Travels in Bananaland
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Tales from Bananaland, November 2002

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

29 Nov., 2002
Short and Sweet

A quick story: A second year Special Education volunteer was at a school recently, and several of the teachers were out, so she was asked to step in and take a class. As an education volunteer, she normally works with teachers to help improve curriculum and opportunities for special needs children, rather than direct teaching. This time, she made an exception. Many children here don't have an opportunity to actually meet white people--they see them in town from the Cruise ships, or at the beach--so they first wanted to touch her skin and hair, because it's different. After that, they had all sorts of questions. One child asked, "Miss, where do white people come from?" She saw someone raise his hand immediately. "I know, I know" he said. She called on him, and asked, "Ok, where do white people come from?" He answered, "The beach!", proud to know the answer.

I heard about that on the taxi ride to Thanksgiving yesterday and thought it told the story of what it's like to be a Peace Corps volunteer here pretty well. Plus, it's just funny, and sounds like it should be in Reader's Digest.

I moved today, and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Add that to the list of things to be grateful for. And one more thing: The opportunity to be here, doing this. I'm feeling thankful once again. Have a great weekend.

26Nov., 2002
Giving Thanks, early

Happy Thanksgiving to friends and family near and far. This year I've had more time than usual to reflect on my life and be grateful for the good things in my life. So in the spirit of the season, I want to share my list (a work in progress) with you.

I am grateful for many things, among them:
  • cards, letters, emails, packages, visits and calls from friends and family, because they keep me connected to my life in the US and remind me of who I am, where Ive been, and most importantly, that friends and family are the most important things in life
  • The opportunity to have travelled home recently to say a final goodbye to my grandfather and spend time with family and friends
  • The generosity of friends and family who have given me things that I wanted to make my life abroad a bit easier
  • Support and friendship from my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in the EC, and specifically in St. Lucia, because more than anyone else, they know what it is to be on this roller coaster of life here
  • Support from my fellow UW Peace Corps Masters students abroad and those still awaiting their posts, as well as my other classmates and professors
  • My new kitten Sebastian, who is as adorable as he is troublesome, and keeps me on my toes constantly
  • Beautiful Caribbean sunsets
  • Rainbows (they dont happen as often as sunsets, but pretty often)
  • Fans (Im so used to heat and fans that air conditioning makes me cold now!)
  • Bug spray (for both mosquitoes and cockroaches)
  • Sunscreen
  • The chorus of crickets, frogs, assorted other bugs, cows and roosters that sing me to sleep each night
  • A beautiful country with waterfalls, rainforest, mountains, beaches and the sea, all in one tiny package
  • Good books
  • Good music
  • Finally getting enough sleep on a consistent basis for the first time in years
  • The chance to teach about my culture and the reality of American life as well as to learn about other cultures worldwide, not just St. Lucian or Caribbean
  • The new hair sprouts that have appeared since Ive been here
  • A job that allows me to see some of the most beautiful areas all over the country
  • New friends
  • A job that will allow me to help people make their country a more beautiful place
  • Summer all year long
  • A slower pace of life
  • The opportunity to celebrate new holidays, while keeping old traditions with fellow Peace Corps volunteers
  • A slower life that allows me to look forward to future plans and savour good times, rather than taking things for granted because Im too busy to notice
  • Neighbours who greet me with good morning and good afternoon each day when I walk past
  • Friends, neighbours and colleagues who have shown me the sights, driven me around, and will still answer my never-ending questions and translate from Kwyl for me.
  • The opportunity to travel to St. Vincent for the New Year, and hopefully other travel opportunities in the region in the coming months
  • The opportunity to learn about new fields that I was never formally able to study (environmental education, conservation)
  • A chance to watch US foreign policy from another land and hear outsiders perspectives on it
  • The knowledge that I have PC staff to support me in the event of any sort of emergency
  • The fact that there is no U.S. embassy here in St. Luciathe closest one is in Barbados (for safety these days, it seems like a good thing)
  • New foods and new trees and flowers to taste and learn about
  • My adopted family from Babonneau who check up on me and invite me to family events
  • New trails to hike and mountains to climb (well, they call them mountains here, anyway)
  • Ex-pats from N. America and Europe who work here and are willing to buy PCVs drinks when they meet them out
  • E-mail access to stay in contact with the outside world. I cant imagine how lonely it must have been to be a PCV before the internet
  • A new apartment down the street that is almost as nice as the one I have now. A chance to make a fresh start.

