Friday, September 19, 2008

Healthy Living

Last saturday I took part in the annual "St. Lucia Wellness Walk" beginning in Choc and ending in Castries. It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again! It was great to see 100+ people out there at 5:30 in the morning working towards healthy living! My host mom, her friend and I walked from the house at 4:45 am and got there at about 5:15 am. We were already a little sweaty from the walk there even though at that time in the morning the weather is almost perfect. Once getting to Choc, we had to wait until about 6 - 615 to begin the walk to Castries. Once we got going, they had police and ambulances escort us into town. It was a nice brisk walk and then afterwards, we all assembled at the courtyard in Castries and danced a little. It was fun! Afterwards, I met up with Ashley and we went off to Soufriere. Man, oh man, Soufriere is beautiful! We walked up to the Sulfur Springs, which was a lot further than we thought it would be! But here is a picture of us there... the mud and the sulfur water is supposed to take 10 years off of your age...we shall see. Ha! It was extremely hot and we could only stay in there for about 10 min. The funny part though was the fact that after we got out we had to walk back up to the shelter to change, in just our bikinis and tevas. WOW.... great attention grabber that was. I don't think I had ever felt that awkward before, well until yesterday but that is a story I cannot fully put on this blog for reasons beyond my control. Anyhow, after attempting to get clean and dry, which we never did, it started pouring down rain and so we had to shelter. After waiting around, we finally made a move for it and went back to Soufriere to meet the others. After doing that, we went around to Vieux Fort and found Sandy Beach--- Absolutely unbelievable!

So, I am big on working out and staying active and it's been a little tough of a transition for me as far as working out in St. Lucia. With a combination of the heat, the humidity and having no gym access I have been forced to be creative with keeping my body active. Doing yoga in my room, along with the bands I brought and push ups and crunches... in a hot room, extremely hard to manage. Today I was able to finish an hours worth of yoga but I was drenched to the core. I attempted to walk a lot more, but everytime that I do I get these "water blisters"...ewwww... they are much less appealing looking than they sound. So for now, I am trying to come up with some more yoga routines and maybe putting some of the others volunteers and I together to come up with a yoga class for us and the community. Next on my list, after training when we have more time and more funding for transportation is both of the Pitons (gros piton and petit piton) and hiking through the rainforest from Soufriere to Micoud. OOOOh I can't wait! We were supposed to take a field trip today but the rain interfered and we had to cancel :(. More to come later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vieux Fort Bliss

This light house, as I was told, was supposed to go to St. Lucia, Africa and not St. Lucia, EC... but when it was delivered they decided to keep it. Now it has one of the best views the island has to offer!

Part 2: Facilitation

The role of a youth developer can be vague and misunderstood. I am constantly being referred to as a teacher here in St. Lucia, which I have never known myself to be, officially. However, the more and more I think about it, the more I consider myself to be one. I am a teacher. But then again, most people are! My goal is to find a way to reach the "unattached" youth of St. Lucia. In this, I am referring to the youth that are not affiliated with any organization, after school programme, sports team, or whatnot. In St. Lucia, there are many youth that are unattached. (SIDENOTE: Youth in St. Lucia is ages 12-35). There are many reasons for this, but the key is to finding a way to motivate or spark the interest of these youth. This is not going to be an easy task. Just like in the states, there are youth that are just happy being where they are in life and do not need to be affiliated. Then there are also the youth that are not educated about their opportunities and also those that are educated but not sure how to go about it. The playing field is varied and immense. If anyone has any ideas for me on how to reach these youth in my process of facilitating, please do not hesitate to make suggestions! Being a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will be working at aiming for these youth in the fields of language arts, mathematics, sporting, arts and crafts, and etc.

For now, I have an extremely broad range of interest for the type of project that I will have after training, but hopefully in the next 4 weeks I will have a better idea of what to narrow it down to. Right now, I am hearing interest in beginning an after school programme at the school I am interning at. The programme may focus on increasing access to after school homework help and assistance in general studies. However, I hope to incorporate arts and crafts/games/sporting/IT/various other activities into the mix. However, in the art of "facilitating", there needs to be a discussion about this first with the other teachers and principal to see if this would be a prominent interest/need within not only the school but also the community. So we will see what happens here. If it is, then to get others' inputs and ideas will be the next step. Facilitating is the main process of the Peace Corps mission... Though an idea may be brought up by me, it is in working with the community, that succussful, sustainable programmes will come through. I am interested in seeing what ideas the other teachers have, or if they want to discard this idea all together. Either way, I am anxious to begin finding out what the community really needs.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A 2-year Vacation? Part 1

So after a number of grueling inquiries about what it is like to be on a two year vacation, I have no other choice but to write a response in retaliation. Despite the appearance of the beautiful pictures and knowing that I am in the Caribbean, there are many things that are not accounted for in my letters, emails, and blogs about what it is truly like to be in the Peace Corps, let alone one in St. Lucia. People may ask, "what is there to do, it's not like you are in Africa". The truth of the matter is that regardless of location, there are many challenges to being a Peace Corps volunteer. Not to mention to be an effective Peace Corps volunteer.

