Monday, December 7, 2009

Home sweet home

Friends and family back home have been asking about my home here on the islands. It is actually a very comfortable, fully furnished, apartment. This is the first time that I have lived without any roommates or family. At first it was strange, I have never liked falling asleep in an empty house. The first couple of weeks, I really missed having roommates. In Claremont, someone was ALWAYS home. Which meant there was always someone to talk to, hang out with, grab a drink with, but also a lot of commotion and distractions. Even though I still miss the friends I was living with, I now really enjoy having a place to myself. It's easy to keep clean, I wake up whenever I want and it's nice and quiet through breakfast, I wear whatever I want (or don't wear whatever I want) around the house. It's very peaceful and I like my place a lot. The bonus is that I have an extra bedroom for visitors!













Wednesday, November 25, 2009

St.Pauls Village

I have been in St.Paul's since my arrival on Aug.31st. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, I love my village. Everyone on the island can tell you that St.Paul's just has it's own thing going on. It is a very tight-knit community, and I am so blessed that I have been accepted and even embraced by so many of my neighbors. Of course the kids I work with our my best ambassadors. Here are some photos and videos of them cheesing it up for the camera (they love to be in the spotlight).

TAMIA, TIQUANA, & TIHARA


AKEEM


AJA


TASHIEM


TIQUANA, TAMIA,KILANJI, TIHARA, & SHADA

video
Akeem's favorite subject is Spanish, and he wanted to show off his skills. He does a good job too!

video
Tamia

video
Tihara

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Hash

I had a rough week, but it was followed by a great weekend to help even things out. Our training is coming to a close, and it suddenly feels like there is a lot expected of us. We have competency evaluations that we must pass prior to our swearing in and everyone needs to demonstrate their ability to execute our skills and proficiency in the community. This includes planning and presenting several different lesson plans; creating and executing a service learning project; and developing an award winning community project. While our training has been lengthy, it is not always specific on how to accomplish these tasks. The Peace Corps policy seems to be more hands-off. They give us the information and teaching they feel we'll need in order to create the necessary bonds with our community members, who, ideally, will be our support for all of the project and programs we are hoping to implement. Sound confusing? It is. Add in a supervisor (albeit helpful and friendly) who shows up to critique my progress, and I find myself feeling like it's the end of the quarter with multiple finals to prepare for. In short, I am seriously stressed. Of course this is the week that the Internet has decided to fail at my home stay house.
I was a little surprised to find out how severely this effected my homesickness. I have been chatting nightly with at least one or two of my friends back home, as well as reading Facebook updates, and tweets. Having this connection to home made it easy for me to feel like I hadn't really left home, and this week I was definitely missing it! Culture shock was setting in and I was loosing patience for the accent, the heat, and the crowded buses. I was irritable and emotional. In the long run, I know that lack of Internet is actually a good thing for me. It forced me to get out more and work on my relationships with my neighbors and community members, and my bad mood reminded me that I need to keep up with regular exercise. As a result, I went swimming and hiking with different locals from my village, all of which really helped reduce my stress levels and allowed me to see some really beautiful parts of the island.
My favorite hike by far was on Saturday with the Hash House Harriers, a group that describes themselves as A drinking club with a running problem. Perfect for me, right?! The group is a large mix of local Kittitians, Ex-pats from the UK & US, and Ross Univ. students (+ their dogs). The meet every third Saturday for a "race" that is set by the Hare the day before. There is actually two different trails, one for runners and another for walkers, but both a pretty intense. Everyone sets out on their path and we just mob the small streets of St.Kitts. The trails wind along the coastline and over the foothills of the Volcano. We hike through beautiful rain forest canopies, with intermittent views of the Caribbean Sea. The hills are serious and I was struggling up a steep incline. I slowed to catch my breath, and just looked around and realized how amazing it was to be right in that spot in that moment. I had the Shins playing in my headset, surrounded by tall green over growth, the bright blue sky above with huge puffy white clouds, and those gentle Caribbean breezes blowing right over me, I felt like Alice in Wonderland (and I totally thought of that song Jaime). It was awesome. Only the closing ceremonies could make the experience better. You really have to be there to appreciate the full Hash Experience, but the initiation gives you an idea of how these folks party. The other "virgins" and I were presented to the entire group. While kneeling in front of everyone, an "elder member" instructed us each to call out our name as he literally baptized us in ice cold beer. We are all then prompted to chug a bottle of local brew as the other Hashers chant out their signature drinking song. It was wet, sticky, cold and hilarious. I loved it, and I can't wait for the next Hash . . .it's Pirate Themed!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Half-Way Through Training.

