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!!