Mt. Vernon,

St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica

October 2-16, 1999


Team Leader: Sunny Brooks

Team Members: Marvin Wachs

Martie Wachs



"Consider what thou wert, and make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world. Yet from this lesson thou wilt learn to avoid the frog’s foolish ambition of swelling to rival the bigness of the ox."

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)


October 4, 1999


We arrived at Mrs. Graham’s house on a rainy Saturday evening, having successfully negotiated the steep and winding mountain road, but suffering a flat tire at the peak of the rainstorm. But our small team had finally arrived – Marvin, me and our team leader Sunny.


On Sunday we had a series of meetings, talking about how to make an effective team, then about things we individually hoped to accomplish on this trip. Our hoped-for accomplishments were different, but compatible.


After a whole night and most of the morning hemmed in by rain, Marvin and I were itching to go for a walk when the sun finally came out around 11:00. We headed up to the school and met a few of the community members on the way. It helped to see one of the bridges already built and get a sense of the community here.


After lunch we had one more meeting, then some free time. After a while some children started to come by – Mike, Richard, Aleesha, Antoinette, Omar, Tish, Andre and Dane. Sunny played several games with them before Marvin and I came out. Then we played Twister with them.


By Sunday evening, we all felt acclimated, understood our rules and objectives, and ready for the experience the Mt. Vernon community would provide. We’d started shedding the skins of our various other lives, and began absorbing the essence of Jamaica.


Monday morning was sunny and breezy – after fits and starts of rain all weekend. That was a hopeful sign that the bridge would be our project for the day. After a hearty breakfast of porridge, plantain, toast and juice, we ambled up to the church. At the meeting were Violet, Mrs. Wheaton, Noel Thompson, Leaton Thompson and Mr. Johnson. They are to be the beginning Mt. Vernon team members, but explained there would be others later.


After the meeting, Sunny and Mr. Thompson went into town to buy building and grocery supplies. Marvin and I spent the rest of the morning with Mrs. Wheaton, who introduced us to her daughter and two granddaughters, showed us pictures of a Global Volunteer car that was swept over the river crossing during a previous rainy season, took us to the school, and showed us the water tank built by previous teams.


After lunch, we went down to the bridge site and met Mr. Johnson. Since Sunny and Mr. Thompson were not back yet, Mr. Johnson entertained us with information about all the various fruits and trees surrounding us – ackee, cocoa, breadfruit, plantain, tangerines, etc. When Sunny and Mr. Thompson finally returned, we used bamboo poles to stake out the places where the bridge pillars would be. That was it for the day – a small start, but a beginning.

Martie Wachs



"We have seen the enemy, AND IT ARE US."- Pogo

October 5, 1999 – Tuesday


This has always been one of my favorite quotations. Pogo, a pre-Nixon cartoon character, is telling us that we perceive the world and react to it totally from within ourselves. If we decide we are wronged then we are ready to hate/fight, but we control our perceptions. We are the source of our feelings. We are, then, our own enemy. When this is taken in context of visiting a new country, we can see the natives as ill-educated, poor, weird, whatever. We can also observe proud intelligent people, living within their environment and solving problems in ways we would not.


Today was more work oriented. We met Leaton at 9:00 a.m. and walked to the work site. No one had played with the pegs so we were able to begin digging right away. Since I had worn my Tevas, Leaton wanted to know if I had some hard shoes, something safer for digging. I figured I would change when we went back for lunch, but as we began disturbing the topsoil some very irritated ants went to work on my toes. Having decided the ants’ attitude would not improve over time, I discreetly retired for a shoe change.


