Top Five Things to Do In: Kingston, Jamaica

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Soak up the sun

Jamaica isn’t known as the island in the sun for nothing–while the rainy months include May to November, even this season gets plenty of sunshine nearly every day across the island. Kingston is known for having a comfortable temperature year-round. While in Kingston, take some time to enjoy the sunshine on your daily commute or spend an afternoon soaking up the sun walking through Emancipation Park.

Take advantage of the cuisine

Jamaica is home to some of the freshest and most authentic foods in the world. Choose from a variety of tropical fruits, such as guavas, papayas, and mangoes and from the mouth-watering authentic dishes, such as fresh fried fish or jerk chicken. Kingston has something for everyone–while there are abundant vegetarian options, the meat options, particularly with the signature Jamaican jerk marinade, are very popular as well. Also, be sure to check out the coffee while in Kingston–the Blue Mountains nearby produce some of the best shade grown coffee in the world. It can be a bit expensive, so treat yourself every once in a while to one of the best exotic cups of coffee in the world.

Explore the Blue Mountains

As the longest mountain range in Jamaica as well as the highest point, the Blue Mountains provide an escape from the urban environment of Kingston and offer some of the most beautiful tours or hikes you can take. To get there from Kingston, public transportation is available although a private car would be much more reliable. There are multiple hotels within the vicinity if you would like to make a weekend out of it, otherwise the Mountains are located in a close enough proximity to Kingston to make it a day trip as well.

Take in the local history

Jamaica, particularly Kingston, is full of history. Kingston is the center of commerce in Jamaica as well as the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous reggae music scenes. Some of the most prominent sites in Kingston include the Bob Marley Museum, the National Gallery, and Port Royal. Take a guided tour through the Bob Marley Museum, which is the singer’s former home and studio. A must-see if you are a big reggae fan. The National Gallery offers an interesting art collection, containing mostly pieces by Jamaican artists, although occasionally containing travelling art exhibits as well. Lastly, Port Royal was once the pirate capital of the Caribbean. While much of it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1692, you can still visit some of the ruins today in the historic city.

Visit the beach

Kingston is not necessarily known for its beaches but while in Jamaica, you have to make a visit to the beach and the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. Hellshire Beach, located southwest of Kingston, boasts white sand and spectacular scenery in addition to a plethora of beach-side huts selling every kind of food you could ever want. Spend a hot day at the beach, known for its nice swimming areas and popularity with the locals.

Learn more about our World Endeavors programs in Jamaica, and explore the city for yourself.

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Packing Secrets Revealed!

The “Most Useful” List from WE Staff

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It’s difficult to anticipate everything you may encounter on a trip abroad. And it can be even more difficult to fit all the things you need into one suitcase. Veteran travelers will tell you, however, that there are some items that are especially useful. We’ve compiled the World Endeavors staff “most useful travel items” and the reasons behind them. Take a look–we bet there’s at least one new thing you’ll be adding to your next packing list.
  • Walking shoes. No matter where you travel, you’re sure to do a lot of walking. Don’t forget flip-flops too, which are good for both the beach and for hostel showers.
  • A quick-dry towel. They’re compact, and as the name suggests, they dry super fast. There’s nothing worse than a damp, heavy towel.
  • Scarves. They jazz up outfits and can double as blankets or pillows on planes. Scarves are also a must-pack for countries that require head coverings for religious sites.
  • A head lamp. Good for reading, hiking, or re-packing in a dark hostel room.
  • Plastic bags. For wet things, dirty shoes, preventing shampoo explosions, and keeping your luggage organized.
  • A watch. Especially if you don’t have a cell phone while you are abroad. Comes in handy when you are traveling and need to be on time for your bus or train!
  • A durable water bottle. Easy to empty when you’re going through airports, but there to fill so you don’t have to pay for expensive bottles (if the water is safe to drink, of course).
  • Coffee filters. For when you have to boil your water. You can then pour it through the filter into your bottle.
  • A good packable hat. Good for staying out of the sun or staying warm.
  • Some small tokens/souvenirs from home. For host families/new friends/people who help out. Also bring some photos of your family so new friends/host families can know more about you.
  • A small first-aid kit. Bandages, antibiotic cream, pain relievers, medicine for stomach troubles, and a small pair of scissors always come in handy. Also consider a small sewing kit.
  • A journal/diary and extra memory cards for your camera. You’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to record your trip!
Of course this is only a sampling of things you may wish to bring, but we hope that when you do studyintern, or volunteer abroad, you’ll be extra prepared!

