Travels in Bananaland
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Tales from Bananaland, July & August 2002

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

30 August, 2002
Pinky Hair and a Tropical Wave

Ah, air conditioning. I'm in the Peace Corps office, waiting to go to the cultural heritage center for the La Rose festival. Actually, I just found out it's in Babonneau. Typical. We all met up downtown to go here and it's back up north where we just came from, almost.

This morning on the way in the car with my mom and two neighbors I noticed that I have new hair growing on both of my pinky fingers. Interesting. So now it's on my upper arms, around my mouth, and my fingers. Think hairy thoughts for me.

I wrote up a big thing this last weekend and typed it up on a friend's computer, but she hasn't emailed it to me so I'll post it belatedly below this entry. So if you're following along and want to be chronological, check back soon. Lonliness began to set in a bit as I was finally experiencing a lot of down time. It's still an adjustment, but I'm feeling a bit better now. One guy from our group has already left, today in fact. He was not really into it, and had a girlfriend he was pretty serious about back in Calif. The rest of us are hanging in. Last night when I got home from the convent i went for a walk with my mom and our neighbor and we got stuck in a major rain storm. We had to hide out for a while under an old rotting pavilion where there's some old rusting sugar mill equipment. it was cool, but a bit spooky. There's going to be some serious storms in the next few days while this wave goes through the region (the mildest form of tropical storm, so i dont mind as long as it's not a hurricane!). I found out today that hurricane season doesnt end until Nov. Man, I have to go through three of these?

This week I don't have much in the way of training assignments, but I have to go to some thing for work on Sunday--a membership drive for the national trust. I guess we'll be driving around and trying to get people to join. I can't imagine I'll be very useful, not knowing anything yet (just met them Wed, and went to the office for the first time yesterday am), but it will be good to meet people and begin to learn about the organization. The website is here, if you want to know more about what I'll be doing. Tuesday I guess there's some memorial for my mom's cousin that was a dancer and died sometime. Wed we go back to the convent and we'll be there 'till Saturday, when we swear in. I guess I start work on Monday, but there will be a 3 month period where I'm supposed to integrate into the job and the community at large, particularly other sister env. orgs. So I'll get to do lots of visiting their park areas here, and a campground on the east coast--the only campground in the E.C. I'm excited about that. Other than that though, no big plans at all. My host mom doesnt seem to be into going out though I've hinted quite strongly that I'm desperate for some social activity. Not having a car or friends with cars (or really many friends at all, for that matter) is frustrating. That's the biggest thing I've had to grapple with so far. Sounds superficial, doesn't it, like it's a pretty lame problem, but in fact it's quite a big thing. I realize that it will pass with time, so don't worry--I'm not about to freak out and come home. I do hope I get to do something fun this weekend. Definitely beach, but hopefully somewhere out, with music and dancing and other people to talk to. It's that vicious cycle where you don't go out because you don't have friends, but you can't make any when you're not out. And here, I don't feel safe going out on my own. Stay tuned--hopefully I'll have exciting stories to share after this weekend. We'll see.

27 August 2002

I had my first bout with homesickness this weekend. I wasn't really homesick, but just feeling a bit lonely as the reality of being here and not knowing anyone set in. The first 3 weeks of training , perhaps wisely, eased us into it here. I may have left friends and family behind on both coasts, but suddenly I had 50 new friends. We may have had our personality differences, but for the most part everyone got on well. We all got together pretty often, and among our groups and host families were quite social and saw a lot of the area in a short time. Suddenly, everyone left, we were cloistered for a few days and then plopped in a new family away from all that we had just adjusted to, away from other volunteers, and very much alone with our new families. In my case, my new "mom" Cleopha is fairly young (late 30s or early 40s), very educated (got her masters in England, is a principal of a school for the deaf), but right now very involved in getting her school ready, as it starts in a week, so I've hardly seen her. The upside is that she has a car, and we're fairly close to transport. She doesn't seem to go out much though, nor do her friends, really. She owns a house, and our area is quite nicefairly upscaleand her mother normally lives with her but is away for a month at her sister's house in St. Kitts. So it's just the two of us, or more often, just me, left to entertain myself. Suddenly I have all of this free time, which I'm not accustomed to, and I'm in an unfamiliar place where it's not so safe for me to do things alone. The closest volunteers to me are over 60 years of age, and already my patience for them is wearing thin. Basically, I'm not good at being alone or sitting still because I've always kept busy. So I need to learn patience as well as figure out new ways to entertain myself. I think another reason I was feeling a bit sad is that I was tiredit's so hot at night and my room only has one window that doesnt get good air flow, so I wasn't sleeping well. Now I've got a fan J. I wrote some letters Sat and a bit in my journal that I'll copy here.

