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This is my first message from Montego Bay, Jamaica, where I am serving as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. Hard to believe that I have been in Jamaica for almost four eventful months. Group 81 of U.S. Peace Corps trainees arrived in Kingston, Jamaica on March 17th, 2010 and after extensive training in Kingston, Hellshire Park, Cumberland, Ewarton and Stony Hill, 37 trainees have become full-fledged Peace Corps Volunteers. (You can check us out on Facebook as Peace Corps Group 81 in Jamaica). I was assigned to the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust and will be serving as Programme Coordinator (British spelling) in that post as long as possible…if I remain healthy, fit, and energized by all the activities occurring in Jamaica’s first marine…and national Park. The Park was created in 1992 after years of effort on the part of many Jamaicans, environmentalists, non-governmental organizations (ngos) and government agencies to protect, preserve and replenish the wonders of the marine environment off the coast of Montego Bay, St. James Parish, Jamaica, W.I.
I hope that you will find this blog educational, entertaining, uplifting, serious, humorous, encouraging, and environmentally sound/realistic. On any given day, the reef waters off Montego Bay can be incredibly beautiful, the marine life and reef alive with new found wonders…and then the rains pour down. Soon, the gullies and rivers that flow into the Montego Bay Marine Park spew out thousands of plastic bottles, tires, black bags filled with mystery debris, tree branches, refrigerators, and other refuse from a growing urban population. In some respects, it is a wonder that the reef still survives in the Montego Bay Marine Park. Much of the debris floats out to the sea, but other toxic and sedimentary materials sink in the reef, blighting its beauty and threating to destroy whole species of colorful fish, mollusks, crustaceans and other marine life.
This blog will hopefully be able to create a clearer picture of the dilemmas the Montego Bay community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust have in protecting the Montego Bay Marine Park–truly one of Jamaica’s great natural and national wonders. I have been working in the Park for only six weeks, but already I have begun to love the morning sunrises, the dark reef waters coming to life as sunlight penetrates the reef. As crabs surry over rocks around Pier One where our Montego Bay Marine Park Trust office is located, I gaze overhead to watch frigrate birds and pelicans soaring in the morning breeze while sergeant majors, wrasses, dark-eyed squirrel fish, trumpet fish with long, deep blue bodies, beaky parrot fish and stunning angel fish awaken in the reef in their daily search for food…and protection. It is usually late in the afternoon, when lionfish emerge…invaders in these coral waters around Jamaica…and begin to ingest from 20 to 30 small reef fish in an hour. I will be discussing the lionfish “invasion” much more in the months ahead, but I will attach my original article, published last month in The Doctor Bird, Peace Corps Jamaica’s environmental on-line magazine, so you can read more about the great threat to all Caribbean marine life that the lionfish poses.
Since this is my opening entry, I just want to say hello to all my family and friends in the United States and other global locales. This blog is going to be renamed…GOLDEN SAND… and I will make more use of that title in upcoming entries. GOLDEN SAND is dedicated to my wife of almost 44 years…Kathy, our deceased son, Michael, and to our daughters, Rebecca and Jennifer, son-in-laws, Sean and Aaron, and four amazing, fantastic, and endearing grandchildren…Tyler, Ian, Sarah and Anna. All of these dedications have been placed in age chronology…but they all are number one in my heart. Without your love and support, I would not have been able to join the U.S. Peace Corps and journeyed to Jamaica.
So, please return to this blog often if you want to know about my service in Jamaica. Initially, I was going to entitle this Blog…Letters from Jamaica…but work at the Montego Bay Marine Park is very active, so some times, my letters will simply be shorter musings and notes. In whatever form they take, I hope you will enjoy the words, thoughts and photos of GOLDEN SAND.
All the Best,
Forest…or as my grandchildren call me….Parka (what Tyler first called me instead of grandfather).