Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Taste of Everything

These past two weeks have left me exhausted. So much so that I just spent today resting and cleaning. Let's see if I can catch y'all up.

Two weeks ago I met with a group of students and volunteers at the Red Cross for the purpose of electing a youth committee executive. This will be the team with which I will work with the most… at least that's what I understand. As my counterpart was out for the week, I did my best to lead the meeting. Participation in the meeting was a little low, so it turned out that the five eligible persons present became my five committee executives. I'm hoping that they will turn out to have the time and the passion to do some cool stuff with the youth programs at the Red Cross.

Last weekend I went to the beach to relax, swim, and play some volleyball, which turned out to be a great way to release some stress and energy. And I got to go to steel pan practice, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I discovered that the band with which I practice makes their own drumsticks, and, in fact, sells drumsticks to many other bands on the island. I've been trying to get a pair of my own for a couple weeks now (because we are supposed to have our own), and they are going to make me some soon. Unfortunately, we don't have practice for the next two Saturdays L… so I will just have to wait. Anyway, our teacher was telling us about the upcoming Carnival (Caribbean festival). Apparently during carnival there is an event called panorama during which all the steel pan bands compete. There is a lot of rivalry between bands, so I am looking forward to the show!

Sunday afternoon my community hosted a swearing-in ceremony for the new community council. My landlord's brother and my host dad are both on the council. The ceremony was very interesting. They had a local band playing folk music and they had a community folk dance group perform cultural dances in fancy dresses and everything. Part of the program included a government representative who gave a long-winded speech about all the changes that will be happening in the community. It is the second biggest community in St. Lucia and is its own district now. So there are plans being set in motion for things like a fire station and police station, lighting for some of the playing courts, a new cemetery, etc. I noticed as I watched each person come up to give a speech or make an announcement that it is customary here to make sure everyone is greeted at the beginning of whatever you have to say. So if I were asked to speak at such an important event, I would individually address all important persons, saying their position and name (even if I don't know how to pronounce it), then I might address individual groups, and finally I might acknowledge the general public, the ladies, and the gentlemen. This can be quite a long list if there are a lot of important people at this important event. Even if the speaker only has a short speech, they must go through this process. Thus, you may find yourself sitting a little longer than expected at said ceremonies.

Tuesday night a fellow volunteer and I went to the practice of the dance group that performed in the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday. The younger group practices on Tuesdays and we thought it would be a fun cultural experience. The dancing is, as my mom puts it, "very 'British' or almost 'western square' with a calypso flair!" I guess St. Lucia's history of being 7 times French and 7 times British and finally ending up with the British has impacted their culture. St. Lucians also have an obsession with country music and line dancing… which I don't understand. St. Lucia is really a melting pot of British, French, and African cultures… with American line dancing thrown in there just for kicks and giggles. Anyway, we spent part of the time watching the group practice before two of the guys came over and suavely bowed and asked us to dance. We learned several different steps including a waltz. Despite my aversion to and lack of talent for dancing, I enjoyed the evening.

Wednesday I found myself representing the Red Cross at Youth Parliament. I guess it sorta relates to the idea of a mock government or mock trial in the states, but in this case it isn't necessarily mock. The bills that are discussed are actually presented to the government. This year's youth parliament was different in that they had youth representatives from each area of the Island. They were between 14 and 35 years of age. Just like the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, there were a lot of formalities involved in the process of conducting the parliament including a big wooden stick, robes, bowing, lots of standing and sitting, saying aye or no, and banging on the tables. The bills discussed had to do with what consequences are appropriate for parents whose children are not going school and whether requiring community service for graduation from secondary school is appropriate. Each youth came with a prepared speech and they got intense at times. I was impressed with some of the younger ones; they really gave their opinions rather decidedly, sometimes evoking a cautionary warning from the Speaker. Overall they seemed very eager to point out the faults of the government.

Thursday I joined the Disaster Preparedness Director from the Red Cross in making a visit to Soufriere (southern part of the Island). We went to visit a school that is starting up a Red Cross youth group. I took them the leader materials and did my best to explain the program. It was encouraging to see teachers who are eager to be involved.

Friday I explored my culinary side once again and successfully made tortillas, refried beans, and even a salsa of sorts. My last batch of tortillas were more like crackers, so it was exciting to get it right this time. I'm really enjoying learning to cook. I think I may try making my own yogurt soon, but first I need to collect some jars… guess I'm having lots of jam this week.

And this weekend I finally got to go snorkeling. Really I just visited another volunteer for the day. She lives near a beach and I just took my mask and snorkel just in case I might see some fish. But we ended up seeing some coral, sea urchins, fish, and even some sand dollars. I think we spent nearly two hours just combing the ocean floor. I'm pretty sure I got stung by sea lice while I was out there, and I accidentally kicked a piece of coral and got a giant scratch on my leg, but other than that I came out unscathed. After swimming around we returned to her house to eat vegetarian spaghetti (with soya chunks… which actually tasted good!), play games, and watch movies. We stayed late which led me to discover (thankfully) that busses run up to my house even way late at night. It's nice to know that I have some freedom to go out in the evenings and still find my way home! Also, my bus driver on the way home is part of a group that does excursions all over the island. They go hiking, snorkeling, bird watching, turtle watching, and all sorts of stuff. He knew several other volunteers from these trips and gave me his card so that I can join them on future trips! J

And now it's back to work again… the continuous cycle. This week could prove to be exciting. I don't know if I mentioned it in any earlier updates, but the teachers in St. Lucia have been going on and off strike because of an issue with their pay from the government. It has not been resolved yet, and there has been talk lately of the teachers going on strike for the rest of term three!! This will affect both my school attachment and my work with the youth groups at the Red Cross. Not to mention the fact that many kids will miss out on very important education. So, keep that situation in your prayers. The teachers need more respect and the students need an education!

Well, that's all for now folks! As always, I love hearing from y'all and I miss everyone bunches!!

Enjoy your week!

1 comment:

  1. Katherine- I just discovered your blog, and I am so glad I did! Our lives came crashing together here in St Lucia when you arrived in late February, joining Scott and me, and a bunch of other volunteers who had arrived about 6 months earlier. Now you are a neighbor! I really enjoyed your description of your bus ride into Casties and your walk through the town. Thank you for doing all the describing for me! I will share your blog with my friends back home, because I could never describe the sights and sounds and smells as well as you have.
    I think you are going to be (already BEING) a fantastic Peace Corps volunteer. Your story about time-delayed homesickness was SO TRUE!!!!