First, I want to apologize for all the letters I haven't written so farI write them in my head, walking down the street to and from the bus or around town , at the beach,or during presentations in training all places where I can't actually write what I'm thinking. Then when I finally get pen or keyboard in hand, I blank, and I can't think of anything to say. Especially when I'm at an internet café, racing the clock. Without my own computer to compose things in advance , I'm limited to whatever I can quickly type after deleting spam to save my quota and skimming what messages I've received, sometimes replying. When I finally get a chance to write something I feel like someone's handed me a microphone in a crowded room: I blush, mumble and stammer out something scarcely resembling what I meant to say, and rush out of the room. In addition, between letters, emails, my real journal and this online one, I can't keep track of what I've told to whom when, or even what's worth telling. My sense of what's beautiful here has begun to change from the obvious to the more sublime (like the guy biking down a busy highway with a sack of maybe 10 coconuts balanced on his head).

Truth be told, one part of me stepped into this new life with hardly a blink and is right at home here, and that percentage varies by the day, or sometimes even by the hour. The other part is still pretty overwhelmed by it allthe fact that since the 23rd of June when I left Seattle I've gone from Seattle to Salt Lake City to Denver to New Orleans to Atlanta to Philly, then to Miami and then Castries to Babonneau and now Corinth. 8th city, 4th home, 3rd family in 2 months, and this isn't even my final stop. I've still got to move one more time to my own place in October. The pressure is on to find a place soon, but that will become easier once I've started work and know what areas are convenient and can get out and look more (when training is over).

Just when I think I'm beginning to feel at home here, someone yells something sexist as I walk down the street, or speaks in Patois and then laughs when I don't understand, or even just talks quickly in this accent I haven't quite gotten the hang of yet so that I have to ask them several times to repeat themselves, or I have I have to ask my host mom to drive me someplace as if I'm 15 again because there's no transport and I can't walk at night, or someone asks me where I'm from and tells me to enjoy my holiday for the 10th time that day (most people don't really get it even after I tell them I'll be here for 2 years). But then, there are moments like today on the beach with Caroline, sitting on the beautiful white sand beach near the airport and a couples-only resort when I realize that I really live here, and this is my life now. Pretty amazing. Living with a family has helped us assimilate, but has also cushioned us a bit from the reality of life because there is a ready tour guide/translator/support group. Our assignments this week to go out and interview community figures and do needs assessments and community maps, etc have begun to make daily life more real. So I'm living a dual life mentallyone loving every minute, singing along to the Bounty Rum commercials, ("the spirit of St. Lucia") and the reggae and soca songs on the radio, cooling out or "liming", enjoying the slow pace of life, the friendly people, and the good food. (Yes, everything starts late here, so I'm always early or on time!) The other half is still holding out, waiting for the next move, the next goodbye, anticipating more change after so much change lately, hesitant to settle in just yet. All the numbness I felt leaving home is starting to wear off and the goodbyes are really hitting me

So what do I think in light of all that? It's a good place, and one that I think I will really enjoy once I begin to make a life here. It's hard at first to see why Peace Corps needs to be here after 35 years of work in this region, especially with cable tv, hot showers and internet access, but it doesn't take long to find reasons. The real challenge lies in the delicate balance between preservation of culture and history and development; between cultural differences and harassment, in looking like a tourist in a place where that image brings love and hate simultaneously (because there's money in tourism, but that nation has only been independent from England for 50 years); in bringing new ideas but integrating them with the desires of the community; and in finding a place in a culture that is mired in the past economically while socially current with the latest American styles and trends thanks to the wonders of Cable TV and shows like the Bold and the Beautiful and Blind Date.

