2 goals, 13.1 mi, 1 research study, and 9 months

Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Flag of Jamaica  ,
Saturday, November 18, 2006

Greetings friends and family!

The past 4 months since my last entry has been a progressive journey towards reaching two important goals that I have set to accomplish during my two years in Jamaica. Before I update you on that, I want to tell you how it feels to turn the corner and see the end of service approaching. It's hard to believe that I have been in Jamaica for 18 months, which means that I have about 9 months remaining. The expedition of Peace Corps actually is much longer, beginning the moment when I initially applied online, way back in October of 2003. So the past 3 years have been dedicated to this, making it difficult to imagine anything else, but in 9 short months (actually less than 9 months), I will be finishing this crazy, emotional ride.

To you, 9 months probably seems like a long time. Time is a strange phenomenon and each person experiences it differently, and there is a definite difference between Peace Corps time and 'real-world' time. I think most volunteers can identify with this.

Anyway, let me continue on to what I wanted to share with all of you. The main two elements of my existence right now are training for my first half-marathon and working on my research project.

The half-marathon is an event that I have wanted to do for a long time now, probably three years. Unfortunately various roadblocks have prevented me from actually achieving this goal, but not this year. On December 2nd, 2 weeks from today(!) I will be earnestly attempting my first half-marathon during the annual Reggae Marathon in Negril.

In an entry last year, I described my experience of volunteering at the event and told you all that I would run the half-marathon in 2006. The life that I'm living here really enables me to concentrate on stuff that I want to do, like running, since I definitely have the time required for the training. Granted, sometimes it was hard getting out of my cozy bed at 6am in order to beat the summer sun. Over time though training has become less of a chore and now I actually enjoy it, having a running buddy helps too. Now the mornings are cool and I feel like I'm getting rewarded for my hard work, but the real reward will be crossing the finish line in two weeks. The race starts at 5:15am EDT and I hope to finish in 2.5 hours, so please think of me during that time and send me a little energy as well.

So once I'm back from the morning run, it's a shower, some breakfast, then it's buckling down and working on my research project. The process has been long to reach a point where the topic is well defined and specific enough to accomplish while in Jamaica. In April of this year, I chose to study some aspect of the solid waste management system in Jamaica. This decision is based on my desire to develop a research project about a local concern, as well as my personal concern of its consequences on the environment.

A garbage management system is provided by the government, but littering, burning, and illegal dumping in open lots, gullies, and bodies of water are still very common practices in Jamaica. Plastic and Styrofoam containers line the roads, bags of garbage are ripped open by dogs and scattered everywhere, scurrying rats and buzzing flies and the smell can be wrenching. It's not a pretty sight, but just think about what this can do for your health, and the possibilities of air and water pollution. In reality, these practices can not be judged too harshly, considering that collection services are probably not provided in for the households. But what other choice do they have?

The research study I am undertaking is investigating a possible strategy which can reduce reliance on public garbage services and reduces the amount of waste that must be managed in the first place - The study aims to investigate the feasibility of waste reduction strategies, specifically recycling, composting, and source reduction, for rural Jamaican communities.

There isn't much to report at this point, since the study is in the initial phases. I have received so much guidance and support from my agency supervisor, who has directed me in developing a sound plan for the project. The research will hopefully be completed by early April 2007, and at that time, a Health Department project will be planned based on the findings. I don't want to bore you with the details of the planned research methodology, but if you are interested I can send you the research proposal.

The agency that I was assigned to by Peace Corps, the local Health Department is supporting the project and will be a beneficiary of the findings. The findings will be used to provide information for more efficient and effective solid waste management interventions for the benefit of public and environmental health. Well at least that is what I am hoping for. Perhaps I shouldn't jump the gun by saying that I am satisfied to know that my research will possibly be utilized in Jamaica. If that actually happens, then the aspirations I had when I joined Peace Corps, 'to make a direct positive impact,' will be fulfilled.

Well I think that is all for now. Thanks for reading, as always. I will be returning to Wisconsin on December 20th for a month break, and this time there will be more snow and no appendicitis :) I plan to ski and ski and ski and have a wonderful winter holiday at my home sweet home. If you are nearby, drop me a line.

Take care everyone, and please keep in touch. Look for an update after the half-marathon and hopefully I'll have some pictures to share too.

In peace,
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