In the spirit of remaining positive I will catch you up on a few of the exciting things that have happened lately.
Recently I went through Instructor Training for CPR and First Aid. There were about 15 of us in the training and I was the only non-Lucian, so it was a lot of fun. Three teachers from different chapters of the American Red Cross came down just to do this training. They barely even had time to see more of St. Lucia than their hotel and the Red Cross building! On the last day some of the volunteers took them for a little trip down to Soufriere. Since the training, I have been doing a few classes here and there and teaching gives me a lot of insight into the culture and socio-economic issues of St. Lucia. In some cases I really wish I knew fluent Kweyol because some of the students would have a much easier time understanding me.
A couple weeks ago I was able to organize with Peace Corps to have a visiting Coast Guard crew come and help paint the Red Cross building. About 20 guys showed up and, with the help of a few Red Cross Volunteers and some girls from a local school, we knocked out almost the whole inside of the upper floor (main area). Everyone really seemed to enjoy the day and it helped the Red Cross a lot as this is usually a big expense. I laughed on one occasion when I walked around to check on everyone. I was munching on a piece of cake from the snack table that the director had prepared, and when I approached one small cluster of Coast Guard guys one of them said to me, "you know that cake had ants crawling all over it don't you?" The fact is I had NOT noticed, but I deal with little ants in my kitchen on a daily basis, so this seemed no big deal. I looked down at my cake and then shrugged my shoulders and said, "well, I kinda live with ants… they don't really hurt anything…" The guys looked at me like I was crazy, which confused me on several levels. I mean, they are just ants, and I guess I just figured that a few little ants wouldn't bother big tough Coast Guard guys… but then again, maybe I've just been in Peace Corps too long. Moving on…
The school term is just about to start so things should be getting busier. The hope is that I will be able to go around and do HIV/AIDS education and peer education training with some of the secondary school groups. It should be fun if it all comes together. I am also hoping to pull together a small group of kids to form a junior Red Cross youth committee. With this group I will be able to do leadership training, life skills training, HIV/AIDS training, project design and management training, and even proposal writing (if I can learn to do that myself). Some of our training and activities will depend on what the group really wants, but ideally we will plan some peer education projects for HIV/AIDS education amongst youth.
Also! I got in touch with the Upstate SC Red Cross chapter Youth Services Specialist. She has put together some materials to send to me that I might find useful for leading a Red Cross youth group. She is also excited to start up a correspondence between my group and hers. This should be a fun way to build cross-cultural awareness.
That's a lot of fluff to explain what I would like to see happen. Currently not much is happening but planning and brainstorming. From what I understand this is normal for Peace Corps at this stage… at least I hope so.
After going a month or so with only one beach visit and no hiking, I FINALLY hooked up with the hiking group again this past Sunday. The day began in the typical fashion with meeting time at 7:30am but actual departure occurring at 10:00 or later. We traveled down to an area called Saltibus, which is sorta in the middle of the southern part of St. Lucia. From there we hiked to an incredible waterfall that had several big drops into large, welcoming pools of cool water (by Lucian standards COLD water). We spent some time swimming around and jumping off the lower part of the rocks around the waterfall. I had a good laugh at the shivering Lucians that braved the frigid waters. The water felt so nice. I think that's the first freshwater swim I have had in maybe over half a year!
We reluctantly left the waterfalls, donned our packs, and headed for a nice sloshing-wet hike through and around some streams toward a community called Fond St. Jacques. We had to bushwhack a little bit before we came to some rural trails and farmland. A few random goats, cows, and pigs were dispersed amongst the land and they gave us some hearty hellos. We stopped for a break while the guys reigned in the better half of a guava tree to pick some snacks J. Finally, we emerged from the wilderness onto a small road where we continued to walk almost all the way to Soufriere. Our bus, of course, was late. So we made up games for an hour and a half while sheltering under a bus stand. Five minutes into the wild and curvy bus ride home we were all dozing off between swerves and bumps.
Can't wait for the next adventure! Nothing like the forest to make your stress seem a million miles away…
As always, prayer and support is much needed and appreciated. I love to hear from you!