Yes, it's beautiful, and the roosters crowing and rain drumming on my corrugated metal roof at night are charming, but where do I fit into this picture? And do there have to be so many damn mosquitos? (and big flying cockroaches, rats, scorpions, big hairy spiders and poisonous snakes.) I'm still grappling with these questions, and will be for some time.

It's been a long, strange month. But in the big picture, we've all come pretty far in a short period of time. I can see already why they say it's an emotional rollercoaster, but I can also look ahead a few months and genuinely look forward to showing my first visitor aroundmy house, my job, my town. It's a small country, and already I've bumped into someone local I know each time I've been in Castries.

It's late at night, and dogs are barking in symphony throughout the neighborhoodmust be the full moon. That's taking some getting used to (hooray for my discman!)

It's always sunny here, except that it's the rainy season right now, so it rains 3-10x a day for 5-20 minutes at a time, intensely. I've never seen rain like thislike a really wicked thunderstorm, but with no thunder or lightening, just sheets of rain pouring out of the sky, and then suddenly, sun again. Sometimes there's a rainbowI've seen two so far. I love how green it is hereit's rugged and hilly and lush, with this amazing blue water. Even the Atlantic is blue here. That side has waves, but the Caribbean side is leeward and is much calmer. I love how salty it is, and how easily I can float in the water. I love how everyone greets each other on the street or in the busnot everyone, but most people. It's quite formal sounding, "good morning, good afternoon, good night (as a greeting as well as before sleep), but actually very casual. A common greeting is "You alright?" and the response is "Ok". Sometimes just Oks are exchanged. I love it but haven't put it in use yet. More lingo I like: "Vexed" is to be angry with someone, a "jump-up" is a dance party, a "drink up" is a barbecue or casual party. "Just now" means sometime later. "Make a round" means get lost.

To get to the house where I live now, you go past a club where they play loud country music on Saturdays (and man, is it packed!), make a right, go up a badly rutted, hilly road and make the second left at the cow grazing in the field (with egrets milling about, waiting to eat bugs when they comeso beautiful!). Turn left at the cowI love it. Most streets here aren't named, because it's a small country and people just know where things are.

Another picture I want to take, but forgot my camera when I went to town on Saturday: A man selling coconuts from the back of his truck, gashing them open with one swipe of his cutlas on demand, right below a sign that reads "No selling coconuts 6pm-6am." He's legal of course, but it's so perfect.

Something to make you laugh: Last weekend when we were still at the monastary we went on a trip to the south to an old sugarcane plantation and some warm mineral springs (there's a volcano here, so lots of geothermal activity), and when we got back, I showered and used a Q-tip to clean my ears to get the funky water out. The cotton tip came off in my ear, and my initial reaction was stupidly to try and get it out without waiting for my roommate to get out of the shower and help me. That only succeeded in jamming it in further, and by the time Lauren looked, it wasn't even visible, but I could feel it, dulling my hearing slightly and making me feel like a had a lopsided head cold. The next morning, I embarassedly called our medical staffer, Frieda, and she had to make an appt with an ENT specialist a day later, and she ended the call by saying, "And Deborah, don't stick anything else in your ear." I couldn't stop laughing. I was embarrassed to tell the group but didnt want them to worry about me when I left for the appt, but finally I confessed, earning the nickname Q-tip for about 24 hours. Hopefully that will soon be forgotten.

Another victory: Saturday morning I woke up to a pot of hot dogs and baked beans, both of which I hate. Thankfully she was out and I put the pot back in the fridge and had some fruit and yogurt, which is all I keep telling her I want. Later I told her that I just can't stand hot dogs, chicken or not, and she understood. It's not entirely true, but I don't really like them anyway, and certainly not for breakfast. I had enough of them in Babonneau for a lifetime, I think. No more tuna for breakfast either. I don't need to assimilate that much.