26Nov., 2002

Things are looking up today. Yesterday my foul mood continued throughout the day, and when I got home all I wanted to do was speak with my Mom and sleep. Unfortunately, they chose last night to call our first Peace Corps emergency drill. There's an emergency action plan, and we knew there'd be a drill soon to test how quickly we could get to our safe house. Phase 1 is a phone call to be on alert, phase 2 is to gather at a safe house (4 volunteers' houses on-island have been designated has "safe houses" and have supplies should we have to stay there in the event of an emergency). Phase 3 is to get to the airport for evacuation, so we'll have to do that during the next drill. I imagine it will be soon. So anyway, I walked to the next street to Doris's house and she and Caroline and I chatted for about an hour and a half. Mostly, they listened to me complain. That helped a little.

When I got home, Sebastian was all kinds of playful, and then a good conversation with Mom and then Jamie, and a good sleep seems to have helped. This morning I slept in and then went to look at an apartment a street away (the opposite direction from Doris). I had looked at a one-bedroom there previously, and this time she was willing to negotiate on the price of a 2 bedroom. So it's the same as what I'm paying now. It's a nicer layout than my other one, with a porch overlooking the valley in Corinth (opposite view from the sea, but still just as close). There's a bit of road noise, but a better living room. Screens, fans, 2 bedrooms with double beds. 1 bathroom and a washing machine. Hot and cold water, a tv with cable. A 1br and 2br apt on either side, and one of my co-workers across the street. Still near the bus and the store. A good find, and I'm feeling so much better now.

On to improving my mental health stage 3: the job. I requested a meeting with the training director next week when he returns to discuss it. In the meantime, I'm putting out tentacles to find a rewarding secondary project, which might ease some of the stress of a long-hours with no output job where I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels. In 3 months, the overall net output of my work there is to have produced 3 newsletters, gone to a bunch of meetings, and visited all of the sites. Granted, this is just my orientation period, but I have trouble envisioning things getting any easier. It's hard to explain, but it's just nearly impossible to get things done. I could have done the newsletter from Seattle or PA. Right now there's a new council, the ED is sick, and the holidays are approaching. There's little liklihood of anything getting done before the new year. The good news is the office closes for 2 weeks at the holidays. If Ryan and Sarah are still coming, this will give me time to lounge around and play vacation with them. It may sound strange, living here and going to the beach as I do, but I need a vacation too.

25 Nov., 2002
Decision time

this week i have to make my final decision about housing and there is no clear answer. Some okay options, but nothing great that I can afford. Some very nice ones that I just can't and they're not willing to be flexible about. Furnished, decent apartments in this area are quite expensive, especially now that it's the high tourist season. This is not a good time to be bargaining... i'm completely dreading the confrontation with my landlord. i get a knot in my stomach every time i think about it. i hate confrontation like that, where you know about it in advance and it can just work its way into your brain, taunting you. i had a migraine 3 days last week and i think that my housing situ was a big part of it. I hope so, because i hardly ever get headaches, and never before like that. At least if that's the cause it will go away soon.

other news: i got a kitten! his name is sebastian and he's black with a white bib, nose and paws. very cute, tiny and troublesome. more on that later. so far my allergies aren't bad, but i'm not sure how that will be. caroline has agreed to take him after my trial run if my allergies get bad. she also just got a kitten, cheeto. It's kind of fun to be new mom's together. Except that my cat is a dumbass and keeps eating his kitty litter. He's starting to get the fact that he's supposed to go in there, but that only makes the fact that he also eats it even grosser. Ah, motherhood. He's a little lover, and always wants to cuddle and be near me. Which is fine except that he's constantly underfoot, and a total momma's boy. He's learning how to play more though, and it's very cute. He can sleep in the palm of my hand--he's that tiny.

having a down day. i jogged this morning and was in a great mood, and then when i left the apartment suddenly felt down. not sure if it's the usual dread of going to the office (where the mood is always stressful and depressing, and i can never actually get anything done) or more because of the apartment/landlord situation. when i tried to sort it out, the headache came back. then when i walked in past the airport, past the cemetary, i saw wreaths on a fresh-ish grave and started to cry, thinking of my grandfather. It's just one of those days where I wish I could stay in bed.

