I've been telling myself I need to write for almost a month now... and now there is too much to tell. So I'll just give you some short snippets of the ups and downs of the past few weeks.
Up: Met some U.S. navy guys off a ship docked in the Castries bay. The chaplain went to Clemson and was from upstate South Carolina. He knew where I went to high school and even my favorite barbeque place. His accent was perfect and made me grin from ear to ear... a nice little touch from home.
Down: Homesickness has really crept up on me. Friendships here are nice, but nothing compared to the friends I left behind. I want everyone to know that I appreciate even the smallest most mundane emails from home (the good and the bad). It makes me feel important and loved to still be included in the happenings of life back home. Don't let my emails fool you into thinking that everything is hunky dory down here. Life here has the same (if not more) frustrations as any life anywhere... and that requires love and support from friends and fam.
Up: I've been playing more with the steel pan group. We are learning new songs and getting to know the band members more. I'm improving with each practice and I always enjoy playing. Smiling and having fun and making music has been a great break from some of the stresses I face everyday.
Down: English may be the language of choice, but basic communications and interactions here can sometimes bring about misunderstandings and frustrations. Often I feel that my skills and experience are inadequate and unneeded, causing me to question the reason for my being here. Those thoughts can be kind of depressing.
Up: I got to go to a beach party with the mothers and fathers groups from my community. The women cooked some seriously delicious St. Lucian dishes over the fire. Old toothless ladies got jiggy with it African style around some old handmade drums (it was awesome). The beach we visited was really neat and had all sorts of rock formations and areas to explore. This included an archaeological dig that was happening right at the end of the beach. I got to see some uncovered skeletons (old graves), talk to the volunteers about what they were looking for, and talk to archaeologists about all the stuff you can learn from looking at dirt! I also got to hit my volleyball around with some of the kids from my community.
Down: The blatant sexuality of this culture continues to shock me everyday. It seems that many locals are under the impression that American girls are loose and party crazy. It's disconcerting to have men come up to you without even introducing themselves and ask you if you want to go to bed with them. Sometimes it makes me angry, but I don't know whether to be angry at the naïveté of the culture or at Hollywood, because they get this idea from American television. There is no question as to why HIV/AIDS is such a big issue down here. In contrast, this causes men who don't stare at you, who actually seem interested in you as a person (not a sexual object), and who can carry on an appropriate conversation seem 10 times more attractive.
Up: I met up with a group that goes hiking and exploring on Sundays. We got to go on a tour through a huge plantation. I really enjoyed their company and being able to share my love of nature. This group may be my saving grace as far as being a wholesome, healthy, and non-party atmosphere that I can relate with.
Up: I cooked pumpkin this week for the first time in my life. I made pumpkin bread and it turned out amazing. This was encouraging since my pita bread from last week turned out more like hockey pucks. It was also fun to share pumpkin bread with my landlord, neighbors, and hiking buddies... none of them had ever tried it before.
Up: I spoke to the principal at my primary school about maybe doing some kind of healthy lifestyles after school program with a few kids. She seemed really excited. Hopefully this will turn out to be a positive interaction for both the kids and me. :)
Up: I purchased Skype credit and have been calling friends from home, which has been really uplifting. If you want to be able to talk to me for free you can download Skype. It's a free program that works like a phone but through your computer. It's free to talk to people from computer to computer and if you have webcams you can see each other. If you ever get a call from an unavailable number on your cell or home phone, you can probably assume that it's me so pick up!
Down: I miss the river and my river buddies. Nothing beats spending the summer outside, doing something you love, with people you love.
Up: I labeled almost everything in my apartment with Kweyol words and phrases. I'm hoping to learn more of this language so that I can understand those talking around me everyday. :)
I also thought it would be fun to share with y'all some of the common St. Lucian phrases... what I guess I should call part of their English dialect.
-Going by the beach or to stay by someone = you are going to the beach or staying with someone
-Awa = a version of the word "no"
-How is me-uh? = Why me? or Why are you doing that to me?
-For true = for real
-Liming = Hanging out
-I'm there = I'm ok or good
-Just now = in a little bit or Just a minute
-Eh Eeeh (pronounced like the long 'a' sound) = kind of like uh-oh or Oh my goodness, it can be used in response to almost anything
-Walk with your lunch = Bring your lunch with you
Well, just a little update for you. Until next time...