Monday, March 15, 2010

I've Got the Hang of This


Last weekend we held an expo to show what Peace Corps is all about. Although Peace Corps has been in St. Lucia for almost 50 years, many St. Lucians do not have a good understanding of the role of Volunteers in the community. The goal of our expo was to give St. Lucians an idea of what kinds of things we do and how we work with host country nationals. Within the first 5 minutes it was apparent that the schedule could be thrown out the window, as usual in the Caribbean. The media showed up and took up the first hour of events. Being experienced Peace Corps Volunteers we adjusted well. We managed to fit almost everything in throughout the day.

Our displays included volunteer and staff bios, a map of the world and where Peace Corps serves, a US map showing where all our volunteers are from, a table of American "stuff," HIV/AIDS information, pamphlets on how to request a volunteer, an interactive timeline, etc. etc. We also had various events going on throughout the day such as: American and Peace Corps trivia, healthy lifestyles trivia, chess games, disability awareness activities, life skills crafts, and dancing (the chicken dance). We also served hotdogs, chips, and soda. The visitors really seemed to enjoy the day. I was in charge of the trivia and I also did the HIV/AIDS display. The trivia went over really well. It was enjoyed by adults and kids alike.

The whole event was a big success. We got a lot of media coverage and attendance was great. The food was especially a hit. Some of my Red Cross kids even showed up and stayed for almost half the day. It was great to see community participation and support.


This past week I received a visitor!! My cousin came to spend her spring break with me. She brought with her a few special items for me: nutella and olive oil—the essentials—as well as a collection of 10 chess sets and a chess teaching board (donated by my grandmother). We visited a few beaches of course, but the real highlight of the week for me was when we took the chess materials to my school attachment. I arranged for a special chess game in which one of our volunteers played 10 games at once. There were two kids to each board, plus a few backups hanging around behind. The kids put up a real strong fight, but the volunteer beat all of them. It was really neat to see the kids work together and think through the games. Some of them were really entertaining. The principal and chess teacher were very excited to receive the materials and to see how the kids performed in the event. It was exciting for me to see what started as a suggestion and one chessboard turn into a full-fledged program with 40 kids really excited about chess. I don't know all that much about chess, but I know a think or two about pulling a program together. I'm thankful as a development worker to be able to see even a little bit of the impact I have made, however small it may be.

My cousin and I also visited Pigeon Island in the north to explore the old bunkers and canons… and the beach. On Friday to wrap it up we traveled south to see the famous Pitons and visit the sulfur springs and a waterfall. It felt good to be able to share my life here with someone close to me. I feel as if someone else gets it now, at least in a more personal way. Updates can only do so much J. We had a great time together and I miss her already!

Truly Integrated

I am sure my readers remember some of the awkward and almost painful social integration experiences I have described in the past. It is with great pride and excitement that I present to you the following story:

Before: Almost a year ago when I got Internet I had to describe to the company how to find my apartment. St. Lucia has no road names or house numbers. I did my best to explain, and I even drew a map, figuring this was the fail-safe way to give directions. When the day finally came, the truck drove by my road multiple times. The company called me 3 times to connect me with the driver of the truck so that he could find me. I finally walked out to the road and said, "I'm the only white lady standing on the side of the road. You can't miss me." I then led the truck by foot to my gate.

After: This weekend I had to call a taxi to my place to pickup my cousin and I to go to the airport for her flight. When he asked for directions I gave him a few short sentences in my best Lucian terminology and hoped for the best. Saturday morning, 5:45, the taxi rolls straight up to my road and stops on a dime. The driver steps out and says, "those were really good directions!"

And this my friends is what one year will do…