my weekend was pretty good though. friday we did an around the island trip, which was interesting enough and sort of fun. sort of not because there was a lot of stupid bickering about office politics and i had a wicked migraine most of the day. (At first I was excited by the discussions of needed change in the org, but now I realize that everyone has "the answer" and no one will listen to each others' ideas about improving the organization, so it's just going to stay the same, only with complaining too. No good.) That night i went to a music event on the square downtown with craig, my english friend, to meet caroline and the canadian volunteers. turns out we just missed them, so we stayed a bit, then found caroline at home and went out in Rodney Bay at Shamrocks, the pseudo-irish bar that's the most American-esque place here. We played some pool, did a shot for Craig's birthday, and eventually danced a little bit to the band (Caroline with Craig, me with Alvin the cute waiter). Got home pretty late. Saturday I slept in, did some laundry and looked at an apartment, then met Caroline at the beach. Craig met us around 2 and we went on a Hobie Cat again at Windjammer, where he lives. Went home and chilled, watched Clueless and 10 Things I hate about You on tv (sometimes it's nice to be a vegetable) and bonded with kitty. Later, I went out for ice cream (in the rain) with Craig and Caroline at Rodney Bay. Craig has been our sugar daddy of late, taking us out, driving us around. Very nice. Sunday the three of us and Nigel, one of Craig's co-workers went hiking on the Atlantic side along the coast to the northern tip of the island, point Hardy from Cas-en-bas. We intended to climb Mount Hardy (not much of a mountain) but decided not to when we got out there). They dropped me at Pigeon Island for a picnic with my Babonneau family and all of their extended family. The weather held and it was fun. Lots of food, and I met some nice new people, played with the kids in the water. Last night I went to bed too late, waiting for my mom to call, though for some reason she couldnt get a call through to me. Weird.

This week is a short one for me because of Thanksgiving. We planned our monthly meeting for that day so we could all have off, and we're going to Soufriere to Mary and Tom's house. Earl, the regional director, bought our turkey, and we're all bringing something--I'm bringing garlic mashed potatoes. So I have that to do Wednesday night, I guess. Friday is work again, but Sat. I have a workshop to go to and Monday off again for Ann, Dave, and Cameron's cruise ship coming in for the day (my mom's cousin), so I'm going to the beach with them. That should be fun. Another short week. Gives me something to look forward to.

19 Nov., 2002

I'm back after a long, frustrating trip. My flight was late coming into San Juan, so I missed my connecting flight at 1pm , along with every other passenger bound for the Caribbean coming from the east coast. American Airlines didn't handle the situation well. I got standby on a 7pm flight and a confirmed seat on the 9:50 flight. I ended up taking 2 busses out to old san juan and walking around for a bit. it was beautiful, and I would definitely like to spend more time there--there are restaurants, shops, museums, etc, and a beatiful view of the water and mountains by these gorgeous old city walls. I bussed back, still lugging laptop and backpack, just in time to find out i didnt get on the 7pm flight. Ate a cliff bar for dinner (since they lied about giving me a meal voucher) and had a few beers with a couple from Conneticut in the same situation. Finally got on the next flight, got in at 12:30 and thankfully my luggage was here already. Went home and slept 12 hours, spent yesterday cleaning, unpacking and settling back in. Today I'm on the hunt for an apartment again, and feeling really exhausted, frustrated and just generally down in the dumps. Coming back to this is not a good feeling. I feel like my whole life is a mess.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Noel, one of the Irish volunteers, stopped by to see how I was doing on his way home from work. He stayed about 3 hours, and I think it was good for me. He lost a close relative just before he left to come here in Sept., and is having roommate problems, so we have similar situations going on.

I'm feeling completely unmotivated to go to work this week, but I need to get there and get settled back in too--I have a newsletter to put out. The last one was late due to computer problems and now this one will be late too due to me going home. Oh well. I have other projects I missed out on to follow up with as well. Life goes on.

On the cheerful side, I got a cd in the mail from JDS--thanks! Can't wait to listen to it. Couldnt use my new blender or toaster because my adaptor isn't suited for wattage that high, (a lesson I learned after I blew out the first one with the iron. Electricity 101 for me.)but i've eagerly begun using the water filter. much better. I dont know if i mentioned it while i was home: i've gotten many of the things on my list. I will update it soon, but blender, laptop, brita pitcher, toaster, and yoga mat are taken care of. I had a very heavy suitcase coming back. An early xmas of sorts for me.

I hope the apartment fairies are shining on me this week. I've got a week and a half to get this sorted out if I want to move this month. Or it could just continue to drag on...

16 Nov., 2002

If I was going to entertain any thoughts about staying here, this nasty cold and rain has certainly squashed that. I don't miss this weather at all, after all that time in Seattle. Today I met Sarah and Ryan for lunch in King of Prussia (yes that's the name of a place) and we wandered the massive maze of mall there for hours, after I showed them all 9 packs of pictures i just got back. I didn't buy anything! I did, however, fall in love with a dress, purse, coat and scarf which are not suited for the climate where I live. But why is it that for years I couldn't find a coat I liked and now that I live in a sunny climate I find the perfect winter coat in Benetton?