We have begun our fifth week in the Eastern Caribbean, and so far St. Kitts is treating me very well. Every other day, before training, all of the EC80 members compare notes about what goes on in our communities and within our home stay. There have been ups & downs for some, and we actually lost one of the married couples last week (we miss you Tom & Barb). I have to admit though, I have been very fortunate so far. Helping to ease my adjustment is the amazing host family I have. They are kind, hospitable, and relaxed. They go out of their way to introduce me to many of their neighbors and family members, who are then kind enough to keep my days filled with all kinds of fun activities. This is the other area where I have been really lucky, I have women my age nearby that invite me out regularly. Few of the other volunteers go out with the locals I often as I do. It is usually fun and leisure activities, but since the whole home stay process is supposed to promote community immersion, I am pretty sure it will help me out later :)
Some of the really cool things I got to do last week were a Zip Line Safari through the rain forest, a beach trip to beach to Dieppe Bay, a trip on the St.Kitts scenic railroad, and an Independence Day celebration at the Governor's House. The Zip Line and railroad trip were just by chance! One of my host mother's nieces got invited to do the zip line by a former co-worker, and told her to bring a friend, and she invited me! It was so much fun, I can't wait to take my family when they come to visit. I know it is something that my niece and nephew will just love. Flying through the trees, 100's of feet above the air, at speeds of 35+ mph. I really want to get my Mom to go too! It is worth it for the views alone, but it's also such a fun rush. The other EC80 volunteers and I are already making plans to go as a group. They were so jealous when I showed them my souvenir photo. I lucked into the train trip pretty much the same way, one of the other volunteers was invited by a host family relative, she had extra tickets and invited me to come along. It was a very nice ride that went through parts of the island and coastline that I usually don't get to see. It's a touristy kind of thing to do, but was a very nice way to spend my Saturday morning, and the complimentary daiquiris were a nice bonus.
Saturday night was really the highlight of my week. Every Independence Day (September 19th) the Governor General hosts a celebration at the Springfield House, his official residence. I was invited to join some of the young people from my village, St. Pauls, and I am so glad that I got to attend. The house is grand and beautiful, with a yard that looks like a park. This is where they had all the festivities set up, an hors d'oeuvres buffet, open bars, a band, "christmas" lights everywhere, and all of the Kittitian women in formal gowns. It really was a sight to see. Everyone looked great and was having a fine time. We were all in a good and friendly mood, which is typical of St.Kitts, but the formal party added an extra hint of excitement to the night. Of course the Governor was there, as well as the Prime Minister & Deputy Prime, and many of the Ministry Secretaries, but also a lot of locals and a few other foreigners as well. I spent time with my friends from St.Pauls, some of the other volunteers and their host families, as well as some British sailors who were invited to join as well. We all kept proclaiming our good fortune at securing such honorable invitations and generally enjoying ourselves in the warm Kittitian night air. I never expected that the Peace Corps would be my opportunity to keep such frequent company with all the major players of a nation, but I guess it's bound to happen on an island of only 40,000 people-and I'm not complaining at all! I can't wait for the next soiree.
In addition to cocktail parties and day trips to the beach, I am actually taking my training seriously. While we are still in the middle of our acclamation process, were discouraged from jumping into any projects or committing to anything too soon. They want us to take our time and get to know our communities, and really give ourselves a chance to build a foundation and identify some areas where we can be of real service. Spending time with my neighbors, attending church service, and observing at the schools are all a part of this process. In the meantime, I am doing some initial planning on projects that I am really excited about. Hopefully I will have more to write as things come into fruition over the next several weeks or more. Yes I am enjoying myself, but be assured, I am working hard too!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The secret lives of EC trainees

