“G” is for Gun (Training, Week 6)

Good morning.

I’ve just returned from my visit-a-volunteer trip, where I visited an incredible volunteer up by the north coast near Ocho Rios. It was such a relief to get into the field and away from the repetitive nature of our training schedule. I experienced a literal breath of fresh air, as we were up in the fern covered hills and away from any cane field burning (as we have here in St. Thomas).

It was especially liberating to take this trip because for once, we were not subject to the rules of training, like “you may not leave the community except with a member of your host family.” Quite the contrary, we were required to navigate the organized chaos of the public transportation system. This was much easier than I had expected, particularly thanks to various current volunteers and friendly Jamaicans.

I felt so lucky to have been arbitrarily assigned to visit my particular volunteer, as she and I clicked very well (which won’t always be the case). We also went on a once-in-a-lifetime style adventure on Monday…which I won’t go into too much detail about, but essentially I got to hang out and get touchy feel-y with some marine mammals and it was brilliant.

She seemed so incredibly well-adapted to life in her community and definitely gave me a lot to strive for. I left with a lot of wisdom, art supplies, and a heightened sense of what to strive for. If you are reading this, THANK YOU! This volunteer is near to her Close of Service (COS) and I actually got to experience her at her second-to-last day of school.

Needless to say, I am ever more eager to learn where my site placement will take me! They really like to keep the mystery alive…we won’t find out until May 12th! Once I do find out, I will not be making my address or exact location totally public, so be forewarned that you will need to explicitly ask for my mailing address (when I have one).

Now a nod to my title. We are almost through our 6th week of training. More than halfway through! We will swear in as official volunteers at the end of May, and I could not be more excited about that. We have each been working in schools for a few hours in the morning as a part of our practicum. My school has 45 students, and I am working with 3 boys who are not currently reading at grade level. I was playing a game with the boy I work with on an individual basis one day. In the game, we toss a ball back and forth, each person saying the next letter in the alphabet and a word that starts with that letter. When he got to the letter G, which he always mixes with J, he exclaimed, “G is for…GUN!”

I tried my best to mask my horror, and said “YES! You’re right, that does make the “guh” sound, but that’s not necessarily a nice word, is it? Can you think of any others?”

It was a reminder of how culturally ingrained and normalized messages of violence are. Many Jamaicans seem desensitized to things like an 8 year old thinking of “gun” as a phonetic example. Again, I chant, “just because something is different, does not mean that it is wrong.”

Until next time!

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