I got the computer from Ryan, but I havent been able to test it yet because I have to get an adaptor for it. THe battery isnt charged. I hope it works... I guess I should be used to unreliable computers after Jamie's old mac that I used all year last year.

Sarah is definitely coming to visit me at the holidays, and now Ryan might too! Very cool. I have to pick out a hotel now, and they're getting their plane tickets this week. As soon as they do, I have to get my plane ticket to St. Vincent. THey're coming Christmas night, I think, and then leaving either the 29th or 30th. So then I'm going to St. Vincent for New Years with some other peace corps volunteers. Should be a good time! I'm so glad, this really gives me something to look forward to. And as much as it would be fun to have her stay with me, the opportunity to stay in a hotel is really exciting, and takes some of the pressure off me in my housing search. Now I just have to pick the perfect hotel and plan the perfect vacation. Luckily they don't want much except pool, beach, sun. Maybe sulphur or mineral springs. I can handle that. In four days, anything more would be too stressful. Having friends there will make it much easier to spend my first Christmas away from my family. Hopefully I'll get an invitation from someone's famiy in St. Lucia, but I know I can always spend time with Caroline and other volunteers, since we're all in it together.

I'm looking at the massive pile of junk I've got in my room that I'm supposed to pack and really not looking forward to it. The sun will definitely be a welcome change, but looking for a place and finding out if the roaches have re-invaded the one I've got while I'm gone just make me feel tired before I even get there. Some of my eyelashes have come out since I've been home, but it looks like the colony on my head is still thriving. That's good, at least. I have to go on a weeklong detox and get back into exercising regularly again. I completely fell off the wagon since Stephanie came and while I've been home. In the short time I've been home, I've already readjusted to life here, almost. It might be harder to adjust back again, but hopefully not. It hasn't been that long. I look forward to getting a lot of sleep again. Especially after getting up at 3 am for this flight. Blech. Hopefully I can sleep on the plane.

15 Nov., 2002
Back so soon

I can't believe that tomorrow is already my last day at home. This was a good decision though, and has really done me good for several reasons. First, we're all at peace about my grandfather. We all love him and miss him, but at last, we're not worried about him constantly anymore. And he's not miserable and sick. The funeral was hard, but it was nice sharing memories with relatives far and near, who all turned out. There was a good showing. It was a freezing cold, dark and rainy day. I remember it also raining for my other grandparents' funeral (my dad's side) who died when i was in college. It seems sort of fitting. There was a bugler playing taps because he was in WWII, and men in dress uniforms that gave the flag to my grandmother. A lot of crying the first day and that day, but since then it's been mainly happy memories. He will definitely be missed, but we're all holding up better than expected.

Being home has been weird, on many levels. First, the obvious, and because it was so unexpected. Second and maybe equally obvious, there's so much space here, and so much stuff! Skylines, stores, malls, everything well-ordered and clean, well-stocked. Surreal. Plus it's strange to see driving on the right after finally getting used to it on the left, and to see so many white people! I just hadn't realized it before. I've been in this "I want, I want" mode since I came home, which is sort of gross, and I'm not proud of it. The best way I can explain it is that I've had time to think of all things I wish I'd brought or that would make my life easier, but also that with American TV but not access to the things shown there, it can really begin to drive you crazy. There are lots of products, at least food-wise and electronics, available, but they're way too expensive for me. So I'm doubly-taunted with things I would be able to afford back home, but can't have. It's one thing to not have it available at all, but another to have it flaunted in front of you with no access. I'm begginning to understand why developing countries get so pissed at the US. Mind you, I don't feel that way, just frustrated and a little bewildered. I never thought I was the type to feel bothered by any of that. Maybe it will fade.

I'm making it sound worse than it is. I've been totally bedazzled by all the bright and shiny things in the stores, but in truth, I've gotten many of the things on my list that I asked for from relatives and friends by sheer luck and generosity. A yoga mat, toaster, and brita pitcher from people who had them around and didn't want them. A blender from my grandmother. Clothes, books, etc that I already had here in my room. It feels like Christmas! I guess it is, in a sense. Still, with a packed schedule of friends and family with some errands in between, it feels like my life is revolving around stuff, checking things off of lists. The best news: I'm getting a computer! Ryan and I are meeting tomorrow to get it from him. He says it's unreliable, and may not always start but it's better than nothing. So my email may soon be more regular if all goes well. I will have to update my list now that much of it has been done. It grows shorter but really, the joy is in getting the package itself and the thought the sender put into it. If you want to send me something, I will love it, I promise.

