Sunday, June 17, 2012

JAFSP - Day 10 and travel home

Yesterday was a nice laid-back day, full of packing, down time to swim, and a few hours in Port Antonio to shop at the market. That was a very high energy experience, with vendors being extremely assertive in trying to get us to buy something from them. I finally bought a hand held fan just to stay cool as I walked inside the indoor parts of the market.

We had dinner and then reviewed our final rhythms and songs before heading to town to do a drum circle. It was very neat to have the locals stand around and dance and sing with us. The children in town played egg shakers and Eric told them they could keep the shakers.

I started to not feel well after the drum circle and ended up having to go back to my hut.

We got up early as 1/2 of the group left at 5 a.m. for Montego Bay's airport, while the other group followed at 8 a.m. Laura Kempton (SMWC student on the trip) and I had no issues traveling and arrived by  p.m. back in Indianapolis.

June 2012 JAFSP Group on last night together
The first thing that struck me was how cold the air conditioning was in the bus and on the plane, as well as the airports. And, it feels strange to be home where I have windows intact. Now it is time to do laundry and get some sleep...and allow time to process this very amazing experience which has certainly impacted me...and changed me in ways I am yet to discover.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 9 - JAFSP (Last day at work sites)

Last day at School of Hope
The last day at the Infirmary, School of Hope and the Homeless Shelter came and it was bittersweet. We all did not want to say goodbye to these special people and wished that they could have music teachers, music therapists, and literacy tutors on a daily basis. I was the supervisor on site for the School of Hope and the children hugged us throughout the day, some sitting in our laps while others just putting their arms around us while we sang. At the end of the day, the teachers, principal and all the students of the school came outside and did a presentation of dancing which they had prepared. One of the teachers said that they were so grateful for our time there and that they did not have time to go to the store to buy us a gift, but presented us with a pineapple from one of the bushes on the property as a token of their appreciation. We were deeply touched. One of the girls wrote a note to a music therapy student that read something like, "I love you and will miss you. Please come find me. I miss you.". Our hearts were full.
Group on last day at School of Hope
During the afternoon I took a swim in the pool to cool off and then we went to a place called Woodsy's for burgers. It was a quaint little place where those who wanted veggie burgers got shredded vegetables made into patties between bread. We all were excited for french fries, but when I had some, I realized I didn't want them except for the salt. I also realized that I have eaten more cabbage on this trip than I likely have eaten in my lifetime. My diet here has been vegetarian for a large percentage of my meals. They just know how to blend vegetables in a way that is very palatable!

Students waiting for dinner at Woodys

JAFSP interns

We returned for our drumming class after dinner and reviewed all the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and songs which we will be tested on Saturday evening. Trying to keep the rhythm patterns (and different parts) straight with their appropriate names and songs is challenging! After the class, Kumina drummers from the hills came and performed this specific type of drumming/dancing for us. This is a very ceremonial type of drumming and they use Jamaican White Rum to wipe down drums to purify them. 

Kumina drummers
 Tomorrow we head to Port Antoino's open market, pack, settle our food bills at the guest house, and many other details. We will have our final drumming class and then go into to town to play for the locals. It should be quite the celebration---and while we are all excited to go home, I think, it will be hard to leave such a beautiful and exotic place and people.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 8 - JAFSP (The Infirmary and Coconut Hike)

Love this plant...hard to believe it grows here.

View from Tracy W's hut

Some huts peeking out
So today was my last day at the infirmary and it was a little chaotic, because the day was shortened due to a scheduling issue. However, I was very happy to see everyone again, and see their smiles. One man sang a song and wiped tears from his eyes...another wanted me to take his picture with one of the students. I said, "Are you sure?" He said, "Yea mon, SURE, why not?". Lots of people were sleeping in various rooms. I suspect that our presence every day, while welcomed, is wearing them out a bit.
Picture taken as requested by such a fun gentleman

On the porch

We ate lunch at Anna Banana and learned that while you order from the menu, make sure to ask if the prices listed are actually still being used. We found out the hard way and the students (and I) ended up paying more for lunch than expected. I will add, though, that I had the best smoothie in a long time there, which is like gold when you're tired and hot.

After we were picked up from the infirmary, we got ready for the "optional" hike. I wondered, about 1/4 of the way up the steepest (and most narrow) path I have likely walked, why did I decide to do this again?! It was some of the most lush jungle we had seen: one minute we were in town, the next, we're hiking up, up, up. For about a mile, I believe Eric said. If not, it took us about 30-35 minutes to get up to the top. And there was not really any "down" other than one small part where it was more leveled out. We have learned that when Eric says "take a little walk", put on your hiking shoes, your bug spray, sunscreen, and pray. Or maybe that is just me!

