Travels in Bananaland
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Tales from Bananaland, September 2002

My past escapades for your entertainment/education/edification. Enjoy.

28 Sept., 2002
hiking in the rainforest

this weekend i went on my first hiking trip in the rainforest, to a waterfall outside the town of Saltibus on the southern end of the island. I went as part of the monthly membership outing with the National Trust (where I work), so there was a group of about 30 of us. The hike was about 2 miles in and the trail was "moderately challenging" with lots of ups and downs on a slippery, muddy trail. We took about an hour to arrive at the waterfall, which was about 50 ft, with a deep pool and another 30ft drop below, with four cascading pools. we dove and swam from the waterfall and it was a good time.this weekend i move to my new place, phone # TBA soon. Yesterday i got it all officially approved, with the understanding that they will install burglar bars on my bedroom windows. went on my first grocery shopping trip--forgot how expensive that first trip can be with all the household supplies. went with another nearby volunteer and we got a taxi back from the store with all of our loot. cleotha is busy on sat so i'm hoping Spencer, the Trust's driver, will help me move. especially if i bribe him with beer. more update when that happens. i can think of little else.

28 Sept., 2002
2 new pictures

Check out the 2 new pictures I put in the photos section. These are 2 photos from the goodbye party in Babonneau back in August. You can get a good look at my new hair!

Also, I've written 2 other journal entries in addition to this one, but didn't get to post them until just now, so please read them below...

26 Sept., 2002
I survived Lili

I dont know if any of you noticed the news about tropical storm Lili in the weather reports amongst tales of Isidore smashing up the Yucatan, but if you did, I made it through unscathed. If you didn't hear, Lili was a tropical storm that came through the windward islands (of which St. Lucia is one, previously known as the Lesser Antilles) Sunday night--Tuesday. I woke Monday to news that schools were cancelled and a call from our lead volunteer that I should stay available and wait for further news after the Prime Minister addressed the nation on the radio. His talk was delayed, so meanwhile I just stayed home and hung out. The weather got worse, and finally the PM told businesses to close at 11:30, so I didn't go to work. Thankfully we didn't get the call to go to our safe houses (the next step in the emergency plan) but the volunteers in Grenada and St. Vincent apparently did. So I took a nap and later when Cleotha and Cynthia came home we watched movies, as the cable has been out since last week for some reason. (This kind of thing happens often here--when I first got to Corinth, the water was out for 2 weeks) So we waited it out, occasionally going outside to watch the wind batter the banana trees in the back and in neighboring yards. We were worried one of the coconut trees would fall and crash into a neighbor's house, but the only casualties were a few banana plants. The storm continued over night but by morning it had passed us and moved on towards the DR and Haiti, and they say it may be a hurricane by the time it reaches Cuba. The worst result that happened to me was that I slipped on my bedroom's wet tile floor when I ran to close the window, and smashed my ribcage into the wooden bed frame. I'll be feeling that bruise for weeks. Yowza.

And Im in love!! Not with a person but with my new apartment. I found it last week--a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom place with a kitchen and an eating/relaxing area and a balcony. Cable TV (and the TV itself), water and electric are included, and there's a washing machine. Here's the best part: the front windows and balcony area face the sea and the Castries waterfront. It's lovely, especially at sunset. The apartment is on the bottom floor of a house, and there is a one-bedroom next door, where apparently a local student lives (local meaning she's Lucian, not foreign). It should be quite safe and very quiet, despite how near it is to the main highway, which means there are busses available every day (some areas don't have bus service on Sundays), and I'm 10 minutes from the hotels and clubs in Rodney Bay/Gros Islet area, and 10-20 minutes (depending on traffic) from Castries. The driver for the Trust lives north of there, and he drives past on his way to and from work, so hopefully most days I can get rides with Spencer and save money on transport--another plus (which justifies the fact that I'm paying a little more than I wanted to for the apartment.) Back to the place: the guest bedroom has two twin beds, so I have plenty of room for guests. It's fully furnished, though sadly lacking a couch (just two chairs), and there is even a fancy electric teakettle, which I love. Now I'll just be pining for a blender so that I can make yummy local juices (electronics are expensive here!)

