Staging

So my staging went pretty well considering a little bed bug problem and having to evacuate my first room and an arm, thigh, left arm, right wrist, full of bed bug bites.

I am loving my new Peace Corps family and its amazing how any different backgrounds and we’re from all over the U.S.A. East to West. It will be fun to see whats in store for the future.

So what was staging (a.k.a orientation)

Staging essentially set the tone for what we would encounter in the Gambia culturally, individually, and as PC members.

It was there to remind us that where we’re going we are the foreigners.. and that’s ok. PC 3 goals are

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women

  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served

  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

It was clear that most of us are were so wrapped up in the first goal that we forgot that we are there primarily as cultural ambassadors. We were reminded that we can’t go in with a “Savior Complex” because we are there to help people help themselves and be their own resources and heroes.

We also got a crash course in Gambian cultural norms that will most definitely be expounded on when we begin our three months of pre-service training.
We learned about how gender roles are pretty rigid in Gambian culture in general but definitely more lax in the city. Where we are going, Up Country, gender roles are practiced almost without deviation and it was emphasized that, despite the fact that we are foreigners and there will be leeway, we will have to learn to navigate our host culture’s gender roles so that we can both assimilate and maintain our personal integrity

Other than the heavy stuff we played a bunch of ice breakers and fun games. I got to be a chicken.

Here’s my itinerary for our day’s journey to the Gambia on 10/14

9 am check out

9:30 board bus for JFK Airport in NYC

5:55 pm board Air Brussels flight

7:20 arrive in Brussels

11:20 Air Brussels flight 203

5:25 pm 10/14 Arrive in Banjul, The Gambia

A Night in Melba’s Harlem

So far I’v given my paternal (The Martinez family) side a lot of props for culture and heritage, so now its time to brag about my maternal side (The Crawford) of the family

Let the shameless bragging begin!!!

My Uncle Raymond “Music is Life”, Uncle Martin, and cousin “Choclatt” Jared are musicians (drummer primarily but they do produce). They were the forerunners of bucket drumming that started in the 90’s (I think) in the subways and on the street corners. Since then they have been a part of numerous musical events including but not limited to the (4) Tony Award winning musical “Bring in Da Noise/Bring in Da Funk”Melba’s Restaurant, and where ever else music is happening in NYC and beyond. They also produce but I’m not in the loop on that.

See “Choclatt” Jared perform here.

Melbas- me and Jared
Me & Cousin Jared @ Melba’s

See my Uncle Ray perform here.

Melba's- Me and Uncle Marky @ Melbas
Me and Uncle Marky @ Melba’s

More bragging here and here.

So now on to the actual story. On Tuesday nights  you can find my uncles and cousin performing at Melba’s. As for the other days of the week I don’t really know because they are always doing something.

So guess where I was on on Tuesday (10/6)?

Yeah, I was at Melba’s enjoying amazing food and the best entertainment in NYC (in my very biased opinion).

It was 3 hours of great food and great entertainment and it was packed from performance start at 8 p.m. until close at 11. They had a hard time getting people out.

I went with my Grandma Annette and we had an amazing time. She had the BBQ turkey meat loaf  & I had salmon with mac & cheese with spinach and it was AMAZING!!

Melba's Harlem- salmon
image courtesy of harlemcondolife.com because I forgot to take a picture

They were performing live and because my video recording skills are abysmal and the room was dark (mostly I just technology suck) and since I know people don’t want to see snippets of my knee bouncing to the beat I wont embed the video but I’ll put the links up here, here, here.

—————————–> here too.

Oh, and over there <————————–

It was sort of a karaoke thing as well except with people with actual talent. You can hear them here and here.

Oh and Just ’cause I’m a braggart (I warned you all at the beginning of this post)

Aqui y mi prima Latice aqui.

So lets just end with I had one of the best nights ever at Melba’s and the next time anyone finds themselves in NYC definite make this a destination. Preferably on a Tuesday night of course ;p

Garifuna-Traditional Gathering and Mourning/Celebration of the Ancestors

As the title of my blog states I am Garifuna and there is a whole of tradition and ritual that goes with that. As the American part of the family has connected more with extended relatives we have been learning and participating in more family rituals and ceremonies.

On Sunday Oct 4 we had what was essentially a remembrance ceremony or deceased relatives, my biological father and my second cousin Eddie among them.

The day started with a 9:30 Mass at Our Savior Catholic Church

Mass- Chuch

Afterward we headed to my Auntie Carol’s house where the cultural ceremony would begin.

(Sorry no pictures allowed of the table)

-Setting up the table for the deceased. It has pictures of the most recently deceased. Eddie was in the center with the largest photo because he passed in November 2014 and my father had the smaller photo because he passed in October 2012

Formal: candle, rosary, crucifix, Santa Barbara, Blue roses

Personal items/food/drink/ of the deceased- Corona was one of the things Eddie and my dad liked to drink, photos, etc.

-Because this is a celebration of their lives as well as a remembrance there’s LOTS of food

Mostly traditional food like and other

Hudut- green & yellow plantain mash with fish in a coconut soup (image from crossfitc.com)
Hudut- green & yellow plantain mash with fish in a coconut soup
(image from crossfitc.com)

Traditional breads including but not limited to

Johnny Cake (image from maxresdefault)
Johnny Cake (image from maxresdefault)

Rice -rice & black beans, rice and red beans, rice and shrimp, white rice, rice and beans.

Curry chicken

Ham

Pork ribs

Here is the ceremony conducted my the elders, PrimoDeki and his mother Tia Paula.

Plates of food are placed in the remembrance table my the parents of the deceased first then the rest of the relatives. These full portion plates too. The deceased have to have received their portion of every prepared food item before the living eat.

