Monday, May 31, 2010

Dung by Betty

Cultural integration is an important part of the Peace Corps process, and at times it can be a lofty and elusive goal.  It is difficult to gage how Kittitian I have "become," especially when my local friend still laugh when I try to speak dialect, and some of my neighbors still refer to me as "the white gyurl dung de road." Still every now and then, I have these a-ha like moments where I say to myself (never aloud,  because that would contradictory), "yup, that was SO  Kittitian." My last visit "dung by Betty," was definitely a So Kittitian worthy moment.
Betty is a local St. Paul's lady who lives down the road (aka dung de road) on the other side of the ghaut (gully). She has little board shop where Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights she sells THE ISLAND'S BEST CHICKEN & CHIPS (chips as in french fries). Friday is the big limin' night on the island, and many Kittitians prefer to take it easy and leave the cooking for the weekend. So Betty Shop (lack of apostrophe 's' intentional, ala dialect) is literally filled to well over capacity with people from all over the village. Arriving any time after 7PM pretty much guarantees that you will be waiting around 45min-1hour for a drum stick and fries. But trust me, it is worth the wait. The tricky thing is though, there is no line to wait in dung by Betty. It is just a tightly packed group of Kittitians spilling all over each other and out the door while making jokes, having a drink, talking LOT'S of trash, and yelling at Betty (who never actually leaves the back of the shop, where the frier is) to hurry up with their food.
The first time I went dung by Betty, Annivea & Fostrona carried me (as in, they took me there). You should have seen the looks on every ones faces when "the white gyurl" came walking into Betty Shop. It lasted just a split second, but there was a collective moment of shocked silence. I was really intimidated, and had no clue how to navigate the place. I gladly let Annivea take care of all of the logistics, and patiently waited for my food outside with Fostrona. It went on like this for about the next 2-3 visits. Then one evening I asked Fostrona to go with me to the shop, but planned on trying to order for myself. I reached Betty Shop before she did, and as I walked up towards everyone, the children from my school graciously greeted me in the standard Kittitian, "Miss Tiffany, good night." This kindly signaled to the others that I was familiar with St.Paul's and people knew me, I was not entirely an outsider. I was very grateful for this. I walked up to the last person standing outside the door, and took my place behind them waiting to order. I stood there about 5-10 minutes before Fostrona joined me, and when she came up to me, she asked if I had ordered yet. I said, "No I am waiting my turn." Fostrona looked confused. As mentioned before, there is no line dung by Betty.So Fostrona kinda of laughed, took up my money and asked me what I wanted, "a big or small?" and then pushed her way to the front of the crowd and shouted pass the girl at the counter to Betty in the back, "Good night! Betty please for me two small!" 40 minutes later, we had our chicken, and it was delicious.
Now that I had taken note of how this was done, I worked up my courage to try it again. This time on my own, kind of. I went on a Sunday (the slowest of the three nights), and I took another Peace Corps volunteer with me. I'll admit it, I didn't get it exactly right. There were a few raised eyebrows and giggles, but we got our chicken, and it was delicious. It took me about 2 more visits before it went well. I kept calling it a large instead of a big, and I would try to order with the girl at the counter instead of past her and directly to Betty, but my last visit dung by Betty...integration success.
It was a Friday night, just before the rush. I walked directly to the counter with ease. Greeted hello & good night to the other customers; then in a clear, steady voice called out, "Good night, Betty. Please for me a big." With that, I kept my money in my pocket and walked outside to wait. Before long, more and more of my neighbors came crowding in, I was so glad that I had beat the rush. Then after about 20mins, I heard the standard yelling and complaints of "Betty, where my chicken. I hungry now." But this time, Tessa, the counter girl's response was, "Hold up, where Tiffany, her chicken ready..." With that I jumped up, nearly skipped inside, paid for my food, yelled my thanks and headed home. I played it cool, but inside I WAS ECSTATIC, and thinking that was so Kittitian!! 1.) Tessa called me by my name, not "whitey", 2.) I had successfully ordered chicken and chips BY MYSELF, and 3.) I was gonna have enough of Betty chicken & chips for breakfast!!
To me this experience epitomizes my integration process here in St. Kitts, and specifically in St. Paul's. Of course I still have challenges with the cultural barriers. My friends laugh at the American things I do, like wearing my backpack into town on a Saturday; and I can't get the primary students to stop laughing at my accent; and I'm having a very hard time convincing people that I am Latina, and what the significance of that is. Fortunately though, I am no longer just the token white girl in St. Paul's . . .and dung by Betty, they know me by name!