I work in an office at a largely government-funded NGO by the airport and the harbor. I ride to work in morning rush hour, and spend the majority of the day in one office or another, (but occasionally getting to take a trip to one of the sites) usually at a computer. We have phones, scanners, fax machines, a web site and a copier. Nothing ever works right when you need it to. Everyone is always running around frantic because we're short-staffed. It's just like a nonprofit back home. Then I leave, getting a ride in rush hour traffic in the agency van. I get home around 5:30 unless we stop somewhere for happy hour. It gets dark at 6, so sometimes if there's time I go for a run or walk if I didn't go that morning. Then most nights, I eat, read, maybe watch TV or a movie. I try to keep up with the news at home and the local news at least a few days a week. I'm usually in bed by 10 (especially if I get up at 6 to run, as I am trying to do regularly). Not too exciting, but I suppose quite privileged by Peace Corps standards. I mean, I may not do much, but there are options nearby, and electricity, running water, and even cable TV in my bedroom, even! Right now, except for the annoyance of not having transportation, I'm living at a higher standard than I have for the last few years of living paycheck-to-paycheck in Seattle. So sometimes I wonder, WHY AM I HERE? They said I would, and I do. But there are moments, and I just need to notice them, seek them out, and pay attention. Late last week I went running up in the hills one morning (same road/trail where I saw the tarantula previously) and I saw two young boys standing naked at a public water tap (standpipe), dumping buckets of water on each other for their bath, as their houses don't have running water. I took a mental picture as a I ran past, because it's moments like this that help me remember why I'm here, and why I'm needed. On the surface, and especially in the city, this place is so much like home, but once you start digging and traveling to more rural areas the differences are obvious. One-room wooden shacks with tin roofs that are barely standing but have a TV with cable and a big stereo with bass-thumping speakers. Open drains running past the street, filled with litter running out to the harbor when it rains. Kids that have never even left their own area of this tiny island, let alone seen any other part of the world. An antiquated school system that makes kids wear hot uniforms in a tropical climate and memorise counties in England, though most of them will never go there. I have to remind myself of all of this so that I don't forget why I'm here. I try to seek out ways to make changes in my life so that it's different, so that I remember. One day when I was walking past the airport (my office is parallel to the highway but on the other side of the airport, and a pain to get to so I get dumped off at the roundabout and walk), I decided instead of walking on the street to walk on the beach. I got to work hot and covered in sand, but much happier than on my usual sweaty trek. After all, if I have to go to work, I'd much rather get there walking along a white sandy beach with crystal blue water, stopping to look for sea glass, than just about any other way. So it's not all bad.

All in all, I'd say that life here is strange. I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet. But I'm working on it, and now at least I have some friends from work to take me out for drinks. It's going to be a while till I really feel like I belong here, but it's happening slowly. I can't wait till people come to visit and I can show it all off. Maybe then it will sink in that I really get to live here for 2 years. (100 more weeks, actually, but who's counting?)

Yesterday I got a package from mom, with books and some shorts and tank tops (hooray!) and other assorted treats. That made up for all the crappy weather this week. I'm looking forward to a package from my sister and Jamie soon too, so my birthday is spreading itself out--all the better.

18 Sept., 2002
Another week

Well, I finally got out somewhere this weekend--not partying, but out nonetheless. After the disaster that was Friday the 13th, I came home and Cleotha made us both some vodka and ginger beer and we complained about our terrible days. It continued to rain all night, and we both crashed early after a long week and a bad day. Saturday it was sunny at last, and after a week of setting my alarm early to run each day and then turning it off because it was raining yet again, I got to go for a short run up in the hills. Not as far as the tarantula this time because I had to be at Doris's house to get a taxi to Laborie at 8 am. We had our volunteer meeting (they happen once a month and alternate north and south) at 10 am so those of us in the north got a taxi instead of all piling in public transport--it costs only a bit more, and we can get reimbursed for the expense. Comfort is worth a few extra dollars for such a long ride on those narrow, potholed, curvy roads.

The meeting at Renee's was chaotic but went fine, and we all had lunch afterwards down the street at Clint's apartment. He lives right by the sea in a really nice place, and had some local fishermen catch and prepare lobster, pasta, avocado, Creole bread and sea urchin--a very bizarre and interesting thing to eat. (they make it almost like twice-baked potatoes) Then we had planned a walk on the beach or swim, but it began to rain and pretty much rained for the rest of the day and night. Everyone else left, and Lauren and I stayed at Renee's as planned. My original plan was to stay overnight for the fun, but also because there was a hike for the National Trust the next day, but the hike was postponed due to the rain and mud on the trail, but I decided to stay over anyway, just for something to do. I'm so glad I did--getting away did wonders for my sanity.

