Travels in Bananaland
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Tales from Bananaland

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

7 October2004
I'm back in Seattle, and it's great to be home. Except that it is, and it isn't. Time has passed, things and people have changed, and I'm living on the other side of the lake. I've got to get used to being carless, being farther away from most of the things and people I want to see, but it's good to be back. Living with Geoff and Danielle is going well, and it's a nice house with a cute fluffy persian cat named Elvis. My commute is a pretty heinous 1 hr bus ride (2 busses) and some walking. I don't enjoy that. But I'm getting settled back in at school and trying to catch up with friends. It's still bizarre and fun, trying to remain who I've become while stepping back into the life I had 2 years ago. I keep saying it's like visiting my own life, and it's the only way I can think of to describe it. Neither good nor bad, just surreal at times. Between the commute, the strange hours and the oddness of reacquainting myself with everything, it just seems like everything is still in peace corps mode, meaning it's an adventure. It's still a pain in the ass to get anywhere, I have to depend on unreliable busses and what rides I can manage, (except they're more comortable and have schedules, and it's cold rather than hot), and each day still brings the possibility of many surprises and opportunities. So it's definitely keeping me on my toes. But about that attention span.... lets just say that 3 hour classes are challenging, to say the least.

I've decided not to use this site anymore, for now. Because it's better for it to remain about Bananaland. Since I have no time or inclination or clever ideas to make a new site, I've gone back to my old livejournal. So, au revoir. And marche bien. I'll be dreaming of blue water and palm trees........

26 August 2004
Pura Vida
I left Saint Lucia on Sunday, August 1. Things were pretty chaotic at the last minute, and despite living by lists and saying goodbyes for weeks, there were a few that never got said, a few things left undone. The whole last weekend there was this drastic series of crazy events marked by significant ups and downs, and I find it a very fitting analogy for my two years on the island. Particularly Sunday. But here's the story: My last Friday there was a full moon, and a local rock band called Disturbing Joan played a full moon show at an outdoor bar in Gros Islet. Urmie, a friend from the gym, invited me for a goodbye dinner, along with Caroline, Eric, Andre, Charles, Suzanne and Larry, and Meg, a volunteer who was living with her--a great, fun crew. We had a wonderful indian-inspired dinner at her beautiful house, on a hill overlooking the city, and then went to see the show. They played the songs both Tanja and I wanted to hear at their Jazz show, and gave Caroline and me a shoutout, thanking us for our 2 years of Peace Corps service. That was really cool. (The bass player in the band, Chris, taught swimming with Caroline and sometimes sailed with me.) After that, Tanja and I went to the Gros Islet street party for probably the last time (she left to instruct scuba in Egypt 2 weeks after me) and see Chris, our swiss-german friend from the gym, who also just recently departed St. Lucia. The three of us sat out on his porch, drinking beer and discussing our feelings about leaving for a long time, until the mosquitos and sleepiness got the best of us. The next day I was up early to pay final bills, try and pack, and meet friends in town for the round the island trip. I got my bills paid, woke Andre (who had fallen asleep after watching an early morning rugby match) to tell him to hurry up, and headed by bus to Castries to pick up a carving and a pair of shoes I had left at the repair shop (another thing to try and fit in my already over-filled bags!).

The carving is a saga in itself. So I will briefly digress. Early in our time, Caroline and I befriended most of the beach vendors in the area where we often limed. They would always greet us, sometimes bring us fruit, and in addition to not hassling us, sort of get our back and keep others from hassling us. One guy, Columbus, had nice carvings. He was a nice guy and gave me a birdfeeder for my sister as a wedding present when I went to the US last summer, and gave me money to buy him new sneakers, which i did. (shoes, like everything else imported, are expensive there.)And at one point I asked him to make a special carving for me, sort of a takeoff on one of the standard tourist pieces--a mask with the Pitons and other trademark St Lucia features. I wanted that, plus the PC logo and 2002-2004. I thought he would do a good job. We talked about it for a long time, I got him a copy of the logo, and he kept telling me he would drop it off for me, etc. Anyway, I never got it, and he kept telling me it was done. That final week we agreed I would pick it up that morning. He was waiting there for me by the harbor under a tree as rain started to fall. He went in his bag, eyes glowing with excitement, and got something out for me. My heart sank. It was hideous. It was worse than hideous, it was a complete piece of crap. And he was so excited, and showed me all the 'features' that I supposedly wanted. Make no mistake here, this was awful by any standards. It was a 5 lb, at least, hunk of heavy wood, still shaped like wood except for two vague sort of points at the top, which were allegedly the pitons. on the face, which was barely carved out, were three crudely hewn shapes that looked like elementary school attempts at stars. These, I was told, were the dove turning into a star in the Peace Corps logo. That's it. No logo, no dates, no St. Lucia, no mask, no hibiscus flowers or other nice ornamentation. A big heavy chunk of wood with 2 points and some ugly misshapen stars. And a "free" bird feeder, because we were such good friends. To make it worse, he wouldn't tell me a price, which is the shadiest of all shyster vendor tricks. They ask for "whatever you can give," which is inevitably never enough. He wanted $60 (EC dollars); I gave him $40. Which was still a pretty expensive damn bird feeder that I never really wanted anyway. Cause I certainly wasn't keeping that piece of crap. Had it been any other weekend, any other day, any other time, I wouldn't have taken it. I was just too stressed, too shell shocked, and too disappointed to refuse it. The only thing I can think of is that Columbus is doing drugs now, genuinely believed that crap was good, and didn't mean to rip me off. So I gave him the money and figured the story was almost worth it. I told it to everyone on the van, and they laughed their asses off. The stupid thing is, I forgot to get someone to take a picture of it. It would really help the story a lot. Unfortunately, I didn't think of that till Andre and I were already on a bus leaving Castries, having left the thing on the van we took around the island. I didn't want to look at it ever again.

So anyway, I got that horrible carving, and picked up my shoes, and dropped off some books for a friend in town at her job, and we got in the van. More than an hour later we had ice and beer and finally left town. Cari, Heather, Jaimie, Zorina, Rosie, Jamilla, another local girl whose name I can't remember, Andre and me and the driver set off. We were drinking, singing along with the radio and having fun despite crappy weather. We stopped in several places around the island--dropped my cell off in Marigot for Michael, picked up cds from Xavier in Anse La Raye. Had lunch in Soufriere, but it was too rainy for us to go to the Jalousie Hilton beach like we wanted to, so we headed on to Laborie, our major stop. We met Lauren and Greg there, and waited a while for Kate, Matt and Sarah who were coming for Lauren's goodbye party. After a long swim, though, we had to leave before they arrived. Then we watched the sunset from the southernmost point of the island, at the lighthouse at Moule a Chique. THat was cool, because it was the view I had when flying out of Hewanorra Airport (for the first time) the following afternoon. On the drive back we didn't really stop anywhere, as it had gotten dark and we were all tired, and tired of being in the car. We got some dinner at the Dennery Fish Fry and then headed back to Castries. It was fun, but a long day. And it was disappointing because Michelle and several of her girls were supposed to come and they are a wild bunch and would have brought some needed energy to the day. Also, I never really got to say goodbye to Michelle because of that. I went home and attempted to pack a bit more. Got a goodbye visit from Martina and a few goodbye calls. Tried to sleep, despite knots in my stomach.

Sunday morning I woke up early. There was a fun walk going on outside, past my apartment on the highway, which I had done my first weekend in St. Lucia 2 years earlier. Jude and his sisters were in it, as was Andre and Martina. Both said they would stop by during the walk but neither did. Which might have been better for my stress level but made me feel kind of sad. And then Jude didn't come back from the walk to say goodbye. I brought Chabin and her stuff over to their house, where only his brother in law was home, and he didn't know anything about the cat coming to live there. Chabin got really upset, and growled and ran away, back to the bushes and then to my house, where she laid across my suitcase to try and stop me from leaving. Meanwhile, neither bag would close. Mom called, and I was nearly in hysterics. I had given away bags and bags and piles of things, been cleaning out, throwing away, and giving away for months, and still my bags wouldn't close. Eventually I took a few more things out and gave them to the new neighbor, Lady Spice (a famous calypsonian--did I mention that yet?) who has 6 kids, and then it closed. (Previously, Samuel had gotten my discman, walkman, and small speakers, making him the happiest 14 yr old boy in town.) Jackie came, we loaded my stuff, I tried to say goodbye to the cat, who ran away, said goodbye to Mathius and Jude's sisters and tried not to cry, and got in the car. We picked up her nephew and headed towards the airport. We were really early, I should add, because I knew my bags were overweight and I wanted to be sure they would get on the plane, and then I wanted to take Jackie to lunch. Instead, when we were about 3/4 of the way there, we rounded a poorly-banked corner on the highway, and the road was wet from a recent rainstorm, and we skidded across the other lane and into a stone wall. We hit it (only going about 20 mph, thankfully), bounced back, did a 360 skid in the mud on the side of the road, and ended up facing the wrong way in traffic, as the front tires of her jeep hissed flat. We were screwed. Luckily, no cars were coming, and two trucks with guys immediately passed and helped us tow it out of there. There was a small ding in the front hood, the tires were flat and the axle seemed broken. But it was amazing that we were not hurt at all, given the possibilities. Apparently, there are fatal accidents on that curve all the time. THe guys helping us told us countless accident stories. Once Jackie's hysteria subsided, she asked one of them to take me to the airport. (I was amazingly calm about the accident, probably because I had already sort of surpassed stressed and gone into a calm-seeming emotional coma, but really wanted to get to the airport and didnt want to draw the focus away from the car and the accident, which was clearly a big problem. except that i need to leave.) So we heave my stuff into the back of the truck, Jackie and I pile in the cab, her nephew in the back, and race to the airport, where the queue at USAIR is out to the curb. I am last, with slightly more than an hour till my flight. At this point, nothing more could phase me. I saw Lauren, and her farewell party of Greg, Sarah and another of her friends. Also our Country Director, there with his son. THe line eventually moved, and when I got to the front, my luck changed. "Ms. Wolf, I see you'll be flying first class with us." What??? But I rolled with it. And convinced her that my second, forbidden carryon was actually a carryon (it was filled with books, and very heavy) and my enormous backpack simply a purse. Thus saving the US$80 extra bag fee. And they somehow overlooked the extra weight of my bags. As the bag screeners overlooked my extra bottles of bajan and trini rum. The magical words "Peace Corps" still wield serious power in some parts... So I made it through the line, only to discover my flight had been delayed two hours. Upstairs, I waved goodbye to Lauren's flight and got some lunch, finally. Ran into a woman from my gym who I always chatted with, and we always spoke about getting together. We had a drink, got chatting, and I nearly missed my flight. As we waited in the security line, my name was called over the intercom, and I had to dash through the airport. Thankfully it's really only one room. But I was the last person on the plane. The only person in my first class row. And, with dirt on my skirt and a grin on my face, I watched St. Lucia get smaller out the window and tried to process the fact that I was really leaving, for good. A comfy seat, blanket, free drinks and the movie helped, without a doubt.

So I made it to Philly, got delayed gain at baggage, met mom and John and we stayed up late catching up. The next day I did some shopping with mom and went out for Thai food, had dinner with Grandma and Aunt Carol, packed for Costaand tried to get a good sleep. We got up at 4 to go to the airport for my trip to Costa Rica. And the next saga began... I e-checked in, went to my gate and waited, and then realized everyone there was going to Nevada. Found out the flight was cancelled, and waited in a line to get booked on the next flight. Went to that gate and waited some more, as the flight was delayed. Realized that the delay would make me miss my connecting flight to San Jose from Charlotte, and was told to go back down to check-in and get reticketed for another connecting flight. But due to the hurricane, many flights had been affected and lines were unbelievably long. Cheeky me got frustrated, went to the front of the first class queue and demanded a supervisor (I had been told to ask for one when sent down), and got one. Unfortuntely, after 40 minutes he still couldnt find a seat for me on any airline to Costa Rica that day. So 5 hours and a $40 shuttle ride later, I found myself back in Lansdale, booked on the following day's 7 am flight (nonstop this time),and calling USAIR baggage for 3 hours to find out where on earth my bags had ended up. With no conclusive answers, even after finally speaking to a human being. So I had to get up at 4 again, with an additional small bag of clothes in case my luggage didn't arrive, and this time everything went smoothly. The flight left on time, with me on it, and when I arrived, my luggage was there, my hotel shuttle was there, and Shawna was there, having arrived as scheduled the day before. From there, our trip went beautifully.

I can't say enough good things about Costa Rica--I absolutely loved it. Our 9 days went by incredibly fast, but everything went according to plan. There is so much to see and do, it was hard to make decisions, but we mostly stuck to the plans I had made, with the help of the guidebook, map and some advice from others. We spent the first day/night in Alajuela, a suburb of the Capital, San Jose, which everyone says to avoid if possible. Our hotel was reasonable and clean and the staff were wonderful. It had cable, a pool and breakfast was included. (for $20 each) After I arrived, we spoke to a youngish girl on staff who gave us some advice on where to go in Alajuela, and then offered to take us there when she finished her shift at 1. We jumped at that chance. So we took the bus, changed money, and had lunch at a small shop (these are everywhere, called "sodas") in the market where all the locals eat. We ordred a few things to share with her help and learned about some of the local food and drinks. She left us and we wandered about and shopped a bit. That night, we made our own guacamole with fresh produce we'd bought and fresh chips from the market. We had some beers and plotted our next steps, with help from the owners. Our spanish was beginning to improve--the vocab was coming back and we were taking tentative baby steps out of the present tense. We decided to leave early in the morning, via taxi, to San Jose, where we would catch a bus to the town of La Fortuna, at the base of the Volcan Arenal, an active volcano. The trip was fairly uneventful, and we passed through some pretty countryside, and got the first in a series of long-trip giggles from delierium. The weather cleared just as we reached Fortuna, and we could see the Volcano. Apparently it had been rainy and cloudy for a few days and no one could see a thing. From the town, you can hear the rock fall of the lava, but you can't see it until night time, when the red flows are visible as they crash down the mountainside. We found a cheap little pension to stay at, and decided on a night time tour of the volcano, including a hike, lava viewing and hot springs. We went with the brother of the guy who owned our pension, which may have been our one mistake of our trip, though it wasn't too bad. In hindsight, we should have probably taken a more recognized tour group. We were told we would be in a group, but it was just Shawna and me, and Julio and his brother. Julio took us on a hike where we saw toucans, and he told us about the area. Then, once it got dark, we went to the viewing area, and watched the lava flows for a long while. Then, we got back in the car and went to the hot springs. There are several hotsprings in the area, at various prices. The resort Tabacon has an apparently lovely setting for the natural springs to rush through, and cost $25US. Another company slightly up (or down?)stream cost $15, but our guides said they'd take us to a free one. This was mentioned in the trusty Lonely Planet, so we went with it. We didn't need luxury; we just wanted a nice hot soak. But our intrepid guides clearly did the math of 2 guys and 2 girls at a hotspring and decided it was a recipe for romance. So though the hotsprings were lovely and really relaxing, what could have been an incredible night was sort of spoiled by dodging the roaming hands and intentions of our young suitors. It got old, quickly. Other people must fall for that, but their advances were no different than those of every other west indian guy we had just dodged for 2 years, so we weren't having any of it. That and the "let me give you a massage" line got played out a long time ago...

Anyway, we escaped the cluthes of our would-be latin lovers and went back to the hotel. I wanted to go out, but Shawna was fed up and wanted to sleep. I decided going out alone was unwise, so settled for cable tv. Fortuna seemed like a pretty cool little town, though. The next morning, we resolved to leave if the weather wasn't good. And it wasn't. So we packed up, had a nice breakfast, and signed up for the Jeep-Boat-Jeep trip to Monteverde. On the map, they are only about an inch apart, but there is a huge lake and a terrible road in between so a trip that would seem about an hour away, we were told, would take 8 hours on the public bus, 4 hours+ in a taxi, or 21/2 hours by jeep-boat-jeep. We chose option c, having limited time and limited tolerance for dodgy busses on bumpy, horrible roads (again, 2 yrs in west indies. LOTS of similarities...). It was wise, and the boat trip was nice. Met some cool people, some of whom stayed in our little hostel in Monteverde, one of the coolest places we stayed. Monteverde reminded me of Jackson Hole, WY or a similar type of ski town. It's on the edge of the cloudforest, really laid back but with lots to do, and pretty 'developed' for being in the middle of nowhere, but still with lots of rustic charm and ecological sensibility. (those last 2 were part of what made me love costa rica so much.) from there we wandered about, had some local food, bought some souvenirs at a local artisans coop, had really good homemade ice cream at the cheese factory, and signed up for a canopy tour, via zip lines and platforms, the next day. that night we made dinner and went out for drinks with 2 canadian sisters we met and a belgian guy they had met, as well as a local 17 yr old guy he had met. We went to a cafe that had a dj and dance floor, left there and went to antoher club that had just been shut down by the police who were conducting an immigration raid for nicaraguans. That was a bummer. We sort of wandered aimlessly in the dark, quiet streets, feeling like high school kids, until we gave up and went to bed. The next day, it was pouring when we woke up and Shawna and I were pretty unhappy. But our tour was scheduled for 10 and around 9 the sky began to clear. By 10:30 or so we had sunny, clear skies. And the zip tour was incredible. We didn't see any wildlife, but we zipped through the canopy on these really high wires, and the view was amazing, and it gave us this adrenaline high. I've never done anything like that before. I thought it might be scary, but so many of the tourists do it, I figured it couldn't be that bad. It wasn't scary at all, and I didn't want it to end. Some of the people didn't lean back far and tuck their legs up enough, so they went slowly and got stuck. That would have sucked. Thankfully, I never got stuck. There were about 18 zip lines, and later, a hummingbird garden and about 12 platforms--these long, wooden, rope bridges strung in the treetops. We saw some cool birds, swung on a vine, and then our room key fell out of Shawna's pocket and into the forest below. Luckily, it was close to a platform and I saw it fall, so I was able to climb down on a recon mission, and surprisingly, found it! Got quite muddy though. That night we had dinner with Mathieu, another canadian, who was travelling alone, and on a similar path to us (except he was driving, diving and headed for panama), and then out for drinks to the same club that had been previously closed, as well as a local bar. He had his canopy tour early the next morning, and we left for Manuel Antonio in a taxi. He was heading there too later that day in his car, but as our time was limited we thought we'd better get there in early afternoon so we coud spend the afternoon and then the next morning in the park. A good thing, as we discovered when we got there that the park is closed mondays; thus, we only had 3 hours that Sunday afternoon to see it. The drive to Manuel Antonio, a small park on the pacific coast a four hour drive away, was beautiful, and passed through rugged farmland with views of mountains and acres of bright green fields with grazing cows, and small villages of the sort I had envisioned living in while in Peace Corps. We stopped along the way to see some crocodiles (cocodrillos in spanish, we learned) in a river, and took pictures. Many places in Manuel Antonio were booked, as it is very popular, despite being the low season, but we eventually found a room at a B&B in the home of the owner of the local gift shop, a woman from California who is one of the oldest residents of Manuel Antonio. Her place was great, but a bit far out of the way. We got our taxi driver to take us to the park and rushed through it in the remaining 3 hours. The beaches were gorgeous, and it was painful on such a beautiful sunny day (especially after the cold, gloom and rain of the cloudforest) to pass them by, but we were on a mission to see monkeys. And we did! We saw several 3 toed sloths, a snake (looked like a boa) some big-ass spiders, and both red squirrel and capuchin monkeys playing in the trees. I was a happy camper. We swam briefly in the Pacific (which was warm!) after the park closed, had a snack at the beach (bbq chicken and a tortilla, instead of a bake, like in the islands) and then a drink at a nice restaurant with a view at sunset, where there was a sort of mariachi band (they played guantanamera, which i had been singing in the park all afternoon). As we trudged up the steep hill to our room, getting sweaty, we sort of debated the logistics of showering and coming back down to meet some friends from Monteverde (an American couple) in a bar with live music. Just then, Mathieu pulled up! He gave us a ride back to our room, waited while we showered, and then joined us for drinks with Paul and Katherine, who it turns out were not a couple, but old high school friends. We had dinner and drinks and a lot of fun. Mathieu drove us back home again. And the next morning we commenced our most difficult quest: how to get to Mastatal. Mastatal is a small, small pueblita in the mountains outside of a sub-city outside of San Jose, Puriscal. No one had heard of it. Turns out the busses to Puriscal left the nearby town, Quepos, at 4 am or 1 pm. It's a 3 hour ride, and busses to Mastatal left Puriscal at 3. We were screwed. We were told we might be able to take one of the many busses to San Jose from Quepos and find another bus there to Puriscal, but that didn't seem to make any sense. No one could tell us how often those busses might leave and that seemed to be cutting it mighty close as well. So we decided to get to Puriscal and figure it out from there. We had a reservation at the ecolodge in Mastatal, but at the worst, we would just get there a day late. The bus ride took not 3 but close to 5 hours to Puriscal, and so the Mastatal bus was long gone. We got a taxi jeep, which was a bit pricey but our only option. The driver was very chatty and enthusiastic, but spoke no english, and his spanish was very local campesino (rather than our stilted textbook spanish) and he spoke very fast. So it was hard to have any detailed conversations with him. Along the way we ran over a local poisonous snake, which he failed to kill with the car, and proceeded to get out and throw stones at. A truck full of men passed, and they all jumped out to help him. Eventually, his machete was retrieved from the back, and they proudly held up the limp, huge, snake to us and told us it was 'the most poisonous snake in south america.' We later learned it is not, but as these snakes sometimes find their way into villages and homes, men want to protect their families from the snakes, and kill them. After about 2 hours we pulled up at a fenced home in the forest preserve, in the village of mastatal: Rancho Mastatal, an environmental learning center run by two former peace corps volunteers. We heard about it from a former CR volunteeer, who was a friend of a girl in our group in Grenada.

We had decided to end our trip with 3 days at Rancho Mastatal, as a sort of off the beaten track view of the country, and it was a great decision. It's hard to find the words to describe the place, or the people, without giving the impression that it is some sort of hippie commune. Tim and Robin, who are in their early 30s and from Seattle, met in the Peace Corps in Uruguay. They bought the land and opened Rancho Mastatal about 4-5yrs ago, and have an incredible vision. They have a main house, where they live, with a few extra bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and dining area, as well as a huge porch with tables, adirondack chairs and hammocks, and another large house converted to a bunk house, which sleeps about 20, and has an indoor bathroom, front and back porches with hammocks, 2 solar showers and a composting toilet. Most things are constructed using local, natural, sustainable materials, like bamboo. The entire complex is meant to exist with as little impact on the earth as possible, and to be as self-sustaining as possible. Kitchen and compost toilet waste are composted. There is a solar dehydrator, and a nice brick oven of sorts, which uses very little fuel. There are lots of gardens, though not all the food is grown there. People come to stay, either as students (there are programs with several environmental science classes at UW and other schools), volunteers, or guests. Students and volunteers help out in a variety of projects or chores, from building a new structure, tree planting, composting, to soap-making, baking or helping with dinner or dishes. Three meals are included, and they're all vegan or vegetarian and very fresh and healthy. Robin is an amazing cook, and strangely enough, uses quite a few recipes from a cookbook from a restaurant I love in Victoria B.C., ReBar. We came as guests, and were not required to help, but everyone else during our stay were volunteers. There were several families, and a few long-timers who had construction skills and had been living there about 2 years. There was a lot to learn, and everyone was really laid-back and cool. There was a dog and a cat, and waterfall to swim in only a 10 minute hike away. Plenty of trails to hike in, and a fridge full of soft drinks and beers on the honor system. The conch shell is blown to announce meals. In between tasks, in evenings and after meals, everyone sort of plops into a chair or hammock and reads, plays games, or chats. There are shelves and shelves of books on sustainable construction, bamboo, gardening, cooking, etc., and lots of knowledgable people to learn from. There were 2 UW professors and their children there, a family that had been travelling in central america and taking spanish lessons together for 4 months, a couple that were both astrophysicists, working on space policy in D.C., and lots of others. I wanted our 3 days to last forever, but they flew past. The first night we arrived at dinner time, veggie sandwiches on freshly made everything bagels, and vegan chocolate cake. We socialized and slept well, and woke early. The next day we got a tour, went to the nearby waterfall, and relaxed. It rained every day at about 1-5, so anything important had to be done early. That afternoon, we left to go to our host families. We asked to get placed with local families to learn more about the area and culture and practice our spanish. Shawna's family was used to having guests, but mine was a newer "host" family, and spoke very campesino. We had a hard time communicating, but thanks to the power of games (i played cards most of the night with the 14 yr old daughter and 9 yr old grandson), a spanish-english dictionary, and charades, we got along just fine. They were incredibly sweet to me. I just wish I could have understood them better. In the morning, we were up at 5:30, and had breakfast (more rice and beans and eggs, similar to dinner) and then Roberth took me to Shawna's host family so that we could go and milk cows. I think I did it once when I was very small, but milking cows was a very strange experience. As was learning the vocabulary for it and other farm tasks in Spanish... It was gross at first, but I managed to get the hang of it and milk about 2 1/2 glasses, in the time it took the woman to milk 2 jugs. Oh well. After milking, we set off on horseback to a huge waterfall. The trip took a half-day, and Shawna's host brother was our guide. He taught himself English from a book, and knew a fair amount (the most of anyone in the village, according to Tim), so we spoke in Spanglish most of the day. He was a great guide. The ride was long, and Shawna and I were not very experienced on horseback, but we did ok. Eventually, we had to tie the horses and continue on foot to the waterfall, which was about 200 feet tall, and looked like something from Yosemite. It was absolutely gorgeous, and had a huge green pool to swim in at the bottom. The afternoon showers were on their way, and I was the only one who swam, but it was really excellent. We had some oranges and bananas we brought with us, and headed back. We named our horses, as they didn't have names, and decided that they really matched our personalities. Shawna's hung way back and liked to take guava breaks whenever possible, she dubbed it "Never gonna Reach" or "Nunca Llegar", while mine was sort of energetic and a bit spastic, needing to be at the front except when going downhill, when it freaked out and tried to go anywhere but down. I called her "Ahorita," which basically means "just now" and is used the same way as in the Caribbean. Just now was a lot faster on the way home, and took me galloping many times. Our legs were very sore the next day... So we had one last dinner at the ranch with everyone, and took a walk back into the village to say goodbye to our host families. In the early morning, we took a bus with two other people from the ranch (who were going on an overnight outing to Quepos) to Puriscal, and then to San Jose, and then finally to Alajuela. We had left Shawna's larger bag in storage there and made a reservation for our final night. We discussed going out, as it was the evening of August 12 and the eve of my 30th birthday. Instead we bought a bottle of wine in the supermarket, had coffee and cake in a cafe, and had a nice dinner and wine at the hotel that night. Shawna had to fly out early the next day. My flight home had a bit of drama, of course! We got to Charlotte with no problems except a long delay on the runway in San Jose, but we arrived at the same time as another large flight, and all 600+ of us had a limited time to clear immigration, with only 3 people working. My flight was delayed, but not long enough--i missed it by a few minutes after a mad dash through the airport. So I got booked on the next flight out, 2 hours later (in first class again) and spent 2 hours in the airport chilie's eating caesar salad by myself on my birthday. whoo-eee. When I finally got to the Philly airport, I was greeted by my mom and John, with balloons, who had been waiting there anxiously for 2 hours. We were exhausted, but stayed up til almost 3 while I showed them my souvenirs, told a few stories, and opened bday gifts.

Since then, life has been a lot less interesting, although mom and I did go on vacation again a few days later. John had a house booked in Ocean City, NJ for the week, and we spent 3 days there. That was really nice, and I got some of my tan back. I've caught up with a lot of my family members on this coast and a few friends. Unpacked, did laundry, and some shopping. I don't have a car, so I'm mostly home alone all day during the week. I've managed to keep myself busy though, going through my old stuff, helping out around the house, attempting to organise my life, and working out. I'm running and i joined the gym in the nearby shopping center (I can walk there) which has the same classes as my gym in St. Lucia: Body Pump, Spinning, Yoga, Pilates, Kickboxing. That's been a very good thing. I'm home for a few more weeks, and I'm starting to get used to being back in the U.S., though certain things still take adjusting. I'm already used to dishwashers, driving on the right, and hot water in the taps--those things didn't take long. Anyway, it's good to be back. I think.

24 July 2004
They say when you’re about to die that your memories flash before you; well, it’s that way with leaving too. I remember it from leaving the States to come down here, each moment with friends seeming fraught with extra meaning and symbol due to my own heightened emotional state and perceived need to cling to each moment, and etch each memory of time and place in my mind permanently. It’s happening again from the other end. Today as I took a bus north from our PCV kickball match (great fun despite arriving late due to a traffic detour and then my team losing), all kinds of memories flashed through my mind as I passed each place. They weren’t long or detailed memories, just an image or moment of many, but it made me want to chronicle a list of what’s sticking with me now as I prepare to leave. I have tons of actual pictures, but none will capture these quintessential moments, and I want to write them down before they slip away and I've lost the true essence of my time here. There is a tentative plan to do a last round the island trip next Saturday, and if it happens, I will have more memories and more places, but I'll work on what I can recall right now, clockwise from the North:

  • Rodney Bay: Shamrocks and Rumours of course, going dancing with various groups of friends, mostly Caroline, Shannon and Sam. Bake sandwiches and Elena’s ice cream on Sundays. The beach at the ramp. Sailing races in the bay. Sunset cruises on David’s boat. Teaching Sinclair to swim. The fire at pigeon island. Fireworks at the beach on New Years. The Wyclef concert. Jazz, the Rupee concert and hikes at Pigeon Island. Both Cricket Matches. Too many memories to name, really.
  • Castries: slogging from one end to the other in outrageous heat and back again on endless errands, dripping sweat. Getting offered taxis, boyfriends, and other services as I passed through town, especially on days cruise ships were in. Getting asked for money, especially from the one guy who always asks for $1US, of all the cheeky currency specific-panhandling chutzpah! Knowing the names of the streets better than most of the Lucians I worked with. Finally bargaining one of the ladies in the vendor arcade down to a reasonable price. Showing local friends The Garage and seeing their impressed faces that I know a cool bar in town that they never knew about. Liming at First in Line and The Garage with Michelle and crew. Carnival and Jazz on the Square. Liming on the NYC balcony.
  • Between Cul-de-Sac and Marigot: snorkeling near Hess with Carla on the Sandals boat on her first visit, when there were too many jellyfish to go to a good reef. Getting 2 boat rides in one day as we rushed  off to go on a sunset cruise on the Brig that night.
    Marigot: Coffee and cocoa tea with Carla, Isabelle and Alain on a rainy morning of our day of tourism. Going to the beach with Geoff on the first weekend he had his car, and floating in the sea, taking pseudo snapshots of various views with our feet in them. (there is a banner ad on yahoo like this now—copycats.) Happy Hour at JJ’s with Maggie, Lyle, Caroline, Karen, Shaggy and Fiona on Caroline’s birthday.
  • Anse La Raye: Many fish fry Fridays, with Brendan and all the girls for Margaret’s housewarming, watching Geoff eat a whole lobster on a plastic fork, too much rum with Chris and Ben, learning to DJ, dancing at Hideaway with various people and in the disco with Xavier, swimming all day in the waterfall, only to find out we’re not supposed to swim in that one.
  • Canaries: best bakery on the island, the gas station that will forever be associated with me getting sick on the way to Anse Chastanet, a wonderful hike and waterfall swim when Elizabeth still lived there and my Mom was visiting. Focus groups with NYC, and an incredible sunset where we all posed for pictures on the dock.
  • Soufriere: The sulphur springs, on several occasions—seeing everyone mud-covered the first time, with Stephanie when we spent hours there, and with Carla, Isabelle and Alain and Marie. Climbing both Pitons. Many trips to Anse Chastanet, especially with Stephanie when we got a ride back on the dive boat, and teaching Mary, Tom and my mom to snorkel. Trying to snorkel hungover with Brendan and Chris. Many happy hours on Tom and Mary’s balcony, as well as Thanksgiving with EC 68 and 69. Hiking in the rainforest with Min. of Education group, Mom, and Nigel on separate occasions. Dinner at Ladera with Nigel. Liberating cocoa pods with Geoff, and cutting them open with a key to suck the seeds in the car on the way home. The signing of the Pitons World Heritage Charter with the Governor General. Jounen Kweyol with Mom, Geoff, Arturo and Caroline. Driving around in the back of Ali's brother's truck on a brief party catamaran stop in town, and racing to get back on the boat before it left without us (then abandoning ship at the next stop anyway for Maggie and Lyle’s boat). That unbelievable view…
  • Choiseul: Hotel Alex and her amazing artistic decorations. Thansgiving, of course, and other occasions. Really long "fun" walk at ungodly early hour, followed by feasting and snorkeling. Waking up to Chris flicking all the mosquitos we had inadvertently trapped instead of out of the net to death when it was light enough to see what happened. Hiking to the beach(es). Seeing bwavte live up to her name. The funniest game of scrabble ever with Alex, Elizabeth and Sarah.
  • Saltibus: hike to the waterfall with SLNT—meeting Craig and Nigel, jumping off the rock, appearing bald in front of coworkers in SLU for the first time. Saltibus day on ‘round the island trip with Alex, Shanmarie and Fiona. The older local woman that tried to adopt me when the SLNT staff + me limed after the hike.
  • Laborie: First Lucian thunderstorm with Caroline and Renee. Lobster at Clint’s house. Games on the beach. Hiking to the Saphis and Piaye. Not so ‘fun’ walk in flipflops and with rain. Uno tournaments at Lauren’s. Taco dinners at Greg’s, especially when we never left to watch the fireworks. Chicken and a bake. Formerly best bread ever (sigh…)  Watching planes land at Hewanorra from Morne LeBlanc.
  • Vieux Fort: Teaching kids about conservation at Sandy Beach. Trip to the Maria Islands with SLNT. Watching kite surfers. Annual beach get-together with PCVs and JOCVs. Feeling like Vieux Fort was ‘civilisation’ when we were camping at Micoud.
  • Micoud: Camping at Latille falls on a full moon and getting rained out—an amazing trip despite the washout. Stopping at a random empty disco on a round the island trip with SLNT, and just dancing by ourselves, getting on mad.
  • Dennery: Hiking the Eastern Nature trail and Fregate trail (several times)--gorgeous view, and being astounded to see organ pipe cactus growing so close to the sea. The fish fry with Caroline, Service, Alex and Micah. Eating veg burgers and fries by the highway.
  • Babonneau: Walking to school every day in training with Michelle and eating icicles, going to Gordon’s bar after school. Celebrating my birthday there. Stopping there again after Martin’s wedding with Service. Walking/running ‘the loop’ after school with Ross and Robin, sometimes Brian. Blowing bubbles on the balcony with Dorissa. Jake, Yannick and Dorissa playing my guitar. Getting banished to the balcony with Dorissa to eat messy mangoes. Too much food. Giant coconuts from Gagamel’s house. Roasting breadfuit and saltfish on an open fire. Camping at Grand Anse. The red and white Chri stmas Eve party in Paix Bouche with Deborah. The Fun Walk to Piton Flore. Our folk dance and nutrition workshop. Going back to visit and feeling like I'm home.
  • Marisule/Corinth: hanging out with Jude, Mathius, Alvin, Samuel and Isabelle and Alain. Cat-birth. Liming with Jacinta and everyone at their house. Horseback riding on the beach with Vincent, Lop and Caroline. Watching rainbows over the sea. Walking to Windjammer beach so much I knew the staff there. THE TRAMPOLINE!!! Having everyone, even people I’ve never met, already know where I live because it’s by the highway. Running in the hills of Corinth, seeing a tarantula and naked kids playing/bathing in the standpipe in the road. Sunsets with Doris and at the Marisule beach. Games nights. The smell of fresh-roasted coffee in the coal pot. The smell of local charcoal. Picking my own mangoes, plums, limes, sugar apples, soursop, avocados and papayas from the yard (and surrounding property). Puppies, kittens, cows, chickens, goats, crickets and tree frogs running rampant and making noise. Always knowing what time in the morning it is before I open my eyes by the sound of the traffic.

    Most of that won’t mean much to most of you, and it must be a bit like reading inside jokes in someone else’s yearbook, but I suppose it’s only fitting to have in a chronicle of my life during this two-year period. As with some of the stories and features here, like my booklist, this is mostly for me, so I can remember

21 July 2004

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Omigosh. I can hardly believe that I am really finishing my 2 year Peace Corps term and leaving Saint Lucia, and the Eastern Caribbean for the foreseeable future, in 10 days. It’s absolutely going by too fast. Surprisingly, I feel pretty zen about it, still, but I think that it may be due to a fair degree of denial. Panic is sure to kick in any time now
I want to apologize for my month-long silence. It’s not for lack of trying, believe me. I have now written four updates that have crashed just as I clicked the button to save. Unbelievably frustrating. I’ve had computer issues out the wazoo lately—crashing, and mostly just not starting. It’s not been fun at all. One good thing about leaving: this computer won’t be my problem anymore! I’m so looking forward to getting a new, hopefully more reliable one. But I have been lucky to have this one, and to have any sort of lifeline to the outside world. It’s saved my sanity on innumerable occasions
My last few lost updates were detailed and descriptive, which I no longer have time for. Instead, I will speak in bullet points. But first, let me give you my schedule. I leave here Sunday, August! 1 and fly to PA. From August 3 to 13 I will be in Costa Rica on holiday with a friend. I return the evening of August 13, my 30th birthday, to my mom’s house in PA where I will be until Sept. 21, when I fly to Seattle.
Now then, what I've been up to since I last wrote:
  • I planned a hike up Mt. Gimie, St. Lucia's highest mountain, and then didn’t get to go. My friend Andre had a car wreck the night before. He escaped with just a few scratches, but the jeep was not so lucky. Actually, it rained all day so it would have been a terrible day for a 7 hour hike. Instead, we watched movies all day and I tried to cheer him up.
  • Alex visited again for a week, and it was great to get some more chances to hang out with her and catch up. And say goodbye again. Which I actually didn't get to do because I missed her by about 15 minutes. I guess there are only so many times you can say goodbye, and besides, I know that I will se! e her again, someday...
  • The weekend after the failed Mt. Gimie hike, I got to finally climb Petit Piton. Eric (Caroline's boyfriend), Andre, our guide Chad and me climbed it in four hours. It's the 3rd highest mtn on the island, one of the island's signature twin peaks, the Pitons, and very steep. While Gros Piton was basically a walk up an enormous staircase, Petit Piton was a verticle scramble/climb. Challenging, especially because we hit the parts with ropes right when it started to rain. There was a phenomenal view from the top, though and it cleared up for us to see it. We got to look down on a double rainbow over the sea. I should have pictures up soon. Afterwards we soaked in some mineral baths located by the base of the trailhead. It was one of the toughest things I've done in a long time, and one of the coolest things I've done here.
  • This computer has been giving me endless headaches, as I said. It only starts maybe 1 or 2 days a week these days, and when it does, you never know when it’s going to crash. Like it did about a half hour ago when I was writing a previous version of this update… So I have been more out of touch than usual. It’s not personal.
  • I had about 3 weeks of debilitating sinus headaches, partly due to rain. It seems like every time I update, it’s raining, but that’s not because it is always raining, though lately it feels like it. We do have sun, I think it’s just that I’m more likely to be busy and not in front of a computer when it’s not raining. For now I am headache-free, though still plagued by the usual sinus and allergy problems I have suffered with throughout my time here.
  • We had another construction project with the Benevolent Fund. 4 PCVs, including me, met up with 10 St. Lucian men to help build a 1-room wooden house for an elderly, poor nearly-blind man in Anse La Raye. It was interesting to watch, but as we are not skilled and ! there were too many people and not enough tools, there wasn’t much for us to do. It was a little bit disappointing, in the sense of accomplishment, but pretty incredible to know that after 1 day of work that man has a place to live now.
  • >We had another sunset cruise on David’s boat. I don’t even know if I’ve mentioned David yet. He’s an American guy who has lived on his boat, Epicurus, traveling in the islands for about 6 or 7 years. I met him through Tanja, my German scuba instructor friend. He’s hosted 2 sunset cruises now, both tons of fun but with dodgy weather. We got to see lightening and phosphorescence on the last one. Tanja and I convinced him to stay around an extra week, and I played chess and learned to sail his little sailing dinghy with him one day, and went snorkeling another. He left for Carriacou on Monday.
  • I'm finished working now, as of last week. So I've had more free time to do what I want to do and try and see people. It's nice to be here without anything to do and finally not feel guilty about it, or frustrated. I finally get to be on a true holiday in Saint Lucia.

