now.”

I swung like a madwoman and howled like a banshee. Just like my Ewarton host mother with the slipper and the cockroach, I came down on Anancy several times with the broom, then finally stepped back to admire my work.

Stuck to the wall was a squished Anancy, his legs folded up around him. With the broom, I brushed him off the wall, on to the floor, and swept him out the door. Then I reached for my phone and collapsed into my desk chair.

“I did it,” I whispered into the phone, still a little shaky. “I got the bastard.”
“There, see? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I erupted into a fit of laughter. I felt pretty accomplished, but I couldn’t possibly imagine what I must have looked like. A grown woman, cowering in fear of an insect, and then chasing it around the room with a broom. I’ll spare the details, but my war cry was more like a string of obscenities that flew freely from my lips. Most importantly, I’d overcome a fear, at least for the time being, and my laughter certainly helped ease the tension.

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Not that I’d ever want to see Spiderman killed, but this was pretty comical

I can tell that Jamaica is going to change me. Scared though I was, and convinced that scared I will be again, should another Anancy decide to visit me, I found the courage to take care of the problem. My determination to tough it out won again.

Back in Ewarton, after an incredibly close call with a cockroach, I decided that now is the time to overcome my fear. After all, Jamaican women exterminate them without batting an eyelash, and my biological Mom comes to my rescue every single time. At some point, I’m going to have a family and I’ll need to be the hero brandishing a can of Raid. Since making that vow, I have not yet successfully killed a roach on my own, but I no longer feel that sense of panic when I see one. I will rise to the occasion soon enough.

And the next time I see an anancy, I’ll rise to that one again too.

A Box Of Yellow Fluff

Down in Morant Bay, I found myself sitting on the bus waiting for it fill up before we begin our long climb back up the mountain. For once, luck was with me, and I managed to get a seat in the front. With my bags on the floor by my feet, my lap was empty, and as nature’s laws insist, if there is space, something will fill it.cardboard-box

“You can ‘old dis for me please? It’s nuh heavy.. verra light,” a woman says to me through the open window. In her hands is a cardboard box that clearly would not have fit on her lap in the crowded backseat of the bus. In Jamaica, it is common for people to help each other out on public transit. I’ve seen women get caught standing, and have to pass their babies to a fellow passenger privileged enough to get a seat.

Having a good day, and feeling generous, I smile and say of course! So she lifts up the box and passes it through the window and I settle it in my lap. Only then do I take a moment to look down and see what was inside. I was expecting fruit…

chicks…But instead I found myself looking into a box of baby chicks! Twenty-five little, yellow balls of fluff, all chirping and looking up at me with beady black eyes. I gawked, and my face melted.

The ride to Cedar Valley takes an hour, and most of the path is broken up gravel or tiny rocks on a dirt road. Every time we went over a bump, the little chicks would bounce around, chirp mindlessly, and flap their itty-bitty wings. When the road was smooth, the chicks would settle down and close their eyes for a snooze, creating a sea of yellow fuzz, only to jump up again with each new bump.

It was by far the most entertaining bus ride I’ve yet to experience. City-raised, I’ve never been in such close contact with baby chickens. I couldn’t resist myself as I reached in and picked one up, letting it sit in my hand for a moment, feeling its weightlessness. I giggled like a child, and did my best not smile and AW! like some kind of dork the entire ride.

For just a moment, I felt another taste of that satisfaction I was looking for – the kind that hits you when you least expect it and life reminds you that it’s beautiful. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to hold a baby chicken, and Jamaica placed twenty-five of them in my lap! Had I made it to the buspark five minutes later, they would have been in someone else’s. It’s amazing how such a little thing can make me smile.

And gawk in silent admiration of their cuteness for an hour.

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