Noel, when he laid out the pegs yesterday, had set a 6’ X 6’ area and had talked about 3’ deep for a footer. Leaton, apparently a disgruntled miner, seems more intent on invading China. We cleared about a 7’ X 8’ area. By noon we had scratched about a foot in depth. The upper layer was made up of large boulders and various detritus from the road building. After lunch we returned to find a new pair of workers had been idling along while we ate. They had punched down another foot, reaching the alluvial bed. This bed is made up of sand/dirt mixed with rocks from fist-size down. We spent the afternoon alternating pick ax, and flat nose shovel. We are 3 ½’ – 4’ down, with China but a couple of feet away. We had enough crew this afternoon to keep two shovels and two picks in motion. We could have gotten the second piling started. I masked my US-bred enthusiasm for efficiency with a patina of exhaustion.


NOTE: If you want to dress native, buy a $10 pair of gum boots at Wal Mart – feet stay dry on the creek crossings and the ants can’t find your toes.

Marvin Wachs

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Temo Abesadze, a friend of Marvin Wachs --- "I’m planning on living forever, and so far so good!"


Wednesday, October 6, 1999


The day began around 4:30 a.m. with a full-blown symphony of insect choruses brought to crescendo with the cocks’ stellar crow. Each morning at 4:30 I wonder how long one must cook a rooster to make a fit meal. That usually helps me fall back to sleep, but this morning I decided to turn on the light in my bedroom and prepare the schedule for the day, then go back to sleep.


The long awaited photo op day had finally arrived. The ban was lifted. Just before breakfast I knocked on the Wachs’ door to tell them, also mentioning Global shirts might be good today. Much to my surprise even the "No Global shirt if I can get out of it" Marvin showed up with his wife who seemed a little more comfortable wearing hers and we enjoyed a bowl of porridge with some toast and jam and fresh fruit. The milk had curdled and nobody was interested in my suggestion to make cottage cheese, so we disposed of it.


We discussed Martie’s project – the weekend activities. A trip to Port Antonio and Dragon Bay was agreed to by all.

The meeting at breakfast centered on reviewing our goals and priorities and continuing our efforts to be an effective team. I suggested looking on the walls at our charts from the first meeting, but I’m not sure who did. Leaton Thompson yelled outside the front door just as we finished our meal. When approaching a house here in the Jamaican mountains, it’s customary to yell out the name of someone you expect might be inside. This time it was I, Sunny.


Marvin and Martie got their cubic water bottles and camera and walked down the hill about ½ mile to the site. I drove the jeep down with the supplies and we were met by Mr. Campbell, whose wife helps Mrs. Graham prepare our meals in Mrs. Graham’s kitchen, and Marlin, a quiet local fellow of 27 some years who is cared for by the community because he is retarded. So he sings with the radio and lends moral support to the group efforts.


This morning the team began a new excavation about 10 feet from the first. By midday and after considerable toil and sweat, a triangular hole was accomplished with each person taking a turn digging, picking and tossing rocks onto a nearby pile. As more community members arrived, the rotations lengthened. I took team photos as did the Wachs. The men mentioned how Martie worked as hard as any man. Marvin’s batteries ran out and he started to wander back to the house alone but realized with Martie’s help that the volunteers needed to travel in pairs, so waited for lunch break. I went back to the house to settle some arrangements in the jeep and get some refreshments for the workers. Lunch was ready at noon. We had a break from beans and rice, since I made tuna and boiled egg salad for sandwiches. The community workers enjoyed their traditional chicken and rice meal.


The work resumed and about 3:45 Leaton announced the hole was at a decent depth and to quit for the day. His brother would check it tomorrow to make sure it was "fit".


Martie, Marvin and I opted to try out the water hole about 100 yards from the Grahams’ house. We took soap and our eagerness to finally get in the water. Our suspicions of pollution were high, wondering about the safety and quality of the water. A small trail led us to the creek. We followed it to a nice pool about 4’ deep surrounded by boulders and offering up a short waterfall that acted as Jacuzzi if you stood near it. Marvin and Martie washed their Global shirts while I just wore mine and my boots while enjoying the cool refreshing water and gazing around at the full tropical flora, thinking it a nice spot to relax.