The Caribbean is known as the "melting pot" or the "potpourri" of cultures. There are many different aspects to the culture that exists in the islands. Whether it may be the food, the language, the dress, or the behavior, the Carib has a lot to offer to both locals and visitors. Being a "honorary" local can be difficult at times for various reasons that many may not think about. Moving to a new town can be hard enough, let alone moving to a new culture. Though, many a times moving to a new town may entail moving to a new culture as well.

Being a minority is certainly different compared to the states. For the first time in my life, I am challenged with how others may perceive my ethnicity. Never having lived outside of the US, I have rarely stopped to think about my race as an obstacle. Certainly being a woman will sometimes come into play, but never has being caucasian made so much of an impact on going about my daily life. It is in the way people look at me on the bus, it is everytime that I am stopped in town to be asked if I need a taxi (because I am white and automatically deemed as a tourist), it is in the way I am perceived in the workplace and particularly at the schools that I notice my skin color. In the states, I rarely thought about the skin color of others around me. I was raised very well in terms of acceptance : whether it was to race, gender, sexuality, social class, education level, or the like. I never thought to think of the person in terms of what they look like, but who they are inside. This is why I had to stop and think for a second, wow, I am actually a minority here. To me, however, even though I am obviously from the US, I have stepped outside of the box and feel like I belong here... like I am a St. Lucian while I live here regardless of my race. It may take longer for other people to see that, but for now, I believe it. It is in the person that someone

comes to be, and this is how I am going to build my relationships while in St. Lucia...just as I would in the states.

So one has asked... "what exactly is your work, Haley? Are you on vacation, or what? I thought you were joining the Peace Corps, has something changed?" I was recently put off by an email that was sent to me in this manner. To my shock, it came from someone extremely close to me, that knows me very well. It was difficult for me to read this, because to me, it was almost belittling my purpose of being here. My immediate reaction was to get angry and lash out in return. However, the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that I just wasn't conveying my messages adequately. This person did have a point. My blogs have focused on the great scenery and exciting outings that I have had since being here, so I do not blame them for saying this. St. Lucia is a very beautiful and lush location to be serving term in the Peace Corps. I did get lucky in the fact that my stay is in somewhere that has scenery that I will never get tired of. It is still amazing to me that I am lucky enough to see the Caribbean through working with the Peace Corps. Not only do I get to see things from the outside, but working with the communities I get to see what really lies beneath all of the physical beauty of this island.

So what is work? Work is a ton of OBSERVATION. To some people this may not sound like a job, this may sound like heaven. However, please take a moment to think of what observation in the strictest sense actually entails. For the first 7 weeks, PCVs are in training. Training is much like school. There is a lot of work to be done attending the facilitated sessions, taking part in internships with multiple organizations and schools, shadowing prominent people in the community in addition to integrating into the community. Our schedules are not just open to "sight-seeing" nor does it allow us the freedom that everyone assumes. We do not stay on the beach all day long drinking Pina Coladas, reading romance novels, dancing to music while maintaining hourly schedules taking dips in the water in between slathering up on the Spf 500.

So what is work then? Work is observing a new culture. It is expanding myself beyond the boundaries that I am used to and constantly find myself in awkward and uncomfortable situations that only challenge me to become a better person and collegue. It is putting in the time and effort to get to know my community and the members within. It is choosing to give up most of my free time for myself so that I may attempt to integrate within the community. It is doing things that I have never done before, working in ways that I have never worked before, and thinking in ways that I have never thought before. It is constantly trying to educate myself on what it is to be St. Lucian. It is spending time with the community so that I may earn their trust enough to be shown what their needs and wants are for improvement. Without finding out what their true needs and wants are, the work will only be shallow, and not improve anything! It is being the only person in the room that is nervous and has no idea what is going on, while at the same time wanting to be heard. It is being a facilitator to meetings and using the resources here that we have...which are limited. Work is different than in the states, for sure, but it is still work. This is what I love about the Peace Corps and St. Lucia. There are no distinct lines between work and play. The lines are blurred... work and play are integrated into one. Work is play, and play is work. So while being able to spend time on the beach or go hiking in the rainforest may sound strictly like play, in actuality, it is part of my job...learning this new culture so that I may facilitate improvement in the future. Work does not have to be a 9-5 job sitting at a desk every day being miserable! Work is, and can be so much more. I just chose to take the opportunity to make it so.