When we got to the top (and I seriously wasn't sure if I'd make it, but I did!), we saw the Coconut Farm they had talked about. It wasn't like a farm in our country. The trees were not lined up was pure jungle with the tallest coconut trees. Through the trees, far down below we could see the ocean. The locals took enormous bamboo sticks with a special attachment to cut the coconuts. One of them shimmied up a coconut tree like it was nothing to help knock some down. They cut the tops off and left a small hole for us to drink the coconut water from, which was an adventure. It made the straw we had the night before seem like a real luxury. Then some of them started a few small fires around (not sure why) and the ash fell all around us. One of them said, "Snow!", jokingly. It was truly a wild experience. The walk down was much easier, except in one spot, which was so steep we had to walk sideways to keep from falling. I also tended to trip over vines across the path, but made it to the bottom without needing my inhaler the whole time. I think I have hiked somewhere in the ballpark of 8-9 miles this week. That doesn't include just the general walking and climbing, intensive hand drumming (if you haven't done this, then you won't understand), and so much more. I told Eric that this is like "Outward Bound for Musicians".
courtesy of Mandy Koch (end of the hike!)

The evening ended with us watching "Life and Debt", a documentary describing how Jamaica is in such dire economic circumstances. This impacted everyone greatly, especially after having lived among the locals in their rural environment, not staying at a resort. We had a discussion and the students were very moved by it.

Tomorrow is our last day of work in the centers, and my final day will be at the School of Hope with the children. It is hard to believe that our trip is beginning to come to an end. On one hand it seems that I have been here for months, while at other times it feels we just arrived. It has been so wonderful to get to know so many new people, and good students. The future of music education and music therapy professionals are in good hands, if these students are any indication!

At the end of a long day...and a Coconut Farm Hike

Thursday, June 14, 2012

JAFSP - Day 7 (School of Hope)

Banana tree at the School of Hope
Group of students I worked with today

Today I was back at the School of Hope with a new arrangement of students to supervise. I went in first thing to speak to the principal/head mistress of the school and as I walked in the classroom, about 4-5 children ran up to hug me. One can never feel insignificant in such a place! We worked with two groups in the morning and after lunch, we worked with another group and then the students worked in 2:1 or 2:2 sessions.
Another picture taken by a child at the school
I love this picture taken by one of the children

Another child took this picture of her friend with Mrs. Sharon

Approving the picture :)
Sweet little girl watching older boy to play along
The children were just as energized as before (if not more) and nearly all were extremely affectionate. They all wanted our cameras again to take pictures and some of their shots turned out very well! They were more organized today and during recess grabbed drums and other instruments, sat in the chairs outside where we did our groups that morning, and began to play/sing/dance their traditional music. I couldn't help but think how this is so different from the States. Many of our children have lost traditional music with budget cuts and a society that is so intent on moving forward that we sometimes forget to hold on to what is good...and preserve our culture. These children live, literally, in another world.
Working with children with hearing impairments

My student from SMWC, Laura Kempton (senior music therapy major), is also on this trip. Today is the first day I got to work with her, so I was sure to get some pictures of her as well. One child took our picture together and other than the fact that he moved too far to the right, the picture itself turned out nice!
Laura Kempton, SMWC student, with two children at the school

Picture by a child at the school

We did our drumming class as we have every night. Thankfully, tonight was more review with little new material. This is a fast paced class where we are taught numerous Afro-Caribbean drum rhythms, with multiple parts, and also many songs which can be song over those various rhythm patterns. Some of the patterns are just difficult to play at the fast tempos at which we need to play them to be authentic. I find that for some reason, some patterns are easy for me to pick up while others just escape me until we've reviewed them a lot. But, I am enjoying learning new songs and traditional drumming.

Our host

waiting for our food
We walked down the main road to a little stand where our host, a Rastafarian, prepared us an Ital meal. There were no seats, so we all tried to find places to sit on very sharp rocks or just stood. Our meal was interesting and it did not taste badly. In fact, parts of it I really liked. There was soy which looked like hamburger, fresh vegetables like tomato, plantains, and cucumber (which I loved) and numerous other items. I took a picture so I won't forget. Music played as we ate and talked. At different points, we were able to eat fresh East Indian mango which was the best mango I have ever eaten. There was also passion fruit, bananas, etc. to eat. At the end, one of other men cut up coconuts and handed us a straw. At one point, Eric came around with limes and we were able to literally "put the lime in the coconut". Until that moment, I did not know people actually did such a thing!
I put the lime in the coconut

After drumming and planning for tomorrow, we headed to the town beach near us where they had built a bonfire. It was pretty mellow and while some sang, others just talked to the locals. 

