Monday, April 4, 2011

You've come a long way...

I've been here for a little over 6 months. Let that sink in a bit. One quarter of my scheduled service is done, and it's gone by in such a hurry. I recently read an article that states how people who live closer to the equator live more in the present since their cultures never had the need to plan ahead for the changing of seasons, and because of this their sense of time is different. Time seems to go by much faster, and it is absolutely true. It seems I am always facing the end of a new week, with certain objectives accomplished and others put on hold. I have been enjoying myself in my community and am beginning to feel like a part of a much larger family than I could have imagined. I meet new people in my housing project and the first thing they want to do is proudly introduce me to their network of friends and family (well, the real first thing they usually want to do is buy me a beer, which I'm agreeable with). I've had the privilege of attending fishing trips, hikes, house birthday parties that last until the sun comes up, sports days, football matches, and afternoon dance parties with the people I've met. 

One thing I am very excited about is a visit by my younger brother Jaycob in a couple of months. He'll be out here for two whole weeks. That's 2 weeks of me not working and being a tour guide, which I love doing. This will be the first time my brother has visited a different country, and he is also a bit of a worrier when it comes to new places. Therefore, it will be my goal to give him the biggest culture shock of his life! No, that is not very nice, but it is brotherly. I'm actually happy to have family on the island, especially my brother. 2 weeks is a lengthy enough time to be able to show him all of the key places on the island and get some quality beach time as well. 

And with that, I will be done for right now. I have so many pictures and video that I need to post soon, so maybe one whole post in the near future will be media. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Obviously I have not held up my end of the bargain to post more frequently. Oops... Wait! I have a defense. It is exceptionally hard to sit down and pick small pieces out of what is going on here to write about because it is part of a much larger context. I compare it to a snapshot of an arrow in flight. Sure, you've got an idea of what the arrow looks like, how big it is, etc., but you don't know its velocity, its trajectory, or its beginning and end points. When I talk to people back home and they ask me what I'm doing, I'm tempted to just say "Living, and living well". So I could sit here and tell you about my Carnival experience, or what I did for New Years, or struggle to put into words what it's like to simply walk to my bus stop and the people I run into along the way, but it wouldn't completely justify those experiences. Instead, I will talk about some of my projects for this term. I'm much more busy than last term, and I like it.

The Dept of Sport has been mandated to hold a symposium for coaches, teachers, ministers, and stakeholders on the island, and I am one of the 7 people on the board to plan and implement this symposium, which will be held on the 16-17 of February. My role primarily will be to develop a multimedia presentation to showcase the past, present, and future of the department. So, I will be going around with some coaches to collect some footage of practices and use some of the thousands of pictures I have recently digitized in a slideshow.

At my school, I am helping out with their sports day practices. Every second term the schools have their own sports day, where they divide up into "houses" and compete against each other in track and field events. Right now I'm helping teachers with timing practice runs and keeping the kids in line for the most part. It's pretty fun, and the kids really get into it. I also would like to get a hiking club off the ground after school and use this to do an exchange with my friend Kahri's class back in Danville, IA. Perhaps our kids can teach each other about the different plants and animals in our respective areas.

One other fun project that will be starting up is a hiking club for boys with a fellow PCV in St. Pauls, just a few villages away. We are asking the teachers to select 2 of the best boys in their respective classes to go on an hour-long hike every other Wednesday.

There was a time during the winter break where I felt like I wasn't doing much, but now that school has started again I am feeling like I'm actually helping out with something. I mean, that's what I'm doing here anyways, right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

I don't even know where to begin...

So, new rule. I can't go as long as 7 weeks without posting something new, because otherwise there is just too much to talk about. I like to keep these manageable, but this will be full of some random things.

First, my projects: Things are and will be picking up after the New Year here. I've bee scanning thousands of pictures from sporting events in the early 90's in the National Archives to put on the website. Also, a committee will be established in the office that will be dealing with the actual content and layout of it. In addition to this I want to hold a training seminar in the next 6 months or so for all the coaches that teaches them how to incorporate life skills training with their time with the kids. Other items on the agenda include designing an e-newsletter, observing some sports practices, and I also must get over to the Save Our Sons residential home in Sandy Point. I hear they could use some serious assistance.

And now, some random pictures:

I pass this sign almost every day on my way to the gym. This is my favorite thing to see every day, I'm not sure why. 

Now, I know calf meat is called veal. But what about piglet meat? Can we call it "baby bacon?" 

