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 (
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!