World December Holidays

Holidays are celebrated distinctly in every country and learning about them gives you a better understanding of the culture from which they came.

Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico from December 16th-24th and the festivities are held every evening. The festival is called Las Posadas, which means the inns or shelter, because of Mary’s difficult journey to find a place to stay on her journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is a religious holiday that lasts for nine days, which represents the nine months that Jesus was carried by Maria (Mary) and can also represent the nine day journey to Bethlehem. Individuals are selected to play the roles of Mary and Joseph and they walk down the streets in a procession to go to a different home each night. Joseph stays outside the inn and they all sing a song about the innkeeper saying there isn’t any room for them to stay, but ultimately lets Joseph and the others inside. After everyone goes inside, they read a passage from the bible or say a prayer before the celebration begins. Often tamales are served and piñatas and candy are provided for the children. Sometimes the piñata is in the shape of a Christmas star that is put out near or at the end of the night.

The winter solstice festival in China, and most of Eastern and Southeastern Asia, can be celebrated between sometime between December 21st and the 23rd depending on the year. This celebration has a special meaning for the Chinese calendar since it is divided into 24 equal parts corresponding to the 15 degree change on the celestial longitude. The festival begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270 degrees and ends when it reaches 285 degrees. During this time families get together and eat “tangyuan”, which is a sweet soup with rice balls that are sometimes brightly colored. Each member of the family gets one big ball and several small balls in their soup and this symbolizes reunion. In some parts of northern China they eat dumplings instead of “tangyuan” during the solstice. In China, they believe that as the days grow longer, each day after the winter solstice, the positive energy will increase. Many people visit their loved ones who have passed away, exchange gifts and wear new clothes.

The Akwasiadae festival in Kumasi, also known as Adae Kese, is held every six weeks on a Sunday and the last one of the Gregorian calendar year is held on December 23rd. It is a celebration of past leaders, heroes and Ashanti kings. The festival was first celebrated when the Ashanti region gained statehood and independence from the Denkyiras. The celebration is divided into two parts: the observance and the party. The first part of the festival takes place in the king’s palace and includes only members of the royal family. Here they perform many rituals to purify the land take away the evil. The king also goes through purification and is completed through ceremonial meals and drinks that represent their ancestors while they pray for protection and guidance. This festival is meant to highlight the union that the people have and show that their unity is what makes them strong. The second part of the festival is an ornate ceremony that takes place in the Kumasi town square. People wear colorful clothing as they parade through the town and the king wears the most ornate golden ornaments. The drumming, dancing and gun firing is meant to keep the evil spirits away. The overall purpose of the festival is to make their people stronger by reminding them of what their ancestors have done. The celebration also gives the king a chance to speak to his people and to advise and unite them.

Volunteer Spring Break in Costa Rica

Wondering what you should do this spring break? Try one of our volunteer projects in Costa Rica and make a difference while learning Spanish and becoming immersed in another culture.

Volunteers choose from 4 different and fascinating projects: Wildlife Conservation (freshwater turtle conservation), Childcare and Orphanage Assistance (nutrition centers), Teaching (local schools), or Environmental Conservation (nearby reserves).

Visit our website for more details about the program!

http://worldendeavors.com/spring-break-programs

 

After you are ready to apply, click on the apply tab on the top of the www.worldendeavors.com webpage.

Dancing Around the World

Dancing is one of the many unique ways to express yourself and your culture.

Flamenco is a dance that originates from southern Spanish region of Andalucia and is well-known in Seville. This unique dance has been around for about 400 years and used to be a dance for the poor, which usually included the Gypsies, Moors, and Jews in the 16th century. Typically a woman dances, while a man plays the guitar and sings. Today the songs can either be dramatic and forceful to express a protest or dissatisfaction, or lighter to show happiness or a sense of humor.