So I've spent loads of time with my aunt, grandmother and mother, and my sister before she left, and seen my three good friends in the area: Carla, Sarah and Jenn, and gotten a lot of things I was hoping for. A fairly successful visit for being so last minute and for such a sad reason. I would have missed being home for Christmas anyway, but now without Grandpa, I know I will miss it more, knowing that everyone is adjusting to holidays without him while i'm far away. I have to get up at 3 am Sunday to get my 6 am flight from Newark. Looks like my poor sleep record will continue. I hope to get good sleep Sunday or this cold I've been fighting will finally have its way with me. It just might anyway, after the transition from cold to hot. I've lost track of days and time while away, so it will be doubly strange to start back to work and regular life again Monday. Especially to commence the apartment hunt again... Maybe good news will finally come my way.

11 Nov., 2002
A Sad Return Home

Home as in PA, where my mother lives, as I'm not really sure what I call home anymore. Bad news on Saturday night: my grandfather died that afternoon. Not unexpected as he has been ill for some time (emphysema, among other things), and declined quickly over the past week. But shocking and sad nonetheless. Some quick legwork by my mom after a series of calls back and forth, and I was on a very early plane out this morning, via San Juan, to Newark NJ. We visited my great aunt, my grandfather's sister, in New Jersey before coming home, where more relatives have arrived. The rest will be coming in tomorrow for the funeral. Cindy arrived Saturday night and leaves Wed. I'm here till Sunday.

I'm exhausted after a long, fun visit with Steph, and adding this stress to my other housing stress. We had a very fun visit though--went hiking, out late, hiking again, then to the fish fry at anse la raye, and then spent sat at a schwanky hotel with this english guy, craig, who took us out on a hobie cat, and played beach volleyball with us and took us out on tubes in the speedboat. he lives there, and works for the phone company (though he leaves next month for martinique--figures i finally make a friend and he leaves). sat night we went ot my friend effe's birthday beach party, and right before i left is when we got the bad news. bad timing for all involved--made for a strange evening. sunday we had lunch at my friend deborah's place in la guerre, then off to the airport. craig was nice enough to give us a ride. then i had to come home and figure out what the hell to pack. i have no clothes for this climate, which is fine--they're already here, but i felt naked arriving without souvenirs. i didnt have everything i wish i did but as it was sunday i couldnt go anywhere, really, to buy anything. ah, well.

So it was fun to have steph and i'm glad that she was around when i got my sad news. i really needed someone there for me, though i havent really given into it much yet. i know when i do i'll be devastated, and i'm prolonging it as long as possible. tomorrow will be when it all comes out, for all of us i think. but i needed to be here for this because if i was alone i dont know what i'd do. my grandfather was really important to me. i've been dreading this news for such a long time.

6 Nov., 2002
The search begins

Well, it's been decided--I'm moving out. Spent the morning in a meeting with the APCD, Mike, discussing the situation and my options. In the afternoon, he took me out looking and I saw several places, all unfurnished, some really sketchy. No luck there. Today at 5:30 we're meeting with Giles to discuss the Laborie option, but in the meantime, I've put out the word about me looking and will try to find out about some other places in the area as well. So far it's not looking promising.

Last night Steph and I went to a little open air bar down the street called BJ's that specializes in Jamaican jerk chicken. We had some chicken, some pommes frites (since we're multilingual these days) and some beers, and chilled out from our stress a bit. Noel, the irish volunteer I met recently, joined us to destress from his stressful job (teaching at an alternative education center in a poor fishing village, Gros Islet). We had a nice time, and met some other people, including the owner, who sat with us for a bit and played our requests on the jukebox. He wants Steph to come tonight for Karaoke and dance on the bar. Instead, she's gone downtown to the market for the day while I'm at work, and will go to a nearby beach and bar (The Wharf) to swim and sunbathe and meet Caroline and me for happy hour. It's on the way home so it's easy for us to gather there. (i have to go late after my meeting with mike and giles though). Tomorrow we're off to hike the Eastern Nature Trail along the Atlantic coast with some of my co-workers. Not sure what's on for Friday but I'm trying to convince them to take us to the Fish Fry/street party at Anse La Raye. Still working on very little sleep, as we were out till 11:30 last night...