    Speaking of work and frustration, the biggest nightmare of my time here came true. I had my last day at NEMO, and no one cared. The director and admin came to my offical PC party but left before it began (late), and promised me that they’d have something for me in the office instead. So on my last day I came dressed up, brought my camera, and waited for them to say something about when we’d have some sort of goodbye. There was nothing, barely even a goodbye. Sort of a vague thanks. I was heartbroken. Literally. Cried my way down the street to the bus, wiped off tears, and then was so distracted that I left my cellphone on the bus. No one from NEMO or NYC came to my party on Saturday, even those who said they’d be there. I still have trouble believing how hard it’s been for me to accomplish any sort of major work-relat! ed goals here. And not for lack of trying! It’s the trying part that I find so disappointing when it comes to my leaving. I really tried, and even despite various political, social and cultural barriers in the organizations I worked with, they know this. I am absolutely astounded that I could give 2 years of my life to work unpaid at several organizations and they can’t even muster up a convincing thanks for my efforts. But just when I get myself into a mental frenzied pity party about this, I find appreciation and acknowledgement in the most unlikely places: street vendors, neighbors, beach rastas, bartenders, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, host families—everyone, it seems, will miss me, except those I expected to impact the most. It’s been one hell of a ride. I’m only beginning to figure out how much I’ve left behind and how much I’m taking back with me (no, I’m not talking about luggage). I may never truly know, or it may not hit me until I come back to visit someday.<br>
    <li>Anyway, we had our goodbye party on Saturday night, and it was a huge success. A really great time. Most of the people who said they’d be there came, and everyone who did enjoyed themselves. The karaoke guy never showed up, but there was a dj and food and drinks and lots of dancing. Michelle graciously let us use her bar, The Garage, in Castries, and she and Jaimie sort of arranged things. All I did was send out an Evite, which crashed most of the recipients’ computers. Ah, technology in developing countries… Arturo even flew in from Barbados for it! And Jerry flew in from St. Vincent, but it was more coincidental than just for my party. Still very cool, especially because he went to great pains to mislead me into thinking that he couldn’t come, and meanwhile had been in town already for a week. (Picture the shocked look on my face when he walked in Saturday night—30 seconds of open-mouthed gape) So yes, like Arturo and I tell each other, we ! DO have friends, they’re just in other countries…<br>
    <li>Our party was smack in the middle of Carnival. Pan finals was Friday, and it made me sad to realize that it’s my last steelpan performance, at least for a pretty long while. I love the music, and I like to see the players get so energetic and dance as they play. It’s really fun to watch. Our party was during Calypso finals, which accounted for some absent faces—seems like most of St. Lucia was there watching. Sunday was the OECS Soca Monarch (A St. Lucian, Mantius, won again for the second year) competition, as well as the J’ouvert party that I was supposed to attend. Sunday night into Monday morning is J’ouvert, when people parade in the streets from daybreak. We had discussed jumping in a band, but then as sort of a happy medium Andre and I planned to jump in the J’ouvert parade with a band called the Piton (local beer) Blue Devils, complete with blue body paint, horns and pitchfork. I was really excited unt! il Sunday night, when I was totally exhausted. (From the party and spending the day with my host family, especially Dorissa, who is 5.) So we decided to skip it. Instead, we watched the parade in town all day on Monday in the blazing heat. I definitely enjoyed participating more than watching, and I felt a small twinge when my friends from the band I jumped with last year passed by, and encircled me in a mass sequined (glitter) and sweaty hug and pulled me down the street for a few seconds with them. That was fun, but honestly, I don’t regret not participating. It’s expensive and exhausting, and I have other things to do with my time and money right now. Two carnivals last year was enough, and this way I got to see what went on, since you loose all perspective of the other costumes and bands when you’re in one. I went to a post-carnival party last night though, and got my dancing fix.<br>
    <li>Another accomplishment is that I learned to walk in heels. I bought a pair a! while ago for a planned trip to the US Embassy in Barbados with our country director that has been rescheduled and looks as though it will not happen, to my great dismay. However, I wore them to a workshop with USAID/OFDA on Disaster Assessment and got pretty good at walking. This was one of my goals before I turn 30.<br>
    <li>I mentioned it earlier, but I am going to Costa Rica when I leave here. Shawna, another RPCV from St. Vincent, is going with me. I’ve wanted to go there for about 10 years and I’m really excited. We’re planning all sorts of cool things like horseback riding and canopy tours on zip lines in the rainforest. If we get a chance, we both want to try surfing, though I primarily want to see rainforests, cloud forests and volcanoes. We’ve both had a lot of beaches in the last two years.<br>
    <li>There have been a lot of other goodbyes besides Caroline, Lauren and me. Domitille and Alister are going to France the day before I leave. Pete ! and Anna, Irish volunteers, just left to return home. Tanja is going to Egypt to do diving instruction there for 6 months. David just left on his boat. And two other PCVs from St. Lucia recently got sent home for some unfortunate alcohol-related behavior at the USA/Grenada soccer match. That was a really sad and upsetting situation for a lot of us. I have the feeling there are more people leaving, too, that I can’t think of right now. It’s kind of good because it takes away some of the feeling of missing out by leaving, since others are going too.<br>
    <li>I still have to figure out who my cat, Chabin is going to go live with and when. I’ve put it off so long because it’s going to be so hard. Every time I look at her I feel guilty. She’s gotten really fat lately, so clearly I am overfeeding her from guilt. But she also has increased her daily intake of lizards and crickets to about 2 of each, so I’m not totally to blame. At least she will not get too skinny when she sto! ps eating when I leave. Which she always does…<br>
    <li>The footballs (soccer balls) Carla got donated and shipped only about a week ago arrived late last week. This week I’m meeting up with the football association to make sure they get distributed to the many women’s teams island-wide, established and just starting up. I’ve been talking to a few of them and they’re very excited. Too bad I won’t be here when the other 7 boxes arrive. That's a LOT of gear!

    A random story about how strange life can be: Two Sundays ago it was a rainy, slow day, and Jaimie and Ben (2 pcvs) and Alley (local friend) came over and we watched a movie and then hung out on the balcony. My cell phone rang, and it was a British-sounding woman who introduced herself as follows: You don't know me, but I came across your phone number, and do you know a guy called Phil?(There are a lot of really obvious questions here, such as Phil who? And where are you calling from? And how, exactly, did you come across my number? that I didn't ask. Instead, I assumed from her accent that she meant Phil, the Welsh guy. Who is a friend of mine, but not a close one, or someone I am universally known to hang around with--we just sort of see each other around, and have friends and hangouts in common. The expat community here is small, and especially in the north, we all know each other, or at least of each other. Phil knows everyone--he's an unemployed dive instructor and sort of like Kramer from Seinfeld. And we'd just had ice cream together 2 days previously, but neither of us have the other's phone numbers, and besides, his phone is broken. Which is why his mother couldn't reach him.) So I said yes, and assured her that yes, I have seen him and he is fine. Several times. Finally she told me to ask him to call his mother if I see him. Concerned, I tried to track down his roommate by phone, but was only able to get hold of his old cell number, and couldn't reach him at work. For two days they weren't in any of their usual haunts, and I finally found his roommate at work, and passed on the message. Only at the party this weekend did I finally solve the mystery of how his mother had gotten my number: she'd broken into his email account and seen my number on the Evite to our party. Crazy. It still makes me laugh, though he wasn't too pleased about it.

    This weekend is already booked up: Wyclef Jean concert Friday night. Saturday all PCV North vs South Kickball tournament in Marigot. Saturday night dinner with Martina and Julie. Sunday evening there is a beach bbq/bonfire planned with some more of the same friends that were at the goodbye party. We had such a good time they wanted to do it again.

    So I've got ten days left and they're filling up fast. I doubt that I will update here again before I leave, especially given my technology problem! s and the fact that I am getting rid of my computer very soon anyway. If I get a chance I will update again from Costa Rica. I'm not sure what will become of this site in my post-bananaland life. It's been a pretty amazing journey, though, and I'm still amazed that I made it through, and that it's over already. There are so many stories that I haven't even told here, and lots more pictures than I'd ever be able to post. I look forward to sharing them with you someday.

17 June 2004
Beer shortage

My sister sent me this article about the current beer shortage resulting from a strike at the Carib brewery in Trinidad. It was happening when I visited, and there was violence and bad traffic jams resulting from the strike as well. We've had a lot of random shortages in my time here in the EC, but thankfully there is no shortage of Piton, our local beer, in St. Lucia. It's better (imho) than Carib anyway. A beer shortage in the Caribbean, in time for several islands' Carnival (St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada). This can't be good.

15 June 2004
The anti-Countdown

To say I'm counting down the remainder of my time here would imply that I want to leave. Though there are people and things I look very much forward to seeing upon my return to the States, I currently view each passing day with a measure of dread. The time is passing too fast. There is too much to do, too much to see, too many things that will be left undone, unsaid, unseen. It's making me mildly frantic. Last week I was incredibly moody, as all the reality began to further kick in. This week, I am facing the reality of all that is to be done, and trying to formulate a plan of attack to actually get things done. I just have this constant sort of mental burden of things undone lurking over my shoulder, like the feeling of homework that you put off, but haunts your conscience relentlessly. Yesterday, Caroline and I brainstormed and revised our resumes together, a task that I have been unable to motivate to do alone. We made some good progress, but there is still much to be done. This week I have to schedule my final dental and doctor appointments to get medical clearance. There are reports to be written, surveys to be filled out, tests to be done. Sigh.

Last Wednesday and Thursday were a washout. Pouring, torrential rain. No turtlewatch. And more than that, I got to NEMO Wednesday, late, and soaked, turned on my computer, made tea and began to settle in when I got a call for a volunteer emergency drill. So I trucked back into the rain and home again, where i was met by Caroline, Jamilla, and Jaimie. We made vegetarian pizza (spinach, zuchini, garlic and tomatoes) and played uno once again. (Since I forgot I have new souvenir dominoes from Barbados). Jaimie and I watched Pirates of the Caribbean that afternoon after it was finished. St. Lucia actually came first in this drill (except for St Kitts, where all the volunteers were in the same location), which is sort of exciting. They time us. That will probably be my last emergency action drill, and that makes me very happy. I went to the gym that night, and rented some videos with Mathius when I got home. I settled in to watch movies on a rainy night, but then allowed myself to be convinced to go out instead, since the next day was a holiday. The rain continued into Thursday, so there was no windsurfing or snorkling. I stayed in, sorted and packed, baked and cooked, and watched videos. At first the time alone was good, but my moodiness returned in the late afternoon and I began to feel really sad. Just then, my friends Martina and Julie called to say they were going to a small get-together at someone's house and were on their way to pick me up. My mood was such that I tried to get out of it, but they wouldn't take me on. They showed up and waited for me to get ready, and though we mostly sat to ourselves and just chatted and ate, I'm glad I went. I will miss them dearly. I dont even want to think about it.

We had our volunteer close of service party on Friday last week. It was a nice affair, held in Vigie at a rather nice hotel. I had invited three women who really affected me in my time here, who I admire, and who, once I met and began to work with them, made the difference in my happiness and ability to be productive and satisfied during my final year here. We were supposed to bring 2 guests, but knowing there is always too much food and that not all were likely to come, I invited 3. One couldn't make it, so I invited both the director and admin at NEMO (as they were the only staff when I started and i work with both), Dawn and Maria. They came, but when the ceremony hadnt started after 40 minutes, they left. My other friend, Jackie, didn't show up at all, until the reception was already nearly over. So when the Country Director showed up, and all the EC 69 departing volunteers sat round the conference table with their guests, with the PC staff and other volunteers all around, I had no guests there with me. The volunteers spoke about those who they invited and a bit about their service, and some of it was quite touching. A few were given gifts by their guests. I was nearly last, and just before I spoke, Caroline spoke about how her landlords/surrogate family--Mary and Paul (Tom and mary's host family, and surrogate family at times to me as well)--had buried her cat while she was away and teared up, I choked up too. Not just becuase of the story, but because Caroline is not an emotional person--seeing her cry got to everyone in the room. And then it was my turn, and I was already having a moody week, and feeling a bit let down that no one turned up at my special goodbye occasion. I choked up in the middle of talking. Since I had no people there to introduce or thank, i talked about how there are a lot of different versions of community, and that I wanted to thank two of my communities who were present--the staff, and the other volunteers, who often don't get told how important they are to each of us. I spent the whole afternoon feeling really sad. I don't need a parade in my honor, but I honestly hope that I have some sort of farewell in my time here that makes me feel like I've made an impact or a difference to somebody. I'm sure that I have, but leaving is such a vulnerable time that I need some reassurance that my time here, the energy and the love that I've given were reciprocated in some way. I need to believe that i have made a difference.

The weekend was fun, and the weather finally turned. We had a post-COS party party at Caroline's boyfriend Eric's house. Mostly only pcvs turned up, but it was a relaxing and fun time. Jaimie and Michael stayed over here, and after they left in the morning, I took spinning class at the gym, happy to have an open day with no plans and a lot of potential--good mood returned due to sunny weather, I guess. I met Phil and Angela when heading to the beach and we limed there a while, then got some food, and Eric and Caroline met us. They all left together, and I headed to the beach again alone to do some reading. Only a few minutes into it, I heard voices, and looked over my shoulder to see Chirs (a pcv) and her boyfriend Ben and several of their friends pulling up in a dingey. They called me over to join them for a drink. One turned to several, and suddenly it was late afternoon. I had met most, but not all of the group, and we had fun wrestling in the sand and sea, and just being generally silly. A beach rasta brought us some roasted breadfruits and someone bought some cassava bread from a boy selling (with the basket on his head), and so we had some snacks wiht our drinks. Sunset came, and so did happy hour at the neighboring bar, Spinnakers. We got more drinks, and eventually split up, some to go home, some off to Trevor's boat (not his boat, actually, but the boat he takes care of) to watch movies and make some food. We made pasta and garlic bread, had some more drinks and hung out for a while. Eventually, we watched most of a movie, and then went back on the deck, in the cooler air, to hang out more, and listen to music. A few of us ended up staying over, and it was an incredibly fun night, though not a restful one. I came home the next morning, groggy, hot and exhausted, cleaned up and slept some more and cooked. My neighbor Mathius's daughter Cyndelle invited herself over to play with my yoga ball for a while (she loves to bounce on it), and then sort of invited herself to stay for lunch too. It was pretty cute. When her mom called her home to get her hair combed, I headed off to meet Caroline and Tanja and David at the beach. Charles was there too, and Suzanne joined us (friends from the gym). Again, i got no reading done but had a nice time with friends. Caroline and I left to go swim in Eric's pool, and I stayed for dinner and a movie, and then eventually stayed overnight. I did get caught up on sleep, though, as his house is very quiet and relaxing. And the next day turned out to be quite productive. Tomorrow, Janet and Charlie are in on a cruise for the day. I will meet them at the dock in the morning and we'll figure out our plan for the day--nothing was scheduled in advance, but Charlie has an injury and will not be able to be active. I hope we have good weather for their visit. This weekend I was visited by a dead rat (a gift from the cat) and last night by a huge nasty centipede that was about an inch from my foot and less than that from attacking Chabin. I smashed it with the heel of a sandal, but it was a while before my heart stopped pounding. Those things are NASTY! Even after I smooshed it pretty well, it was still lifting its head and trying to jump at me.

I am seeking motivation right now to get back on task with my remaining Degree Project topic. Part of the problem with my current state of stall is that I cant seem to get a few answers I need from NYC folks, and that is frustrating me. The larger reason is that the whole experience of attempting to work there has been less than satisfying for a number of reasons that I am still not distant enough from to write about without becoming affected. In short, talking about it still stresses me out. In a few months it perhaps won't, but for now I have difficulty motivating myself to purposely analyze a place that I found nearly impossible to function in. However, it remains on my 'to do' list and I need to begin to tackle it anew.

I got a look at our St. Lucia pages of the EC 69 memory book yesterday at Caroline's and it's really nice. I can't wait to show it when I come back. Actually, while I'm on that topic, let me be honest about something else that makes me a little nervous about returning. Well, first of all, I've changed a lot in these two years abroad. Not in any major ways, but in a lot of little ones that I think are mostly for the better. I realize that things have changed at home in everyone's lives as well, but in most cases, it probably hasnt been such a drastically transformative experience. (except for the fact that it seems that everyone's gotten married and had children while i've been gone) While things have changed at home in many ways, I've inhabited a whole different world, and that world has become my world. It will take me some time to transition back, and I fear that all the things that have meant so much to me and become such a part of my life won't be of much interest to everyone back home. That all you'll want is the postcard or tv news soundbite version of it. Promise me this: If you ask me 'how was it?' don't expect an answer like 'good.' or 'fine.' Expect to have a conversation about it, and please be interested in the answers. Otherwise, don't ask. Better yet, if you are interested, ask specific questions, because I probably wouldn't ask you to summarize your two years with a question like 'how was it?' either. I really have this great fear that I'll come back brimming with enthusiasm, pictures and stories, and no one will care, other than to comment on my tan and ask me where my dreadlocks are. I promise not to bore you to death, but please, ask me about it. It will mean a lot to me. It's going to be an interesting transition, and one I'm a little bit nervous about making. I am afraid that in coming back to the U.S., I'll get sucked back into the lifestyle and mindset there, and maybe back into the person I used to be, rather than the person I'm proud to have become. I probably didn't explain that well, but it's something that we all talked about in Grenada that I know has been a problem for other RPCVs.

Something else we talked about it Grenada is the accomplishments we've done while here, not only in terms of traditional 'work,' but personally and in feeling integrated and building relationships. I made a long list as everyone presented a few of theirs and put them on a timeline, so i will list them here, mostly for my own memory but also in case anyone wants to see the things I feel I've accomplished:
  • made friends from 15 different countries
  • travelled to 8 different islands, 7 of them independent countries (Martinique is actually a department of France)
  • gained a new perspective on my feelings towards the US through my development of a love-hate relationship with St. Lucia
  • survived the extremes of emotional rollercoaster (several times)
  • Co-planned and organized a successful national student congress
  • conquered fears of stage and microphone (emceed an event, co-taught an aerobics class, went on radio)
  • learned some patois, and been asked if i'm a Saint Lucian more and more often
  • learned to whine (the dancing here, that you may have seen in Sean Paul or Beenie man videos) at sort of an intermediate level. Danced in front of some Lucian girlfriends, who grudgingly admitted it was 'pretty good.'
  • became an adopted member of several Lucian families
  • danced in costume in the streets during carnival
  • learned to windsurf and sail, even raced in 4 regattas.
  • had press releases and articles published in the newspaper, was interviewed on the radio, facilitated a few worshops,and even emceed an event.
  • Attended 2 One-Day International cricket matches, and learned about the sport
  • Hiked more than 15 different trails, to about 5 waterfalls, and camped twice
  • Sang karaoke once (that number may be updated after my bday/goodbye party)
  • Became a 'grandmother' to my cat's kittens
  • read more than a hundred books
  • witnessed 2 weddings, 2 christenings and a funeral
  • maintained a website and contacts with several different classes of schoolchildren in the U.S.
  • interacted with people from the lowest to the highest levels of society
  • learned to eat meat off the bone and fish still whole without blinking an eye. never quite conquered some of the more bizarre 'delicacies' like pig-tail or pig feet or kidneys (this is not a regret)
  • realized that PC in the Eastern Caribbean is a "real" experience, despite what images of cush life it conjures up to others. stopped comparing my experience to preconceived conceptions.
  • realized this was home when i really wanted to come back, and was homesick for SLU on a trip back to the US
  • learned to set small, achievable goals and to take pleasure in small victories
  • learned the fine art of sitting still (which is not as easy as it sounds!)
  • learned to slam dominoes the caribbean way
  • learned to cohabitate with frogs, crickets, spiders, millipedes and cockroaches (though the last very reluctantly)
  • learned to kill cockroaches, centipedes and spiders with a minimum of nausea, paralyzing fear, and girly screams
  • Appeared bald in front of my first large group (peace corps PST), and then many times afterwards. Became ok with this (though sometimes I really still get sick of explaining)
  • lost more than 10 lbs of weight i needed to lose, got stronger and fitter than i have been in years
  • came to have a new understanding of 'work,' 'success' and 'achievement' in my life. came to terms with the overachiever mentality that causes me undo stress. attempted to battle those demons.
  • learned to draw boundaries in how I allow myself to be treated, and in how I allow others to not waste my time.
  • learned how to be more direct and to ask for what I want (an ongoing process)
  • linked up, via a friend and her father, with groups who are donating 9 boxes of girls' soccer equipment to teams in St. Lucia who really need it. Though I may not be here anymore by the time it all arrives.
  • Learned to roast cashews, cut open a coconut with a cutlass, how to tell when mangos, avocados and breadfruits are ripe, and the names of all the local foods in english and patois.
  • Cooked soup out of whole fish heads, even the eyes, and ate it!
  • Changed assignments several times--once officially, and again unofficially. Found my own projects and community partners, and finally got some things done once i worked with people who wanted me there and respected my skills and my time.
  • Complied a resource notebook of NGO and workshop training materials
  • was elected and served 1 year as the island solicitor/reporter for our peace corps EC literary magazine, Serious Ting. Finally published something other than recipes in the last issue.
  • I could go on, but you get the idea.

8 June 2004
More madcap adventures, and miscellaneous musings

The rainy, hurricane-y season is upon us, here in the EC, though since we hardly had a dry season, the only difference is more humidity and heat. It's been a wet year, but hopefully the hurricane season will again pass without incident.

I've been back from my travels for a week now, but I'm still pretty tired, and laying low. Haven't gotten a whole lot accomplished except getting my computer, which crashed on me right before I left, fixed. Of course, when Urban (our PC IT guy) looked at it, it exhibited none of the sickly symptoms it had been showing me, but since then it's working fine. So far so good. This is crunch time for revising my resume, finishing a rough draft on the other thesis topic, and writing a final Description of Service report for Peace Corps. I'm very relieved my computerless time was so brief. On Thursday last week, Doris and I had planned a resume updating session together. We sat down to do it, only to be interupted by a call that announced she would be leaving for medical reasons to return to the US on Monday. She had to abandon our session, and suddenly rush to accomplish the myriad tasks that come with leaving the country, with only 2 business days to do them. I helped her make the list, and when I got home, her leaving stress turned to my leaving stress, and I have been sorting and packing ever since. I inherited her food, which was a blessing for my cash-strapped budget, and her extra items to give away, which only added to my growing pile. Since I intend to travel for 10 days on my way home to the US, the dilema right now is how to get the bulk of my non-clothes possessions home so that I dont have to lug it all with me in my travels (unweildy, but also potentially unsafe to have lots of luggage). Although I'm getting rid of many things--clothes and shoes and toiletries like sunscreen and aloe--and finishing many things, and have sent quite a few things home, I still have a bunch of junk that needs to get back to the US. It may go with my Aunt when she comes to the island for a day next week on a cruise. We shall see. At any rate, i have been doing a lot of packing (which is perhaps another form of procrastination on the other things I mentioned I need to do. But at least a productive one).

My island-hopping trip was great. Due to Caribbean Star's foolishness, i had to leave Tuesday instead of Monday the 17th. I arrived in Grenada in the morning, took a bus up the Western coast of the island to Amy's where I met her and jake, and spent a few days there. We had a good time, though the weather wasn't too great, due to the wave that had been circulating the region for weeks, dampening more than spirits. We hung out, cooked, watched tv, and went on a few small adventures: visited a nutmeg processing cooperative in her village, and took a walk to a beach at the northern tip of the island, where we swam and happened upon a female leatherback turtle who came onshore to lay her eggs. That was amazing. Thursday, Jake and I went on a hike in the rainforest to a waterfall called 7 Sisters, and Amy had to do some work. Then we met the rest of our group in the tourist area, Grand Anse, at a hotel where we spent the next few days and had our final conference. It was right on the beach--a really beautiful stretch with lots of hotels and restaurants, and a view of the picturesque harbour of St. Georges (I think it's the prettiest capital in the EC). The hotel, the food, and the chance to catch up were really great. The conference was pretty interesting and relevant as well, and as much as I didn't expect it to have much effect on me, really helped shape how I am processing my experience here and my views and expectations on returning home. Most of us were pretty excited that Grand Anse has an amazing American grocery store (for the American medical school there) where you can find just about anything, as well as Subway and TCBY (I didnt find time to go to the fast food chains, but did go to the store several times and gape as well as buy). We went out dancing, and Jake and I had some late night swims in the hotel pool after the dance club as well. A good idea until the mosquitos discovered us. It was really sad and hard to say goodbye to everyone, and in some cases even sadder to have not gotten to say goodbye. I wish it could have been a little bit longer. It was like a family reunion in which there just isnt enough time to catch up with all the relatives. The last night I spent with Kari and Sarah at Kari's apt in St. George's, and headed out to Trinidad the next day. I expected my Trinidad leg of the trip to be quieter than the Grenada or Barbados legs, and in some ways i was right, but in some ways wrong. It was definitely quiet in terms of parties, but not in terms of sleep. Oscar and Irva live very far from Port of Spain, in Penal, on the southwest side, and had a very busy schedule that week, so i was just incorporated into it. His department (ministry of health, population division) was hosting a conference, and he brought me along. I helped the women in his department organize getting out the food, etc, and got to know them. Two of them left early with me the first day and took me shopping in several areas, and one, Georgie, took me under her wing and became my personal tour guide. All three days she took me somewhere in the afternoon, shopping, driving, and to the pitch lake. I met her husband and kids on Wednesday, and they took me to see a sort of shrine at a nearby Catholic church--a doll that had come from Venezuela many years ago with the native americans, and each time it was sent back, the story goes that it was mystically returned. I get a kick out of that sort of thing. They also gave me some trini cds and some coconuts to drink--they took good care of me. As it was Youth Week at their church, I spent 2 of the three evenings there at church with Oscar and Irva, the Penal 7th Day Adventist Church. That was a new experience for me. So in between work (we were up before dawn each day for the long drive, and traffic) and church, and sightseeing with Georgie, there was little time for catching up. So we were up late at night chatting and eating--they fed me way too much of course. But Trini food, as I expected, is wonderful. (still carbo-centric, as Caribbean food is, but much more flavorfull and seasoned than St Lucian food). I had a roti with chicken, pumpkin, chickpeas (channa) and a spicy mango chutney (that i forget the name for), and it was great. I also got to try doubles and some of the other indian delicacies. Trinidad is not known for its tropical scenery, and the parts I saw were decidedly industrial, but the streets were wider and more paved, and the city was much bigger, and the suburbs much more American-seeming than anything else I have experienced in the EC, save Martinique (which of course is developed, but not American-seeming; but rather French). That in itself was an experience. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the scenic side, which is the beaches of Tobago.... maybe next time. From Trinidad i went to Barbados, where I linked up with Arturo the first day, and heard about his recent visit to Saint Lucia, while I was in Trinidad. Actually, he had a meeting when I flew in, so I headed by bus to the beach where I stayed previously, and relaxed and snorkled, and had some lunch. That was my only chance to relax until I got back. As he had lived and worked in Barbados prior to working and living in St Lucia, he showed me some of his favorite haunts, but we didn't stay out terribly late that night. From Friday morning on, I was pretty much consumed by sailing. I met up with Marc, a Bajan/American friend who had arranged for me to sail with him on his boss's boat in the Mt. Gay Regatta that weekend, on Friday morning, and we had breakfast together, then went to the boat. We sailed hard, lost anyway, and then went to parties and socialized. That went on for 3 days. After the first day, Marc and I tired of greasy post-regatta food and went for dinner elsewhere, so I did get to experience a bit more of Barbados, but mostly in the ChristChurch area that I had already been to. The final night, Sunday, we drove out to a miniature golf course owned by a Swiss German guy on our boat that had an amazing view of the city and its surroundings. The three of us were so exhausted we just sort of quietly contemplated and chatted--it was a really peaceful way to end my trip, and I'm glad i was there instead of at yet another party full of drunken yachties. (they are fun, but they have sort of a limited appeal after a while, especially when held at the same location.) The next morning, i flew back to St. Lucia really early. It was a holiday. I arrived, via bus, at my apartment to find the door open and a person moving inside. "I really hope that's Jude," I thought (as he had been feeding Chabin in my absence), and it was. Ever the sweetheart, he had begun to straighten my apartment and was sweeping the floor as a surprise for my return. He sent me to sleep, and finished his cleaning. Later I did laundry and read, and that night, went on a sunset cruise with a small group of friends and acquaintances on Epicurus, a large-ish motoryacht that David (an American who I met through Tanja, a German scuba instructor I became friends with from the gym) lives on. We had a great time, despite a not-so-exciting sunset, and went on to have dinner in a cafe. I got home late again that night. Spent the rest of the week recovering, and going to the gym to try and re-lose the 5 lbs I had finally lost but re-gained again on vacation. Also, trying to catch up on sleep from a few days of delayed reaction nighttime vertigo/seasickness, as well as a 2.5 day migraine. On the weekend, I went on a gorgeous hike along the Eastern coast, part of which was new to me (from Dennery south) and part of which I had done (the Fregate island trail towards Praslin). Sunday I had a windsurfing lesson with Charles (also my sailing mentor) and Tanja. Did better than my first time, as I actually went a respectable distance after some practice. The wind was calm, but very gusty and shifty, so difficult to manage, but I had just begun to the get the hang of turning and gaining/controlling speed when we had to stop. From there I went to a goodbye gathering for Doris, which was very nice and touching. I only cried a little bit. :)

This week is back to normal, almost, except there is another holiday again on Thursday. If the weather is calm, we will windsurf again; otherwise, I might go snorkelling with another friend from the gym. Wednesday night a group of volunteers and some folks from Babonneau are going on a turtle watch at Grand Anse. I tried to arrange a camping trip there again last weekend, because of the full moon, but no one else seemed to be into it. This worked out perfectly. We're not camping though--leaving at about midnight and having a barbecue at Nurse Lucy's (Jamilla's community partner, and a member of the committee I worked on), and then we'll all split up to various volunteer homes to sleep. I'm looking forward to it.

Now that the narrative is over, I'll try and recollect the other random thoughts I've been attempting to stash away as they occurred to me since I returned from my trip. One thing I noticed that I haven't commented on yet is tent revivivals. I'm sure these still go on in the US, but not in any place I've ever lived. But Christian tent revivals, called "crusades," are a very common thing here, and throughout the Caribbean. They go on from a few days to a few weeks, and often have very loud music. I haven't been to one, though I've been invited. I'm sure it would be interesting to observe, but it's really not my scene, and those things go on for hours... There's one in Castries by my bus stop right now.

I am also trying to learn how to cook the foods I like to eat here, in case I ever want to attempt to make them in the states. Today I cooked my first breadfruit (well, half of one, actually--Angela and i split one given to us by a woman in Dennery where we stopped after our hike), and needed something to go with it, so i made curry chicken. This is one of my favorites, but no one i talked to was able to tell me how to make it, except to give me the same less-than-helpful advice: "remember not to put to much curry, ah? but not to put too little, either." No one was able to tell me quantitatively how much was the right amount though. So I went by taste, and it was good enough for me. I am still incredibly intimidated by cooking for Lucians though, as they are very particular and like things to be one way--their way. Soon, Jude and I are going to make Pelau, which is a sort of stew with Chicken, rice and lentils. (I was supposed to make it with Amy in Grenada, but we ran out of time). So, with the cooking, hiking and turtle-watching, I am checking things off my list. The more I do, though, the more I realize there still is to do. There just isn't enough time, i guess. Suddenly I'm realizing all the things I've taken for granted about my life here, the places I wish I would have spent more time at, people I should have spent more time with. But that's how life goes. I'm glad to be on my way out wanting more, rather than counting the days until i can leave.

While I was away, the opening of Carnival event happened. (also the 5-day Bangladesh/West Indies test match)Since then, there are different calypso competitions every night, at different 'tents.' (some are actually in tents, some not) I haven't been to any yet--this year or last--but I'd like to go at least once to check it out. I haven''t heard any of this year's songs yet, but it will be interesting to see which political topics they highlight. I know there is one on the abortion issue (pro-choice, sung by a woman), and one about child abuse (against) sung by Ashanti, who I wrote about meeting previously. I still haven't decided if I'm jumping in a band again this Carnival. If I do, it will be with a band called Generation x, with most of the people in my section from last year. But i have sort of estranged myself from the NYC crew, so i don't really know where that stands. On one hand I want to jump again because it was so much fun last year, but in a way, I think it might be better to just keep such a great memory of it. I'll have so many expectations this year, and if it doesnt meet up with last year's experience I'll be disappointed. Either way, i definitely want to at least watch some of it this year.

One of the things I'm going to miss most is my gym. That's strange for me to say, because although I like being active, I have always disliked gyms. This one is different though, and everyone who goes there seems to agree. Maybe it's because the owners make it such a fun environment, and all the employees too--they're laid back, but serious about fitness. They care, and they want to make sure working out is fun so that everyone will keep doing it. So it's this amazing, friendly, fun atmosphere, where the sillier you are, the better, as long as you're working out while being silly. I dont remember if I wrote about the contest they had recently (where I won my cricket ticket) where we had teams competing to win points. My team came in wigs, witht the other two women on my team wearing my old wigs, and me wearing a giant black afro wig of Jude's, along with goofy costumes. We did a cheer in front of the aerobics class, and i also got onstage and co-taught a segment of a class (a big deal for me as I have stagefright). We regularly whoop and yell and harass the instructors and each other and make up new words to the songs in the routines. it's so much fun that everyone goes regularly, and so it becomes addictive. Of course, there's not much alternative for things to do, so it's a fairly obvious choice. Nothing better to do: get fit. And have fun doing it. I've never been this much of a gym rat in my life. And speaking of that, I'm off to kickboxing. More random thoughts later on.

11th May 2004
Jazz, and goodbyes

The Jazz festival started on Friday. But my weekend started the day before that, with a bridal shower/bachelorette thingey for Michelle on Thursday night. We had a little surprise get-together at her friend Donnalynn's house that started out really fun but sort of dragged on a bit long (we should have started there and gone out). It ended late, and then Friday was a busy day shopping for a wedding present and doing other miscellaneous errands all around town (picking up my jazz pass) and then meeting up with Alex, who flew in that afternoon from Antigua. That was a great surprise, because up until she got here, we weren't sure she was coming. I had planned a dinner with Isabelle and Alain that night, so she joined. And actually, Lauren came up from Laborie for the concert that night, and she joined us too. Alain made Thai green curry with the sauce I have been hoarding since last summer's trip to Philly's chinatown, and we had wine and mango crumble and coffee. A really nice time. After that we met up with Irmie, Caroline and Eric and travelled to the Mindoo Philip Park to see Kassav and Third World. Despite some rain (it is an outdoor stadium) and a long set break between the two bands, it was a great show. We left at about 2:30 or so, battled some traffic for a bit and were already on our way north when Irmie called to say she had a flat tire. So we went back and Eric changed it at a gas station on sort of a dodgy street in Castries. The spare wasn't much better than the flat, but she made it home safely. We reached home around 4. Saturday Alex and I lounged about for a few hours before getting ready for the wedding. Jaimie needed a ride as well, so she came over and Andre, who I invited to go with me, came and met us at about 1:30. We had a drink and hung out on the balcony for about a 1/2 hour and then went to the wedding. The ceremony itself was short and basic, but very nice. It was held in a neighbor's house with what seemed to be a lay minister or justice of the peace. The reception was held next door at Michelle and Allen's unfinished new house. It went on from the afternoon into the late evening. Around 9:30 or so we went out to Rodney Bay, but didn't last long. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep while standing up, leaning on Zorina, while everyone else got food at the fish and chips truck. Finally got some decent sleep that night. Sunday was another slow morning, and Alex and I had a big pancake breakfast with Isabelle and Alain while they packed up, cleaned and brought me some miscellaneous items. I still can't believe that they're gone. I also called both of my host mothers to say happy mother's day, and brought a small gift to Mrs. Deterville, Jude's mom (my neighbor). She seemed pleased. Finally, Alex and i roused ourselves and went to visit Shanmarie, Fiona, Steve and baby Malik. We dragged Shanmarie with us to the beach at Rodney Bay for Jazz at the beach. There we spent the afternoon and early evening listening to music, floating around on my raft, swimming, drinking and chatting with people. We saw lots of people we knew and met some crazy drunken spanish sailors. At one point we were a group of 3 Spanish guys, an italian girl, a jamaican girl, a french girl, a cuban/french girl and a chinese guy, all talking in frantic broken spanish. It was hilarious. And there was a fantastic sunset that night. Alex went to meet Fiona, Steve and Malik again, and I came home to make dinner and crash early, as well as try and link up with Mom, Grandma and Aunt Carol at their Mother's Day dinner.

Since then, it's just been Jazz. I'm working in a booth at the free show on the square every day this week. I am either getting a cold or a sinus infection, and that's not feeling so good. After Jazz yesterday, i blew off my favorite aerobics class at the gym to spend a last few hours with Alex. Jaimie, Alex, Michelle, Shanmarie and a few others gathered in the garage and had some drinks. Jaimie has her wedding photos developed already. I may have to go and get mine done too. (all other pics I've waited until I travel to the US, for cheaper and better quality) I was the paparazzi at the shower (or 'kitchen tea' as Andre tells me it is called in S. Africa, and i think is a hilarious name) so i would like to get copies of the pics for michelle. When we were saying goodbye, I realized that I have no idea when I will see her again. It made me really sort of dreamy and sentimental for the rest of the night. This leaving thing is getting a little too real. I am used to having my friends go at this point, since so many have come and gone already. But the fact that I will be leaving and have no idea when I'll come back or when I'll see my friends from around the world again, is sort of a harsh reality check. Two more months. Wow.

My final trip as a pcv was just approved. Next Monday I go to Grenada, for a few extra days of hanging out with Jake and Amy and seeing Grenada before our Close of Service conference. Following that I'm off to Trinidad, to visit a friend/colleague from my program at UW and his wife, and see what Trinidad has to offer. I'm looking foward to spicy foods and a larger city. (and a good exchange rate!) Then off to Barbados for a final visit there, to see some friends from previous regattas (and in time for the Mt Gay regatta) and also see Arturo, who is now working there for the UNDP. Then back here for my last two months, in which I'm not allowed to travel. Details are still being sorted out for my post-service trip, but I am now considering Costa Rica. I need to get that sorted out ASAP so I can tell Peace Corps how I am travelling home.

The rest of this week is just Jazz--working and hopefully some enjoying as well. I am looking forward to the shows this weekend at Pigeon Island, despite having to work. After that I am gone until the end of the month, so unless something particularly interesting happens, i doubt I will post again until June.

2nd May 2004
I won! We won!

This week started out with rainy weather and a cranky mood, but got much, much better! Monday, I got a very cool care package from Eric (thanks!) that brightened my spirits. Things pretty much just improved from there. I was able to do 2 aerobics classes and kickboxing at the gym with very little knee problems. As a result of being at one of them, I won a free ticket to this weekend's cricket match, which I had been hesitating to buy due to being maleweh(broke). That was really exciting. Wednesday I had a productive meeting with our Country Director about his ideas for me in my impending job search. Taking steps now to prepare for that made me feel a bit more positive. Thursday night after kickboxing, Matt and Kate joined me for pizza in the restaurant (real italian food) below the gym, and then we came home and cooled out at my house. They were off to celebrate their wedding anniversary in Guadelupe. Friday we had a pcv meeting in Laborie, and that night I went out with some other women from the gym to Gaiety, the big dance club here, to here Pluto Shervington, a Jamaican reggae singer. It was sort of 'oldies' music, so it was nice to have the crowd not swarming with half-clothed teens, but the crowd was a bit sparse and not-so-energetic. People saving their energy for cricket, I guess. As I should have been. Got in late that night, woke up early for cricket. Both yesterday and today were 1 day international matches with West Indies hosting England. And both days, West Indies won! The weather was perfect: clear, sunny, not too hot. My ticket, like last year, was free (good!) and solo (not as good. but free!). But again, I found people that I knew almost immediately, and made some new friegnds too. I travelled to and from the match with Andre, a friend from the gym who was solo as well but in the Party Stands. I joined him in the late afternoon there, and both of us were fairly 'mash up' from the effects of sun and alcohol. He lost his phone, unfortunately, in the crowd, and we spent a long time looking for it with no luck. Once again, we got a ride out in the massive traffic backup in the back of a truck with some guys. Intended to go to the after party--a concert with Mashel Montano and Xtatik, Trinidadian soca artists--but never made it. Too knackered. Today spent the day relaxing and recovering. Went to a cafe for breakfast, did some laundry, went to the beach, finished my book in the hammock watching the beginning of the mass traffic exodus. It's still happening.

