Travels in Bananaland
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Tales from Bananaland, January to March 2003

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

22 March, 2003
Back to Reality

Tomorrow is my last day of my relaxation phase. We have 2 day training sessions on grant writing Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday begins my new job with the National Youth Council, which is sort of an umbrella agency for youth education, activity and advocacy island wide. There are 18 Youth Councils nationwide, and I will be involved in helping them build and evaluate their programs and build their capacity to work better. Today I attended a four-hour general assembly meeting where I met some of the council members from around the island and heard some of the plans for the year and issues being faced. I will be busy! Already, I feel as though I am being welcomed and things are off to a good start. I feel very positive about the opportunities with this new assignment and I'm excited to get started. (Thankfully those 4 hour meetings only happen every 3 months.)

Yesterday was a fantastic day. Disappointing at first because I had made plans with Earl, my Babonneau host father (only 32) to visit the Sandals resort where he works (there are 3 of them here) and go diving. However, when I got there, I found out that due to having asthma, I couldn't dive. So I was signed up for the snorkeling trip instead. Disappointing, but still fun, as we went by boat to Anse Cochon, a bay with a well-known reef for diving. I saw a spotted eel and some squid as well as some really gorgeous fish and coral. Apparently there was a barracuda but I didn't see it. Afterwards, I joined a couple I met on the boat for lunch (it was so creepy to be alone in a sea of couples, mostly newlyweds), and had nice, free food and some fruity drinks. Then I cooled out on a chair by the pool, swam and read and had some more fruity drinks and then finished off the afternoon by watersports with some kayaking and sailing. I wanted to windsurf, but they were out until just before I left. Earl gave me a ride into the city, where he meets his friends for drinks every friday. I joined them for a few and had a great time, then went home and fell asleep at 9:30. Sam and Caroline are still both sick and I'm still fighting off whatever it is. Plus, from getting up early two mornings in a row I was exhausted.

Thursday I had an interesting day as well. I went to Vieux Fort, on the very southern tip of the island, to help with a sporting event hosted by the special schools, sort of like a mini special olympics. Two friends, Sam and Alliester were there, and that made it more fun. The three of us were in charge of a train wreck of an event, the frisbee throw, which took longer than any other single event I think. I was in charge of herding the children who were not throwing, and for more than an hour in the glaring mid-day hot sun, this was quite a lot of work. The whole day was not very organized, so was quite draining. The kids were cute and having fun, which made it all worthwhile. Plus, we got free lunch. I have to admit I was grateful when we left, slightly before the awards ceremony. It made me realize that the buddy system we used when my high school sponsored the special olympics every year was really a good idea because there was not enough supervision for those kids. I have a special kind of respect for the teachers who do that every day. That night I was supposed to see my friend Deborah, who is going to Canada this weekend, possibly for good. She was at Church and we were going to go out afterwards, but I never heard from her. I stayed up late watching a movie waitng and then finally went to bed.

Bad news: the cat is making me very allergic. Sebastian didn't bother me, but Sabine is a bit longer-haired and I've been super itchy, congested and sneezy in the last week despite using a special dander-reducing wash that mom sent. I fear she may have to go. Where, I don't know. I have to ask Gaga if they would take her back. I don't think I can handle living in an allergic state from now on. Jude got a new puppy, Rico, and he's very cute--a rot/doberman mix. And we got a new neighbor, a woman who I met only briefly. She seems nice but so far keeps to herself. Good to have something new in the neighborhood. Also good because the landlord isnt around as much and therefore hasn't followed through on her "cat goes or give me a security deposit" ultimatum."

Obviously, the war has begun, as we all knew it would, and it's a hot topic around here. Most people here don't support it, for political reasons and because of how it's going to devastate the tourism industry, which is already suffering. When I got back from Barbados Monday night and heard the announcement of a 48 hour deadline, I had a nightmare that night that all PCVs were called up for active duty. When I tried to protest that I was a volunteer and here for peaceful purposes I was told that I would be used for "Peacekeeping," and that dropping out was no longer an option. Man, was that a scary dream. I'm not the only volunteer having war nightmares. I feel so helpless. The only upside that I can see to this is that apparently flights have dropped to super cheap rates. If you're brave enough to visit, now's the time to buy tickets!

Incidentally, I had french fries for the first time yesterday since all this warmongering began, and I couldn't help but think of all the hoopla of them being called "Freedom Fries" in various locales in the US. What a load of crap. The only cool thing about it is the obvious jokes about "Freedom kisses" that inevitably follow. Propaganda really makes me sick.

On that note, I bid you all adieu for a few days. I still don't have a part for my laptop on the way, so I'll be checking email pretty sporadically again for the next few weeks.

18 March, 2003
The Ads are True

There's never a dull moment in Barbados, just like the ads say. We had a blast. The sand is the whitest (with flecks of pink) I have ever seen, making the water look an unreal shade of blue. The beaches are long and wide, and it was so nice to be able to jog on the beach again. Our guest house was about 20 steps from a really nice beach (Sandy Beach) and several restaurants/bars, with a bank and supermarket just down the street. Ideal. We hardly needed to leave our area, so we didn't much. I'd love to go back and then I'd love to see more of the island. This trip was mainly about relaxing on the beach, shopping and going out for drinks and dancing with new friends. Four of us: Caroline, Shannon, Sam and I went, and we were visiting 2 Canadian volunteers there, Christy and Emily. Unfortunately Christy had gotten some sort of icky parasite from their recent trip to Trinidad for Carnival, so she was in the hospital when we got there. We visited Friday before heading downtown to see the sights and do some shopping. We had lunch in a cafe where there was iced cappucino, bagel sandwiches and Dave Mathews Band playing. None of these things are my absolute favorites (though i like them), so it's hard to explain to someone who hasnt been isolated in a tiny country for 8 months, but this was VERY EXCITING. We heard all kinds of "normal" pop from home on the radio and this thrilled me to no end. Friday night we went to the Harbour Lights with Christy and her visiting friend Sadie and some of her Bajan friends. Harbour Lights is a really cool club that has inside and outside beach areas, and MTV was there filming for their spring break specials. So scantily-clad 18 year-olds abounded, as you can imagine. We fled from the cameras but had a good time dancing. In the beginning, we girls were so excited they were playing techno and club-by type songs from home until we realized we didn't remember how to dance any way but to hiphop or soca. Then we realized you can SoCa to anything and all was well again. Funny how we were most excited when they started playing all the same old songs we always hear...

Anyway, that was fun and we planned to go to the big all-weekend beach party too, but we ended up just going to our own very close and relaxing beach and doing our own thing. In the evenings we met up with friends for drinks and went out a bit, though nothing as crazy as the first night. (strangely enough, we ran into Ian, Stephen and Donel from Digicel there--those guys are everywhere!) Though it wasnt much different than anything we normally do here, we loved the fact that there were so many places to go in Barbados. We stayed in Christchurch and saw a number of different places to the E. and W. of there. It's just so much more developed and city-fied than St. Lucia. They both have their benefits and they're both beautiful in different ways, but it was really just nice to be somewhere else and get to experience a bit more of a modern life for a few days. We all agreed that we could live there. We even got hassled less by the guys there than we do here! Which was strange... (Though I did get called "Cinderella" by a ras guy selling necklaces on the beach, and get proposed to by the guy renting chairs, at least they weren't offensive about it as St. Lucian guys would often be.)Downsides of the trip: I forgot my snorkelling gear, and our beach had a reef right there. I never got to windsurf, because the day i was finally going to do it the tide was too high (last day). Caroline and I forgot our ATM pins and had to go to great hassle to get them. (Everything is pretty expensive there--except where we stayed which was both nice and affordable). Sam came with a cold she hadnt gotten over, and she and Caro left sick, while I am nursing a gritty voice and a sore throat.

When we returned last night (after our flight was cancelled and we had to take one and hour and a half later), I got a ride immediately up to the girls' place to fetch Sabine. Heather had been watching her, and Thursday night before we left (just after I dropped her there) had the odious task of pulling a 15 inch tapeworm that was dangling from her out. Yick. Luckily Margaret was able to meet her the next day and bring the worm medicine we've been sharing for our pets, and now Sabine is looking much more bright-eyed and acting more energetic. Too energetic--I fear she will run off and meet the same fate as Sebastian. So I had to bring her and my big backpack and the bag of food/litter/toys home on the transport, and that was not fun. We made it ok though. I owe Heather immensely for the vile thing she had to do for my kitten.

Just to end on a happier topic, a volunteer from each of the other islands is here right now with their counterpart for training on grantwriting with a person in from DC. Afterwards, they will each go back to their island and teach everyone else at IST phase 2, which happens soon. (bad news there: while everyone else from EC 69 gets put up at Cara Suites, where we stayed our first two nights here, Doris, Caro and I are told we have to go home and come back during the 2 day training because we live nearby. This is ridiculous, and we are really vexed.) Anyway, we ran into Betty in the airport yesterday, and I got an email that Erin is staying for the weekend, with me, so that will be fun. Hope to see the others as well.

13 March, 2003

Fun gifts from Zach this week: a grateful dead guitar anthology and the Greatest Hits of Gregory Isaacs, both from my Amazon wishlist. The book makes me feel necessary guilt for not practicing lately and the CD is making finishing my quarterly report much more fun. Yes, bribery works--I have now forgiven him for not writing to me for nearly 6 months.

Yesterday we had our emergency drill, finally, after waiting for weeks. It took four hours in all, and luckily, many of us were here in the PC office when it happened, so we all cabbed to Doris's house, which is a designated "safe house," to wait for further instruction. In a real emergency we would hold out there until they tell us to go home or proceed to stage 3, evacuation at the airport. For the drill we just had to wait until everyone got to a safe house (difficult because many people from southern safe houses were in the capital for the day, so they had to come north as well) before we went to the airport. There we were met by the Warden for the Embassy here in St. Lucia and several armed rapid response unit police in camo armed with semi-automatic weapons. We were across the street from the airport by the beach, but I felt bad for the tourists coming in off the afternoon American flight, seeing us circled in by armed police--must have been a disturbing sight for them. Thankfully that's over for another 6 months or so until the new volunteers are here and settled in. The next batch comes April 4.

Margaret sent a cartoon yesterday which sums up my life here in some ways. Sad, in a way, but true. I would have been more offended or confused by it, but now that it's just a daily fact of life here, it's really pretty funny.

Off to the beach with Gaga and the girls in a bit, and then tonight I take Sabine to Heather's and wait for Amber, the girlfriend of Brian, a volunteer in St. Vincent, who is flying in tonight, staying with me, and out to SVG in the morning when we go to Barbados. Good timing, actually. I am so looking forward to this trip. Yesterday my meeting with the National Youth Council president and a representative from the Ministry of Youth and Sports was cut short by our drill, but it looks like my days of leisure are quickly drawing to a close. I go visit my new office downtown next week.

10 March, 2003
Even bad songs make me homesick

I was walking to the beach yesterday and heard a snatch of a pop song--some terrible alterna-band that I never liked to start with, but I was so excited and started singing along for a few seconds until I realized that I hate that song. Even rock songs I never liked are sounding pretty good because I never get to hear them. One of the things I miss most about home is variety. Here there is really no selection: 3 types of beer, one type of meal (with slight variations), 4 types of music, with variations (reggae, soca, hiphop, dub)... you get the picture. Along with anonymity and independence, I miss choice.

The good news: I have a new kitten! She's orange and white, and I've named her Sabine (pronounced Sha-bean), which is a patois word meaning light-skinned. She's small (maybe 10 weeks) and very cute and cuddly. The best part is that she came litter trained--I've had her 4 days now and no accidents yet. Which leads me to the bad news. The landlord, who is vexed with me over an incident where the washer got fixed and she tried to charge me for it, saying it was "misuse" though I have been doing laundry since I'm 12 years old and never had any problems and the machine has been there for a year and a half while I've only been there for 3 months, is taking out her frustration with me over the kitten issue. Although she loved Sebastian and had no problems with me having him, she's now saying that my new kitten will damage the furnishings and I need to give her a security deposit or get rid of her. This is getting ridiculous. Especially because she's much more well-behaved than Sebastian ever was. So far, at least. So I'm a little irrirated at the resurgence of landlord issues. The other problem is that a piece of my laptop broke last week. If it had to happen at all, the timing was good as the password I had for internet access expired the next day anyway. Jude looked at it for me, declared it unfixable, and told me it was my modem. I'm now told, as I thought, that it's just the little tray that you put the phone cord in that connected to the modem. So it's not as serious as it would seem, but i still need that part. Shane is on the job for me and I'm very grateful.

I was featured in an article in my hometown (Lansdale, PA) paper for Peace Corps day, though they didn't use the photo I sent and quoted me a bit out of context in one case (the part about being noble referred to what I thought about it in high school), it was still cool. Peace Corps day went well, and our mural looks really good. It wasn't everything we hoped the day would be, but for the most part it was a success. We got the thing done, it looks pretty good, we played with a lot of kids and even managed to teach them a little about HIV/AIDS. We also met a guy from the first PC St. Lucia group in the 60s. (EC 1, and we're EC 68 and 69) Photos coming soon.

I've been between assignments for over a week now, and I'm feeling good. I spent the first half of last week getting caught up on things like sleep, reading and cleaning (the dust here is really a neverending thing--I sweep every day and still my feet are black), and then Wed-Thurs I went down to Soufriere and spent some time with Mary, Tom and Kahani there, visiting a school with Tom and just checking things out. I really like Soufriere. Friday we had a volunteer meeting and then lunch at my house, so I was cooking and doing more cleaning early that day. It all went well, and during the lunch part, Gagamel (a rasta friend I've mentioned before) and his cousins Marcia and Loretta came by with Sabine. The girls stayed awhile (and Loretta insisted on washing all of my dishes) and then left for a while. Gaga stayed and we played cricket out back with Samuel and Jude. I'm getting to be an ok batter (all those years of softball paying off), but my bowling is still resembling pitching a little bit too much and I'm still way to hesitant about fielding with my bare hands when they really whack the ball. For only 2 lessons though, I'm coming along. It was a help to have more people there to teach me the rules, as Samuel conveniently only tells me things when the rule is in his favor... The girls eventually came back and picked up Gaga and me and we went to Marcia's house in Cap Estate, the northernmost tip of the island where all the really big houses are (it was my first time up there, as busses dont run there). It was gorgeous. We had a drink there and then headed to the jump-up at Gros Islet. It was interesting to be there for the second Friday in a row, and stand/dance in the same spot as before and watch the same sketchy guys hitting on different tourist women. (I've mentioned the "rent-a-dread" thing before, and this is where it's at its most prevalent and obvious.) Ironically though, I was there as a white girl dancing with a ras guy, so I was well aware of how that looked (and none too pleased about that impression). Though I was with a group of St. Lucians, I still had the sketchy guys coming to hit on me, but thankfully Gaga and his brother fended most of them off for me. He took me to Israel, a rastafarian club down the street that I never knew was there. The selector was much better than outside and was playing mostly dub, which I enjoyed. I was the only white person in there, but nobody really paid any attention to me, and I found that sort of refreshing. I'd go there again, but only with a ras, never on my own. We ended up at Shamrocks, despite my protestations that I wanted to go home (the problem of always being a passenger). Saw the usual suspects there and it was fun to sort of introduce the different people I've come to know to each other: Gagamel, Brendan, Sam and Shannon. All that was missing was Geoff (still not back from Cuba) and Caroline. Saturday I woke up early-ish to go for a hike with Nigel and Gagamel. We made our way to La Guerre and met some of the multitudes of Gaga's family (he is cousins with Deborah and they all live on the same street), got loaded down with mangos, coconuts and bananas from their land, and headed out to Marquis estate. Since Nigel has a jeep we really drove much of the rough road we inteded to walk, and then did a bit of exploring and hiking in the area by the beach and at an old sugar mill. Then we drove around to Desbarra, where the largest beach is located: Grand Anse, where the turtle watches are held. We didn't actually go down because we weren't sure if the car had enough fuel, but it was beautiful from the top of the ridge. We could look at the Atlantic and then back and see Babonnea and the surrounding towns. I went home and played with Sabine (and bathed her, much to her dismay and to my hands' injury) and then headed out to meet the Digicel crew to watch the Ireland vs. France rugby match. Ireland won, and it was a lively game, though I'm a bit sketchy on the intricacies of rugby and all the narration was in French. From there I went to Sam, Shannon and Heather's for Shannon's surprise birthday party. We assembled a pretty nice group of about 15 people there, surprised her and had some cake and drinks and then headed out to the usual locations: first Rumours, then Shamrocks. I found out that Domiti, a french girl that plays volleyball, is pregnant and soon moving to the US with Aliester, her boyfriend, and also coming with us to Barbados. Also, a girl who was working at Rumours and fun to chat with, Natalie, was told she was no longer needed, so joined our group for the night. Otherwise, the night was fun but unspectacular. At Shamrocks I eventually met up with Miguel, a guy I've met before, and we danced and he drove me home after everyone else in our group had already gone. I even dragged him all the way to Paix Bouche to a party at the house where I went on Xmas eve (Deborah was supposed to call and arrange a ride for me and didn't) but it was late and the party was ending by the time we got there. So much for that. Sunday we went to the beach, first to our usual spot and then to the other end where Shannon was celebrating her birthday with Prisca (her co-worker) and Ann-Marie, who is somehow related to Prisca and cooks food at the beach for sale. They have some cute kids, some of who are in pictures I will post soon. There we got in a girls vs. boys game of water frisbee with some Ras guys, Dennis and Jeff. The girls won, and we were all exhausted. I did some snorkelling, and saw some amazing fish by the rocks. Schools and schools of them, just swarming around me. A good day.