Tonight, I battled the large (and apparently biting) ants which have decided that my bed and mosquito netting must be conquered. George, one of the staff, said he will try to spray for me tomorrow while I am gone to allow time for the room to air out (easy without any actual windows). I am hoping that will help keep their number down so I can sleep easier the next few days of the trip!

Tomorrow I return to the Infirmary for my last time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 6 - JAFSP (The Infirmary)

See my late night visitor? Better him than a scorpion.

Today started a bit later today and a new group of students and I headed to the Infirmary for the day. We worked with three different groups of older men in the morning and headed to lunch where we ate "veg" (Jamaican word for "vegetarian"). It was wonderful, but it took a long time for all the food to be prepared. We didn't know what was going to be served. You go in, sit down, and wait to be surprised by what the cook has decided to prepare that day. First we were served a carrot, cucumber, and ginger juice which was interesting. We had appetizers of two different kinds of fried plantains (I wish I had taken a picture of the food), and then the main dish arrived. There were probably 7 different kinds of food on the plate. Vegetables are prepared differently here, with interesting combinations. Cabbage, sweet potato, and other familiar vegetables are used, but there were many that I did not recognize. It tastes good though! The dessert was called "wine cake" and it had mango to top it off. It was delicious, but hard to describe.

We returned to the infirmary for four more groups before heading home. We stopped at the market to pick up some drinks and snacks and then there was just a little free time before we had our nightly drumming class (which is getting to be much more challenging, learning many new songs and rhythms each time!) followed by a brief planning session for the next day. We then headed up the street for a dance party, where they started off playing Whitney Houston music, followed by some 90's dance music, but mixed by a D.J. and often with reggae beats thrown in. I headed home early because I have an early day tomorrow, because I am working at the school again.

The infirmary experience is very difficult to describe. The faces of the people we met and worked with today are floating around in my head. The conditions are not like they are in the U.S., but rather it is a Jamaican version of long term care. There is a women's ward and a men's ward. They have open windows and there are several people in a room in most cases. Some sit outside on the porch while others are lying in their beds inside.

A music therapy student working with a resident of the Infirmary

There were a couple of moments which stand out to me. The first building we entered and the first man I saw come to mind. He had very caring eyes and shook my hand eagerly. We sang many songs while in the room, and one was "Wings of  a Dove". He was lying down and I sang "If I had the wings of a dove, if I had the wings of a dove, I would away...Since I have no wings, since I have no wings, since I have no wings I'm going to sing, sing, sing". He looked up and said, in his Jamaican accent, "It's true." We later sang a song called "Buddhist Blessing" ("May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy..may you be happy") and I was sitting with him again. I was overwhelmed by his immense dignity and felt so priviledged to be there at his side.

In another room, I was talking to a man and asked him if he had a favorite song. I didn't know the title (and sometimes the accent and Patois language they speak at times is hard to follow) and asked him to sing it for us. Out of this quiet man came a sweet song about writing a letter to mommy and daddy to tell them "I am coming home". One of the students was able to accompany him by ear and it was truly beautiful and heartfelt on his part. In that same room, when we sang the "Buddhist Blessing", the students sat next to different residents in the room and put their arm around them as the soft and quiet song was song by everyone. It was one of those moments in which everything felt elevated. The room was full of love and compassion through the music, and also through the contact with people who live in a place where they don't get that kind of contact consistenly ---this brought tears to my eyes. It was a truly exceptional moment.

The final room that one group of students was working in was memorable because it was a group of 4 men who absolutely loved music and singing. They sang in full voice, playing instruments and leading US in songs. One man was standing and played rhythms on a drum as he sang song after song. I sat next to one man as he sang out fully on "Amazing Grace" and harmonies were floating around the room between me and the students (as well as the residents) --I can only describe the feeling I experienced as gratitude.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 5 - JAFSP

My calves and hips are really aching from that blasted hike, but this morning I was completely fine. I have two bad blisters on the back of my feet (which is all I got, amazingly). I'm worried about these because we have another, much shorter hike up a hill to a coconut plantation on Thursday. At the top, we go to a coconut plantation where a guy shimmies up a tree, gets a coconut, and then we get to drink the coconut milk (by the way, everyone drinks coconut water here...they say it has tremendous electrolytes). 