Last Friday was also a big day for me. I finished the (first) rough draft of one of my degree project topics--a case study based on an event at the NYC last summer. It's by no means finished, but what a huge relief to get to that point on one of my two projects. The remaining one is much bigger and uglier, and is spawning side projects of its own. Michelle, a pcv from Grenada in my group, arrived late that afternoon from her 2 week trip to Guadeloupe and Martinique. We stayed on the balcony relaxing and catching up Friday night, Saturday went by our host families in Babonneau (and saw Doreen's baby girl!), then went out dancing at a new-ish club called Charlies in Rodney Bay that night. She extended her ticket to stay one extra day till Sunday, and we had a nice time.

No other visitors scheduled from here on out, yet. But we have our Close of Service meeting in Grenada at the end of the month, and I hope to go from there to Trinidad for a few days. It will be a nice chance to see a few more places and catch up with the other volunteers from the EC before we leave (unfortunately, many of my friends have left and won't be there...). That will be my last chance to travel before I leave--we have a rule that prevents us from travelling our last 3 months.

This weekend is the beginning of the Jazz festival. Friday night is the official opening, and I have a ticket for the show, featuring Kassav, a great zouk band from Martinique. Saturday is my friend Michelle's wedding. Haven't located a date yet, but to be honest I haven't really tried, other than to jokingly try and convince a friend from Barbados who came in for the day yesterday to deliver a boat for his boss to come again next week and go with me. He actually considered it, but has other plans. Nou kay weh (we will see). I am not too concerned. More concerned that Alex may not be able to afford a ticket to come in from Antigua. We are taking up a collection for her.

20th April, 2004
Mango Madness

For what seems like months now, the neighbors and I have been watching the mango tree go from blowing snow-like piles of pollen all over our balconies to wee stubs of fruit to positively dripping with lovely green mangos that have taken weeks to ripen. All that time, an occasional ripe mango was to be found, at a steep price in the market. And now that ours are ripe, we're inundated. I have 5 ripening on the balcony, 8 on the windowsill, 5 ripe ones in the fridge, and had 2 for breakfast in the much-loved banana-mango smoothie. Just last week I broke the plastic pitcher of the blender, catastrophically droppping it after jake and I had whipped up some frozen fruity drinks, but was able to salvage it with the combined forces of krazy glue and packing tape. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. It aint pretty, but it only has to last a few more months.

Easter weekend in Bequia was great. True to his word, Gustav picked me up at the airport, and took me on a little tour of the countryside, to see some petroglyphs on the rocks and to the botanical gardens, home of the vincentian parrot and the first breadfruit tree ever brought to the caribbean by captain bligh. Then we took the ferry across, a 1 hr trip, to Bequia, which is the first of the Grenadines. I arrived too late for the round the island race that day, and also narrowly missed out on a trip to the Tobago Cays, which is now high on my list of travel destinations. The next day was a solo captain's race, so I didn't sail then either. I spent the weekend at beach parties, out in bars and clubs, socializing with the many many St Lucians that made the trip and others, relaxing at the house, and on Monday, sailing in the final race. It turns out that the house where I had arranged to stay was also being rented by four St. Lucians, two of whom are my friends: Geoff and Carlos. The other two were not complete strangers, Andy, a Scottish guy I have seen around, and Frank who i know by boat and reputation--I have sailed on his boat, Loose Cannon, when he is out of town and my friend Charles captained it. So this motley crew of a naturalized Lucian, a Scot, a Frenchman, a venezuelan and an American shared a house for the weekend, had some good conversations and a lot of fun, and went on to place 4th in Monday's race but win the racing division overall. I didn't end up spending much time with Gustav, who made himself scarce after the first day, but thankfully not before introducing me to two of his friends, Brinsley and Narissa, who took over the oversight of my nightlife and getting home safely. We went to clubs together two nights, and they drove me home, and even gave me a lesson on Vincy soca in the car. They are great people, and I hope I see them again. Tuesday afternoon I took the ferry back to St Vincent, met up with Megan, a pcv in my group, and stayed overnight at her house. I wasn't much of an exciting guest, completely exhausted and limping again from sailing injury to my knee. Wednesday I slept in and we went and met some other pcvs in town for lunch and then coffee, and finally I made my way to the airport by bus, and flew back to St. Lucia. On both flights, I happened to travel with Miss St. Lucia and her posse, and got my picture taken with her in the St. Lucia airport, just for posterity sake. Should be a funny picture to have.

Amazingly, after about 10 days of little sleep and many parties, I have not gotten sick! Maybe there is hope for my immune system after all. I took it easy this weekend. Friday we had a meeting in Choiseul for the pcvs in the Community Development Sector (a new initiative for information sharing), and from there I travelled one village but one long dusty ride on the mashed-up road to Soufriere, and spent the night with Tom and Mary. They are such friendly and laid back people that all of us have adopted them as members of our extended family. We had happy hour on the balcony with some other volunteers, a nice dinner and conversation, a nice breakfast, naps, and I took a walk to a waterfall and nearby warm spring with Ardella, a new volunteer. When I reached Castries after the long, scenic yet nauseatingly curvy bus ride (that i have spoken of many times before), I picked up some things in town and went straight to Jaimie's in Bocage. Her birthday was friday,and her mother and brother are in town. I offered to make a birthday cake, so we had a nice dinner and then later (after I baked it), some very chocolately cake and drinks. They drove me home. Sunday I slept late and met Caroline, Eric and her visiting friend Kristy to go to Cas-en-Bas beach, on the north Atlantic side. Normally it is a quiet and quite isolated beach, but there was a beach party there with loud music, beach games and barbecues. The weather turned out not so great, so it was nice to have people watching instead.

This week I am laying low, getting back into work, specifially my thesis, and catching up on sleep, getting back to the gym, resuming normal life. Michelle is getting married in 3 weeks, and I knew this, but hadnt thought about needing a date for it. I got my invitation last night for me and 'escort' and realized that i have 3 weeks now to find a good wedding date. Jerry, my old standby date, moved to St Vincent last weekend. Alex is trying to come in for it, and will stay with me if she does. Last night at the Garage, Michelle's bar, there was a re-opening of Lyric Cafe, which had gone dormant for a few months. It wasn't super crowded, but a nice night, with several members of the St. Lucia Writers forum reading their work, a few reading famous poems, and a few songs both original and covers. The Garage is such a friendly, mellow place and I will definitely miss it when I go. I have not spent as much time there as I wish. (its location just bordering the ghetto and about 6 blocks from my bus stop makes solo trips at night rather tricky. last night I caught THE LAST BUS north from Castries at 12 after Jaimie's family gave me a ride to the bus stop.)

7th April, 2004
April Foolishness

More adventures are in the making. And I have accomplished one more thing on my list! (sort of). Yes, dear friends, I have been busy.

My knee is on the mend--the scratches are nearly totally healed, but the bruised kneecap is still tender and not back to normal yet. No jumping or running for me just yet. So far I have been patient enough not to reinjure it again, but it's tempting. I took it pretty easy last week, did the weights workouts but not the leg parts, kept it iced and rested. Started to get stir crazy, so I am grateful for how quickly it is healing.

Had another busy weekend. Friday night I just went to meet Caroline and Eric, her new 'gentleman caller' at his house in Rodney Bay. They invited a few people for drinks, and we stayed up late listening to music, talking about books and movies, but not doing anything too terribly exciting. Saturday morning came too quickly. Earlier in the week, my friend Gilberto, a Cuban Dr. who I met party at the ambassador's house (mentioned previously) called and said that the Ambassador wanted to invite me and my friend from the beach (Caroline) to a brunch at his house (I assumed that there would be other people there, including his wife). He came to pick me up at 10:45, moments after Caroline called to say she was feeling really ill. We got to the house and I realized that there truly was no one else there, and I was about to spend the afternoon with just the Ambassador--Victor--and Gilberto. I had expected something slightly formal, but it was quite casual. In fact, it was just like hanging out with 2 male friends from college, if one of them happened to have a nice house with a pool. We grilled fish, concocted a sauce, had a few drinks and hit the volleyball around in the pool. Despite the sudden fact of Caroline's absence, it was a nice afternoon, with beautiful sunny weather, and we listened (and danced) to a lot of salsa music, which I really enjoyed. After initially feeling ridiculous because my Spanish has gotten so bad, I began to practice with them and felt a little better that I was able to converse, though only basically. We also exchanged idioms (frases idiomaticas), which I really love about language, and American English is rife with them. Victor is well known, to me anyway, for his heavy-handed pour, and when I reached home, I was still feeling the effects for several hours. Later, I met up with Pete and Anna, two Irish volunteers who live just down the road from me but who i never see. Our schedules always seem to clash for one reason or another. We had great conversations and they invited me to join them on a camping trip. They left about 12 and I stayed on to dance with Alvin for a bit (gotta exercise the ol' knee, you know...)So I reached home late again. Sunday dawned way too early, and I continued to suffer the effects of the party and bar for the afternoon. Amy arrived about 9 amd, Jake about 1 pm. In late afternoon, they went to the beach with Ali to play volleyball while I napped and recovered. Later we all went to the complex in castries to watch a volleyball tournament, came home, made pizza and fell asleep watching a dvd.

Monday we had a much better day. We ran errands around the area and castries, packed our stuff up and left to go camping in the afternoon. We headed off to Grand Anse with several Irish volunteers (Anna, Pete and Stephanie), another PCV and her boyfriend, and Stephanie's Lucian boyfriend David, where we camped by the beach, swam, made a fire, cooked, played frisbee, relaxed... It was a full moon that night and the days were both gorgeous, sunny, clear and HOT. The Atlantic was so clear that you could see other people's shadows and see fish in the waves as we bodysurfed. It was a tranquil, relaxing, wonderful experience, with one exception. We took several trips to the beach that night after cooking, looking for turtles (The season just began last month). A really big one had hurled itself up the beach to lay her eggs; but the poachers found her first. We got there not long after the fact to a fresh bloody mess--the head, remainder of bottom shell and legs. They had taken the shell and most of the meat, as well as the eggs most likely. It was grisly and upsetting, not only for the blood but because of the shocking fact that people truly just kill these beautiful, ancient creatures for food. The eggs are considered an aphrodesiac, like many things here in St. Lucia. People eat the meat, though it is sold only in small villages, not in stores or the main market. It's considered a delicacy. So, I did get to go on a turtle watch and camp on the Atlantic side, two things on my list, but i would like to go again and hopefully see some live turtles. Tuesday before we left we met up with some girls living at Grand Anse to research iguana populations, and we saw a nice big female up in a tree. I had never seen one outside of a zoo before, so that was a somewhat redeeming wildlife viewing.

Jake and Amy and I joined some other friends last night for drinks, and Greg came back with us to spend the night (thank goodness for the mattresses I borrwed from Isabelle and Alain!) and today I went to work and they went to Soufriere for the day and night. Tomorrow I have work to do, and they will not be back until afternoon. We're planning to make tortillas from scratch and make burritos or fajitas or enchiladas or something. Maybe we'll go out. Friday Amy leaves early, and then it's Jake and me. Not sure what we'll do for the day, because it's a holiday, and not too much will be happening. It's been really fun hanging out with them. It's hard when you have close friends that are on other islands, because we hardly get to see each other. Like any good friendship, though, it always feels like not much time at all.

My Easter plans are finally sorted out. Saturday morning, I leave St. Lucia for St Vincent, arriving at 8:05 am. I am being met by Gustav, who I met in the regatta here at Christmas time. He has helped arrange a place for me to stay in Bequia, where they are having an annual Easter regatta, which I have heard is great fun. Hopefully I will meet up with other people that I know--many PCVs from several islands will be around, many boats from St Lucia are going, as well as some people in the previous regatta. I am looking forward to it, as much as you can when you have absolutely no idea what to expect. I do know this though: everyone says the Grenadines are so gorgeous, and this is the trip I've wanted to make most in the islands since I've gotten here. I've put it off in hopes that I could see them via a boat trip, rather than just staying in hotels/hostels and taking the ferries. This is apparently the closest I'll get this time around. (I checked into catching a ride on one of the St Lucian boats going, but due to my weekend didn't have much chance to go and network with people, and I wasnt sure I'd get permission to travel that way anyway.) I have the feeling I'll want to go back. Sounds like the Caribbean version of the San Juans--peaceful, laid back, relaxed and pristine. So that's the next adventure, and I will be back Wednesday evening. We have a 4 day weekend here, but I couldnt get a flight out Friday and didnt want to leave Jake stranged for too many days, so I added another day at the end to hang out in St Vincent itself, and hopefully see some friends there. So if I don't reply to emails until late next week, you will know why....

28th March, 2004
Clumsy Like Joke

Okay, I admit it--I've never been the most graceful person. A certain pesky older sister was kind enough to nickname me "elephant ballerina" during my young childhood dance lesson days. You get the idea. But I'm reasonably strong and sturdy on my feet (after all, they're big enough...). Until Thursday night, that is. I went to my favorite aerobics class at the gym, Body Attack, and then stayed and did a little bit extra in the gym, making up for the time I lost to the flu. Got a ride home from a friend, who just had one quick stop to make on the way. We did that, back on the road, and then about halfway (the gym is only a few miles down the road from where I live) she remembered she was supposed to stop and see someone. So she pulled in the drive, along the highway, and I jumped out. Except for the simple, obvious fact that neither of us noticed: she had pulled in onto a grate, and narrowly alongside a very deep drainage trench. So I jumped out of the passenger side of her van, but rather than landing on terra firma as expected, I dropped into the 4ft deep ditch, scraping my leg on the metal grate and banging my knee on the way, apparently. She had driven on by the time the few seconds of shock wore off and I realized I was not where I intended to be, and was in fact in a hole and in pain. No one heard me shout, so I climbed out, scraped up my arm, couldn't stand, so fell bleeding on the road, next to the highway, shouting her name. She had parked just up the hill and a guy in a neighboring vehicle heard, and they both came running down and helped me up. He was heading towards my house and dropped me home, where my neighbors came over and helped me clean the wounds and dry my tears, especially Jude. I've spent the last few days with my knee up, and on ice, smearing antibiotic cream on it and popping more advil every few hours. I can straighten it now, but painfully, and I can walk a little better, though slowly and not for long before it aches again. Just when I thought I was back in action, I'm stranded in the house again. Today I thought I'd go mad, had to escape and go to the beach. I walked there from the mall in Rodney Bay as usual, and along the way ran into a friend from my aerobics class, Renee, an American medical student (at a new, small school in Rodney Bay) from Virginia. We spent the afternoon together, and ran into Caroline and Eric there as well as some other yacht club and swimming folks, and I got a ride home and some lovely jerk chicken from Bridget, a gym member and swimming parent (and very nice lady). I'm not sure how much my knee will allow me to do this week, but it will be difficult for me to have the patience to let it heal slowly like it should--I hope I don't re-injure it by doing something stupid.

The injury kept me from two things this weekend: first, the second auditions for our Talented Teen Pageant. Due to poor turnout last weekend, we scheduled a second round this weekend. No one picked up our press releases, and despite repeat reminders to the schools and clubs, only four girls turned out. Semi-Finals are now being skipped and the competition will proceed directly to Finals in May. Hopefully sponsorship will fall into place and we can do it justice. The whole thing has been frustrating, but a fairly typical Caribbean learning experience. I just wish I was done learning this particular lesson. The second thing I missed was a 'round the island sailing race yesterday. I was really upset when I realized I would have to miss it, because I'd desperately hoped to get involved once I learned of it on Wednesday. As it turns out, four boats started out, and only 2 made it to the halfway point after 9 hours!! The sea was rough and the wind was dead, and it wasn't such a nice day for boating. So I didn't miss out on too much. The prize ceremony was today, and they gave out 2 awards--slowest and second slowest. Maybe they'll try again later and I'll get my chance.

Before the injury I was having an excellent week. After taking the steroid inhalers on the weekend, my cough and flu cleared up amazingly quickly. I was at the gym twice during the week, and late Tuesday night after games night i got an invitation to go deep sea fishing on Wednesday. I jumped at the chance and did some quick schedule rearranging, and was off for the day on Reel Time, a 30ish ft sport fishing boat owned by Dave and Kelly, a couple who have retired here (though still quite young) from Florida. They have 5 boats and a very large house on the marina in Rodney Bay. Martin, whose wedding I went to in summer, and his brother Sinus, who I met in an earlier regatta, work for them as boat captains, and invited me along. It was the two of them, Dave and me, and we had a gorgeous day on the water. The weather has finally cleared now, and the dry season is officially here. It's still cool in the evenings but hot in the day, and only an occasional shower. The water has been rough but that day it was flat. Not long after we got out, Dave had an enormous blue marlin on the line--they estimated maybe 400 lbs. After 20-25 miutes of fighting, it got away. We had nothing happening for several hours, though in that time we saw a pod of pilot whales feeding, and one came and played under the bow, several flying fish, and chased some schools of tuna and dorado by following the birds. Finally, we got another marlin later in the afternoon, and after an hour of fighting like crazy, Dave landed it. Usually they tag and release the marlins, but this one had gotten its tail tangled during the struggle and drowned. It was more than 6 ft long and roughly 250 lbs--a beautiful fish. I had a brief struggle with a tuna after that but I lost it. On the way back, we saw a sea turtle in the bay. Then we got back and several of Dave's friends came over to marvel at the big fish and lament that they were working rather than fishing that day. We took some pictures and had some beers, while they tried to find a restaurant to buy the fish. That was a really fantastic day. Today I ran into Jim, an American from Texas working for Hess (who I met on New Years), who remembered that I wanted to go out fishing with him and invited me to go soon, so I may get a chance again.

All this being homebound with a (still) broken tv means I'm reading a lot. I've nearly finished Gravity's Rainbow, after several attempts and a lot of looking at it on the desk since I've been here. It's not an easy read, but I'm really enjoying it, though I feel like I'm only scratching the surface of it by attempting it alone. I came with this stack of books that I always meant to read but never had the time for and jokingly called my 'jail pile,' but haven't made much of a dent in thus far. I guess I was intimidated, looking for light, easy beach reads more often than not. But time is running out for the pile, so I've begun to chip away at it. Still have "Roots," "The Brothers Karamazov," and "Infinite Jest" waiting for me...

I'm due back at NEMO this week, as I missed my day due to the leg injury. Had my apartment inspected and approved for safety by a PC Safety Inspector from DC on Friday morning. The pageant has been slightly derailed, I haven't heard from my Babonneau committee in a while, and our capacity building sessions for NYC are only slightly back on track. We're working on arranging a meeting with the National Student Council executive, who started out with great plans and seem to have lost focus. Still, that should leave me with a decent amt of time to rest my leg and get back to my thesis. Carla and her father have spoken to some soccer coaches in the Council Rock School District in PA to donate some soccer equipment, but we need to figure out how to get the money to ship it. I'm open to suggestions. Carla said her grandmother discussed getting her church to do a bake sale. That would be really great. There are a few schools that want to start girls' football teams again, and I want to use this equipment for that purpose. Even though I won't be here to see it happen, I would feel happy knowing I had contributed to getting football for girls going again. There aren't a lot of sporting options for girls here. I also need to get to work organizing a final clothing drive for when the rest of my group and I leave in summer, and of course the 30th birthday bash that Angela and i are planning before I leave at the end of July, in Michelle's bar most likely. Doreen is due to have her baby any time now, and i need to go and see her soon. Dorissa has been troubling me to come to their house and see her. I guess she will want visitors especially when the new sister comes and is getting all the attention...

Lately I have noticed that I feel especially drawn to families--women who are sort of mother figures to me here, host families, friends with children. I think it must be a manifestation of being ready to go home and see my own family and friends, but also combined with a happy reminder that I have created so many of those wonderful bonds here. The last few Sundays, for example, i have spent by Anne Marie at the beach, eating her wonderful food and playing with her son, Sinclair. Last night I watched movies (finally! after rescheduling many times for many months) with Julie and Martina, two local girlfriends, at Julie's house. I walked in, and felt instantly at home, and ready to move in. It was nice to be around a house that felt like home, and like family. We ate junk food and watched 3 movies (School of Rock, Lost in Translation and another one called somethign like Simple Life?), and it was a lot of fun--just what my knee and sanity level needed. Friday night I had a beer with someone I just met, an English accountant working for Price Waterhouse, named Kern. He met Doris several weeks ago, and as he is new here, young and looking for things to do she passed his number along to me. It took a few weeks till my life was calm enough to find the time to call him, but we spoke on the phone and had a drink at the yacht club where there was rumoured to be live music, and there was, but not much action. From there we met up with a local friend of his, Charmagne, and went to the street party at gros islet, and hung out for about an hour. Standing around wasn't very good for my injured knee, but it did me good to be with some new people and out of the house.

So life is moving along at a reasonable pace for the moment. Not sure of my travel plans, if any, for easter. The week before, it looks like Amy (from Grenada) and Jake (from Antigua), two pcv friends, will be here and staying with me. I need to rest up for that--I know we will have fun. I can't believe it's nearly April already, which leaves 4 months to my term in St. Lucia. I have an amazing array of mixed feelings about this, and I imagine they will grow ever more vast and deep as the time draws nearer for me to fly away for good. It's obviously on mind, as Tuesday night I had a crazy dream where my life here and there merged--one particular scene that I still remember involved me driving around in the parking lot of a shopping mall, somewhere in New York I think, with a friend from home (a hybrid, i think, of several people) and my friend Jerry (who is St. Lucian and lives here but his Dad lives in NY). Someone came to the window selling fried chicken and bakes (these sort of biscuits that are grilled or deep fried), which is very typical for any event here. To anyone who hasnt been here, it's not a very telling dream, but to me and everyone here that I've told, it's very funny. And very telling how my brain is already at work trying to process my imminent departure and make sense of combining the two worlds. It's going to be an interesting process, settling back into life in Seattle. I'm looking forward to it, but I have to admit it's a bit overwhelming to think about. As much as I complain about the slowness and lack of things to do here, it's become my way of life, and the prospect of everythign moving so fast, and so many choices is a bit freaky. I'm sure I'll adjust quickly, but I hope not so quickly that I lose the bits I've really come to like about my life here. A simple life can be a pretty good thing in a lot of ways. One thing I know, in my craving family and in what I think about returning to the US, is that I'm craving some sort of stability. I know that as soon as I get it, though, I'll be itching to head out on the next adventure again. I'm torn between this desire to find a job, a nice place to live, ideally meet mr. right or someone that resembles him, and start to settle into some kind of stable life and the combination of desire to help and wanderlust that drove me here in the first place. My heart, and my degree (hopefully) want me to be in international development work, and I know that it doesn't exactly bode well to have those goals and yet want to start a family and have a structured life. A happy medium *can* happen, and I hope it will, but there's not much I can do but live it and see it how it goes. I hope the god of jobs and relationships is pleased with me and helps me find an answer that meets both requirements.

That may be too much 'dear diary' for some of you, so I apologize for getting so heavy. A product of sitting around by myself in the house too much lately. I do have a LOT of time on my hands these days... Been packing and clearing out more things, which only leads to more of these kinds of thoughts. I'm still a bit of a packrat, but with all the moving I've done in the last few years, it definitely gets easier each time to get rid of things and move on. I still get easily attached to people, but saying goodbye gets easier too. It's interesting to see how having a definite contract and end date to your time somewhere affects how you approach work and relationships. I've tried not to let it affect me, but inevitably, it does. I've been battling a fair bif of the "why bother?"s that come with the knowledge that I'm leaving in four months. But if I let that attitude affect me the whole time, I'd never have done anything. So I just have to keep at it as though I'll be here forever, while keeping in mind more than ever the need for information and skills transfers that will keep the few projects I've got going in my absence. Like everything else, a tricky combination.

20th March, 2004
Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's still rainy and windy and cold(ish), and very un-dry-season-like. And I've had the flu for a week. Actually, it's part flu, part allergies, I think, to miscellaneous pollen blowing in the strong winds and the dampness and all that it must be breeding. At the start of my 3-week-long visitor extravaganza, I picked up the beginnings of a cold. I managed to fight it off, mostly, but then in Carla's second week, it pissed rain for about 5 straight days. That and the wind essentially put me into allergic coma, except that I remained reasonably active. So 3 weeks of allery + cold + more activity, partying and less sleep than I'm used to really took it out of me. I'm broke, exhausted and sick. I did have a good time though.

In fact, I've put off updating because so much happened and there's so much to say that it's overwhelming. Where to start? Make lists? That's boring. I did a lot of the same things I've already done, took Carla, Cindy and Dave to many places I've already been. There were, however, a few new ones for me, and that was exciting. I have sort of a mental list going, of things I haven't done yet that I still want to do: hike the petit piton, do a turtle watch (the season is almost starting), see a few more beaches and waterfalls... So with Carla I went to Cas-en-Bas, a northern beach area on the Atlantic side, for the second time, but on the way out we got a ride from these construction guys building condos there in there dump truck. It was exceptionally cool because neither of us had ever been in a dump truck and it's every 6 yr old boy's fantasy. Plus, it saved us a really long walk, and this was a fancy new dump truck with AC and a CD player, plus a full load of topsoil we got to watch them dump. :) Sometimes it's the simple things in life that are the most entertaining... We also went to the sulfur springs at sunset, which was close enough to my wish to go at night. Plus, we got to go to a section I'd never been in before, where the local locals go. Later that day, we went and had fancy dessert at the Coal Pot, a nice restaurant in Casdtries that I had heard good things about their chocolate cake. It was worth it, and funny for us to go in our post-Soufriere beach/hike/sulfur clothes. I won't go down the list of all the things Carla and I did, but we had a good time and stayed busy, as well as doing a fair amount of time enjoying the DVD player she brought me (huzzah!) just in time for the unseasonable torrents of rain, and catching up on recent and old times.

There was one night of crossover with Cindy and Dave, and the three of us went to the reggae show, while Carla opted out. The show was really nice, despite a few showers, and didn't end too horribly late. All the same we were exhausted the next day from their day of travel, me from a busy week, and the late night. Carla left and we took it easy. The one week with Cindy and Dave flew past. We hit Pigeon Island, which I've neglected to take recent visitors to due to time/weather constraints. We hiked to both peaks, and the second one, signal peak, was a first for me. We followed that by having beers at teh restaurant and then taking a water taxi to Rodney Bay--where else but the half price bar. Two firsts in one fell swoop there--I had never take the Pigeon Island water taxi, nor ordered fish from the Gros Islet fishermans' coop, which Happy Day Bar overlooks. We had a few drinks, were met by Service, who decided he wanted fish, and had the fellas deliver it to him. So we got 2 lbs of dorado as well, delivered to us as we sat at a waterside bar, only minutes after we watched the heads get chopped off with a cutlass and heard the conch get blown announcing the fish. That was kind of a banner few hours. We didn't cook it until the next day, but it came out well on our lovely makeshift grill (a true lucian-style grill that Alain and I put together from found parts: a wheel well he got from the dump, balanced on cinderblocks I found in the yard with an old pan from the yard to catch the ash. Ghetto as anything, but it works!), and Dave got to experience the joys of creole grilling with coconut oil for lighter fluid. We had dinner one night at the Coal Pot, which was another first for me, and really wonderful food. We also did a day at the Club St. Lucia, an all-inclusive resort in Cap Estate in teh very northern tip of the island. I had been there twice previously--once for dinner with Service during Jazz, and recently with my newly adopted Canadian family (see previous entry)--but this time, my friend Dermid hooked us up with passes for teh employee rate. We spent about 7 hours there, sunning at the pool, eating lunch and late-afternoon snack, snorkelling, kayaking, going on the small waterslide, playing poolside dominoes, and oh yes, drinking. Quite a lot of drinking. We did a lot of that all week. The omnipresent Senor Boo came on the trip with them as well, and he got a nice shirt for a souvenir, met some of my neighbors and got his picture taken dancing with Jude, in the hammock with Alvin...

Basically, I've been a busy girl, and I have quite the savage tan though it's beginning to fade/peel after a week of sickbed reading and movie-watching. During the time Cindy and Dave were here Clem left, and moved to Germany. He had a little drinkup at Happy Day and then Rumours which ended up being quite fun, and he bequeathed me a few little things, among them a volleyball, on his departure. I just had to mention Clem because apparently he finds it entertaining that I write about him here. And now I have no one to say fun expressions like "bollocksed" with...

I did get a guest entry from my friends from Ontario, and that is now posted. Alain has written his; Isabelle is giving me hers 'just now.' I am still waiting for them from my mom, Karen, Carla, Cindy and Dave. Then you can see life here from someone else's perspective. Though I am visitor-free, Isabelle and Alain will now have visitors for the next few weeks, so it is possible I will piggyback on some of their activities. I am laying pretty low though, not only to rest up, but to save money. It looks as though my planned trip to the Grenadines at Easter may not work out--many of the free places I hoped to stay are filled then, and I can't really afford to rent. So I am discussing maybe going to Trinidad instead with Amy, a pcv in Grenada, and then going to SVG either before or after our COS ceremoney (held in Grenada) in late May. That will zap any extra money I have in my possession until we get our final returning allowance, which I need to use for travel regionally and then for readjusting when I first get back to the US. I can't believe that's only 4 months away, basically. Unbelievable. It feels real now, and it feels soon. I'm ready. Though in some ways, it seems too fast--only now I'm just making connections and finding really interesting projects that I wish I found a year ago--I feel like my time has come and I'm ready to back and start my life in the 'real world' again. I know that as much as I am anticipating my return, I will miss it here a great deal when I get there. St. Lucia has gotten into my blood, and a little bit of it will always be there.

19th February, 2004
This is Your Life

I'm not going to be able to explain it well, but yesterday was a day that will form one of my key memories of my time in St. Lucia. It was the day that the Canadian visitors I mentioned took Francis Sienna to see the school he built in Laborie in 1974. Since his daughter contacted us, Greg and Lauren passed on the word in the village and people there got very excited and got right to work, preparing a really fantastic celebration and lunch for the group and specifically Francis. I met up with them in the morning and joined them for the taxi ride to Laborie and we went straight to the infant/girls' primary school, where the students, teachers, guests and Greg and Lauren were waiting. The group of 11 were seated at a table of honor on the stage, where they were honored with speeches, songs by the children, gifts made by local craftpersons, and a plaque for francis. He wrote a book with a chapter documenting his experience with building the school in St Lucia and they had obtained a copy and invited some of the people he mentioned in it--the cook who made meals for him, the boy who presented him flowers at the school's opening ceremony.. It was amazingly touching and few eyes stayed dry at the head table. After the lunch, the kids swarmed around for pictures and small canadian flag pins and to talk to the visitors and volunteers (us). It was a really nice morning/afternoon. The group had planned on going onward to Soufriere and making a 'round the island trip, but as the road is so terrible between Laborie and Soufriere, instead we went to Mt. Leblanc, a lookout point with panoramic views of Laborie and Vieux Fort, and then back up the East Coast. We stopped at Latille Falls in Micoud (where I recently camped) for a look at the falls, some fresh fruits that grow there and a brief lesson by Skye on cashew trees, cocoa trees and mangos. I think they enjoyed it. They dropped me at home on their way to the hotel, and Lauren was already at my house as she leaves today from Castries for Barbados. We made pizza, and Jenafir, an RPCV (Benin 96-98) here doing research on a project for the Wheelchair Foundation (for her MPH/SW degree at Berkeley) joined us. It was a nice relaxing evening.

I met Jenafir on the weekend. She met Lauren on her first trip to St Lucia for the same project in Nov., as they were seeking wheelchair users and the National COuncil of and for Disabled Persons, where Lauren works, is a likely start. So this time she planned to spend her first weekend in Laborie, and we ended up on the same bus with the same destination. I had invited myself to Lauren's for the weekend to check out the Independence Expo in Vieux Fort which was featuring st Lucian products but also concerts and fireworks on the final night, Sunday. Saturday evening Jenafir, Lauren, Greg and Sarah (who was also visiting from Choiseul) and I made tacos, complete with homemade tortillas, and sangria, and hung out with several of their local friends and played dominoes. Sunday we swam, made breakfast, did a 'fun walk' of about 6 miles (me in flip flops because i forgot proper shoes) that finished in the rain, and then made dinner and prepared to go to the Expo. We must have been on Lucian time though, because the fireworks started before we even left Greg's place and foiled our plan. We saw the sky glow pink, green and yellow over the mountain from Greg's balcony, and as we sat out there contemplating our new plan of action (or inaction) we saw Shayne's car drive past. We called him and he came up and joined us for a movie, then drove Jaimie, Zorina and I home. I had another allergy attack.

Spent Monday comatose, Tuesday at NEMO and the gym. Wednesday was "This is Your Life, Francis," and a very cool day indeed. I felt so touched to have been able to witness such an emotional (for all) reunion, and to have played a small role in making it happen. The Norris's and their family and friends are really wonderful people, and I'm glad to have met them. Today it's back to the grindstone: Nonprofit books to plow through for the thesis. It's a gorgeous day--I hope I can stay focused. Tomorrow I was just asked to man a Peace Corps booth at an Independence Exhibit in Castries in the morning, so I suppose that is my plan. Not much is planned for the weekend, except that Silas asked me to go to 2 events on his (the NYC's) behalf--an independence parade Sunday morning, and a lunch at the Governor General's residence in the afternoon. That one I'm looking forward to, as I have hoped for an invitation there throughout my time here.

10th February, 2004
Dude, what happened to the dry season?

The past week has been massively rainy, with a lot of winds. The winds are pretty common this time of year; the rain is not. It still rains during the dry season, but usually one or two times a day in short bursts. This is very unusual, and unpleasant. Especially when you're camping.

So it was a fairly uneventful week. We had games night on Tuesday, played Balderdash and Taboo at Shayne's place which is on the Morne and commands a fantastic view of the Castries harbor and the north of the island. The rest of the week was actually quite busy for me, with the Hazard Mitigation workshop and going to the gym. Friday afternoon Shayne drove Jaimie, Isabelle, Alain and me to Micoud for the camping trip. We got there and met up with the others, had a swim in the waterfall, set up our gear and hiked down to the dam, where there is a vine to swing on and jump into the deep water. Since it was nearly dark and the water was sort of murky, we decided to save it for morning. Isabelle, Shayne and I took a field trip the the supermarket in Vieux Fort (10 minute drive), which turned out to be largely unnecessary, because Skye, the owner of the land, cooked up a huge feast. We had a nice vegetarian dinner: fish, rice and peas, macaroni pie, salad, fruit, fresh juice, bush tea (bay leaf and lemongrass) by citronella candlelight, and then the music started. Throughout the night, more and more of Skye's friends showed up, many with drums, flutes, percussion instruments and guitars. They played folk songs at first, and later calypsos and recent soca songs. We had a campfire where we roasted marshmallows and breadfruits. The full moon illuminated everything and the crickets and tree frogs provided background music. It was so fun and relaxing and really one of the best experiences I've had here. I had given Isabelle and Alain the tent I inherited from Renee (and not yet used) and other gear to other people, planning to sleep in my hammock, or maybe just on the tent tarp in the field. But then with all the random guys that showed up, (one of them had been singing a long-extended remix Bob Marley Chant Down Babylon version that turned into chanting about white honkeys that was pretty intimidating, though i think not intended to be offensive. i think he was just chanting nonsense, but stilll) I no longer wanted to sleep alone. There was a big tarp set up (top and bottom, makeshift tent) but it was pretty crowded. So i opted to join Shayne in the car, which was sort of a bummer for me since I had been looking forward to camping so long and I pride myself on being Ms. Outdoorsy. Turns out it was a great decision. It poured nearly all night, and everyone got drenched. None of us slept well, even in the car (windows up, windows down) but dry was definitely good. The rain continued all day and we bailed on the hiking trip. I napped, unpacked and read/watched movies all day and night. Couldnt muster up the energy or enthusiasm to go the Kaiso 25 show with the weather so terrible. I heard it was very nice though. Sunday was nice weather, but I was still suffering from bad allergies. I forgot to mention that: I was nearly comotose all weekend from horrendous allergies that started in the car on the way to Micoud on Friday until MOnday morning. All weekend I doubled up on medication--claritin AND Benedryl--just to breathe and exist. So Sunday I waited for the medicine to kick in, and then on my way to the beach ran into Clem and went for a coffee with him. Spent the afternoon at the beach. Was supposed to play volleyball, but that never materialised. Took Clem's volleyball back to his house and stayed for a few beers and a lesson in old-school reggae.

Monday I went to town for a meeting that never materialized (got stood up) and stayed in the office for a while, ran some errands and had lunch back at home with Alain and Isabelle. Went to the gym and came back and had a fantastic dinner with them again: sesame crusted seared fresh tuna with risotto and peppers. And wine. Then an experimental bananas flambe. I am spoiled.

I am waiting for the guest entry from Isabelle and Alain about their first games night and camping trip. She took some great pics that I will soon pilfer and add to my site. When they give me their entry, i will add it here and you can hear their version.

Lots of excitement on the horizon: Carla's visit Feb 26-March 7, briefly coinciding with my sister's visit, March 6- 13th. I've been in contact with some folks from Ontario who are coming shortly for a visit with their father, who built the infant school in Laborie 30 years ago and has not been back since. Greg, Lauren and I are trading emails and details with them and looking forward to the visit. I also got an invitation from a English guy, Tony (a yacht captain) that I met in the regatta to join them in Antigua on a short sail to Nevis and then St. Kitts. As fantastic of an offer as it may be, i can't spare the time or the money right now with visitors coming and a trip to St Vincent planned for Easter weekend. I hope that someday, though, I get to live my dream of sailing through the islands. I know now that it's the only true way to see it. The rest of it, that is.

1st February, 2004
Dong de Road

It's a slow, hot Sunday. Just had creole breakfast with Isabelle and Allain: bakes and cocoa tea. We looked at the Serious Ting, and discussed writing articles about living here. Isabelle has to write for her project, and I asked her if she'd be willing to write a guest entry here. I'm also still hoping my mom and Karen will write belated guest entries.

Today is, of course, the superbowl, and I'm heading to Soufriere in a while with Clem (English friend) to watch it at Tom and Mary's with Caroline, and several of the pcv trainers from my group, Matt from St Vincent, Kirsten from Dominica, and Sarah from Antigua. The new trainees are down there, but I don't think we'll see them. I didn't get to meet them after all, because Friday morning I had a terrible asthma attack, which made me miss the volunteer meeting. The nurse advised that I shouldn't go to the airport, and risk the shouting inflaming my lungs again. So I had to go to the beach, and then the gym. After showering, I had surprise visitors: Jamie, Alley and Jerry. Had plans already to go the Friday night Gros Islet street party with Allain and Isabelle and convinced Jerry to come along. There was a big event with an SUV givaway and a band, Soca singer, and 2 big- Calypsonians (Invader and the Mighty Pep), and it was insanely crowded--maybe 2,000 people mashed into the narrow streets lined with fish, chicken and rum vendors and blaring speakers so loud you can feel it in your chest, vibrating your bones... It was a good show, despite the claustrophobia-inducing crowds. We left late, and Jerry didn't think he'd be able to get a bus to his house so late, so he stayed in the guest room. Saturday dawned cloudy/rainy, so we made breakfast and started playing uno. About 20 games later, we started playing Gin Rummy 500, and then began my long-awaited Saltfish Bouillion cooking session. The soup came out well, my rummy game, not as well... Last night Isabelle and I went to see a free sneak preview of a local satire play, a sequel to one that played last year called 'Mammyshow, Pappyshow, What happen to de Plan?' This one is called Pappyshow Park (pappyshow means foolishness, nonsense) and is gut-bustingly hilarious. And I only got about 80% of the jokes...(some were in french or patois, some political that I didn't catch at the time). We met Domi and Ali there and afterwards drove to Ali's cousin's house, where we locked the keys in the car. After breaking in to the car, we went to the ATm (for me) and then to get jerk chicken, along the way trying to come up with a plan and muster some sort of enthusiasm. We were all tired. Predictably, we just sort of ended up driving around, asking almost hypothetically, "I dont know, what do you want to do?" "So what is the plan?" Finally, we went to Rumours, where we got stuck in a traffic jam, sent Domi for recon and found out there was a $10 cover charge (now standard, i think--haven't gone much lately, but this is what I hear) so decided to go "dong de road" to Happy Day Bar. When we reached, (this is the local lingo for arriving) we decided we didn't really want to be there, so we chatted in the parking lot until we just decided to go home. It was probably more fun than it would have been to sit in a loud bar and shout at each other, and a lot cheaper too. Got a good, long sleep.

