Friday, March 13, 2009

Catching up

I can't quite remember when I wrote last so pardon me if I repeat anything!

Training is still running us wild. This week we did sessions in the Peace Corps office on Monday. On Tuesday I got to visit a primary (elementary) school and observe some classes. On Wednesday I was back at the Red Cross. And on Thursday I shadowed a lady who runs a center for young troubled girls.

It's been a crazy week. Doing new things and meeting new people and stepping out of comfort zones everyday causes a certain amount of anxiety. I'm trying to get used to it. I have enjoyed the week though. Our opportunities to go out and experience different organizations in the community really helps us get a feel for the culture and get an understanding of the areas where people would like to see improvement.

My visit with the school was really interesting. I enjoyed meeting the principal and getting a feel for her vision for the school. She is an incredible lady. She allowed me to shadow their remedial teacher for a while and I also sat in on a kindergarten class and grade 6 class. At first I was nervous because I have heard a lot of talk about the use of corporal punishment in schools here in St. Lucia, but I was relieved and impressed to find that this school only uses it as a last resort and even then with discretion. I expected the system to be rigid and strict, but it seemed pretty close to what I might find in the U.S. (maybe even a little less strict). I got the sense that the teachers and staff were doing the best they could with what they've got and they are doing a pretty good job of it, too. I, however, was quite the distraction to the students. I got many looks and "good morning miss's" and even hugs from all the kindergarteners. I'm quite sure it is very unusual to have a white person inside the walls of their school. The children were very sweet.

My day at the Red Cross was pretty uneventful. There isn't much I can get involved with yet because I can't devote more than one day a week or every other week. So, I'm sort of waiting until after I officially swear in as a Volunteer. Then I will be able to arrange my own schedule and get involved in more stuff there.

The girls' center that I visited on Thursday was fantastic. Girls are referred there by teachers or parents for acting out. The programs at this center are essentially "school" for these girls for however many years it takes them to turn around. They learn life skills, cooking, gardening, sewing, arts and crafts, and they go through counseling. I was able to talk to some of the girls and ask them questions. I could tell some of them didn't want to be there, but they were learning things anyway. The director hopes to make it a residential facility one day (when they get funding), but as of now the girls come and go every day.

Other interesting facts about the last few days: I learned that there is an area in Castries where many Syrians live and own shops. Apparently it is the place to get good deals because they like to bargain! Ha! Who would've thunk I could use Arabic in the Eastern Caribbean!! It makes me wich I'd brought my notebook and dictionary! I've also been learning about the many festivals that St. Lucia has. Jazz festival is coming up, then Carnival, and then Kweyol… so it looks like I will get to experience some good cultural stuff here soon! I wish I could go into more detail, but there are too many. St. Lucians like to celebrate J.

Well, today marks the end of week 3! I can hardly believe it's already been that long. Us trainees are trying to plan an outing this weekend so that we can finally see the beach! They've kept us so busy we haven't even seen one yet. I got close enough to hear the waves the other day and that's it! So hopefully we will get to relax a bit this weekend and enjoy the salt and wind.

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