I was reflecting on this experience of the JAFSP today. It has been so challenging in many ways for me on a personal and professional level (which is what I was seeking). There have been some amazing moments for me...others have just been surreal. Tonight, after our drumming class and our MT supervision/training session, Tracy W. and I got some snacks and drinks and sat out on a cliff. Literally. Her hut is on a cliff and outside it, there is this enormous lounger chair that fits two. We laid back and looked at the most amazing sky I have seen...maybe ever (and that includes Santa Fe, which is extraordinary). I saw constellations I am sure I've never seen and we watched shooting stars for some time, and way off at the horizon there was lightning in a far off storm. It was just fantastic. I tear up thinking how beautiful it was and I didn't want to have to come back to my hut. It is in those moments that you gain perspective on yourself, others, and our existence on this earth.

Today was also our first day of going to the sites, so my assigned students and I arrived at the School of Hope at 8:30 a.m. and we joined them for their morning devotionals (down here prayer and religion are not separated from school) and they told us to bring our instruments. I was panicking a bit because I had no clue what they did, or what they expected from us. Luckily we knew some of the songs they sang, and we played/sang along as much as we could. I love how they dance and clap as they sing gospel music, etc. Then we watched a brief story from the Bible by two of the teachers. One, who is hearing impaired, would tell the story in sign, and then another would translate. I loved watching the translator demonstrate "da big fish" throwing Jonah back up, and so did the kids.  
Music therapy students at School of Hope site- they are from  programs all over the U.S.

We worked with the first group for about 45 minutes, then another group for about the same time. The students took turns leading songs, movement experiences, and rhythm experiences. The students then had a break/snack, so they came out with food and immediately made a beeline for us sitting outside (all sessions were held outside. We moved chairs - sometimes during a group - anytime we lost shade to keep the heat more bearable). We then worked with a group of children with hearing impairments (It was larger- maybe around 10?) which was a terrific learning experience for all of us! I learned a lot of new signs and we were really thinking on our feet! We had lunch there and then had a few students come back out for 2:1 sessions. I feel like I did a decent job of modeling and providing guidance without completely taking over, so hopefully the students felt the same. I also hope that tomorrow goes as well as today did because I'm going to be at the infirmary with 3 of the same students from today and tomorrow there will be 3 different students (we are all on a different rotation). At recess the kids returned to the tables we were sitting at outside and started asking to take pictures with the students' cameras and started picking up instruments. We let them and soon they were all playing together with a few leading rhythms we have learned down here. It was chaotic and fun. At one point, a girl sat down next to me, reached out and dragged her finger across my arm very intently, looked at her fingers and then rubbed them together. I said, "Are you trying to see if it rubs off?" and she nodded in agreement--then she smiled broadly. White skin is very unusual for some of the people in this country, particularly in the rural areas. 
Children eager to get picture taken with a student
This evening we ate Jerk Pork and "veg" (which just means vegetables) at "Davey's", the stand we ate at our first night here (which feels like 10 years ago) and then I walked to a nearby stand for fresh pineapple which the guy cut up right there, taking out all the prickly things and bagging for me for less than $2 (U.S.). I am going to miss the consistent fresh fruit access SO much. At the school, while the lunch wasn't anything too amazing, the juice they brought us had passion fruit, ginger, and mango in it and it was COLD (something I will try not to take for granted ever again) and delicious. Tomorrow we go to lunch at a "veg" place where today he apparently served freshly squeezed orange juice (done right in front of people), then fresh fruit platters, followed by some type of vegetable dish (and I'm liking most of the vegetables and unique salads done here!)...all for around $8 (U.S.) or 800J (Jamaican dollars)!

Tomorrow I head to the infirmary which I'll write about later!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 4 - JAFSP June 10th

That brown line on the branch? That's an ant tunnel....
Today was quite the day...and truly the most physically challenging day I have had in many, many years. I am not inactive, but I am not an athlete by any means. I do walk, and hike trails. However, in Indiana, I hike relatively level trails through the woods. I was not prepared for the hike we did today, but I truly tried my absolute best. The hike for all the students ended up being close to 8 miles. I ended up hiking somewhere around 5 miles. We started at an old Spanish fort which has been converted into a hotel of sorts.