This is a high school football game. The kids in blue are from Saddlers Secondary (my school), while the white is Washington Archibald High School. This field is pretty much right across the street from my apartment. I love my neighborhood. 

Black Rocks, cooled lava flows about 1 km from my place. 

There is a pool of water by the shoreline
arms wide open, trying to keep
every last droplet of water
within her grasp
but the children slip through her fingers
as she squeezes tighter, gasping for help.
Were it not for the waves
she would be a bone-dry exoskeleton
imagining herself immortal,
she greets each new crash 
with a smile
But the replenishing soul of the water
will grind her to dust 
in time
and yet
she knows otherwise. 

This is not all there is to be told, but I'll write again sooner than 7 weeks from now. I promise. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

40 Day Dream

I was having a bad week last week for whatever reason. Reality was setting in and I was actually feeling a little homesick for the first time since being here. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be doing at my worksite or my school attachment and was getting a little frustrated at myself for various reasons. The 40-minute bus rides to and from town were starting to get annoying, not being able to buy more than a few items at a time because I had to carry them back in the bus was getting to me, and the heat was just pushing me over the edge. Monday was our swearing-in ceremony, which made things that much more permanent. On Thursday I went on a run to get my mind straight and clear all of these thoughts out of my head. When I was almost home and running by the ball courts by my apartment, I was stopped by a boy that I have gotten to know named QuShawn (at least, that's how I picture it spelled). He wanted to listen to my music, so I scrolled to the song at the top of my post, 40-Day Dream by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, knowing that he definitely hadn't heard anything like it before. He walked with me back to my home, humming along to the song with a smile on his face.  And for some reason, that's all I needed to get out of my funk and back on track.

Like I said, Monday we were sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers, which elicited a variety of emotions from myself. I was happy to finally be done with training, and on the broader scheme of things it was the culmination of over a years' worth of work, starting with the application process. It has definitely been an exciting trip so far, and the thought that it is now just beginning is a great feeling.

I have had the good fortune of also meeting some amazing people in the past 2 months, both volunteers and locals. We've all had the opportunity to do some great things, from taking a catamaran/snorkeling trip to participating and being "baptized" into the local Hash House Harriers. Also, karaoke. Locals love karaoke. And their song choices are really not too adventurous, but it's pretty amusing as to the choices of some classic songs. (Check out examples of these classics Here and Here, I have not gone a day without hearing either of these two gems that make me feel like I'm trapped in a prom from 1992. Seriously, where are the puffy-sleeved dresses?) I broke the mold by dropping a little David Bowie knowledge on the locals, but I got a lot of strange looks halfway through Space Oddity

Really, as you can see, we are working hard. This is on-the-clock integration time shown above, on our catamaran trip. Things haven't really been so bad. One reason the Caribbean is great for being in the Peace Corps is that, as a volunteer, you're expected to go through some lows as well as highs. And how low can things really get if you're in the Caribbean? Honestly... 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Island of National Holidays

It has just been a whirlwind of activity lately on the island, so I can finally sit down to write about it.

Last Thursday was National Heroes' Day in St. Kitts, so we all received a day of vacation. My host mom and sister, along with Cristie (the Anthropologist-turned-volunteer) went down to Frigate Bay and the Strip to spend a day on the beach. It was great, although the beach itself wasn't all that I expected. The Strip is a series of tiki hut-style bars and snackettes that line the beach for about a half mile, so I am told that it is a much more happening place in the evenings. However, it was quite good to get some sun and actually get into the ocean for the first time since arriving. My side of the island is a very rocky coastline, so swimming areas are scarce. There are no busses that go down to the tourist areas, so you have to either get a ride from someone or walk to the nicer beaches. Or, you can always hitchhike, but I will save that for braver days.

On Saturday our Assistant Peace Corps Director (APCD) took our training class on a field trip/cultural day at Brimstone Hill Fortress. It's known as the Gibraltar of the West Indies, and is quite an impressive structure at the top of a hill that overlooks one whole side of the island. You can also see the islands of St. Eustatius and Saba easily from the top.

THEN... this weekend was Independence Day in St. Kitts and Nevis. So, guess what? Another free day for vacation on Monday. We attended a military parade at Warner Park in the capitol Monday morning. Now, this isn't like a standard parade. It is essentially sitting in a cricket stadium and watching military drills being performed with the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Governor General in attendance. It was pretty interesting, but thankfully rather brief. It was something to see though, and yet another opportunity to do something in the community.