Friday, May 7, 2010

All colors . . .

A haiku written by the St.Paul's Primary Precious Girls Club:

Our caramel skin
Smooth, soft, beautiful skin
Dark shades. All colors.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For my niece, Aly. I miss you Aly-Goo!

Dear Aly, 
Wow have I been busy here in St.Kitts & Nevis! I miss you and your brother all of the time. Luckily, you sent me a little friend to keep me company. Flat Aly and I have done so many things together here on the islands. She is very brave and adventurous. She reminds me a lot of you! 
One of our first adventures together was a hike up the Nevis Peak! Nevis is the smaller island right next to St.Kitts (where I live). Both islands were formed long ago by active volcanoes, and now each island has a big mountain, which is really a dormant volcano, right in the middle of everything. The Nevis Peak is 3,232 feet high, and is covered in rain forest near the top. It was a very hard climb. It took us about 1-2 hours going up to the top, and about another 2 hours to come down. In some areas we used ropes to pull ourselves up, and in other spots we had to climb over large roots systems from some of the rain forest trees. Flat Aly did a great job, and just kept on smiling the whole time. When we finally reached the top, we looked down to see the villages and the Caribbean sea below. The houses looked so small from that high up. I had a great time hiking with Flat Aly, and I was really impressed with her positive attitude, she really is a lot like you!
Here is Flat Aly getting ready for our big hike. 
Here is a view of the Nevis Peak from our ferry boat. We are going straight to the top!
Flat Aly is imaging what it will be like at the top. 
Our guide, Office Hanely, is a Police Officer in Nevis. 
Flat Aly, with Maggie (a Nevis Peace Corps Volunteer), and me. We made it! Look at those teeny tiny houses below. That's where Maggie lives, Gingerland Village.
OH NO, Flat Aly, don't fall!
On the ferry boat, heading back to St.Kitts.
A view of the Nevis Peak at night. Flat Aly's still smiling :-)

Our next adventure together was Carnival! It is a lot different from the carnivals we have in the United States. Every year in December, Kittitian (Kah-tish-uns) celebrate Carnival Season. It is a time when Christmas festivities, Calypso music, Caribbean dance, costumes, and culture all combine for a whole big party season on the island. The Carnival Season lasts for most of December, but the best days come right towards the end. There is a Jouvert (Ju-vey) Dance Parade on Dec.26th, then a Masquerade Parade on Jan.1st, followed by Last Lap Party on Jan.2nd. Flat Aly and I went to the Masquerade Parade together. This is when a lot of the islanders dress in colorful and wild costumes and dance, dance, dance all through the streets of the capital city, Basseterre. They have women in feathered headdresses, Moko-Jumbies on stilts, and brightly colored clowns, and LOTS of music. I loved to see all the costumes, and Flat Aly really liked the tall moko-jumbies. 
We are really excited to be a the parade!

The costume are so bright and colorful. This last one even has wheels on it!

Flat Aly keeping things safe, and making friends!
Here comes one of the bands. Caribbeans love to play their music LOUD!
Some of the Masquerade Clowns. 
Our favorite dance troop!

There is so much to do and to see in St.Kitts. After our big hike, and all the "liming" at Carnival ("lime" is a Caribbean word used instead of "hanging-out" or partying), Flat Aly and I decided to slow it down a bit. We took a walk Rawlins Plantation in my home village of St.Pauls. For a long time St.Kitts & Nevis used to grow and process sugar cane all over the islands. Many of the homes where the Sugar Plantations were located are still standing, and now they have been turned into beautiful hotels and restaurants. When we visited the Rawlins Plantation, we were able to see the old sugar mill that they have turned into a hotel suite! It is very pretty and peaceful at the plantations, and it was just the break that Flat Aly and I needed. 

This is the old sugar mill, that is now a room you can stay in. There are so many plants and flowers everywhere you look!

Flat Aly and me relaxing by the pool. 
Flat Aly & our friend Annivea smelling the flowers. 
Flat Aly climbing trees. 
Flat Aly with a view of St.Estacia island behind her. 