Today I'm in the PC office, finally cleaning out my inbox and working on my quarterly report (an interesting thing to do when you're between assignments). I worked on it from home this morning and then discovered my disk drive is still having issues, so I had to bring the whole laptop in to retype it. Fun.

There are tons of new pictures, including PC Day and Sabine, I haven't even begun to have time to post, but you can see many of them at Caroline's yahoo photos site:

So I'm still unemployed this week, as far as I know, and I'm going on vacation to Barbados this weekend with the girls for 4 days. I want to try surfing or windsurfing, and we're going to check out some caves. It should be a good time, and I'm really looking forward to my first trip off the island since I got here other than my brief jaunt to PA for the funeral in October. I will update my travel adventures when I return.

26 Feb., 2003
I'm free!

Yesterday was my last day of my terrible NGO job--the saga of my time at the Trust has come to a close, finally. It wasn't an easy day, but I didn't feel at all guilty, as I feared. All of the goodbyes and everything that happened pointed to the fact that this was the best decision I could have made. For those of you who got my email update, don't be concerned about me. The hard part is over and I'm looking forward to better times, enjoying my time off while it lasts. Today I enjoyed waking up without an alarm, and spent the morning cleaning thoroughly (battling the ant problem that has developed in the kitchen) and then reading and emailing. In the afternoon, I met some of the older volunteers, Denise and Doris, at a pool by the marina. We swam for an hour and then had a drink. It was good to get out of the house for a bit. We're meeting for coffee in the morning before we have to go to our ridiculous fire drill at the PC office (love those mandates from DC!). The next few days will be consumed by Peace Corps day preparations for many of us, as Sat. is our big day. That night, there is a big reggae show that we might go to--a tribute to Bob Marley with Bunny Marley, the Wailers and Sizzla.

Today Sam made reservations for Shannon, Caro and I at an inn near their friend Christy who is a volunteer in Barbados. We're visiting March 14-17, which unfortunately means I have to miss the 10K race, but I can't wait to go see somewhere new. We're going to try surfing! It should be great fun, and a nice break from life here.

I talked about the issue of war in my email today, but I haven't really mentioned current US political events here yet. I've been too wrapped up in describing my work drama, but I think and talk about it frequently with people here. More than I'd like to, as I'm often forced to answer to US foreign policy to a group of assorted nationalities. Being abroad while the US is preparing for a war that is stirring up anti-American sentiment worldwide is a pretty unsettling experience. I can't say that I feel threatened here, because in fact I might be safer here than if I was in the States. But representing that government when I don't agree with its policies is tough. Luckily a lot of people don't realize that Peace Corps means we're from the US--they think that all volunteers are called Peace Corps--and most people I meet think I'm English. I don't agree with this war, and I feel really helpless to do anything about it. These are scary times. Tjebe wed (hold strong). It's a good time for all of us to take a lesson from the rastas: One Love.

24 Feb., 2003
Good news, bad news

So the third of my three intended visits has now fallen through. Mark tried to get tickets using frequent flier miles for his spring break in april and it's sold out. So that's a bust. Jenn is out for financial reasons, due to car problems. Carla needed more time to ask off of work, and will probably come in May. Mark might make it for Carnival, now, in July. Hopefully. A good thing this news came this week and not last.

The good news is that tomorrow is my last day at the Trust. After a frustrating morning where Mike indicated to me that I should go to work tomorrow and he would let me know when he hears about my new job so we could tell them at the Trust, we both talked to Andrew and he called me later to tell me he's getting me out ASAP, and we'll work on the new job from there. Which is what I thought we had agreed on last week... At any rate, it will all be over soon. And then the waiting begins, which is ok by me. Thursday we now have a mandatory fire drill at the PC office. Seems ridiculous that the volunteers in the south have to trek all the way to the north just for some brief fire drill at the office, when the chances of them being around for any sort of real fire are pretty minimal. I don't mind much, but I would be pretty vexed if I were coming up just for that. A total waste of a day for them. But at least we'll get some help with PC day preparations.

I went by to check Quint tonight, but he couldnt find my cd that Jacinta left. Teased me about being a stranger. The son they have together is still there, but her two daughters both went to live with their fathers in the states while she gets work and goes back to school. She was going crazy down here with nothing to do. I went off on a quest before that to find Noel, who has apparently moved to Marisule (my neighborhood) without telling me. Kate told us on Sat. night that he moved out from their house, and Stevie gave me directions to where it was. I walked down there tonight at sunset, just after a huge rainstorm, and got covered in mud and nearly wiped out several times walking on the muddy roadside in my "beach slippers" (flip flops), which were maybe not the wisest choice of footwear. Got there and realized it was at the house right by where there is a well-known old stone bakery where everyone goes to buy their bread in the area. I had heard about the place but not been there. Now i know. The woman there, Glenda, told me he decided not to take the place, but didnt know where he had gone. So I gave up my quest and went home. I called the Irish presentation brothers and they told me he took a place just 'round the corner from there instead. At least he's ok, but I can't believe he moved into my neighborhood and didnt even tell me. He wanted to get out of his house though, so I'm glad he did.

This weekend and today I read Harry Potter books 3 and 4, which is a heck of a lot of pages. It's addicting! Saturday night we had a girls' night out, where Sam, Caroline and I went out and giggled like schoolgirls and I'm sure were generally annoying to everyone but ourselves (scared Jeff off pretty quickly) There was a boatload of british sailors in for the weekend, and we ended up meeting up with a pack of them and heading off to shamrocks. we danced quite a bit and had a little bit too much fun. Sunday we all paid the price for our overindulgence, though I was the only one to make it to the beach--only for a bit, before the sun became way too bright for me. I even had to skip out on my trip to Babonneau and just rest my poor aching head. One guy that I hit it off with had off on Sunday and I discussed meeting up with him the night before. Needless to say, in my condition I didn't make it out, and they shipped out to Sierra Leone today. It was fun to have cute guys to flirt with and fawn all over us. After months on a ship with no females in sight, we seemed like the most enchanting things they had ever seen. For us, it was nice to be able to talk to guys and know, culturally, what they were all about. And to know that they were leaving and we could flirt and not have to deal with it. Unlike the Lucian guys, who are staying and will take a mile if you give them an inch. So that was a nice diversion for the weekend. Definitely out of character for me, as I have openly ridiculed girls who do things like go to Pioneer Square to hit on the enlisted me, but as these are extenuating circumstances, i claim a one-time exemption from mockery. After all, we didn't go there seeking them out...

So as of tomorrow i will be gainfully unemployed. I'm looking forward to the pause between assignments but hoping that it doesnt drag on for ages, as things can around here with too many stakeholders stirring the pot.

21 Feb., 2003
Sanity, Glimpsed

This has to have been one of the most stressful weeks in recent years of my life, but I'm on the other side now, and I can see the light, so to speak. Actually, I'm feeling good again. I've sort of shown glimpses of my thought processes and snippets of misery here, but I don't think I've painted a very clear picture for anyone exactly what has going on with me. I think because I only really just sorted it out myself this week. I didn't want to admit to myself that I could have become that unhappy in paradise.

At the time I last wrote, I made a vague decision that something needed to change in my worklife, because I was so incredibly unhappy, and have been since i started, for the most part. At first, my motivation was simply because I had gotten to the point where the stress there was making me physically ill, but the more I thought about it (below, and more) I realized that really, the self-blame and depression I had been experiencing were really a result of the simple fact that I got a bad assignment. I'm supposed to be here doing community development work, I'm supposed to be doing projects that are sustainable and add value to communities, and moreover, I'm supposed to be in a give-and-take relationship with an organization where an information and cultural exchange can take place. None of that was true in my assignment where I was placed, as a slot-filler, in not only a job but a whole unfilled department with no one there to fill the role of support, exchange or even to point me in the right direction. I was given tasks only vaguely related to my job description, which in itself was already vague and containing things that were there simply because no one else could or wanted to do them, not because it made sense for me to be doing it. Furthermore, the agency is in a state of absolute chaos, undergoing a top-to-bottom reassessment that could result in that department I was trying to establish by myself no longer existing. From an organizational development perspective, it really made no sense for them to get a volunteer (which leads me to believe it was all politics). Finally being able to take myself out of the picture and realize that it was never a good idea, and that I was fighting a losing battle finally made the decision for me to ask for reassignment. It was not a decision quickly or easily made, nor one I take lightly, realizing that had I not made it, I probably would not have lasted my two years here. And I really don't want to go home. That said, I also didn't dedicate two years of my life to come here and be miserable and ineffective, or to get lost in some larger political game. So I mustered up all my courage Monday morning to make the call to my APCD, Mike, and go in and talk to him. But I quickly discovered it was a holiday in the US, and they had off. Damn.

At this point, there was no turning back for me, and the momentum behind my decision was so overpowering, I needed action right then, or I was afraid I'd really lose it. I called Mike at home and made an appointment for his earliest opportunity, which wasn't until Wed. He was distracted by family activities, and didn't notice the tears in my voice, or ask if I was ok. Frustrated, I called Andrew, the training director(and one notch up the chain), at home and reached him there. He's a good listener, and was incredibly supportive. More importantly, he agreed with me that I should get out, and actually, that I never should have been there in the first place (relief for my conscience, still second-guessing itself!). We discussed opportunities for placements, and he offered advice that I see the medical officer right away and let her know of the stress-related symptoms (nausea, migraines, mystery cramps, depression, crying jags) I'd been experiencing, both for the support she could offer and to bolster my case to be reassigned, should it become necessary. I followed his advice the next day, and I'm glad I did. Freida was a great listener, and again was in full agreement with my decision to be reassigned. In fact, she called my job and told them that I wouldn't be in for the rest of the week, and told me to take it easy and get better. Wed. I met with Mike, and though he's not the most assertive or supportive person (he listens, takes notes and says "uhm-hmmm" a lot, but really offers no solutions and provides no insight as to what he's thinking or planning), he agreed as well. So he met with Andrew following our meeting, and I met with Freida. Ah, bureacracy--meetings, more meetings, and meetings about those meetings. (thankfully, as yet no memos about the meetings about meetings.) As it stands today, I'm still vague about the process but it seems that I am indeed going to be reassigned to another position here in SLU, no further questions asked. Andrew's ideas for where I should be reassigned seem to have won out over Mike's, and Freida's influence seems to have smoothed the process and speeded up my removal. Yesterday Andrew and Mike spoke with officials at the National Youth Council and the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, and made inroads with enthusiastic persons there regarding placing me as a liaison between the two, based out of the NYC office in Castries and travelling island-wide for community youth projects. Sounds intriguing, and I will meet with them to discuss it on Monday. No work that day either, which is starting to feel a little bit weird. I'm happier, and more relaxed, but not totally happy, because I know that I'm still avoiding the inevitable really hard and emotional part where I have to go in with Mike, probably Tuesday, and tell them that I'm not coming back. And clean out all my files and my stuff. I know that I'll be talked about, and blamed, and there's even a good chance people will be angry with me. And I will have lots of explaining to do probably for weeks afterwards, since I'm on committees and things, and everyone knows everyone. And I'm likely to still run into or have work-related contacts with people in the same circles. After that, I guess I will spend the remainder of the week on Peace Corps Day preparations, as there is still work to be done.

Despite being out of work, I had a fairly busy week. Besides the meetings, I caught up on sleep, cleaning, read 2 1/2 books, went to the pool/beach once, met Jeff for backgammon twice (and emerged victorious from both series) and did a bit of background work on the literacy thing. Today Margaret and I wrote and emailed in our 1 page grant application intent paper to the UW technology leadership program that I was involved in. Hopefully our project proposal will be well-received and we can proceed with the application. We have a month to write it, and that should keep me busy. This week I was also interviewed via email by my hometown paper, The Reporter (in Lansdale, PA)for a feature on Peace Corps Day. It will run in Tuesday's paper, I believe. I've got to get Caroline to take a decent picture of me this weekend with the digital camera her mom brought from home. She has a knack for taking pics of me making stupid faces (which, admittedly, i have a knack for making). To me, all of that, except the sleeping, reading and beach part, is part of my job here, and it felt so nice to have a degree of freedom. PC is supposed to be about flexibility and collaboration, not some 9-5 NGO office job. It's hard enough just living here, being in a fishbowl 24/7. Don't get me wrong--paradise has its good points too, but it's not all vacation.

Tonight Jeff and I went to Caroline's for dinner. We polished off two bottles of wine and had a great time talking and reminiscing about favorite childhood shows, and seeing which ones aired in both the US and France. I took this great pic of Jeff taking great joy in opening the wine bottle and hearing the sound the cork makes--the french version of Shane and his obsession with "the sound" of ice rattling in a fountain soda. I can't wait to post it, along with a bunch of new ones we've taken recently. (Now that we have a digital camera, Caro and I will be going photo crazy. We used to have to beg, borrow and steal everyone else's photos and cameras.) Before dinner, when I got home from the PC office, I was at my kitchen table at the computer, online. My neighbor, Samuel, came by the window and said hi, and I unlocked the door because he was lingering and seemed like he had a question. He just repeated hi, but sort of migrated towards my door, looking at things on the table. He spied my little radio walkman, a tiny gift from my sister, and checked that out. So I asked him about computers--if he liked them, and if he was interested in the internet. He said yes to both, as I suspected, and was sitting down at the table in a heartbeat, ready to check it out. So he immediately located and then another cartoon site and played a few games before Jeff showed up. Funny, a 12-year old was making fun of how slow my computer is (as a Pentium 1 on a dialup is apt to be) when he has none at all. Welcome to St. Lucia. I'm glad we made that connection. I hope it works out as it has for Clint, Ed, and Lauren, who have all been able to befriend local kids and share their computers and skills with neighborhood kids. Samuel's all I've got, and he's a good kid. It would be nice to be able to give him an outlet and teach him some extra skills he can't learn at school. He's already mastered the touchpad and pull-down menus in a few minutes. He'll be a whiz just now.

More random good news: A few days ago, I was coming home and passed my friend Jacinta's house and remembered I still have to go pick up the CD she left me from her boyfriend, Quint. I haven't gone by since she left. I was thinking about how much I miss her, and how cool it was to have this righteous rasta girl friend right down my street. I hadn't heard from her since she moved to Texas in January, but when I got home that night, there was a phone message from her, leaving me her email address and her phone number. She's in Florida now. We're back in touch, and I'm so glad!

Tonight the Jazz Lounge, which we've spent time at both because we like it and because the owner of Jeff's optometry company also owns it, officially died and reopened as "the lounge," a dance club. Only the new promoter is also the owner of another local nightclub, Le Chalet, and they had a big party tonight. So he never showed up today at "the Lounge," and double-booked the DJ both places. Slick. So it's off to a rocky start in its new incarnation. It's a great venue and I hope that it takes off eventually. We will miss having the Jazz Lounge as our own private living room though. Jeff went there to see if anyone actually showed up to the grand opening after we walked home from Caroline's, but I was too sleepy and headed home. And I'm still quite sleepy, so I'm headed to bed.

16 Feb., 2003
Simpsons Extravaganza

Tonight is the 300th episode of the Simpsons. Ive been looking forward to it all week, which might tell you something about my week