Eric Wills at old Spanish Fort
local dancing for the students

door at the Spanish fort
 When we first started the hike, the heat and humidity immediately sapped my strength and by about a mile in I did not feel well. One of the staff gave me part of a granola bar which helped a lot! The terrain was so different than any I have ever walked. There were steep inclines that were very rocky (hard to find the rocks hidden under grasses at times!), grassy trails through what was almost prairie-like fields, along the coast on a beach (where tiny rocks which make up the beach would get stuck in your shoes), through more jungle canopy where you needed to hike over tree roots and push away foliage, etc. Between the more strenuous parts of the hike and the heat/humidity, I struggled. By the time we reached Black Beach a little over 2 miles in, I knew there was no physical way I could continue to the end (to see the waterfall, which was difficult to give up) and then turn around and hike all the way back. So, I stayed on the beach while the rest of the group went on. Tracy decided to stay with me and one of the guides. There we sat, two working moms and a Rastafarian guide, sitting on the beach. We chatted for some time and the guide talked about working as a roofer in Kingston at times and then we talked about fishing around the island. Finally, the guide took his machete (they all have machetes), cut off a giant palm frond, laid it down and proceeded to take a nap while we waited. It was truly a wonderful, surreal moment.
Lion looks a bit intimidating with his machete, but he was an amazing guide

Black Beach

After the group spent time at the waterfall, they returned to pick us up and we all headed back. It was a good decision for me not to do the entire hike, based on how I felt going back, but it was a bit better because it had cooled down a little by the time we hiked back. This was truly a personal accomplishment for me, and I teased Eric Wills, the Director, telling him "Thanks to Eric Wills, I now know how out of shape I truly am!". The students all did an amazing job on the hike and were very excited on the way back to where we are staying. I am sure we will all sleep well tonight.

Students headed back after the hike
We spent time later in the evening planning and preparing for our work at the infirmary, homeless shelter and  School of Hope.

Looking up through trees in jungle on hike
Goat Farmer at top of cliff

View from one of the trails

stunning views (when I could manage to look up)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day Three- JAFSP

Hard to show the range of blues in the water

It is so hard to recall the entire day because it feels like we packed in so much into one day.The breakfast this morning was the usual: eggs, toast (great bread!) which I tried with guava jelly, coffee (stronger than when I was in France, if it's possible--in Jamaica, though, instead of cream and sugar, they use condensed milk), juice, and watermelon. I met with Tracy W., the other supervisor, about our agenda for this evening's meeting with the music therapy students, and then we all got ready to go to the beach. The beach was not too far away, but we rode in two different vans. Our van stopped at the top of a very rough road and we had to hike down to the beach. Mainly, it was covered in tree roots and rocks, so it was a bit challenging not to twist an ankle, but we all managed. At the top of the hill was a beautiful mango (pronounced "MAHN-GO") tree and some goats. 
Goats digging through garbage and fallen mangoes

One type of mango--"Stringy Mango"

The beach was incredible...the colors of the ocean water here along the coast are stunning!

We were able to eat lunch at the beach, swim, and also walk the beach to visit vendors set up along the shoreline. Most sold jewelry, while others sold unique pieces of art, etc. We all tried to avoid getting burned, but still got too much sun. I could have stayed in that water the entire day, it felt so amazing! It was also a great opportunity to get to know more of the students better, and we had many fun conversations throughout the day.
Beach visited

After we returned from the beach, we had a little free time before dinner which was spent showering and getting things in order for later in the evening. At dinner, we were treated to a dance group who performed traditional Jamaican dances for us. I didn't get a picture, but I did take video of the group. The ages of the members ranged from around 8 to adult. It is so interesting how different people of this culture (and many others) dance as compared to those of us in the United States. The dances hold so much meaning and symbolism, stemming from deep history. It was wonderful to experience, and they even have a  version of the May Pole dance!

After dinner we had our drum class, followed by group meetings (Music Therapy and Music Education, separately). The music therapy group focused on getting their repertoire for the volunteer work prepared, along with beginning to tell the students about the sites where they will be working starting on Monday. I will be at the School of Hope with a group of students, working with the children on both Monday and Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be at the Infirmary. We're waiting to determine where we will be on Friday. There is so much to take in, from the new drumming rhythm patterns, to the new songs being taught each night, to just learning how things work! Following the meeting, everyone headed down the street for some more music and dancing, like last night, but the group returned earlier than usual to rest up for tomorrow.
This is Lily. She is VERY talkative.
Tracy and I met after returning to create the groups for the coming week (placing students in groups of three, based on many factors), and then returned to our rooms. Tomorrow is going to be a tremendous challenge for me: an 8 mile hike. I am hoping my hiking sandals don't hurt my feet, and also that I don't embarrass myself by passing out in the heat or worse, not being able to keep walking and holding up the group! The reward after the first 4 miles is a waterfall, where we get to swim. I am hoping this motivates me to keep walking through a great deal of discomfort I am sure to feel. Keep me in your thoughts. I'm nothing if not persistent. ;)

Sweet Jamaican beach cat