Jamaican Rhythm – A Day in Kingston

One of the beautiful parts of completing the IEDP internship in the fall is that I have dozens of blogs posts from my friends to use as inspiration. As a reader, some of the most interesting posts have been the ones that seek to answer the most simple question: what do I do all day? Following in the footsteps of Magali and Vasiliki (among others!), here is a step by step guide to a recent Monday in Kingston.

6:45 am – My alarm goes off between 6:45 and 7 am each morning. I like to take some time to myself, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch a short Ted Talk. I have made a game of scrolling through the videos and randomly selecting a title that is 7 minutes or less. This has made for some interesting, and slightly random, morning inspiration (like my most recent one on how astrophysicists are applying astrophysical data analysis to solve problems on earth). After breakfast, my boyfriend and I make the walk from the apartment to the office.

8 am – I arrive to my office a little before 8 am, sweating and happy to feel the cold air-conditioning. I have found the mornings to be the most productive times in my day, so I like to arrive early and get 45 minutes of work done while the office is still.

8:45 am – Roughly an hour into my day I usually join a colleague or two for a Starbucks run. To my family and friends, this will be surprising. I am exceptionally frugal, and to be honest, have never been much of a Starbucks person. But the Kingston Starbucks is different; it has a very neighborhood-y vibe and is actually cheaper than in the states. As I enter and hear the barista call out “Welcome back, Laura!”, I am reminded of my life goal of being “a regular” and smile inside.

Morning rush of cars on the streets of Kingston. 

9 am – Every Monday morning we have a full-team staff meeting. All of the program specialists give a break-down of their assignments, deliverables, and meetings that are scheduled for that week, and I make mental notes of meetings or workshops that I would like to attend. Everyone has been so exceptionally welcoming, which means that I usually have too many things to choose from! I have recently attended an all-day meeting of stakeholders who are developing a comprehensive and complementary parenting plan for Jamaica, sat through discussions around parliamentary changes to Jamaica’s mental health law, and watched as a pilot ‘street play’ program was formed.

10 – 11 am – On this Monday, we followed up the staff meeting with a presentation from the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), a policy think tank based at the University of the West Indies. They presented their recent evaluation on the conditions surrounding the phenomenon of ‘zero deaths’ that occurred in an area of Kingston in 2016. It was an enlightening conversation that helped to ground my work into the larger socio-political context in Kingston.

My work station.

11 am – I head back to my desk and work on my individual tasks. After drafting interview questions for an upcoming meeting, I started doing research on a violence prevention program to present guidelines on how it could be applied in Jamaica.

12:30 pm – Life in Kingston can be expensive, so I make sure to bring my lunch to work every day. I head to the kitchen and if I am lucky, another staff member or two will be eating at the same time and we chat and enjoy a few minutes away from the computer.

1:30 pm – In the last week, a new office tradition has popped up: the daily stairs walk. In November, some of us will be going on a trip to hike the tallest peak in Jamaica, the Blue Mountain, so we figured that we should prepare! Each day around 1:30 pm, my supervisor and I go door to door trying to convince others to join us on the walk up and down the 8 flights of stairs in the building. In reality, it only takes about 10 minutes and I am not sure it is preparing us at all for our hike, but it’s a good excuse to get up from behind our desks and laugh a little.

Walking the stairs every day has become a new office outing.

1:45 – 4:30 pm – After lunch I continue work on some of my individual tasks. Today I had a meeting with my supervisor to go over the interview questions I had drafted for my next few interviews. After a good discussion, I spent the rest of the afternoon making edits and last-minute preparations for the next day’s meeting with staff at the adolescent health center that I am working with.

5:00 pm – I get back to my apartment and try to fit in a quick yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood (before it gets dark).

A spectacular rainbow followed an evening storm.

6 – 7:30 pm – It’s dinner time! It’s been fun to buy local ingredients in the supermarket and figure out how to cook them (special thanks to my colleagues who share tips and laugh at my mistakes). Tonight, we are having callaloo, a local leafy green that is usually cooked up with onion, garlic, and thyme. I have it alongside some fried plantains and barley. I usually listen to an NPR podcast as I cook to try to keep up with what’s going on back in the states.

Tonight’s dinner: fried plantains, callaloo, and barley.

7:30 – 9 pm – I wind down with some Netflix, which has recently included the Good Place (my new favorite show) or Jeopardy. I am usually pretty exhausted and hit the hay between 9 and 9:30 pm. Sweet dreams!

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will share some snippets from my adventures around this amazing island. I have officially traveled to all 14 parishes and have plenty of photos to prove it.

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