After leaving the pool as carefully over the rocks as we had entered, they were slippery, we returned to shower with the warm sun showers and have a nice evening meal of fresh vegetable soup, fried chicken, large oyster crackers, cheese cubes and drinks. Grapes for desert. Leaton and Noel arrived to take us out on the town. Mr. Graham and Mr. Campbell were all cleaned up too, and joined us as I drove the jeep to the bar/store in Trinityville. Martie attempted to call the Dragon Bay Inn to reserve a 2-bedroom villa for the weekend, but couldn’t get through. We met more members of the community at the bar, and chatted for a couple of hours over drinks, some hard, some medium, some soft.

The trip back up the hill included a total of 7. I drove carefully, not to pop the tires on the little jeep.


After a short talk with Mr. Graham in the kitchen, I lit my mosquito incense and hit the sack. Squeezing my eyes shut trying not to think about the road to the coffee factory tomorrow.



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Thursday, October 7


"Out of many, one people."


This "e comes from Jamaica – their national "motto". We saw it painted on the Mt. Vernon School, and I thought it typified the intent of Global Volunteers.


Today was another sunny, gloriously warm day – each sunny day a gift during the heart of the rainy season. Although we, the volunteers, would prefer to believe our free day was due to exceptionally good progress on the bridge, it was more likely due to the Mt. Vernon team’s other competing obligations. Nevertheless, we were given the day off from working on the bridge, and invited to visit the coffee factory nearby.


We got our usual Jamaica morning start – that’s 9:00 a.m. or as soon after as we can get it together, who cares mon – and headed the jeep down the mountain. On the way we saw Patrick walking up the road with two girls. Surprisingly, when Sunny invited him to go with us, he dumped the two girls and raced to his house to change clothes. Five minutes later he arrived, having showered, changed into fresh jeans and shirt, and wearing cologne. He climbed into the back of the jeep and we were off again.


We wound through Trinityville, then up into Cedar Valley, a lush green valley lined by verdant, terraced hills. The scenery was worth several good photo ops. We passed through several other communities as we wound our way gradually upward, and eventually found Moy Hall, the coffee cooperative that was our destination. Once at the cooperative, we met Mr. O’Neill Blake, the Secretary-General Manager. He is a very bright, well-spoken man who is intensely interested in the success of the cooperative, as well as the economic improvement of the surrounding communities and minimizing environmental impact. He explained the coffee-making process at their factory, from the delivery of the beans from all the farmers, to the shipping of the clean, hulled, barbecued and dried beans at the end. It was an extremely interesting process.


We were running late for lunch, so we thanked Mr. Blake, piled in the jeep and returned to Mt. Vernon. Following a short siesta (this is a custom transplanted Americans borrowed from the Latin Americans specifically for use in Jamaican locales), we headed out again for Morant Bay. This time we had Mrs. Graham with us. She was going to visit her sister at the hospital there. After dropping Mrs. Graham off at the hospital, we decided to look for an access to the beach. We wandered off on a road that led us to a very odd-looking but interesting round rock house, with a round rock tower. The lawns around it were beautifully manicured. A small lane behind it led to a quiet grassy spot overlooking a calm, alluring blue ocean. We got out, sighed a few times while mumbling about leaving our bathing suits back at Mt. Vernon, and enjoyed a few moments of ocean-gazing. On the way back, we asked about the house/tower and were told it belonged to the government and was available for rent from the Bank of Jamaica.

We picked up Mrs. Graham at the hospital, then went briefly to the market where we checked out the available fruits. We had read about ugli fruits and star apples, which we still haven’t tried (although we have had callaloo, cho-cho, breadfruit, pear (avocado), yam, plantain and oranges and bananas). However, we learned they were not in season, so we settled for some great-smelling pineapples. We then headed back to Mt. Vernon, arriving just about dark.

Since it was so late, and Mrs. Graham had been gone, she just made soup, and Sunny fixed tuna fish sandwiches. We added one of our delicious pineapples, and were pleased with the fun day and good supper to finish it off.