Today I met with the Red Cross folks to administer this grant that Renee didn't get a chance to do before she left. No big deal, I just have to co-sign on an account and some checks to ensure the money is used for the intended purpose. Then keep receipts and do follow-up reports. Good experience as I want to apply for one of these small projects grants myself in the future to do a series of environmental workshops at the teachers' college nearby. I also met a nice woman, roughly my age, who is Lucian but has lived in the states for a long time, and is now back and can't find a job. She wants to volunteer and work with me to teach kids about the environment. So we chatted a bit, and I'm working on a way to fit her into my workplan. It will be nice to have some help if it works out, and I certainly don't want to discourage her. It's just difficult at this stage when I've got all kinds of potential projects in the works but nothing concrete as yet. Hopefully some of it will begin to materialize soon.

Not much else going on. My little peach fuzz is still there--hopefully all this stress won't scare it away. I feel comforted by the fact that I've told several people now, all locals, about my landlord, and they all think he's crazy and I should get out. So it's not just me and my American perceptions, which I doubted, but was still concerned about. It's a shame-I saw Eileen, the landlady on our way down the street this morning, and she said she didn't know why he had said those things before, and she told him he was wrong. But she didn't speak up when I needed her to, so it did me no good. But she wouldn't, and doesn't. She has no power where that is concerned, sadly. I feel bad for her, as she will be hurt by her husband's actions when I leave, but I can't help her. I can only help myself, and get out of a bad situation before it gets worse. Back to house-hunting, take 2. (because it was SO enjoyable the first time... on a limited budget with no least mike has been helpful so far.)

5 Nov., 2002
Easy come, easy go

Luckily, I'm not talking about my new hair growth. (I can't belive I forgot to write about that! I guess because I was at work, and not thinking about it with my wig on.)Amazing how things can change in a day. Yesterday I was feeling great. Things at work are looking like they might improve, I've had a good adventure with a new friend, and have been making other friends and having all kinds of fun experiences, getting to know St. Lucia better. Then last night, while Steph and I were making dinner, the landlord came down and dropped a bomb on me. I saw him when I came in the gate (the house is enclosed in a gate, and I live below them) and he was friendly and chatty, and I told him I'd bring the rent check up in a bit (due today). Then he knocked on the door and told me to bring up the agreement we signed when I came. I could tell something was up, and so I was dreading it, which sort of ruined the nice little dinner we were having (chicken& vegetables with curry sauce and rice, salad, and bread, with some rum and coke). We ate and cleaned up, she had a cigarette outside, and I headed upstairs to get whatever it was over with. I could tell he was upset about something, but didn't anticipate that it would be big. I was wrong.

I should explain first that when I moved in, I didn't give a deposit because they didn't ask for one. We agreed on the price, and some basic rules and that was that. Then about a week after I moved in, he came down with this agreement/contract thing he wanted me to sign. We're not supposed to sign leases, but it wasn't--it was more of an agreement to live by the rules we had discussed. I could tell that he was really afraid that I'd get a roommate without telling him (driving up the utilities, which are included) and he wanted me to sign something saying that I wouldn't unless we negotiated it. Fine. The whole thing was no big deal except for one part where it said I couldn't have guests Mon-Friday, only at the weekend. I didn't sign it, but went up to talk to him about it first. I told him that I was fine with not having midweek guests (his way of preventing an unauthorized roommate) because really my only guests are likely to be other pcvs on weekends, but would be having an occasional out of town guest who would stay for a bit longer, as people do when they're on holiday. He agreed to that, and we wrote it in the contract, including the fact that I'd notify them in advance of any longer-term guest. It was in my writing, and I didnt get him to initial it, but we had a verbal agreement regarding the change. Things have been fine since then, and I thought the agreement would put his mind at ease. I had told them about Stephanie, and noticed a strange reaction to it, but thought they'd get over it. After all, we were out during the day, quiet at night, and not even there from Friday morning to Monday.