Flat Aly and I were having such a good time together. I decided to take her to the school where I work, St. Paul's Primary. She was very excited to meet the students and find out what Kittitian schools are like. Some of the things are a lot like schools back in the United States, and some things are pretty different. Students in St.Kitts start kindergarten at around 5 years old; they have mixed classrooms of boys & girls; and go to primary (elementary school) through grade 6, all very similar to the U.S. Some of the differences Flat Aly noticed were the clothes the students wear. Every single school in St.Kitts & Nevis require uniforms for the students, and you can tell what school a person goes to by the color and pattern of their uniform. Students in St.Kitts are also expected to pray together everyday. They have a daily assembly where the read from the bible, and they pray for their meal before they are dismissed for lunch, and at the end of the day before they go home. The school buildings look a lot different too. They are all cement buildings with no carpet anywhere! But the students sit at desk, just like students back in the United States. 
Grade 2 & Flat Aly
Flat Aly & the boys from Grade 2. She liked their checkered shirts.

Flat Aly with the girls from Grade 2. She just loved the braided hair styles that all the girls wear. 
Time to learn, and Flat Aly is ready!
Prayers before lunch. 

As you can tell, we really have been very busy. But I still should have written you much sooner, I bet you were worried about Flat Aly. Don't worry, she has had a great time in the Caribbean, but she is ready to come home to Yucaipa, CA. I will be sending her back to you very soon along with a little gift from the beautiful island of St.Kitts.
I hope that you and your classmates enjoy reading about all of our adventures. I would really like to know what other places their Flat Stanley dolls got to visit, and who traveled the furthest. If you, are any of the students have questions about St.Kitts or the Peace Corps, my students and I love getting letters and answering questions. 
I miss you so so much. I wish that you could have come to visit me, but thanks for sending Flat Aly in your place. Be good!

Lot's & lot's of love, hugs, & kisses, 
Auntie Tiffy

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Bye, bye miss American Pie"

It continues to surprise me, the things that I miss from home, and what can trigger nostalgia. I took some of my school girls to the movies last night, and we saw "Our Family Wedding." Of course, the family in the movie reminded me of my own Latino family and upbringing, but it goes beyond that. It seems that every time I go to the movies in St.Kitts, I get a little homesick. Its the whole ambiance of being in a theater and feeling like I could be in a city in the USA. Its watching the films and seeing all the California landmarks-the LA skyline, the Disney Concert hall, the 10 fwy winding through downtown (I'm mean really, I miss traffic?). It catches me off guard every single time, and when I come back to my apartment, I find myself reflecting on all the things I am missing out on back home. In a way, I am grateful for the feelings of longing and homesickness. Before moving to St.Kitts, I NEVER considered myself a patriotic person, and was often the first to find the flaws in American society. I now have such a renewed and profound appreciation and pride for the US. I love America's sense of individuality, liberty, celebration of diversity, and respect for personal privacy. There are so many things that I took for granted while living in the states, some that I NEVER expected to find an appreciation for. Such as our constitutional right to bare arms. I am NOT a gun enthusiast, or some card carrying member of the NRA. I do think that the restrictions and the process of purchasing firearms could and should be better regulated to improve the safety of many Americans. However, now that I am living in a nation where responsible citizens live in fear of criminals who illicitly obtain illegal weapons,I see how fortunate American citizens are to have the RIGHT to protect themselves as they see necessary. I have no plans whatsoever to go out and buy a gun when I get home, but I am so glad to know that I have the option to do so. Many of the other things I have taken for granted are much less political, like Trader Joe's (or any major grocery store) and convenient access to affordable healthy foods, people who use headsets while listening to their music, noise ordinances, livestock zoning, Target and one stop shopping, a selection of ethnic foods (esp. Sakura Ichi Japanese & Los Jarritos Mexican), affordable clothing, bookstores, bud light, and automatic dryers. I can now proudly say that I LOVE AMERICA!! I love St.Kitts too, but every once in awhile, I need a mental break from living in a foreign land. That being said I want to thank Erin Bryn & Lars, Leeann & Mondo, Dan, Jamie Lyn, and The Jaimes/Janssen family for sending me some pieces of home. You have no idea how much those care packages mean to me, they really make day, even my week! Thank you so very much, I really miss you all.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friend vs. Friendly