Much more to say, but I have a card game (euchre, with the midwesterners here) to play. We're back at the monastary again, and after a long day of presentations, I need to unwind (we got smart and brought wine this time).

August 22, 2002
2 days in a row!

I came into a town up north called Gros Islet today, a fishing area where there are a lot of resorts too. It's the biggest community near where I'll be living besides Castries. We have these assignments to go out in the community and interview people so today I met some guy at a fishing cooperative, the town clerk, the secretary for the local parliamentary rep (he wasn't in today), the post office man, and some women at the catholic church presbytry. I still have to go to the health clinic but i decided to stop at an internet cafe on my way. this am i got together with the other trainees in my area (all older) to do our community map, so thankfully that's all done now. tomorrow i'll go to the market and learn about local foods (i've learned a lot so far but we have to go) and sunday there's a christening. some of the other volunteers are going resort crashing to swim in the pool and have a drink by the sea. i hope the timing works out so i can go. monday i have to meet the local community development officer up here again, but i had plans to go to the beach with the younger volunteers nearby, Margaret, Lauren and Caroline. So that should be fun. It's good to have a bit of downtime after so much intense (and boring) training.

Did i mention that previous groups had a reputation here as "Beach Corps?" The new director is quite strict, but still a nice guy. Probably better for the program, but I do feel a bit like big brother is watching. Anyway, we all liked the "beach corps" idea, and got t-shirts made locally for our whole group. THe first PC volunteers were in the Caribbean, so we're the 69th group since they began--they refer to us by that year, since there are other volunteers still here from previous years. So our shirts have the PC logo and say EC '69 on the front, and have a beach scene with "the toughest job you'll ever love" on the back, drawn by Rob, one of our group. Great, except the neck is too high and the printer messed up the logo and wrote Peace Crops (yes, the irony of the primary economic export) instead. So we're stuck with them. Sort of funny.

I'll try to do more descriptions of where I am and what I'm doing in the future, so that I can either help you live vicariously or lure you to visit. You may want to come after the rainy season, cause it's really, really hot. I hear the east coast back home is hot anyway though. I hear there are good flight deals right now because US Airways declared Chapter 11,so check it out. I got my hands on a Time Magazine this weekend and read it cover to cover. We have Miami news here, but it's pretty cheezy. I feel much more in touch now. Bye for now.

August 21, 2002
Settling in, sort of

Well, I've unpacked in my second homestay, and the last time I have to move until I get my own place. It's nice to sort of settle in for a bit somewhere. Saturday I left Babonneau at 10 am (the other volunteers going to the other EC islands left much earlier by plane) with the 9 other trainees assigned here and we went to a monastary just outside of Castries for the weekend. It's also a guest house, and it's beautiful there--up on a hill overlooking the gorgeous blue water, with flowers and fruit trees everywhere. Inside, I can't explain the architechture but it reminded me of italy. Open and airy. The head nun is Italian, so that probably explains it. Man, can they cook. Not that I haven't done enough eating since I've been here. It seems like all we do is eat. This country has it's economic and social problems, but hunger is not one of them. Food is everywhere--fruit and vegetables just hanging out over the road: bananas, coconuts, guavas, mangos, breadfruit, cashews, almonds, soursop, papayas, dascheen--they grow everywhere.

My new host house has several fruit trees behind it, which is exciting. It's also up on a hill, which is nice because of the breeze. We had training at the convent, and went on a road trip to the south to swim in some mineral baths and see an old sugarcane plantation. We also went on another trip down to Laborie (in the South--so weird that you can drive across this country in 2 hours!) one night to watch some folk dancing/playing in preparation for the Festival of the Rose which will happen at the end of the month. We danced a bit, but mostly watched. They spoke and sang in mainly Creole (Kweyol) there, and we don't know much of it yet.

Yesterday we left and got settled in our new family, where we'll be for the next 7 weeks. Three weeks is training, and then on Sept 7 I will be sworn in as a volunteer. After that I will be working and looking for place to live. So in Oct I will get my own place.

