How quickly we adapt, so much is now feeling familiar. At work I am settled into the Youth Programme division at the Peace Centre. The office is a busy place as five of us share it. The lack of adequate facilities means that the students from the Kingston schools using the programme start their days at the Peace Centre, and, when in need of a desk and chair, also share our office so they can complete their programmes. There are two other Peace and Justice Centres in Kingston but they are situated in areas that are subject to such problems that they frequently cannot be used. One, providing service to 5 high schools, cannot be used as the schools are in different "territories" and it is dangerous for students from one territory to cross the "boundary" into another. The other centre is in Trench Town and the school principals have determined it is more effective if the students serving suspensions get the opportunity to do so outside Trench Town.
So our office provides a refuge for up to 35 students a day, and despite close quarters the skill of the Youth Peace Facilitators seems to keep contagion to a minimum. For me it is a wonderful opportunity to begin to get to know the children (yes, even youth are called children!) and the Youth Peace Facilitators. There banter in Patois is becoming more understandable, though it is impossible to imagine I will ever be comfortable speaking it!
The students are delightful and getting to hear from them directly the struggles they deal with provides more depth of understanding of the tremendous difficulties this developing country has. The language of the centres - Peace and Justice - is deliberate and reflects a society in which there is ongoing war between factions in places of abject poverty and little hope. To contribute to fulfilling VSO's mission of empowering the disadvantaged is going to be challenging and complex.
Last weekend family friends invited me to dinner and once again I experienced the tremendous generosity of people here, and the kindness in interrupting their lives to make one feel comfortable and welcome. It was wonderful to meet people who have lived here all their lives gain another perspective.
Having been pre-occupied with all that is new it was a surprise when, in travelling to work, I noticed cedar ropes and Christmas lights being hung on the light standards at one of the shopping centres! How can it be time to think about Christmas when it is 29 degrees. It won't be a white Christmas this year, though I have a feeling there may be lots of carolling.
No trips out of the city this week, but a little more walking in the city and some peaceful hours (and delicious ice cream) in the gardens at Devon House. I end each day walking up to a local pool, taking a swim as the sun sets and then catching the bus home. Tomorrow will be my first big excursion out of Kingston, a trip to the North Coast, lagoons, waterfalls and beaches. Photos will follow....