So today is the Superbowl. Go Panthers! I have no particular attachment to either team, since the Eagles lost, but since I've spent more time in North Carolina (relatives who briefly lived there and visiting friend Kate at UNC), and since I'm sick of NY and New England teams winning everything, I say Go Panthers! (Also there are a lot more Patriots fans amongst the volunteers, and I'm pro-underdog.) Clem is fighting digital/technical 'fires' at Digicel, and will hopefully be able to tear himself away for the trip. If not, I will end up somewhere in this area at a bar or someone's house... Tomorrow is work at NYC, weights class at the gym, and perhaps I will go to the Lyric cafe at The Garage as I have long been avowing. Tues-Thurs i am in all-day workshops "Introduction to Disaster Mitigation" for NEMO, which I am attending but also photographing. No such thing as a free lunch... I'm really looking forward to it, to see if it's really a field I may be interested in pursuing, career-wise. So far I think so. But as a Bajan friend I met at the Regatta recently told me in response to this statement in an email, "It seeems to me you'd have to be especially 'touched' to want to get into that type of work." I assume he was being sarcastic, but it's true. It's not happy, cheerful work, so it remains to be seen if the calling is there. The need will certainly always be there as long as there are fault lines and geothermal pressures underground, as well as man-made risks. Friday is a full moon waterfall campout in Micoud with a group of volunteers. I'm really excited, because I love camping and haven't gotten to do it during my entire time here. I've been waiting for this for a long time! Saturday there will probably be a rainforest hike, but I'm not sure if I'll go because I've already been on the trail they'll probably take and it depends on whether I can get back in time for the evening's calypso show, which I mentioned before. Caiso 25 is a concert featuring local calypsonians singing the 'best' 25 Calypsos produced in St Lucia since independence. this month is St Lucia's 25th anniversary of independence, and it's a big deal, so there should be some interesting things happening.

UPDATE: So Clem had to work, we didnt get to Soufriere. I made a quick vegetable curry for dinner and we headed to Mike's (EC 70 pcv) apt in Babonneau to join the younger crew. Clem watched maybe 10 minutes of the game, dodging work calls. At half-time we had to leave so he could go back to work. I watched the remainder--I should say I watched my team lose with 4 seconds remaining--at home alone. Sigh.

25th January, 2004
Singin' Calypso

Next month is the 25th Anniversary of independence here, and they're planning a big concert featuring the 25 most important Calypso songs since independence. I hope I can go. They've been playing all the old songs on the radio and it's been really cool.

My forearm muscles are still aching from our demolition project on Saturday. Isabelle and Alain, my Quebecois neighbors, joined me and 3 other pcvs (Tim, Matt and Angela) and about 6 men comprising the St Lucia Benevolent Fund. We tore down a 1-room wooden house in Castries from about 7-11:30 am, and it was a lot of hard work. My main job was pulling out nails from the walls before they were broken down and the boards after they were pulled down. Pics are now up on my yahoo site and also of the regatta. Speaking of that, Angela and I went to the beach after demolition and met with Matt and Kate (who are married) and Kate's mom and Aunt. I got to go sailing on a Laser with Eric, a Canadian economist who is here consulting the government on tax policy. So my arms got even more sore, from holding the ropes. That night Angela, Isabelle and I made dinner: stirfry and brownies and wine, which poor Alain had to miss due to some painful debris caught in his eye. I got my tv back but it wasnt working. Now suddenly, miraculously, it is. Yesterday Angela and I went to Babonneau for Dorissa, our host sister's 5th bday party. There were about 30 kids there, friends and relatives, loud music, games and tons of food. I should still be full, but of course I'm not.. I got home and ate my birthday cake and watched movies on the (hooray!) suddenly functional tv.

Back at work again today and bored. People are here but no one who knows exactly what I should be doing. Which means there isn't really anything.. I should have stayed home and worked on my case studies. A guy from the gym, Marcus, who is the Director of the Caribbean Drug Institute, is trying to convince me to come and crunch some stats for him. I've been putting him off for months but I just might soon... Get my brain back in working order for the return to UW (likely in October, now). Told him I would consider 1 day a week. This week I am at NEMO Thursday and we have a volunteer meeting and then go meet the new EC 72 volunteers at the airport on Friday. Nothing planned as yet for the weekend--still trying to figure out where I will watch the superbowl. Possibly Soufriere.

21st January, 2004
Git Mad Now

In contrast to my usual self-indulgent whining and descriptions of how I entertain myself, here are some inspiring words from a woman who uses her anger constructively. The Revolution, unfortunately, will NOT be televised, yet.

We finally had our emergency drill yesterday, though just as far as going to the safe house, which for me and 3 others, is my place. It took 3 hours in which Caroline, Jaimie and Heather and I made cookies, played Uno and ordered pizza. By the time it finished it was pointless to go to town, so I stayed here and actually began to work on my degree project case studies! The first hurdle--the blank page--has been crossed. A big relief, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Weekend: might see a band tonight, tomorrow is demolition, then beach or sailing. Sunday is Babonneau for Dorissa's birthday party. I'm making pizza for the kids.

19th January, 2004
News in Brief

I keep meaning to talk about local news but somehow i always forget by the time i post. Recent airport news: About two months ago, two guys tried to smuggle cocaine by swallowing it in bags or condoms or something. THey were flying out of the island's southern airport, Hewanorra, and one of the guys had convulsions and passed out in the airport. The other guy, scared, 'fessed up and got arrested. The first one died. Apparently the bag burst, and he OD'd. Then, about a month ago, a big ol' plane bound for England, I think British Airways, got stuck in the mud. The runway isn't long enough for a complete takeoff, so planes start off in one direction, turn around and take off the other way. Except this pilot turned too wide, and the wheels got stuck in the mud. Blammo. Wouldn't budge. They had to close the airport for a few days! I'm not sure how they eventually got it out but there was no equipment on island heavy enough to move it. Quite the controversy.

Away from airlines, on to robberies. Today, someone just called the local radio station to say that 2 unmasked men just robbed the scotiabank in town, robbed the tellers and customers in line (took purses & such) with big-ass knives. The customers didn't do anything, police didnt come.... apparently not too long ago at a different bank another robbery happened and police chased the guys but couldnt catch them. they got too tired...

My funk has quasi-returned in the form of bad gossip circulating about me and sinus headaches, possibly related. So I'd rather laugh at stupid news than talk about me. New volunteers coming next Friday, and I know some of them are reading this. A shoutout to you! I hope I'm not scaring y'all. Look forward to meeting you at the airport next Friday.

19th January, 2004
Symphony = Sunburnt + Sexy

Ya, Mon. I'm truly exhausted after this weekend, but in a good, still-smiling sort of way. I know for sure now that I am hooked on sailing and want to do it as much as possible.

So the regatta worked like this: Boats from all over the world and St Lucia registered, though not too many, maybe 20. Friday and Saturday there were 2 races per day, starting at 10 am, ending by sunset, and Sunday there was 1 race, ending early afternoon. And each day there was a fete afterwards. friday and Saturday local bands played - the friday one played local/regional music, and the Saturday band (Disturbing Joan, made up of a few people who participated, among others) played rock covers. There was a BBQ and a mini-awards ceremony where the winners for the day got wine or rum prizes. Yesterday evening was the final awards ceremony with the bigger prizes. Because we came fourth in our final race, we didn't qualify for 3rd overall, which was a bit of a shame. We did get sort of an honourable mention prize, and Frederick took that opportunity to present the Yacht Club with a Noweigan flag, and they in turn gave him a yacht club flag. At the end they gave out a few silly prizes and we scored one there too: Most Persistent/Sexiest Crew. That was hilarious, because we joked about how we should get that all weekend when we were at the back nearly the whole time. Hey, at least that way we didn't have to look for the buoys.... The party last night was nice, and I got to chat more with some of the really nice people in the race from England, Scotland, the US, Canada, Antigua, Barbados, St Vincent and St Lucia. One of the guys we partied with I later found out is the son of the former Prime Minister, John Compton, so he was there last night, and I met him. (He was PM for 20+ years.) I met a few other really nice folks who were not in the race but are in on boats. I traded info with some people and now have friends and a place to stay in Barbados, connections for a boat tour in Bequia when I go to St Vincent and the Grenadines over Easter, and a possible sailing outing this weekend. Good stuff. We may get a chance to go say goodbye to Frederick and Erik in the next few days before they leave. They are very nice, fun guys, and I'm so glad we got the opportunity to meet and sail with them (No, guys, I'm not writing that just because I gave you my website address!).

Now it's back to work, and the gym. Tonight I don't get any rest and laziness that I'm longing for - Alex and her son will be staying with me. He's flying in this afternoon to visit and they won't be able to get to Choiseul that late, so we will probably go out for dinner or a drink. Happy Martin Luther King day.

17th January, 2004
Hakuna Matata, It's a Regatta

Yes, I'm feeling much perkier. And no, I'm really not bi-polar, but thanks for wondering. :) The good news is that things are looking up again. That doesn't make the things I've listed below any less true or less sucky, just that I've wasted enough energy moping about them and gotten on with life. And happily enough, things have happened to reward this sort of behavior.

First, I was too grouchy to mention that last weekend I got a new neighbor. Isabel, a 24 yr-old from Quebec, is volunteering for the Red Cross and will be here for 4 months. She was here alone this week, but her boyfriend arrived today. She's very nice and I'm enjoying having her there. It's nice to have company, and to actually be able to use my experiences to help someone to adjust better, as she is there all alone with no sort of cultural guidance or assimilation help. Saturday Domitille, Caroline and I brought her with us to a b-day get-together for Alister, a few hours after she arrived, and there were a few people she could speak French with there. The next day she joined Charles and I sailing on a Laser in the bay, which was really fun.

The week passed by rather quickly. Tuesday afternoon a few of the 71 volunteers, Greg from Laborie and Sara from Choiseul were coming to stay with me, so we couldnt get transport to Jaimie's for the scheduled game night. Instead, we met several others from their group (who were all up in the Castries area for some PC training) out in Rodney Bay. We managed to assimilate ourselves into an all-inclusive hotel and enjoyed a very fun evening there. It really did wonders for my mental state, both the going out aspect and being with the group. The next day was an all-day meeting with NYC crew and a few other NGOs that are getting funding from the Poverty Reduction Fund for capacity-building projects. This is for some educational modules that I am helping to create, and now means I have to really get cracking on them. It was all information I know (and in fact have taught) but always good to hear again. And free food. Again. Thursday evening there was a meeting at the yacht club to announce details about the weekend's regatta, and for boats needing crew and available crew to link up. Caroline and I went as teh latter and managed to find 2 spots on the same boat with 2 Norwegian guys and their 35 foot cruiser, Symphony. So much for getting cracking on that work project...

The St. Lucia Regatta 2004 began Friday and goes until tomorrow, and although it's annual, isn't a very big or far-reaching race. It stays in the north of the island, mainly Rodney Bay, and has 3 classes of boats. We are in Cruising 2, and so far have come 3rd twice (of 4), second once, and fourth once. (two races per day, except one long one tomorrow) We've gotten a lot of sun, had a lot of fun, and learned a lot. We've also managed to improve on our own mistakes and times along the way, regardless of how we rank overall, which is important in a fun race. I've learned a ton--Erik and Frederick, the Captain, are very nice, laid-back and patient guys. They flew from Norway to Tortola a few months ago and bought the boat, a former Charter boat, there, and have been sailing through the islands. They will sail it back to Norway. Frederick is a fish farmer and Erik is a teacher. After two days on the water with some very busy and then very slow times, a lot of sun, and a fair amount of beer and rum, we have acquired some new monikers that might only be hilarious to us. Regardless, they are: BloodAxe (Erik, who claimed this is a name of a Viking, after I suppose tiring of my calling him Erik the Red all day), El Capitan (Frederick, for obvious reasons), Winch Gorilla (Caroline, for no obvious reason except she has been winching today when we tack, and this is apparently a real sailing persona, a person who is there for brawn but not necessarily brain...), and me Ze Releaser or Ze Preventer (spoken in a brisk mock-German accent, because of my duty to release the rope from the winch on tack or to hold the boom from swinging when we are going downwind, and because of our mockery of my last regatta boat's captain that we are now racing against...). Yes, it's been a very memorable time. A few photos now on my yahoo site, more on Caroline's. Maybe I will have more to say tomorrow after it is over, but for now I need to rest up for day 3.

12th January, 2004
Festivus, Belated

Anyone familiar with Seinfeld (which we don't get here and I truly miss) will recall Festivus, the everyman's holiday that features a pole instead of a tree, the annual "airing of grievances" and wrestling match. I am having a post-holiday slump of rather unprecedented proportions. So to make myself feel better, to let those of you who think my life is all one big Sandals happy-smiley-fruity-drinks-in-the-sun-and-holding-hands-one-love advertisement know that advertising lies, and in tribute to the Festivus Airing Of Grievances, I hereby present to you my all-new 2004 List of People and Things that Suck:
  • People who have Promised to see LOTR 3 with me and go without me (thus far--4days--Geoff, Clem, Jude)
  • Co-workers who collect money from me for a holiday party, reschedule it, and then don't tell me about it (and have it without me)
  • Same co-workers (previously considered friends) who neglect to call or include me in any part of their holiday celebrations
  • President of aforementioned organization who, in response to my letter explaining how this was disappointing and hurtful, as well as a really bad way to treat a foreign volunteer, called to say he was going to come by and explain and apologize in person, and then never called or appeared (thus 'giving me a stone [standing me up] for apologizing for giving me a stone).
  • Close friend who, after disappearing for many months, reappears at holiday time to reclaim trusted friend role, claiming he is doing his best to be reliable and wants to prove to me he's changed. Proceeds to let me down 2x in a row, and then never show up again, even after I let him know I'm upset and want to talk.
  • Having the propane fuel tank on my stove run out on the first tray of the cookies I've been waiting to bake for 3 weeks, and on a Sunday night when everything is closed, it's chilly and I want tea, and I haven't yet had dinner
  • A 3-4 week egg shortage
  • Plans that overlap when there is nothing going on for the rest of the week, and stubborn people who will not rearrange to make it less complex.
  • The fact that it is always sunny and beautiful on the Monday after it was cloudy/rainy all weekend
  • Organizations that say they want a PCV and don't include her in their plans or share information
  • Boredom so profound that I resort to being excited about a 1-day a week job where I staple, address envelopes and do data entry because they have air conditioning, dsl and are nice to me (for this I went US$15,000 into debt in grad school?)
  • Certain unnamed organizations who have me do training for a group of volunteers and proclaim their excitement at my ability to do so, praising the sustainability that I will be there to do it for the next group, and then do not include me in the training for the next group, despite my hard work in preparing for the next training...
  • The fact that the US govt still has not approved the budget for this fiscal year, (not to mention the war... where most of our supplies were shipped to the middle east instead)and thus we have not had vitamin c for 8 months, and have to buy any medication that we need out of pocket and then wait to be reimbursed (difficult on a minimal pcv budget, and annoying to boot)
  • Having tons of free time due to a bad assignment (mentioned above) with co-workers that dont value my time or do what they say, which could be used to write my case studies if it werent for the fact that I am too stressed out by my sucky job to write about it
  • 2 months of a broken TV, to be fixed 'just now'
  • 'friends' who respond yes to invitations, then never show up/call/reply to email again. Ever.
  • Spam (about 7-10 per day) text messages on my phone, because I was foolish enough to put the address here on my site (for a while). And no one even used it, anyway, except my mom, twice. (and friends here)
  • A really horrible bed with a seriously saggy mattress that's been doing major damage to my back for a year and a half, probably undoing 2 yrs of chiropractic visits (and a small fortune spent on same)
  • friends that make light of me feeling the way I do right now and give bogus advice on situations they don't understand. (that definitely doesn't make it any better.)
    well, I had more in mind tonight during my spinning class, so I will add to it if it comes back to me. (I was also a lot more wry, yet funny, at least in my own mind... )Enough negativity for now.
Yes, welcome to another edition of As the Rollercoaster Turns. I am experiencing a predictable yet-worse-than-expected post-holiday funk due to some annoying circumstances that alone would not have been a big deal, but combined have joined forces to create in me a rising urge to run away, as quickly as possible, to anywhere but here, immediately after doing Something Violent. I realize that, and having experienced this cycle before (on sort of a revolving 3-month basis, after the little things pile up again) it will fade, and then probably appear at least once more before I leave here. But that doesn't make it suck any less in the moment...

So for those of you who have read this far, or indulged me in listening to my recent complaints, my sincerest thanks. I am truly grateful for real friends, and people who do what they say they will. It really is the small things that matter, sometimes. Positive vibes and support welcome right now. This too shall pass, and I will in theory be a much better, stronger person when it does. I will spare you all my MOOD and write more when sanity and happiness have returned, or at least when a bit more normalcy has returned.

4th January, 2004

Another sunny and bright Sunday morning; this one tempered with the realization that tomorrow is the return to work/school islandwide, and the need to recount what I've done on my Christmas Vacation.

I'll start with Christmas eve. I did go to Anse La Raye--arrived at Heather's apartment in early evening and met her and Jaimie there as well as some of Heather's friends who were coming in and out. Her apt is very centrally located in the village, which is good for social visits and bad for noise. We had some drinks, listened to music, cooled out on the balcony for a while, and got dressed. Information on what, exactly goes on and what time was not easily forthcoming or clear from our various sources. Some told us midnight mass began at 12 and went for 3 hours, some said it started at 10. Eventually, dressed for church and house visits, we went to Heather's boyfriend Titus's family's house with him and his brother, Campbell (who is a dead ringer, incidentally for my high school friend John Burns, were he to be born with light brown skin and sport small dreadlocks) where we had some food and a drink and Jaimie and I played with various children there for about an hour. Heather napped (she has mono, poor thing). We got a ride back into the village, where we made our way to a nearby bar, Hideaway. Xavier, a friend who is a local dj, met up with us again there, but left to go check out some other places. A small group of us stayed and danced (mostly amongst ourselves, but occasionally with others) generally had a pretty good time, and Jaimie's boyfriend Zorina surprised us by appearing. Later, I had just requested a favorite Rupee song when a girl took a swing at the DJ. Once that was resolved, they played about half of my song, cut off by another. Soon after, a fight broke out between Zorina and Jaimie, and I tried to intervene, got caught in the crossfire with a swipe of Z's arm, and got very upset, for having been hit and for seeing the two of them, physically and vocally, air their grievances. Just before that, they had been about to leave, and I was going to stay on and dance some more with Campbell because we were still having fun (and we were about 1 min away from Heather's place). Instead, the bar nearly cleared out and those of us concerned sulked about, grumpy and waiting for them to resolve their issues. Xavier showed up again, and spent several more hours there and with us back at Heather's playing counsellor and peacemaker. He did very well at making me feel better and toning's Z's attitude down, but had a pretty miserable Xmas eve (the rest of it apparently hadn't been much better). I slept, uncomfortably, on the couch for maybe 3 hours, interupted after about 1 hour by jouvert celebrations featuring loud freestyle dub/hiphop karaoke-style singing literally right outside Heather's balcony with a booming sound system. Mid-morning Jaimie, Zorina and I (they had resolved things, and Z and I made peace as we walked and waited) walked out of the village and waited nearly an hour for a transport back to Castries. When I got home, I couldn't sleep. Opened presents (a few small things from mom and aunt carol), made a few phone calls and spent the entire day on the balcony. The neighbors brought over some fruit cake, and I listened to Christmas Carols on the radio, got a bit lonely and homesick (well, not home, but family and comforting traditions), and read my book in the hammock. Finally, I got a call from Gagamel saying Merry Christmas, and when he found out I was home alone, said "That's not right," and said he would come in a while to pick me up and go with me to his mom's house. Knowing he was coming seemed only to prevent my sleep further, so I waited. He finally came after 6 pm, when I had locked the door, giving up, and crashed out on the couch. I packed some things and headed up to La Guerre with him, where we visited with his Aunt and then with a few friends and cousins and finally drove around with one of his friends. I spent the night there, woken in the morning by his Mother, who brought me basil tea in bed. She is such a sweet woman. We visited with family and friends at the house, and then began our rounds again, walking up and down serious hills all throughout the area, eating and drinking at various houses. Often I stared off into space, contemplating the fantastic views the area affords of the Atlantic and enjoying the breeze, while they chattered on in only (to me) partially intelligible patois until someone remembered to translate or switch to English to include me. I returned home late that night, full and exhausted.

Saturday morning, Caroline and I returned to the gym for our weights class, which seemed much harder after the holiday break and all that food. There I saw Charles, who invited me to go sailing again the next day. Marcus, another regular (and also work-acquaintance) dropped us off at Pigeon Point at the beach, where a 2-day mini-regatta was ending, and there was supposed to be music and food. It was empty for most of the day, and bands and tents were setting up, but not much really happened while we were there, except the usual swimming/tanning. Service came by a few times to chat with us (my tolerance for him has been at a new low, but Caroline has taken up the slack, and they are actually sort of getting along.) At one point, one of the island's most well-known and influential businessmen came past, and commented that Service was one man with two beautiful woman and that needed balancing, so he (Michael Chastanet, who owns the cinema, a grocery chain, two malls, a fleet of catamarans, etc) sat down with us and began chatting. He spent the afternoon with us, and swimming, and made an offer to take us out on New Year's eve to a rather fancy restaurant. We sort of bewilderedly agreed that it sounded nice. Later he gave us a ride home, and on the way, mentioned a party he'd just remembered that night, in Cap Estate (wealthy area at the northern tip of the island)--would we be interested in joining him? We agreed, and about an hour and a half later, he picked us up again and off we went, to the sprawling home of the owner of St Lucia Distilleries, overlooking the golf course and the sea. It was a fairly casual party, but still featured coctails upstairs inside and on the balcony with several bars, roving servers with hors d'oureves, and a small band of teenagers in a string quartet. Then dinner was served (the food was done by the chef at LeSport, one of the nicest resorts, owned by the host's brother), buffet style, and eaten poolside. It felt like the closest I might ever be to Hollywood, and indeed, many of the country's mover-and-shaker types were there. Only one minister (tourism) was spotted, (the PM had been invited but declined), but many influential business owners, the Cuban ambassador, a few Price Waterhouse big-wigs, several people we knew from the gym and from Caroline's swimming lessons (parents of her students), which was a pleasant surprise. There was even a former PCV, who I had previously met. We managed to get along ok socially, between people Michael introduced us to, those we knew, and him. After dinner, there was an amazing dessert buffet, and then dancing to a dj, which quickly morphed into women dancing, men drinking and smoking cigars at the other end of the pool. We left about 1 am. It was a lovely and surprising evening, but really odd, and we still haven't quite figured out his motives in bringing us.

I saw him the next day, too, by coincidence. I set my alarm early, expecting the usual 9 am race of a few small sailboats in the bay, but Charles didn't return my call for a bit, as he was at church. When he did, he said he'd come and get me at 10, and we would be going on a different boat. Turns out the race was the third day of the holiday regatta, and the boat was a 41-foot sailboat owned by a swiss-german couple (retirees), called Whitea (interesting story to the name). Another guy from the gym, also a beginner, was there too. We didn't win the race due to a few technical difficulties and some very weird wind. As we finished, a huge storm was rolling in--looked at first like it would hit Martinique instead, but then the wind shifted. As we arrived at the yacht club for the luncheon and awards, a squall rolled in with intense wind and sideways southern rain. It was really cold. Eventually, it got underway and we had food and free beer flowing, and an awards ceremony for the whole 3-day race (with some locals and some ARC participants). Again, I knew a fair number of people there, mostly from the gym. The captain of the boat, named Sinus, also works on other boats, and in talking on the boat we realized that it was his brother's wedding I had been to in summer. I chatted a fair bit with him and he gave me a ride home. We both got some of the rum that the owner won from the race. That night I was absolutely exhausted, and marvelling over what a completely rich-folks weekend I had spent, a nice break from the peace corps lifestyle and especially to the Christmas in the countryside that I spent. That is sort of the beauty of both Peace Corps and St Lucia, that you can be a part of both.

Monday-Tuesday it was back to the country life. I bussesd down to Laborie (3 busses, 2 hours, via Castries, then Vieux Fort) and met Lauren and several of her usual herd of kids at the beach. After sunset, a few of us went back to Lauren's and made dinner (kid-friendly tuna-noodle casserole), played some games and then watched a DVD. Two of the kids from her church were spending the night, and when I got up in the middle of the night they were still up, playing UNO. I sent them to bed. Three of us got up pretty early, and I made them 'tea' - Nestle Milo (sort of like Ovaltine), which most Lucian kids have every morning, and we played more games. I made cornbread from a mix that mom had sent, and eventually more kids came over. More games and coloring and crafts, and then we went to the sea and played keep-away in the water, and football on the beach. Knackered again, I took the bus home latee that afternoon, and fell asleep near Castries (a rare thing for me, on those roads).

Wednesday, New Year's Eve as we call it in the US, or Old Year's night as it's called here, started as just another day--I had to go to work. Went to NEMO, and very little was accomplished as it was a shortened day. I thought there would be a birthday party for Mr. Pierre from the Red Cross next door, but he had planned it for evening. So we got out at 12:30, and I went to town and spent a few hours (and a few beers) with my friend Michelle on the stoop of her shop, and helping a few people pick out Old Year's outfits, watching her get her nails done. Went home finally to nap; couldn't, as usual. At about 7, Caroline and I went to the Red Cross for Mr. Pierre's 50th birthday party, had some food and drinks and chatted with some members of the football team he coaches, who tried to convince us to go to a party with them and ditch our plans. We didn't, and outside waiting for a bus, we saw Kenny Anthony's (the Prime Minister) BMW SUV pass and stuck out our hands as though to hitch. (We figured our lives couldn't get much weirder these days, if Michael Chastanet, why not the PM? Actually, Mr. Chastanet [who we estimate to be in his 60s, btw], did call to see if we had new year's plans, which was very kind.) We continued on to Carlos and Mary's house, where an American couple from Texas (who live here)and Carlos's dad, mary's mom (both Venezuelan, with varying degrees of English skill) and their adorable daughter Carla were already having drinks and snacks. We had wine, watched fireworks from the dock (the sea was too rough to go in the boat, they said), had champagne and blew conch shells, and made a lot of noise. Patrick (our pc director's son who we spent last year's eve with as well) joined us. More champagne, and dinner, (my second for the night) which was mainly traditional venezuelan foods. Then we had a little salsa dance-fest, either free-style or lessons (from Carlos's dad), all of us switching partners. Then we took the remainder of the champagne and 5 of us went on the dinghey to Rodney Bay, first happy day bar, and then rumours. it was crowded there, and we somehow weasled past the cover charge, as it was 4 am. We danced, with each other and other friends. Caroline and Patrick left (via taxi) about daybreak, and I was dancing. Soon after, Carlos and Mary must have also left, via dinghey, soon after, not realizing I was still there. I saw Gagamel there, and he asked me how I was getting home, assured me he would go with me and make sure I got home safely. So after dancing quite a long time with a random (and very nice) guy, I checked in with him, and then finally told him I wanted to go. He blew me off; the random guy said he'd go with me. I had a little tantrum (drunk, tired and annoyed at broken promises) and stormed inside. Gaga didn't come to check on me, but the random guy did, and again said he'd go with me to the bus. Then i got an offer of a ride, and took that, sending the guy on his way. But then the guys to give me the ride got in a dumb brawl, so I left. Felt really sorry for myself, and began crying (yes, alcohol does fun things sometimes, especially after being awake for 24 hours), and got a ride with a car of guys heading my way. They tried to cheer me up, and then, as we passed my house, pointing it out, "you live up there, with 2 other girls, and one of them is kind of bald." I told them it was me, but they didn't seem to get it. So we drove on, them saying they were taking me to a party, that's how they do it here, and me laughing and calling them my kidnappers. We never found the house where the party was, so they took me home. They live right down the street from me, it turns out. I saw them again last night. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Spent New Year's Day sleeping, for 4 hours or so, anyway, and then woke up, talked on the phone a bit, and then watched a DVD with my neighbor Mathius. He put on another one, but I came home to take allergy medicine (lots of strong winds lately blowing up all kinds of pollen) and sleep. Found my mom, aunt and grandma online, chatted, and then slept for 12 straight hours. Friday I met Doris and Caroline for coffee at the marina, at a nice little cafe there to celebrate Doris's birthday. Then Caroline and I went to the beach, and after a bit I left to go watch horse racing with Jacinta. A stable on the northern Atlantic side has races every new years day, and I missed it last year. I got there about halfway through. Hung with Jacinta and her boyfriend's large extended family, battling rain showers and her son Isaah's tummy aches. Afterwards, I spent some time at their house down the street, watching TV and chatting with the adults, playing with the kids. My TV is still being fixed, supposedly, so my place is feeling pretty quiet and lonely. I'm tired of the radio, working my way through my cds...

Yesterday was another busy day. Woke, instead of at 6 am to my alarm as planned, at 7:10 to a phone call from the friends I was supposed to be meeting. Alarm clock set for PM again, damnit. Rushed to get ready and downtown, met them and we began the 3 bus extravaganza to Laborie. Felt like deja vu, but it was much nicer to travel wtih Anna and Pete (Irish volunteers) this time. We met up with a whole Peace Corps volunteer herd in Laborie: Kate and Matt from Micoud, Tim from Dennery, Sarah from Choiseul, Jaimie and Zorina, Lauren and Greg (from Laborie) and us, as well as some of her ususal kid crew: Kes, Kesmond, Don, and Zusha. We hiked along the cliffs and beaches to the west of Laborie, and then inland to a waterfall in a place called Piaye. The fall is not steep, but rather gradual and slanted, so it forms sort of a natural waterslide, ending in a very deep pool at the bottom. We had a picnic, and then spent the afternoon sliding, swimming and jumping off ledges. We trekked back, had some drinks and snacks and headed on our way north again. Reached my place as darkness fell, and stopped to say hello when I saw Mathius's car. His girlfriend, Cindy, and daughter, Cinda(?) were there, and they were all getting ready to go to the traditional new year's fete called Assou Square that is held outside of the city for the 3 days after New Years. Last night was the last night, and I had never been, so they volunteered to take me. I ran home, changed my shirt and shoes and left again. It was really crowded and muddy--the same grounds where I saw the Lucky Dube show before I left for home in July. It is basically a carnival or festival--a stage with bands, performances, dj music, and then booths and rides and vendors all about, crowds of people walking, talking, dancing. We took Cinda for a pony ride, had a few drinks and some chicken, milled about and talked to people, watched, sheltered from a rainstorm, got home at about 12. I saw a number of people there that I knew, including my 'kidnapppers' from New Years morning, and Sinus, the guy from the sailboat that I met. He lives right near Cindy in Babonneau.

That brings us to today, a clear and sunny day that I have spent a large portion of in front of my computer, and helping the neighbors with theirs. A caravan led by a truck with music and speakers and yellow flags representing the opposition party, UWP, just blared its way down the highway for the second time today, wishing New Year's greetings to all. Rather a strange phenomena to me, but interesting. I've been online with mom for a while, and now that my report of what I did on my vacation is done, I suppose I'll head out and make the most of the last few hours of it at the beach. Nothing is planned for this week, so I suppose it's back to work and gym as usual. Happy New Year, everyone.

23rd December, 2003
Dasheen thru the... Sand

I started this holiday season with two culinary goals: to learn to make sorrel (a holiday drink) and black cake (a dark, moist fruitcake made with wine, raisins, cherries, etc). The sorrel is soaking in my fridge, but I have not yet made the black cake. However, several of my neighbors have, so I hope to reap the benefits of their baking... To make the sorrel, which is a red seasonal flower, you wash them, peel off the petals, and then pour boiling water over the flower and leave it to soak-anywhere from 1-5 days-with cloves, nutmeg, bay leaves and cinnamon, all of which grow locally. Spiked or plain, it's a lovely holiday drink and much healthier than eggnog. And speaking of eggs, I have no hope for making a fruitcake now, or even the oatmeal raisin cookies I had planned, because there is an island-wide shortage of eggs. I'm not kidding. I've been to 6 stores, the vendors in the market and even a small chicken farm--nada. It would be hilarious except that I want to bake! Today Caroline, Heather, Alley (a friend of Jaimie's) and I went to Jaimie's house to make Christmas cookies. Her mom sent a kit containing sugar cookie mix, cutters, frosting and sprinkles, so we busted out the burl ives and nutcracker cds, drank hot cocoa with candy canes and decorated cookies. Many hours and an aerobics class later, I am still a bit ill from all that sugar.

I missed my chance to make fruitcake with my friend Jerry and his mother on Sunday, because he changed his mind. After throwing in lunch and a trip to his friend Bobby's garden he was able to convince me to give up my lazy northern ways and take two busses into the countryside (near Marigot) to his house. I was introduced around to the neighbors and relatives, and then we had what, to me, is still a huge lunch but is actually small compared to the traditional Caribbean sunday lunch: rice, chow mein noodles with vegetables, and stewed pork, with fresh starfruit juice. Then we put on our grubby clothes, trudged through the village wielding cutlasses, and up into the hills through a small banana plantation to bobby's plot of land. There I was schooled in the fine art of pulling up dasheen, a whitish-purple starchy root vegetable with gorgeous huge green/purple leaves, and digging up yams and sweet potatoes with the aforementioned cutlass. Along the way we also drank green coconuts, picked limes, and cut some green bananas (known as green figs), seasoning peppers, and green onions. Muddy and laden with our heavy harvest, we stopped in the village at the rum shop and spent several hours there, sitting on a bench under a tree, drinking beer and talking about everything and nothing. I love the country life here - the girls are plaiting/unplaiting each others' hair, the guys macho posturing about politics or feats of strength or what have you, just passing the time and enjoying the view. After a few hours as we prepared to continue on our way, one of the guys said something to me that revealed him as someone I danced with for part of the first day of Carnival--with a different haircut and a hat I hadn't recognized him. Then, as I walked on the beach yesterday, one of the watersports fellas called to me, "What you were doing by my house last night?" He had seen me (the bandana makes me rather visible) waiting for the bus. Lucian Rule #1 revisited: Someone is ALWAYS watching. It shouldn't surprise me anymore, but sometimes it still does. It will be strange to go back to being another face in the crowd when I return to the States.

Christmas is here, and I don't have to shop much, or cook. What a relief! I did stock up on foods (and am now desperately awaiting 'payday' for our next months' living allowance) to have on hand for holiday cooking and in case anybody stops by, as is the custom. Tonight I roasted some of my Sunday harvest: dasheen, yam, sweet potato, potato, carrots, garlic and onions with olive oil and herbs. (The dasheen was an experiment, a variation on a recipe i learned in Seattle, but it turned out ok), and am making a large vat of soup: a bouillion with green fig, chicken backs (a very popular local dish), lentils, pasta, carrots, celery and other herbs. Now I am all set to celebrate for a few days without cooking. That is, unless I can locate some eggs.... (Jaimie gave me some powdered egg white which may work. Hooray for care packages!)

Along with the cooler weather this time of year (Sunday night I was freezing! People were wearing jackets and sweatshirts, and I went home and made herbal chai to warm up) come waves as well. The sea is quite active these days, compared to its usual lakelike state. Makes swimming more interesting, but the sea is less clear. I spent a lot of time in the last few days at the beach. Last Wednesday night after the gym Caroline, Ali and I went to Pigeon Island park where they had dance troupes, a steel band and a soca band, and lots of dancing. The trees were decked out in lights and it looked beautiful. Plus, I got to see the Silver Shadows dance troupe, the guys I jumped Carnival with. Another group danced with a live snake and then fire! It was nice to see the performances and just to be doing something different. Lest we be too different though, we went to Rumours afterwards, and danced for a bit. Since the yachters are in, the place has been packed! Thursday night we had games at Caroline's and because no one had to work the next day, it was much rowdier than usual. Friday was a gorgeous beach day, and that evening I watched a DVD at Caroline's, and checked out her SIMS game, as she has made characters for the two of us and some of our other friends here. We were too knackered after two late nights to go anywhere. Saturday was nearly the same for me: gym, beach, stayed in. My plans to have drinks with Carlos and Mary evaporated when they decided to see a movie instead, so I took the opportunity to read and relax on my hammock in the glow of Christmas lights. Sunday was my countryside adventure, and that night I got home too late for my cooking date with Alvin (the second time I missed it; my final chance is this Sunday, or he will disown me permanently), and got a surprise visit from Gagamel. Monday the same old story: gym and beach, and after that I caught a performance at the Castries library - the St Lucia Writers Guild members performing poetry, jokes and songs. And free! I had a great time, and really enjoyed the pieces and the people there. Afterwards, I went by the Garage, my friend Michelle's bar where many of the performers present their pieces on Monday nights at the Lyric Cafe she has. A few others came, and we had some drinks and a lot of laughs. The evening ended with us making toasts and resolutions and documenting everything in the Lyric Cafe guestbook. It was a really mellow and fun night. When we reached the busses they were no longer running and there was a man laying in the road in a pool of blood. Really disturbing. We were able to hitch a ride in a pickup truck to my area, and went our separate ways at the bus stop.

Plans for Christmas remain vague. Most likely I will go to midnight mass at the Catholic Church in Anse La Raye with Jaimie and Heather (who lives there) and then do the traditional jouvert in the village, where everyone goes from house to house, visiting, eating and drinking. Christmas day I have no plans, so likely I will make my way home early, open presents and collapse for a few hours and then go to the beach with Caroline, like last year. Saturday is a sailing race at Pigeon Island (more free stuff!) and that night is a Creole COmedy show and a reggae concert I really want to go to (Featuring Gregory Isaacs, Eric Donaldson, Siddy Ranks, Ghost, and others) but cannot afford and have no one to go with :(. Jerry has some mystery plans for me that night which I hope is the concert but is most likely the Labour Party Xmas party. Joy. Sunday is our NYC get-together, and then I plan to spend early next week with Lauren in Laborie. New Years at Carlos and Mary's, watching fireworks on the boat. Nothing else is planned.

I finally sent out a holiday e-card, which feels chintzy. Real cards would be prohibitively expensive and slow though. So y'all can just wait until I am actually getting paid... someday. In the meantime, glad tidings to you, and i hope the season brings you all that you dream of.

16th December, 2003
Comme Ci, Comme Ca

This weekend was busy, but not quite as impromptu and fun as the last one. Thursday night it started off with a holiday party at the Alliance Frances in Castries. There was food and drink and about 30 people dancing to DJ music. It felt very much like a high school dance, except with wine. It was sweltering hot in there, but we had a good time--some of our game night crew was there. Of course, smartass that I am, I had to ask Geoff at one point. "Why are they playing all this French music?" Friday I took a mental health beach day (for lack of work to do at NYC) and that night I met with Earl in town and we limed on the block with some of the Sandals crew before heading to their house in Babonneau to pick up Doreen. We dropped her at her work Christmas party and went to get food. Nothing good in Rodney Bay so we headed to town, where the Festival of Lights on the square was just finishing up, so it was a mob scene. We left there, went back to Rodney Bay and got some cold-ish fish and chips from a truck and ate by the water. We were both exhausted, so we drove the car by the hotel where she works and fell asleep in the car on the side of the road. It was hilarious to me because I was sleeping on the side of the road in the area where I am usually going out at that time. Some local guys walking by peeked in and saw me, and I heard them: "Check it, check it, look de white girl dere sleeping." Must have been quite an odd sight.