Martie Wachs


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'If you judge people you will have no time to love them."  --Mother Teresa



Friday, October 8, 1999


So the day began as usual, but I still haven’t identified which cock it is. Still, his days are numbered. However, getting back to sleep was easier. What is different about Mt. Vernon that I can’t keep my eyes open past 10:00 p.m. I awaken at 3 or 4 with my normal sleep done and then start banking the extra until 7:30. I wonder if I could get 12 hours of sack time.


Friday was to be a half-day for us. We got started promptly at 9 a.m. Jamaican. I thought we would blow off the morning, but after sitting with Leaton a while, here came Noel and Mr. Campbell. After a discussion in Patois for a few minutes, they began to open the third pillar. When we broke for lunch we were about 2 ft. down. We hit a rock-free zone that was easy digging for a foot.


After lunch the GV crew packed for Dragon Bay. We used the sun shower before leaving. It had been out back only 3-4 hours but we had never used it until dusk before. It was almost scalding! We had a bad phone number for Dragon Bay so we just hoped the off-season would work in our favor. The trip took 3 hours of dodging taxis and chuckholes. The scenery was great. We got a suite with two bedrooms and ate in the dining room.


Better things to do now.

Marvin Wachs

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Monday, October 11


Rain fell all night at varying speeds. The rooster, undaunted by the wet weather, cast his spellbinding alert as if he were a paid member of a signal corp – on time – 4:30 a.m. Martie and Marvin were up. We said good morning as we passed each other in a daze, going to and from the bathroom. At breakfast Marvin declared that upon his attempt to get back to sleep last night – er this morning, the rooster crowed at least 12 times (he wasn’t sure, he dozed off counting).


The weekend trip organized by Martie had been restful and interesting. We all found our accommodations luxurious at the Dragon Bay Inn. I drove the three of us to and from Port Antonio in the Suzuki jeep.


This morning was wet and rainy when we finally got the word about when and where we were to begin work on the project. Leaton had contracted the flu over the weekend but showed up with the community volunteers to begin digging the fourth pillar hole. Many more community members showed up this morning, including Mrs. Wheaton who had been involved in numerous prior Global projects here at Mt. Vernon. Mr. Kelly constructed a bamboo frame to hold a tarp as shelter from the rain for everyone. Unfortunately, it collapsed and Marlin ran for his life. No one was hurt and all helped secure the tarp with a sturdier frame.


Progress on the digging continued until a number of huge boulders were freed from the hole and a depth of about 2 ½’ was reached. Leaton called a halt to the work about an hour and a half after lunch because of the incessant rain. Noel and several other community members arrived in a truck laden with rebar and wood for the project. The rebar was left at the site for tomorrow while everything else was taken away and stored out of the rain.


The five of us headed for our quarters to shower and get dry clothes on. After a light dinner of soup and sandwich and a warm drink, I took Leaton to Trinityville to get a few supplies at the store, and chat briefly about upcoming events.

Upon my return, Martie, Marvin and I met briefly to update our status and discuss the activity forms they would be filling out. At about 9 p.m. following a discussion of shared remembrances and a variety of current societal topics, we all said goodnight.


The thought for today at the morning breakfast meeting was a quote I remembered from Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894):

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."


To which Marvin responds:"It took him a long time to write it" This is where Sunny asks Martie to thump Marvin.


Sunny, 4:30 a.m.


Tuesday, October 12, 1999


"Death is only one of many ways to lose your life. The dangers of not doing what you believe in are greater than anything else."


The rain didn’t let up. It sang or shouted to us intermittently throughout the night, punctuated by the occasional canine trio’s performance of the Concerto for Whiner, Howler and Barker. A veritable Three Dog Night performance. At least we weren’t also blessed with the reverberations of the black dog running around the house dragging a 16-foot chain, which we so enjoyed the previous night.


In the light rain, Marvin and I struck off down to the project site, each of us carrying two long pieces of wood from Mrs. Graham’s shed. We briefly entertained the idea of balancing them on our heads, Jamaican style, each knowing the hardness of our heads would not be the deterring factor. However, we opted for shoulder-balancing instead.