I will be working for the Saint Lucia (that's pronounced "Loosha" for those who are incline to think it sounds Italian) National Trust, which is based in the Capital city Castries, but has an office down in Vieux Fort in the south and manages Pigeon Point--a park up north, and several other properties. I believe I will be doing some sort of envioronmental work with kids. The last volunteer who was here stayed only a few weeks before he had to leave for some sort of personal reasons back in the states. So I have little to go on so far, but I will go there next week and learn more. For now I'm settling into my new community, Corinth, which is between Castries and Gros Islet, where there are lots of bars, restaurants and resorts(Groze Eelay--check for a map)--yes, eric, there is even a golf course! So I'm not exactly isolated. Transportation is hard here. There are minibuses/vans that travel specific routes, and they're cheap (if a bit scary on these narrow, bumpy, winding, hilly roads) but they don't go everywhere, and they don't run past 7 pm. Plus it gets dark about 6:30 and I can't be out late alone. It's hard to get used to having so much less freedom here, but it's not much of a choice if I want to be safe. So far I've been lucky and gotten rides from other volunteers' host families and friends or my own and have gone lots of places. I've been to the sulphur springs and volcano, a fish fry and a street party, karaoke twice, and several barbecues. Its going to be more difficult with fewer of us here, and 5 of the 10 of our group are older volunteers. Of the 6 already here (a whole bunch of volunteers ET'd, or left early last year), 4 are older. So it doesn't look to be a real rowdy bunch. Thankfully, most of the younger people are in my area up north.

I have so much to say, and haven't had much way to contact anyone. I've been keeping a journal and writing letters when I can, but have been really going through email withdrawl. This is only the fourth time I've had access since I left. I really need a computer! A thousand thank yous to everyone who's written. My birthday was excellent, thanks to the many cards I got, and to the other volunteers who made a card, sang, and got everyone together after training for drinks at a nearby bar, and my mom and Robin who both made cakes. I was so touched--it was one of the best birthdays I've had in a long time. I got more mail than anyone else in training, I think, and it made me so happy. So I know I have a big debt of letters to return now, but I'm sort of holding off, waiting to get more than initial impressions so I have more to say. I have tons of little observations I could make, but not much of substance. For instance, it's strange how people here use their dogs only for security--chain them up, never pet them/beat them, and don't even name them, but they name their cars. And like Mexico, they produce coffee in this area, but everyone drinks Nescafe. Yuck. All the good stuff gets exported.

The music I've heard so far is great. I've already gotten into it, and have favorite songs. There's a bit of reggae, but mostly country (yes, country! apparently the first radio stations they got in here came from texas, so they love old country here) and Soca--sort of reggae/rap/pop -- club music. it's fun to dance to, and catchy. I'm looking forward to getting some local cds.

As I said before, my address is the same because I'm staying here in St. Lucia--Simply Beautiful is the slogan, and it is!--so again I beg you to write. Send me funny things, flip flops you found on sale, silly toys, dumb jokes, whatever. I can get most things here but they're expensive and mostly poor quality. Hopefully some of you will visit--you can start planning now that you know where I'll be! Let me know if you want info on resorts. Carnival is in July. There's a festival in Oct, and a Jazz festival in May). Other sites to check out are: a guided tour of the island, photos of St. Lucia, and info on Creole or "kweyol" as it's pronounced here. Bonjour for now. It's starting to rain, again....

August 16, 2002
I got my Assignment!

Hi again!Just a quick note to say that I'm staying here in St. Lucia. Today was our last day of training, and tomorrow everyone departs for their islands except the 10 of us staying here in St. Lucia. I will be working for the St. Lucia National Trust, doing environmental work with youth in Castries and Pigeon Pt., beautiful park up north, living somewhere in the area (near the beach!)Time is limited. My address is still the same. Please write!