So I slept in the car back to Babonneau, but when we reached their house, the usual anxieties of sleeping in a new place kicked in--different bed, different sounds, worry that my cellphone alarm wouldn't go off/wouldn't wake me. I didn't sleep well, and woke at 4:15 am. Dressed and headed out in the dark, past banana trees and sleeping farm animals, to the community centre. I had been told there would be a meeting before the walk, which was supposed to commence at 5:30. Though things rarely start on time here, when Fortuna (an organizer) is involved, they do. So I arrived at 4:45, and sat alone there, cold and exhausted, by myself in the dark on the side of the main intersection, until some other walkers began to arrive more than 40 minutes later.... And the meeting never happened. That was not fun, because van-loads of drunk people were coming home from the jouvert party in town. The walk began slightly late, and immediately after we began walking, it rained, making the roads really slippery. As the sun rose, though, it was beautiful. The route travelled a ridge through small villages with fantastic views of the Caribbean and sometimes Castries and its surrounding areas, all the way to a nearby mountain, Piton Flore. Once we reached there, we took the trail around and then up to the summit, which has sweeping views of the region. We got all mixed up on the different trails, and some people got lost, so we had to search them out and wait. Eventually all of the walkers met up after the summit and had some juice, but on the way back, I joined some girls at the front, and we cheated a bit by jumping a ride in the back of a truck partway. During the walk, I got a call from a friend that he was able to get me a free ticket to the Wet Fete later that day, but no ride. I made some follow up calls and found out, though, that none of my friends were going, so I had no ride or anyone to hang out with... I met up with him after finishing the walk and got the ticket, got a ride home and got dressed and ready. I found a friend who said he was going and could get me a ride. After a few hours of missing him in various locations and waiting, I gave up. It was 3 pm and the ticket said it started at noon. I took the bus to Gros Islet and walked, with a herd of people from the bus, to Pigeon Point (about a 10 minute walk through the village and along the beach). It was just getting started (late as usual), and not long after arriving, I found people that I knew. Throughout the day, I found about 30 people that I knew, actually. The Wet part was really over-emphasized. It was really just a basic festival concert--stage at front, food/drink booths in the back, not enough toilets, and a powerful hose off to the side spraying people. I stayed on the dry side. The music was good, but I would have had more fun with someone to dance with throughout. I hung with various people here and there, and danced with the friend who got me the ticket at the beginning, but then he went off with his friends. I danced mostly by myself or with various random people occasionally. It wasn't until the end that I found some really fun guys, friends of Wijay, a doctor that lives in V Fort (who i hung out with at cricket as well). Not long after I began dancing with them, there was a tap on my shoulder and it was Gagamel, a close friend that I haven't seen for months. So I spent the end of the show dancing and catching up with him. Afterwards, Wijay and Ravi (an Indian Dr) headed to my house to shower so that we could all go to a party at the Cuban ambassador's house (the other guys, Lucians, had studied in Cuba). But once we reached my place after all the traffic and they had gotten ready, I realized I was too exhausted to go out. So they went, and I went to bed. I heard it was a great party and ended at 4am. Anyway, pictures from the concert are online now, and I am in Gallery 2 and Gallery 11, standing with a Canadian volunteer, Meg. If you care to play 'where's Deb,' I was wearing a black bandana, black shorts, and a greenish top. And I look like hell in both pictures. Hmmph.

Sunday morning I cleaned up my apartment a bit, and even made a wreath! Mom had sent some holiday garland, which I wrapped around a bent-up coat hanger (makeshift antenna from broken tv) and it looks great! I was quite proud of my Martha-esque craftiness. Then met up with Caroline and Doris at the marina at a cafe for some coffee and catching up. Only after I arrived I realized I was supposed to have met Andil for breakfast at his hotel. He met up with us later at the beach, where I had to turn down the chance to go sailing so I could leave and go to the cocktail party. Got ready, got Jude, who was late as usual. We rushed there, only to wait for more than an hour for it to start. And even then, NONE of the invited dignitaries showed up, so some of the speeches were skipped, and a high-ranking govt. employee and I (both attending in our private capacity) were asked to present the graduation certificates, in lieu of the Governor General. It was quite funny to me that there were so few people of 'rank' present that a lowly PCV was hierarchically appropriate to present. At least I didn't have to speak. As I was presenting, Jude took pictures for me. The food wasn't even that great. The whole thing was sort of disappointing, but for the sake of Craig (the guy who organized it) I was glad i was there to help. Afterwards, Jude told me he'd come over and bring me some dinner from his house, but never did. I caught up with my mom online and then left to meet Andil in Rodney Bay at a 'tree trimming and caroling' event (the caroling was fairly standard, though I missed the steelpan music, but the tree was just a large almond tree with some big colored lights. Still, it was nice and sort of festive. After that we went and got some food. And I ran into Jude and yelled at him for giving me a stone. I got stood up by several guys this weekend. Thankfully not for the ticket this time though.

Said goodbye to two more friends yesterday. Alex came back briefly, and left for Antigua, then NYC, then Italy yesterday. Andil will leave Wed, but I won't see him today. Next up will be Jacinta, who is planning her yearly migration back to the US in January again. She wants to get her citizenship, since all 3 of her kids were born in the US.

This week should be pretty slow, work-wise, but busy socially as the holiday season kicks into gear. Wednesday night is a traditional St Lucian holiday customs night at Pigeon Island. There are extra events that didn't happen last year because of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers--an annual yacht race from the Canary Islands to St Lucia), which they are organizing much better this year. The high tourist season has kicked into full gear, and the beaches are packed these days. Thursday night we are having games night at Caroline's house. Not sure whats up for the weekend, but I can't believe how quickly Christmas is approaching.

'Tis the time of year for me to be relaxing at the beach, and already my tan is getting quite savage, for me anyway. Now all I need are some good Christmas and New Years plans to go with that tan.

8th December, 2003
Weekend Warrior, part 2

Well, this was supposed to be a quiet weekend where I rested up and got better. That didn't quite happen. I did have a good time, though.

Friday evening I went to the gym, and was supposed to meet Andil (visiting consultant friend) for dinner. After class, I found out from Clem (a friend from the gym who works for Digicel) that the guys had organised a '12 pubs of Christmas' pub crawl that night. The fourth bar, where they were meeting right when our class finished, was around the corner, and I've never been there. Tempting. (despite being on antibiotics and planning not to drink, I didn't know if I'd get the chance to go there again) Just as I'd agreed to go and phone Andil to tell him I'd be a half hour late, he called to cancel our dinner plans, as he was tired. So I went to Tilly's with some digicel folks, but when they headed to Key Largo (downstairs our gym) for the next round,Clem wanted to go home and shower, so I headed to his place with him, so as to avoid the peer pressure to drink more. I watched tv while he bathed, and then he made me dinner. A surprise bonus. When we joined the group again, it was in time for bar #10, where he got into a game of pool. I stayed and watched, thus missing bar #11, and we all met up again at the 1/2 price bar, #12. Those who had made it all the way through were pretty well mashed up, and left soon after, but some of us went back to Rumours, and stayed until after 2. (one of the guys who had done all 12 decided after leaving to go for a swim, and got his clothes, phone, wallet and keys stolen. whoops!) Most of the guys in the group I had met before, but it was fun getting to know them better. The next day, I was awakened early to a call from someone who wanted to come pick up the 2 boy kittens. After she left, I bonded wiht the remaining kitten and chatted with mom online while doing laundry. Then I headed to the beach where I met with Andil, Angela (another pcv) and Takashi, a jocv. And Ian, one of the old-timer Digicel guys that I've known for nearly a year. He was heading out to join Rainer (one of the guys I met and chatted with the night before who has a 21 ft ski boat) on the boat to waterski, and said he'd give me a ring in a while so I could come for a ride on the boat. He did, and Angela came along too. Of course, we got peer pressured to ski--she had never done it, and I hadn't for about 15 years. We both got up on the first try! (later, she knee-boarded, which she had done before) It was great fun, but really exhausting. We were out there until the sun was set and the moon was rising, nearly full. We met for a beer afterwards, and then I went from the beach to meet Andil at his hotel. After I got ready, we went to a small gallery in Rodney Bay where a local artist was having a show, and from there we had some dinner at Rumours. Once it got crowded we went across the street to get ice cream. I was home by midnight, but only to find a half-eaten rat carcass in my apartment upon my return. What a lovely time to mop the floor.

These adventures were all possible due to the pervading local work ethic: "just now." (Just now is like manana in Latin American cultures - sometime between momentarily and never) This can also be identified as part of the phenomena of "Lucian Time," where nothing ever happens on time. I was supposed to have spent Saturday morning helping to tear down a house, but on Friday I got a call that the electric company had failed to disconnect a high-tension wire at the demolition house. So we are now delayed until the new year. I had really been looking forward to it, but waterskiing was certainly an exciting substitute.

Sunday, I woke up early to meet at the dock at 9am for my frist sailing lesson. Charles, from my body pump class at the gym, and Clem, and another guy, Chris, and I were sailing in a mini-race against 2 other boats. Geoff was on one of the other boats. I didn't get to do much on the boat, but I watched and learned quite a bit. I also got quite a sunburn. Our boat was without a spinnaker from an incident the week before, and had 2 of 4 crew members with little to no experience so we came last the first two races, but won the last one! It was really exciting, and I hope to do it again someday soon. Afterwards, we had lunch in the yacht club, and I went out to the beach to rest and hopefully await another chance on the boat to ski. My turn never came, but I was pretty tired. On the way home, I stopped to check Jacinta for a bit at her house. Chatted with mom and Caroline until late online, and still didn't get enough sleep.

Today I paid the price. Couldn't sleep late, of course, due to the fabulously restful sound of rush hour traffic that really pics up between 7:30-8 am just outside my window. Felt pretty good and had little to do at work, so I went to the gym and did body pump and then ran and did some extra abs afterwards. Came home and ate lunch, interviewed someone to begin to formulate more ideas for my case studies. (New Years Resolution #1, must work on Case Studies and not put off until the very end of my time here.) Finally made it to work to discover that 1) there really wasn't anything for me to do, 2)I really felt exhausted and had a pounding headache, and 3)time had begun to move backwards, it was going so slow. (The 2 productive things that happened were that I unloaded a bag of magazines that had been piling up here--newsweeks and people that visitors had brought--and that the new Interim National Student Council executive had a meeting in our office to plan visits to all of the secondary schools. They are so far working out very well, and are motivated and great kids. Proud as I feel that they are working out well and my efforts helped to make this happen, it also means that my project is working me out of a job.) I had to stay in town despite all of this because I had a night meeting tonight in Babonneau for our Sport For All committee. Our fun walk is scheduled for Saturday morning, which is National Day here. Before going to the meeting, I was rescued from my office misery by Jaimie ,(pcv) who was with Ashley, a Canadian volunteer from Grenada visiting for the weekend. We had a soft drink and watched the sunset by the market. Our meeting thankfully was very short, but then we drove about the community trying to mobilise a few more people and follow up on our banner. One of the committee members' uncle just died, so we stopped by the house of her aunt, where the whole family was gathered. We stayed to watch the clip about it on the local news (he sprained his ankle and fell on the road, and knocked his head so bad he died) and then left. I'm sure all of those people are still talking about who the white girl was and why she was there, but they were very nice.

So that's that. I'm sore from skiing, sailing and lifting, exhausted, and my voice is gone again--it was nearly back on Friday, but my weekend took care of that. Headache is back, throat still sore. Back to laying low this week. Friday night I will be staying in Babonneau so that I am there for the walk in the morning, 6 miles from Babonneau to Piton Flore, with an optional leg up the 150 steps to the summit. Later that day, there is a big concert, Wet Fete, at the beach that I hope to go to. Sunday, a colleague from NEMO's private company is having a graduation ceremony for recent EMT graduates at the Sandals Halcyon, nearest to where I live (I've never been to that one) and I will be there in cocktail party gear, taking video and pictures. Not sure who I wil bring. And Alex is coming back... Another busy weekend.

4th December, 2003
December, already

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it went well. Both the PCV one, which had as a bonus a costume contest (for those of us who miss celebrating halloween)-featuring pilgrims, indians and the traditional thanksgiving ninjas- and the one at my house. I'm no Martha Stewart (i'd be a lot richer if I was), but I made my first turkey and it came out well! There were about 25 people here in total, and it was a nice, relaxing afternoon. Sunday, I was scheduled to be at a christening party and a birthday party, and later, a concert. I made it to the christening party, and was late to the concert. I got there in time to see Rupee, though, and he was great. I knew and liked all of the songs. It's nice to hear positive soca music, when most of it is crude, homophobic and all about sex and sexism. His parents both died of AIDS, so he's really open about it, unlike most Caribbean people. Most of the volunteers were there, and afterwards we all got autographs and hugs. Lauren stayed over at my house, and we had leftover mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. (there really wasn't any turkey leftover, to my dismay.) The only other excitment of the weekend was that Arturo failed to show up for my party Saturday, and later on, for his own final drinkup. About 20 of us were gathered in a cafe, waiting for 3 hours, but he never came. Classic--the man was out drinking Friday night until Sat afternoon on his final 'drinking spree' and then slept through his own party.

Also, this was Alex's last weekend. I was in such a deep state of denial about it, I didn't really acknowledge it. Despite near-constant stress and upheaval because of drama with her boyfriend, she has been my greatest support and one of my closest friends. She's in Guyana right now for 2 weeks with Lawrence, and then will be back for 1 day before going back to Italy, via Antigua. I will really miss her. I hope to go to Italy and visit, if she doesn't make it back here on a new contract in Spring. Fingers crossed.

The kitties are growing up so big, and more troublesome than ever. Only 1 is litter trained thus far. And surprise, someone checking them out at my party informed me that the all-white one is, in fact, a boy. Hopefully they will go to their respective new homes by this weekend. They are adorable, but really messy and too much cat for one person in a small apartment. Plus, while she is feeding them, Chabin is really greedy, demading and annoying. She begs, whines, gets on the counter, and steals my food when i turn my back. Even though she has a whole bowl of her own food. I hope this behaviour changes when they're gone.

I have a new project now. Peace Corps day is coming up in March, so we've all been discussing projects we could do, and researching what's out there. I found out about a group here called Friends of the Needy and Destitute that build houses for really impoverished people. They're building one soon in Jacmel, the banana belt just outside of Castries. To get the materials, they've gotten an old house in Castries donated, and it needs to be torn down. So I've linked up with them and recruited a few other pcvs and jocvs (japanese vols) to help (couldn't get any lucians, though i tried) and we will be doing demolition on Saturday morning. I'm pretty excited, having never done this before. I believe that next weekend we will build. My church youth group used to occasionally work for Habitat, but I never did much except clean up lots and paint. This is a whole new level. It will be nice to do a short-term project with some tangible results. The final winner for our PC Day project is a playground for a school for special needs children in Soufriere. The organizing could get a bit messy, though, because there is funding for clearing and fencing the lot and building a sidewalk. Apparently those who did that part are now no longer around, and there was some headway made with getting equipment, but no one seems to know who or what. Tom is the central organizer, but Lauren and I are going to look into other sources to see if we can get equipment donated. We are all willing to be the labour that puts it together. There is also another mural project on the table, at a school in Dennery, that we will do as our backup project or just a later service project if we can get the paint donated. These shorter-term projects are really rewarding, especially for those of us who don't get to see many tangible results from our work.

My christmas lights are up (and i have a bruised thumb to show for it), I have all of last year's cards with snowmen displayed on the wall, as well as a stocking and a cheezy decoration I picked up at home: a snowman with a sign that says 'let it snow.' That's probably as decked for hte holidays as I'll get though i would love a little tree. I've hosted my party for the season; i'm hoping that I will get some invitations to go to other peoples' homes this year. More than last year, as that is a big part of the season here. So far, nothing planned for either Christmas or New Years.

I finally made it to the Dr office, after several cancellations, and it was confirmed that I have a sinus infection. So now I'm all drugged up, but I still have headaches and a sore throat, and I'm tired to boot. Hoping this will all clear up in the next few days but in the meantime, I've been laying low. Tearing through a few more books. Hope everyone is well and keeping warm and healthy for the holidays.

26th November, 2003
Snowflake and the Sea

Lots to update. Karen arrived without incident on the 13th, and we had a good time. Friday she went to the beach, while I sorted out last minute work things. Saturday we had planned to go to Sandals and play on watersports, but it poured rain all day. Instead we spent the day indoors at my house, chatting and reminiscing about old childhood jokes, and then Caroline and her friend Chad came by (also visiting for the same period of time) and we played a college drinking game called Kings for the afternoon. That night we went to a bar in the Marina called Bosuns, met Geoff and had some food, and watched a local Jazz/Blues artist play (Carl Gustave) for a while. Sunday we tried to link up with my friends Maggie and Lyle to go on their boat, but were unsuccessful so we joined Ali, Domi and Benti on a Catamaran ride to Soufriere for the day (a fundraiser for the school where Ali teaches, St Mary's College). It was nice to be on the water, and a beautiful day, but the crowd and scene on the boat was very quiet and not much fun. Lots of kids, low music, no dancing. We didnt stop long in Soufriere, but then when we pulled up to Anse Cochon to swim on the way back, Maggie and Lyle were there in their boat! We decided after talking with them to jump ship. Fiona, a girl from Seattle who has been here for several months working on an AIDS documentary, and her cousin, Chris, were there too. We made the right decision, because it is always a party on their boat. We stopped at Marigot Bay for some drinks at JJ's Paradise, and the karaoke-style singer there sang a very spirited happy birthday to Caroline. After many drinks, we headed back to Castries. Monday, Karen went to Castries with me early in the morning and I gave her a brief tour and tried to do some final arranging for the Congress. She took a bus to the rainforest and hiked the Barre de L'Isle trail (the death march that Caro and I did with her mom and brother)--luckily, she knew from our experience that it is NOT a loop trail.

Meanwhile, I had a very stressful day. Silas was late picking us up, and we arrived at the venue 15 minutes later than the scheduled start time (9 am), which is not unusual here, but was enough to have my American self in a tizzy. Only a few school delegations had arrived (and the guys had set up the place with speakers, chairs, plants, etc the day before), so we registered people, gave out programmes, and waited. Finally, we had 8 schools, but still no microphones. My voice has been in and out since early summer, and that day was no exception. Finally, with the PS, 2 newspaper reporters and students/teachers from 8 schools present, we started the Congress nearly 2 hours late with no microphones, and me at the Podium. I had to emcee with no voice, no mic, and a bad case of nerves (due to stress, annoyance at my voicelessness, and unease with Lucian formalities and microphones in general). I survived, but I dont think I'd want to watch a tape of it. We got through the formalities of the opening ceremony, and proceeded to the afternoon's plenary sessions. The caterer came on time, the microphones eventually arrived, and the participants were all interested and involved. Another school came, leaving us with 50%, but not the 60% quorum we needed for an official election. Not the turnout we had been promised from the schools when visiting, but not terrible, considering that no Congress had been held for 4 years. We were left with a tough decision, which we discussed and then put to a vote by the students: put the election off until we could get a quorum, elect an interim National Students Branch executive, or disregard NYC Constitutional advice due to the fact that, as an election after 4 yrs of stagnation, it was an exception. The students chose my personal choice: to elect an interim council. Though it means that the interim council, Bennet and myself will have to spend the next 2 months doing the exact same thing we've been doing (visiting schools, encouraging elections where they haven't yet happened, and providing advice/training for councils), and planning ANOTHER congress for January. But at least that part is over, and we had some results, if not the ideal.

Tuesday, I took a break to spend time with Karen and relax, and the 4 of us (caro and chad) rented a jeep from a friend of a friend and went to Anse Chastanet in Soufriere to snorkel. That was fun, but it got cloudy and rainy in the early afternoon, so we went and bathed in some warm springs that we had been to in training (where the photo with the bridge on my homepage was taken), and drove back north. After bathing, we headed back out to Jamie's apartment in Bocage, the Babonneau area. She had a last-day get together for her mother, and we stayed a few hours. About 10:30 we went to leave and discovered that two of the tires on the jeep had been slashed. It was a very stressful night, but in the end some people helped us change both of the tires and a friend of jamie's was kind enough to lend us the spare from his jeep. Now there's just the nagging factor of settling the payment for replacing the tires. A lot of stress for one little day-long adventure (and the irony is that we rented a car because it was cheaper than a taxi!) I'm already pretty low on funds, and this is going to send me into rice and beans and cornflakes poverty for a while.

Wednesday I had already planned to be at a Children's Rally for which I was on the organizing committee. Then I got the call that the Emergency Simulation was on at the airport. So I spent the entire day running around the airport taking pictures and then in the followup postmortem meeting. It was fun and a great learning experience for me, but really a comedy of errors in how it unfolded. Not a complete disaster, but by no means a confidence-builder in how a real plane crash would be handled. There is a lot to be improved upon. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous when I flew to Antigua on Friday, given what I had learned... That night, we played games with most of the usual suspects: Domi, Ali, Benti, Fonti, Jerry, Jo, Chad, Caro, karen and me at Caroline's house. Karen and Chad left early Thursday morning, on the same flight to Puerto Rico. I had an all-day conference on sustainable development to attend that day (the first of two, which i split with Bennet), and it was interesting. Good food, plus I ran into Matt, a volunteer from St. Vincent, who was there attending a difference conference. I showed him around the area a bit, and so he joined Caroline and I at the gym that night, and then we met up with him at the hotel later for the rum punch party and some relaxing in the jacuzzis. That was a welcome break after such a busy week of work and hosting a guest (which is fun, but very tiring).

Friday I left for Antigua. I carried some things to Alex's boyfriend's boss for him, so for that I scored a ride from them to the airport, and from the airport in Antigua to Denise's apartment. Originally, I had planned to stay with Jake, but he was scheduled to be in the US until Sunday night after his trip was delayed. Denise got stuck with both me and RJ (from Dominica) because of that, in her tiny 1-BR apt. We had a great time though. Friday Denise and I went to Darkwood beach, and had some chinse food in the city, then took a nap. After RJ arrived, we went to a beachfront bar called The Beach. Saturday we lounged about, made a big breakfast, and then RJ went to the beach nearby (which he loves and visits often because Dominica has little in the way of beaches) while Denise and I headed off to meet Karen, another PCV in our group, for a Hash Run. (I've always wanted to do one, and meant to in Delaware and then Seattle, but never quite got around to it. After hearing that a friend in Mali found one there, I did some research online and found an address for a guy in St. Lucia, but when I wrote a letter to him, it was returned. So I don't think the one here is around anymore.) Antigua has a US Air Force base, and we were picked up by the Major and his wife, both very nice people. We got lost trying to find the place for the hash--Bendals--so I was treated to a very scenic tour of the central countryside. We were the last to arrive, so we set off as a group. In a way it was good because I got to learn everything about navigating the route (select intersections have a marking that means change of direction, so the group must split up and explore all roads to find the markings that indicate the right direction), and got some good exercise. In the end, the sun was setting as the trail headed into a wooded area, so we cut off the final bit, and headed back to the start where everyone was assembled and waiting for us. Both arriving late and cutting off the finish are punishable offenses, but we got off scott-free. The only one who suffered was me--as part of the goofy mock-ceremony, all newbies, "virgins," had to come forward and chug a beer, the remainder of which was poured on our heads after a brief period. (A down-down) Then everyone had drinks, chatted and some people barbecued. It was a really fun and different experience. I networked with a few people to try and find out the status of the St Lucia hash but couldn't find anything conclusive. That night, after we made a lovely taco dinner, we went out to an 'irish' bar in St. Johns called O'Gradys for a few drinks. I was so exhausted that I went home afterwards, which was a shame because it was RJ's last night and it would have been fun to go to a disco. Instead, they dropped me off to sleep and went to a beach bar, Lashings, and stayed out till 5. Sunday RJ left, and Denise and I went to the beach at Lashings, hwere we ran into a friend of hers. He agreed to take us out that night to Shirley Heights. Later, as we were getting ready, the power went out. It seemed orchestrated, rather than accidental, as cars swooped in, radios blaring a speech by some politician. It was sort of spooky. Politics in Antigua are far from democratic--it is sort of a dynasty, and there is a lot of corruption. Elections are approaching, and I'm glad I won't be there when they happen. Anyway, we blew out the candles and went out--her friend Tim didn't even join us but merely drove us there, which was incredibly sweet. Shirley Heights is this old English Fortress or something, set on a hill overlooking English Harbour. Really beautiful, and there was a big crowd, eating, drinking and listening to the band. The scene was sort of like a St Lucian street party or fish fry, and the band played the usual reggae and soca covers (getting livlier as the night went on), but I was impressed that I didn't get hassled at all. There were a lot of tourists, and a lot of the usual hustler pseudo-rastas (even some rent-a-dread sightings), but none hissed, grabbed us, or tried to dance with us. Very refreshing. In fact, i got hassled MUCH less in Antigua than in St. Lucia. (The same happened in Barbados, both places where they get more tourists than SLU.) We had many rum punches, and ran into some people that Denise knew, guys who work for a helicopter touring company and some of their friends--a canadian guy into offshore gambling, a scottish guy in the oil industry in Trinidad--and spent most of the time with them. It's an early lime there-from about 7-10, so afterwards, Tim (helicopter engineer, canadian) and Stuart (scottish) drove us back and we all went for drinks and pizza at Lashings, which is open 24 hours. They had karaoke that night. We were still home by 2 but it felt like a very long night. Monday, we made chocolate chip scones (yum!) and then Denise was overwhelmed with mosquito bites and itching--likely from the previous night. She took allergy meds and conked out, while I went to the beach at Lashings again. I had hoped to go to Harmony Hall area, on the other side of the island, to do some snorkeling, with Jake, but we got a call that he had missed his flight in the states. By that time it was late and I couldn't reach Stuart, who had expressed interest in that. So I had a quiet last few hours at the beach, watching the pack of horses that descended upon the resort, begging, it seemed, from the tourists (I had never witnessed that before! nor had the vendors i chatted with),and rolling and playing in the sand. I picked up a few gifts/souvenirs in St Johns and caught a cab to the airport. Since I had such a good time and hadn't gotten to see Jake, I was hoping that the airport would close again, or that something would happen to keep me there (they were having lobster and turkey for thanksgiving at the base, and i was invited...). Alas, once we were airborne, there was some smoke from Montserrat, but not enough for us to go back. In SLU, Alex phoned to say she couldn't pick me up, but I ran into Ali there, as he had just dropped his cousin off. My ride luck continued.

Now that I'm back, with no visits or trips for the next few months, you'd think things would settle down. Nope. Tomorrow is thanksgiving, and the PCVs here in St. Lucia, along with two members of administration, are meeting in Choiseul at Alex's house for a meeting and then a big dinner. Sarah and Alex have been cooking for days to host all twenty-something of us. Unfortunately we can't bring guests, so I'm hosting a mini-thanksgiving get-together on Saturday afternoon at my house. I've begun inviting peoplee, though, and it's not going to be so mini. I don't think I'll have enough plates, cutlery or chairs, but somehow we'll make do. It will be my first real party, and very fun to just hang out with my friends of all sorts (locals and ex-pats), eating and drinking, and sharing my favorite holiday. This is also the last weekend for 4 people that I know. Thursday night is the drinkup for Stuart, an Erickson employee bound for Portugal. Saturday is a drinkup/bbq for Carmel and Fran, two digicel/erickson employees going back home to ireland. And this is Arturo's last weekend--he claims he's going on a drinking spree all weekend, which I have promised to participate in, possibly in observer status, depending on the results of my dr. appt friday. (I've finally decided that my terrible allergies and hit-or-miss voice, plus headaches are due to a sinus infection, and my appt with the ENT specialist is then. Enough of all this wondering and suffering! I hope I'm right and that a simple dose of anti-biotics will fix me up right.) So Thursday with Stuart and co, Friday with Arturo, Sat with everyone at my house, and then at night with Carmel and Fran and then possibly to a free reggae show outside of Castries if I can swing a ride. Sunday I have 3 sets of plans, 2 at the same time: from 2-6 my co-worker Bennet's daughter's christening, from 1-6 my friend Jacinta's son's birthday party (Isaah, age 3, quite possibly the cutest child that has ever existed), and from 5-onward, a concert for World AIDS Day (Dec 1) in Pigeon Island, featuring a popular Soca artist Rupee. (tempted to touch is his most recent popular song for anyone into downloads or research). And then it's December!

We have a holiday on Dec. 13, National Day, and there are all kinds of things going on. My Babonneau committee has planned a fitness walk from 4:30-6:30 am that I will be at, if God spare (I don't usually talk like that, but it is a very Lucian thing to say). That night is also the first jouvert of the holiday season. Christmas in the Caribbean has already begin a few weeks ago, with some decorations up, and occasional Christmas socas on the radio. It will start to ramp up next week, I imagine.

Despite, or perhaps because of, all the recent excitement, yesterday I was in a very foul mood. It's been very hot in the day, but cooler at night lately. I had a terrible sinus headache and wanted only to find a doctor and sort it out, get better. I spent the morning attempting that. First I called the PC office to get our nurse, and was sent to her voicemail. After leaving a message and waiting for her return call, I realized that she is on leave. I called back and the receptionist confirmed this (though she knew i was a volunteer when i called and didn't tell me), and she said the replacement nurse was out. I asked for the admin and they told me she was out for the day. (she has the list of doctors I can call for appts. We can only go to certain 'approved' drs.) Frustrated, I remembered I had an email about Freda's replacement, so logged on and got her cell number. I called her, and after a few minutes, got the name of a dr to call.(Mind you, cell calls are $.95/min, and this was at my expense) they told me I couldnt get an appt. till January. I decided to go to the PC office and see what I could sort out myself. I got on the bus to go there, head throbbing and already drenched in sweat, and when I called out to the driver to stop at the waterfront, he nearly passed where I asked him to stop. I repeated, and he complied. With that, a few of the obnoxious ladies on the bus began reprimanding me, saying that the bus doesn't stop at the waterfront, and can't I read the sign (which says the bus will no longer stop in front of the supermarket, 500 metres away at the traffic light, a policy that changed about 2 months ago and has never affected the stop by the govt. buildings most convenient to the stairs we use to reach the PC office from downtown). "Eh eh, but you can't read the sign, ah? The driver not stopping by the waterfront." Etc. I got vexed (vex) and said in my best Lucian, "Eh eh, but I not stopping by Julians, ah? That sign saying the driver not stopping by Julians. I stopping here." and with that I got out, slammed the door and paid the driver. Heh. Take that. Often I can shrug off those sorts of affronts (which are not uncommon when people constantly assume you to be foreign, rich, and dumb. And particularly from women who are notoriously bitchy and jealous), but this was not the day for that. I headed up the stairs, ignoring the omnipresent hisses of the construction workers and up the hill to the PC office. First I encountered two maintenence women who greeted me 'good afternoon,' but moments later, my smile was removed when the man weed-whacking the lawn hissed, blew kisses at me and yelled, 'hey snowflake!' That just set me off. Snowflake is one of the terms people here use for white people: jeun blanc, moun blanc, snowflake, or mike for men, nancy, lisa, jenny and other assorted names for girls. often people call out 'femme blanc' to me in Castries, which I detest and ignore, because i find it repugnant to be called to as "white girl" and have people expect that I will not only respond but be flattered by this attention. I don't think the response would be so positive if I responded in patois, "black man." I've been *so very* tempted to try it...

Anyway, that was yesterday. Today, due to a scheduling fluke that I am taking advantage of, I am home, cleaning, cooking, organizing and playing host to my 13 yr old neighbor Samuel, who has finished exams and is home for the afternoon. We're playing music and throwing a soccer ball at each other. I have to finish this so he stops teasing me about writing a love letter (I won't let him read it) and so he can play a game online. Then Alex and I are going to the beach. Samuel's mom won't let him come with us. Snowflake needs to go work on her tan.

11th November, 2003
The Ministry of Frustration

It's been raining for 3 straight days, and my allergies are out of control. I stayed home today with a sinus headache and asthma problems. No Fun. However, my office has been pretty much out of commission for 2 weeks-the phone is out, so we have no phone, fax or internet access, and the printer is out of ink. So actually, I could get more work done from home today with a phone and internet access. And I really can't get much work done right now anyway, because my whole project is completely stalled. The ministry hadn't approved our budget, and we hit a point where we couldn't do anymore without money--no more school visits (taxi driver wouldnt work without money), no confirming our venue (for which we need a deposit) or arranging anything of the other details (like a banner, which needs a deposit) or even sending out the invitations, which requires knowing that we have a venue for sure and can reimburse the students' transportation and feed them--all the things in the budget, basically. And with no phone, printer or internet access, I've been using all my cell phone minutes and wearing out my welcome at the presidents office, back and forth 3-5 times a day dropping off or picking up diskettes, checking to make sure he's called the Ministry, reminding him, yet again, to call the phone company and get our phone hooked back up. So that we can actually work. Frustrating! So today we got confirmation that the budget is approved, but the money won't come through till Friday. So now we still have to manage to arrange all these last minute details with no money in hand at the last minute with a vague promise that we'll actually get it in time. And still with no phone, fax, or email. Fantastic. Tomorrow was supposed to be this giant disaster simulation at the airport, and I was supposed to be the photographer for NEMO, and rove about the scene in a neon orange vest taking pictures. I was so excited, but they've postponed it now. Probably for the best, given what my week has been like, and the weather. Also, tomorrow our new APCD and new Safety & Security officer come to check my house and bring some supplies that were at Caroline's. Since my place is more convenient at odd hours as it's on the highway and the major bus route, I have now been designated as a "safe house" in our emergency evacuation plan. We're supposed to be having a drill soon, and most likely at an off hour, I'm guessing evening. We may end up going all the way to the airport again, where we're met by armed police. After the visit tomorrow I go to NEMO where it's just another data entry day, I suppose, and without Arturo, too (who is on vacation in Barbados). Afterwards i will probably have to go to NYC, or to Silas's office at least and follow up on more things. I'm more managing my co-workers, as i'm largely powerless at this stage, than managing the project. Thursday will be a busy day trying to do a thousand last minute things, and Karen arrives in the afternoon. Friday and Monday she will have to entertain herself while I work. Fun. I hope the sun comes back out, at least.

I know that probably no one finds the kittens as interesting as me, but if your tv was broken, you were virtually trapped in your house after dark and you had 3 kittens to watch, you'd go on and on about it too... They've just begun to figure out how to escape from their box. All eyes are open, and they're constantly attacking each other, or sleeping in a big pile. The best part is when they peek out over the side of the box and Chabin crouches there and swats at them. It's like that old arcade game 'whack-a-mole' and it never fails to amuse. They are constant entertainment. Mom brought a new digital camera, courtesy of Cindy (sister), Aunt Carol and Grandma for Xmas, so I've been taking loads of pictures. The problem is that this computer is too old and slow to load the software, so I will have to do it elsewhere. Maybe NEMO tomorrow? Then I can start updating my photos page more. It hasnt been updated in more than 6 months. Photos are loaded there, but Jamie has had other things to do and hasn't done what he has to do to put them up. So I'll be probably using my yahoo photos, or Ofoto. I'll letcha know. Unfortunately, I didnt open the package before our trip to Martinique so I'll have no photos from there to post. It was a nice trip though, and a good break from here.

I'm also very much looking forward to my trip to Antigua next Friday, except that now Jake will only be there for my last day. Last Friday the airport in Antigua closed, and reopened Sunday. Government workers apparently havent been paid for months so they got fed up and closed it. Jake and RJ, both en route to the US, got stuck first there, then in Puerto Rico, so Jake is extending his trip to the US by a few days, and thereby mostly missing me. I'm sure I'll have just as much fun with Denise and Sarah and the other volunteers there, but it's a bummer. Luckily he is coming back here for a few days right before Xmas. Not to see me though, I know it's only for the water trampoline and the Spanish subtitles on hbo...

I finally got the letters from the kids at Conestoga Middle School in Lancaster, PA, and they are so cute. I just wrote back yesterday and I need to put it in the mail. I can't wait to get their next letters. It's really fun. i showed the letters to a bunch of the guys in the office. They got a kick out of what 13 year olds think would and would not be in another country. It's pretty interesting, and a refreshing perspective. I'm starting to feel like a bit of an old-timer here, so it's nice to have to rethink what it's like to be an outsider.

So life is a bit crazy at present. Had a good weekend. Went to the fish fry at Anse La Raye with some Irish folks from Digicel, and ran into several other pCVs and other friends there. Drank way too much, ended up dancing in the little club there with Xavier, a local DJ. We had fun, and I had no idea until the next day (when I woke up with a headache) that I'd drank too much.. Apparently we all did. The next day I met an irish volunteer, Stephanie, for a coffee and we went to the beach, met Alex and an English girl there. Someone tried to steal the car that Alex is borrowing right now, and there was this big fight. A crazy scene that ended up with two rastas nearly fighting each other and us fleeing the scene, tires skidding and kicking out sand as we drove off, Charlies Angels style. Serious drama for a slow afternoon at the beach. The guy was really drunk, and not making any sense but he had a key that worked to the car and kept claiming it was his. Around here you never know. That night, barely recovered from the previous one, I went to the house of a recently befriended Venezuelan couple for some drinks. None of the other people invited came, so it was the 3 of us and 3 cases of beer. After much indecision we decided to take the dinghey out (they live at an anchorage, and run a yacht charter company, i think) and go to a bar for some drinks and food. It took forever-we got to the ATM across the bay and it was broken so we had to go back to the house for checks, then back out across the bay--but we got to watch the lunar eclipse, and i saw tons of flying fish leaping when we shone the flashlight on the water. finally we arrived at pigeon island, my first time there at night, and went in the bar but the kitchen was closed! By the time we reached their house again it was nearly 11 pm, we'd been drinking for hours with no food, again. An eventful but fun night that ended with us making pita pizzas and waiting for the rain to stop before I left. And it's barely stopped raining since...

I guess I'll have some stories to tell again after Karen's visit, the Student Congress Monday, and my trip to Antigua. Hopefully good ones. One final political note--I would go home in a heartbeat if it meant I could drive this thing. Hilarious, yet depressing. How much worse does it have to get before things change??

30th October, 2003
Mom and the Kittens

2 bits of excitement in my world: the kittens were born last Monday in the early morning hours (I slept through it, but thankfully she had them inside, in the box I had put out for that purpose) and they are three adorable little furballs, one ginger, two white. We've had some entertaining and stressful times since they've been born, but for the most part it's been a good experience. Who needs tv when you have kittens? One has her eyes partly open, the others will soon follow, and then TROUBLE is sure to follow. Right now they're fairly easily contained in their little box.

Other exciting news is that mom is here. We've been busy enjoying ourselves and travelling all around the place since she's been here. She's been to 4 different beaches, snorkelled at one (for the first time!)hiking in the rainforest, on a catamaran ride to the jounen kweyol festival, had lots of local foods in and around the festival, to a secondary school (with me, for work), met some friends by my apartment and played Cranium, met some friends out at a bar, to a barbecue with my Babonneau host family and then country dancing at the market and to the Gros Islet street party (where she broke many hearts) had a nice Lucian dinner cooked for us by my friend Jerry, a nice dinner last night at a Tandoori restaurant that I've been eyeing for over a year now, and tonight we'll be going to dinner at another pcv's house with her, her boyfriend (who is cooking a bouillion), another volunteer Heather, and her parents who are also in town. Should be fun. Tomorrow we are off to Martinique via ferry and will return Saturday evening. Sunday we may go on the boat with Maggie and Lyle, and Monday is undecided. She leaves early Tuesday. 10 days really flies past when you're having fun...

School visits continue and are going well. Most schools have had their student council elections now and know about our Student Congress. I've nailed down a caterer, know where to get plants to decorate the stage, and am still working on the venue (gulp!), which will hopefully be finalized asap. Also for NYC, I've got some nonprofit capacity building training modules to write in the next month, to be used to train members of the Youth and Sports Council executives from around the country. I'm seeking resources if anyone has any good ideas, please send them (specifically Evans Students). We'll also be doing some training for Student Council members once the Congress is over, and after the holidays. Hopefully some of the materials I compile will be useful there too.

The party at Sportivo was a success, Caroline went with Benti, a teacher that we know from our games nights and a very funny guy, and I went with Jerry, who proved to be quite a karaoke singer. We enjoyed ourselves, and it was nice to see everyone dressed up vs. sweaty, and to do something different. And eat sushi, which I had been craving (though it was mediocre).