That night we made pizza and salad and had some beers, and we just hung out talking, looking at pictures, taking turns goofing off with Renee's guitar, and playing with her cat, Judah. A mellow night with thunderstorms outside. The next morning it was clear and partly sunny, so we had pancakes and then headed over to Clint's. We went on a hike with one of the local boys (I forget his name right now) along the beach and cliffs for a few miles. The views were stunning, and I got to try sea grapes, collect some really beautiful seeds (that I will use for some sort of craft or decoration later) and pick fresh guavas. I wanted a coconut to drink, but we ran out of time, as I had to catch a bus to Vieux Fort and then up to Castries. But first, we went swimming on a black-sand beach. Because of the rain, the current was strong and there were pretty sizable waves, which was exciting because the sea is usually so calm. So we bodysurfed for a while, and then a storm came. We were several miles out in the middle of nowhere, so we put our clothes under a rock ledge and continued to swim through the storm (no lightning). My bus ride back was long, hot and terribly cramped (I was in the middle of the back seat of a 15-seat van, with 4 of us to the seat and my backpack on my lap), but thankfully I had a book to read to distract me from my misery.

When I got home, I went to the airport with Cleotha to pick up her mother who has finally returned from being gone 6 weeks in England and St. Kitts (taking care of her other daughter's kids). It was a pretty quiet night, as usual.

This week has been rather eventful, as I've already begun to get immersed in some work, despite being on a 3-month integration plan where I purposely meet people, tour sites and don't work, but it's been ok. Monday I spent the day at Pigeon Island, which is beautiful, but ended up in a brainstorming session all day with the marketing people instead of touring the park, so I have to go back next week for an actual tour. I also had to frantically write an article for a newspaper insert this weekend (if they use it) on a Global Movement for Children launch event happening soon--the meeting that I went to on Friday. Yesterday was again spent in front of the computer. Ive gotten the newsletter ready to go, and it looks pretty good. Thankfully, the layout template had already been done (I despise layout) so I only had to tweak it a little bit, but there were some really annoying Microsoft problems--getting the text to wrap around the picture correctly took 4 of us and more than 5 hours. (it was not user error) I left incredibly frustrated, but ended up going to the Wharf, a beachside bar (I have a pic of sunset from there posted) with 2 for 1 happy hour, with the driver after he dropped everyone else off. He's quite keen on going out--he limes nearly every day of the week. One of his friends joined us, and we ended up having 3 rounds, so I got home at about 7:30 and Cleotha made fun of me for being a lush all night. It greatly improved my mood though--both the beer and the actual going out. Both yesterday and today I went for a short run before work, so I feel like I'm getting in a good pattern. Now all I need to do is get back to visiting sites and away from the computer at work, and find a place to live and life will be great.

I got a copy of our group photo from swearing in that was in this past weekend's newspaper. I look horrible and fat, but am sending it home to Mom anyway. The photos were taken on Lauren's digital camera so eventually I'll get one and put it up and explain who everyone is that I've been talking about. Hopefully if my fitness kick keeps up I can add some non-fat pictures as well and have a proper before and after. Which leads me to the topic of food.