August 8, 2002
Training in St. Lucia

Hi everyone, Im in Babonneau, a town about 20 minutes northeast of Castries, up in the hills of St. Lucia. It's so pretty here. I've been here for about a week and a half now. I live with a family of 3: Doreen and Earl are about 31 and have a daughter, Dorissa who is 3 1/2 and absolutely adorable (though a bit pesky sometimes). They live close to the school where I have training 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, so its only a 10 minute walk--lucky for me. Some of the volunteers have to walk up to 45 minutes, and its hilly around here, and hot! Our group of trainees (EC 69, we're the 69th group of Peace Corps trainees in the Eastern Caribbean) has 51 people including me. We vary in age from 21 to over 60, and there are 2 married couples, one young (and from Philly suburbs!) and one older. There is an older woman who has been in the Peace Corps two other times. So we're fairly diverse in that sense. We all get along really well, surprisingly, for the amount of time we spend together. So far its a lot of fun.

Training itself leaves a lot to be desired. I don't know if it's because I've just come from a really challenging grad program or that I had differing expectations, or the combination of being helpless and at the whims of others in family and school makes us all feel like were re-visiting middle school (For example, to go to a party on Friday night with another volunteer's family who has a car--mine doesn't--I talked to her Thursday at training, came home and asked my mom if it would be ok, and then told Erin the next day. I felt 13 again, "My mom says its ok if your mom takes me to the party."), but I constantly feel like my time is being wasted and that I'm being treated like a child. They have their reasons, and as someone who's done training before, I partly understand, but the rest of me is sulking and staring out the window, dreaming of swimming pools and sandy beaches. I'm painting a grim picture, when really some of it has been quite useful. We've had some great guest speakers come in and give us background on the history of the region and culture and religion, as well as some perspectives on social problems, particularly with kids. Though we'll all be doing Youth Development, we'll do different things--there are 5 technical groups that comprise what we'll be doing eventually when we get our assignments: Community Development (my group), Special Education, Business Development, Health Education, and Special Education. Some of what weve been doing in my group is useful as well and would make my profs proud (yes, you, Mary Kay!): community mapping, needs assessments, etc. They're really into participatory assessment as well, which makes me happy, as I feel a bit intrusive coming into this culture presuming that I can help. Getting more practice on this stuff is reassuring. There are 17 of us in C.D. and so far all we know is that our assignments could vary from very structured (working in an NGO or a ministry of something or other doing organizational development) to not at all structured. I'm not sure which I'd prefer, but am leaning toward NGO work to get to use all my hard-earned school knowledge. We also know that we wont be on St. Vincent (bummer for me, I had sort of hoped to go there), so that leaves Antigua (I'm rooting against that--not enough trees and too many tourists), Dominica (middle of nowhere), St. Lucia or Grenada. I'm not sure what I hope for these days. St. Lucia and Dominica speak patois (Creole), but the others have a wacky dialect so it'll be a challenge no matter what. I'm not sure what I hope for anymore. We have our interviews on Saturday (mine's at noon), so we'll find out sometime next week.

Speaking of time, I was wrong when I wrote that it's one hour earlier than EST. That only applies during daylight savings time, which they don't have here. I guess they don't need to. Plus, there's the island time factor, so who really knows what time it is, anyway?

Sadly for me, our school is very much on time, to the minute. It's going to be a long three weeks, but I suppose if I can survive that, I can survive lots of other things too. Like the damn mosquitoes. We leave for our island nation assignments next Saturday, the 17th. My address will change then, and I'll let you know. The current one will be forwarded though, so don't let that stop you from sending those letters I KNOW you've written :-) . I got my first mail today, actually, a care package from Kim, and a birthday card from Mark. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I think they took about a week and a half-2 weeks. That totally made my day, and everyone at school loved the Pez. Nice choice on the Marge Simpson, Kim (and good luck in Morocco!).