This summer I was officially linked via the World Wise Schools program to a school in Lancaster, PA. I've just received an email from the teacher that letters from all of the students are on their way to me, and I can't wait to receive them and begin our correspondence.

My allergies are driving me nuts. I got over the cold, but the voice has stayed gone. I sound like a toad, and I'm not pleased. I can't figure out what I'm allergic to. Really rigorous pre-mom cleaning didn't solve it, so it must be outside my apartment, which is much trickier to control. Whatever it is, I hope it stops blooming soon.

That's about it here. Been busier than I'd like to be, considering I have a visitor, but enjoying it all the same. In another week or so, my friend Karen from Boston arrives, and while she's here, we have our student congress. A few days after that, I go to Antigua for 4 days to recover. And then it's nearly Christmas! Carla just booked her second visit for late February. Hopefully my sister and some other friends will be able to find affordable and convenient means to travel as well.

12th October, 2003
Columbus Day

What a ridiculous holiday. I recently mocked another volunteer for saying she was going to take the day off (we don't get any US holidays off here, let alone that one), but I have to admit, a 3 day weekend would be nice. And how lame is it for me to think that, when we just had a 3 day weekend last weekend, and there are 13 holidays here ifyou dont count the 2 weeks that everything shuts down at Christmas?! Crikey.

Truly, I have the sunday night, "school night" dread. Doubled by some sort of adolescent feeling that I needed to go out tonight because I didn't go out Saturday night. I mean, I sort of did. We had our community event in Babonneau, the Sport For All thing, and it went great. Really perfect, actually. 100 people in attendance, everyone enjoyed both the nutrition and dancing aspects. I worked, doing my nerdy survey (could i be more stereotypical pcv? white girl in glasses asks room full of 'developing country' dark-skinned people to fill out her survey, as they enter a community event)but also got to have some fun. took some fun photos during the dancing, thus avoiding participation in some of the fun-but-embarrasing bits. Took the camera from another committee member, a local sports tv reporter/commentor. We bonded, which was very cool. Also bonded with a female committee member, Amala, my age, and hopefully the three of us will hang out soon. Good project, successful, fun, new friends. But I reached home at 11, and felt pumped to go out. No money on my cell to call anyone, and no one had called me. Except Jerry, who was 1/2 hour away. He volunteered to cook me lunch today, but as it turned out, timing didn't work out. Rain check. So anyway, I was pumped to go out, riding high on an actual project success! and almost called Arturo, who I knew would be out late, late late. Didn't--realized that most people getting over colds stay home and sleep. Did just that. So tonight for some dumb reason, I feel like I should be going out, even though I was at the beach all afternoon. Foolishness. (which is 'pappyshow' in patois, for anyone curious) Talked to mom tonight. 8 days or so until she comes. I've been telling everybody that she's coming. Visitors are a really big deal. It's amazing what a difference it can make to have someone new around when you're trapped on a tiny volcanic rock in the sea...

Anyway, it was a busy week--got a cold, survived the pc workshop, did well, and even got an invite to speak at another workshop for the ministry of health on aids, got a free night at the hotel, made my geeky survey--and a nice weekend. Sarah left early because we no longer have Fox and she couldn't watch the Cubs game. I had some people over to play Cranium Friday night. Saturday was a great day. I woke up early, went to the gym and ran 4 miles and then did an hour-long body punp (weights) class. Boo-ya. Then I walked to the Marina and had a nice iced decaf at the little cafe there on the water. Pretended I was in Seattle, France, Barbados even, anywhere but here. Read my book. Met an irish girl who was also alone and, it turns out, the other new volunteer i havent met yet. we walked to the beach together and then went and laid by the pool at one of the hotels. After she left, i chilled with Caroline and a few of her friends before going home, getting ready and heading to Babonneau for the workshop. Sadly, I got more sun in my hour of walking around in a v-neck tank top than I did in 3 hours in a bikini by the pool. Thus leaving a lovely, attractive red triangle of sunburn on my chest. Great. Today I spent 4 hours at the beach and managed to get rid of it, I think. Went alone, met up with Rosemary, a member of PC staff there, and met her friend N__(whose name I've forgotten despite asking twice), a former pcv from 92-94. Chatted with them, and then was joined by Alex, Fiona, Shanmarie and malik (fiona's baby). I've been seeing these people around the beach that I met at the wedding I went to a few months ago with Service. They didnt seem to recognize me and I felt stupid saying hello since we're not together anymore and i look different without hair anyway. And now that I know his rep I feel like I just got played, whether or not it's true. So anyway, they were really nice, and I was bummed. Today we finally talked, and that made me really happy. And then Gilberto came, and he's a really cool guy. (The cuban dr) Married with wife and child in Cuba, but hopefully a good friend. We had a big group, my orange float, and some beers on a beautiful, clear, hot afternoon.

So yes, I had a relaxing, successful, chill weekend and met cool new people. And I'm in no mood to dive back into the bizarro world that is my job. No Simpsons tonight, and a less-funny-than-usual episodes of Lucians (local satire show). Still need a date to the party, which is in fact THIS Saturday. I knew I had something planned for Sat, but it was the Babonneau thing. So there's still time. I'm making such a big deal of this party not because i believe that it is (I haven't gotten THAT shallow) but because that's all there is to focus on, and it's certainly better than thinking about how messed up my job is or why I have so many mosquito bite scars. Or US or world politics. In that scope, finding a date to this li'l party seems easy :)

Culture: Learned a new patois phrase during the course of the week at lunch during day 2 of the pc workshop thatwill prove useful: Making a biss (pronounced beass). It means to disappear without permission or telling anyone, to play hookey, essentially. Heard some great stories from the community partners present about times they and their siblings or children have and still do, in some cases, do or done this. Made for good jokes in the afternoon, which made me, as a new trainer, very happy.

Final Plug: Visit Me! Yes, I've bugged all of you about this before. Yes, tickets can be pricey, but I'm told they just went on sale again. Time's a-wastin', folks. When will you, or we, get this chance again?

6th October, 2003
Round the Island

This has been a 3-day weekend in St. Lucia for Thanksgiving, which is a new holiday that no one really does anything special to celebrate. Like any other holiday here, people go to the beach, have cookouts, street parties, eat, and sleep. The weekend came on the heels of a fairly low-key week for me: work, gym, eat and relax, sleep. Then came Friday, one of those nights where all plans collide-I had 3 sets of plans for Friday, and none for Saturday. Something had to go, so I gave away the free ticket to the Country Dance upstairs the market in Castries. I'd like to go, but it happens every week--there will be other chances. So that left plan #1: rock band at yacht club, to be merged with plan #2: meeting other pcvs for jamie's boyfriend Zorina's birthday eventually sometime in the night. Caroline and I met up with her friend Jo at the yacht club and saw the band, which was monumental for several reasons: the sheer fact that st lucia has no good beach bars and we could see music, have a beer, and dig our toes in the sand, the fact that there was rock music being played by locals(!), and there were different people than at our usual hangouts. Some of them anyway. We went from the show to Rumours with Jo and her brother and his friend, where we met up with the birthday crew, and then to Le Chalet, a dance club where they refused to reduce the $20 fee despite jo's flirtations and it being 3am, so back to Rumours, then to Happy Day, where we danced until it closed, and then had fish&chips from a truck before reaching home as the sun began to rise.

Saturday, after a mere 4 hours of sleep, I trekked to the PC office to continue preparation for the Project Design and Management workshop I'm co-facilitating Wed and Thurs for the EC 70 volunteers. Sarah arrives tomorrow from Antigua, and will be staying with me. (budget cuts dictate this, for some reason, though the 6 volunteers are staying 2 nights at the monastary, despite the same "budget cuts" being claimed as the reason for which my group couldn't stay over for the same workshop. hmm.)After a few hours of markering flip charts, I made my way to the beach, had some sun, swim and ice cream before coming home to collapse on the hammock. I had 2 naps and still couldn't rally, so I watched a movie and went back to sleep. Sunday morning I cleaned and packed and left at 10 am with Alex, Fiona (her Lucian friend) and ShanMarie (Fiona's boyfriend's sister,from Jamaica) to go on a girls' day 'round the island trip. These trips are sort of a sunday ritual with many St Lucians and it was high time we did one. Alex has a car, though her boyfriend would have you think it was his, and she hardly ever gets to use it. (he's a gold-toothed thug and and a pretty horrible boyfriend as I have no doubt mentioned here before.) Of course, at the last minute he tried to take the car to ruin our trip and then took all the cds in a lame last-ditch effort to sabotage it. No luck. We first visited Fiona's brother to borrow some cds, then headed down the E. Coast to Anse La Raye. We had a drink, played some table tennis, on the road again. Skipped Canaries, next stop Soufriere. It was mid-90s and sweltering. We had a drink, checked out the childrens festival, and then continued onward on the ripped up road towards Choiseul where we visited Fiona's grandmother. We passed Choiseul, my ultimate destination, and proceeded to get pretty lost from bad directions trying to find the village of saltibus, which was having a weekend-long street fair. We eventually got there and stayed for a few hours. We had some food and drinks, and ShanMarie and I each knew one person. The party was really only beginning to get started when we left - they dropped me back in Choiseul at PCV Alex's place and continued to Vieux Fort and around teh other side. I was staying with Alex so that I could do a 9 mile community walk in the morning. Sarah, a 71 volunteer who lives nearby, was there and we played most of a card game called Phase 10. I won. We had an early night as we had to meet for the walk at 5:15 am, it started at 6. (Alex and Sarah are on the healthy lifestyles committtee there, which is affiliating itself with the Sport For All program that I am part of). We walked for 3+ hours up many hills through various nearby villages. It was beautiful, and also very hot. Even that early. Afterwards we had a swim at the beach near her house and I got a ride to Pierot, just outside vieux Fort. There I met Zorina's brother Ansen, who was taking me to see his uncle, a bush doctor (local herbalist) to get me a formula for hair loss. I got the first of a series of 5 treatments I'm supposed to get today - some green formula I take 2x a day for 6 days. It's pretty pricey, and I'm skeptical as to whether it will work, but I've tried just about everything else. Might as well try this too! Zorina claims his uncle is one of the best.

The local cable company has taken away our Fox station and replaced it with WB, much to my vexation. Apparently I wasn't alone because one of teh local channels played Simpsons pirated tonight. It was the valentine's rerun, but I was so excited after sulking all week at the prospect of 10 more months of a Simpsonsless existence.

In addition to the chaos of NYC school visits, workshop teaching, sarah's visit, and managing my new bush medicine intake, the new project for the week for Caro and me is to find dates to a party our gym is hosting Saturday night. Top candidates for me: Cuban doctor (very nice and sort of cute) who I met at the ambassador's house. downside:I emailed but he hasnt replied. don't know if he checks it. I wanted to call but I lost my voice...again) and Winston, a dj from my favorite local radio station who was on the boat ride last weekend and we chatted on Friday night at Happy day (downside: he's 21, and I wouldnt give him my #, told him to call NYC. I won't really be there much this weeek-oops-and will probably never get a message if there is one.) Who knows what will happen by Friday, as I don't really have much time to deal with it. I want to bring someone I at least want to talk to or know a little bit, or I'd rather go alone. No one from the gym will recognize me anyway with hair. :) Well, here's to a busy week at last. After all my complaining about nothing to do, I'll be nearly over my head this week. Should be interesting. Hope the draught doesn't resume after this flood...

1st October, 2003

Chabin brought me a little gift the other night. I was busy on messenger, chatting to my cousin Geoff in Seattle and friends stopped by. Greg, a volunteer from Laborie visiting Caroline to check out her job, wanted to use the washroom. When I got up to show him where to go (not that my place is that big), I saw this trail of blood leading into the bathroom. We all gasped, thinking maybe she had miscarried, but at the end of the trail was my pleased-looking cat, swatting at a huge dead rat. Shudder. Greg was nice enough to chuck the thing into the ditch out front for me, and then it took me some time to mop (with bleach) out the stench, and then candles and incense later on. Always exciting.

The weekend was good, though fairly quiet. I didn't go out either night, and caught up on sleep and reading. Saturday was our quarterly General Assembly for NYC, and the meeting was scheduled for 10 am. At 11 am, our PCV-JOCV picnic was scheduled in Vieux Fort, 45 minutes away in light traffic. So I knew already I'd be late, and Arturo had agreed to go with me (read: drive)when my meeting finished. It went on and on, and when I finally gave up and fled at 2pm showed little signs of stopping. So I missed most of the picnic, but got in a swim, a beer, some beach bocce and a chance to chat. The meeting went on ad infinitum due to discussion and debate on issues of national significance (as the agenda item read). The issues were the formation of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the very hot-button issue of Abortion (thankfully they didn't get into the topic of homosexuality, which is illegal, as it would still be going on). This took close to 2 hours of fiery debate, which as a non-St. Lucian and non-voting member, I couldnt participate in. In fact, I had to frequently bite my tongue. There is a bill currently on the table to legalize abortion (which is currently illegal here) in the cases of rape or endangerment of the mother's life. As a very strongly religious (and largely Catholic or Seventh-Day Adventist) society, this is great cause for consternation for many. However, the debates here, unlike in the US in my philosophy classes and college editorial meetings, don't centre around when the fetus becomes a child, but rather whether abortion should be an option at all, cut and dry. Incest and rape are quite common, and there are those who think that any child that is a product of these situations should be given up for adoption, despite the fact that the channels for doing so are widely known as horrendous and ineffectual. To me, much of the debate really comes down to men wanting to control women's behaviour, and not wanting to give them the power of choice over their bodies. In this society, women are *not* equals and there is no pretence of it being so. Even a minor change such as this threatens their power structure. The debates have gone on and on, featured regularly on a morning radio call-in show called "What Makes Me Mad," among others. I do my best to keep my mouth shut and stay out of it.

Sunday was an all-day party cuise on a catamaran to the south-eastern village of Soufriere. It was a fundraiser, but we amassed a fairly large group of pcvs and there were some NYC friends present as well. I also knew a few others there. We stopped at several other points along the way for swimming and eating, and there was music and dancing the whole way. It was a lot of fun, though very hot in the sun most of the day, and I arrived home exhausted. Jerry, one of the organizers of the trip, invited me to go to his father's house with him, which is near mine, for some food, as there had been a birthday party there for someone. We ate, watched Lucians (a local satire show) and then the Sunday night movie (pirated on a local channel) came on and I fell asleep. Woke up and thankfully got a ride home (we walked the 2+ miles there).

This week has been fairly interesting. First, it's finally October, and that means my mom is coming soon and so is Jeunen Kweyol. Two things I'm very excited about. Also, I finally have some more work to do at NYC. Friday I had a meeting with Silas, Jim(from the Ministry) and Andrew from Peace Corps about making my presence more productive there. Some ideas were tossed about, and some of the larger issues, like communication were discussed at length. Since then I have noticed an improvement in the office, and I'm very grateful. Jimmy no longer ignores me and withholds information. Bennet, on the other hand, is still very difficult to work with because he is very last-minute, non-communicative, and flaky. And together we are managing a huge project: reinvigorating the Students Councils in 18 secondary schools island-wide. To do that, we're requesting meetings with the schools, going there, and giving them whatever assistance they need to get a functional Student Council elected in the next month. We're also planning a General Assembly where all of the Students Council members will gather, with their teacher liaisons, and elect a national student council executive. That will involve quite a lot of organizing which I have agreed to spearhead. So I'm getting quotations from caterers and whatnot. We have to complete our school visits in the next few weeks. Two down, many to go. And yesterday we were at one of the top schools on the island, St. Mary's College (a boys' school, the girls' is called St. Joseph's Convent)and I learned even more about the school system here and how British it is. Just like in Harry Potter, they have prefects and each student, though they don't live there, is placed in a "house" for sporting competitions. Who knew I could learn so much from HP?

Other big news this weekend, local lifelong influential politician George Odlum died. He had been battling cancer and finally died on Sunday. There was an all day celebration of his life on the square in town. My friend Jacinta is dating/living with/has a child with/ a member of the Odlum family, Quint, and so she attended. I think she may have sang a song in tribute. We passed by the square on the way home from the boat ride and they were just finishing up. I don't know much about him but that he was very influential in the early days of the Labour Party (SLP) here, and one of those who helped get John Compton out of office after nearly 30 years as Prime Minister (or Chief Minister, pre-independence). I'm reading a book on that period, so I don't know all the details, yet. Anyway, it was a big deal. And he went to St. Mary's and taught there as well, so they had a big display paying tribute to him. Another recent death was Jane Tipson, a prominent environmental and humanitarian activist in charge of SLAPS, the animal protection society. She was shot and killed at 1 am on her way home. There was considerable international attention after her death, and it's a great loss.

In non-political news, yesterday between work and the gym I stopped to meet the Irish volunteers living in Shannon and Sam's old apartment. I had given my number to Fr. Dominick to pass along to them, but doubted they would get it. Anna and Pete have been here about a month and are settling in nicely. They're teaching at CARE schools, run by the Irish Presentation Brothers, which offer alternative secondary education to those who dont place into a school (there's no universal secondary here, and there arent even enough spots at schools for those who pass the exam--only about 60% can go). It was just a brief meet-n-greet, as I was rushing off to my Body Attack class, but I look forward to getting to know them better. Not too much on the radar for the rest of the week. Competing plans for Friday night (go to the fish fry with a group for Jamie's boyfriend's birthday, go to see a band at the Yacht Club with a friend of Caro's from swimming, go to the country dance held upstairs from the market, which someone already gave me a ticket for and at which Jerry has volunteered to teach me country dancing--it's a cross between a waltz and a 2-step here, and i find it quite tricky), nothing for Sat. Isn't it always that way?

25th September, 2003
Social Butterfly

This week has been busy, in a good way. But before I get into that, a word of advice that I learned the hard way: eating cheerios before going to the gym is a really bad idea. Ok, on to my week.

As I mentioned previously, Tuesday was Trivial Pursuit night at my house. A few other times I've attempted to host get-togethers and not everyone invited came. So I was generous in inviting people this time and *everyone* came. We ended up cramming 15 people into my place to play Trivial pursuit. Not everyone played, because some arrived late or just helped out, but we had 3 teams of 4 and two observers. My team lost, but we still had a pretty good time. I think most of us finished looking forward to the next time, which is good because several of my neighbors and local friends had never played it before. More converts!

So one of the people who came, Jerry, hangs out at NYC sometimes, partly because he's friends with the guys there, including his brother Curt (who I have mentioned before), but also because he's the president of the SLPYO (labour party youth org). He invited me to attend a cocktail reception with him Wednesday night at the Cuban Ambassador's house. I was thrilled to go, because I have a great interest in Cuba and because I've heard he is a fun guy with a nice house. It was supposed to be informal but I really debated over what one should wear to an "informal" cocktail party with an ambassador? The party was to celebrate the new batch of students leaving tomorrow to study in cuba on scholarship. There were drinks, snacks and speeches, as with any Lucian get-together of this nature. I was proud that other than Jerry, I knew 2 people there. Over the course of the evening, I rubbed elbows with some very fancy sorts and met tons of really nice people. The ambassador himself was very nice and funny, and started troubling me from the moment we met. In fact, he singled me out in his remarks, mentioning the "young American woman" and making references to the policies and propaganda of "her country," as well as making comparisons to the cost of education in both places. Really, it was all done in good humour and is not as bad as it might sound. I took his ribbing in good spirits, particularly because i don't happen to agree with the embargo anyway. (likely not a shock from someone in the peace corps) After everyone stared at me throughout his speech, I was glad to have chosen my clothes carefully. Later, he came over to assure me he meant no harm, and then to ensure that I met all of the cubans there, and then to take my glass and push me out on the dance floor with several of the doctors, and later still, to point out my lack of a drink and make me a cuba libre personally. Finally, when we tried to leave for the second time, he told me I was leaving far too early and welcomed me back anytime. I hope I'll be invited to the next party, because I had a really great time.

Tonight was nothing too exciting--went to the gym (just like every other night this week) and then Caroline and I met Verana for a drink in Rodney Bay. We had drinks/food and then headed to get an ice cream. It was good to see her, as she lives in the south (at balembouche estate with her family) but is working in the north for a bit. Tomorrow night I don't really want to go out, as I need to catch up on sleep. Caroline and I discussed going to stop in and visit the new irish volunteers, who apparently have moved into Shannon and Sam's old place nearby. Tomorrow morning I have a meeting with our training director for PC, Andrew, and my 'supervisor' from the min of youth & sports and Silas, the president of the nyc, to further clarify my role within the org. Should be interesting. Silas bought me a ticket today to the SLPYO boat ride to Soufriere on Sunday (many of the NYC folks are going, and probably some of the party types i met Wed night), which may or may not be related to that meeting. Free boat ride! Except I really want a quiet day... Saturday is an NYC general council meeting, where they will be electing the new second vice president, and then a beach party in vieux fort with all the pcvs and jocvs. And then I've been invited to a pool party up north in Cap Estate for someone's birthday. All good things, but I really need to just get some sleep and relax on a beach! My eye is really itching right now, and pink eye, or "red eye" as they call it here, is going around. Hopefully I won't get that alone time sooner than I want it due to illness...
22nd September, 2003
Kinda Blue

Yep, a downer day again, of sorts. But this time not because of work (mostly) or any of my self-indulgent nonsense. Today I went to a funeral. It was held at the Cathedral in Anse La Raye for a 29 yr old guy named Oswald who bartended over the years at nearly every hotel/restaurant in Rodney Bay. Recently he's been at Rumours, my long-time haunt, and a manager of the deli at the grocery store in Rodney Bay. Which means that I saw and talked to him nearly every weekend for many months. He was a really down-to-earth and friendly guy. One who happened to be a passenger in a car last weekend that was hit by a drunk driver. The church today was over-filled, barely standing room only. He left several brothers and two children. He had just resigned from his job to leave the island. Such a shame. I was amazed at how many people I knew in the crowd. I didn't know him well, but chose to go because it really touched me to have someone my age and who I knew die, but also because he went to school with my friend Maggie, and she was going to go alone. I'm glad that I went. Now I've been to a wedding and a funeral. Both my neighbor and my first host mom, Doreen (and my cat) are pregnant, so I'll get to experience birth, death and marriage during my time here. The cycle of life. I've been fortunate not to have been to too many funerals in my life. It seems like there's been a spate of deaths lately, lots of them young people and lots of traffic accidents. I don't know if the ratio is higher here than home or the microcosm of society here makes it feel that way. Last week, a prominent woman here, a transplanted English woman who was in charge of the St. Lucia Animal Protection Society (SLAPS) was shot and killed at 1 am near her home. There were 5 funerals today that I knew people going to, and I could have gone to 2 of them. The world feels a bit upside down. A good workout helped kick the knot in my throat from choking back tears. I don't do well with open coffins, but then his brother collapsed in tears in the aisle on the way out, and both Maggie and I nearly lost it. We couldn't go to the cemetary.

On a happier topic, it was a pretty good weekend. Busy! I expected to have a quiet weekend where I'd have to hunt down some plans, but I barely had any time to myself. Friday night was the Youth Awards, a formal affair at the National Cultural Centre where trophies were given out to the top youth activists and clubs on the island. From my work, I knew nearly half of the people there, and that was sort of exciting. It was fun to get dressed up and watch people I know win awards. There was a reception afterwards, and then a big group of us decided to meet up at Happy Day Bar for some drinks. Happy Day is a bar at the end of Rodney Bay next to the canal that leads to the marina. It's sort of lacking in atmosphere, but it's nice to watch the boats pass and the water. A good place to go for a drink with friends (and all drinks are half price, all the time), but not really a place to meet people. Anyway, we had a drink and then discovered that they moved some of the chairs in the connected restaurant (Eagles Inn) and put in some pool tables (or maybe they've always been there?) and a dj, so there was a dance floor and music, right by the water. There was a nice breeze and even a lightening storm. We danced until 4 am, and it was really fun. I'm not sure if that's going to be the new hot spot now that Shamrocks is gone, but it sure felt like it. I liked it better, I think!

The next day I intended to spend the morning at the beach, but it kept raining and then getting sunny, then raining just as I was ready to leave. So no beach for me. In the afternoon, the NYC crew went to Canaries to do the focus group we didn't do first time around. It wasn't so successful as we hoped, but at least it's done. These things are never as easy as common sense would have you believe. At least not here. As usual, the rowdy van ride back was fun though--singing and dancing along to Reggae Gold 2003 with everyone. Jimmy and I seemingly healed our rift a little bit, laughing in the car and even dancing together Friday night. Later that night, a group of us played games at Domitille and Alliester's place. There were 3 french people, 2 Americans (me and Jamie, another pcv), Arturo, the lone Mexican, (sort of 3 northamericans) and 3 lucians. A good mix. We played 2 games of cranium, and one game of Taboo. Geoff, Aliester and I won all three. Sweet. It was a fun evening, and we're doing a redux tomorrow night at my house for Trivial Pursuit (Millenium Edition). I made hummus in honor of the occasion.

Moving back in time, last Thursday I was asked to attend a meeting at the Ministry of Health on behalf of NYC. Since I had another meeting in the afternoon with the Olympic Committee, I decided to dress up. Thankfully, because I got there and discovered the meeting was with the Minister of Health himself, as well as teh Chief Education officer, a PS, and several other high-ranking sorts (some of whom I keep crossing paths with at various committees and consultations) to discuss plans for the Year of the Child. I had been on the Global Movement for Children committee, and then on an original year of the child committee, and then the YOC parks and recreation subcommittee, so actually it was more natural that I be there than any other NYC person. I found it ironic that I be so welcome in the Minister of Health's office, when a week previously I was booted out of a meeting with the Minister I actually work for (never mind that he didn't even tell me himself but told the PS who told Silas who told me). I'm still vexed at that.

I have a new project to keep me busy for a bit: I'm co-facilitating the Project Design and Management workshop that comprises 2 of the 4 days of IST. We had ours in winter, and now the 70s have theirs in a few weeks. Margaret originally taught us (after receiving training along with 1 other vol from each island from a US instructor) along with Cecilia George from the Min of Social Transformation, but since Margaret is gone now, they enlisted Sarah from Antigua to come teach here. She asked if she could stay with me (budget cuts--thanks W!) and since I don't have much to do, I asked Andrew and Sarah if I could assist. Which got me the role of co-facilitator. Should be interesting, and a good experience. Then I'll be able to do it for the 71 (and maybe 72) groups as well. The idea is that each volunteer comes with someone from the community who is interested in learning it, and each pair basically writes the skeleton of a project from idea to evaluation while there, and then follows through on it afterwards using the tools learned. It's an intensive, but good, process (basically using a Log Frame format, plus other things like community mapping and appreciative inquiry). I'm looking forward to it. I hope my voice returns in time. I've been losing my voice nearly 80% of the time in the last few months. I'm not enjoying that at all.

So life remains an intriguing mix of good and bad. I suppose that keeps it interesting. Sunday I spent the day by Maggie's boyfriend's house, watching tv and swimming in the pool. Later we went out for ice cream (and saw my aerobics instructor there, whoops!) and then a drink, and decided to stop by my house to cook. Except I had very little food here and no stores were open. So instead I packed an overnight bag and we went back to Lyle's house. We had bouillon and watched a movie. It was nice to be somewhere else. Maggie dropped me in town this morning. Then of course she picked me up later for the funeral, as I already mentioned.

No major plans for this week or weekend, except a beach party with the JOCVs on Saturday in Vieux Fort. At the same time, we have a quarterly meeting for NYC, which I really need to attend at least part of. They may be doing elections to replace the VP that got booted out last month, and I need to witness it for my case study. And congratulate a few of the winners on Friday. Also, Doris will be back from her trip home to take care of her ailing mother. We've really missed her.

Mosquitos are attacking. And I need to get to bed.

18th September, 2003

Project Censored has released its top under-covered news stories of the year. Truly frightening.

17th September, 2003

Well, it finally happened. My naughty teen cat's gone and gotten herself knocked up. By the neighborhood ho, FiFi, nonetheless. (which is not a very masculine name for my babygirl's babydaddy, i should add.) The "babydaddy" is Jude's cat, a nasty gray and white cat that has apparently also impregnated Mathius (another neighbor)'s even younger fuzzy black kitten. I'm not a fan of FiFi. Anyway, I had no idea how to tell if a cat was pregnant, but Mathius told me his was, and how he knew. A few weeks later, I'm petting Chabin and whoah there, her nipples were showing. I hoped somehow, as mother's do when they delude themselves, that it was just puberty or something. But no, i checked several online sources and several animal-loving friends. She's preggers. Apparently the gestation is like 2 months, so she'll be giving birth in about 6 more weeks. Crazy! David, a rasta that lives nearby, predicted this weekend that she'd have three. We'll have to wait and see, but that sounds reasonable to me. I've already lined up a taker for one of them. At first I was really upset about it. I knew FiFi was after her, and I wasn't pleased. I kept meaning to take her to the vet, but it's expensive, and I don't have transportation there. She hates the bus, so I hate taking her on it. It's frustrating and embarassing. But because I waited too long, now I'm going to be a feline grandmother. She gets this one shot at motherhood, and then we're visiting the vet. Now that I've gotten used to the idea, though, I'm sort of excited. I've never been part of cat-birth before.

In politics: I've been following the Cancun round of WTO talks with great interest. I'm disappointed that things fell apart, though not surprised. I side with the developing country farmers though, and don't blame them for walking out. It's sad what happened, but powerful. Just ending subsidies is not always the answer, other efforts are needed by the more developed countries. But WTO isn't about sustainable development, just business as usual.

Other news: Caroline joined the gym, so now we're both going there. Tonight I picked up a flier there about Creole classes for adults, starting on 6th Oct. I will definitely check into that, as I've sort of hit a plateau with my learning. And Alex, the lucky girl, is going to Trinidad and then Venezuela for work, and will be gone for 2 weeks. GOod thing I have a few things planned to keep myself busy in her absence: Youth Awards Friday night, a beach party with the japanese vols next weekend. But mostly more of the same.

16th September, 2003
Urban Vs Rural

Since my return from the US in July and with the passing of my first year here, I've been doing a lot of evaluating lately. Too much, perhaps, which is one result of a lot of free time. At any rate, one part of my experience that's a bit lacking is the rural experience. As you might recall, I attempted to move to Laborie, when I was working for the Trust, but that attempt was rebuffed. And two of the more village-y apts that I looked at (on my second search) were in Entrepot and Bocage, up near Babonneau, but would have required two busses to get to the Trust. Of course, they would be perfect for where I work now... So I've been considering moving, making all kinds of pro/con lists in my head and wavering back and forth on my decision. I was considering Babonneau, because it's close to work and the area I now live, I know people there, and now I'm on a community committee for healthy lifestyles (Sport for all, the program I inherited from Shannon with the Olympic Committee) there too. The volunteer who had been living there, Laura, just left (and we miss her!) so I began putting out the word that I was looking for a place. And then I found out that Mike, a 70 volunteer, was moving in her old place. She was in one of the more convenient areas for getting into town, so that sort of put a damper on my enthusiasm. Plus, I really like my apartment, and my neighbors. The main thing going for it is convenience, and of course, not moving again. I'm close to town, shopping, the only bus line that runs 7 days a week, even holidays. But still, it's the suburbs, and I grew up in the suburbs. I feel like if I'm going to live in another country, I should do it all the way, get the REAL experience, which is the countryside. But lets face it, I've done enough re-adjusting already with 2 homestay families, 2 apartments, 2 jobs. And even the second job isn't going so well, but that's another story... So the decision I effectively came to is that I will stay put, but spend as much time as I can visiting people in the countryside, as they call it here. I started this last weekend. It was great.

Friday three other volunteers, our friend Alex (Italian girl working for OECS), and Jamie's boyfriend Zorina, his brother Ansen, his cousin and two of their friends, as well as one of Heather's friends from Anse La Raye, Titus, all went for a hike in the south near Vieux Fort. We took a bus from Castries, which conveniently was driven by one of Zorina's friends, so we got cool music and didn't have to wait for it to fill up before we left. Once we reached a nearby area, we got out of that van and into a truck. Which promptly broke down, just as another friend of theirs passed in a van, and he drove us to the trailhead. I use that term loosely, as it was really just a narrow track. There are a lot of these walking paths throughout the countryside. It was pretty grown over, because it's the rainy season. So we trekked down the path, Zorina in front swinging his cutlass all macho, but doing very little to make the passing easier, but slowing us down in the fetid, humid late morning sun. After about 45 minutes we reached the waterfall site, a really beautiful little oasis, right near where he and his brother grew up. (They and their neighbors abandoned the land after someone had a dream about the land collapsing in. For the record, it hasn't. Yet.) The waterfall is about 60 feet, clear and crashing down into a cold, deep pool. We swam, jumped and dove off the caves on the side, and cooked a huge stew of green figs (bananas) that the fellas picked nearby, yams from Ansen's garden, and chicken backs that Zorina brought. We stayed and limed there a few hours before hiking back, picking grapefruits and avocados on the way. I love the countryside! After that, we stopped and drank some coconuts by one of the guys' houses, and had some rum before heading north. That night I stayed in, exhausted. There's really nothing good to do at night most of the time anyway. I'm sick of the whole Rodney Bay scene. Alex stayed here, waiting for her (horrible) boyfriend to come pick her up, and we watched tv and gossipped on the balcony. The full moon has been gorgeous.

Saturday I woke with every intention of going to the gym before the Swearing In ceremony for EC 71, but instead I decided to aerobically clean my apartment, so I swept, mobbed, scrubbed and did laundry, and then packed for the weekend and went to the ceremony. It was nice, the usual, and the food was good but too greasy (which, of course, didnt stop any of us from eating too much of it). The guest speaker, the deputy permanent secretary from the ministry of social transformation, has been at a number of meetings with me recently, and so we chatted again about Tai Chi. He's the president of the local society, which practices on Monday nights. Apparently they're hosting a conference here in March. I'm planning on going next week, but I fear for how much I've forgotten in 2 years.

Anyway, Alex V. (one of the 70 volunteers) spent the night at my house a few weeks ago, and we cooked up this idea that we should have a weekend get-together at her house the weekend of swearing-in. She lives in Choiseul, a rural coastal village between Soufriere and Laborie. Very picturesque, and even more difficult to get to in recent months since they've been working on (tearing up is more like it) the road down there. And there is only one road... Regardless, we all piled into a van and headed there. We got a nice driver that agreed to take us all the way to Choiseul, and even to stop and wait for us to visit the discount liquor warehouse in Vieux Fort, for the same price as it would have been to take the 2 busses it usually requires. We bought him a drink, and he flirted with Alex. (Only occasionally does it pay to be a woman in this society.)There were 11 of us, including Alex: 7 of the 71s, 3 70s and me. We went for a short hike to a nearby blacksand beach and had a swim, and watched the gorgeous sunset. Then we trucked back to the house for some drinks and food: Cuban black bean soup, salad, and loads of tortilla chips. We played games, relaxed, got a bit silly. It was fun, and really nice to get to know the new group and be in a different place. It's weird though, I think I was a bit overwhelmed to be with so many Americans at once. Usually, a noisy group like that would find me right at it's centre, being my silliest and most hyper. Instead, I sort of lingered on the fringes, talking to smaller groups here and there, monopolizing the hammock and the breeze on the balcony. I can't explain it, whether I've changed since I'm here (I've had few chances to test this out, time will tell) or if it was just and odd night. Regardless, it was fun. The next day we walked about 5 miles through the village and to a different beach for a swim. Hurricane Isidore's backlash has been causing big waves in the normally placid sea, and stealing all our breezes. It's been wicked hot. Most of the group left that afternoon, but Elizabeth, who lives in a village on the East coast, Canaries, and Sarah, who is in her homestay in Choiseul, and I stayed around. We took naps instead of going for the original hike we had planned. Later on we made pizza and played scrabble, and had one of the most fun evenings I can recall in recent times. For some reason, absolutely everything was absolutely hilarious! Sarah, at 26, was the youngest of us. Alex and Elizabeth I would estimate in their late 40s/early 50s. Very cool women all. We had a blast and nearly hurt ourselves laughing. I lost badly at Scrabble. Monday I decided to stay on, and to meet with Sarah and Alex's co-worker, the community development officer there. I felt like I could get a good feel for what was going on with the NYC down there. Instead, he called out sick, and I helped them to deliver some proposals to people all over the village, and met a number of people along the way. While we walked, i found out the proposal was for a community walk, part of their healthy lifestyle program. Which they want to integrate into the Sport For All program. So our walk wound up being very productive, and I had some exciting news to report at that evening's Babonneau Sport For All meeting. It was a nice way to spend a MOnday. After our errands, Alex and I went for a short snorkle, and saw some lovely coral and fish despite all the waves, and then Sarah made us lunch: Mexican casserole with tortilla chips, guacamole and Sangria. (she's from Texas). It was great. My bus ride(s) up to Castries were fairly uneventful, but I was chatted at quite enthusiastically by yet another guy wanting to "get to know me better." The meeting that night went well, and plans are on track for our upcoming event: Nutrition workshop with Folk Dancing.

So I spent a weekend in the south, and really enjoyed getting away, seeing new faces. I'm still in sort of a weird mental space where I'm seeking something and I haven't quite figured out what it is. I think I'm just feeling unsettled, and continued stress isn't helping. I'm feeling thirsty for new experiences, new people, new places. This placeis feeling too small, too much the same. But at the same time I'm wanting everything new, I'm wishing I was more settled. Had more friends, more projects. It doesnt make any sense, I realize, but that's how I feel nonetheless. Something's just out of whack, and i'm not sure how to fix it. Except to be more zen and just accept what is (I say that facetiously but there's some truth to it).It seems like a year into it, I shouldn't have to looking this hard for things to do, and I shouldn't have to beg for work at all. It's just an unfortunate situation, and one with no easy or obvious answers. There are several of us with bad jobs (though I'm the only one in my *second* and nearly the same job) and we've all come to the same strategy: find outside projects and just keep yourself busy with those. That's great, except for when it comes time to show your face at the bad job and deal with the stress and nonsense there. Today I was walking by the waterfront trhough the centre of town, thinking about how bad I feel when I'm in my office, and how down it gets me, and how not talking to Service or Gagamel, my two close pals until recently, was really bugging me, and that I needed someone to make me feel better about myself, and this sketchy guy walked pass and said at exactly that moment, "Hey beautiful, you're looking good. I like to see you. Keep it up." Or something like that. I nearly fell into the road, and couldn't supress my grin. If only obvious signs came along like that more often when I ask for them :) Thus ended my pity party, for a little while, anyway.

I've explained what I do here, but reading Robin'sjournal recently, I realized that I haven't done well at describing what it's like. I tried to do better today. I think that the sights, sounds and experiences have become commonplace to me, and I've lost sight of what's good to explain. Or more often, I realize it in the moment, but there are so many of those moments that I forget when I get a chance to write them down. I wish I had a digital camera, more than anything. Pictures could tell it much better than I can. But if you have questions, please ask.

For instance, is it interesting for me to describe how Samuel, my 13 yr old neighbor, is outside right now with a bag on the end of a long stick which he uses to knock the ripe mangos way up in the tree and collect them. the ones he can't reach with the stick he throws rocks at them and then goes and collects them. Often he brings some for me. This weekend I also got some cashews from Ansen (who, because Zorina wants to set us up, is trying to woo me). He picked and roasted them himself (and have I mentioned that I helped Quint and Jacinta roast cashews one day too?), which is not an easy task. The nuts grow on a tree, dangling singly underneath a small red fruit. They are picked and then roasted in a pan on an open fire, but you have to wear gloves or be very careful of the oil as it roasts, as you can get a rash. Now I know why they're so expensive!

Anyway, if anyone is feeling up to writing or sending small packages, like cds, now would be a good time. Just a few days ago I was commenting how 11 months would fly past, but today it's feeling like a very long time.

8th September, 2003
The End of an Era

This weekend marked a sad occasion for those of us living in the north of St. Lucia--Shamrock's, one of the strongholds amongst the slim nightlife offerings, closed its doors for good Saturday night. The place itself was ok, but after spending a great deal of time there, I'd burnt out on it and the same people, same scene aspect. But as there are only a handful of other bars in the area (there are hundreds of tiny rum shops and shacks island-wide, but not much in the way of a scene) that are any fun, it will be missed. And hopefully, replaced by something soon. But not there, as they're tearing it down to build condos or a guesthouse or something. The final party Saturday night wasn't anything to chronicle for the ages or anything, but we had a good time.

