Here's a day that deserves going down in the books! If you know me, you know that I'm a very open person. So this is my brutally honest account of what turned out to be a pretty embarrassing day.
It started off pretty good. I got to sleep in this morning… which means I woke up at 7 instead of 6. I took a shower and I dressed in casual clothes because I didn't have to go to training or work today. My host mom made me a great breakfast and I worked a little bit on some homework and getting myself organized for the next week of training.
At 10:15 I met the other trainee in my area to catch a bus up the road. Today was a consolidation drill day. Consolidation means we gather at different safe houses; it is a procedure for different types of emergencies such as hurricanes or political unrest. We found the place just fine. Our safe house is with a couple that has been here for about six months. One of the other trainees are also in our safe house group. We had a very enjoyable morning/afternoon. We did a lot of chatting and sharing of stories and backgrounds.
After talking for a long while the two trainees and I caught a bus half way to town to go to a coffee shop so we could get on the Internet. We stayed at the coffee shop for quite a while catching up on emails and chatting with friends. It was relaxing to spend some independent time. The other trainees headed home before me. I debated going home, but I had been invited to a meeting with the Red Cross at 7:00. Not wanting to pay bus fare both ways, I decided I would just hang out at the coffee shop until it was time to go to the meeting. I was slightly worried about not being able to tell my host family where I was (wish I had that cell phone!), but I asked one of the others to call them to at least let them know where I was and that I was ok. So I stayed, figuring I'd need about 30 minutes to walk to the Red Cross.
Well! I was wrong! And I also forgot that it gets dark at 6. I was so engrossed in a computer chat with my brother that I didn't even notice it getting dark outside. When I set out at 6:30 I was feeling rather dumb for not remembering that. I briefly thought about just taking a bus, but again my stubbornness kicked in and I decided walking was cheaper. Twenty minutes into my walk, I realized I had majorly underestimated the distance I needed to cover. I quickly realized that I was going to be late… late to one of my first chances to make a good impression at my new work site… ugh! Again I considered the bus, but by this time I was walking on the opposite side of the road and it was a difficult one to cross… not to mention, I didn't know how long I'd have to wait for the bus. So I trudged on.
I arrived just over 15 minutes late. Of course, they had not started yet (island time), but that was of no comfort to me because I immediately realized that everyone there was dressed very nicely. Suits! And dresses! And let's just be honest, I was wearing jeans, a plain long sleeve shirt, and chacos… oh and let's not forget that my jeans were rolled up (which I fixed immediately). I was suddenly feeling like I would be very happy if I could find a hole somewhere where I could tuck my head and forget what was going on. I awkwardly apologized for being late… and sorta apologized to one lady on the side for being so underdressed. She said, "no worries" and led me to the room where everyone was meeting. I sat in the back with my head down. To further my embarrassment, there were 2 or 3 people taking pictures of everyone and everything going on. And!! A video camera! Great right??
It turns out that the ceremony was for National Intervention Volunteers that have completed a long series of training classes to be a part of a disaster relief team. It was sort of like a graduation and it was very formal (in my opinion). There were even guests from the American Red Cross.
Honestly if I had been in the states I would have left… but I was catching a ride home with someone there, so disappearing was not an option unless I wanted to go walking in the dark again. So I tried to keep my head low… even though I was pointed out twice during the ceremony as "our new Peace Corps" volunteer.
Despite my discomfort, it really was an interesting program. I spoke to some of the speakers from the Red Cross and one of them was a previous Peace Corps Volunteer. Apparently the volunteers that "graduated" will be working with me some. So I was glad to be there in some ways. They definitely welcomed me despite my appearance. Afterwards I apologized to the lady I will be working with, telling her that I'm still getting used to being St. Lucian. She was so forgiving and I'm so thankful for that!
My ride home was quite enjoyable and when I got home I found that my host mom knew where I was and that I was ok. So everything was fine. In fact, after all my embarrassment, I think it made me more able to just open up.
I found myself saying this little prayer in my head… Give me the grace to not dwell on my mistakes and fill my new friends with enough grace to bear with me as I adjust!
Oh and by the way, to my complete horror, the event was aired on the local news, which I saw later at my host family's house. I held my breath as I watched the brief coverage. Luckily I didn't make the cut!