Since September life in St.Paul's has been running slowly, but smoothly. I have become more comfortable with the community and at the school, and with the Kittitian lifestyle in general, or so I have thought. These past two weeks have been a bit of a reality check, and has definitely shaken my confidence. This leads me to struggle with my commitment, and even though I have no intention of permanently leaving St.Kitts until my COS in Oct 2011, I could use a break. I really want to be home with friends, and family, near familiar places and foods, and in a familiar culture that I am accustom to navigating. But instead I am here, trying to to stay focused, hoping to learn from my mistakes, and looking for a way to grow and improve myself as a result.
The challenge I am facing is with the youth in St.Pauls, but more specifically the dynamic that has been created between us. Which I myself am largely responsible for. In my earnest to have the children like me and be willing to work with me, I extended myself to them in a very friendly, jovial, and accessible manner. I am often found joking and playing with all of the kids in my neighborhood and the local primary school. I mess with their hair when they mess with mine; I show them games like duck-duck-goose and red light, green light; I lift them up for hugs & kisses; I tickle them; and make them laugh when I practice my 'dialect' with them. This is a lot different from how local teachers would approach the children. With the staff at my school, there is a definitive boundary between adults and children. Not to say that the teacher are always stern or callous, but generally more serious and reserved; a definite authority figure. I have realized for sometime now, that many of the teachers seemed skeptical of my approach with the kids, but I took it in stride. I just figured this was all apart of Peace Corps Goal 2 "Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served." I was glad, even proud to show them, that there is different way to do things, that I didn't need the children to fear me, that I could be an instructor and fun and friendly. The problem is, that a lot of the children are now taking advantage of my "soft" demeanor.
I thank God, that it is not all of them. Some of the children respond very well to me still. They are polite, friendly, affectionate, and respectful. They are eager to spend time with me and are cooperative when I need their attention or their help, and allow me my space when I need it. Unfortunately, this is only a fraction of the children I deal with in St.Paul's. Many of the other children now see me as a friend or a peer. They talk to me the same way that they would their classmates, which is in a way they would NEVER speak to teachers or other adults. They ignore my directions, and are often amused at my frustrations. Many time they are blatantly disrespectful, irreverent, and demanding. They will ask me to give them money or food or to visit my house to play, and when I refuse them,they strueps me (a colloquial onomatopoeia that expresses distaste). All of this makes it very hard for me to carry out projects with the student body.
During Girl's Club for example, the majority of my members are very pleasant. However each week, there is a small group of students who stand in the doorway or windows watching and commenting on the activities my girls and I are doing. Caribbean culture is notably inquisitive/intrusive(I'll have to blog about that another time), but having these children, literally staring at us makes it twice as difficult to focus my girls and implement effective programming. I ask, tell, and then yell at the bystanders to GO HOME, but they just stare back at me like I am speaking another language or duck behind a corner until I turn my back and then resume their post. Occasionally another teacher will still be on campus after school, and when I enlist them to help, the children disperse immediately, accentuating the fact that it is just me that they do not listen too. My reading projects do not fare much better. Many times when I go into the classes to facilitate the library hour, the teacher for that class will see it as an opportunity to take a break. It is common for them to leave me alone with their students. Recognizing the shift in power, many students become loud, unruly, and unresponsive to what I am doing at the front of the classroom. If I try to isolate the "difficult" child the offending student often starts to cry, which creates another uproar amongst the others. Then, when the teacher finally returns, the students quiet down and do as they are told. Again proving to me that it is my classroom management that is failing. The whole process leaves me frustrated, agitated, discouraged, and drained.
Not all of the students behave in this way. There are St.Paul's students that are enjoyable to work with, and the Girl's Club at Newton Ground Primary (a much smaller school) rebounds from similar obstacles much more easily and effectively. But my difficulties at St.Paul's are facing me like a brick wall. I know that many of my co-workers saw it coming, and may even be enjoying some feelings of schadenfreude. I guess I was distracted by other aspects of the acculturation process and this issue caught me off-guard. Regardless, this is the challenge that I am facing now. What can I do to amend the situation, how can I get these children to treat me and therefore respect me as an adult? Can I stay friendly without having them treat me as they treat their friends?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Year, New projects