It is hard to keep up with the blogging, everyday I am going through so many new things. This past week is a great example: on Tuesday I visited the local primary school for the first time; Wednesday & Thursday I attended the National Consultation on Economics, where I met the Prime Minister of St.Kitts, the Deputy Premier of Nevis, and several other Ministry Secretaries; Friday I went to a Dance Contest in Sadlers; Saturday I went to a BBQ hosted by the veteran PCVs for all of a neophytes; and Sunday I attended my first Kittitians church service. I could easily write several pages about each of the experiences, but I think I will spare us all from that epic masterpiece. I will try my best to stick to the highlights.
Tuesday at St. Paul's primary was great! I wish I had pictures, and I will definitely be taking my camera next time. When I first arrived one of the Grade 5 teachers was kind enough to introduce me to all of the classes. I believe there is 14 classes total, each with approximately 25 students. The staff was very hospitable, and the kids were adorable. I sat in on a Grade 1 class, and they were a lot of fun. A little shy, very excited, and curious about me. I stayed through the first part of lunch, and just hung out with kids, me observing them/them observing me. It was really funny how the children express their interest and curiosity by touching my hair and rubbing my skin. This is something that has surprised me a bit about St.Kitts. I thought that because of my darker complexion, I might blend in with the locals. Totally not the case. I get called white lady at least once a week, and this amuses me to no end. In the states, people are always asking my "what are you?" But here I am just straight up white. I think my fellow volunteer, Saira, is experiencing a similar phenomenon. She is Middle Eastern-American, but here in St.Kitts, she's white! In any case, the children at St.Paul's primary were very charming. I have asked them to come say hello to me when they are in the village, so now when I walk through the streets, there are all of the beautiful little Kittitians waving at me and running over to say hello. They make my day!
Wednesday & Thursday were really something. In all honesty, I was a little in awe of my access to such an event, not mention the opportunity to shake hands with the Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzel Douglas. It is not everyday that I shake hands with the leaders of nation. I mean sure, it happens ...just not everyday. I have mixed emotions about the consultation, but I can say this, it was an honor to be invited, and it offered some valuable insight into how things get done on St. Kitts. The focus for this years budget is Youth Development, which I think is great. Several Ministries proposed some wonderful programs, which I also think is great. However, there does seem to be a lack of the substance & commitments that are required to bring these initiatives to fruition, which is not so great. Overall though, the consultation really enlightening and everyone I met was interesting, charming, and engaging.
Wow, I'm just half-way through the week, and there is still so much to explain! Ok Friday was a dance contest in Sadlers. There is no simple way to describe it. Will (a fellow PCV) and I both thought it was going to be like a culture dance exhibition, well it was a exhibition alright. But the style was dance hall, and it was much more contemporary than expected. It was a fun and exciting show, and Will and I definitely got a taste of the local youth culture. I'll put a link Will's blog because he has better pictures and some video as well (http://kittsmet.blogspot.com/2009/09/jingle-bells-cockleshells.html).
Ok, so that brings us up to Saturday. . The BBQ that the EC78 volunteers hosted for us was absolutely perfect. We spent the day at Cockleshell Beach down on the peninsula, and it was so beautiful. The water was aqua and clear. The beaches were sandy and warm. There was a ton of delicious food, and everyone was in a great mood. It was just the break we all needed. Really words can not do it justice, so I'll just include some of my favorite pics.
Finally to Sunday! But I must admit, I am running out of steam, and there is some skype'ing I want to fit in before bed. Just a quick summary of service this morning. It was two and half hours long, which is about 90 minutes longer than I am used to. Everyone dresses up in there best attire, which is hard to do for PCVs since we can only pack a limited amount of clothing, and formal wear is NOT on the packing list. The congregation was enthusiastic, energetic, hospitable, and warm (as most Kittitians are). Many of the members welcomed me and expressed their pleasure in having me attend. Despite the lengthiness, I really enjoyed the service and will definitely be returning sometime in the near future.
That is it for tonight, reliving it all on my blog has me spent. I am still waiting for some letters from back home, so if you are reading this, spread the word. I have another long day of training tomorrow morning, but this week is sprinkled with some National Holidays. I will post again soon, hopefully with some fun photos.










Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wish List

I have been in St. Kitts for just over a week now. Everything has been
going well, and I especially enjoy my host family. Still, the novelty
is begining to wear off and a little bit of homesickness is begining
to set in. If anyone would like to send me a care package, here is a
WISH LIST of things that I wish l had brought to the island but didn't:
* an inexpensive sportswatch
* colored pencils or markers
* construction paper
* hair product
* Birkenstock sandals
* LETTERS & PICTURES from home
* candies/sweets

Send me an e-mail if you'd like my mailing address, and feel free to
pass the message along :-) I really would like any of these things,
but especially the letters & pictures. Miss you & love you all a bunch!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So much to process