Monday evening was the Governor General's Ball, which my host mom is invited to every year. It is strictly a tie and jacket affair, so I ended up borrowing a jacket from my host dad. And, since the jacket was black and I don't have a pair of black pants to match it, I ended up borrowing his pants as well. The event itself was attended by all members of the cabinet and the prime minister. I saw and spoke with several of the ministers, and even got a chance to shake the hand and speak with the Prime Minister Dr. Douglas himself.

The holidays were a fun time of the year, but I felt like they interfered with time I could have spent either at my school or at my worksite. I am getting acquainted with the island and community as a whole, but I need some time now to figure out my place within my work environment. I have been feeling a bit impatient lately to be cut loose, even though I am not entirely sure what I will be doing once that happens. Still getting myself to adjust to the laid back atmosphere of the island...

I have found a great running road in my neighborhood that goes out into the countryside towards the middle of the island. Of course, in St. Kitts, going towards the middle of the island automatically means having a steady incline. Being at the base of Mt. Liamiagua, Saddlers is no different. It is quite a workout, but I tell myself the run is only uphill half of the way. Going home is all downhill at least. Plus, about a mile up the road the view can't be beat. I can see all the way up the island to Dieppe Bay and St. Pauls. There is just something about running towards a dormant volcano.

Good news as well for people who keep telling me to post pictures. My mom has sent me a battery charger for my camera, so expect some pictures in a couple of weeks. Of course, I don't know how much justice a camera can do here. This is truly a place that has to be seen to be believed. But on that note, I think I am catching a cold, so it is time for me to get a little bit of sleep.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Natuuuuure... Goulet

Well then, I have finally made it to St. Kitts and have been here for exactly one week. It has been quite busy since my arrival, but I have been getting along pretty well since I've landed. My host family is fantastic and has been keeping me well-fed with the local cuisine. Some of the foods I have had include potfish, saltfish, dasheen, breadfruit, plantains, green banana, starfruit, guava, and plenty of chicken. A note on the potfish: this is usually fried with the head and eyes still attached, so I have never experienced a staring contest between myself and my food until now. It is delicious once you get passed the guilt trip the fish lays on you. My mom's name is Armel and I think knows everyone on the island. She is very friendly and does my laundry even when I insist I do it. Her husband is Heston, and he works on the sightseeing train that uses the old sugarcane tracks. He is very talkative and loves to go on walks and hikes. I'm hoping he'll take me up Mt. Liamiagua (which we live right under) and down to Black Rocks one of these days. They have a 13-year old daughter who attends the same school that I will be attached to for at least the next 6 months, so it is very nice to see a friendly face in the classrooms. 

Speaking of my school attachment, I am currently working at Saddlers Secondary, which is the newest school on the island. They are more or less a pilot school, focusing more on giving the students hands-on experience and less "chalk and talk," as they refer to it. The students have mandatory after-school programs to attend that I hope to become involved with as the weeks go by. During training each of us has to come up with a service learning project with a group of youth, and currently I am working out a small program to improve the aesthetics of the school. As it is a new school, a lot of the walls are bare and there are no flowers or trees nearby. I'm hoping a quick project will be for the students to design some posters with positive school-related themes. 

Yesterday I visited my work site for the first time, which is the Department of Sport. The offices are located at Wagner Park, which is a big complex with a cricket field, football pitch, netball and basketball courts, and tennis courts as well. I will be focusing on designing a website for the department (good luck, me) as well as helping out with their after-school programs. Their idea for me is to run some more fun and games-type activities, especially ones that increase coordination and overall fitness. I will repeat that - I will be running activities focused on coordination and fitness. So, a lanky 6'2" pasty white (transparent, even) guy who couldn't run a 10k will be in charge of these two areas. Oh, and designing a website. Time to get on my jazzercise and html classes, preferably at the same time.

The town that I live in is called Saddlers, which is almost on the opposite side of the island. I take "busses" to get to the capitol for training and my worksite. These busses are simply 15-passenger vans that travel at very high speeds on the winding and very pothole-friendly roads. Trust me, it only bothers you the first time. After you learn that it doesn't matter how tightly you shut your eyes that they will still scare the crap out of you, you tend to figure out why everybody is so religious. 

Things overall have been pretty exciting since arriving. I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I guess if it was going to be easy they wouldn't need us. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, but it is in a good way. It is definitely something that I have missed feeling for a long time, a sense that there is real work to be done and I can't just idly sit by anymore.