Someone (I think it was my mom) asked what I've been eating. I mentioned earlier that I was being fed grotesque amounts of food. That was certainly true in Babonneau, but has gotten slightly better, but only a slightly reduced amount of carbohydrates. The official national dish of St. Lucia is saltfish and ground provisions, I think, which consists of a dried and bony salty fish imported from England (I realize that it makes little sense to have an imported food as your national dish, but there you go) served with breadfuit, plantains, yams, potatoes, dasheenall of it steamed and in my opinion rather flavorless. Chicken, either fried, in coconut curry sauce or a spicy Creole sauce, is also quite common as is dolphinfish or red snapper or kingfish. Traditionally the fish or chicken is served with the ground provision that I mentioned--all those starchy veggies--plus rice and often macaroni and cheese. Often the whole affair is served with lentils (called peas) and coleslaw--carrots and cabbage grated together. This is what I ate nearly every evening in Babonneau, in addition to breakfast, 2 snacks and lunch. I tried to skip whatever I could, but there was really no escaping it. Thankfully running and walking saved me from gaining any additional weight. Where I live now we eat a pared down version of that--only 1 or 2 starches per meal, except on Sundays or at parties or something. Still, though, she cooks enough food for 3 and then serves me a portion for 2. I try to get out of it and bring the rest for lunch the next day, which has been working. She cooks fresh and relatively healthy though, and it's an improvement. I've also gotten her to put less sugar in the fresh juice when she makes it, and I eat only fruit or toast for breakfast. I'm anxious to get out on my own and be able to cook for myself and get back to my normal habits. On the whole though, food here is fairly good. There's not a lot of variety in the typical diet, and too much starch. Imported foods are available, though a bit more expensive, but there is a decent variety. I've even found some health food stores that stock the natural brands I used in Seattle, though fairly pricey. Yay, spelt cereal and bread! Soy foods are available, but not a lot of rice things (except regular rice). I want to try and make my own rice milk or almond milk, but I can't find any rice noodles here. I would kill for some Pad Thai. (Theres a Thai restaurant here, but it's fairly pricey. I do hope to go someday, but it certainly won't be a regular occurance. The Indian and Chinese restaurants seem to be more reasonable, but I haven't been to them yet either.)

On a different topic, I've heard of several named tropical storms which are all hitting north of here and no danger to St. Lucia--I think they're on letter J or beyond now and that makes me very happy. I can handle rain, but I just dont want to experience a hurricane. I hope it continues this way. Once we all get in our new places, I know we'll have some drills of our emergency action plan--using our phone tree to check in, getting to a safe house, even to the point of getting to the airport to be evacuated--at some point. I'm not looking forward to it, but I understand why we need to. They've gotten even more particular about it since Sept. 11. I'm glad I wasn't here for it last year when they got escorted to the airport by armed police and then told it wasn't real. Whew.

I've been getting more emails from people and I'm told I have some mail at the office. Some birthday packages are on their way, I hope. Once I get settled, I've got a list of small things I'm missing or wish I had. If anyone has the desire to send me anything, let me know. I'll post the list here, but you can email me too. Happy Wednesday.

13 Sept., 2002 part II

Two of the volunteers here have digital cameras. I've taken 7 rolls of film myself and not developed them yet because I dont know if it's cheaper to send them home for developing or do it here. But I've finally gotten a few photos from Lauren. Most are fairly self-explanatory, but I didnt explain about La Rose yet. It's pretty confusing but there are two societies that have parades each year, La Rose on Aug 30, and it's more of the common people. it's rowdy and goofy and people wear red, celebrate the rose, (patron st. rose of lima is who it's supposedly for, but the roots go back deeper to african celebrations. it's really a medley of influences in one event) There are kings and queens of the rose crowned, and people dress up as police and nurses, and they hang sweets but if people take them they can be "arrested" by the parade police and have to pay $.25. You can also be arrested for wearing blue, not dancing--any number of things. People will pretend to faint, and the nurses will come to revive them with the scent of a rose. It's all part of the act. They play traditional african instruments, dance clockwise in a circe and sing songs in Kweyol. Every so often, someone yells, "Viv la Woz!" andeveryone repeats it back. It's wacky but fun. The competing festival is La Magritte (patron saint Margaret something or other) for which the color is blue, and the flower, I guess, is a Magritte. I don't know what that is. More on that when I find out in October.

There are a few photos of me in there, none very good, but you can see my new wig. It's much nicer than my last one (and again, human hair) and closer to my natural color, but I'm still not thrilled with it because I hate the bangs. I've tried to come to peace with them, but try as I might, they make me look 12 years old and it's just not a flattering look. But it's what I've got and it's holding up well so far. It sure is hot to wear a wig when it's 90 degrees and humid...

It's been rainy (it being the rainy season, this is expected, but it's rained for the last 26 hours or so which is unusual--usually they're just short bursts of rain and then sun. this feels like seattle, but hot), but things are good. I have to give a better explanation of my organization and my job, but that will have to happen another time. The quest for an apartment that's decent, close to transportation, in a safe area, convenient to my job and most of all affordable continues. wish me luck!

13 Sept., 2002

Bonnapwemidi! (Good afternoon, in Kweyol). Made it through my first week of work. 2 weeks down, 102 more to go. For some reason, thinking about it in weeks seems much more manageable than a larger and more abstract 2 years.