Jake, a pcv from Antigua, is in town for the weekend. We've spent a great deal of time with Mr. Piton and Mr. Bounty (the local beer and rum) at various locations. Saturday we went to play on the trampoline at the beach at the Windjammer Resort, which is about a 15 min walk from my apartment. From there we went to our usual beach at Rodney Bay and then met up with Caroline and Geoff and went to Geoff's swanky apartment with a view of the marina and met with Arturo (a mexican consultant who works with me at NEMO) and Guillome, a french graphic designer, for drinks and to watch the sunset. We split up for food/naps/showers and regrouped later at Rumours for a few drinks and then hit Shamrocks. The whole night played a bit like a greatest hits for Caroline and me--seeing all kinds of people we've met in our time here out, both good and bad :) Except it was really sad not to have Shannon and Sam there--they left for Ontario last Sunday. Service and I finally had normal conversations, which was good until that turned later to us repeatedly getting trapped under the same umbrella outside when it rained, and him flirting with me. Then I got vexed, and went and danced with my friends. Sunday we slept late and then went out on my friend Maggie's boyfriend Lyle's boat with a group of their other friends (Maggie is St Lucian, Lyle is originally Canadian, but basically St. Lucian from having lived here so long). So more eating, drinking, relaxing--we pulled up at a nice beach and took their cute 2 month-old rotweiler pup (Bear) out on the beach to play, and swam for hours. It was a pretty nice weekend. I'm really going to miss having Jake around. I miss having close male friends that won't turn cheesy on me and try to hit on me. Plus, he's from Seattle too, so we can reminisce a bit, even though we didn't know each other there.

I don't think I mentioned a bit of pcv news here. Our APCD, basically the local director, resigned recently. So Andrew, the training director for the EC (an american) is doing his job as well, and things are chaotic. Especially because training just finished, and we now have seven new volunteers in their second homestays all over the island. They seem like a nice group. It's always interesting to see the chemistry of how the new group fits in with the previous ones--it's gone well in St. Lucia since I've been here, and we're a pretty close group (especially my group, EC 69), but it's not so on other islands. There are cliques and factions and all kinds of other things I'm glad I don't have to deal with.

Last week was a bit rough for me, as I got into a bit of a rumble with Jimmy, who is supposed to be my main contact at work ("community partner" is the jargon-ey term). We worked it out, or rather I apologized and he admitted no fault but made peace. And then on Friday when I gathered with the Executive of the NYC for our meeting with the Minister, he wouldn't let me attend the meeting. The Minister that is, not Jimmy. Some political nonsense with him pulling rank. He's a former president of the NYC himself, which makes it even more ridiculous, not to mention that I will be working on at least 2 of the projects to be discussed there. I was not pleased. This week is a busy one. Today I'm stuffing folders at the disaster office for an upcoming meeting, then going to spend some final time with Jake this afternoon. Tomorrow is an all-day meeting of stakeholders involved in writing a National Social Development Policy. I attended a preliminary meeting on behalf of Silas, the president, and got myself invited to the big meeting. Should be interesting and lively, with so many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. Thursday I'm back at NEMO, this time to play photographer for the meeting. Friday is a mental health day: a bunch of the current pcvs are taking the day to go hike at a waterfall in Vieux Fort. Saturday the new volunteers swear in, and we'll all be there. The plan is for some of us to go down south again to Alex's house in Choiseul and hang out there, do another hike, play games and relax. There's no transport Sundays so we'd return Monday morning. Plans being as they are, we'll see how the week pans out.

One final word: Nucular. I really, really, really don't like that man.

3rd September, 2003
A Hammock in the Heat

Today marked the day that I have been dreaming about since I arrived in the Caribbean: I have a hammock on my balcony. Caroline brought it back from Mexico for me, and it could not have come at a more opportune time. There's a massive heat wave right now, making the weather in the low 90s, which feels into the hundreds with humidity, which is hot and thick. With very little breeze. Yesterday, I'm convinced, was the hottest day I've ever experienced in my life. I've taken to sleeping with two fans on me at night, and as my office is upstairs in a crowded building with a broken air conditioner (but thankfully 2 new fans) I've been cranky and broken out in heat rash when I'm at NYC. Yesterday was horrendous. The heat really makes me sluggish and unmotivated. Today, blissfully, I was in the cavelike AC offices of NEMO, stuffing envelopes with Caroline to send out the new disaster management plan. Which actually got us on the TV news tonight, again. (The story was about the new plan coming out, not us stuffing envelopes, but still, it's kinda funny...)

Anyway, it's hot. I've already threatened some of the kids at NYC that if they never see me again, they can find me on my balcony, in the hammock. :) School started this week, too, which is unfortunate for the kids, and for those of us suffering on hot transport vans in the increased traffic. This Thursday I got an offer to speak to a group of students at private school here, ages 11-12. The teacher goes to the gym with me, and has to leave for an emergency. So I'm going to do part of a workshop I put together on self-knowledge and self-esteem for young teens.< As far as NYC goes, supposedly I'll be going into the secondary schools soon, having meetings with students and staff to explain and drum up support to revive the Students' Councils and Students' Branch of the NYC. Like every other part of the NYC, it's not operating as it should be, or in some cases, at all. With that and the Sports for All program which had another meeting on Monday in Babonneau and has already planned a first event (folk dancning and a nutrition workshop on Oct. 15), I'm happily sporting a busy calendar. Which leaves me less time to sit and think about how hot it is. (unfortunately, it also cuts in on my desired regimine of 4 showers a day...)

This weekend Shannon and Sam left, along with Laura Jones, another PCV who was a close friend and a damn funny girl. As much as I hated to see them go, it's also good to be done with goodbyes. I get so easily attached to people that I'm not good with goodbyes. I'm still not fully out of denial about the fact that two of my closest friends for the last year have gone for good. They will be missed. They left those of us here--Caroline, Alex, me and their other friends--with some nice loot. I got soap, lotion, sunscreen, aloe gel and other toiletries as well as a fan, some magazines and a new backpack. From Micah, an American consultant that was here for about 2 months, I got some film and some food. And some nice digital pictures he took, including some video of me dancing at carnival (available for a fee...). I'd rather have the friends than the stuff, but I know I'll be passing plenty of things on when my time comes to leave as well.

Also, I got a new cellphone (one that Sam had borrowed from Alex) because the other one died, taking with it many of my numbers I can't retrieve. And I'm writing on my new-to-me laptop, circa 1996, but good enough to get me online. If you're on MSN or Yahoo Messenger, please drop me a note and add me to your list. Even if you're not, send me a note and tell me what you've been up to. I'm enjoying being back in the online world again.

I've been taking it quite easy this week, so far work and then a meeting and then work, gym and hanging out. Tonight after I got back from the gym and he got back from football, Jude came over and fixed one of my fans for me. (It chose a very bad time to break!) We watched part of Lord of the Rings 1 on HBO, and I made passionfruit juice. We taunted the cat and gossipped about people we know. Yes, another exciting evening of living alone in St. Lucia... I'm actually grateful for the slow, quiet pace again though. My voice seems to be returning slowly and the cough has settled down to a manageable level. Here's to slow lifestyles!

I finally got my computer at NEMO to play music today, and got to listen to the Morning Show on KEXP Seattle-my favorite radio program-for the first time since I left. It was so nice to hear music from home again. I rarely listen to my "home" music anymore, but it suits the state of flux that I'm in at the moment. And I have a better CD player now than my old crappy discman + mini speakers combo--Service let me borrow his old boombox when Shannon and Sam were done with it. Some of the CDs I brought wouldn't play at all before, and I couldn't get any real volume. So tonight after work I lounged in the hammock with my book, listening to Kings of Convenience, watching the sky fade to pink over the lush green hills, and relishing the slight breeze (in contrast to the sweltering heat trapped in my apartment no matter how many fans I use and crossbreezes I optimize). It took a lot of willpower to leave all that and go sweat in an aerobics class in a hot gym. But I'm feeling good and maintaining my fitness goals these days--keeping my weight down and more importantly, looking more fit and muscular. People are commenting in ways that are flattering, finally, instead of telling me I've gained weight.

Another thing I like about living here is the stars. There's not much light pollution, so you can really see a lot of them! I'm dying to go camping, and I have a hand-me-down tent, but no one to really go with that likes to do that and who I trust. That's one of my goals for the next year--to go camping. I really miss that. I also still need to go on a turtle watch, climb Mt. Gimmie (highest mtn here) and the Petit Piton, as well as see many more waterfalls. But back to the stars. From my balcony, I can see Mars, which is really bright these days. And just the other night leaving Babonneau, we saw this amazing shooting star/meteorite. A telescope would probably be fantastic here. People seem to take the visibility of the night sky here for granted, and not pay attention. Maybe it's one of those things you don't appreciate until you don't have it. I hope not.

27th August, 2003
What to do

I haven't written much lately about expressions here. "What to do..." is sort of an Indian (as in E. Indian) expression, I think, that has trickled to the Caribbean. There are lots of these expressions of resignation, I guess you could call it. Sort of saying, so it goes. "You know already," and "You done know" (which appears more popularly in Sean Paul songs)both mean the same thing. I'm feeling a lot like all of those this week, as life gets more and more volatile. At least it's not boring!

This week I've been thinking a lot about integration into this culture. It's the unspoken norms and rules of a society that are the hardest to learn, and the ones that will always conspire to make one feel foreign, even after a long time. For example, last week it was pouring rain and a co-worker at NYC made a comment about the rain in patois, and everyone laughed. I asked him to translate and he did, but I still didn't get it. They laughed at me, saying "Deborah, how long have you been here?" and "How old are you?" They repeated it, and continued to be amused at the blank and bewildered expression on my face. Finally, it was explained, bit by bit, but of course by that time, it wasn't funny, if it ever would have been to me. Basically, the rain to Lucians is to snow to north americans. When the weather makes you stay inside, adults will often occupy themselves... in other ways. (yes, as usual, the joke was about sex.) Given that the rainy season here is 6 months, that explains a lot about the population rate here, where 70% of the population is defined as youth. This sort of joke or comment situation happens to me about 10x a day, I'd say. Of course, there are the rare days when I get everything--the jokes, the patois, and I feel like a conquering hero. THe other days, well, they certainly have their moments. You know already. Even my recent escapades in dating have brought this point home more than ever. Friendships cross-culturally are one thing, but more intimate relationships are another, and it can be quite frustrating! There are enough small emotional and verbal pitfalls to overcome in any relationship without adding cultural confusion on top of it. What you assume or the other person assumes, or what certain actions mean--everything is up in the air. I had dinner with another volunteer and her boyfriend on Saturday, and since they have a pretty good relationship, I was relieved to see them having the same sort of frustrating discussions that I've experienced. It really gives me new respect for people who end up marrying someone from another country. Man, it's a lot of work.

I'm taking on one of Shannon's projects, Sport for All, as she's leaving the St. Lucia Olympic Committee when she heads for Ontario on Sunday. Since it's related to youth and sports, it works well with my mission as a youth & comm. development volunteer and with the mission of the NYC. In fact, some of the work will involve liaising w/ the Youth and Sports Councils, the Y&S officer, and the community development officer. Attending community meetings and activities will get me out into the communities where I need and want to be, and where my work with the NYC has not yet brought me enough. Basically, Sport for All is a program to promote exercise and healthy lifestyles in all the communities for people of all abilities and ages. I'll be taking on communications and program evaluation. Possibly another topic for a case study, and certainly a great way to meet more people. I attended a meeting on Monday night in Babonneau with Shannon and already met a number of new people and renewed acquaintance with a few I'd already met. That, and writing proposals for a teen talent pageant and some other events with Barry, the director of the dance troupe from my carnival section, should have me a bit busier, and happier. Thursday we're supposedly doing our next community intervention in Canaries, at long last. Saturday, the waterfall trip has been postponed for us to have a welcome lunch with the newest PC trainees, who receive their island assignments tomorrow. Word is that we're getting 6 more here--business, IT and special education volunteers. Sunday I'll be going to a health fair in Anse La Raye for Sport for All, and afterwards maybe to a pool party in Marigot for Curt, one of the NYC guys who is leaving to move to London. Yes, another person leaving.

Times are changing, and things feel a bit strange and unsettled. Things have been changing in good and bad ways though, so I actually feel sort of excited at what's to come next. You done know that it will change again, no matter what.

25th August, 2003
Summer's End

The flu is gone, mostly, but the cough lingers. And now I've lost my voice, again. Some days I think my body is trying to kill me slowly. (then again, maybe it feels the same...) We had a serious thunder and lightening storm last night, which is rare. It's been quite rainy lately, cooling off the otherwise scorching heat. A decent weekend, much needed. Last week was not so good for me, characterized by both personal and work dramas. I did have some good time with friends, though, and that always helps. Wednesday, Shannon, Sam and Martina came over, and we had a nice dinner, and Martina stayed over. Thursday night Alex came over and brought her VCR and we watched chick flicks and giggled a lot. Friday night, well, it was good in some ways, necessary in others to regain sanity. A friend I have mentioned here, Service (who I met not long after New Years), and I made the transition from friends to dating about a month ago, and things were really good and fun, nothing serious. Once I came back from Grenada, it was weird. Then weirder, and worse. Finally we barely spoke all week, and we were going to be at the same going-away event Friday night, so I called him beforehand to sort things out. Turns out I was right about the source of his weirdness--your basic committment phobia--and we had a good talk, leaving it at friends, probably(he wouldn't even commit to what we were deciding on, which is a good sign that it's for the best things ended when they did.) And so we agreed, all is cool, we still want to hang out, see you in a while. And when I got to the bar, things were quite bizarre. And not on my end. But other friends were there, and I managed to have a pretty good time anyway, having not been out to Rumours for a good while. And that's where I lost my voice, shouting over the loud music. Some people went to Shamrock's but I went home. Supposedly it's closing soon, getting torn down for condos. I won't miss it much as it's grown tiresome, but it will be a shame to lose a place to go when there are so few as it is.

Saturday was a great day--the sanity break that I needed all week. A group of us, my friend Alex and several other PCVS, Jamie, Alex and Heather, went to a waterfall in Anse La Raye, with Jamie's boyfriend and two of Heather's local friends. We swam and hung out at the waterfall for a few hours, playing in different sections and hiking around (bikini hiking--a whole new experience for me) and then stopped at a bar for a beer. There we ran into Xavier, who was good friends w/ Margaret before she left this summer and is also Kendall's brother. Small Island. He's a dj, and let Mike and I dj at the fish fry a few months ago, and he had his equipment in the bar. Since there was no one there but us, he let me dj some more and taught me more things. They had to drag me out of the bar and away from it, but he's promised to let me do it again another time. From Anse La Raye, Alex dropped Jame, Zorana and me at Jamie's place in Bocage, where we hung out and chatted some more (Bocage is nice and quiet, in the hills near Babonneau but closer to Castries, and I almost moved there) and then Zorana cooked us dinner-a "broth" (meaning stew) of chicken backs, lentils, spinach and green bananas. Belly full (budé mwe plen) and completely relaxed and tired, I left around 9 pm and took the bus back to Castries, still wearing my tank top, shorts and bikini underneath. The bus stop was right by my friend Michelle's bar, (bordering sort of a rough area) so I stopped to check her. It was slow, and we got to chatting, and 3 hours later, I was still there. Luckily, I caught a ride from some guys heading north to go out, and finally went home. 2 late nights in a row. Yesterday was very mellow with the usual laundry, trip to the beach and for ice cream with the girls, and then I fell asleep on the couch at about 9:30 pm.

This week on the personal life front promises to be better than last (which isn't hard to do) and hopefully busy at work. Its still long, frustrating stretches of waiting punctuated by bursts of meaningful work. I'm really feeling fed up with waiting around at NYC for them to wake up, appreciate me and use me for what I have to offer, which is a lot and could really do good things for the organisation if they'd let me. Instead, it's all politicking and egos, and those who dont want to work don't want me to either, and those who do work dont want to share the projects and thus the power and glory. Which is nonsense. I dont want any of that. I just want to be busy and do useful things. So I'm setting out to find whatever I can do, however I can do it. Enough of this being trapped by NGO bureacracy. There are lots of things to look forward to, though, despite losing Shannon and Sam at the end of this week, and a fledgling romance/friendship on top of that. Tonight I'm finally going to catch up with Gagamel, since we've been playing phone tag for months but haven't spent any time together. Tomorrow is dinner with Lauren, Kari (visiting from Grenada for training, which ends this week) and Laura, who will be sorely missed when she departs the island this weekend as well. Sigh. Wednesday night I think Jude and I are finally cooking together. Wednesday Caroline also returns from Mexico. Thursday I think I'm heading to Shamrocks with some local girlfriends. Then Sat we're going to a different waterfall, and outdoor activities always make me happy. That night is a final going-away party for Shannon, where we'll be with some of the same crowd from Friday again. Then, my friend Jake is coming in for the weekend of the 5th, and I know we will have a good time then. Probably a few other volunteers will be in from other islands that weekend as well. Mid-october is when my mom arrives, and she will be here for 2 weeks. And then it will be November already!

When I got back from the states, a year seemed like it had gone by so quickly, and would do again. This past week, a year has seemed like a really long time. I'm in a slump where I feel like this country is really too small and I've been there and done that. I know it's not true and there's plenty more to see and do and people to meet. I just need to reinvigorate my attitude and perspectives. And I need to get more visitors! I have exactly one year left, or less, campers, so get out your calendars and get planning. The Caribbean is beautiful. As a woman in my class this morning at the gym's St. Lucia tourist t-shirt read, "Too much of a good thing is a good thing." Come see for yourself.

Finally, more US politics. I've used this as a soapbox before, but here I'll let someone else say it for me, better than I could have anyway.

20th August, 2003
Slow Recovery

I'm still battling this flu. It was a cold when I went to Grenada, and a full-on flu by the time I returned. So my birthday and the days following were pretty miserable, spent drinking lots of juice, bush tea, cough syrup and watching movies and reading books. And lots of sleeping. Pretty uneventful. My rudolph-red nose is finally peeling off, but I still have a cough and a bit of stuffiness. This thing does not want to leave me. The weekend was understandably mellow. Friday night had a drink with Shannon, Sam, Kendall and Service at Service's house, and Saturday we had a big meeting at work, and then i went to the beach. Watched a movie with the neighbors and then to a party with some of Alex's co-workers that night. Sunday was a beach picnic with the new pcvs and their Babonneau host families. I've really just been in a pretty blah mood since my return, feeling tired and sick and mildly cranky. Fielding personal dramas and those of close friends isn't helping, but a phone call from long lost friend Sarah in Philly was certainly a start. Also got some birthday calls from Mom and Carla, and a few cards. Still awaiting new swimsuit from Grandma as well as my new hair (!!!) at long last, which should be arriving any day now in the mail. Also still awaiting a box of books which Jamie supposedly sent in June or July. I hope it's not lost... Thanks to everyone for remembering me from afar on my birthday. This one was possibly the most non-descript ever, but then again, 29 is not such an exciting number. Next year, however, will require some serious celebration. Hopefully in Cuba, when I finish here. That's the plan, anyway.

Work has been interesting, in both good and bad ways. There's a big scandal that broke before I left for Grenada, regarding the newly elected 1st vice president of the nyc. He's been implicated in the 1994 murder of an infant, kidnapped and used in an obeah ceremony. He was asked to resign when the scandal broke and wouldn't; finally an emergency general meeting was held and he was voted out on Saturday (see article). I'm saving clips because I see a case study here, albeit a small one. That's been exciting and interesting to see-I've never been a part of an experience like this. Otherwise, we still haven't made the visit to Canaries, the 3rd village where we'll conduct our focus groups and interviews. That should be happening soon. This week we're doing follow-up meetings each evening to the executive retreat 2 weekends ago (which I was only able to attend partially due to my trip to Grenada), working on the programme for the coming 2 years, forming committees and putting the objectives etc into a Log Frame format. Tedious stuff, but interesting, as this is the sort of management things I both studied and intend to do as a career. Probably. Again, it's refreshing when I'm actually doing what I'm here to be doing. It seems to happen rarely, but more frequently these days. Progress does happen slowly here.

Otherwise, not much is new. Caroline is in Mexico, Doris is in Antigua, Kari is visiting from Grenada. Shannon and Sam are leaving to return to Canada next weekend, and so I'm spending lots of time with them in the meantime. Tonight they and my friend Martina (a local girl who works at the Ministry of Sustainable Development) are coming over for dinner and some much-needed girl time. Friday is a going-away get together for Shannon and Sam. I haven't been doing much lately--sleeping, working out again (the only good thing about this flu is that I re-lost that darn 5 lbs again) and reading. I just finsihed Sophie's Choice in about 5 days and am now onto American Pastoral. I'm heading for Michener's Caribbean next. I'm feeling sort of shy, quiet and introverted these days, and not really sure why. At the same time, i've been spending more time with my neighbors. The ones next door have been a bit free-er lately, as the mother of the house is away--We've been trading cds, and I watched a Jamaican gangster movie (Shotta) with them Saturday evening and a dvd with my other neighbor, Mathius (who I just discovered has a dvd player) on Friday. I should hang out with him more often, as he invites me to, but as he is my age and has a girlfriend, I'm always a bit unsure about what his intentions are, and what it will look like to the neighbors. More and more I dont really care though, I need my friends where I can find them. Speaking of that, Jude and I still have not rescheduled our cooking date.

Chabin's love affair with Jude's cat, Fifi, keeps the neighbors talking. She virtually moved into their house for a while, but I have lately lured her back home with a new brand of cat food. She's fattening up a bit again--she loses so much weight every time I'm not home much. I really need to take her to the vet to get neutered, but I keep putting it off due to the $100 price tag. Kittens would be troublesome and expensive though, so I have put it on my to-do list.

It's strange to see all of the madness going on in the states, and abroad. I feel so distant from all of it here in my safe little caribbean enclave. American politics have disturbed me more and more as I've been away, which makes it rather disturbing to be a representative of this government while disagreeing with nearly everything they do. For those who agree with me and want to make a difference, November's election is crucial. Please Vote! Register online here.

My thoughts are coming out jumbled and disconcerted today, and I'm quickly running out of time. Off to my next meeting and then my guests tonight. It's nice to have something fun to look forward to. I dont know if I mentioned that I am buying Caroline's old laptop, but that will happen by the end of this month. Hers is just as old as mine was, but actually functional. So here's to online access at home. Anyone who's on yahoo or hotmail IM, please let me know. I'll be back in action in a few weeks.

12 August, 2003
Spice Mas

I'm here in St. George's, Grenada, at Robin's place, listening to a steel pan band play the same annoying soca song over and over again as the bands parade through the streets. So far we've been to many of the events--the same ones that I went to in St. Lucia, actually. Saturday I got here quite early, and even ran into Erin, a St Vincent volunteer, with her boyfriend on my flight. We all went to the beach together and snorkelled, then visited a nearby mall to grocery shop and have some lunch. That night we went to the panorama, held in the stadium here on Saturday night, and to an all-day beach soca party featuring a band from Barbados, Krosfyah, and to jouvert yesterday, where we were slathered in purple and other colors of paints, dancing in the streets from 5 am. We went out there at 3, when the full moon was still high in the sky over the city--it was beautiful. St. George's is by far a prettier city than Castries is, and I feel slightly more cosmopolitan as well. Robin's house is perched on a hill just overlooking the city, which itself is nestled in sort of a bowl between nearby mountains, and runs along the harbour. Very picturesque.

Jouvert here was much crazier and more fun than St. Lucia's and made ours look like practice. This was MADNESS! Ours had one band of people covered in paint, but this one had many bands of people covered in paint, and then we all danced w/ each other and shared paint or just shared our tins of paints and soon we were all a rainbow smeared sweaty mass. Robin and I linked up early on with a group of 5 grenadians, 3 guys (brothers) and 2 wives, and tagged along with them all day, which made it much more fun. One of them, Z, is a student in Canada, and was taking video to show to the caribbean culture group back there when he returns. He's going to post it on his website, which I will link here when it's back up.

So jouvert took us up until about 10 am yesterday, and we stumbled home to drink lots of water, shower and sleep for a few more hours (since we got up at 2:30 am for it). We recovered and headed to the stadium to watch the pageant of the bands on stage there, then headed downtown for some food and to wait for Monday night Mas. Neither of us knew what to expect of it, as we didn't have that in St. Lucia. They were selling packages in the stores for about $50 to participate. We waited and waited and were so tired, that when it finally started it was anticlimatic. We left soon afterwards.

What we realized last night was that there are various economic levels of participation in carnival here, called Spice Mas because it's the isle of spice. There's jouvert, which is sort of the everyman's carnival--really just a halloween madhouse in the streets, with messy paint, used motor oil, and people in wacky or political costumes, drunkenly cavorting and having a ball. THen there's the pageant with costumes, which can run to $300 EC. That gets you your costume, food and drinks at the mas camp and on the road, and the chance to participate both Monday and Tuesday. Monday night Mas is sort of the middle of the road option, and seemed to be the tamest--just a bunch of people wearing t-shirts with different themes and sponsors, all with various glowing alien antennae, devil horns and whatnot. THey looked pretty cool, thronging through the dark streets in a glowing mass, but not cool enough for us to stay awake, watching other people dance and listen to the same damn songs over and over some more. Today is when the bands parade through the streets, and we're tired, and trying to summon the energy to go. We had a relaxing breakfast of bakes and cocoa tea on the roof (her rooftop balcony has a great view of the whole city and harbour) and then went to the beach for a bit. We can see the bands passing from here, but it's hard to motiviate to do all of this again, no matter how fun.

Tonight we're making a sort of special dinner for my birthday tomorrow--wine and tortollini w/ pesto sauce. It should be nice. It would be better, though, if my darn cough wasn't back again. Friday night I coughed most of the night before I came here, after having a work meeting until Midnight, but it calmed down. It seems jouvert was too much for my sickly self, so I'm back to hacking and wheezing. Nothing quite as joyous as being sick on vacation. Especially when it's hot and there's loud repetitive music outside.

I am definitely enjoying my time in Grenada, though I haven't even gotten to see much of the island or even the markets and things downtown--everything's been closed for carnival. I'll be back in May for Peace Corps Close of Service conference, and hopefully I can see more then. I wish this trip hadn't gone so quickly, but they always do.

Since I've been talking so much about Carnival and been to 2 of them now, but not shared many photos as yet, if you're curious to see what I'm talking about, check these sites: St. Lucia Carnival and Grenada Spice Mas. I don't think I'm in any of them.

5 August, 2003
Cold in the Caribbean

Ok, I lied. It's far from cold, but I have one, and I'm unhappy about it. I've been just feeling generally blah for a few days, tired and with a really raspy-feeling cough that scares me because of it's similarity to bronchitis. Which I've had too many times in the last year to want to recall. So I'm taking it easy.

My week last week went well, and I'm proud to say that for the first time in a year here I've actually become engaged in a project that is completely what I'm supposed to be doing here--community and youth development. The NYC is doing some mobile 3-week AIDS workshops in conjunction with some other NGOs in the coming months, and I'm involved with a small group of people doing community assessments in advance. We go to the four selected communities, take a visual assessment, and do some interviews and a focus group discussion on community structures, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse. I've been running the focus groups--one on Tuesday, one on Saturday, and I'm proud to say that they've gone pretty well. It's been a real learning experience and fun as well. I'm finally doing the things I learned at UW as well as in Peace Corps training. It's nice to feel useful for a change.

Friday was yet another holiday here, Emancipation Day. As there was nothing special going on that I knew of to celebrate (other than people blowing conch shells on my street for hours, waking me up), I went to the beach with Sam and Caroline at Windjammer, where they have a new water trampoline. Then I spent some time louging by the pool with Service at his (well, his family friends', but he has a room there) villa. That night we went to the street party at Gros Islet, which was packed because it was Gros Islet day this weekend. Each community has a "day" which is actually a weekend where they have a festival. Since Gros Islet already has a street party, when they have their "day" it's more of a madhouse than usual. Too bad the rain spoiled the party a bit, at least for me. Sunday I went to a wedding with Service, held in Babonneau. It was my first St. Lucian wedding, and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between it and American weddings I've been to. His friends, who mostly all work on or own boats (the sports fishing crowd), were a rowdy bunch, and a lot of fun.

Nothing too big planned for this week, except another day of interviews/focus groups on Thursday. Friday the newest batch of EC PCVs arrive (EC 71) here for training, and we're supposed to meet them at the aiport. Saturday I leave for Grenada until Wednesday morning. Which, incidentally, is my birthday. The big 2-9. Yikes! No big plans there, either but hopefully something fun will happen. Grenada is having Carnival Monday and Tuesday when I'm there next week, so that may be party enough. It will be fun to watch, rather than participate, this time.

25 July, 2003
Happy Anniversary to Me

Today is the one-year anniversary of my arrival on the island, and we're celebrating at the office with a little cookout on the balcony after hours. We're making a bouillon with saltfish and ting (meaning other stuff), and having some rum. After that I think I'm heading out with Caroline and Alex to our friend Michelle's bar, The Garage, which is sort of on the edge of the ghetto downtown. The bar itself is nice, safe and very chill-the kind of place where I would have hung out in college, and totally different from anything else in St. Lucia that I've seen. Michelle is sort of a rasta crossed with a hippie crossed with a party girl. She manages a shop that sells trendy clothes from NYC as well as African imports, and co-owns this bar. She's the one who gave me my lovely red extensions for Carnival. They were so much fun to wear. I had them plaited in my old, mashed-up red wig from last year, which has too many thin spots in it to wear for anything outside of a costume like that. Otherwise, or if I had my own hair to plait, I think I would have braids all the time. One of my neighbours, a ras named David, told me hed get his grandmother to teach me to cornrow. Apparently she taught a previous Canadian volunteer.

Recovery from Carnival continues. Monday and Tuesday were possibly two of the most fun days of my life, and certainly in the top 5 since I've been here. Stupidly, Caroline and I went horseback riding on the beach Sunday with Vincent, Jacinta's boyfriend's brother. It was really fun, but as neither of us had ridden a horse since we were small, we had some major thigh muscle soreness. I would love to go again, but next time I will be smarter than to do it the day before I dance for virtually 48 hours straight. Sunday night I was supposed to go to the Soca Monarch competition, where they awarded the best carnival soca songs for the year and the best King and Queen costumes for the bands, but Alex backed out. I went and had a drink with Service instead at the half-price bar, Happy Day. The band whose Mas Camp I worked in, XS Energy, won, which made me feel sort of good. Monday at 5 am the parade officially started with jouvert (Joo-vay), where masses of people crowd the streets, dancing behind trucks with bands on them playing loud soca music. People dance, jump, wave bandanas, drink, blow whistles, wear all kinds of crazy ensembles (one of the bands also had a jouvert section that painted themselves all blue) and act generally crazy. I joined them, sans costume, from 6-8 am, then went home and bathed, had breakfast and went to Mas Camp. There we had some drinks, got in costume, and got on the road at about noon. My band, Rituals, had a theme: Timbuktu, and everyone was decked in various styles of African-inspired garb. We wound our way through the streets (our Mas camp was about a 2 miles from the start of the official parade route) of town, with crowds lining the sides of the road, and performed at several points along the way and then onstage at the former cricket grounds. Our performance was a ritual in itself, with African drumming and dancing. My section led our bandwe had a small tent on a platform, and then us, then a large truck where our band, Wézon, played, and then more sections, our fully stocked drinks truck, and then more sections. We were somewhere early in the parade lineup, but Im not sure what number. As I was in my own section most of the time, I didnt see any of the rest of the bands. Since most of our section were members of a dance troupe, Silver Shadows, they did the performing. The rest of us were called Standard Bearers and carried large vertical banners with the band and theme name. Our duty during the performance was merely to wield these rather heavy and unwieldy banners (which got heavier after the frequent rainstorms, thanks to a tropical wave passing through both days) and occasionally turn them or run around the other sections in circles. After the final performance, we did several rounds of the city streets again, and headed back to our Mas Camp. I didnt sit down for the whole day and the final 2 miles were gruelling hell, and I had blisters on the soles of my feet from dancing in wet sneakers all day. When we reached camp, all I wanted to do was go home, shower and fall into bed. Surprisingly though, after some food and a change of clothes, I was up and dancing again. Both nights we had an after party in our warehouse, complete with DJ, lights and drinks. The first night was relatively quiet, and I only stayed until 10, but the second night I left at about 1 am. Tuesday morning I was exhausted, but we didnt have to be at camp until noon. Everything started up again around 2, and we paraded until after dark, and then feted until the wee hours of morning. Ive never danced so much in my life. Wednesday morning I could barely speak or walk, I was so exhausted. I couldnt stop smiling thoughI had such a ball. The dancing was fun, and being in costume was fun, but mostly it was meeting all those new people and getting to party with the people I normally only see in the office. Wednesday, they announced best band, and we came second. I walked around like a complete space cadet all daywent into work in the early afternoon for a meeting, but they laughed at me and sent me home. From there, Alex and I went to the beach. A swim and a rest made me feel better, and from there I hung out by Services house for a bit, had a nice dinner and then went home and slept. Hard. Im still recovering, with a scratchy throat and sort of a spacey head. The next big fete here isnt until late October-Jounen Kweyol, when Mom will be visiting. I have a feeling shes in for a crazy time, because it was certainly fun last year.

Photos of carnival will probably not be posted on my site for a while, but Im uploading them to my yahoo photos site in the meantime:, so check there. Other photos from recent months have been uploaded but not yet posted, so check there soon.

17 July, 2003

Carnival is officially held in St. Lucia on Monday and Tuesday next week (the 21st and 22nd), but the buildup began weeks ago, with round after round of Calypso competitions and culminating this week with Mas on the Square downtown everyday at lunch and music in the evenings. Last night was the commercial house calypso finals, tonight is pan-o-rama (the steel pan competition) and tomorrow is calypso finals. This weekend the King and Queen of Carnival competions and various soca shows and other parties will also be held. It is also when I, a medium-sized white girl from the northeastern US relatively un-used to srious booty-shaking, will embrace newfound African roots and learn African dance.

That's right. Yours truly is jumping carnival with a band called the Rituals, which is a new band this year featuring an African theme (as expected, it just didnt work out for bizarre interpersonal reasons w/ the other band I was helping). Which means I will be wearing a gold/brown african-themed tiny costume featuring gold-painted shoes, a tiny gold skirt (w/lycra shorts underneath, thankfully!), a criss-crossed abdomen section, and a bandeau-like top, as well as a nubian-style hat and a staff w/ an Egyptian-looking symbol on it. Wearing this, I will dance through the streets of Castries in parades lasting from 9 am Monday morning (just following the jouvert celebration from 4 am onward) until 9 pm, and from 1 pm to 9 pm the next day. And that's not all. Apparently, my section is leading our band, and we will be *ahem* performing an African dance on stage, complete with drummers. And as if I wouldn't have stood out enough already, many of my section-mates are members of a dance troupe (who I know through my work at NYC). Which means that they're good, and I'm, well, soft, in the words of our section leader/dance teacher. Great. I have two days to learn this dance before doing it before thousands. If I can just live through it, there will be great stories to tell for years. I laughed to the point of tears several times after I found out yesterday. It's too funny not to laugh at. I'm taking my old red wig today to buy extensions and get them plaited in. At least then I can shake my braids to the drums. [Lauging yet?]

Today it's pouring though, and we had a torrential downpour this morning and a rare thunderstorm. Hopefully that takes care of the preciptiation for the next few days, because I can't imagine doing any of that in the rain. I guess that's one more reason why Carnival used to be in the early spring, and not in the rainy season. (They moved the dates throughout the islands to attract more tourists in the off-season.)

I don't have much else to say. The adjustment back to work is going slowly, and I haven't yet had the meeting with the powers that be to discuss what, exactly, I will be doing. There is some talk of me doing needs assessments in several communities leading up to some HIV/AIDS workshops the NYC will be doing in the future. That and helping out further with a documentary being made on NYC. I have some other thoughts though, but will have to wait until our president (the same one was re-elected in my absence, as was my community partner, Jimmy) returns to the island next week. Until then...

15 July, 2003
3 Countries, 3 Weeks

My trips are over, sadly, and they went off without a hitch. The visit to the states went by too quickly, of course, but was worth every minute. I really enjoyed myself. I can't believe my sister is married! The wedding was beautiful, despite some showers that threatened the outdoor ceremony (it was held at a mansion on the Delaware river north of Philadelphia), and because of my excitement and adrenaline, the whole thing passed by in a flash. I think everyone had a wonderful time. So from the time I arrived, there were wedding preparations to be done. The house was already nearly full, with myself, Mom, her boyfriend John, Cindy and Dave. Monday I recovered and shopped with Carla. Tuesday we travelled to the Poconos where my mother's cousin Barbara lives, as she was making all of the dresses. We had our fittings and some last minute corrections, and spent the day there. Wednesday Dave's family arrived from Arizona, and John and I took them to Valley Forge National Park and the Audobon house for some walking and photo ops. I love that park, and we had a really nice picnic, watching the deer. It was HOT! 95 and humid, putting St. Lucia heat to shame. Then we had mother/daughter manicures Thursday, and some more shopping, and the rehearsal dinner at our house, and that's where the madness began. Friday, the day of the wedding passed in a flash. We all stayed at hotel nearby, and Saturday many of us spent the day in the city. I went to Chinatown with my aunt Janet, cousin Audra and her husband Ryan for Chinese/Vietnamese food and some shopping. From there we met my sister and her friends to have some beer and play pool/darts. The whole gang of us (about 20) went to Penn's Landing and South Street, where we did a small pub crawl, including stops for pizza and cheese steaks. We had a blast. Sunday for me was more shopping--had to hit the Old Navy outlet for capris, visors, and cheap flip flops. (sounds superfluous, but these things are necessary and I blow through shoes here at an astounding rate!) The next week, I managed to catch up with a few friends in person and by phone, see "Bend it Like Beckham" in the city, get my nose ring re-inserted (only to have it get infected and have to take it back out again), finish the neverending shopping list, and then the preparations for mom's birthday party began. In that time, we had aunt Janet staying with us, so cousin Colin and his girlfriend stopping by as well as other family and friends, so there were many nights spent on the deck with lovely food and coconut rum drinks. Mom's birthday party on the 5th had some rain as well, but that didn't spoil the fun. Then we had a final few days for goodbyes and final foods I missed to eat, and then I left early Tuesday morning. Not long enough, but a really good time. I left tired, happy and fat.

The plane ride to the states was really interesting, because I had hit maximum frustration here and was so ready to go. It was all capped by having the promised free tickets to the reggae show fall through, and then my "date" completely stand me up - though I went and had a great time anyway - the night before I left. Then I had so many friends and neighbors call and stop by to wish me well, and even had one neighbor make tamarind jam for my mother, and I was so touched. Looking down on the place I've called home for the last year made me realize how quickly it's all going, and that in one short year I will be looking down for the final time as I fly away for good. Then I nearly got teary-eyed, and spent some time reflecting on my first year in my journal. When i got home, I wrote some of it here, after further reflection, but then hit the wrong key and it was all erased. So that was that--no more time to post while away. I'll summarise by saying that I feel pretty satisfied with my experience thus far. I came into the peace corps with three major goals: to grow on a personal level (with several specific goals), to grow on a professional level and gain some skills, and to leave feeling i have left some tangible results of my help behind. At the end of my first year I am able to say that I have certainly grown on a personal level, and I'm pleased with that. Work-wise, I've had a pretty difficult go of it, and though I don't feel the satisfaction yet that I hope to achieve, I'm sure I've learned a great deal. Basically, I plan to spend the next year really focusing on getting things done wherever and however I can. A nice phone conversation with my adviser at UW helped to clarify some things for me while i was home, so I'm feeling poised to approach the next year with a fresh attitude and renewed motivation. And prepared to begin writing my case study(ies) on whatever topic(s) pan out best.