I have so much to say that I'm not sure where to start. I've written a few letters, and will write some more soon. I sent some postcards today. Time for writing is limited though we get out of training at 5, and I sometimes run or walk around the neighborhood, and then there's dinner and playing with my sister, and showering, and writing in my journal, and sometimes we have homework. We have cable TV at my house, but cold showers. I prefer it cold, actually, and I think it feels great. It's the only time all day I'm ever cold! Imagine me, liking to be cold--such a difference from Seattle! So I've seen the Simpsons both Sundays I've been here and even on that special night last Tuesday. A tropical island with the Simpsons--not too shabby. There are some things to get used to like not having a car, and not really being able to go out by myself. Like scary narrow roads with no sidewalks and crazy drivers. Like busses that come when they come, and stop anywhere. Like trying to understand Patois, or even just fast English with a strong Caribbean accent. Like eating 5 times a day with so much fruit, juice and starches (I kid you not, a typical meal is chicken, potatoes mixed with peas, tuna and carrots, yams/dascheen/plantain, macaroni and cheese, and then sometimes something else too. Maybe some cucumbers or coleslaw sometimes. It's good food, but I'm amazed that I haven't porked up yet (hence the running/walking after training). I have actually lost a bit of weight I think, which would be very welcome if it's true. Time to shed the Amazon.pounds I've been saving.

So far in addition to training, I've gone to Castries, to the beach a few times, to Karaoke with a group of people, including my host mom who sang with me and another volunteer (yes, me! And no, I wasn't drunk!), and to 2 street parties on Friday night with a van full of about 12 people--thats been the highlight so far. We danced for hours, and I got home at 2:30 am. Sunday we had our picnic at the beach with all of the volunteers and their families, which was a lot of fun too. A good weekend should hopefully make this long week tolerable...

Well, I'm using a friends computer, and saving this to disk to do at school tomorrow, so I should stop soon. Our internet access is really limited right now, but they're letting us use the computer lab at the school where we train (Babonneau Secondary School) for 15 minute increments. I may occasionally go to a café, but they're all about 20 minutes by bus, and a pain to get to. So for now, count on very sporadic responses from me. Snail mail is the way to go.

I could write for ages about all the fascinating, great, and bizarre things that I've seen and done so far, but I'll save it for letters. Missing everyone, but thrilled to be here. Take care, mon! Bon swey! (goodnight, in Kweyole)

July 23, 2002
The final Countdown

Well, it's my last day here in PA. In the morning I leave for Miami. I've shopped like a madwoman to get all the stuff I needed; now I have too much stuff and have to sort through it and decide what on earth to bring for 2 years in a country I've never been to, and in fact, still don't know what country! We're limited to 80 lbs of luggage. I will have a big duffel, a travel backpack, my guitar, and a carry-on. I've got to lug it all myself, which should be quite a sight.

I'm still really excited, but at the moment I'm more nervous than anything. Will I get it all done? Have I forgotten anything? Do I have time to say goodbye to everyone one more time? The pile to take with me grows smaller as I look at it more realistically, while the pile of things for mom to send later grows... Interesting how much I've acquired in a few short weeks to go supposedly live a simpler life. So very American of me...

I had hoped to have time by now to tell road trip stories, about how I left my old PA license plate on the wall in in Mobile, AL. Or the horrendous drivers in Missippi, and bizarre midwest/southern Cracker Barrel/Waffle House/Dairy Queen Phenomenon, or how Cindy and I never quite made it out at night in New Orleans. Alas, those stories will have to wait for another day. Maybe if I ever end up getting a laptop I'll have time to tell them, if anyone cares. Suffice it to say it was long and hot, but a good adventure, which thankfully lacks any car trouble stories. She did excellent. Anyone want to buy a cute little black Mazda?

Well, I will write as often as I can from training, and post my new country address as soon as I have it. Thanks, everyone, for being so supportive and for calling and coming to visit me when I didn't call you. It's not because I wasn't thinking about you. I miss everyone already. Take care of yourselves, and don't forget about me. Deep breath, fingers crossed. Here I go!

July 19, 2002
The site is up!

Hi there. So the new site is up now, sort of. I'm still working on it, so please don't hate me because it's ugly. I've got lots of stories to tell about my adventures on my 2 week roadtrip from Seattle to PA (via Salt Lake, Denver, New Orleans and Atlanta) and will soon have more tales from Peace Corps staging in Miami next week.

For now, though, I just wanted to get something on the page. But I'll be back, you just wait and see. And then you'll be sorry.

If you would like to read my journal entries from before I entered the Peace Corps, please go to my LiveJournal.