So fast forward to last night. I went up there, and he was instantly on the attack, stating that I had gotten a roommate. I explained that no, she was an out of town guest, as we agreed to. He said that the change was in my writing and he didn't agree. I told him that he had, in fact agreed to it when we put it there, and re-explained that I'm new to the country and have friends and family who may occasionally come to visit. None of them have the intention of staying, and none will be using an extraordinary amount of resources because they will spend the bulk of their time out exploring and sight-seeing. No one comes here to sit and watch tv with all the lights on, driving up the bills. we spent about a half hour or so going back and forth, very heated about this. I'll spare you more of the details, but but at one point I told him I couldnt live there if I couldn't have guests, since I'm renting the space from them and who comes and goes in it while I do so should be my business. He said that if that's how I feel then I should move somewhere else. I worked some of my Amazonian CS-moxie skills on him and managed to keep an even voice tone and avoid crying, and eventually negotiated a compromise, which was the closest thing I could get to a solution last night. I was genuinely afraid that he was so enraged that he would kick me out on the street, with stuff and guest, that night. (I believe he had been drinking, due to the major personality shift from the happy man who joked with me just a few hours earlier.) His wife was there, sitting silently behind him where I could see her but he couldn't, and she seemed to agree with many of the points I was making, and buried her head in her hands and shook her head when he said I should leave. (However, she won't speak when he's around. She's terrified of him. She's the brains and brawn behind the operation, but he's the spokesperson. When he's not around, she's very sweet to me, and comes and brings me things like towels and extra pots.)So we worked out, and added to the agreement, that I could have out of town guests, but if those guest caused the utilities to rise that I would be responsible for the difference. Sounded fine, and seems even reasonable, if I was dealing with a reasonable person. But what I soon realized upon returning to my apartment, bursting into tears and replaying the whole scene (in whispers in case he was outside listening) to Steph that he's not reasonable, and anyone who changes the rules mid-way like this will do it again. Besides, he's likely to run up the utilities somehow and hold me responsible for some exhorbitant sum, just to prove his point. And I have little recourse here. We talked and talked about it, and both got very upset. We tried to go to sleep but neither of us slept very well. She felt bad because she feels responsible for the incident (she's not--it would have happened no matter who was here), and also bad for me. I was thinking round in circles, trying to find the easiest way out of all of it, trying not to overreact. But I came to realize that he doesn't trust me, and because of how he's acted, I can't trust him. And I can't stay there, waiting for him to drop the next bomb on me. And that means I have to move again. But where?

I looked at 10+ places before choosing this one, and it was so stressful. I don't want to live in any of the others I found, and finding a 2br furnished place in this area, especially with a view of the sea and washing machine, close to the bus line, for the price I had is very difficult. There are only a few, and Caroline and Doris may have them already. I could keep looking... Then I realized that Renee left today, and she has a great little house in Laborie, a fishing village in the southwest of the island (between Vieux Fort and Soufriere). She's just left, and Lauren and Clint live nearby. The National Trust (where I work) also has an office in Vieux Fort, where only one person works. So I thought maybe I could begin working in the S. instead and live in Laborie--after all, Lauren does that trip every day. Cost of living is cheaper in the south, and there are other volunteers nearby, and nice people that Renee has met as well. I would miss the Irish volunteers I just met (not that they couldnt visit) but the Japanese live nearby. But I wasnt sure how Giles, the ED, would react to this option.

So I came to the PC office, and just had a long meeting with Mike. He agreed that it seems to be my best option at first, and if that won't work, I could explore looking for other places in the north. He's trying right now to make an appointment with Giles asap for the three of us to discuss the situation. (I feel as though it will carry more weight with Mike there.) I hope it can happen today because I have this knot in my stomach that won't go away until I at least begin to find a solution to this problem. Work has been so stressful since I started, and home has been my only respite, lonely as I sometimes am. At least I was happy and comfortable there, beginning to know some of my neighbors and hopefully make some friends. Now neither place is peaceful or happy. This would be hard enough to deal with in my own culture, but here it's magnified several times. So now I wait, and hope that this will work out for the best. I have always really liked Laborie and envied the small village life, as Castries is crowded and trafficky, and where I live is a bit isolated so I miss that community sense. There's more waterfalls and hiking opportunities in the south as well, and I would still be coming up quite a bit for work, I assume. Plus, many of the things I'm supposed to work on are in conjunction with Darnley, the guy who works in the s. office, so maybe it would be easier to just be there. He drives up for meetings fairly often, so I could catch rides with him or take transport.(ugh)

Until this works out I can't think about anything else. I have to go with Mike later this afternoon to meet the people I work with to administer a grant to the Red Cross for World Aids Month (this month)--something Renee was working on but needed to leave with someone. It will make me feel good to be effective at something, since I'm just spinning my wheels at just about everything else I've tried to do so far.

I shouldn't have been so cavalier and glib about my happiness yesterday. I knew I'd jinx myself! I suppose it's all part of the rollercoaster that I knew to expect. I just didn't expect it to come so soon.