Then we EAT!!!

I had every kind of rice on my plate so I had to go back for chicken.

After everyone eating the ceremony, led my Deki and mostly in Spanish.

Our Father Prayer

-Oracion de Santas read by Tia Paula

-prayer and words by Deki

-Individuals go up and say their words of remembrance etc

Auntie Velma (Eddie’s mother) took it very hard and I had to get the Florida Water (Spanish people know what I’m talking about)

Then there is the blessing ritual.

Then we can go share the food from the remembrance table.

It was an emotional experience for everyone but we were all better for it. I was able to see my new cousin Christian (2 yrs old) for the first time and a lot of new relatives as well.

To my family, if I got anything wrong let me know so I can fix it.

On My Way to NYC

After my Uncle Miked picked me up from the airport I spent the night at his and my Auntie Marilyn’s house in Pennsylvania. I sat around the rest of the night and Saturday just watching movies and bonding with my cousins.

Sunday (10/4) we headed to NYC for mass and Garifuna cultural ceremony remembering the dead, specifically my biological dad and cousin Eddie because they passed the most recently, but its honoring all deceased relatives.

For those of you living vicariously through me here is what you would see entering the city.

Oh and tolls are $14…ONE WAY!!!

Here the George Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson River into Manhattan. Two tiers of pure NYC traffic and more congested than a hypochondriac during flu season.

After crossing the bridge we finally got into the city and made our way to the Church in the Bronx for mass

Just a pic of the city
Just a pic of the city

Before I Go: Holly, MI Renaissance Fair Part 2

So I seem to be getting in all of the Ren-Fair I can handle this year. Usually it’s only a single annual event but since I said that I am leaving it seems to be the place everyone wants to spend their last days with me.
But let me back up a little becuase this advenuture did not begin with renfair. It actually started with Mainstage in Mt. Pleasant MI. Its a community event hosted by Central Michigan University (CMU) where all the vendors, restaurants, and clubs in the school and Mt. Pleasant area. There’s food, coupns, free bags and lanyards, and more coupons. We didnt get our usual haul but we still did good. Scored some free bags, ROTC lanyards, cookies, and T-shirts.

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We spent our Saturday (8/29) evening stuffing out faces and bags with free stuff. It wasn’t until Sunday that we went to Ren-Fair.

This round of Ren-Fair was with my friend DeVera, new friend Nyanontee, and of course my nephew C.J.

This was Nyanontee’s first Ren-Fair too and she loved it!! All of the vendors and food will definitely have her coming back next year.

One of the vendors was selling fairy wands filled with glitter so guess where C.J. ended up…baby flirting with the lady holding the glitter wand. It only got worse when he saw the glass dragons…

Every year there’s a fairy house competition and C.J. almost killed me when he saw them because he decided to take me in a direction I didn’t know we were going.

Oh, and don’t ask me who won, how you participate or anything else. All I know is that those fairies are living nicer than some people I know.

Sometime later, thats’ 3 doughnuts, onion rings, fried mushrooms, and a large cup of apple cider in food time, we were on our way out and I saw I Great Dane that I had to get a picture of C.J. with.

We concluded our night (without C.J.) by going to Heck’s bar for a going-away-party for my friend/co-worker Jordan. There was a good turn out and we had a good time doing the karaoke.

Before I Go: Holly, MI Renaissance Fair

So I have LOTS of things to do before I leave and one of then most important is spending time with friends and family.

Today Brian, Ebony, and my brother Jorge went on our fourth annual trip to the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, MI.

I never buy much but I still love going!!

I got Ty (my sister) a turkey leg made of what must be  illegal substances made to taste like turkey with a dopamine factor of 10/10!!!!

Saw a joust and totally cheered for the Darkside.

“Blood Makes The Grass Grow”- Joust M.C. Ren-Fair 2015

This was Brian’s 1st Ren-Fair EVER because he’s lame….I mean he’s an adult with responsibilities and had to put those first in previous years…

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(Ebony, Me, Brian)                                               My brother took the pictures. Thanks!!!

We also had dinner at White Castle in Flint, MI where we discovered (Gaspatha!!!) that Brian had NEVER EVER had White Castle!!!!

Now, now, don’t judge Brian because the true fault lies with me and Ebony. We failed him as friends.

We picked up a Crave Case of 30, went to town, and now he’s hooked and me and Ebony are redeemed.

Got home around 6:30 Post Meridiem and we all sat down and watched a movie.

Hello world!

Hello!!! This is my very first blog and its all because I am going to The Gambia in west Africa for the Peace Corps Agriculture/Crop-Extension.

Before you all ask, let me just say, I don’t quite know what I will be doing when I get down there. Something about crops, sustainable living, and improvements and innovation in small scale food production. But that could mean anything.

There are nine other volunteers in my cohort so  I won’t be by myself.

Here’s the low down and timeline for my departure until my arrival in The Gambia:

April 2015: Applied for position

Early May 2015: Interviewed for position

May 11, 2015: Got the position and had to pull over and squeal with delight.

May-August: Medical-dentist, doctors, and physicals oh my!!!

August 16, 2015: Finally got my medicals clearance and that means I’m on my way!!

Late August-Nov: All work and no play makes Krystin a dull girl so I decided to have some fun that I’ll elaborate on in another post

Oct 10: Depart to some major city on the east coast that I won’t know of until around Nov 10th and get oriented left, right, and sideways.

2-3 days later: 20 hr flight to the Gambia!!!

Map of The Gambia

Images from World Atlas

October whenever-until January-ish-ish-ish: 3 months of language, cultural immersion, and technical training of some kind while living in a compound with a host family and the other volunteers in my cohort.

January-somethingish-to infinity and beyond: Plopped in a village….