Just over a month ago I was able to visit home for Christmas! I was so excited to see family that I could barely sit still through the five-hour flight and then I had to stand through customs!! Finally, though, I made it to the Atlanta airport baggage claim where I got 4 long awaited bear hugs from Mom, Dad, Tom and Tim. J There were many more bear hugs throughout the week as I met with tons of friends at a few different "homecoming" parties. I also managed to go skiing and get a much-welcomed day of SNOW!! For those of you who are cursing the cold weather… well, some of us miss it.
This Christmas, for me, was one of the most meaningful Christmas's I have ever had. When you are young you are more concerned about that latest toys or clothes, and sure, you love to give gifts to your family, but it is different. This Christmas all of our gifts had such meaning and thought behind them. And I was overwhelmed with stuff that has been incredibly useful to me back here in St. Lucia… such as new sheets that don't feel like sand paper… and books that will challenge me spiritually and intellectually. I felt so loved and so much like I belonged. I felt home and I was absolutely soaking up what family means to me. This was the first Christmas our little family of five has had together in South Carolina (we are usually in Michigan). It was also the first time our family had been to church as a family in… well we never could remember how long it had been. We had a lot of fun; the kind of fun that goes deep and touches your heart and that goes down in the memory files for years to come.
So, about 10 pounds heavier from casseroles, Christmas cookies, and some much missed Mexican and Waffle House, I returned to St. Lucia rejuvenated, filled with love and encouragement. I am just 24 days short of 1 full year here and I feel happy and things are going well!
Just 2 weeks ago I was assigned to help lead one of the Red Cross youth groups in a secondary school. We have been doing team-building activities and planning fund raisers and events for the next few terms. The group shows real potential and I am excited to see where it goes. I have also been doing presentations on preventing and caring for basic sports injuries and sudden illnesses at the same school. It has sparked more kids to get involved with Red Cross, so I hope the group grows. J
The work I am helping with at the primary school is where I really feel like things are moving. This week we started the 'decision-making' chapter of our life skills curriculum. The kids are very enthusiastic about life skills and couldn't wait to get started again. They really seem to get a lot out of the sessions. The youth and sports teacher at the school has also started a chess club. I helped get him a chess set from the National Community Foundation through another Peace Corps Volunteer. He already has 40 kids involved! Almost all of them attended some Chess workshops this past week. I created some makeshift chessboards out of my cereal boxes to help out, but they are going to need a lot more than that for 40 kids! I also spoke with the principal this week about the children's access to books. She said the need is great and we are talking about plans to get books into their library/resource center to encourage reading. Pleasure reading is almost unheard of here (literacy is very low as well)… it's actually almost discouraged, it's the boring thing to do. Often when I tell people I'm not much of a partier they retort with a "what do you like to do, read?" So, I've researched some ways of getting books here and I may be contacting some of you for help soon!
Since returning it seems I've gotten a creative bug. I managed to build two tables on my own. So now I have a desk and a table for the porch! My landlord was skeptical of my sawing skills when he handed me his saw. He peeked around the corner as I cut the first leg and then remarked, "I thought I was gonna have to do that for you." Eight cuts and many bent nails later I had two relatively sturdy tables (made from scrap wood and pallets). Add some cheap fabric and they look perty nice if I do say so myself. I also made a full set of Mexican dominoes out of cereal boxes and as I said earlier, 5 chess sets. I even made edible and tasty potato soup last week. I am really enjoying the creative juices especially with my limited resources. J
I am really excited for what this next year may bring. I can't believe almost a whole year has passed already. Time really flies.
Blessings on you all this year. As always I love to hear from you! I would also like to say thank you to all of you that I got to see while I was home. Each meeting meant so much to me, however short it was.