Its been a very rollercoaster week, featuring more downs than ups. Towards the end of the week I found myself in such a foul humour I couldnt even stand to be around myself. Partly, its the same old stuff , but partly some new changes going on at work and things that have just begun to sink in. (Its not that I dont like change, but in my work there have been so many changes, mostly bad, that I have a tendency to fear it while always harbouring hope that things will get better. But Im weary of hoping, and need something concrete.) For some reason I also found myself with a changed perspective on work, which I think is good, but in the short term has made me more unhappy. This week was our transition week, where the new Officer in Charge came in to shadow the ED for his last week. The situation at first made me hopeful, because she, being a conduit to the council, can and will be more likely to make changes as needed, whereas the ED (as mentioned previously) has a profound self-interest in the status quo (and I think a fear that his job could and might be taken away) and so protects it fiercely, guarding and controlling information both to and from the council. Now they will have unrestricted access to the truths of what goes on. The organization has, financially and organizationally, hit rock bottom, and this is a very crucial time. There is a task force studying every aspect of the organization and making sure what we do and how we do it makes sense. (A process which would be as valuable to me as nearly everything Ive studied so far at the Evans School, and yet they wont allow me to observe.) I have high hopes for this process, though I think some staff members may be fearful, as there is a possibilty jobs will be lost. Insulated by my role as a volunteer, I dont share that fear, but the atmosphere of negativity rubs off on me at work. Plus, Im still frustrated by the fact that no one there really gets what my role can and should be as a PCV. We never had the follow-up conversation to our big meeting at IST, and maybe thats better, as we can now have it with the Officer in Charge, and she can convey that information to the Council, who, after 5 _ months of me working there still know very little about me or what Im supposed to be doing, she tells me. Fabulous. Plus, my workspace issues are now at their absolute worst. When I started, Giles intended for me to desk share with the membership secretary, but didnt make that clear to her, so I had no place to work. When I mentioned this to him, he moved her, and gave me her old desk and computer. We still had to do a fair bit of desk switching, because there are only a few decent computers, mine being one of them, and as its next to the shared printer, people often needed to barge in for a few minutes or hours. Because Im a volunteer and no one understands what I do (both because Giles never really got it and because he also never explained it or introduced me to everyone properly), no one seems to think what I do has any relevance, they dont mind booting me out with nothing to do. This trend is made worse by the fact that Jude, who does much of the map-drawing, file scanning, etc. doesnt have a computer assigned to him (though his manager gives him more than his share of work he hasnt seen fit to correct this problem, though he knows about it), so he has to boot one of us off, or wait till were not around. As he gets in earlier than me, this has now morphed into him taking over my desk entirely, losing my papers, and not understanding the concept of sharing. I realize that we are scarce of resources, and that Im supposed to be flexible. I can do that. However, what I cant do is sit for 8 hours, being "flexible" and essentially wasting my time, hand writing things Im working on on legal pads that I need to retype later, while Jude is on MSN messenger, telling me he I can have the computer in "45 minutes" when the newsletter is already 3 weeks late (due to circumstances out of my control). I have a computer at home, and so I say Im working from home in the morning, and I do, and I get this knowing look from the front office staff, all women, who suspect everything I do. The same for working at the PC office. Though they have no idea what I do and Im a volunteer anyway, they are always suspicious that Im somehow not doing what Im supposed to. Even if that has never been made all that clear because they have no set education program and I have no counterpart to guide me. I told the Officer in Charge about the workspace problem, and she has promised another computer. Until it has been remedied, I have decided to work from the PC office or home. I cant just sit there anymore. It would be better if I really had any friends there, but that seems to shift with the wind. Diana and I get along best, but she seems to have her mind on other things these days and barely talks to me. The guysSpencer, Michael and Duanewho I hung out with at first, are now tired of me, I guess. Theyre nice enough but they dont include me in what they do or talk about either. The front office womenDawnelle, Debbie and Eleanoronly include me if they have to. Debbie and Eleanor are nice enough to a point, but Debbie still makes remarks about "Americans!" to me if she doesnt understand something Im doing, rather than asking me to explain it. Dawnelle goes through phases of ignoring me or trying to make me feel as left out and unimportant as possible. Theyve all adopted a new high-school aged volunteer helping out in the accounts department with open arms, and one day I walked in to she and the front office staff giggling and planning everyone chipping in for some lunch, and they all just stopped talking when I walked in. That about did it for me for the week. No desk, no one talking to me, no one understanding what I do I can see this all happening at the start, but my assignment seems to be gong in reverse! At first, it wasnt great, but it was ok and since then its even gone downhill! My "partner" works in the south, is too busy to work with me (which defeats the point in him being called my community partner), and this week asked me to prepare my notes for him on a meeting which we both attended, and the postponement of the followup meeting he failed to mention to me, so I rushed in for it to find out it was moved. At my wits end, I barely tactfully told him no, my notes were insufficient for that sort of thing as I hadnt been told I was taking notes other than for myself. One more example: in my workplan Giles wrote (see there the lack of participatory process?) that I am to write an education policy for the organization. Forgive me if Im a little obtuse, but shouldnt the organization have done that before they brought on a full-time volunteer to work in education? Mightnt it have been wise to sort out what topics they wanted to teach and who their targets are? And how is it a wise idea for the newest person to he agency to be dictating this sort of policy? I told Giles that a policy is definitely needed, but there too many unanswered questions for a policy to be written, and that maybe this should wait (since it wasnt done before I came,) until the Council Task Force is done their evaluations of everything, as the role of education might be elucidated in this process. No, he says, do it now in a draft, and the questions you raise will guide the conversation and help to form the policy. That makes some sense, but to me still seems like putting the cart before the horse, but at the Trust this is how things are done. Write a policy, fill it with too-fancy overwrought language and a few ideas that youve made up and lots of references to other documents, then make people wade through it to try and find the holes and then fix it from there. To me it makes more sense to make a list of issues at stake in deciding a policy, have a meeting or meetings where we decide on it, and then write a clear and easy-to-read policy on it from there. And this is one more way that I feel like a failure. Im supposed to be there bringing new ideas and perspectives and in word, they all embrace this, but in deed, they all go about doing whatever theyve always done. I get zero respect or even recognition for having any decent ideas. I know its not me, but after several months of this, its hard not to take it personally. So I plod onward.

Im really unhappy and cant see an easy way out of this situation. On one hand I see my bad situation getting worse, and structurally, there doesnt seem to be a way for me to work within the organization effectively and to get the support I need. They arent open to sharing me, even if thats the most effective way for me to get the work done that they want. Its a very dysfunctional possessive relationship. But on the other hand, there is still hope. The task force is rearranging things, Ive told the Officer In Charge that my role is not well-defined nor understood and that there has been a misunderstanding with the ED, and it seems like if I can just wait a little longer, things could work out. Im not a very patient person, so this waiting is very frustrating for me, but I have waited, and things havent gotten much better. Ive been waiting since I started. So what I cant see clearly now is whether Im being foolish or wise by waiting any longer. Its just hard to know because I dont know whats behind door #2: how easy would it be to be reassigned and what kind of place would I get put in? It could be walking from the frying pan into the fire. I feel an urgency to get this cleared up because a new batch of volunteers are coming in early April, and then much of the staffs time will be devoted to their training, homestays, assignments and housing search for the next few months. Soon after another bunch will come in July. Another reason I hesitate is that this very dysfunctional organization and its current processes are a clear candidate for my degree project, as I have mentioned. But I realized recently that still doesnt mean I have to stayour degree project can be about an organization were not directly involved in, so long as we know and understand the situation.So I need to go have a heart to heart with our APCD, which may or may not get me anywhere. Mike is a sweetheart of a man, but by American standards, not the most helpful. Were used to people who listen and take action. He listens, nods, and it goes nowhere. Weve all learned that conversations with Mike can be effective if you tell him your problem, he nods, and then you provide the solution and tell him what you need him to do. But as far as having an open discussion where he suggests options and then takes an active role in helping you resolve things, he is fairly useless. Andrew (an American), is better at this, but hierarchically, we have to go to Mike first. Plus we have this un-followed up conversation from IST to to have with someone at my org. Right now my instinct, despite my fear of a reassignment being worse, is to make one more attempt and then scrap it. As much as I fear the unknown, I fear worse being left behind in my present situation while everyone is distracted for months by the new trainees. Im sad though, because I like some of the work Ive been given. I dont mind a challenge but a hostile work situation is quite different. I have to keep reminding myself of this so I dont feel like a failure, or keep blaming myself for not being able to accomplish things there. I feel very much like Im being used as a work horse, but not getting very much back out of the situation. Except theyre not even doing that well, because a work horse without a workstation is not a very effective thing

In the meantime, Ive got this full-on research project to do for the Trust. I mentioned it beforean educational cd-rom for which they need detailed information on all the Trusts protected areas and sites. I will be working probably 10+ hours on this for 2 weeks, so I need to find some motivation. There is reimbursement offered, which I am not allowed to accept, but under condition of my doing it I am asking that the Trust use the money to pay for equipment for educationa computer and workspace and whatever supplies (like the doc files and labels for the documentation centre) are needed. Whether I stay or not, at least they will have equipment for someone to be able to do it. Ive got a great opportunity to get a trainee from Carolines centre to come do data entry and work on our documentation centre, but we have no desk even for me to sit at, let alone another person. So we cant take the option of more free labour because we havent the resources to support it. And theres a 2-foot high mound of documents to be entered (which has somehow also found its way into my work plan because theres no one else to do it). I have told the ED that I will gladly train and manage a volunteer to do it, but it is not sustainable nor sensible for them to waste me as a resource doing mindless data entry. And now I cant even do that. You can see how my full-to-the brim workplan isnt the most effective nor accomplishable thing And yet I know I will be held to it strictly under the auspices of the new Council analysis-cum-micromanagement era. The more I think about this, the more I realize that this is just not the right time for the agency to have a pcv, until theyve got their structure and niche carved out more clearly. I think thats how I need to approach my talk with Mike next.

I realized recently that it has come to where during the week I put my life on hold, doing whatever I need to do to get through the week, and then thrive when the weekends come. I live for the weekends. And on the weekends Im so exhausted and drained from the week that I have no energy to invest in getting further involved in the community, or getting to know my neighbors better. I hang out with another PCV (Caroline, who also has an iffy work situation, except she just has nothing to do) and often the Canadian volunteers, sometimes the Irish. We see lots of people--Lucians and ex-pats--when were out, and I have no problems relating to any of them socially. I hate that I live the tourist life on weekends, but its the only way I can feel sane. I know that there is no "true" Peace Corps experience, but when I read and hear about the experiences other volunteers are having in other countries, I feel a bit envious, and again, a bit like something is going wrong for me. Peace Corps in the EC and in St. Lucia particularly, is just different than in the rest of the world. And it would be slightly more like a "traditional" experience if I were assigned to a more rural part of the island. But while the education volunteers can be scattered about, the NGO jobs are largely concentrated in the city, which means living in the outskirts as I do. Where we live its largely commuter areas, like the suburbs at home. The neighborhoods are mixed with middle and lower-class, and I still have chickens, goats and cows scattered about near my apartment, but there are only 4 buildings on my street, which is just a cul-de-sac jutting off the main highway. Theres not a lot of interaction going on here, or sense of community. For safety reasons, I dont really tell people I meet where I live (and I have most people who drive me home drop me at the end of my street) so that means I miss out on having people stop by. Ive met most of the neighbors and we say hi, but its not as though they invite me in to talk or express much curiosity about me. I suppose I need to be more outgoing, but as I say, the work situation so drains me that I have little energy left to spare on other "risky" endeavors. The high point of my week was when Samuel, the boy next door, came up to me when I was reading on my porch Friday afternoon (having just left early because I had no place to work) to show me something he had made at schoolsalt (colored with chalk) in a lucozade bottle in a layered "painted desert" sort of design. That really made my day. He told me he didnt get anything for valentines day at school, so I gave him packet of Tastykakes from my finally dwindling supply (of the 12 boxes dad sent, I have 3 leftmost have been given away). I dont know how his mom would feel ( I think she suspects Im a bit weird or somehow a bad influence. Maybe Im just paranoid but the whole family next door besides Samuel is friendly and helpful but distant. Maybe we all just dont know what to say to each other), but I was thinking of letting Samuel use my computer and check out the internet. Maybe I could help him make a website or something. Kids here dont get to use computers muchonly a few of the better schools have labs, and even then they are often not given good instruction on them or used properly. (For example, there is a new lab in the Soufriere school, and for months, no one has been able to use it because the Ministry of Education supposedly changed the password and no one down there knows it, but no one from the Ministry has come down to fix it. Tom was considering doing some computer classes but to my knowledge he still cant use those computers. And yet no IT volunteers were assigned to St. Lucia??) So thats a new project to be taken on. I think I should ask Ann first before mentioning it to him.

In the last two weeks Ive become so absorbed in misery by day, avoidance by night that I havent practiced my guitar at all. I feel like a jerk for that because I really want to learn and its embarassing to face the teacher when you know you havent practiced. So Im avoiding Mike too. But this week I have to at least start back at that. I dont know if I can handle volleyball and guitar and all of this work madness, so I will just stick to one. Im still running and I need to kick that up a notch in preparation for an upcoming 10K in Soufriere. This coming weekend is a Trust member activity-a hike in a central island area called Millet, in the banana belt. So Ill still be active. (Maybe by the time aunt Janets package with the knee pads arrive I'll be ready to take on the additional challenge of learning more volleyball. I dont want to give it up entirely, and I need to take advantage of it before the Canadians leave in May, since they're my link to the group, and sort of my coaches.) I just need to take these things more slowly. I was so desperate for other things to make me happy that I got in a bit over my head.

Well, now that Ive vented about work and Im feeling more clear-headed, I can get back to filling my journal with the usual happy descriptions of weekends and good times. Friday night Caroline and I went to the Canadians house and made dinner with Sam, Shannon and her friend Kelly (who left Sat. after 3 weeks here). We made pizza, salad, yams and saltfish and a yam and cheese casserole. We also drank half a bottle of Nutz and Rum and two bottles of wine. Samantha has a boyfriend back in Canada, but the rest of us dont, but none of us care too much about Valentines day nonetheless. For some reason, our stories turned to the embarassingsort of an informal gave of "I never," where each of us shared our most ridiculous, out-of-character or absolutely bizarre experiences, and laughed so hard we nearly fell off our chairs. Eventually, fueled by laughter and wine, we decided to go out, but it was sort of a disappointment. We went first to Rumours, and found some people we knew there (including a member of PC staff, Rosemary, who gives me rides from the office to work sometimes, and her husband), but it was so crowded with people coming from the restaurants for vtines that we were stuck outside. None of us wanted our beers, and so we abandoned them and went to try out Shamrocks. The band was already playing when we got there, but they werent very good, and were playing mostly slow songs, so it wasnt quite the usual crazy scene. We staked out a table in the corner and steeled ourselves for a new onslaught of Alvin games. I gave him the cold shoulder and so he moved to Caroline, who did the same. Later, I was dancing with someone else, and he tried to dance with her, and got vexed when she wouldnt and stomped off. He spent most of the night brushing past me as I talked to this guy, or glaring at me from across the room. The person I was talking to was a genuinely nice-seeming person named Don who is a Marlin fisherman and works for some local wealthy guy, travelling throughout the islands taking people fishing. Not a bad life. He was an interesting guy, and not too creepy in the usual overly pushy, overly inappropriate way. He actually asked me questions about myself, which is rare around here. We danced a little, but mostly talked. Still though, Im very much a skeptic. He asked for my number and I wouldnt give it to him, so he gave me his. I told him that I'm very cautious, as a new person, and that I wasnt likely to call. He said he understood, and was still nice enough to give us a ride home. He gained enough points by that that I might call him My hesitancy is because things are so intense herea phone call will practically make him my boyfriend. Really, any small effort a woman makes is taken as a much larger sign of interest. You cant be casually interested here, and theres no slow process of getting to know. You either are or you arent, and I have a hard time with that. So maybe Ill call him, but I will have to let him know that I want to be friends, and see if that works. Probably I wont because thats just easier and less drama-laden, but Im sick of my little circle of friends and our same routines. I hate that its so unlikely to have male friends here, because making female friends isnt easy. Theyre suspicious and competitive, and often dont have the same interests as us. There are so many small barriers. There are always exceptions to both cases, of course, but its so hard to find. Thats what the next year and a half are for. Right now thats seeming like a very long time.

Saturday, the PCVs had our boat ride to Marigot Bay. It was a beautiful day, with a few rainstorms scattered throughout, and there were 14 of us on board this maybe 40 foot sailboat. It was possibly the biggest sailboat Ive been on, and a really nice one, with sleeping area for 5. This American guy, George, has been sailing the Caribbean for years, and he takes people out on long trips, not usually day charters. For us he made an exception, and we all had a really nice time. We sailed out of Rodney Bay at about 10 am and took just over two hours to get to Marigot. We anchored there in the bay and had lunchwe had food and drinks in a cooler and everyone shared. Doris's host mother, Grace, came along and had made her famous wings and some floats, and George broke out some rum punch to share. Lauren and I swam about a 1/2 mile out to the shore and checked out the reefs there (her with goggles, me with my snorkel, and others swam) and we played music and dominoes and relaxed. Around 2, Mary and Tom and his two sisters that just arrived in town the night before (both Benedictine nuns), Kahani, Margaret and Laura (who lives in the north, in Babonneau, but had gotten sick from the boat) got off and met a taxi they had arranged to take them south from there--no point in going back north to go south very late that night. So the seven of us took the trip back north (Clint stayed overnight with Doris and Lauren with me) and watched the sunset. Apparently there is a "green spark" that you can see on a clear night when the sun sets, so we all sat and watched for it. Just before the final sliver of sun sinks into the sea, it turns green for a brief second. I was looking for some sort of "flash" above so missed it, but it was there. Ill look again, but frankly was disappointed that it wasnt more exciting. It gave us something to focus on as we finished off the rum punch. Lauren and I hit the grocery store before heading home and then showered, made a veggie stirfry and drank some tea and watched movies. Notting Hill came on, and neither of us could stay awake for the end, we were so completely wiped out from the day. I even took two naps onboard the boat.

Today I was supposed to go on the boat with Lyle and Maggie again,but she reinjured her neck a pinched nerveso that is postponed once again. I went to the beach as usual and met the girls, and afterwards we went for ice cream, and then I went to visit Maggie. Had a beer there, and got a phone call from mom. Talking to more people has made me more resolute that I need to get out of my job. Its just not going to work out in the forseeable future. So I am going to the PC office for a meeting in the morning. I got another Alvin story from Friday night from Sam: after Caro and I left, they got hit on relentlessly for a few more hours, and then finally dragged Kelly away. Before they left, Alvin sat down to talk to Sam and was chatting with her, joking and telling her happy birthday, as Shan had told him it was her bday earlier and he brought her a free drink. She admitted that it wasnt really her birthday, and he freaked out, got really vexed and stomped off. So apparently all of us are on his bad list now. Oh well. Wish me luck tomorrow! This is going to be a tough week.

12 Feb., 2003
Sunset Swim

Had the kind of day today where a lot happens but not much gets done. Frustrating. Started off with a long wait at Cable and Wireless (the phone company, who has a monopoly here at present), because my phone just stopped working last night. I'm not sure if it's part of the recent trend of their service falling apart, as my voicemail was broken for nearly a month and several other people I know have been experiencing phone problems in the last few days (paranoid theory has it that it's punishment for recent protests downtown of rate hikes), or because my bill was late being paid. I needed to ask them questions about the bill as well, so I started the morning off there. The guy I spoke with was reasonably helpful considering his evil company's policies, and removed $17 in incorrect charged from my astronomically high bill. However, I couldn't get an itemized list of the phone calls they claim I made, because they charge $5 a page! So it's a lose-lose proposition, they'll rip you off one way or another. My electricity bill was double what Caroline's and Doris's were, so I feel like theres something wrong there as well.