When I first arrived in St.Kitts everyone back home and on island kept asking me about my work, what I was doing, and how it was going. A lot of times it overwhelmed me because quite honestly, I didn't feel like I was doing very much. Some of the other volunteers jumped right in and found all kinds of things to do, and they would go on and on about all of their projects and meetings and planning. Meanwhile I was just here in St.Paul's going to the school every week but without a clear objective or reason for being there. During training they often warned us that there might be a lack of activity or direction, but it is still a surprisingly difficult adjustment from the American perspective of work and productivity. I can not explain how intimidating it can be to show up at "work," and have absolutely no clue what your job is suppose to be. Despite the awkwardness I often felt, I continued to visit the school regularly and a lot of time just hung out there. Sometimes I would observe in the classroom, sometimes I would play games with the students, and other times I would lead a short lesson while a teacher was out. Before long, the students got used to seeing me and became very comfortable with me, and eventually the staff members grew more accustom and friendly towards me as well. So although a lot of time it felt like I wasn't really doing anything, I can see now that I was actually taking the time to get to know my school and community, and more importantly giving them the time to get to know and trust me.
Allowing myself this acculturation period has actually been very beneficial for me and my long term goals. The new school term began on January 4, and at this time I was ready to introduce two new projects to Saint Paul's Primary School based on what I have observed, and how I felt I could best be of service. The first is in conjunction with the community organization I am paired with, St.Paul's Family Initiative. It is a literacy project that aims to promote family bonding through reading. Basically I spend a couple of hours each week in the classrooms doing an interactive story hour. Sometimes I read to the students, sometimes they read to me or to each other. I ask question and hold discussion to check for comprehension, and the kids really enjoy the books! I then encourage them to keep reading at home by facilitating library check-outs. Each week they get a book to take home and read with their parents, and when they bring the books back to class, I give them a chance to tell us about the story. They are always a little shy at first, but the promise of stickers always helps to loosen them up a bit. Yeah I am totally not beyond bribing the kids to read :-). Friends and family back home have even gotten involved with my reading project, and started a MUCH NEEDED book drive! My Mom and sisters have put their passions (read Panama blog) to great use and have rallied there friends and neighbors to donate old children's books to the students at St.Paul's primary school. I am so please and proud of everyone for helping me out and making this contribution to my kids. THANKS GUYS!
The second project I introduced this month is one that is really near and dear to me, definitely my pet project. It's an after school girls group, and I feel so strongly about it, that it is difficult for me to articulate why I think it is so important, but I just know that it is. I started this group at two different campuses, with the idea that I could provide these young women with a safe and healthy environment in which to explore issues that are specific to them. Our projects will focus on body image, leadership skills, dating & sex, challenges at home, goal building, health & wellness, etc. I also set aside time each week for reading or doing homework, trying always to reiterate to the girls the importance of education. So far the group has been very well received, the girls at each campus are really taking ownership of it. At St.Paul's they have chosen to name themselves The Precious Girls Club, and at Newton Ground they are the Girls Friendship Club. Both groups are still in their infancy stages, but I am REALLY REALLY exited to see each them grow. Here are some photos from this weeks' activities:

St.Paul's "Precious Girls Club," fitness hike. The girls and I took a walk to our local beach. Initially I told them no swimming, but come on, you can't take kids to the coast and expect them to stay dry. As soon as they hit the sand, the threw off their uniforms and jumped in. In one photo, you can see me yelling, "ok, but only 5 minutes!"

Newton Ground Primary ""Girls Friendship Club," working quietly and productively during homework hour. Don't let them fool, they do not always act so sweet!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How Dade Miami says Happy Birthday to baby Jesus.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I spent my Christmas in Miami, and not the nice South Beach part. The icky area, near the the airport. While I was happy to be on my way home from Panama, I was still frustrated, annoyed, sad, and angry that I would be spending the holiday alone. When I got to there, Miami did nothing to quell my concerns . . .but it did get better.

The people at the Miami hotel were idiots, and not helpful at all. I was hoping to have sushi for dinner, since it was my one night in the States. I kept asking about what restaurants or movie theaters were open, and how much a taxi would cost, they knew nothing and suspected that EVERYTHING was closed for the holiday. They did however recommend the super seedy diviest of dive bars that was attached to the hotel, "Travelers" for Christmas dinner. You should have seen the spread, I should have taken pictures. It was so . . .trailer park. Words do not do it justice. But the women serving it was actually really sweet and enthusiastic about the meal, reminding me twice that it was all homemade. So I said what the hell and let her load up my plate, which was in fact very tasty. I took a seat at the bar and another friendly older woman took my order while puffing away on a Virginia Slim cigarette. She introduced herself as Barbie, was also very sweet, and she took care of me all night. The regulars continued to eyeball me through dinner, and once they were sure I had been adequately fed, the moved in for the kill. It was hilarious, these dudes were literally 55+ and more than half-drunk by 7PM. But that did not stop them from trying to run their game. Luckily they kept the creep factor to a minimum and even bought me drinks and keep me laughing all night. Two of the guys were old Viet Nam veterans and they were awesome. Friendly, funny, and making all kinds of ridiculous promises-like offering to fly me first class to Dallas for steak dinner! One of them even took out his glass eye for me!! Yeah it was that kind of crowd. It was equally disgusting and amazing, my jaw dropped, and he just laughed and said something highly inappropriate. By 10PM they were offering me hard drugs, so I knew it was time for me to cut the night short, but before I left the other one insisted that I take a half case of cigars with me. I still have the box, it's very nice looking, and everyone in St.Kitts got one for New Year's Eve.