4 Nov., 2002
Big News

Hey all, Jamie here. Deb didn't have time to post some big news she forgot to write about earlier. Here's a quote from an email Deb sent today:

I HAVE HAIR ON MY HEAD! Just little white peach fuzz,but a decent crop of it, maybe 50 or so in differentareas. I discovered it Friday night at Renee's and hadCaroline check Saturday morning, to make sure I wasn'timagining it. It's real, and I'm so thrilled. I hopethey prosper, multiply and discover color. This seemsto be very good progress--the best so far. I just hadto share the news.

4 Nov., 2002
Snookered from Snorkeling

Man, what a weekend! I mean that in a good way. Thursday's AGM went surprisingly well, though long. Not much sleep and up early Friday. Steph's plan was to go to Pigeon Island for the day with the Trust, but we missed our ride there by a few minutes. We spoke to him and came up with a different plan, which involved us continuing to wait by the side of the road in the hot sun for another hour, and then he was late, so we caught a bus to town, then got a ride to work. She came to the office with me. It actually worked out well, as Giles decided to close the office to go on a litter march that the schools were doing to kick of National Cleanup Week. I was supposed to be there anyway, so fine by me! We all joined in, and I thought we were to march and clean up trash. No, we joined hundreds of school children, all cute in their uniforms with handmade signs espousing a clean environment, who chanted and sang environmental slogans (they even changed the words to an Eminem song to make it relevant--"I'm sorry Lucia, I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you cry but today I'm cleaning up my litter.") as we walked along past litter strewn everywhere along the street. All talk, no action. Then we gathered in the square, where speakers spoke in very adult language about environmental issues, and handed out plastic bottles of water, which of course, ended up as litter later in the day. Interesting, but a good attempt. Steph got to see some kids and the square and cathedral, and we drank some coconuts along the way as well. Another co-worker took her on a drive in the afternoon, and then at 3 we closed the office for a "drink up" to celebrate the AGM being over. That was a lot of fun, drinking wine, eating snacks and telling stories here in the office with the staff. We had to explain a lot of the stories and inside jokes to steph, but i think she enjoyed it.

Then Mike (our pc director for SLU) took us, caroline and renee to Laborie. Renee couldnt get another GRE test in the EC, so instead of leaving in Dec she's leaving tomorrow for good. Sad, but hopefully a good choice for her. So Mike had to switch emergency materials from her place to Lauren's, and we were very happy for the ride. Clint, Lauren and some of Renee's local friends came over and we had a nice dinner, and then C, S and I stayed the night.

Sat we woke up early and went into Vieux Fort, where Steph and I caught another bus to Soufriere. There we wandered a bit, got some lunch and dropped our numerous bags at Mary and Tom's (we had clothes, snorkeling gear, plus things that Renee gave me) and headed off to Anse Chastanet for snorkeling. First, we bought some batiks. Luckily, we only walked half the way, up a brutal hill on a dirt road in the hot mid-day sun, and then caught a ride in the back of a truck. We spent about 2 hours snorkeling at the beach there, considered the best beach for diving/snorkeling here, and then caught a ride back with the dive shop staff on their boat! One of the guys who works there, Jahvid, has known many of the previous pcvs, so Renee gave me his name. He swam with us a bit. A really nice guy. We spent the night at Mary and TOm's and found out there were no busses out the next day. We had amazingly good luck though--we called a taxi driver they knew to have him take us to the sulpher springs in the morning (making the best of being marooned there) and he took us for free, as he was heading that way anyway. The springs were lovely, and we soaked in the mud for an hour or so, and walked back. Then had lunch with mary and tom and headed for anse chastanet again. The same driver, who works there, was already headed there and took us for free again. I snorkeled with Steph, then took Mary and Tom out individually, guiding them just swimming. Mary can't swim, so she had a life vest, and I held her hand and swam with her. She did great! Then Tom went out as well. So I was just exhausted last night. We got up early this morning and took a bus back. Once again, the winding west coast road made me ill. We showered and headed out to get some things at the store, and got completely drenched in a rain shower. Steph went to get her hair braided at the cosmetology class at the National Skills Development Center, where caroline works. She just sent me a photo of the process, and I can't wait to see it. I'll post a picture later. Tonight we'll have an early evening, and tomorrow, we may meet the irish folks out for dinner or a drink. The week at work should be less crazy, but still busy with the new council getting set up.

I've been hearing how cold it is back home--both in seattle and philly, and i'm once again grateful to be here. i'm really beginning to feel like i belong here, and i hope the feeling lasts. Steph's visit has been wonderful, and I only hope she's enjoying it as much as I am.

If you would like to read my journal entries from October 2002, click here.