Today at work was somewhat successful in that I had the computer all day (Jude was not there) and the new "Officer in Charge" already on her second day proved herself more helpful than others at the top of the food chain have been in my time thus far: she found a short-term solution to our computer sharing issues. The marketing mgr at Pigeon Island has resigned, and his computer will be moved to our office. I think it's a fairly old and slow one, but its a computer nonetheless. Praises. Otherwise, we were having network issues and I got very little done, except a long-planned and postponed meeting with Giles, and I left later than planned and frustrated, as always. When I got home, I decided to vent my frustrations with a swim in the sea. The nearby beach, Marisule beach, is small and home to the boats and equipment of many local fisherman. Some people do go there to swim (locals) but it is primarily a working beach, with several houses located nearby and small motorized wooden boats lining up on the sand. I don't go there often, since someone from PC gave me a warning about going there alone, but the neighbors have pretty much told me it's safe. I called Doris and told her where I was going (the beach is at the end of her street) and then headed down there. I'm so glad I did! I got in a few laps of the length of the beach before the sun set for good. It was so peaceful--the sea was placid, and I was the only one out there except an older fisherman working on his boat. I watched the sun sink into the sea, planes land and a cruise ship leave the harbor. The sun was a huge orangey ball with beams of "god light" streaming out above the clouds as it sank into the sea. It looked like a cartoonish child's drawing of the sun. Moments like that make me glad to be alive. I left the beach in a much better state of mind, and stopped to check Doris for a bit on my way home.

Finally hooked up with my Mom via IM, though my connection kept timing out, which was frustrating. Also talked with Jenn, and in doing so missed a call from Carla regarding a visit from her! Looks like March-April will be quite a busy time for me. I can't wait! How funny that all 3 of my first visitors (other than Steph, who was a stranger to me when she got here, but is now a friend) are from grade school/high school. I have the feeling that Spring is going to fly past before I know it.

9 Feb., 2003
Gilligan's Hike

Friday's meeting went well, despite those of us from the north having to wait an hour and a half in the heat of the morning for the Soufriere transport to fill up. To make matters worse, I had coffee at home and then decided during the wait to buy a green coconut to drink before a long, bumpy ride. Bad idea. Then I got the middle seat (worst seat of all because there is nothing to lean on during all the hairpin turns) and was between a carsick volunteer and a beligerent old man that shouted loudly in Kweyol the entire ride and made the driver stop twice--once to buy cassava bread except then he was rude to the proprietor and didnt buy any, and then so he could pee on the side of the road (insult to injury as my coconut and coffee haunted me). Eventually, we arrived and had a good meeting and a nice lunch: turkey stew, creole bread, salad and pasta salad. The ride back home was much less eventful, in a good way. I reached home about an hour earlier than I normally do from work-4- and took the opportunity to thoroughly clean my apartment and then read for a while. Later that night, Caroline, her mom Kathy, her brother Will, Jeff, Noel, Stephen, and I took a taxi to Anse La Raye for the fish fry, stopping to pick up Margaret before we got into the village. We had a nice time, having some drinks and eating bakes and floats (biscuits that are either fried on a pan or fried in oil), akras (fishcakes), and various other foods: stephen and I shared some parrot fish, which came whole--heads, eyes and all, Margaret had some octopus, and Kathy and Will shared a lobster, while Jeff got his own. (He proceeded to pick up the entire tail on his plastic fork and eat it that way, which we dubbed French style.) We talked about going out afterwards, but didn't arrive home until 1 and called it a night. We decided we'd take Will out for some Lucian nightlife Saturday night.

Saturday morning came too quickly, and the Boucher family and I met downtown at 10. We took a Vieux Fort bus, which travels across the island and then south on the E. Coast highway (as opposed to the oft-described hideously curvy W. Coast road to Soufriere. After the center of the island, there are no roads crossing the interior of the island, so to get south one must take the highway on either the E or W coast). We got off halfway to Dennery at the Barre de LIsle Trail, which the map shows as a small green loop trail, and the Lonely Planet guide describes as "a lush rainforest hike, which is in the center of the island along the ridge that divides the eastern and western halves of St. Lucia, leads to the top of the 1446-foot Morne La Cambe. It provides some fine views along the way and takes about 3 hours roundtrip. Guides are available weekdays from the Forestry department," and we had tried to call and arrange something, but the proper person "wasn't available" and no one returned Caroline's call (my second unsuccessful attempt to arrange a hike with Forestry) and thus we were on our own. There were no maps, but the trail was clearly marked and well-maintained. We took it easy, stopping many times along the way, especially when Will spotted a huge furry yellow spider peeping out of a hole. We got some pictures and continued onward. About an hour and a half later, we found ourselves at an intersection with signs pointing both left and right. The sign to the left read "Trail" and someone had hand-written "to the end of the trail," while the one to the right read simply "Hiking Trail". Realizing that we wanted to go to the end, we took the left. It took us about 20 more feet and ended at a viewpoint looking out at the Atlantic coast and Piton Flore and La Sorciere. We had a short break and then decided since the trail dead-ended there, the other way must take us back, since it's shown as a loop trail on the basic tourist map of the island. So we set off, though the latter half of the trail was not as well-maintained or well-marked, there were ribbons on the trees indicating the way. The trail continued along the ridge from the viewpoint, with many ups and downs along the way, many slippery with mud and slightly treacherous. (Kathy hadn't expected this sort of trail and so was wearing only birkenstocks where the rest of us had sport sandals). We hiked onwards, at this point having lost all sense of direction, but expecting that any minute the trail would curve and head downwards and back to the trailhead. We stopped several times to regroup and discuss our options, but without a map or any clear indication of what was happening, and no desire to backtrack, we kept going forward. Will and I had gone ahead and eventually found a sign which read "Beware of Razor Grass." After 4 hours of hiking and no idea when we'd be done, it was such an absurd sign and situation we just had to laugh. We regrouped, and since it was 3pm, Kathy made the executive decision that we should turn around and go to the known end of the trail, as the sun sets at 6. Grimly, we turned back, knowing that we had a long way ahead of us, were already tired and getting sore, nearly out of water and out of food. None of us had come prepared for the trek we found ourselves on. There was no going quickly, either, due to the slippery, rocky and hilly terrain and our growing tiredness and footwear issues. We kept at it and at 5:30, Will and I found ourselves back at the original trail intersection, where the signs made even less sense given our experience. We couldnt help but wonder where on earth the trail we were on went, and why they would bother with the confusion of signing it so vaguely. We continued back on the original trail, reveling in the relative comfort of its well-maintained stairs with ropes and gravel, and reached the trailhead just after 6:30 when total darkness fell. Exhausted, muddy and hungry, we climbed through the fence and aboard the first transport that came past. In Castries, we bought some green drinking coconuts, and thus refreshed, took a bus directly to Rodney Bay to Pizza Pizza. We gorged ourselves and headed home to bed. So much for taking Will out. Next time.

This morning I woke up sore in the calves, but not bad considering our 7 hour hike. Made some tea, read a little, put a load of wash in, made some banana-coconut bread. Then I went to wash the bowl from the banana bread batter, and nothing came out of the faucet. I realized the washer, too, was silent. Nothing. What I dont understand, though, is if the main water is out, why we're not getting any from the tanks-there are two large black emergency tanks of water for my three-apartment complex, and they couldnt possibly be empty. So I have no water for now. Luckily there was a pitcher in the fridge. Hopefully it will be back when I return. Today I plan to do very little but lounge at the beach. I'm still feeling very tired from yesterdays adventure. I'm looking forward to seeing the picturesthough we didnt see a parrot in all that time, we did see a leaf-bug (like a walking stick, but shaped like a leaf) that wed seen in jungle documentaries before and that big scary spider. And many slugs.

Later Sunday. I ran into the environmental education guy from Forestry at the supermarket and he gave me a ride to the beach, so I told him our tale of woe. It turns out the trail is badly signed because you're not supposed to be there without a guide (though we did try to arrange one). He said the trail we were on gets pretty terrible further on, and that we totally saved ourselves by turning around, because it goes all the way to the south of the island, down towards Mt. Gimie, the highest peak on the island. It would take several days to get there. So were even luckier than we knew that we turned around.

The beach was gorgeous today--so clear that you could even see your shadow on the bottom. I got there to find a whole new era in the Alvin mindgames, which have been blissfully quiet for a few weeks: today he and another guy were there on rented chairs with two heavyset white tourists. The second he saw me he called out to make sure I saw him there, holding her hand, and throwing himself all over her. No doubt another one of his tourist conquests in the whole rent-a-dread phenomena. I'm sure it was supposed to make me jealous but all it really did was make Sam, Caro and I alternate laughter with nausea all afternoon. We went for ice cream afterwards, and when I got home, my water was back on. Hooray! I grabbed some stuff and went and had dinner at Carolines. I got some roti wraps downtown the other day, and so we used them with our combined ingredients to make black bean/soy chunks burritos, and they were mighty good. We had starfruits and salad, and afterwards, Nutz and Rum (a milky peanut punch drink) leftover from her parental visit, while we cooled out listening to the new MP3 cds Will brought. I scheduled with my mom that we should chat online tonight, but so far no word. Knowing her, it will happen smack in the middle of the hour-long Simpsons fest tonight. She has a knack for that. My calves are killing from yesterday's hike. Im not feeling ready to take on another week of work, but I think this week will be busy. I've got some things to track down Giles for and work on with him, which will be quite a task on his last week, I imagine. Plus I have to finish my goals statement for PC and send that in. Blech. I'm working on a comparison that I will post here when I feel a little better about it on things that are the same as I expected in the PC and here, and the things that are different. We just recently got a contact about a newsletter called The Chain for returned PCVs from the eastern caribbean. If it comes out well, I may send it to them. The newness of being online still hasnt worn off. I feel like someone who has just discovered the internet. Amazing how little it takes to entertain me.

7 Feb., 2003
Small Victory

Good news: Last night my neighbor and co-worker Jude came over to have a look at my laptop (he let it slip at work that he is taking a certificate course in fixing computers) and he did a few things to get it running more smoothly, and also helped me get it online. With a password from a friend, I'm able to get on (for now, anyway) for free! A very good deal indeed. So the laptop Ryan gave me is becoming much more useful now, though it still needs a few more software upgrades before I can declare it good. Last night I was like a new kid online--so excited! I spent 1 and a half hours on Yahoo IM with Mark Almeida. That was great fun, though I'm sleepy this morning because of it. So if anyone out there is on Yahoo, let me know! We can arrange a time to chat. I feel like I'll have much more opportunities to stay in touch now, because although I finally have internet access at "my" desk at work, it's the main computer by our printer, so everyone is always interupting me &/or needing to take over my desk, so it's difficult to concentrate. If I even have a desk that day... I can see the newness of this computer-at-home thing distracting me from my other hobbies, so that I dont read as much or play my guitar as much. That's bad. But maybe instead it will mean I dont watch as much tv, which is good. This IM thing could be a bad addiction. I'm supposed to be leaving in 15 minutes for my meeting; instead, I'm catching up with Karen Watters in Boston, who is an early bird this morning. If only work didnt interfere with my hobbies like this :)

6 Feb., 2003
Cinematic Musings, etc

Well, I loved the movie, and I knew I would. No question there. Worth waiting 15 months. After my third movie at the Cinema here in Castries, I feel competent to offer some commentary on movie-watching here in St. Lucia. First, this is no hoity-toity cinematic experience. No matter what the film, there is always a rowdy element to the audience. Movies are interactive with the audience--people cheer, yell at characters, sing along, shout at violent acts, suck their teeth (called Chups--i dont know if i addressed this elsewhere--it's a sign of disgust or frustration), etc. Most significant is the yelling at violent acts aspect. There is some kind of tradition here, and I dont recall the whole story, with yelling "Hee-Salop!" as loudly as possible throughout movies whenever someone falls or gets hit or there is a fight, etc. The rowdier the movie, the rowdier the crowd. With the many battle scenes in Lord, there was lots of opportunity for this. It was funny to see it through the eyes of Geoff, who was at the Cinema here for the first time. We both agreed we like it. Makes the movie more fun, provided you can hear the dialogue over the yelling.

Last night was a unique experience too, because it had kind of a "you know you're in a developing country when.." element to it. Granted, I never expected to be able to go see movies at all during Peace Corps, so any opportunity is a cause for joy. But it's certainly not the same experience as I have grown used to at home (Geoff concurred w/France), in good and bad ways. Good: there is pool in the lobby, and beer and more varieties of food for sale at a reasonble price! Popcorn is $2! There's a video arcade too. They make it a place to hang out rather than just a place to see movies. Bad, or should I say interesting: The floor isn't sloped enough, so I've found it's best to sit in front or risk too many heads in the screen. There's not a lot of etiquette regarding ducking if you come in late. Or much else, for that matter, including cell phones. Sound is not always good, and last night the movie stopped mid-dialog in a tense scene where someone finds out someone isn't dead. She exclaims and then the screen cut out. Intermission flashed up on the screen, and suddenly we stopped for 10 minutes. When it resumed they started up literally right where it left off--didnt even restart that scene to make it easier to follow. THe audio sounded like someone had dubbed it themselves in a theatre elsewhere. (could have been...) All in all, it's entertaining.

Big news regarding work today: our ED is taking all of his leave and will be gone for 4-6 months, effective next week. Someone from Council will be coming in to replace him during that period. During that time, a task force will be looking closely at every aspect of the org and how it can run more effectively. This has my degree project written all over it. I don't know what implications it has for me directly as far as duties, but I hope my request for observation will be considered soon so i can observe much of the process. This will greatly help my paper... So this is good and curious news. Obviously, it has huge and as yet unforseen consequences for how things go around here, but I remain hopefull.

Tomorrow we have a volunteer meeting in Soufriere so I'm offline for the weekend. Have a good one, everyone.

5 Feb., 2003
Lord of the Week

Lord of the Rings II is finally here! I'm going tonight with my friend Geoff, and I can't wait. It's been sort of a blah week so far--lots of sitting in the office waiting for things that are always holding up what i have to do, keeping myself busy in front of a computer typing things. It makes the hours drag and the soul droop. Today I am in the PC office typing up a report on our goals and objectives for the current year. We were supposed to have done this with our community partner during day 2 of IST, but instead we had our monster meeting regarding the misunderstanding about my presence and role in my agency (which incidentally has gone nowhere). So now I'm left to do it on my own, and it's really no fun. A useful exercise though, using the Log Frame template. This evening I'm meeting Doris for dinner as we work to plan a pilot literacy project in one of her schools. She's a special education volunteer, but she was formerly a Literacy Volunteers tutor, and as I did my VISTA service with LVA, we are going to modify the training information we have to fit the local environment, and run a 2 day session where we train some teachers and parents to more effectively work with children and their reading skills and various learning styles. We have our work cut out for us, but I'm really excited about getting it underway. Then I go to the movie.

The weekend was good, and passed too quickly as usual. Friday night those of us in the N met Tim and Cambria, some visiting '68 St. Vincentian volunteers here to take their GRE, for pizza in Rodney Bay. Margaret and I stayed there for several drinks and had a good time chatting and catching up on our lives past and present. Ran into some of the same crowd as well as a few new people. We actually left early enough (1 am) to catch a transport home, which was exciting. I had never taken one that late. Saturday I went to the beach and met Caroline and Sam. Shannon and Heather had their diving test that day (and passed) so Shan and her visiting friend Kelly came by and took us out on a Hobie Cat in the bay. I also took my new float from Cindy out for its inaugural run at the beach. It was so relaxing, bobbing on the peaceful water in the sun, that I feared I would fall asleep and drift out to sea... Maybe I should look into getting a tether. That night several of us met again for dinner at Doris's house with Tim and Cambria and we had a big carb-fest: pasta, garlic bread, wine, salad, cake that one of the japanese volunteers made. It was nice, but I was exhausted for some reason and left around 8. By 9, I was asleep on the couch with my book, so I gave up and went to bed. Got a great sleep. Sunday I had a guitar lesson, and then met Nigel for a quick hike. We found a mysterious marked but unnamed hiking trail on the pathetic tourist map that we both have and decided to see if we could find it. Eventually we did--it was the small interpretive trail outside the forestry complex near Babonneau. So we did that brief hike--maybe 45 minutes max, and then spent some time looking at the animals in their mini-zoo. He dropped me by the beach where I met up with Caroline and her mom and brother, who came in late the night before, Shannon and Kelly, Andrew, and later Caroline's Babonneau host family. There were also several kids related to one of Shannon's co-workers, and they were great fun to play with. We had a float, a frisbee and an inflatable sea kayak. I had the Trust digital camera from an assignment Friday, so I have some nice pictures (some are now posted here) of the day. That evening towards sunset, we looked across the water to Pigeon Island and saw that Fort Rodney was on fire. It seemed to start in two places and spread. Over the next hour or two we watched as it consumed the hill and spread all the way down. It was scary. I took lots of pictures until it was too dark. Some will be posted soon. Another crisis at the Trust. Just what we didn't need. At least this takes the focus off of the recent discrimination scandal that has been in the news.

Played volleyball Monday and jogged, yesterday jogged, then walked the stretch to work, then walked to Caroline's for dinner, and walked home (busses were no longer running that route). Too tired to jog today, and I was home waiting for Spencer to call me back about helping me get another fuel tank. Last night when I got home I tried to heat some water and discovered my stove's fuel tank had run out. I'd been expecting it to happen sometime soon. There is a gas station just across the street, but I can't carry a full fuel tank home myself. He never called me back and when I reached him on his cell he said he had something else to do. So hopefully this afternoon. I hate being dependent on other people for things like this. I'd do it myself if I could, but my co-workers don't really seem to understand that as a foreigner, I have no one else to ask.

After sort of a soul-seeking/cleansing look at myself and my life last week I had this sort of lightness of being, and it felt so great. Instead of being short-fused and cranky as I have often been in recent times, I was chill and mellow and happy again. I'm starting to feel that fade as the administrative blah of my job creeps over me again, draining away my positive attitude and enthusiasm. I don't like it and I'm trying not to let it happen. Hopefully tonight's session with Doris and the long-awaited movie can infuse the week with some energy.