At the site were Clinton, both Mr. Thompsons, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Campbell and Mr. Shand. Marlin and Teddy showed up later. Clinton taught Sunny and me how to bend the rebar. using a hook and a pipe. We were ecstatic about our new skill. For the first time there were jobs for everyone, so in between rainfalls, we built an entire rebar structure and lowered it into the first hole. By then it was lunchtime, and we all returned to Mrs. Graham’s. Through lunch and for some time after, it poured so hard that Leaton called the work off for the rest of the afternoon.


Meanwhile, Sunny and Annette were off having their own adventure. Sunny had driven them into Morant Bay to stock up on food for the week. She got to Morant Bay OK and completed all her errands, but ran into flooding on the stretch of road before Serge Island. She and Annette waited about 2 hours before the water receded enough that they could get through.


During the afternoon, we solved a mystery and dilemma that had been plaguing us since our return on Sunday. There has been a terrible smell of rotting flesh in the dining room, and we began to believe there was a dead animal under the house. Mr. Graham played detective and finally discovered their cat had died under the refrigerator. I didn’t care to observe the clean-up campaign, but can report that dinner was far more pleasant tonight.


As I write now, about 8:00 p.m., the rain has temporarily subsided, but everything is so wet it doesn’t matter. It’s as though I could squeeze this paper and it would drip rivulets of water. Our clothes are all soggy – even the dry ones.. There’s no place to get something dry.


We’ve now learned first hand the various kinds of rain. There is drizzle, light rain, steady rain, hard rain, downpour, torrent and monsoon. I think we’ve had them all. Interestingly enough, the only place that you can’t find water is in the bathroom. The sink, toilet and shower are all non-functioning due to some elusive plumbing problem.


Marvin and I have been spending some time reading together a book called Beyond the Sky and the Earth. The author is a young Canadian woman who went to Bhutan as a teacher for 2 years. She has written a delightful, insightful story of her adventures there. Here are a few passages well worth sharing.



About arrival vs. entrance . . .

"Arrival is physical and happens all at once. The train pulls in, the plane touches down; you get out of the taxi with all your luggage. You can arrive in a place and never really enter it; you get there, look around, take a few pictures, make a few notes, and send postcards home. When you travel like this, you think you know where you are, but in fact, you have never left home. Entering takes longer. You cross over slowly, in bits and pieces. You begin to despair, will you ever get over? It is like awakening slowly over a period of weeks. And then one morning you open your eyes and you are finally here, really and truly here. You are just beginning to know where you are."


And on imagining growing up somewhere else like Bhutan, instead of Canada . . .

". . .and that feeling comes over me again, the feeling of being too recent and flimsy for the landscape I am in. I try to imagine who I would be if I had lived all my life here at this temple by the river. I wonder what I would want if I had grown up without ads telling me my heart’s desires: to be thinner, richer, sexier, look better, smell better, be all that I can be, have a faster car, a brighter smile, lighter hair, whiter whites, hurry now, don’t miss out, take advantage of this special offer. If, instead, I had spent 24 years absorbing the silent weight of the mountains, the constant pull of the river, the sound of hot white light burning into black rocks."


As we observe and absorb what we can of Jamaica, these thoughtful passages add meaning to our experience here.

Martie Wachs


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Wednesday, October 13


"Noah! Noah! I want you to build an ark 90 cubits by 70 cubits by 20 cubits." "Lord, what’s a cubit?"

Bill Cosby c. 1975


The day began at 2 a.m. when black dog started howling, whining and generally making it known that he was not a happy camper. His plight apparently fell on deaf ears as he continued complaining until light. Here I was in another country, another culture, a guest in someone else’s house where apparently the dog’s owner was uncaring or dead (nobody is that deaf). I spent 4 hours pondering how to react. I was wrong no matter what and I never figured out the lesser evil. Sleeping through it was apparently not an option.


Later it was learned that Mr. Graham, with no light, went out to untie the dog, but was unable to see that the chain was tangled in some chicken wire. The dog was unable to get free so continued his lament. Had I followed my instincts and used my flashlight we would have all slept better.