We have finished our third day of training here in St.Lucia. The days are long and filled with a lot of information. Yesterday we covered policies, i.e. rules and regulations. Two things they take very seriously are drug use and riding on motorcycles. We also covered health issues. STD's are apparently rampant in the Eastern Caribbean, and according to the Medical Officer, condoms should be kept in the fridge for freshness. Our final session was on Safety & Security, which was actually very helpful. Simone from the PC staff discussed local flirtation practices and how to effectively and polite rebuff unwanted advances. She was very honest and candid about it all and I really appreciated it. The whole staff has been great, as well as the other trainees.
In fact everyone here at the St.Lucian retreat center have been so nice, helpful, and fun. I have really been enjoying the company of all the fellow trainees. It is going to be a minor heart break when 1/2 of them go off to St.Vincents. Even through the heat, and constraints of the center, everyone remains upbeat and pleasant, and we have all been getting along so well.
Today we finally got a much needed break from the center. This place is beautiful, but it is also VERY secluded. After breakfast though, we finally visted the city to do some training at the regional office. We'll also did some exploring, had a drink at a local pub, and finally got to see the sea up close!



St.Lucian sunset

Ladies up in the pub

My scavenger hunt team (-Kelly)






St.Lucian Art

St.Lucian market vendors


48 Years of Peace Corps service in the Eastern Caribbean


Our back yard

The dining hall

View of the bay



Our giant bonzai

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

St.Lucia

The view from our room at the training center in St.Lucia. We spent
most of the day traveling and just finished a delicious dinner. I'm
exhausted. Going to shower up and catch up on some sleep.

Stevie Wonder plane

I heard Stevie Wonder in the airport this morning, and of course it
reminded me home. It made me feel all warm and excited. We leave for
the island of St.Lucia this morning and even though they have us at
the airport at an unGodly hour of the morning, I am ecstatic to be
here. I still can't believe my good fortune. Sure I'm nervous and
anxious, but mostly just in awe of this whole experience. I've had a
chance to get to know a little bit more about my fellow trainees and
talking with them about this process has made me feel alot better
about my application experience. I waited over a year and half before
getting my invitation and asignment. These past 18 months have beena
big question mark for me, and that has been really stressful. I felt
like I couldn't move forward with life and didn't know what I was
doing with myself. At times, in fact most of the time, I really
doubted myself. I feared that the reason my application was taking so
long was ME. As it turns out, it was really the Peace Corps, all of
the other trainees seemed to have A very similar experience. Knowing
this gives me an extra boost of confidence. So now I'm just waiting to
finally board this plane and get to the islands!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, August 17, 2009

Less then one week

I really am down to the final days here in Southern California. I have been waiting for this for so long, and now I can't believe it's finally happening. Getting ready to say goodbye has been very hard for me. I think my nervousness is finally beginning to out weigh my excitement, but that's normal, right? I have to say thank you to my Mom, sisters, and best friend Jaime. They have been so helpful and supportive this past week. All of them helping, in their own way, to make sure that I am prepared and ready to board that plane on Sunday.
I'm looking forward, with mixed emotions, to the final going away party this Saturday. It will be a great to spend time with all the family and my friends right before I go. I am going to miss everyone so much.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

So Long So Cal pt.1

I have 23 days left before I leave to the Caribbean for two years. I definitely plan on milking my goodbyes for as long as I can. We kicked it off last night by turning our weekly bike ride, WTF Wednesdays, into So Long So Cal Pt.1 A bunch of friends came out to the Press for drinks, merriment, and good company. It was really great, and even though I ended up in tears, they were good tears. Solid, I love these people, I am going to miss Claremont tears. I moved around a lot while finishing school, and Claremont is the one place that has really felt like home to me. I have met so many amazing people who I know will be in my life forever. I am really going to miss this place and all these crazy people that I LOVE SO MUCH!! Thank you all for being there with me last night!! Here are some snapshots of the madness. They're all out of order, but I think you'll still get a feel for the evening.










Photos:
1. WTF Wed weekly meet spot
2. Izzy & Ratsamy
3. Classic Rodney
4. <3 OG ALL FRIENDS <3
5. Salud!
6. My WTF Co-Founders, Kirk & Dan
7. Mojo Jojo!!
8. Izzy & Me
9. Aye que Lisa
10. Lisa, Diana, & Alisa
11. Nick & Kirk-G Town Represent!
12. Alisa & Dean (Iz & Ratsamy in the back)
13. WTF Riders
14. WTF Drinkers (our motto is Bike, Drink, Enjoy!)
15. Luke & I wear cool shirts