The good and bad news is that I got a package from Mom on friday with my computer power cable, among other things. I hooked it up and it works! I do have to smack the screen once in a while, but it's functional. I was so excited! Then I sat down and typed out several things in word to bring to the office and send. The disk wouldn't be recognized, which I couldnt tell if it was a problem with the disk or a problem with the compatibility of the software versions. Today I sat down with it again and see that it runs Word 7.0 for Windows 95, but when i tried to resave to a different disk, the disk wouldn't go all the way in the drive. It went in but there was no final "click" to indicate it was in and closed. And it wouldnt work with me holding it. Not sure how that happened since it worked this weekend. And the CD drive is missing the front panel, so I can't actually put cds in. Two strikes. So after all this waiting and hoping for a computer, I have one that works but I can't print anything, or save anything to print or send elsewhere. I guess I have to think about getting email access... So that's the issue du jour. (It's a Gateway laptop). Your comments are welcome.

25-30 Jan, 2003
Achey Breaky Thighs

I've kept some notes from the weekend and early in the week at PC training, so I'm including them as well as some more recent thoughts here under one heading. Been running (hills!) and playing V-ball, after a break last week, and I'm in serious pain. Those hills killed me.

Still no Sebastian. I try to tell myself that it's not upsetting. I had this theory that maybe Sebastian was trapped in the vacant apt next door. I called in the windows, with no Meow in reply but I had the landlord check anyway. No such luck. I've been offered a new kitten by a few people so i may take them up on it. I really miss him and it's sad to think of replacing him so soon, but he was good company. And now I have all these toys and treats...

It must be "influential movies of Deb's late adolescence" week or something, as "Pump up the Volume" and "Singles" have both been on. And how sad that 10 years later, Seattle still doesn't have the supertrain the main character worked on in the movie. It's funny the difference that a few years can make--Caro doesnt get Pump up the Volume and for me and my friends it was inspiring and the soundtrack to our lives for several years. (like when eric's first message on my new cell last year was "Hey Dad, I'm in jail. I'm in jail and I like it.")

Saturday was something new and different. Caroline brought my sister's Xmas package from the PC office to me at the beach (it finally arrived!) as well as a very early valentine from Grandma. The new talking Simpsons watch is absolutely hideous and is now my favorite possession, and I will most likely soon drive everyone crazy and/or break it. I tore open my presents right there on the beach. From there we went to the Rex Hotel and sat by the pool for the day. I dropped off a card and some cakes to Doreen there for Dorissa's 4th birthday, and she said we could stay by the pool. Even better, Sam (one of the Canadian vols) had her parents in town staying there, so they plied us with free fruity drinks for the afternoon. We had a glimpse of the posh life for a few hours. Friday night Caro and I went to Marigot Bay to a bar called J.J.'s for a few drinks with Milan (one of her coworkers) and his friend. It was mello and fun, and also nice to see a new scene and have a ride there and back. Saturday night we went by a new sportsbar in Rodney Bay (also opened: Hooters, a knockoff of the US Chain) and met Jeff and Stephen and Kate, 2 of the Irish vols. That day was our first time meeting Kate. Later, Maggie (from Friends cafe) and Lyle, her boyfriend came by, and drinks kept just appearing in my hand. We met lots of new people and had a great time. Eventually we ended up at Shamrocks for a little dancing (this time Alvin wasnt behind the bar) and then got a ride home from Donnel.

Sunday, after a late night, woke up to the phone's repeated ringing. Of course, by the time I got there, it stopped. No message. Get coffee, turn on the radio. Church. They actually play the entire service of certain churches on the radio here. I try other stations--the same--either church service, church music or country music. After 2 country songs I can take it no more and give up. It's silence, CDs or TV. A lot of things are done via the radio here, which really makes sense since the country is so mountainous that phone lines arent everywhere yet, and many places are still very poor. Plus, in some rurual communities illiteracy rates are quite high. The first and most startling example I had of this was hearing the death announcements on the radio. It happens every morning at a certain time. I find it quite creepy (though sensible), so I change the station when I hear the telltale organ music. The abundance of church music, I suppose, relates to the large majority of the country being Christian. Until the 80s and 90s, it was mainly all Catholic, but now other denominations, like Seventh Day Adventist have gained popularity. There is most defininitely a religious influence in areas that I'm not accustomed to here: like prayers before every meeting (everywhere!) and people with prayers tacked up on the walls at work, listening to religious stations in the office, etc. It can be a bit unnerving at times to the uninitiated. Anyway, after I got moving Sunday I went to the beach at Pigeon Point to watch a volleyball tourney with the club I recently started with. From there I went home, showered and travelled down to Soufriere with co-workers for a signing of a charter to protect the Pitons by the Governor General. It was already approved by Cabinet, and this was a final step in getting the dossier sent to the UNESCO world heritage committee. It was a rather long ceremony, with many speeches by many ministers (in which each one recognizes each person of note present, despite the fact that each other speaker has done the same) and ending with a cocktail party. Finally, we left and I made it up north in time for halftime of the Superbowl. I met Brendan (an irish guy who works at Digicel) and some of his co-workers at Rumours, and as it turned out, knew quite a few people there again. The game was quite boring and my team (Raiders) lost, but I didn't much care. It was fun to watch it with an international posse: an irish guy, a jamaican guy, a swiss guy, a french guy, some lucians and the canadian girls. After the game, Brendan and I stopped at KFC (my second time there in 6 months, not bad) and he drove me home. I gave him Robin's info in Grenada, as they are travelling there this week.

Some other things I've forgotten to mention: I had a baby tarantula in my apartment about 2 weeks ago. Sebastian chasing it caught my eye, and I freaked out and swept it outside with the broom. He had already broken a few of its legs. They're fine out in the hills, but I really will freak out if I ever see another one inside my apartment again. I played catch last week with the 12 year old boy next door, Samuel, with the (american) football he got for Xmas. He has no one to play with, really, so he's out there by himself a lot. I think he misses Sebastian too. So we threw the ball around in the fading evening light, and it landed a few times on some of the very prickly cacti near the drive. It began leaking air, and I felt so terrible, like it was my fault we broke the football. He told me yesterday he got a pump and now it's fine. Still, I think Caro's brother is bringing me a nerf football, so if it's broken I will give it to him. If not we have another toy for the beach (in addition to the float i got from Cindy).

Peace Corps Day plans are coming along (March 1). We got approval yesterday for funds from the Country Director for our project (though some items will be donated by the community). We're planning on painting a mural on the wall of the Babonneau Primary/Infant School as a way of giving something back to the community for hosting us during training. We're also going to have AIDS awareness info that day, games, crafts, music and food. Hopefully it will turn out well. We have a lot of work remaining to make it successfull. I'm on the planning committee.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at Courbaril again for Peace Corps IST (in-service training). I had low expectations for the training itself, but was pleasantly surprised. I came away with some interesting information, and wasn't bored (the primary concern.)I even facilitated a session on personal safety the second day. The food, as expected, was great. After dinner Monday we all played Taboo, which Caroline brought from the PC lounge. My team won! just barely. We spent most of Tuesday with our counterparts from work, doing detailed work plans in the Log Frame format. As we have other issues regarding my job and we already have a detailed work plan for me, Darnley, Mike (the APCD) and I spent a long time discussing my role. We didn't cover much new ground, but I think that Darnley, who will now be my supervisor of sorts, as well as my "community partner" on most of my projects, has a much clearer understanding of peace corps and my role as it should be in the agency. We all agreed that the ED is very much lacking that understanding, and discussed that problem at length. With this new solidarity established, we agreed we need to meet with him and get him to understand. But there is a pretty heated political climate right now with him in the spotlight (regarding a discrimination case now in the courts and on tv news) and the World Heritage stuff that was just finished. So we agreed to wait. I'm not sure how long though, and i find that frustrating. The whole thing reminded me that I really do need to be more patient, and a lot of my frustration has been as much my own fault for impatience (though I'm trying) as the many unfortunate sitations i've faced at work in such a short time.

Other than my kitten running away and my recentex-boyfriend getting a new girlfriend (sorry to air your biz-ness j, but its my journal), life is goingon fairly well. (Actually, the news from Seattle hit me much harder than expected, but affter a chance to deal with it I'm doing ok. I realized that in the rush and excitement of leaving home and getting here, it really got pushed aside. So my time to get over it was now. I'm happy for my friend, it's just never easy news to hear. The ugly side of human nature...) I'm Looking forward to climbing one of thePitons (the signature mtns here) this weekend,possibly, with the Candian volunteers. Got someinteresting projects coming up for work. I just gotoffered some work as a research consultant for aneducational Cd-rom on local environmentalissues--protected areas and such. It soundsinteresting, but I have to clear it. It could be goodon the old resume (though a lot of work!) so i willconsider it... I've begun finally speaking with kidsat schools a little bit, and i'm getting the word outto do more. I'm working on the newsletter, working onplans for the summer camp, working on helping anothervolunteer with a Literacy tutoring program. Like whenI worked at LVA in VISTA(this volunteer used to tutorfor them), we will train teachers, parents, etc tobecome tutors for illiterate adults or to help theirchildren read better. We're working on setting up alocally appropriate curriculum for a pilot project inone school. And I may be working on a food bankproject with a local teacher for a grant from UW.Maybe. That one's a big pipe dream involving lots ofwork....So I'm busy. Started playing volleyball again this week (I suck) and guitar, again (I suck). I'm busy all the time atthings that are frustrating. THat's not so good. SoI'm looking for a rewarding activity that involves megetting out, meeting people and not sucking. Sadly,it's proved elusive thus far. There's a young person'schapter of the Rotary here called Roteract and I'mtrying to hook up with them. Maybe find some similarlyminded people. It's been hard to make true St. Lucianfriends.

Tomorrow I have two meetings and a celebration lunch for the world heritage committee. It turns out Noel had rescheduled me for speaking at the CARE school, but as he didn't confirm, I made other plans. So that's TBD again. Two 68 volunteers from St. Vincent (married couple) will be here tomorrow in prep for taking the GREs Sat, and those of us in the N are meeting them for Pizza tomorrow night and then some of us will go out, I guess. Caroline's mom and brother arrive late Sat night so there are many planned events in the next week. I will be without my sidekick for a while as she is busy entertaining, though I imagine I will join them for several events.

It's also "everyone's settling down and having babies but me" time in my circle of friends. First Colette last year, and now this year Suzi in NZ led the way followed by recent spate of pregnancy announcements by Laura in VA and Sandy in DE. Wow. I feel so distant from all of that, with slim pickins, relationship-wise,for the next two years, and a thesis to (start now and)finish when i return, a job to find, and on top of that i need to get my life back home started again (unless that job involves more travel...)And I'll be looking 30 right in the eye really soon... Crazy. How did we get so old, anyway?

24 Jan., 2003
No news is bad news

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of when I left my family and friends in Lansdale, PA and went to Miami for Peace Corps Training. I'm already 1/4th done and I feel like I've barely gotten started. So it goes, they say.

Sebastian has not returned. Outlook not so good is what my Magic 8-ball would be telling me if I hadn't given it away at my goodbye party. (Who got that, anyway? Kirsty?) I'm not a happy camper. Can't relax at home. Last night I attempted to practice guitar, attempted to watch tv, and was only able to be briefly distracted by the second Harry Potter book. I just kept waiting for my little furry buddy to appear. There are some treefrogs and crickets outside that make quite a nocturnal chorus, and some of the "tweets" sound occasionally like a tiny high-pitched kitten meow. I've been fooled several times on several occasions. Then late last night I got this brainstorm that maybe the landlord had been by to do something in the vacant apt next door (he likes to wander in there when she's there) and he'd been stuck inside. I couldn't sleep for thinking about it. I haven't been able to reach her by phone, but I found an open window over there and called, with no answer. So that seems doubtful. People are starting to offer me new kittens. I may take them up on it, but not just yet. I'm still waiting and hoping.

Jude, one of my co-workers, stopped by last night. He lives on my street. That was a nice distration for a while. So was my visit to the south, which went fairly well. I got to Laborie (after Darnley dropped me at the bus stop in V. Fort) around 7:30 and we made dinner. I got to meet one of Lauren's many male admirers (we all seem to collect them wherever we go), and we made some taco/rice stuff for dinner (the shells had been sacrificed to the ant gods). We cooled out and then watched the Monsters Inc. DVD on her computer. I've been dying to see it again, and so this was a big event for me. She laughed at me for getting so excited about a DVD when i have a TV, but the grass is always greener, right? I'm stuck with whatever swill is on TV, but she can choose her DVDs... just less selection. I've already put dibs on Ferris Bueller for next time :). The movie kept us up late, so we decided not to do a morning swim. Good because it was quite rainy in the morning. (This is supposed to be the dry season but the last 2 weeks has been nearly as rainy as the summer was. I don't get it.) We walked out on the new jetty, saw a rainbow over the village, and then went to work. Darnley and I made some decent headway on our plans for the summer camp (we are co-organising it, but this is the 11th year, so I'm mostly following his lead), but we were interupted by a visit from some school kids. He knew they were coming, but expected a short visit from one class. Shortly before we left for lunch we found out that it was two classes, so we quickly did some planning on the fly over lunch, and were prepared for the afternoon assault of 60 7-8 yr olds on the tiny office. The office is on the Atlantic coast (ie the windward side), right on a section (where club med used to be) that is one of the most popular locations regionally for windsurfing. It's also where a major Trust site is located--The Maria Islands, home two a species of lizard and snake found nowhere else. So while Darnley lectured and showed a video inside on ecosystems and marine life, I took the other half of the group outside to the beach to look at the Islands and talk about their importance, as well as look at a real live marine ecosystem: the beach. We had fun, and my voice was shot after yelling into the wind for two groups. I survived my trial by fire with the first group of St. Lucian schoolkids I've spoken to, and I guess I am now officially an environmental educator. On the way back to the office, I walked along and watched the kite surfers on the Atlantic. Then took a stop in at the discount liquor store--not as discounted as i hoped.

Tonight the plan is for Caroline and I to go with her co-worker Milan (a rasta) to Marigot Bay. I've been there once, at night, when we picked up Stephanie. But I'm anxious to see more of the area, and just to get out of the same old scene in the North. Marigot is located just south of Castries, before Anse La Raye, and has a secluded little inlet with a stand of Mangrove and a group of resorts. We'll see it in the daytime on our PCV boat trip on Feb 15. Sunday I'm going watch the v-ball group play in a beach tourney at Pigeon Point (my skillz aren't quite up to par yet) and then to Soufriere in the afternoon with Trust staff for the signing of the Pitons World Heritage charter by Cabinet. Maybe I'll be on TV. Then hopefully I'll get back in time to watch the superbowl, somewhere. Even though the Eagles didn't make it and I don't care about either of the teams.

22 Jan., 2003

Sad news: sebastian is missing. when i was waiting for my ride to work yesterday, he was playing on the porch. actually, he caught a gecko and tried to bring it inside to eat it but i booted him back outside with his prey. i was reading a newsweek, watching for the van to arrive, and kept checking on him as well. When Spencer arrived a few minutes later, he was nowhere to be found. so i left him out--the first time to leave him out all day (i've left him for a few hours when i go to the beach or whatnot on weekends, but not during the week). it rained a lot yesterday, and so i figured he'd be holed up under the porch, where he likes to play, and waiting for me, crying, when i got home. but he was nowhere to be found. i called, walked around and looked, shook his food box, talked to the neighbors (who hadnt seen him), but to no avail. he didn't come home last night or this morning. he's a big fraidy-cat, and he always runs home if any animals or people come by, so i know if he could he'd have come home. which means he's either lost, injured or eaten by one of the assorted chickens, bigger cats or dogs that roam the area. i'm worried. and i'm spending the night in Laborie tonight to work in the southern office tomorrow. I left food outside, and the neighbors said they'd move the screen (which he pops out sometimes and escapes) and put him in if they see him. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I'm a worried mother, and my stomach is in knots. He's the closest thing to family I've got here! I hope my little buddy is ok.

Busy at work this week, but having trouble motivating. Our newsletter is done in word, which is notorious for not being the best at working with pictures and such. i waste hours just trying to get pictures to paste properly. it's really frustrating. today we have a meeting with solid waste and some other grocery store stakeholders about the problems with plastics in st. lucia (which is our theme for the year). there is no recycling here (not cost effective, they say,in such a small space), and plastic use, and therefore waste, is rampant. i want to start a bag reuse rebate program with the two local grocery chains. at least one of them would be a start. we'd like to launch it with Earth Day, ideally. so hopefully the meeting will go well. i'm guardedly enthusiastic--as with anything here where there are lots of voices involved, it is bound to take LOTS of time, and become way more complicated than necessary. The joys of consensus. Plus, something similar has been attempted in the past, so we have to battle with negativity associated with a previous failed attempt. May the force be with us--something has to be done, and soon. Speaking of consensus, i'm now gathering corrections to the UNESCO report. There are so many people working on this right now I feel like it's pointless. My corrections will go on one version, but doubtless someone somewhere else is working wiht another version and the two will have to be merged. A task that will probably wind up with me.

My latest frustration, beyond microsoft products, is that I'm back to playing musical desks/computers again. Today we have someone from government here working on the World Heritage thing, using the extra computer that I have been using when Jude boots me out of my computer (his design work requires a certain capacity computer, so I have to move, rather than him). So until two co-workers left, one sick and one to a meeting, I had nowhere to work. Since I'm the volunteer, it's often me that is forced to play musical chairs, which is frustrating and also not factored into expectations regarding my workload. The agency is broke, but also needs to be realistic about the requirements of Jude's job. He requires scanners and complicated mapping software, so he really needs his own well-equipped workstation, rather than displacing Dawnelle or myself when he has a deadline, which is always last-minute and urgent. I spoke with the office manager about that today. She told me I need to speak with Giles, who I know will tell me to work out an arrangement with Duane. Which will result in the current situation. So it's 'round and round we go.