I was deterred from making the dog run by the continuing rain. It fell off and on all night. Hence the Cosby stand-up routine quote above. At breakfast Noel showed up to say today’s weather would be as yesterday and, therefore, no work. He reported a big rock had fallen into/onto the rebar. Martie and I investigated after breakfast. Indeed the rock, say ½ a bathtub in size, the one everybody told me to get off of when they were working in the hole yesterday, had fallen in. The whole cage was shoved toward the road and wedged against the side of the hole. Either we must dig out a hole for the big rock to fall into and away from the rebar or we must make little rock from the big one. Their call.

Martie and I left Sunny to her paperwork and decided to follow the road up past the school. There are several homes up there, then a cave-in/mud slide blocking the road. After that we found an abandoned church, its bell on the ground and the sanctuary doubling as a storage shed and goat barn.


The road changed to a footpath leading to the mountaintop through a series of switchbacks. I was determined to get to the top but Martie said we had to turn back by 11:30 or we would get back too late and worry Sunny. I think we only needed to make one more switchback but we turned back anyway. Mr. Campbell passed us on the return trip carrying a hand of bananas on his head (market value $100 JM) (30-40 lbs. for 2.75 – 3.00 US$). I figure if you get up early, walk up to the mountaintop, cut a bunch and get back down by noon, you can make market and be home by supper. The gum boots everyone wears cost JM $700. Not a lot left over for the 401(k).


We have been having trouble with the bathroom toilet, sink and shower. I have been getting some input from Mr. Graham on the system, but this afternoon I walked up to the "catchment" looking for a better understanding of the whole system. It is a Rube Goldberg system that could work perfectly but has several problems left unsolved due to lack of funds. The following description is for my own amusement and may be skipped by those non-plumbers amongst us.


About 150 yards up the hill behind the house I found the "catchment". This is a concrete box about 2 x 2 x 2 ft. About 25 feet above a 20-foot joint of 2" diameter pipe is in the creek, filling with water. The distance from the end of the pipe to the "catchment" is spanned by a 4" diameter split bamboo trough, which carries the water the rest of the way into the "catchment". The "catchment" was covered, mostly, by corrugated tin and I did not look to see if any screen or strainer was installed to retard debris from getting in the piping.


From the "catchment" many joints of 2" diameter pipe ran down to the backyard of Mr. Graham. A coupling or union joined each joint. Very few couplings did not leak. Midway down the slope Mr. Graham’s neighbor had felled a large tree and broken the line in the process. The tree is still across the line. The break has been repaired by jamming a 1 ½" pipe between the two openings. Most of the water continues downhill, but a lot sprays out. At the edge of the yard the 2" pipe is reduced to ½" pipe.


Now between the kitchen sink and the 2" pipe a ½" galvanized pipe, partially buried, comes to within 15 feet of the 2" pipe. At the downhill side a 20’ joint of PVC pipe is half threaded into the galvanized pipe. (I had to screw this together because it was just butted to the coupling spraying mightily when I first found it.) The other end snaked up hill and was slipped into the ½ x 2 reducer, not glued.


Now coming from a galvanized tee at the kitchen runs a ½" PVC pipe which is screwed into a brass tee. This tee brought the supply to the bathroom and to an outside valve, where I gather Mrs. Graham does the laundry. The Grahams report the pipe stops up during the rainy season and their son comes over to repair it. I never saw him fix the stopped pipe, but the time I tried to unplug it I found the real reason it plugs. The brass tee is not a tee, but a valve body. This means there is not a full diameter flow as through a tee, but a restricted flow through the valve seat. This means sediment and other detritus collects at the restriction and plugs off the supply to the bathroom. No flushee, no washee!


The system could be more reliable if the valve body was to be replaced with a real tee and a ball or gate valve were to replace the rising stem valve currently in service. Were the system to fill with sediment subsequently, by opening the ball valve a full flow would wash the pipe clean without resorting to what ever the Graham’s son has to come over to do.

