A moment like this, where I get to be at home long enough to write for you, is rare these days. I am cherishing this day so much that I almost put off writing for another day at least! I'll attempt to give you a short but entertaining catch-up of these last few weeks, although I should say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to relate interesting stuff since life here seems ever more normal…
Recent Peace Corps Stuff:
School is out for the "summer" so I am using my school days to work on lesson plans for the life skills group that I will be working with in the primary school next term. I am making my lesson plans from scratch using various materials from the Peace Corps office and the Internet, which I am so thankful to have. The principal from my school will be joining me for a training session provided by the Peace Corps about life skills. I am hoping that this will be a helpful and informative time.
Since school is out, my work at the Red Cross is even less structured. Most of the Red Cross youth are a part of youth groups in the schools, so they will not be meeting again until next term. My days there are never the same. Some days I help edit a co-worker's poetry and others I end up at random camps helping with arts and crafts. I have been discussing with my counterpart the possibility of doing individual group work with the school groups next term; perhaps HIV/AIDS education curriculums or peer education. I am trying to be patient and let things develop as they may, which is easier said then done.
"Summer" is a good time to take advantage of opportunities to experience other activities implemented by other Volunteers to help me get ideas and whatnot. So, last week I participated in Camp Lajwa (Kweyol for "Joy"), a camp for persons with disabilities. The first day we spent at Pigeon Island with disabled persons from the northern part of the island. A separate camp was held for the south. The second day the whole island came together at the stadium near Vieux Fort. It was really neat to see the kids smiling. Some of them never really get out because of the lack of resources here. It was obvious that they enjoyed having something that was set up just for them and spending time with people who cared for and loved them. These moments remind me why this is worth it…
Last week I was able to hike Gros Piton with a few of my friends from the hiking group, Escapades. One of them is a teacher and he set up the trip for a few of his students and fellow teachers. I just tagged along with a few others. Gros Piton is the second tallest mountain on St. Lucia at 2,619 feet above sea level. It is located just south of Soufriere, which is about an hour's drive from Castries. The trail is moderate at the beginning, but quickly turns into a pretty grueling and rocky stair climb. Having not hiked in about 5 months I had to take it slow, but it was so refreshing to be surrounded by beauty and pushing myself to the max. The view from the top was incredible. There are two views: one of the southern part of the island and another of Petit Piton. Both Petit Piton and Gros Piton are volcanic mountains; they are tall, steep, and pointy. The hike down, though faster and "easier" was just as hard on my knees and leg muscles as the hike up, but it was all worth it. Just at the end of the trail one of the guys helped me get a fresh mango from a massive mango tree. It was a nice little snack to finish the day. Some of you who followed my Egypt adventures may enjoy the pictures from my Gros Piton hike.
After hiking I went straight to steel pan practice. These past few weeks we have had practice quite a bit to prepare for the "Pan Fiesta" which happened on Friday of this week. It is part of the build up to Carnival. Normally they have something called Panorama in which all the pan groups actually compete, but there was some sort of controversy that kept it from happening this year. Thankfully the Pan Fiesta was not a competition, which meant that we were able to play with the group even though we've only been playing for a couple of months. We were the third orchestra to play and we played three songs including Thriller (of course). Off-and-on rain caused us to finish playing and carrying our drums off the field by about midnight at which point it down poured. Soaked and tired I headed home with a few other volunteers and we graciously accepted a ride from the brother of one of the kids who came to camp Lajwa!
The Ups and Downs
The ups and downs continue to come, although I am adjusting to the idea that this is how it will be. Just about five months in and I think I am finally feeling comfortable. The anxiety of all the newness and unexpected stuff is calming down and life is beginning to feel normal. The cramped busses and crazy driving are routine and the 15 Eastern Caribbean Dollar cereal box somehow doesn't seem so bad anymore. Sometimes I still reflect on the fact that I did something this crazy, but I am glad that I did. There is much to be learned through this experience however hard it may be.
As always I would love to hear from all of you… seriously ;)