After a bit of a creepy start, my apartment in Kingston truly became a wonderful home away from home. I said good bye to my little sanctuary today, but I won’t soon forget it!
Cuso provides all volunteers with a furnished apartment for the duration of our placement. Rent costs are at Cuso’s expense, while utilities are paid out of the volunteer stipend.
Volunteer accommodation varies around the world. Accommodation for volunteers in Jamaica tends to be very luxurious compared to other placements because there are serious security issues in Jamaica that must be considered. All volunteer apartments in Kingston come with 24 hour security guards and iron grills on all the doors and windows – definitely not the case in most places.
My suite was on the second floor of the first of 5 towers in the complex. Each unit was connected by a lovely breezeway.
The main area of my suite included a kitchen and living room, with a door at one end leading to the bedroom and bathroom, and another at the other end leading to the patio. You can see that all of the windows are covered with iron grills for security. You can also see the makeshift mosquito netting (a gift mailed to me from my parents) I put up over the windows and patio doors so that I could keep them open without getting eaten alive. The outside walls of the unit face south and west and thus absorb considerable heat, and with no fans in the apartment, my only way to cool the space was breeze or air conditioning (which was cost prohibitive to use continuously).
The first thing I set up when I arrived was a giant mosquito net from home (the best thing I purchased especially for this adventure) that I decorated with a garland of pompoms from my friends Jessie and Steven. They also sent me a huge assortment of washi tape that I was to use to bring some colour to the place, but unfortunately it didn’t stick very well to the concrete walls, so I did my best by outlining post cards and photos from home with it, creating a little homesick curing corner.
The exterior of the apartment complex is pleasant and well used. Children play in the parking lot and adults often sit outside in the evenings and chat. In the back of the complex there are fruit trees that grow ackee, mango, banana and lime. There is also a laundry building with 1 washing machine, 2 dryers, and 4 large wash basins (each wash and dry costs a $300 token that can be purchased from security). Most people hang their laundry to dry on one of the many lines. In the front of the building was the pool, which was a blessing on those hot summer days. Near the guard station and front gates was the garbage area – sadly no recycling. A dozen or so feral cats roam the property and take over the garbage area at night, which gave me a start on more than one occasion!
The complex is staffed by 3 security guards who work 12 hour shifts, as well as 1 cleaning person and 1 gardener. Each of them was kind and helpful and trustworthy. There were also 2 other Cuso volunteers living in the complex and 1 down the road, which meant I always had company if I wanted to get a bite to eat or take a walk to the grocery store.