I just went to a committee meeting for a UNICEF sponsored (and Nelson Mandela inspired) new initiative called Global Movement for Children, representing the Trust. First, I walked over there and got lost and after asking several people, finally got there. The building has no sign, but luckily there were people out front who told me I was in the right place. Unluckily, they were outside because we were locked out. Someone forgot that the meeting was happening. Yes, welcome to the Caribbean, where no one seems to know what anyone else is doing. Half hour later, when I was nearly drenched with sweat, we got to go inside. It was ok except that nobody really seemed to care too much that i was there-i felt like they looked upon me like a child. they took a brief moment to give me an outline of what was going on, but not much effort to catch me up. There's a big event to launch this thing that they're planning in two weeks, and so mostly I listened, until they got to the part where they were going to release balloons. One of the 10 tenets of the GMC is "protect the environment for the children" so I mentioned that it was a bad idea to release balloons, since we're so close to the sea, where they will land and be eaten by marine animals, especially turtles (who are just finishing up their egg-laying season) that will choke and die. They all looked at me with daggers, because without the balloons (they said) there is no "pizazz" to the celebration, nothing special to officially "launch" it. I suggested candles but it's daytime. No one could think of any better suggestions, so they basically sat there and made ridiculous ideas and then rejected them based on the other tenets. For instance, we could shoot a cannon, but that would go against protecting children from violence. Made me feel really great. I wasn't planning to speak at the meeting, but I had to for that--I couldn't just sit there as a rep of the Trust and let them plan an environmentally irresponsible celebration. So I guess it's my job to rain on people's parades from here on out... Anyone have any ideas for what they could do instead? (keeping in mind bright sunlight and a small budget) I'm thinking bubbles, but I'm not sure how...

Maybe I should talk more about the Trust. Jamie called the other night (yay, phone calls that are actually for me!) and had lots of questions, so I guess I haven't explained it well. The Trust is essentially their version of the Parks Department, and like Valley Forge, Gettysburg and similar places, in addition to protecting natural and beautiful spaces and creating parkland and sustainable interactions with nature, they also have a component to preserving the country's heritage (along with other partnering organziations). Sustainable tourism based on cultural heritage is a big thing here right now, which is different than "Eco-tourism" which really has nothing Eco about it because it uses natural resources but doesn't work to preserve them. This is about preserving and presenting history in a way that doesn't harm or tax resources. I'm officially the Program Officer for Education, so I'll be doing a summer camp for kids, starting a youth club, editing the newsletter, etc etc etc. I think I could easily work my butt off and still never be close to completing my job description. So much for secondary projects, although you never know. I've spoken to my former supervisor at Literacy Volunteers (in Delaware) when I was an AmeriCorps VISTA and she's sending down some tutoring manuals, so that some of the education volunteers and I can begin adult tutoring programs here. Literacy is a big issue, as schools continue students on to a certain level regardless of whether they can read. They later take a big exam to see if they continue on in school or learn a trade (basically the British school system). Much of the things Peace Corps is here to assist with are a result of problems in the education system: small business assistance, health education (the influence of the Catholic Church prevents teaching about condoms in a region with the second highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world), special education, environmental education--none of these, or sports, or the arts, are really done (or done much) in school. Hence the Peace Corps being in the E. Caribbean for more than 30 years.

As far as the environment goes, St. Lucians seem to have very little sense of cultural pride in their own places and history. Preserving that heritage is a new phenomena, and one the Trust is a part of, as it manages many of the parks and protected areas on the mainland and small islands offshore, protecting land, historical landmarks and even endangered species. (There is a species of lizard that only lives on Maria Island off the East coast.) I blame it on a history of slavery and colonialism--the country is only recently independent and hasn't yet internalized the lessons and pride of independence, partly because of failure to do so and partly due to negative influences from the US and Europe (a kid-sister mentality also likened to having champagne taste on a beer budget.) Given all of that plus hard economic times in general and in particular as of late (The two biggest moneymakers here are bananas and tourism, which decreased because of the world economic depresson and then problems due to trade subsidy reductions due to WTO and the ability of Ecuador to produce bananas cheaper and then 9/11 last year made tourism worse), the environment is not particularly on people's minds. Plus there is not a great general knowledge of the problems or even easy solutions. Thats my job--to educate people, primarily kids but adults too. I have my work cut out for me, but I'm excited. I'm the first Peace Corps, at least in recent years, to do this (with the Trust at least). I have basically carte blanche to do what I can. I have a lot of ideas, and I hope I can get at least some of them done.