A correction: I know I mentioned in here someplace that St. Lucia is 27 square miles. Chalk that up to my error--it would be a very small country indeed. The real number is 278 sq miles, a much more realistic number. Still small, mind you, but not that small! A trip 'round the island takes a full day, with stops and traffic and particularly because of the steep, winding and battered roads.

Other news: Gagamel called me, finally. He's a rasta that Cole befriended during phase I of training. He lives in La Guerre, and I discovered is cousins with my friend Deborah. When I spoke to her on Monday, she mentioned coming out with us sometime and I told her maybe she could persuade him to come along. I haven't seen him since Jeunen Kweyol in October. To my surprise, he called me that night just to say hi (from a payphone) and again last night. We chatted for a bit, sort of about nothing. He's very down-to-earth (as Rastas tend to be) and offered to take me out hiking sometime at La Sorciere, the big mountain near Babonneau. A lot of rastas live or "farm" up there, I'm told. Plus, there are snakes, so I wouldn't want to go without someone familiar with the area. He doesnt have a car, so we'll see how soon this happens, but it's good to be in touch again anyway. Nice to have another friend (I'm assuming and hoping his intentions are only friendly). He's fun to dance with, and good about explaining cultural things and what songs mean, etc. Since I've lost Alvin as my dance instructor/kweyol teacher for the time being, at least, this is good. Our newest phrase is "du but la gasson" (stop here please driver), which is really only useful for impressing taxi drivers into not overcharging us, since we're not tourists. I still don't know a lot of everyday expressions. "Awa" (no) is another recent favorite--it's another one that is often repeated several times for emphasis (as plenty tings are, you understand?)

I haven't gone to volleyball at all this week, because my stomach has still been a bit shaky from whatever felled me on Friday, and now I'll be away tonight and tomorrow I will likely come back too late. Sunday they play again at the beach, and I may be there depending on if I can weasle my way into a Superbowl party. My indifference to American Football is widely known, but I'm feeling a bit nostaligic about home of late, in addition to always being game for a good party. We really only know one group of Americans--these guys who work for a telemarketing company and hang out at the Wharf, so I will try to look for them on Friday and see what I can find out. They do like to party, so I have no doubt they will be. It's a shame the PCVs are so far apart and there is not much good N-S transportation on Sunday or we could get together for it. Caro is pretty indifferent, so I'm on my own here.

We have IST coming up on Monday and Tuesday, which was supposed to originally have been held in early December. Now it's late, and being broken up into two parts. The second dates haven't even been announced yet as they (and our raises, announced in Nov.) hinge on Congressional approval of the new budget. Apparently preparations for war have taken higher precedence than the nations new budget, so everything else is in limbo. I've heard people aren't getting their unemployment, so I suppose waiting on our additional EC $80/month and our training dates is small potatoes, but in the microcosm of our world here it's incredibly frustrating. I guess when our raise comes retroactively we'll be feeling like high rollers! This IST doesn't sound like it will be incredibly useful. Some parts, like meeting with our "community partners," where they actually exist, and discussing our work so far, might have some positive results. Others, like "reconnecting" which we do every month when the volunteers have our meeting, and an hour-long session by our Medical Officer on "Alcohol Use" when we are all adults, seem more preposterous. It will be nice to be together again Monday night and to eat the wonderful food up at the Mount of Courbaril. Any sort of getaway is always nice. The undecided second phase is hindering our ability to plan a trip to Antigua though, so hopefully we will hear soon. These are mandatory sessions, and changing a plane ticket would cost as much as the ticket itself. Stay tuned...

Got a card from Jill at UW, from Rachel and a long juicy letter at last (with pics!) from Christie in Mali, though she was at home in PA for the holidays when she wrote it. Hooray for the mail and for my excellent friends at home and abroad. Still no Xmas package from Cindy. It must be on another continent by now... Mom's latest package with the plug for the laptop I got from Ryan in Oct. should be here soon. Looking forward to seeing if the thing even works, after all of this...

I have a long journey south ahead of me tonight after work. Darnley is driving me when he goes home. He lives in Micoud, which is on the southeast coast, and Laborie, where I'm staying with Lauren, is on the Southwest coast (after Vieux Fort, on the southern tip of the island) about 20 minutes away. We'll take the E. Coast road, thankfully, which is faster because it's not so curvy that it makes me nauseated. But we haven't established how I'm getting to Lauren's yet. It's likely he'll drop me by the bus stop in V. Fort and I'll take a transport to Laborie from there. Hopefully it will all go smoothly. I packed light. Tomorrow I will work in our southern office on plans for the Kids Summer Safari (the Trust's summer camp, which will have it's 12th year this summer) all day and then take the hideously cramped (I usually end up in the back, in the middle--the worst seat of all) long transport ride north (about an hour or so, depending on traffic) to Castries, where I will catch another bus home. So tomorrow will be a long day as well. Hopefully there will be a hungry and attention-starved kitten there waiting for me.

20 Jan., 2003
Woy, Woy Gasson

We haven't learned much new Kweyol lately, but have been practicing certain expressions. First it was "finish" as in, "The bread finish" and then "reach" as in "Where are you reaching?" when someone gives a ride. Then "woy woy" which is just sort of an expression of dismay or surprise, and "messier" and "gasson"-both sort of meaning, man, or dude! These and the old standard, "eh eh" never fail to make people laugh when it comes from the mouth of a white girl. Plus it's useful to begin to feel the culture.

My week ended disappointingly, as the meeting Thursday night never happened--no one showed up, and we waited around until after 6. Then in the middle of the night I woke up sick, and proceeded to visit the bathroom hourly for the next 12 hours. My annual visit from the evil stomach virus fairy. This episode was particularly wicked, and had me home and barely mobile most of the day Friday. So I missed my speaking engagement and the PC Day meeting. Sebastian and I spent some quality time together. I finished the Joyce Carol Oates book and then read 2 whole Jim Thompson books, which were ok. Diverting enough to distract me between crappy tv shows and naps.

Saturday dawned and we didn't get to see Clinton. (Saturday night they played music with his voice sampled in, saying some incriminating-sounding things, to everyone's amusement). I was well enough to go hiking, and met Nigel at 11 to head up to Forestiere. We had some vague directions that actually worked and we found it no problems. There was a $10 fee and we hiked for about 2 hours in the forest, around and up Piton Flore, which is probably about 1500 feet. We had a nice view from the top of both E and W coasts and La Sorciere, another mountain landmark in the N. It was jungley and there were some lovely big ferns and amazingly tall trees which the guide explained and told us what they were used for. We saw some stunning butterflies, and heard a little bit of birdsong, but i was surprised at the quiet there. Still no parrots or snakes, which is disappointing. I'm determined to see a wild parrot (Jacquot) while i'm here. Afterwards, he dropped me by the beach where I met Caro, Sam and Shannon. Later that evening, C and I went over to la maison canadienne for Heather's birthday. Some of her co-workers were there and there was pizza, cake, and all kinds of drinks and snacks. My willpower failed and I ate and drank things my stomach wasn't prepared to handle. So I ended up drinking just water the rest of the night. We met their neighbor, Jennifer, who is an American actress and writer living here for the winter with her boyfriend Jason. She plays volleyball and makes a mean pina colada (she brought her blender over). She apparently is a regular extra on Guiding light and another soap. The closest thing to a tv star I've ever met... We hit Shamrocks around 11 and it was really dead. We managed to have fun, but it was quiet. Caro and I got a ride home from two nice guys, friends of Jo, a St. Lucian girl who studies in England (and just left to go back). They seemed cool, and hopefully we'll see them again-both bartenders. Sunday I slept until noon, and decided to forgo the guitar lesson and go right to the beach. I found Caro there and we sunned and swam and snorkeled. She found a sand dollar (which made its way into my dream last night) and I saw some big fish. Later, a cruise ship watersports guy borrowed my gear to look for his sunglasses to no avail. When I left (after Caro) around 4:30, I stopped to get a green coconut and ran into the Canadians on their way to play v-ball. With nothing better to do, I went back to the beach with them. I warmed up a bit and practiced serving, but when it was time to play, I began to feel ill again and went home. I baked banana bread, made fajitas (margaret brought back some tortillas for me when she went home) and watched 2 movies. Total couch potato.

Yesterday at the beach the Yacht club had a small boat race and there was a band and food. It was young Lucian guys, but they were playing Cake and Collective Soul and Steve Miller Band and stuff. It was your typical garageband covers, but man, it was the best thing I'd heard in ages. I hadnt realized how much I miss seeing live rock. I have my crappy cd player and I see jazz occasionally here, but normal rock or especially any sort of indie-anything is nowhere to be found in these parts.

This week has nothing big planned so far, a few meetings and a trip to the S to stay at Lauren's wed night and work in Vieux Fort on Thursday. We have a PC day meeting on Friday. I'm well into a book that Laura sent now. I need to compile a list of everything I've read thus far-it must be about 20 books at least. Next up is the first two Harry Potter books that Caro got for Xmas. Her family comes in two weeks, so hopefully our library will expand then as well.

Caro and I were talking yesterday and agreed we're sort of in a slump. We didnt get to travel at the holidays, so we've been here now for 6 months straight (with the exception of my brief trip home). We both have some serious job stress. With her parents coming, she's got something to look forward to, but I need either someone to come visit me or a trip elsewhere to reinvigorate me at this point. I'm completely grateful to be where it's warm and sunny, seeing the weather forcasts back home, but getting island fever. I'm starting to get in a rut, and to take things for granted here. Poor me, right? At the beach every weekend. Tough life. I'm not complaining, it's just like any routine--it gets tiresome. The same 4 friends, the same few places to go. We have had some pretty strange conversations recently, as we've nearly exhausted possible topics... I dont know what we'll do when those girls leave in May. We've really got to make new friends soon. One thing I do know is that I've met more people here in 6 months than I ever would have met at home. And I've met so many people from around the world as well, which is always really fun. We're regularly out with what we jokingly refer to as model un delegations. Even our volleyball team represents four countries (US, Canada, France, St Lucia). That's really one of the best things about this experience for me.

I had some sort of exciting news about the report I wrote for the World Heritage Committee workshop--it will be submitted to UNESCO, and I will get my name included with it for writing. Also, I worked on the description that goes with the Pitons photo essay we're sending. I don't think I get any credit there, but it was a fun process to be a part of. I hope all of this works out.

16 Jan., 2003
The rollercoaster climbs...

I sounded bad last week. And I had some pretty strong things to say about my job here. I really need to watch the negativity, though I suppose it's healthier to vent than to keep it in. This week I'm feeling much better about work. Possibly because I've gotten used to being back again, and kept up with the jogging, but primarily, I think, because I'm busy. Otherwise, things haven't changed too much, but I actually feel useful and have less time to mull over what's bugging me or even to notice. Monday I got to leave work a bit early after going to pick up a box of environmental ed materials I had ordered from PC headquarters in DC. That was exciting, and gave me a chance to go home and change before leaving for volleyball at 6. Shannon and Sam play and I finally decided to join them. It was tough, and those women are good! Other than the Canadians, the rest of the club is St. Lucian women, except for a French girl who I've met before on a Trust hike. There is a coach, and he works us. We did all drills, for 2 1/2 hours on Monday night. I'm still a bit sore. I definitely need more practice--I never realized how difficult volleyball could be. I guess I haven't really played in years.

Tuesday I attended an all-day workshop in Soufriere on an old coffee plantation called Fond Doux Estate. They have miles of trails and old buildings, most of which I didn't see. But the workshop was really interesting, and a really exciting process to observe. The St. Lucia World Heritage committee began in the mid-90's I believe, and in fact work commenced in the late 80s to declare the Pitons (St. Lucia's signature twin mountains) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The efforts have recently come to a head, as the final dossier will be sent to Paris on 30th Jan. This was the second meeting I attended, and it included not only committee members, but regional stakeholders as well. I found it really interesting, educational and a good chance to meet some more key contacts. One of the people in attendance was a community development agent for the south and we had a really interesting conversation, I renewed my acquaintance with the UNESCO Secretary General for St. Lucia, and spoke to the manager of the Ladera Resort, which has a reputation for being the nicest hotel on the island (a suite costs $800 US/night), and with one of the nicest restaurants. He invited myself and Marvin, who drove me home to stop by for a tour, so we did and we were impressed. The place is gorgeous, tucked away into the side of the valley between the Pitons with a spectacular sunset view. The rooms have 3 walls and most have a private plunge pool. He offered us a drink on the house so we had pina coladas in the bar and enjoyed the view before commencing the drive back on that wicked road that so tortures me. This time no migranes or nausea, thankfully. That night, I went to meet my friend Jeff for backgammon at Cafe Claude (a newish french cafe)and waited for an hour, sipping cappucino and reading the Sunday London Times Travel Section. Finally, I gave up, but decided to check the Jazz Lounge before i went home, and found him there, deep in conversation. (The person that owns where he works also owns the restuarant there, so he is often there)He was talking with Mike and his wife, who own the English pub at Pigeon Island (and who I met on Xmas), so they invited me for a drink. We sat and talked for a while--the restaurant is upstairs from the Jazz Lounge and open to the air on one side and the view of the marina--and then they decided to get some food. I was about to politely bail (for budgetary reasons--eating out in Rodney Bay is not really within the realm of PCV income, though not bad for tourists coming with dollars or euros) when Jeff said he would invite me. Very nice of him. The meal was really nice--probably the nicest I've had while here. We had a bottle of wine, hummus and pita appetizers, and I had curried monkfish with mussels. They could have been cooked a bit less, but were lovely all the same. Combined with the enormous starchy Lucian lunch (chicken, rice and peas, plantains, potatoes, breadfruit and saltfish salad, salad, macaroni pie, rice pudding), I ate better in one day than I usually do in a week. I stayed for a glass of wine and to watch the band (my guitar teacher Mike is in the house band) for a bit and then Jeff borrowed the car and drove me home. Not a bad day at all.

Yesterday I planned to attend volleyball again. I even brought clothes and got Spencer to drop me at the mall down the street from the school where we play. I windowshopped a bit, then got a sandwich from the store and sat in the food area, killing time and reading an old newsweek. When I got up to walk over at 6 I realized I was exhausted and really not up to going, so I went home. A total waste of time. But after a late night Tuesday and all day in front of the computer yesterday (writing the report on Tuesday's workshop) I was just knackered. Got a good sleep last night. Today I have a meeting at 5 to discuss the Trust's Youth Club, which used to exist and be quiteactive. It's my endeavor to bring it back, so we're meeting to talk about what was good and bad before and how we can make it work most effectively going forward. This will be the first in a series of meetings. Tomorrow I will speak at the Gros Islet CARE school, an alternative secondary school where Noel teaches. I will speak to them about the Trust, the parks we manage, and a little bit about the environment. This is my first gig as a guest speaker, so I'm a little nervous and have a lot to prepare today. (pictures and such). After that we have a meeting to rethink our plans for Peace Corps day, which we thought were great but were not received as enthusiastically as we hoped by the community (Babonneau). So we need to find a plan b, which will likely have something to do with AIDS Awareness. Saturday Bill Clinton will be here, speaking to the business community and all the PMs of OECS nations. Our regional director, Earl Phillips, met President Clinton when he was a volunteer with his wife in Africa, so we hoped he'd have some pull to get us a brief meeting. He hasnt even been able to get a meeting for the American Ambassador (in Barbados) so it's not looking good for us--I just got off the phone with Earl (who is from New Jersey).

Caroline got my mail for me yesterday, and I jogged over this morning and got it (after getting soaked in a rainstorm--dry season my butt! it's been raining a lot the last few days). I had a holiday card from Shaun, a letter from Chirag, a card from Carla, and a card from Jennifer and Josh. Mail always brightens up my week. Thanks, y'all. My sister's holiday package STILL hasn't arrived. Wonder where on earth it's hiding...

I emailed a bunch of people who have mentioned wanting to come to get an idea for the month you're thinking of. I will be in PA for 2-3 weeks in late June/early July for Cindy's wedding/Mom's bday, so that time is out. May is Jazz, July is Carnival--those are ideal visiting times for those looking for adventure. For those looking for nice sunny beaches, from now until April is key. It gets pretty darn hot after that, though the beaches and sun will certainly remain. I just want to get a general idea for how to plan my vacation time and also to not double-plan with anyone. I'd hate to have no visitors for months and then two at once. So lend me your thoughts, friends and potential visitors. My schedule is pretty open for now, and I'm dying to show the place off. It really is beautiful.

No big plans for the weekend. Dinner at the Canadians' house for Heather's bday, hiking with Nigel (from the Cas-en-bas hike) hopefully in the forest at forestiere, in the northern central part of the island, south of babonneau, and maybe on the boat with Maggie and Lyle if that works out on Sunday. Oh and a guitar lesson (which I really must get to practicing!). Nothing too exciting. Probably beach, as usual. Hope those of you in cold places are keeping warm. I do miss it sometimes, seeing snow on TV, and seeing ads for warm coats and scarves, but I must say that I'm enjoying warmth while i have it.