I was supposed to leave the next morning, but I missed my flight and had to stay another night. I decided to stay out of "Travelers" the 2nd night, so no wild tales to report, but I did have one of the best American dinners I've had in a long time: a cheeseburger and a bottle of bud light. It wasn't sushi, but it was so good, and something you just can't find on St.Kitts. I finally made it home on Sunday the 27th with enough time to catch some of the Carnival fun. So yeah, not exactly an ideal Christmas, but one that I will never forget.

Travelers-best dive bar, EVER.

Back to the blog

I haven't really blogged in a long time. There is so much that happens here, and so much that I want to share with everyone back home, sometimes the thought of editing it down to fit a blog seems so overwhelming. I often end up abandoning the task before I even start. But after reading some of my older posts, I definitely see the benefit of documenting my experiences, if only for myself. So I am going to try and blog more regularly, however for daily updates, I still prefer twitter (@Knee_Socks). Ok, so how can I bring this up to speed from the last couple of months . . .well I guess I can start with my unexpected trip to Panama.
In November I went to see a dermatologist here on island, because I was having some adverse effects from all the sun exposure. For some reason*, she suspected that it could be a sign of lupus, and sent me for some blood tests. She didn't like what she saw, and recommended more testing. The problem was, that the type of testing I needed is not available in St.Kitts. Michelle, our island PCMO informed me that I would need to be medevaced and sent off the island for the additional testing. This was the beginning of December. I assumed that I would be sent back to PC headquarters in Washington, D.C. and I immediately began trying to figure out a way to get sent back to California instead! My thought was, that I didn't have the proper wardrobe to be in D.C. in December, and there was nowhere on island to buy winter clothes (not to mention that on my PCV salary I couldn't afford to). Since CA was still relatively warm, compared to rest of the U.S., it would make more sense for me to go there! Brilliant reasoning, right? Well that was until Michelle explained to me that they were sending me to the Eastern Caribbean medevac location in Panama!
I took this news with mixed emotions. I was excited to visit Panama, since I had never been; I was VERY disappointed to have the trip scheduled right through Christmas and Carnival season on the island; and I was a little worried about my health. I felt just fine, and didn't really think that lupus was a possibility, but the uncertainty of everything was very unsettling. Then I had to tell my family about it all, and God love them, my big sister & mom freaked out and managed to freak me out in the process. To top off all of this, Michelle also informed me that I had to pack my house before I left, because there was always the possibility that a serious health problem would be discovered and I would have to be medically separated from my service in St.Kitts. That was definitely the worse news of all, but I refused to believe that was a possibility.
So on December 13, with only about 4 days notice, just as Christmas break was beginning in St.Kitts, I left for Panama. My time there was full of both highs and lows. I got to see come great things, I loved all the different and affordable foods that I had to choose from, I met AMAZING people, I practiced my Spanish,and the shopping was so good! I also had to stay in a less than stellar hotel, I really didn't get to leave the city much at all, I was stuck there about 5 days longer than necessary, I missed J'Ouvert on island, and I spent Christmas nearly by myself in Dade-Miami(I'll write a separate blog for THAT experience.) Finally after two loooonnnggg weeks, I made it back to St.Kitts medically cleared with no signs of lupus. I arrived home just in time for NYE with the other EC80 volunteers, the Carnival Parade, and Last Lap. I was SO HAPPY to be home, and back in St.Paul's. I really missed it here, the kids, my friends and neighbors, the beautiful accent, the view of the Caribbean sea and the cool Caribbean breezes. I just plain missed St.Kitts, it's only been about 5 months, but it already feels a lot like home.

*The doctor also suspected lupus for another volunteer recently, which seemed like a coincidence, until a third volunteer pointed out that there was an ad on local television "Could it be Lupus," highlighting the disease. We think the doctor may have seen this ad too frequently.

Lorine, a PCV from Guyana, who was also in Panama. She is awesome and I can't wait for her to visit St.Kitts this summer.

Kaitlin, a Panama PCV who showed us around the city and kept us laughing!

The view from our rooftop pool, the one cool thing about the hotel

The Canals

Making Friend~Haciendo Amigos!