So it's pouring, I just got mocked and disliked at the first meeting I've ever been to, and I'm soaking wet from the walk back to the Peace Corps office (it's in the same neighborhood.) It's been raining so hard for the last two days that the drains are full and the streets are starting to flood in some places. I had to walk ankle deep in water on one road.

I took this afternoon off to go look at apartments but haven't gotten the calls back that I needed to go look. I have an appointment at 4 and at 5:30. I want to go to sleep--maybe I'll just crash on the couch in the PCV lounge. Friday the 13th was meant for staying in bed, I think. It's been one of those days.

The good news, though, is that my Mom is sending a package. And, my Mom's cousin, Ann and her husband Dave and their son Cameron are coming to Castries for a day in early December on a cruise through the region. The same one my mom and John did last year. So they'll be my first visitors, and I'm already excitedly planning a trip through the market and deciding which beach to take them to. It will give me a good excuse to crash more resort areas :)

If anyone sees any books or magazines or even articles online relating to kids and activities to teach them about the environment, please consider sending them on. Things like that are hard to come by here. I guess that's where comes in, but shipping is so expensive!

Well, it's the weekend and I finally have some plans. No more sitting around with Cleotha, hoping and praying she'll take me out somewhere, and ending up watching another DVD with her or another bad HBO movie with spanish subtitles in my room (yes, it's latin american hbo and cinemax here). Or go out with the old people and have them make me nuts. They're sweet, nice people, but I can only handle small quantities of them. A friend of Cleotha's has been supposed to take me out for two weekends in a row now and it keeps falling through. Ditto for plans with a girl I know from Babonneau. But this weekend will be different--Saturday morning we have a volunteer meeting at Renee's (one of the EC 68 volunteers) house in Laborie, a small fishing town in the South. All of us from the north are hiring a taxi and going down. After the meeting we're having lunch at Clint's (another EC 68) which is supposedly going to be lobster since he knows some fishermen. Lauren and Caroline and I are going to stay over at Renee's on Sat night, and then a bunch of us are going on a hike nearby with the National Trust to the Saltibus waterfall. I'll get a ride back up north with the Trust afterwards. Tonight I have potential plans to maybe get a drink with some people from the Trust after work. The problem is that since I took the afternoon off from work, I have to find out where they'll be. So we'll see how that works out. At this point I'm so thrilled to have the rest of the weekend planned I don't care. With the weather so nasty I'd be content to go to bed. Maybe I'll go out to celebrate my new apartment though. I hope I find something soon--time is running short.

10 Sept., 2002
Day 2

Good Morning. It's my second day of work today. Saturday I got sworn in officially as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was a nice little ceremony, my host mom and neighbor and the exec director of the agency where I work were all there. We recited a poem (The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost) and sang a calypso we wrote about what it's like to be white here but not a tourist. It's cute. Thankfully we had a lot of help because our Associate PC Director was at one time crowned the Calypso monarch at Carnival. His name is Mike but his calypsonian name is Mighty Mighty. So we had his help and the help of a more recent monarch, called Bachelor, in writing and cleaning up our song.

Last week I had a pleasant surprise--I got back from the beach and took a shower and when I was drying off I discovered that I had small lower eyelashes growing in. Also, I discovered hair earlier that week on my pinky fingers and the middle finger of my left hand. Bizarre, but a seemingly good omen. The eyelashes are the first hair that I've grown that I would call useful. Now if only the top ones (which are more useful) and the eyebrows would catch on to the trend, I'd be quite happy. One day at a time. Something here seems to be agreeing with me.