9 Jan., 2003
Is it Friday yet?

I woke up today feeling cranky. I went for a jog, which has really helped my mood the last two days, but today it didnt help. I know its because of work, and Im so irritated that it gets to me this way. I try not to let it get to me but it does. And its not the job, or the organization that does it. Make no mistakeits Giles. Yesterday he called me into his office, clearly agitated that we had a discussion regarding my role at the trust in our meeting regarding the summer camp. He said he had been thinking, as a a result of me stating my position so many times, and that he feels he needs to move me in the chain of command to report to Darnley, an officer now parallel to me on the org chart, and who is based out of the southern office. This makes no sense to me, and I told him this previously, when he made the suggestion prior to the holidays. This time, it was spoken as a suggestion, but it was notit was fact. I stated again my objections that the issue here is not who I report to, but my lack of a partner (community partner is the term the peace corps uses) in the agency with whom I can share ideas and information, and really work alongside. Since the agency is short-staffed, there is really no one in that capacity as far as education, but many of the projects I work on are in conjunction with Darnley anyway. So why change the reporting structure? My fear, which I stated quite plainly both times we discussed this option, is that I will become his assistant. I am intended to have a partner, not a supervisor. Since Im already planned to be working with Darnley on these projects, it makes no sense to change the reporting structure, which will only encourage the fact that Im a subordinate to him rather than a partner. A solution that makes more sense is for us to clarify the relationship I have with Darnley as a partner, and to ensure that there is a clear partner on any other project I do that is not involving him. I said this, but Giles hears nothing when he has already made his decision (sans facts), which is usually. He still doesnt understand what the Peace Corps function in society is meant to be and he doesnt want to know. He thinks that Im being difficult, and because of that, he doesnt want me reporting to him anymore because Im too much trouble. In a sense, hes punishing me for speaking my mind. I know this because Ive seen him operate, and this is his M.O. His position on my role here is that the agency had a need for an environmental education expert, and they applied to the ministry for permission to apply to the PC. They received permission, and applied, and expected to receive said expert. Instead, they got me. He did not bother to look into the mission and purpose of the agency from whom they received their grant (this time it was a person instead of funds, but its essentially the same), nor did he bother to attend the first meeting during training where we met with our partner agencies and discussed the role and function of the volunteer. Like any other foreign aid, PCVs come with restrictions and with their own purposes. This, too, is how he works. He gets what he wants and then uses it how he wants, regardless of its intended purpose. And then if it gets him into trouble, he lies about it later. This bothers me, of course, because it makes it a difficult and uncomfortable environment in which to work, where I am a square peg constantly being pushed into a round hole that was built before I got there. But it further infuriates me on a larger scale because its indicative of how he treats his staff on the whole. To Giles, people are not people, but pawns he moves around the board to achieve his own goals. He gives no thoughts to their own needs, desires or skills, or whether he his providing them with resources and opportunities they need. Hes no fool, so hes mastered the lingo of opportunity, and talks quite nicely about staff improvement, advancement, and the like, but he puts forth no effort in that direction. Case in point, he has put staff communication in my handsa newcomer. How am I to be in charge of staff communication when no one really knows me? And how are they ever to know or respect me now that hes effectively demoted me by moving me under Darnley? And why am I expected to follow the work plan of an Officer when Ive now been demoted? And why cant he understand that Im not and never was an Officer anyway, as I am not a staff member but a volunteer? And how ironic that hes now moved me to report to the very person he would not allow me to move to the southern office to work with in the first place, when I was searching for housing and exploring the option of moving to Laborie. (I pointed that out but he failed to see my point. As usual.)

I tried to come into this with a new attitude. I really did. But already in 4 days my new perspective is shot to hell, as I have seen enough in these 4 days to know that he is up to his old tricks and worse. Hes purposely deceiving Council about things hes been explicitly told to do and not do. Hes lied to another co-worker and I about our presence at Council meetings. And on and on. I wont be able to be effective here while hes in power. And I dont quite no where to go from here. If I complain to Peace Corps, the first step is mediation with him. As a master manipulator, he will simply take the lingo that they give him and follow it in letter but not in spirit. This has already happened the last time I had Mike come in and talk to him. Ive talked to Andrew but Andrew tells me I have to go through Mike first. Im told the Council is sort of gathering their evidence about the shenanigans here, but how long will that take, and how much faith can I put in the process? Thats really the only thing that keeps me going right nowhope that they will put things right, and soon. But I dont know how realistic of a hope that really is.

When I met with G yesterday, I decided to make my request about attending Council meetings through him first. (I did this previously in September, he asked me to submit a letter, which he then lost. I requested again a few weeks later, he apologized, and asked me to resubmit the letter. Nothing ever happened. I know he never even gave it to Council.) This time, he asked me to submit the letter to him again, and he would bring it up at todays meeting. This time, however, Im smarter. I showed the letter to the financial manager, who will be at the meeting. She will tell me if it is brought up or not, and if its not, I will email it to the Chair. (Meanwhile, G already tried to keep the financial manager, who is very outspoken and on-the-ball, out of the meeting tomorrow by scheduling her for another meeting in the south. She would not fall for it, and told him she couldnt go because of car troubles. The Chair called her to make sure shed be at the meeting, and when she told him what happened, he said hed take care of it. Not long after, G called her and told her she didnt have to go to the other meeting anymore. Interesting.) So Im annoyed because I know he has once again lied directly to my face. This time I feel better armed with a backup plan, but I hate having to play guerrilla politics. Its not my style, and its not what I came here to do. I shouldnt have to engage in political warfare simply to get the respect that I deserve as a student and a volunteer whos come here to assist and to learn. But like I said, to him Im not a person, Im merely a pawn who is being feisty and not submitting to his game.

Apologies to all for putting you through my long rant session. Its really the only way I know how to vent my frustrations so I dont hit the roof. I had the worst time motivating myself to come to work today. And that shouldnt happen. Moreover, Im a volunteer so if I dont feel like it, I shouldnt have to go. But G refuses to acknowledge me as a volunteer. Now he wants me to submit all PC meetings to him as soon as I have the dates, and make sure he knows my whereabouts at all times. I cant even leave and go to the PC office, which has been my sanctuary of sanity when I cant take it here anymore, without letting him know. Which means he needs a reason. So Im on an even tighter leash. (He was upset he didnt know I had been sick before the holiday, and said he didnt know until the second or third day. First of all, I called in and told the office manager. Secondly, I sit just outside his office, so if it took him 2 or 3 days to notice I wasnt there, that just further emphasizes what Ive been saying about his people management skills, doesnt it?) Meanwhile, Caro is having the opposite problem. She needs her role clarified as well, but her organization is essentially ignoring her. She is begging for work to do, and being put off with every step. Shes bored to tears and leaves early a lot. Shes in the process of sort of inventing her own work to do, but that takes time as well. She asked her manager, after hearing what mine said about reporting in, and he said nohe doesnt need her to do that. At least he understands the function of a volunteer in an organization. Unfortunately, he doesnt realize a fundamental tenet of working with volunteers is that you have to give them work to do or they will leave

So things are not all paradise here in St. Lucia at the moment. Today Im feeling ready for a serious bout of kickboxing, with the EDs head taped to the bag. Ive never been so frustrated, demeaned and demoralized by one person in such a short period of time. On the bright side, I can say that Im learning a lot about what NOT to do as a manager. Hes actually a walking example of how to do nearly everything wrong.

On the personal life side, not much is new. We had a volunteer, Bernetta, in yesterday who is 27 and got her degree in International Development in Nova Scotia. Shes St. Lucian, and has returned to find theres nothing for her to do with her degree here. Shes bored and frustrated and wants to leave. I gave her a book from the PC office yesterday on Alternatives to the Peace Corps, to give her some ideas about whats out there. Shes a nice person, and hopefully will become a friend. We had lunch together yesterday, and it was so nice to talk to someone my age who is interested in similar things, educated, and not a parent. (Jacinta and I had lots in common, but as she is a mother of 3, we still inhabited totally different universes.) Diana, my other friend at work, is also talking of possibly leaving to go back to the States in March, when her contract here is up. What the hell am I going to do in this place if the only person who keeps me sane leaves? I really cant fathom another year and a half of this. Im not getting out of it the things that I came here to learn. I am, however, getting myself some serious stress, which is not healthy, and will not be helpful in the healing process that I hoped this experience would be.

Ive digressed back to work again. One of my co-workers, Spencer, was acting really strangely to me before and after the break, as though he was vexed. He wouldnt admit it though, so Tuesday when he drove me home I invited him to come cool out with me on the porch for a bit. We drank the rest of the rum I had and chatted a bit, and this morning he passed me on the road and gave me a ride. I think were cool again. I have no idea how we became otherwise, but at least thats fixed. Alvin, though, is apparently still playing hard-to-get. For the first time since I met him, hes not visited me in over a week. I wonder if hes moved on or this is just the current game hes playing. Either way, theres nothing Im going to do about it. Im just curious. Things are mighty quiet at home these days with no Jacinta down the street to hang out with, and no visits from Alvin. Just the pesky kitten that really and truly has a biting problem. I have the scratches to prove it. Yesterday I got a pleasant surprise thougha package from Laura, with magazines, a book, and fun treats like Oreos, nail polish and face scrub. I celebrated after work yesterday with a much-craved glass of milk and some Oreos on the porch, reading Jimmy Buffetts autobiography. Apparently they sell them here, but, like everything else thats imported, theyre expensive. Getting all these treats in the mail is really hazardous to my weight loss efforts, but still very nice. I read the magazines while watching Austin Powers 2. Another exciting evening in my world. Its really not as glamorous as it would seem sometimes

Afternoon. A better mood, after the catharsis of writing, and several bitch sessions. I went and chatted with Maggie, who owns the cafe down the street. She is my age, I discovered, and said she is always happy for someone new to hang out with. I was slightly surprised, but considering how most of the educated people leave the island, not shocked that she, as a resident, has trouble finding true friends as well. Her boyfriend, a Canadian, has a big house with a pool and a boat, and she invited me to come make use of both anytime. I like that idea :). Then Diana soothed me a bit, always the optimist (which is why I like her), trying to make me find the bright side of things here. She assures me that changes are coming. I hope so. After a call from Noel where I found out that his house was broken into and his money, clothes and passport stolen, I have a much brighter perspective on my own problems. I'm so sorry for him--he's gotten dysentary, roommate problems and already had clothes stolen, and now this. Just when he was thinking of renewing his contract for next year... It seems I may be losing another friend as well. Hopefully we can get him back on the right foot. I did get an invitation from him to come speak to the kids at his alternative school in Gros Islet next Friday morning. I'm looking forward to the chance to get out of the office and do my first actual education work for the Trust. I've been speaking with Alan, who teaches at the St. Mary's College--a boy's school up the road--about getting involved with their environmental club, which has sort of lapsed for now. The more I'm busy adn out of the office, the better. Now I have a non-busywork project to work on, and I'm happy-ish again.

7 Jan., 2003
Another day in the dry season

Wow, having ADSL at my desk is so fabulous. It will take me a few days to get over being distracted by how much easier I can get online... Before I forget, there are some new pictures of Lauren, Caroline and Caro's cat posted, and some new ones on the way of Sebastian and my apartment. Jamie just moved, so once he gets settled in, he'll post them for me.(thanks!) Got some mail yesterday--cards from Carla and Sharon (again, thanks!). Caro picked it up for me at the office and when I went jogging this am I stopped by and picked it up. A nice way to start the day. That is, until I realized that I lost my wallet, and started freaking out. I had to borrow a dollar from the neighbours to take the transport to work. I figured I must have left it here, but when I got here, no luck. I asked around--people whose cars I was in, but no avail. Finally I tore apart my backpack again and it was there, hidden inside a Newsweek. Whew. I've got to stop this new trend of losing important things. Luckily it was only false this time. My neighbours must think I'm a total klutz.

Had a somewhat successful meeting at work today, in that I got it through to those present FINALLY what my role here is meant to be, as a partner and participant who is facilitating an exchange of skills and knowledge, not an expert and not someone who comes here to run things and then leaves (thereby taking institutional knowledge with me). This is the sort of bad practice they engage in at my organization presently--there is little to no cross training and each person takes the information with them when they go. Thus lessons have to repeatedly be relearned. Clearly, I can't single-handedly change that, but hopefully by my presence and my repeated reminders (I have this argument about my role here nearly every time I speak to the ED), I can help to foster a climate of change in a positive direction. At least now as a result of that meeting, several of my peers here now understand my role. That's 4 more people than did before, because Giles never introduced me for who I really am or what I really do here. Whether he knows and chooses to not accept my intended role or really doesn't get it I don't know, and I'm starting not to care... We have a new round of training approaching, IST on Jan 27 and 28, and he is supposed to be there for the second day. If that doesnt get it through his head, I will have to arrange a meeting with the APCD. I have also decided as a result of a conversation with a co-worker yesterday (Diana, my one true friend at work) that I will take my request to sit in on board meetings to the board directly. Last time I requested it, Giles did nothing with my request. Since they are getting a free employee of me, it's only fair that I be able to advance my own learning and experiences by observing the board in action--especially considering my master's program in public administration. I will email Giles and copy the Chair. He will be furious, but at least I know my letter will not go ignored as it did previously. Stay tuned. I'm going guerrilla. Sometimes there's no other way.

Yesterday Allen, one of Margaret's friends, dropped by as he teaches at a school down the road from my office. We spent about an hour brainstorming about a secondary project idea he is interested in pursuing with me. We're in an information-gathering stage right now, and trying to figure out where to get the information. We're looking to start up some kind of a permanent food bank, as there are agencies here who dabble in it, but none that operate solely as such. So we're doing needs and supply assessments to determine the feasibility. After our meeting, he drove me up north about halfway home and I walked the other half (he had somewhere to go). It was a nice night--the dry season is here and the evenings have been breezy and cool, and in the low 70s... so nice! At any rate, I was doing some thinking, and I realized something that felt big at the time, but somehow diminished when I wrote it in my journal later. Here it is anyway. In this skin, in this country, particularly in this part of the country, I'm not sure how effective the PC model can be. At the same time, I look at the history of Peace Corps--this is one of the first 2 countries that volunteers were sent in the 60s and they've been here ever since--and say that it must. Let me explain. I live in an average sort of area where there are nice houses and one-room wooden shacks with corrugated metal roofs. Mixed. I live on a meagre budget, shop at the market, and use public transportation and walk. This is supposed to make me more real, more human, more at the level of host country nationals, and also make me more empathetic to the lifestyle and living standard here. Which all makes sense, except this: I'm white. Here, especially in the north, which is the epicentre of tourism, no matter what I wear, say or do, no matter how or where I live, I'm rich. White=Rich. And because of that I'm not getting that credibility, that sort of "one of us" experience that the Peace Corps village lifestyle is supposed to create. I know it doesn't just appear and you have to work at it, but being placed where I am, it's really not even possible. Sure, there are a few people who can see beyond it to me and what I'm doing here, but sadly those are not your average sort of St. Lucian--this sort of perspective seems only to come from educated types who have studied, worked or lived abroad. Then, at work, because I'm a volunteer and not an employee, I lack any clout to get the cooperation of my co-workers. I don't have the power that a true title confers, regardless of my education, my background or my status in the organization (Im sort of a manager who doesnt manage anyone--I head the education department, which consists only of me). I'm just a peace corps--one of a sea of countless others before me. I was interesting and diverting enough at first, but I'm not novel anymore, and they've grown tired of me. They're friendly enough, but not too much. Helpful, but only on the surface in a "yes, ma'am" sort of way. (Not that they say that here.) I can't get anyone's cooperation because I'm just a volunteer. And finally, I don't have status or stature to get anyone else in other agencies to take me seriously either. For a culture so laid back on one side, St. Lucians are very much formal in business settings. Everyone's seen a hundred me's come and go before. They're curious to meet me and friendly (usually) but I haven't yet found anyone willing to make any real effort to get to know me or to collaborate. This is something that may also have a good deal to do with the image my organization has as elitist and closed-off, and also the reputation of the ED, who has pissed off many people and they no longer want anything to do with the Trust. Maybe too, this is more difficult in an urban setting, particularly near a tourist area as I am. I have conveniences and modern trappings, but I don't have a true sense of community where I live. I know a few people, and of course am always out there, trying to meet more, but it takes time. And living in the suburbs, where people commute to and from work and go home, and living right by the highway, there are too many distractions for anyone to bother themselves with me, even if they realize that I'm not a tourist. Unless they have ulterior motives...

I don't really have a point to make with that realization except to share my experiences and sort of write down concretely some feelings I've been toying with for a while. It takes a while to put feelings into words. It's not to say I feel like a failure or that I can't do this, it's just that I'm sensing barriers to the experience that need to be acknowledged before I can move past them. There's a lot of myth and legend attached to being a peace corps volunteer--both my own expectations and those of others, realistic or not. And while I know there is really no "typical" peace corps volunteer or story, I can't help but feel the pressure and the weight of all those who've gone before me, successful or not. In my mind, the 38 years of volunteers before me creates a sort of inadequacy feeling, when i compare what i imagine they've done with what i feel i've been able to do. Clearly, none of them "saved the world" so to speak, or I wouldn't be here right now. When I look at my recent quarterly report, I see that I've been busy, but I didn't sell my things and leave everything and everyone to move 7,000 miles away and do busywork. I want to build, change, start, grow. At least on a personal level, I know I've already begun to do that. And I just have to realize I can only achieve what's within my sphere of influence.

Sorry to go on ad infinitum about that. I'll stop for now, but now you see what happens when I spend too much time by myself. I guess it's a product of the new year and a new view on work as well. I hope I'm able to stay focused, look past my own biases and see the truth in what's achievable at this organization. Maybe then I'll actually be able to get something done.

For now though, I've been in a meeting all morning and I need to actually get on with the getting things done. I baked some banana bread last night and it was to give to a friend that runs a cafe nearby, but of course, the one time I intend to give it away, I forgot the baking soda. So it's good, but a bit dense. It was a hit at the meeting though. I also arranged to start guitar lessons last night. I'm going to Mike's Saturday morning to finally get started. Since Josh tuned it when they were here, I was able to sit around and practice some chords last night, and to only sort of convince Sebastian that the guitar is not his toy. I went jogging again this morning, so the New Year's resolutions are back on track. Now I need to get back to letter-writing again as well. I've been a slacker in that department.