Khon is one of the six traditional dances from Thailand, in which the dancers wear masks and elaborate costumes. The story told through dance is based on the Hindu Ramayana epics from India and is depicted as a drama as the performers act and dance. While they dance, a chorus sings to create a narrative for the audience to follow since the dancers cannot speak. Originally, only men were allowed to participate in the dance and it was held in a royal court, but now women are also an important part of the dance that now takes place on a stage. Some of the sets of characters: male, female, demons, celestial beings and monkeys.

In Brazil, the fast paced couples dance called Samba originates from the 16th century when Brazil was a colony of Portugal. The slaves that were brought over from Angola were told they couldn’t worship their own gods by their Christian Portuguese masters. After awhile, the Portuguese became suspicious of the slaves dances and tried to outlaw the parties where they gathered to dance. Today, Samba is a national symbol of Brazil, most common in the Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo region. It is a typical dance during Carnival and is well-known throughout the world. The music is typically composed with drums and guitar.

There are many unique dances around the world. So next time you travel, make sure you make some time in your agenda to see the dances live or even take a class.

Why You Should Stay With a Host Family

When most people travel abroad, they stay in hotels or resorts and don’t get the chance to immerse themselves in the culture of the country they are visiting. If you choose to do a World Endeavors intern, study or volunteer program that offers a home stay with a native family, you will have the opportunity of a life time. Here are some reasons a home stay is such a great experience.

1. The family will most likely cook local and delicious food for you daily.

2. In some cases they might even do your laundry for you!

3. You can ask them about their culture and gain an understanding of your surroundings and why people have certain customs or how they came about.

4. You can see how people live day-to-day.

5. They can make suggestions for local places to eat. This will give you a chance to go to these places and mingle with the locals.

6. If there are any interesting places to visit in the area, such as caves, beaches or castles that not many people know about, they will probably give you tips on where it is and how to get there.

7. If you have doubts about how to do daily tasks in a foreign country, especially one that speaks a different language, such as catching the bus or setting up your cell phone, they will also be able to help.

8. It’s nice to have a home away from home in a foreign country. Often, you will be able to do activities with them or go on trips with them.

9. You can stay in contact with the family after you leave. This may increase your chances of going back to visit!

10. You can greatly improve your language skills if the family doesn’t speak English.

Packing advice for Europe

Don’t know what to pack for your long term trip abroad? Europe has most of the luxuries that you can find in the United States, although there can be some price differences and other items may be different than you are used to. Here are some ideas and advice to get you started for your trip to Europe:

1) Students going to Europe should consider bringing notebooks and folders. The notebooks are more expensive in most stores, and they are a different size. So get yourself some 10 cent notebooks and don’t worry about finding a place to buy them when you get there.

2) Converters and adapters: All of Europe uses 220 volt/50 hertz system except the UK. Universal converters/surge protectors are probably the best option since they work for almost everything: phones, iPods, cameras, and computers. For hair dryers you will need a special converter and make sure you check the watts on your appliance. You could also buy a hair dryer or straightener when you get there instead of risking the life of your American appliance.

3) It’s best to buy some heavier bathroom supplies when you arrive to Europe so you don’t weigh down your bag unnecessarily.

4) If you wear contacts, bring contact solution for all or most of your stay. One bottle of muli-purpose solution can cost about 8-11 Euros per bottle. It’s an easy way to save some money and time.

5) If you are comfortable with trying new deodorants, feel free to try the roll on or spray on products available in Europe. Otherwise, pack a few extras of your favorite brand from the USA.

6) If you are thinking about bringing some of your favorite American foods, you can, but it might be wasted space since Europe also has delicious foods. It’s also becoming more common to find things like peanut butter and hot sauce at the local grocery store.

7) Don’t over pack your suitcase on the way to Europe. Make sure to leave enough space for new purchases and souvenirs on your return trip.

Here are links to our European country programs:

England

France

Ireland

Italy

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Spain

Feel free to comment and add to this list as there are many things to keep in mind when going on an extended trip abroad.