MST in Dominica was nice. I really enjoyed seeing the group again, though we apparently lost one more person just before. It was nice to connect with the other community development volunteers and discover that nearly half of us are on our second assignment. That certainly helped ease any fears that it was my fault. In fact, we realized amongst ourselves that all who were reassigned had been placed with one specific agency, and those who were satisfied in their original assignment had been placed in a more fluid assignment, such as a village council. This reflects peace corps' new vision for comm. dev. in the region, but doesn't help those of us still trapped in a more concrete-seeming "job" very much. Theory is fine, but in practice, we end up being slot-fillers more often than not, which makes doing organisational development quite difficult, especially when one is young, white and female in this society. I guess that's the "toughest" part of the peace corps slogan rearing its head again... Anyway, Wednesday I got to see some of Rosseau, the capital city, which looked like a smaller and more charming Castries. I got a small picture in the craft market and had a nice lunch in a very Americanized cafe with some other volunteers. We spent Wed. through Fri nights in a hotel isolated in a small area in the rainforest, and it was quite chilly and very rainy. We had all-day sessions Thursday and Friday, and got to socialize in the evenings since there was nowhere else to go. We had to entertain ourselves with playing beer-cap poker (we supplied our own, not to implicate pc staff!), dominoes, and having a small haiku contest/performance featuring a rap done by some volunteers. It was pretty hilarious. Saturday some people left, and the rest of us had a choice to do our own thing or join tours to either the Carib Territory or hike to Boiling Lake. Being of the hiking variety, I chose the Lake trip, so we set of early into the pouring rain. The hike was beautiful, first setting off through rainforest to climb a mountain, then down into a scalded valley of boiling sulfur pits and warm streams (called the Valley of Desolation), through forest again and finally to the lake itself, the second largest "boiling" lake of its kind. We had our lunch there, and shared some with some American high school kids without food, and they gratefully said they would join the peace corps when they were old enough. On the way back we bathed in the warm sulfur springs to warm our cold bodies for the long hike back. In all the trip was 7 hours, and 12 miles, and I did it in my Chacos, which would have been fine but for some blisters and scrapes caused by the wet trail and debris getting snagged in the straps. My leg muscles are still recovering. Four of us - me, Caroline, Amy and Jake - spent the night at RJ's house in Black Bay. Sunday, of course, was bright and sunny, and we spent it watching tv and riding in a van around the island up other volunteers on the way to the airport. It's really a very beautiful, green, mountainous country, but the rain made me grateful to return to the heat of St. Lucia.

It's interesting to be back. I felt the culture difference more strongly coming here than I did returning to the states, and I'm not sure i'm fully adjusted mentally yet. I'm just sort of in a daze, and very tired. Three people have already told me, in true West Indian style, that I "put on size" while I was away, which always does wonders for my self-esteem. That tiny Carnival costume lurks just a week away, so the diet is on again in force. This week is the buildup to carnival, with performances in the square each afternoon and night, but I haven't yet attended, as I've been catching up with bills, reports, paperwork and sleep. The real parties should start this weekend, but so far I've spent the week very quietly. I went to see my friend Jacinta who moved back here while I was away, but she was out. I hung out with her boyfriend's brother and saw his new pony, born while I was away, and went with my neighbors to the nightly soccer match held at the nearby secondary school. There's always more I can do to integrate with my neighbors, and I'm focusing on that as well. Sometimes it really takes motivation to do this when I get home in the evening, tired, hot and dirty, wanting only to relax alone in my apartment. The rewards are worth it, though. One of the more difficult things about not really living in a village is that it takes more work to get to know the neighbors and teh community.

More scattered thoughts: While I was away, tropical storm Claudette came through with some pretty strong winds, causing some minor damage. I hope this doesn't bode for a busy hurricane season, though that would certainly be educational for me in my work at NEMO. It's been quite a rainy season so far. We have another new batch of volunteers coming for training in St. Lucia on August 8, and supposedly we are getting 6 of them, in small business, IT, and special education. It will strange by that point to be the most senior volunteers on the island. My computer is apparently screwed--both the cd and disk drives are not reading properly, so I cannot install the new modem. So the computer itself works fine, but features windows 95, and i cannot save or store data on it. I need to either find a used gateway drive online somewhere, or find a cheap used one somehow. please keep your eyes open for me and let me know, and i will be incredibly grateful. My degree project will be quite difficult to do without a computer. I was lucky to have the free one from Ryan, and I can't really afford to buy another one. Until that situation is resolved, my email access will remain sporadic, maybe several times a week. But please keep writing!

17 June, 2003
Counting the Days

I've been having some serious technical difficulties on this end, and haven't been able to update for a while. My laptop is now with a friend of a friend (Jude has been fired as voluntary fix-it man) and hopefully will be actually working sometime this week. Hopefully these services will not break the bank. But it will restore my sanity a bit to be able to be in more regular contact with those far away. Just in time, of course, for my trip back to the states this weekend! I'm counting the days, hours and minutes (5 days).

I'll be in PA from June 22-July 8, and when I return to St. Lucia I leave less than 24 hours later for Dominica from the 9th to the 13th of July. A nice long, much-needed holiday. 2 days of the Dominica trip are for peace corps mid-service training and the rest for fun and checking out the place. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again (those who are left of our group-we're down to 44 from our original 50)and sightseeing.

I've been busy doing lots of interesting things lately, most of them personal and not at work. Work has been dead, dead, dead. And I mean that literally. I just sit there, talking to whoever comes in. Thankfully, that's a fair number of people and that keeps me somewhat entertained. We have 2 computers, only one with a somewhat-functional internet connection, and one phone line, and an intern, several members of the executive, several club members and myself all trying to use them. Chaos. So when I can't use a computer and there are no programs to work on, like right now, there is nothing. Elections for the new Exective (held every 2 years) will be while i am in Dominica, so I will be coming back to an entirely different picture. New counterpart and everything. So for now there's really nothing to do but sit and wait. When I come back, I will really begin the push for getting things rolling, or I will lose my mind. In the meantime, I have started a secondary project, working one day a week helping out at the National Emergency Management Office, NEMO, helping with disaster preparedness (esp important now that hurricane season is here). At least I'm busy there.

Last Sunday was the official event to launch the opening of Carnival. I went up to Babonneau in the morning and spent the early part of the day with my host family there, and then went to the show with them. It was long, but really fun, despite some serious downpours. It was held at the former cricket grounds and featured the carnival queen contestants, models showing off the different bands' carnival costumes, calypsonians and soca artists and finally the headliner soca star Anyan, from Antigua. It lasted from 3 pm to 10 pm and was a good time. My first real concert here. This Sunday I was up in Babonneau again, but at La Guerre for Gagamel's cousin (and my friend) Lauretta's birthday. I made her a cake and spent the day up there with various friends and family members playing with kids, puppies, kittens, helping to unplait someone's hair... just liming in the countryside. They fed me and sent me home with tons of produce, as usual. Too bad I will be away for the real party.

I'm having trouble concentrating on much this week except that I'm going on Sunday. Before then we have holiday on Thursday (Corpus Christi) and a Peace Corps meeting and party for the 68 volunteers leaving this summer on Friday, so I don't have much to focus on. Saturday night I am hopefully getting free tickets to a reggae show featuring Lucky Dube, a South African artist. I really like his music, and I'm looking forward to it quite a bit. Every other concert I've been supposed to go to so far has fallen through though so I'm trying hard not to get my hopes up too high.

I don't think I'll be updating anymore before I go home, so I hope to see some of you soon. Otherwise, stay in touch!

2 June, 2003
Busy But Happy

Well, I just sent out a mass email finally updating everyone on my life since I changed jobs and Carla's visit, but of course, I left out a lot. Life has been busy lately, but good. I'm starting to really feel like this is my life here now. It has been all along, of course, but there were days and weeks, even, where I was just plodding along, day to day, waiting to see where life took me next. Now I feel like this life is mine and I like where I am, mostly.

So to recap, Shannon and Sam were with me for 2 weeks (they've now moved out, just down the road), during which I joined the gym temporarily, and will join permanently in August, now that our raise finally came through. I lost 8 lbs so far, and would ideally like to lose 5 more in the 3 weeks remaining before I come home. there are so many foods from home (mexican, thai, italian, summer fruits like peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) that i am sure to gain it all right back if i'm not careful. but that's going well, which is good because carla brought me some really cute clothes when she came. We had a blast. I worked the few connections I've got and got us a day at Sandals, sort of (security was following us, but we still had lunch with Ken, time on the beach and a snorkelling trip, albeit not to the good reef because of jellyfish and rough water) an attempted sunset cruise (instead a party on the dock when the boat had a problem at the last minute) and then a rescheduled sunset cruise on the most beautiful and expensive boat here for free her last night, thanks to Don (aka Service). We roasted breadfruits and saltfish out in the country with Gagamel and Alex, and spent time out at the bars and on the beach with friends. It was so great to have one of my closest friends here and even though I'll be seeing her in a few short weeks I miss her more than ever now. She fit right into life here and I wish she could stay. I think she does too. I'm really looking forward to more visitors in the future.

Before she came we had the Cricket match, which was a one day match against Australia. The whole country went crazy for it! The West Indies don't have any St. Lucian players (the womens team does but not the mens) but it's still our team. This series is against Sri Lanka and Australia, and there are only 3 games here this whole season. I went to that one, and the day was declared a national holiday. The NYC, my organisation, bought my ticket for me, which was so cool ($90!). I was by myself, but not for very long. i ran into some people i knew from my first and second jobs as well as current pcvs and RJ, a visiting PCV from my group on Dominica. It was a blast. The traffic was a nightmare, but even that was just sort of a big part of the event--the excitement of figuring out how the heck to get out of that madhouse, which we did by hitching on the back of a contstruction truck (the shuttles to Wijay's car were full)with a big group of men. More adventure! We just jumped out when we reached my area--it was that slow. I'm sure we gave those guys something to talk about--2 white girls and a Sri Lankan guy hopping into the truck with them.

I've also been making some new friends--met two nice girls at a meeting last week and hopefully will meet for lunch or a movie or something (matrix reloaded is playing and everyone's talking about it) soon. More local girl friends will be cool. I've also met some girls in the Mas Camp for carnival. Jacinta has called me and is coming back in July, and I can't wait! I also got a call a few days ago from my friend Deborah, who left for Canada (possibly for good) a few months ago and I never got to say goodbye or got any contact info. She still didn't give me a number, but it was great to hear her voice on my voicemail and know she was thinking of me.

There are all kinds of politics going on at work, leading up to the biannual elections which will be held in July, while I'm in Dominica for MST. (A good thing because I can escape the election, but bad because i miss out on the whole weekend extravaganza of seminar-cum-campout that only happens every two years, so i will not see it during my time here.) So that means two things: there isn't much going on but talk, and I'm trying not to get sucked into the politics too much. Which is hard. Luckily, I had a workshop wtih Doris this weekend to prepare for, so I've been busy and out of the office. The workshop, which we've been planning for a while, went fairly well. It was scheduled for this past Sunday and next, and we were supposed to have 15 mothers signed up who are parents of under 12 children with learning disabilities. We intended to give them some information on learning styles and some strategies for them to help their kids learn. We did that, but there were only 4 moms present. And we had to start a half hour late because the woman who was supposed to come unlock the building fell asleep and we had to have a teacher call her to wake her and send her over. (sadly, this is not the first time she has done this to Doris) The small number may have been due to the fact that West Indies (playing Australia again) went to bat at 2, right as we were to start. Regardless, four is better than none so we went ahead with it and the small number enabled us to zoom through the full curricula instead of saving half for next week. So we didn't reach as many people as we hoped to (but it was only a pilot) and we saved ourselves some time. And next weekend is a 3 day weekend, now freed up! I'm glad we did it, and relieved to have it over.

Work is good because it is so casual, but sometimes there is just too much testosterone there for me. I'm so grateful to have made another friend recently--Alex, an italian woman roughly my age (32) who has lived in the states the last 8 years (boston) and sounds more american than me! She worked in Antigua for a bit and moved here recently with her boyfriend from there. She's working for the OECS. It's through her neighbor, Natalie, that I began volunteering at Mas Camp. She works near me downtown so we have lunch and girl talks at least once a week. She keeps me sane, and vice versa I think. It's nice having the new volunteers around as well, for fresh conversations and fresh faces. They're a nice group. Like ours, one didn't make it to swearing in. Mike is sort of vexed to be the only guy. Luckily he's pretty outgoing--he's already acting in a Derek Walcott play!

I'm beginning to pack for home, and tying up loose ends here. We've got to make dr and dentist appts before our MST, which means before I go home. Soon. I've decided that I want to contact NEMO, the national emergency management org., to try and volunteer there, at least for the near future now that it's hurricane season. I know that they asked for, and didn't get, a PCV last round. The volunteers that are coming in July are IT and Business, so their next chance would be January. In the meantime, maybe I can help with some things. I'm sure they can use an extra hand, and it would be interesting to learn about disaster management. I need a real secondary project now that the grant I wrote with Margaret didn't pan out, the workshop with Doris is over, and right after I get back from Dominica, Carnival (and my time at Mas camp) will be over too. So I hope that it works out. By then, too, the new executive at the NYC will be in place, whoever that is, and I basically have to start from scratch with a new group and a new counterpart. Hopefully I will get more direction than I have thus far. Or I can sort of give myself the authority to take things up on my own if not. But for now there's no point--I just have to wait and see what happens. The summer is going to fly past.

14 May, 2003
Long Awaited Update

Ok, well I cant actually say for sure that anyones been awaiting it, but Ive been anxious for a while to write about the things that are going on with me. Ive been keeping a list and its getting quite lengthy, so Ill try not to get too scattered. Whenever I write after a while it ends up looking like some sort of quarterly report. First of all, my new modem is here (has been for several weeks), but its not yet installed. The problem is that the disk drive isnt working and the drivers for the modem came on disks. So Jude took the laptop and the software to work with him to burn the contents of the disks onto cd, since the cd drive works. That was nearly two weeks ago. Then the Jazz festival happened, and as the Trust has one of the major jazz venues Pigeon Island theres been chaos and he hasnt been in the office. I really cant wait to get this thing working! Soon, I hope. I have passwords for it once its up.

Next, housing. At present I have Shannon and Samantha living with me. Heather left last Friday and we had a big going-away bash for her (at which I lost my voice and havent since recovered it). Since the three Canadian volunteers were sharing a house, and Shannon and Samantha got extensions of their contracts for the summer, they needed to move to a smaller and more affordable place when Heather left. And of course, none of the logistics of staying panned out until the last minute, so the three of us are piled into my cosy 2 bedroom flat for two weeks. Hopefully theyre moving into a new place just down the street this weekend. It will be good to have them nearby, but Im anxious to get my own space back. Its been fun though in some ways to have roommates again.

Seven of the 30something new peace corps trainees here for training last month were assigned to St. Lucia: 5 girls, 2 guys (one of whom is older than 50, again). Theyre very nice and will be sworn in as volunteers (EC 70) this Saturday at Coubaril. It will be weird to be in the audience this time. Its strange to be considered expert already after 10 months, and to not be the new ones anymore. Other Peace Corps news is that Caroline is our new lead volunteer and I am the island reporter for our literary magazine, Serious Ting. Other than that, much is the same PCV-wise except that two of my favorite people from training, one from Antigua and one from St. Vincent, have been kicked out of the Peace Corps for travelling to other countries without permission. We do have to live with a certain number of (seemingly ridiculous) rules, but as adults and representatives of a large, government-funded organization I see the need for accountability and keeping track of us. I find it cumbersome but necessary to make sure someone knows where I am at all times and to get permission to travel. Cole and Amanda will be missed at MST in Dominica in July.

And speaking of that, just before MST is when I go home to the states. Ill be travelling June 22 to July 8 (got the ticket today!), and then in Dominica for training the 9th and 10th and on holiday there for the weekend. Im counting the days until my trip home. Time has really begun to fly lately, and I know it will be September before I know it. This week the girls are still living with me, and then next Thursday Carla comes to visit. At the same time, RJ, a volunteer and friend from Dominica will be here for the 1 day cricket match vs. Australia on the 21st (which I hope to somehow wrangle tickets to). After that its about 3 weeks until I go home. Then MST in Dominica, when the 44 of the original 50 of us from EC 69 will meet up for training. Then its the steel-pan music festival and then carnival, and then August is my birthday, and I may hopefully be travelling to Grenada for Carnival there. Im also planning a girls leadership and self-esteem workshop then for work.

The Jazz festival was a lot of fun this year--though I didnt get to go to any of the shows that had tickets because they were super pricey and I wasnt all that excited by the lead singer from Hootie and the Blowfish (Darius Rucker), Boys To Men, or Earth, Wind and Fire, I certainly made the most of the free ones and saw Jazz on the square in Castries at noon every day last week as well as one evening show on the square, one evening show at the Jazz lounge (which technically had tickets, but I had a connection) and one in Rodney Bay, and another show at a bar downtown of a band I had seen during Jazz, but not officially a part of it. It was so wonderful to be able to see that much live music. I hope some of it will continue.

Work wise, there have been quite a number of things going on with the Youth Council (NYC) lately because April was youth month. I attended an all-day session of Youth Parliament where I heard some great, impassioned speeches on current issues and learned a bit about how the government functions here. There was a guest lecture by a professor from the University of the West Indies on Cricket and its role in shaping West Indian culture and Identity. I attended a Council meeting in Mon Repos, a small rural community on the east coast with the most active of the 18 Youth Councils on the island. I attended an all-day meeting of NGO and government leaders with some visiting World Bank officials to discuss youth and development in the Caribbean. Afterwards, I spent some time with one of the researchers, Andil, who was also conducting some of his own research on gender and pop culturehe did a focus group with about 8 of the NYC regulars guys who are associated with various clubs and always hanging out at the office. I got to videotape the session. I also helped facilitate a workshop on proposal writing/community mapping/needs assessments and did my own segment on leadership for members of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College student council. Ive been writing a proposal for the girls workshop and writing a survey to update information in our database on the various councils and clubs around the island. We had some interns here helping us design our new website (not yet launched, but Ill pass it on when its up and running) and so that kept the office quite busy, with two desks/computers and 5 of us here regularly, plus all the other regulars. My office is centrally located downtown, right by a bakery and a rum shop and since we work with youth, its pretty much hopping all afternoon most days. There have certainly been slow days where there is little to do but sit around, talk about cell phones and read the huge stack of old Newsweeks I brought in from my apartment. PC gives them to us fairly regularly and they start to pile up after a whileWe also have a guy with us here who has been involved with the NYC since its inception in 1985, and hes spending his 26 vacation days from work, starting today, helping us to do some field work and do what he can to help energize the councils and get some good publicity going. This is wonderful for me because hes got time and motivation to work on the same issues that Im here to address, and hes an action-oriented type who has a lot of contacts. I think well get a lot done together. And he has a car, which should help a great deal in getting in the site visits we need to do. So Ill be busy during the time he is here, which brings me right up to my trip home.

My homework helpers project with Doris is coming up soon too, the first two weekends in June. Which is no good because I would have liked to travel that second weekend to Antigua and make use of the 3-day weekend for Whit Monday, which I think is the same thing as Corpus Christi (and I still dont know what that means). So that trip will have to be pushed off yet again. (sorry Jake!) So many travel destinations and so little time.

On a happy topic, Ive had some recent progress on the hair growth front. My head has a pretty sizable amount of peach fuzz, to the extent that there is sort of a front hairline and some hairs are nearly a half centimetre long and I can feel them blow in the breeze when Im not wearing my wig. No useful hairs as yet though, like eyebrows or lashes. Stay tuned The odd thing is that the growth spurt coincided with the lent period when I gave up caffeine. I dont actually really observe lent myself, and they dont observe it in the same way here as in the US (i.e. no giving up anything, and only giving up meat on Good Friday), but I did it as an excuse to try and kick a bad habit. It worked, and after 2 weeks of caffeine headaches I was free. The hair growth could be a complete coincidence, but all the same I am doing my best to stay off the juice and see what happens. Its not as tough now that its getting so hot here. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Its the dry season for the next few weeks and theres a pretty bad draught. Luckily, I live in a fairly flat area so my water service hasnt been too interrupted, but there are areas that have had it badwater out for part or all of the day, water truck delivering buckets. There have been brush fires out in the bush as well. The rainy season officially starts again in June, but I dont think it gets going until late summer. Even things like lettuce are hard to come by right now because of the lack of rain.

I started volunteering with a carnival group, XS Energy, building costumes and floats at what they call Mass Camp. Its fun and a good way to learn about carnival and get to know some new people. Plus, the volunteers get free costumes to jump for all their dedicated hard hours making everything. And those costumes are expensive! And skimpy So that was exciting, but then as my throat is hurting I havent been in a few days. And last night my friend Natalie, whose boyfriend is in charge of the group, told me they broke up. I dont know how seriously to take it as they seem to do this regularly, so I guess Ill wait and see if I should switch to a different band. As I learn more about Carnival, Ill explain it, but for now I know that the bands go down the street performing and the costumed groups that go with them jump up (meaning dance) which is also called playing mass or playing carnival. I guess it all goes back to the origins of Carnival being a last party before lent. In Trinidad (the biggest and first one in the Caribbean) it is still held then, launching the season, but many other islands like St. Lucia have changed their Carnival dates so as not to compete with each other and to draw tourists during the non-busy season, which is July here and St. Vincent, and August in Grenada.

Its turtle watching season, and I havent been yet. Shannon, Sam and Heather went a few weeks ago and saw a few that were 6 feet long. Amazing. I went on a hike to a waterfall with Nigel and Gagamel soon after and we went down to the main turtle watch beach, Grand Anse (on the Eastern Atlantic coast) and we could see the flipper marks from where the turtles heaved themselves onto the beach and also where they covered up the eggs. I hope to go soon, maybe while Carla is here, but its much cheaper if you go with someone with a vehicle. So I have to find someone who will drive us. Speaking of that, Nigel is leaving St. Lucia this Friday to return to England for good. He has a son who is ill (he has 3 kids total) and so his family couldnt stay with him here when he was sent here (after a major fiasco with work permits in Barbados), and the travel back and forth got tiresome. So Ive lost a hiking buddy. Sunday we went for a final hike to a waterfall in the rainforest outside of Soufriere, and then to a really nice dinner at Dasheene, the restaurant at the islands fanciest resort, Ladera. Its a small, rustic and elegant resort tucked in the hills between the two pitons, looking out at the sea. The food was wonderful and the view is amazing. That was a really nice treat for me, as I may never get a chance to go there again.

Ive mentioned hanging out with various people from Cable and Wireless, At&t and Digicel, but I havent really explained whats been happening here with all of the cellphone mania. Its been really interesting. Right about the time I got here, the government deregulated the wireless industry, which had been controlled exclusively by British company Cable and Wireless. Digicel (an Irish company) and AT&T entered and there have been all kinds of fights and scandals about barriers to entry and whos doing what to prevent whom from entering, here and throughout the Caribbean. Now all three companies have launched and there are some good price wars going on. The craziest thing is that many St. Lucians now have two or more mobile phones, their original C&W phone (which they wont get rid of because they dont want to lose their number) and a new Digicel or AT&T phone. People are fanatical about their phones hereits the craziest trend and its gotten a bit obnoxious. Theres really no etiquette about phones, and everyone uses them as a fashion accessory and to prove their importance, so peoples phones are ringing during meetings, presentations, movies, etc, and people take the calls! That drives me nuts. I hope that as the trend continues a new etiquette will follow, but I have my doubts. Anyway, Ive done my best to stay out of mobile madness, but after turning down several offers of phones and missing the chance to trade in an old C&W for a new Digicel, Ive finally gotten a mobile (or a mo, as the commercials here say: gotta get a mo!) Jimmy, my counterpart at NYC, got a new phone and gave me his old Motorola. Its not the trendiest thing, but its nice and more importantly, free! My number is 1-758-461-1944.

I finally went to the gym with Samantha last nightgot a free one-week pass to check it out. Sportivo is pretty nice, fairly close to where I live, and has fun classes like yoga, spinning and body attach (cardio) and body pump (weights). Id like to join, but cant afford to until our raise comes through, which will happen in the federal (US) government ever passes the darn budget and stops wrangling about tax refunds when theres a major war to pay for and huge deficits, major healthcare problems and a social security thats set to run out any day, though those in the house and senate dont care because they continue to get paid their salary for life. But Im not one to editorialize J Anyway, I will probably join the gym sometime later this summer whenever our raise finally comes through. With retroactive pay, that will fund a trip to another island, probably Grenada or Antigua.

23 April, 2003
Weekend Warrior

We had a four day weekend for Easter this past weekend, and I was a complete stereotypical weekend warrior, which is to say that I had a fantastic weekend. I emerged sunburnt and exhausted, ready for a vacation from my mini-vacation. Friday I finally climbed Gros Piton. The group from St. Judes went (21 of them!), but I got a ride from the north with Geoff and two of the girls from his office. By the time we got there, due to a mixup in where we were meeting the girls, the other group had gone up already, so we hiked on our own. Which was probably better anyway, as we had our own guide and could go at our own pace. Geoff and I were faster, but due to the heat, going a bit more slowly wasn't bad. In all we did it in about 4 hours total, including breaks at both viewpoints at the top. I took some nice photos. Now I'm completely psyched up to climb the other two big peaks on the island, Petit Piton (which is higher but narrower) and Mt Gimmie, the highest Mtn here. Both have been done by people I know, so I know I can do it, the trick is just arranging transportation with other likeminded hiking freaks. Lauren is the only other PCV who likes to hike, and she doesnt have a car either, and lives on the other side of the island (closer to the mtns though). So Friday night was a quiet night, with Noel, Shannon, Sam, Heather, Geoff and I at Caroline's for dinner and then a few drinks at Rumours. Saturday I went to Sandals again, having called Ken ahead and arranged to come windsurf. I got there and had lunch with him (with the other guys taunting me that I should be with them and not him, etc.) and then lounged on the beach for a bit. Caroline showed up a bit later with Alex, an Italian woman who has been living in New York that works with Sam at OECS teaching languages. They had fruity drinks and enjoyed having beach chairs and watched me attempt to windsurf. I was out there for maybe an hour and a half, and got almost so I could do it. My balance was good, but my strength wasn't quite there. I was up for maybe 5-10 seconds, and then the wind would gust and pull the sail out of my hands, and I'd have to start all over again. I think I need to lean back more and then I won't have to use my arms so much. This is just like when I learned to snowboard. I fell, I sucked, but I've been thinking about it obsessively ever since and won't be happy until I've done it again and gotten better. And then again, etc. This could get expensive, unless I can somehow not overstay my welcome at Sandals... Then Saturday night, my legs and arms now thoroughly trashed from the hike and the windsurfing, we went to a party with the NYC crew of the brother of one of the guys that hangs out at the office. (Curt's brother Jerry. Curt is a photographer, 25, loosely affiliated with NYC, and he and I have been hanging out some lately, in fact we went to see Chicago at the Cinema last night. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) From there Caroline and I got a ride to Rumours where we met up with some of the guys from AT&T (which has just lauched here, and the digicel guys are seemingly launching on other islands just now. Remind me to tell you about the Mobile wars that have been going on here--it's craziness, I tell you!) and found Noel, and our whole assorted lot made our way to Shamrocks: two Americans, a Venezuelan, a Brit, an Irish, and a Lucian girl. We danced for hours and got home at 4:30. With my sore legs and the tall shoes I was wearing, I was completely thrashed. Sunday was a quiet day at the beach--played a little water frisbee, went for ice cream, and I fell asleep on the couch that night at 9, interupted by a visit from Gagamel, who came by with a big bag of Ital (vegetables and herbs, the name for the veg food that rastas eat) from his garden. We hung out for a bit, and then he didn't have a way home, so again he stayed over in the guest room. Rastafarian sleepover part 2. Sabine is thrilled for the company. Monday I was up and out very early for a hike across the island through the rainforest. A group of about 50 of us, organized through the ministry of education, went by bus and did the hike. It took about 3 hours in all, and was somewhat challenging, and very pretty. I think that is the most people I've ever hiked with in my life, and while it was fun to meet everyone, I definitely would have enjoyed it more with a smaller group. We saw a parrot, finally (locally called Jacquot, scientifically amazonia versicolor, it's the national bird), though I saw it in silouette as it flew away and it basically looked like any other bird. It was still exciting. The other crazy thing was that I was hiking next to Mario Michel, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and Human Resource Development. Here, it's no big deal, but to me it felt odd because it's like hiking with your Senator. The lines are less finely drawn here because it's so small (like the other day I greeted teh Prime Minister on the street on my way to work). Mario had been at a lecture I attended (sponsored by the NYC) last week on Cricket and it's role in shaping West Indian culture and Identity, and he was listening to the match on a transistor radio as we hiked, so we chatted briefly about cricket. After the hike we stopped for a meal at a restaurant above Soufriere with a nice view. A few of the Japanese volunteers were there, and one of them, Magic, did this crazy butt-slapping dance that had everyone in hysterics. I hope to get a copy of the picture and post it. It was a really fun day, and again I fell asleep by 9:30 pm.

This week is going quicky because of the long weekend. Tonight I have a panel discussion in the south to attend, and Friday night I hope to go to the dance club, Gaiety, for the first time. Saturday night there is a Calypso spectacular I may or may not go to, and the lifesaving competition during the day, and Shannon and Heather are competing. Things are going well. There have been a zillion things I've though of to write over the weekend but now that I'm here and rushing to type I'm forgetting again. Still no modem, but soon, I hope...
14 April,2003
Time Flies

I've been here nearly nine months now, more than 1/3 of my stint or tour or whatever you call it. Most days I can't believe it's gone that quickly already! Before I forget, there are new photos added. They need captions, but they're there (thanks Jamie!). I haven't had any time or access to get to giving them captions.

The new job is going well. Not much is happening so far, but it's going well in the sense that I feel happy about going there every day, I get on with everyone and they are genuinely appreciative of me and want to include me in things. They ask my opinions and respect my perspective. It's a very casual environment, and already I've met a lot of people. Definitely the polar opposite of the Trust in terms of lack of structure and formality, which is a good thing, in my opinion. My biggest challenge will be identifying the best way for me to make the biggest impact, which can be hard with so little structure. For now, I'm just getting integrated. Here we go again. We've got some volunteers in right now from the Skills Development Centre, where Caroline works. They teach these courses and then the trainees go on month-long job attachments, sort of like an internship. So we have two for website design and one for data entry. My first project, really, was facilitating that and providing the impetus to get a website. So far it's looking good, but with such a tiny office, three people working and only two computers, there's not really much for me to do. I feel like a slacker most of the time. I read documents and talk to people who come in to get to know the agency. I answer questions and sort of supervise the"kids" doing the site. I come to the PC office if I need to do something on the computer, like today. I'm designing a survey. Not too exciting, but non-stressful nonetheless. I'm happy.

I was supposed to have climbed Gros Piton on Saturday, but the plans fell through, again. I went to Laborie Friday night anyway, and Lauren and I just hung out. We were supposed to go to the jump up in Vieux Fort with some of the Drs from St. Judes (volunteers or paid staff from around the world) but as typically happens here, there was a mixup and it didn't happen. We honestly didn't mind. Saturday we went for a hikeup Mt. LeBlanc, which has a view of the entire south of the island. I came back and got ready for our Youth Council (NYC) fundraising dinner. Another typical situation. Geoff came to get me at 7, and we found our way to the restaurant. I should start by saying tha tthe dinner was purported to be a 4 course meal at an upscale restaurant, with a band and open bar, starting at 7. We arrived at 7:30, not a soul was there, and the staff (not suprisingly) was not too helpful. I wanted to just stay and wait, assuming people would arrive soon. Geoff had been out late the night before and worked all day, so was cranky. He was driving, and he wanted to leave, go home and nap and return. So we did. I watched "Bring it On" and put on another coat of nailpolish (i got pretty decked out for this thing) and then we arrived around 9, just in time for dinner. Which was a buffet, and just a typical Lucian meal: chicken or beef, macaroni pie, rice, salad. Ice cream for dessert. It was well-cooked, but as I said, the same old meal again and again. Not worth $70, to be sure. Which is where the open bar comes in. We had some wine with dinner and a few drinks, and then Geoff wanted to leave. I was sort of just getting started. There was a band, and people were dancing, and it was just getting fun. But Helen, a VSO (British volunteer from Scotland) visiting on a similar project for a fewdays, wanted to leave so Geoff had an excuse to go home and sleep. I was glad to have a date for the event, and ordinarily, he would have been much more fun, but that was a disappointment. So I went home and met up with Caroline and Sam (Caro had gone to the Dennery fish fry to try and meet up with some of the trainees, which I was bummed to miss) and went to Shamrocks. I went in my dress, which was sort of fun. I found someone to dance with and had a great time. We got home very late.

Sunday I was supposed to go to a church service about a half hour away in a village called Rosseau. The president called and said he'd pick me up outside at 7:30, and I waited till 8 (on about 3 hours of sleep). I went in to check my messages, and there was nothing so I went back out for another 20 minutes or so. Nothing. Came back in and waited by the phone again. Nothing. Eventually I went back to bed. It turns out that they were out till 8 pm, playing cricket and travelling round the island. I went to the beach at noon after getting some more sleep, and it was abeautiful day. I plunked down my stuff, took a swim and then remembered that I was supposed to be at Grace's (Doris' second host mother) for lunch. I called and said I was on my way, and then went there. We had a wonderful lunch with Doris and Denise--the typical meal: chicken, chicken wings, lamb, macaroni, rice and beans, salad, cheesecake and wine. Better than our supposedly fancy fundraising dinner, since she's a wonderful cook. We went for a swim afterwards at Tropicana and then had some tea/coffee at a nearby cafe. I was home in time for Simpsons and in bed early.

My new modem should be arriving in the next week. I can't wait to have contact with the world again. Carla is coming in just over a month. I can't wait! What else is new... I got new shoes, since all my black sandals have gotten completely mashed up. I also got apair of shoes and a shirt from Jen before she and Jason left last week (the American couple that were here for the winter). We're doing a living allowance survey, so it's best to do this kind of purchasing now and make sure these kinds of essentials are included. We've been playing Trivial Pursuit frequently lately, the hand-me-down PCV game I got from Laura. We played last Sunday and Tuesday, and my team won both times. The girls played again Friday night. This is big excitement in our world.

We had elections recently for lead volunteer. I decided not to run, because I will have enough on my hands in the next year with writing my DP. I dont need the administrative headache. Politics here are unbelievable. So many egos on one small landmass. Caroline and Margaret ran and Caroline won. They've changed it all around though so we're not really sure what it entails.

My homework helpers project with Doris has taken on a life of its own. She's been on the radio advertising it, and there's been an unbelievable response from teachers and parents. We're doing it the first 2 weeks of June, and I'm looking forward to it.

The group at NYC seems to go "camping" a lot. Their version of camping, though consists of getting together at a school or community centre, cooking and hanging out there. No one really sleeps, because those who sleep get "mushed" - covered with water, dung, flour, toothpaste etc. Yick. There's one coming up next weekend that I sort of fear going to. We'll see.

One sort of universal truth here that Caroline and I have had a lot of discussions about is Form vs.Function. I could write a treatise on it, but for time purposes, I'll give you the short version. Appearance is king here. A lot of things here are focused on looking fancy or good and not a lot of follow-through or advance planning. Things don't really have to work, and no one really expects them to, but they have to look good. I will provide examples another time, but I'm sure there are plenty in what I've written thus far.

On that note, I have to get back to my office.

3 April, 2003
15 Seconds of Fame

I've been on local tv twice in the last two weeks. Not that it's that hard to get on tv around here. Our whole 69 group was on TV for being in a training last week, our IST, on Program Development and Management with our counterparts. Then on Sunday, there was a concert/fundraiser in the square downtown all day, and a friendly neighborhood ras told me he saw me on tv then. So now I've written an article for a local paper (in October), was on a radio show talking about the environment (in November) and I think I've been on tv 3 or 4 times, though thankfully not speaking. yet.

Since I last wrote, I had training and began working with my new counterpart, Jimmy. He's a few years younger than me, getting a 2 year degree at the local community college in sociology and economics, and is working full time at the National Youth Council as a volunteer. Everyone there is--there are currently no paid staff. There is one woman on the executive council, and there are girls and other women in the various councils around the island, but the majority of the people involved heavily are guys in their 20s. Because everyone is young and a volunteer, the office atmosphere is both hardworking and laid-back. I really like that, though I sense it's a little too laid-back for Jimmy sometimes. He's a very driven guy--goes to school and works fulltime as a volunteer, plus has a young baby at home.

The National Youth Council, my new assignment, is an umbrella organization of the District Youth and Sports Councils (under the ministry of youth and sports)-of which there are 18 island-wide. The organization does things like hold debates, youth parliaments, community meetings, HIV/AIDS and leadership workshops, etc, and also has links with the scouts, cadets, 4H, and other community-based organizations. I've met so many interesting people in the last few days I can barely count them or keep track. The office is currently right in the heart of downtown, by a bakery in sort of a dodgy building. It's central though, and that's nice for things like errands and grocery shopping. I do pay more for transport, especially now that I don't have a driver to take me home every afternoon. Sanity is worth an extra $1.50 a day though. Also, my new office has AC, and is much closer to the PC office. No more walking 3 miles to get my mail.

So after the training last week, I went in and met with them to discuss what I'll be doing. I guess I'm back to sort of integration phase right now. This is Youth Month, so there are a lot of activities going on that will be good for me to attend and learn about. There were two activities going on during the weekend, so we arranged for me to start officially Monday. Wed an Thurs were spent primarily writing a grant for the Soros foundation at UW--a course that I took last year made me eligible to apply for some funds for a technology project. Margaret and I wrote a grant asking for computers and phones for a child abuse hotline for her organization, St. Lucia Save the Children. It's a greatly needed project, so I hope that we are awarded the grant. We worked for HOURS on the thing. Friday I went out to La Guerre by Gagamel and his family (his real name, btw, is Marcellus. Gagamel is his ras name). We had intended to do a bit of hiking and see a waterfall as well as cook out, but we got started late, so we just went around and visited various neighbors, mainly relatives. Then we picked vegetables and herbs in the gardens and made a fire, and cooked everything up in this enormous iron pot on the wood fire. He's vegetarian, so we made a "jot" or a "bouillion" of "ital" which is vegetables or soya. Many of the various assembled relatives ate with us, and we drank nice fresh green coconuts that gaga climbed up and got for us. When I left, he sent me home with green onions, celery, herbs and a jug of coconut water. That night, a group of 6 girls (the french, canadian and american contingents) and brendan, the lone irish male, met up and went to Anse La Raye to see Margaret's new apartment (she moved into the village from the outskirts) and have some food at the fish fry. Then Brendan, Caroline and I headed north to the usual haunts. We had a fun, late night. Saturday we went to the beach, and I rushed back to shower and reach downtown for a town meeting in Babonneau with the NYC group. I got down there, waited for someone else, and then found out that the meeting was cancelled. Got a ride north and met Shan and Sam, and we hung out a bit and went out, where Caro met us. It was a slow, boring night and I was tired so we left early. I was in bed by 11 pm, and slept for 12 hours. Sunday was the concert in the park downtown. It started with gospel music, then jazz, then calypso, then finally reggae when I left around 7 pm. I found a few people that I knew to hang out with, but mostly I spent the day relaxing alone. (Cleotha, my second host mother, was there selling drinks to raise funds for her school for the disabled and hearing impaired, so i spent some time by her tent throughout the day.) It was nice to finally see some live music and be in a concert environment.

This week, after the grantwriting seminar and marathon grantwriting last week, I start my new job to find the first task: grantwriting. Not on my own, thankfully, but with Jimmy. It's a good but difficult experience to edit something on a project you just learned about with a person you've just met. Those journalism days are paying off! We also cleaned out a back room that is supposed to become a resource room but was used as a trash heap/storage room for apparently a very long time. I'm in the midst of sorting out what's going on with some grant money I've been administering to the Red Cross for a report due tomorrow. And tomorrow we have our PC meeting in the morning, and then go to the airport in the afternoon to meet the new batch of trainees. There are 37 of them, apparently, and we don't know how many are staying in St. Lucia. We'll know in 3 weeks when they get their assignments. They're all comunity dev and health volunteers. We're all very excited for some new blood though, particularly young people!

No big plans for this weekend yet. Hoping to get a call from Mom and Cindy, who is back east for some bridal showers and to try on her wedding dress. We'll probably have a dinner party with the girls on Sat. night because they have some guests in town. And my hard-won Bajan tan is fading, so I need to hit the beach. I saw the guys from Sandals on Sunday and they bugged me about when I'm coming back. Maybe I'll make my way there this weekend and finally get to windsurf. Take care everyone, and happy weekend!

If you would like to read my journal entries from January to March, 2003, click here.