My job is going to keep me quite busy I think. There's a heritage tourism display this week at city hall and it opens this morning--we spent most of yesterday preparing the display and getting it up at the last minute. I worked an hour late on the first day. I think that's an omen of what's to come--I doubt there will be much in the way of a secondary project in my future, with the job description they gave me. My title is Education Officer. Quite fancy. In the first few months I'll be visiting all the trust sites and meeting with staff there, learning about them and what they do, as well as meeting with partner agencies to find out whats going on in the field. I'll be working on a committee to increase use of their archives and document center (with an archivist, which helps), working to reinstate the environmental youth clubs which have fallen by the wayside, working to edit the newsletter which used to come out quarterly but hasn't come out at all in over a year, but now will supposedly be coming out monthly(!!!). Plus going on hikes with members, working with the marketing director on a campaign to get the business community to use their campground, Anse La Liberte (the only campground in the English-speaking Caribbean, I'm told), for a retreat center, and working on team-building type exercises for that. Plus working with schools to institute environmental curricula, and working on a summer camp (and managing it when it happens) as well as the walk for the environment, Earth Day, and maybe updating their website a bit. Whew. The office itself is in an old building in sort of a fancy area just outside of town called Vigie. It's literally right behind the airport, so from the back we can watch planes on the runway--loud. And the French and Dutch (I think) embassies are right down the street. Our Country Director, Earl's house is nearby too, and it's very swank. I keep teasing him that I'm moving in.

So work will keep me busy. But right now my primary concern is to find a place to live--I have 3 weeks to get something and then begin the bureaucratic mess that is connecting the phone and electric and trying to get the fees decreased because I'm just a poor PCV. I want to live north of the city, between Castries and Pigeon Point (one of the Trusts protected areasthe park where we had our picnic during training phase 1) because it's nice and there's lots of stuff to do nearby, the bus line (1A) runs every day, even holidays, and the Trust driver can pick me up and bring me home when he brings employees to Pigeon Point so that would save me money on transport. Which is good because I'll need it--housing is expensive all along there. Sort of near the area where I'm living now, but hopefully not as far back off the main road (right now I'm in a neighborhood about a mile off the main highway, tucked back in the hills where the dog barks echo through the valley in chorus and wake me, like clockwork, 15 minutes before my alarm). One of the volunteers found a great place already, right where I want to be. She has a patio overlooking the sea, and a completely furnished place right on the bus line, and it's part of a house so it's safer because there's someone else around--exactly what I want. And she got it for $650, I think. Hopefully the same luck will happen to me.

I'm an hour early today because that's when I could get a ride. It gives me a chance to type this and hopefully get on the one computer with internet access today and post it.One thing I haven't talked about yet: on the West coast where I am, you can see Martinique on a clear day (which is most days), as its only about 18 miles away or something. On the East coast, you can see St. Vincent. It's really cool, and makes me feel less trapped in a tiny place. As Tom and Mary, the older couple (also volunteers) say often, this whole country is the same size and population of the county in Michigan that theyre from.

Speaking of Michigan, one of our group (Alan, a guy from Michigan who was getting his MBA in California) already left. He was the only younger guy PCV in St. Lucia. And then there were 9 (there are 4 people from the group ahead of us--more than half of their group left early--and one from the previous year who extended.) So far he's the only one of the larger group who's left that I know of, so now there are 50 members of EC 69.

Onto a totally different subject: Spiders. Sunday morning I went for a walk/run up in the hills (these are some serious hills on seriously overgrown, rutted dirt roads in hot, humid sun) and on my way back I saw a tarantula in the road. Being terrified of spiders as I am, I quickly went past. Then, fascinated, I went back and stared for a while. The big, hairy spider was wrestling with a big blue dragonfly-like insect--truly a battle for death. For a brief moment I was rapt, mesmerized by the Discovery Channel moment that I was seeing live before me. And then I realized: one of these guys is going to win and eat the other. And I will have nightmares about it for years. So I went on, still seeing hairy critters in every shadow I passed. But then I came upon a fluffy black and white puppy that licked me and jumped all over me. We played for a few minutes and I felt like calm was restored to my universe. I want to get a dog here so badly, for safety and for a companion. I really feel like that will help me get through. A cat would be a better idea if I wasn't allergic, but a dog wouldn't be so bad. I'd have to get shots and everything, and then deal with whether or not to take it with me when I leave. An interesting dilemma, but one I will face once I know whether I can have pets where I live. Cost and location are the main deciding factors but ideally I'd like a dog and a garden. Who needs a social life when youve got that?