{Originally this (1000?) wordy description of the plumbing was sketched. Unfortunately, I lack the requirements to copy it into this text.}


After the plumbing hike, I joined Martie for some coffee picking in the front yard. Mr. Graham showed us his nutmeg tree and then identified a jackfruit. This looks like an overgrown mock orange and grows directly from the trunk.


We retired to the veranda for hors d’oeuvres where we got some inside poop on life in Mt. Vernon as a self-employed farmer. Life insurance and how it works (well, sort of), funeral costs $13,000 JM with government rebate of $4,000 which is still in limbo somehow.


Ate supper without the cat and played Phase 10 until almost 8:30. More showers and Blacky is running free tonight. I just heard his logging chain round the corner. No wonder they believe in ghosts in Jamaica. They can hear the chain in the night.

Marvin Wachs


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Thursday, October 14


A friend of mine decided to quit his job as the manager of a very successful health club and become an inspirational speaker. Having always found him overly blunt and as charismatic as a porcupine, I was stunned at his new choice of vocation and listened carefully when he gave me the following free advice: "You can be happy, or not."


Which brings me to the next to the last day of our Mt. Vernon adventure. The day began with my usual good morning greeting to Mrs. Graham who was always busy in the kitchen at 7 a.m. fixing breakfast. I had attempted to arrange meals that would be interesting and very Jamaican. I found that I could purchase something to eat that appeared to be a product of Jamaica and no matter what, Mrs. Graham would know how to prepare it. Today it was small pieces of hominy. Most folks I knew ate whole hominy, but I had never seen this. Turns out it is prepared as a cereal, soaked in water overnight and boiled in water until tender, then sugar, freshly ground nutmeg and vanilla are added. Each of us tried a salty version of the hominy too, with scrambled eggs and toast.


Noel appeared at our door just as we finished. He wanted me to go to Trinityville to get Clinton McPherson, the project technical guide who taught us to bend rebar. Martie and Marvin took off for the site. Noel and I went for Clinton and made the rounds picking up community members and tools from here and there and 6 bags of cement from storage.

The project was ready for concrete now, the rebar stood proudly in the holes close to the stream and the community gathered to mix concrete on the road.


When the project shifted into high gear, I went to Mo Bay (Morant Bay) with Peaches and Sherry. I needed to confirm airline reservations for our departure Saturday at 1 p.m. and pick up a few things for the celebration Friday night that Martie and Marvin planned.


The weather held up all day, no serious rainfall. All the waterways had returned to normal. Seaforth was no longer in danger from the raging mountain runoff that nearly crested the riverbanks Wednesday.


I had been warned by previous team leaders about the Jamaican phone system. Pay phones do not accept coins, you must use prepaid phone cards – which I did. However, the cards I had were now obsolete and I borrowed Peaches’. The public phones are in front of the library and several blocks away at the police station. The library phone was not accepting cards today – the police phone had a long line. When my turn came, the number I dialed had changed, no other was available. I got out of line to ask a policewoman for a directory and looked up Jamaica Air. After waiting my turn again, I dialed and was put on hold listening to music; then I was disconnected. The third attempt was fully approved by those behind me in line with understanding nods. I inserted the card, dialed, got a recorded message; pressed 1 and got an answer. After saying ";hello"; about 6 or 7 times, I realized she could not hear me and hung up. A groan emanated from the line, as they would wait for me to try again. Finally the call was successful, the flights were reconfirmed and seating assignments were made. Marvin’s response to my time consuming phone calls was – you could have driven to the Kingston Airport and back in that amount of time!


The shopping completed, the calls made, the light bill paid for Mrs. Graham, we pointed the jeep back toward Mt. Vernon, picking up Mr. Parks at the market on his way to hail a taxi. Outside Mo Bay we encountered a police blockade. I was pulled over and asked for my documents, my passport, license and car papers. I was asked how long I would be in Jamaica and sent on my way. A helicopter circled above and I was told later by Mr. Parks that these were spot checks for vehicle violations. The helicopter was used to find ganja (marijuana) growing across the mountains. If found, it was sprayed and destroyed.