Another weird story: Yesterday and today I got a ride from the roundabout from this guy, I think his name is Raymond, and he lives nearby. He's been driving this crazy car that looks like a tricked out golf cart (apparently his jeep is in the shop). He's really friendly, and today even turned around to take me this direction. He told me he lives at the end of the Vigie peninsula and I was welcome to stop by any time with my friends. Then he said he'd take just a minute and show me where it was (no big deal as the road here is circular, so it would end up back at the Trust). When we got there, he stopped the car, and I was creeped out. He gave me a tour of the house, which is perched right out on the end, with the porch overhanging the water. Nice. He made a point of even unlocking his bedroom on the tour to show it to me, which further creeped me out, and so I told him I was late for a meeting at work and really had to go (as I stood there wondering how on earth I get myself into these strange situations). He understood, showed me pictures of his kids and we headed out. One of the pictures there was of himself with Jeffrey the Butler on the Fresh Prince. Apparently they went to school together, and he is a St. Lucian. Who knew! So there is your famous St. Lucians trivia for the day.

6 Jan., 2003
Back to the Grind

The first day after the holiday and it had to start with a rainy Monday morning, just to make it harder to get out of bed. The weekend was nice, but of course the holiday didnt seem long enoughthey never do. Friday I went downtown to get my glasses fixed-the frame broke on New Years eve (an old solder broke on the arm) and the optometrists office couldnt do it so I had to go to a jeweller. 2 hours later (another solder broke when he fixed the first one, then he had to fix that and other things too.) I was finally out of there, and too annoyed and hot to want to go to the PC office. Of course, that's when my packages arrived. Well, 3 of them anyway. So I went to the beach and met Caroline, and Patrick showed up eventually too. At about 4 we made a run to the grocery store and then Caro and I decided to go back to Happy Day Bar with Patrick to meet some local friends he met through his dad (our training director, Andrew). They were super cool--very smart and well educated, and we had really intense discussions about the state of affairs in St. Lucian politics etc. David is a lawyer (nephew of the PM) and his girlfriend Kimi is in PR for the Ministry of Tourism. Perhaps the most enlightening conversation I've had yet, so we really hope to see them again. I was feeling quite tired, so went home at 9 and went to bed early. (Still recovering from New Years.) Saturday was a beautiful day. I called Duane and Spencer to try and get someone to take me to pick up my packages at the PC office after finding out from Laura that they would be too big to get on the transport. After several hours of doing laundry and cleaning while waiting around for return phone calls or assistance to no avail, I gave up and went to the beach again to meet Caroline, Sam and Shannon. We spent a nice afternoon there, and weve all gotten quite tan over the holidays. Afterwards we made a stop by the supermarket again and there ran into Mike the taxi driver. Caro told him about my gift-getting predicament, and he agreed to take me then to get them. He was very sweet and didn't even charge me for the trip, telling me Merry Christmas. He's a really nice man, and very understanding of our situation as volunteers. Later, I got a surprise visit from Effe (Babonneau host sister of Erin) and her boyfriend at the same time Caroline showed up, so we got a ride up to Rodney Bay. We stopped and had a drink at Tropicana (a ritzy-ish bar by the marina), and then they dropped us at the Jazz Lounge (which is new, and has a very nice restaurant on the roof, overlooking the water), where we met up with Margaret, Patrick and Jeff, the French optometrist. Eventually Donnell joined us as well, and we stayed until about 2, cooling out, chatting and listening to the band, who played sax, guitar, drums and steel pan. Very nice. It was our first time there (except for Jeff who goes there all the time) and I definitely want to go back--big comfy couches around coffee tables, low lights, candles and mellow musica very cozy atmosphere, and a good wine selection. On the whole, a sort of rare space in this region, and I found it really welcoming. (Jeff, I discovered, has wanted to play backgammon, so we've made plans to hang out there and play in the future. He also plays chess, so well give that a go as well.) The guitarist was Mike, my guitar teacher-to-be. Im going to call him this week to get started.

Even though we all had voiced unanimous opposition to (because were sick of) Shamrocks, there's not much else open late with the exception of pricey discos, so we found ourselves there anyway from 2-4 am, though we should have been smart and just gone home. This time I did not dance up a storm (a rarity for me these days!), as there was no one I was really keen to dance with. Also, I ran into Brendan, an Irish guy who works for Digicell who I had briefly met on New Years morning(and who is actually my age! Imagine!). We chatted a long time, after I grilled Donnell to find out if he was a nice guy or not. He was and in fact, he gave all of us a ride home, and invited us to go to Anse Chastanet for snorkelling the next day. Caroline and Margaret declined, but I went, hangover and all. There are two main N/S highways in St. Lucia, on the East and West Coasts. Both are very curvy and narrow, but the west coast road, especially between Castries and Soufriere (via Anse La Ray and Canaries) is an absolute nightmare. The view is great, but its pretty much non-stop hairpin turns. I have a pretty sturdy constitution as far as motion sickness, but Ive come close to vomiting previously on that road, and nearly always get a headache from it. Yesterday, I was already feeling a bit iffy and we had to pull over in Canaries for me to rid myself of breakfast.(Coffee on a hungover stomach was a bad idea. So was mixing wine, beer and rum the night before) Nasty, and a bit embarrassing to happen with two guys Ive just met (Daniel, who was driving, is Australian and also works for Digicell). After the gruelling hour-long trip, in which we also nearly drove off the cliff on the way to the beach, we arrived, and snorkelled for nearly an hour. Its so incredibly beautiful there: clear water, black sand beach, a gorgeous reef with tons of fish, thatched beach huts and coconut palms against a blue sky with the Pitons looming to the south. I got cold and came in and had a nap, and then we all had some sun and some cold drinks. In late afternoon we left and went to go check out the nearby Jalousie Hilton that I've heard so much about (where Bill Gates stayed when he was here in the fall). Its located between the Pitons in sort of the jungle and they imported white sand from Trinidad in lieu of the local volcanic black sand (since it's only miles from the volcano). Swanky. Its a nice place, and not at all hotel-like, really. A series of cabin-like villas tucked away in the hillside, each with its own tiny pool, and a shuttle to the tennis, golf and basketball courts, restaurants and beach/pool area. They have a nice snorkelling area as well, we were told. We watched the sunset there, and unfortunately we didnt have time to visit the sulphur springs as we hoped (Ive been wanting to go there at night, as Ive heard its a nice time to visit), as Brendan had to be back in Castries for 7:30. The ride back was nauseating but not as bad as before, and I got home at about 8 pm, completely exhausted and finally hungry (having not eaten at all since the mornings debacle). It was nice to finally leave Castries for a bit--I'm really itching to travel somewhere and get out of the cityeven to just go to the south for a few days. It was also exciting to be in a car (rather than a transport) on a trip with other people of a similar background to me (Its good to be with Lucians, but also exhausting sometimes.) In fact, it was really coolDaniels spent quite a bit of time in the Northwest US, and Brendans spent quite a bit of time in Australia, and Ive been to Cork, where Brendan is from, so we all had quite a bit to talk about. No Creole jokes, no blaring soca music, just casual conversation and (hooray) electronic music!! Prodigy. I cant describe how exciting that was to me. I felt like I was in a car commercial. They are really nice guys, and we traded numbers and email addresses, hopefully to hang out again. Daniel took some pics with his digital camera, so when he emails me his website address, I'm going to add them to mine as well. New friends with cars. A good start to the new year. And a call from Mom last night, with her usual impeccable timing--right in the middle of a new episode of the Simpsons.

It was so exciting to finally get some Christmas packages! I got 3 from Mom, Dad and Carla, plus a card from Grandma. I spent nearly an hour unwrapping, and wished I had someone there to be as excited as I was when I opened things. Sebastian got 5 presents in all, and is now officially the most spoiled kitten (ti-chat) in all of St. Lucia I think. Maybe not, but hes in the running. And even with access to jingly balls, a stuffed chicken and a catnip mouse, he still prefers to attack and bite me every 5 minutes. I hope he grows out of the Bite Everything stage soon, as my appendages and clothes are suffering from it. Many, many, many heartfelt thanks for the gifts and thoughts that went into them. I love it all, and can't wait to put everything to use. I've already begun.

Today I'm back at work, as I've said, and trying my best to sport a new attitude. Just walking in here, though, I felt negativity descend. I'm doing my best to rise above it. Over the break, though I tried my best to not think about work, I came to the decision that I need to invest myself fully in my work for a while, even though I hate it. I need to know that I tried as hard as I could to make it work, so that if it doesnt, I can be at peace with my own efforts. Until now I know that I havent tried my hardest because I got frustrated with the attitudes and the working situation. Basically, I can do very little when it requires cooperation of others, but I need to just get out there on my own and start doing something. I also need to set a meeting with Mike (APCD) and Giles (ED) and myself to discuss my role here, which I knew but discovered more when I turned in my quarterly report last month. Giles doesnt seem to want to accept (he knows but doesnt care) what my role should be here, he only wants me for what works for him. And thats not how its going to be. If things dont change here, I dont think I can be effective, so we need to start a process now that either makes it better or gets me out and into another assignment. But for now I need to start with me and my attitude. I have to stay positive, no matter what. Its so difficult though, when you work with so many people who are not only miserable, but manipulative and involved in some higher power struggle that I, as a new person, can only get glimpses of pieces of, now and then. Naively, I thought that as a volunteer I could be apart from all that. I was wrong. No one is exempt from office politics. The latest news: The marketing manager has resigned. I have the feeling there is more going on, as Giles is meeting with each of the managers (officer-level and above, which includes me) this morning. I just hope whatever is happening is good. I somehow doubt it. There is one good thing so far thoughwe got ADSL in our office just before the holiday, and I just got internet access at my computer today. HOORAY! At least one of my wishes has come true.

2 Jan., 2003
Bon Lanné

I have been on vacation for a week and a half, and it is going to be so hard to go back to work next week. Luckily we have a peace corps meeting on Friday, so it will be a short week. Let's see, where to start?

Christmas: My day got better. Going to Giles' house was nice, and actually quite relaxing. We went for a walk, played with the dogs, I had a nice hot shower and a nap. We had dinner and went to mass, which was beautiful, albeit long. (stupidly I drank coffee beforehand, in anticipation of the party...yikes!) Deborah got a ride over and picked me up, so off we went to the red and white party in Paix Bouche, on the outskirts of Babboneau, where I had phase 1 of training. THe great thing about Paix Bouche is that it's in the north central part of the island on a big hill, so you can see both the Caribbean and the Atlantic. And this house where the party was had a prime location, with a rooftop deck boasting the aforementioned view. There were about 100 people, all dressed up and sporting glittery, feathered masks, a porch full of drinks, a dj, and a crowd of people on the roof dancing under the stars, and then under the sunrise. They served a massive feast in the morning for breakfast. I danced literally all night, and had possibly the most fun I've had in 6 months. Met lots of nice people. A great switch from the previous day's drama, but I was super exhausted after little to no sleep two days in a row. I slept a bit, and then later at the beach ran into our training director, whose plans had fallen through. He joined us and the Guyanese and Canadians didn't. We had a pleasant afternoon at the beach--it was a gorgeous day.

I'll insert a bit here from an email I just sent to the PCMI group: "The holiday season here has been interesting and fun. It's been odd to spend the holidays in a warm climate.It only recently dawned on me that people here don't hang stockings, because a)they don't even really wearsocks here, so where would they get stockings andb)there are no fireplaces to hang them on. Many of myconceptions of Christmas are clearly based on a N.American concept, yet some are the same here, basedmaybe on proximity or the influence of American T.V.There are colored lights, trees (some evergreen andsome local trees decorated) and modified(Caribbean-ized) carols and songs, but the big dealhere is black cake--a fruit cake made with rum and redwine. It's very dense and actually quite nice. I neverthought I liked fruit cake before I had this kind. Ihave had off from my job since the 20th, and the wholeperiod has really just sort of been one festiveseason. Not drastically different from the states, butnot the same, either. For the holidays, peopledecorate and clean their houses, cook a lot, buy smallgifts and then go house to house to visit, eat anddrink by each other.

I spent a day last week with my second host family andthere must have been 17 different foods in themeal---2 kinds of fish, fried rice (rice with mixedveg), potatoes au gratin, macaroni pie (mac and cheeseis a st. lucian staple food), ham, turkey, lamb, 2kinds of salad, ground provision (local root and othervegetables like yam, dasheen and plantain or greenbanana), fried plantains, etc. Then there was wine,and then black cake and ice cream. More food than Iusually consume in a week!

My two big fetes for the season have been seriousall-nighters--they call it a jeuvet here, becauseyou're out till dawn. Parties are one thing they takevery seriously--even the older folks will go out allnight on big occasions! Christmas even I was at ahouse party where everyone wore red and had glitterymasks, and we danced on the roof to dj music andwatched the sun come up. It was wonderful. They serveda huge feast for breakfast in the morning: turkey,saltfish, bread, potatoes, cocoa tea.New Years I spent with another Peace Corps volunteerand our training director's son who was in townvisiting (Caroline and Patrick). We went to the homeof 3 Canadian volunteers, who also had friendsvisiting. We all got dressed up and made a big dinnertogether, and then took photos, as though it were theprom (Hopefully they'll be posted on my site soon),before we left for our respective parties. Patrick,Caroline and I went off to watch the fireworks on thebeach in front of the resorts--we ran into one of herco-workers there. Then we went to a local club anddanced all night. I ran into people from the previousparty and stayed longer--and the ride home theypromised me turned out to include an entire morningand early afternoon full of going house-to-house andmore partying. I was unable to rally and reallypartake in any of it, and was so completely exhaustedI fell asleep in a chair at the third house. I finallycame home, hair a mess and dress wrinkled, at two inthe afternoon. I showered and had to immediately go toa beach party for another PCV's birthday. So yes, the holidays in the Caribbean are fun, but youmust be well-rested for them, I have learned."

My packages still have not arrived, possibly because this place has more holidays than anywhere else--13! There's Christmas and Boxing day last week, and then New Years Day and then the Day after New Years as well. Today is a holiday here. And nobody does much around the holidays so I hope that they will materialize next week when things start up again.

My dramas with Alvin are currently at an end. After his weird freakout the night I lost my keys, we've actually seemingly come to a good equilibrium. The fact that I had no key to the padlock on my porch gate and thus had to walk around worked out well. He stopped by several times and we hung out on the porch, with no other option. We played drafts (similar to both checkers and chess) and uno. He needs more practice at uno and I need more at chess. I got a brief country dance lesson from him, to the entertainment of the neighbors, possibly. But I was able to hold my own to one song on New Years thanks to the lesson... So he is ok now, and thankfully working behind the bar now most of the time so he only comes out for occasional dances. I can dance with whoever I want now, jealousy-free :). And I am now the proud owner of a new hacksaw ($9.99 at the same cheap everything store where I bought the new lock and a new frying pan) which I used to cut off the old lock. Freedom again.

On New Years I spent much of the nigth dancing with people I had danced with at the Xmas party, as many of them were there. One in particular was this totally adorable young guy--the party had been at his sister's (and his)house. I saw her and she said "My brother has one crush on you! He would not stop talking about you!" I laughed and said he was a sweet guy, and where was he when I was 20? I told her I knew he was young, but how young? "16," she said, and I just about fell over laughing. After that, I could barely even dance with him without feeling like a lech. He's still a sweet kid, and already a wicked flirt, even after finding out my age. I heard him lie and tell one of his friends I was 26. (As if 10 years older is less scary than 12.) That was pretty funny. I really like their group of friends though--lots of them are related, and even those who arent act like they are. I hope to see them again, before their next party in March.

I finished the Eggers book, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and I loved it. It was one of those books where, when it ends, you're really sad because you won't get to hang out with those people any more. You could go back and read it again but it wouldn't be the same-no new tales or adventures. It reminded me in some ways of another favorite author, Douglas Coupland, only with more irony (something I never would have thought possible). I hear he has a new book out and I would love to get a copy. I would also love to get Gabriel Garcia Marquez's autobiography when it is translated--sadly, I'm not up to Spanish literature par just yet. I've read probably 20 books since I've been here--just finished a Vonnegut book I brought from home, and am puzzling over what to start next. I tried and failed at Gravity's Rainbow a month or so ago--maybe with the free time I've got now I'll give it another shot. It seems to be one that needs to be read in large chunks.

My glasses broke New Years Eve--the small ones. It was the frame and could possibly be fixed. Fortuitously we met up with Jeff, the french optomitrist again at the beach yesterday and he told me to come see him at work tomorrow morning to see if he can fix it. I hope so. He's getting a company car soon, so we hope to have more adventures with him in the future. We may have a drink with Donell again this weekend, as we saw him New Years (and he made fun of me for dancing so much) and had a good time with him, as always. We like the saracastic types like us. Robin and Josh spent the New Year in Soufriere, but spent a few days by me, and we had fun. They left this morning. Lauren's friend Marshall (who I had to give a mention since he's a regular reader of my site, apparently.) is visiting now, and they stayed by Caroline last night and headed south again today. We have some tentative plans to maybe go to the Jazz Lounge with Jeff on Saturday night. We're also supposed to meet up with Noel before his girlfriend leaves Monday as well. We saw them last friday for the fish fry at Anse La Raye (and then later at Shamrock's) and it was ok, but we couldn't talk much because it was so loud both places. We started out in a group of 10, and the night had great promise, but it wasn't as much fun as we hope it would be. Some of the couples (Irish-Australian and 2 Canadians) that came with Steven were buying mad drinks all night though, and I ended up quite drunk. I had my first hangover since I've been here the next day, even despite dancing. Usually that prevents me from getting into too much trouble. All in all it's been a good and much-needed holiday. I've lost a few pounds, according to the scale at Cleotha's (even after all that food!) and gotten a much darker tan. We've met loads of new people. Getting back to normal life will be strange--back to the same old everything again. There will be new dramas, I'm sure. THere always are...

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