Sunday, October 18, 2009

7.5 months, Crazy bus, Sushi, Chocolate Chips, Crowds, Ships

I got on a bus one afternoon with my backpack and grocery sack full of stuff, sat, and waited for it to fill. As soon as all the seats were full the bus driver hopped in, and we were off down the increasingly pot-holed road that leads up into the hills where I live. I rested my chin on my backpack as the bus jerked and swerved and groaned over all the bumps and came to abrupt halts to let people off and on. I watched, but was not phased, as he stopped so that the man in the front left could run across the road and collect his gas tank from the gas station and later as another woman in front right ran across the road to pick up her child from day care. No one blinked; they just kept staring out the windows, chatting in Patois, or listening to music on their phones and ipods. I smiled to myself. I was imagining the chaos and violence that would erupt if such a thing were ever to happen on, say, a New York City bus, "Hey driver, stop for a moment, I gotta pick up my kid." … I daresay the comments that would follow would be quite explosive.


Last month I was invited over to a Japanese volunteer's apartment for dinner. There were about 5 Japanese volunteers there and 4 Peace Corps volunteers. They made a whole spread of Japanese food and we sat around eating with chopsticks and enjoying light conversation. Most of the Japanese volunteers speak English very well, but it can still be hard to catch everything they say. We did manage to understand each other enough to see that we face a lot of the same struggles and challenges. It was neat to see that even though we come from different cultures we can still share in a common experience.


It is amazing what kinds of things become comforts when you are far away from everything you know. I never thought I would adjust enough to pay $46 for a bag of chocolate chips, but yes indeed I did. I have also progressed from paying $9 for average corn flakes to $11.99 for IGA's version of golden grahams (or even $29 for a bulk box of lucky charms!). I have even splurged on a $20 bucket of ice cream. Recently I made the switch from powdered milk to boxed milk. It's still nothing like fresh carton milk but it's close enough that I can have a glass of it with my best attempt at homemade chocolate chip cookies. It's also nice not to have to mix my milk anymore.


A few Mondays ago was a Lucian Holiday, Thanksgiving I believe. I heard a rumor that the zip line tourist attraction in my community was to be free for locals on said holiday. So I headed out there with a few other Peace Corps Volunteers and some local friends. We arrived a little late so we didn't quite beat the crowds. We took our place in the back of a wide, semi-long line of people and we waited…. for 2.5 hours. As noon rolled around and the hot sun was beating down from overhead, the impatience of the crowded line grew to a breaking point. Now, the zip line experience begins with a sky tram through the forest canopy, which can only hold about 8 people at a time, and it only goes so fast. So really, there is no way to rush the process, no reason to push or pack it in like sardines. But that didn't seem to matter to the cranky people in the "line" that suddenly began to take the shape of a blob as people started to push their way forward to "speed" the process. Our group had been waiting patiently in the middle for quite a while when people began to shift, slide, and push up behind us… and then around us… and then in front of us. We were so crowded that we were dripping with sweat. The people on either side of us began to fight with each other, blaming the other side as the one messing up the line and claiming their "right" as "line violators" that they should go next. We sat in the middle, confused, dismayed, and quite frustrated with the lack of "respect" for the line… Americans are so into the "line" thing… you don't break the line code… you just don't. It's a line, and it works this way, and that is just how it goes, right?

Eventually, a small group of children were pushed up against us from behind. They must have been from a rural community because they were quite fascinated with us white folk. We could tell because they kept staring at us and smiling real big. And then they began to pet the soft hair on our arms like we were some kind of exotic creatures. It was about this time that our patience grew thin, and we gave up on the whole experience. We had come to a standstill and the "line violators" were the only ones getting through. We shoved our way out of the blob and gasped in some cool, fresh air. When we looked back we saw that the "line" had burgeoned outward and packed itself in so much that it no longer even resembled anything organized. It looked kinda like the last 2 pieces of food in the world were right behind that gate and people were desperately trying to get the only remaining sustenance, which made it necessary to fight, and push, and suffocate small children to get it. I mean, free ride on a zip line guys, it will kill you if you don't get one, so act now! Sometimes being American gets the better of you when it comes to patience in these things…


There is a mission organization called Operation Mobilization which has two boats that sail all around the world visiting ports and doing all sorts of different ministry activities onboard and on land. While in college I used to hear speakers and recruiters talk about OM and these ships. Well one of the ships, the Logos Hope, is in the Castries port this week! Pretty random!? We met a few of the workers and they got us some visitors' passes and gave us a tour and even let us have dinner with them! (feed a Peace Corps Volunteer and we love you). There are 45 different nationalities on board all serving together for a common goal. They get to visit ports all over the place, so they get a ton of cross-cultural interaction. One of the main things that the ship does is a giant book fair that offers cheap books. Books in St. Lucia are terribly expensive, so people save up a lot of money for when the Logos comes and then they buy tons of books. I bought a few myself and thoroughly enjoyed just being in a big book store.

It was really need to sit and talk with our new friends and share our cross-cultural experiences and struggles. We come from different places and do such different things but the struggles seem to be almost universal. Never thought I'd be hanging out with some Logos missionaries while serving in the Peace Corps in St. Lucia…


As always, I appreciate all the support and love I get from all of you. I always love getting emails and I love to hear what's on your heart.

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