We arrived at the footbridge construction site about 3:30 p.m. and the roadway was full of volunteers -–some mixing water, rock and sand into the piled of concrete with shovels – others carrying wheelbarrows full of the mixture to the pillar holes. Children had gathered to watch. When the 2 center holes had been filled, an end to this portion of Mt. Vernon’s third and final footbridge construction had been proclaimed. Marvin set up the full crew for a closing photo. I took one for Global Volunteers, too.


The tools were cleaned and returned to storage, the site cleaned up and the jeep placed in the middle of the creek and scrubbed down. At day’s end, we had cocktails at the Grahams and a fine dinner of chicken (fried), callalioo and fresh sliced pineapple, with cake for dessert.


We all turned in very early, satisfied that the community project work was a life-enhancing experience and went well.

I decided to be happy.


Sunny, 4:30 a.m.



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Friday, October 15


Following the spirit of our thought for Thursday, I’d like to add a favorite saying of my good friend John:


"You’ve got the same pants on to get glad in."


We’d finished all the work we were going to do on the bridge by Thursday afternoon. Between the rain, the coffee bean picking and everyone’s various other jobs, the community was stretched thin trying to get everything done. We awoke Friday morning, knowing we wouldn’t work on the bridge, but would do some activity the community planned for us.

It turned out Mr. Graham invited us to hike to his farm up in the hills. Sunny decided to remain below and work on preparing food for the celebration.


We set out with Mr. Graham up past the school, the old Baptist Church (now a goat refuge) on a narrow, rocky and muddy trail. It was steep and we ascended in slow, steady, Jamaican time. About halfway up we had a rainstorm, strategically timed so we could sit on the porch of Mrs. Graham’s grandchildren’s (and their parents) house for about an hour. When the rain finally slowed to a drizzle, we headed off again, coming upon a road and another whole community, where Mr. Graham, of course, knew everyone.


Finally turning off the road, we were again on a steep muddy slope, but shortly came to Mr. Graham’s farm. From this high vantage point, we could see all the way to Kingston (about 22-23 miles away). From his guava grove on the other side of the summit, we ate fresh oranges off his tree, and marveled at the beautiful view, the soft caressing breeze, and the absolute sense of peace and solitude in his magical mountaintop. It was the kind of moment you feel, not see, and vow to store inside you to be called upon in the moments you need to be grounded.


We waited while Mr. Graham fed his pigs, chickens and roosters (and dog); then began our descent. The trip was about 8 miles roundtrip. We didn’t arrive back until around 2:00.


Meanwhile, back at the Grahams, Sunny and Mrs. Graham and several others had made punch, popcorn, and put cookies and cheese in bags. Marvin drew a tail-less donkey on the back of our "goal " chart, in preparation for a pin-the-tail-on-the donkey game.


We were out of running water in the bathroom again, so after a refreshing sponge bath, we duded up for the party and all headed up to the school around 7:00 p.m. At the school we opened the "formal" part of the celebration with a prayer, then several members of the community standing to offer their thanks to the volunteers and community members. Several also offered songs. Sunny and Marvin and I each gave a short speech of appreciation also. Marvin donated a few items to the community – the Twister game, several pairs of gloves, a hammer, several levels, a trowel, a set of dikes and a set of pliers. We closed with the Jamaican national anthem.


Next, we had refreshments. Then Marvin set up the Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game and started with a few of the kids. This was obviously a new game to them, and they really liked it. Soon, several of the adults also came forward and asked to play. All was going along nicely when the lights went out (they’d been flickering on and off all afternoon, but this time they stayed off). It was too difficult to continue the party in the dark, so we all headed for home soon afterward.

We had to get up early the next morning, anyway, to catch our flights home. Our farewells were warm and emotional, our hearts were full, and the community we came to be a part of expanded just a little bit more.

Martie Wachs