I know I sounded sort of down in my last few entries and I was, but not in a terribly bad way. Just sort of a phase that I'm sure I'll go through many times again, especially when I first move out into my new place and I'm truly alone. I was feeling lonely adjusting to not really going out or doing anything, which will change over time, but adjusting to no one to talk to will be just as shocking. But for now, I've become content with my quiet life as it is and I have work to adjust to and an apartment to find. I'll take the next phase when it comes. I only have 103 weeks left here--one down. It sounds long, but even 103 doesnt seem like that much when you break it down. I feel like it will go by quite quickly, especially if I keep getting mail, email and hopefully soon, calls and visits. Sunday after the beach, another volunteer (Doris) and the woman she lives with (Grace) and I crashed the pool at the Royal St. Lucian hotel. Very swank--I think it's one of the most expensive ones. It was really nice to be in a pool and to rinse off the sticky seawater and sand. We had a beer at the pool bar, one of the ones where the stools are in the pool, and my Guiness was $10 EC! Outrageous, but worth it for the pool I suppose. I'll try to keep hotel crashing and see what I can find for anyone who wants to stay in a hotel if they visit. I know that one of them (probably many) have a sort of unlimited day pass where you pay a fee and can eat and drink and do all kinds of watersports and use the beach and pool all day. I definitely want to check that out when someone visits. Plus my host father from Babonneau is the watersports manager at one of the Sandals resorts (there are 3) here and he said he could take me out snorkeling. So hopefully that will happen sometime soon too. And there's a party boat that leaves Castries and sails down to Soufriere for the day and back--sort of a booze cruise and it's not too expensive. One of the other volunteers went with her host dad a week ago or so. The Trust has a member activity every month I think so I have lots of hikes to look forward to as well. My friend Jill (in the Peace Corps in Gambia) told me that having things to look forward to, even way in advance and even if they may not happen, really helps, and she's right. So Sarah, take that as a hint that I'm really looking forward to your visit at Christmas. Or anyone else who wants to come too. After December, and except for late June when I'll be home for my sisters wedding, my schedule is wide open for visitors. Hopefully I'll have an accommodating apartment for you.

Well its 9 am and work is starting, so that's it for today. Hope September is treating you all well.

2 Sept., 2002
Sandy and sunburned

I have three days of freedom left before the real work begins. Today and tomorrow I have very little in the way of training assignments, so I plan to lime as much as possible. I spent a few hours at the beach, and slept late, read most of a Tom Robbins book I got from the PC library. Tomorrow will be more of the same if the weather holds and I'm not too sunburned. Two other times recently I've tried to go to the beach it's rained. Good old tropical storm Dolly. It's been extra hot and extra rainy here, but nothing more severe. I hope it stays that way.

Wed. I go back to Cubaril, the convent, for the last bit of training and then Swearing In on Saturday, when I become an official PCV. Starting Monday we go to work, but there's a 3 month period of integration where we get into the swing of things, but don't necessarily really do work. I'll be doing lots of traveling around the island to parks and the like, which will be fun. On the 15th, there's a membership hike to a waterfall down south. I think I'll definitely like my job in that respect. On the other hand, yesterday I went on a so-called "membership drive" where the membership secretary sat in back of the van with her walkman on, no one knew where we were stopping or what we were doing, we didn't have enough brochures, and half the towns we went into were nearly empty, because it was sunday. i left at 9 am and didnt get home till 5. a colossal waste of time, though i did meet some nice people, including one of the other volunteers from last year and a new japanese volunteer who teaches math in Canaries. Hopefully my whole job won't be like that.Today on the beach I met some guys, or rather they decided to come meet me. One said he was a mechanic, and the other one said he was a juggler. I thought that was strange, so I asked what he juggles, and he said "marijuana. cocaine. you understand?" i said yes, and that was the end of that conversation. PC narcotics policy is so strict that we can get kicked out for even associating with known unsavory types, so I'm paranoid. They did show off a bit and climb a coconut tree and share some of the meat of a dry one with me and let me have some of the water from a green one. I'm still not a fan of it, though I drink it because it's rumored to be good for the immune system. Maybe that's the source of my bizarre new growth. Bizarre or not, I'm excited about it and hope it continues.

well, happy labor day everyone. it's weird that i'm not celebrating it here, except for the fact that i have off, i guess. today was the first day of school, so i should get going and catch a bus home before the madness of rush hour. i'll be back in civilazation sometime next week i hope--i have to share a computer at work, so i dont expect to have much email access there, but we'll see. have a good week!

If you would like to read my journal entries from July through August 2002, click here.