Thursday, October 30, 2008



What do I love about St. Lucia? Well, one of the main things that I enjoy in St. Lucia is that they do not hesitate to celebrate-a lot. There are many holidays here in the Caribbean, especially in the second half of the year. Not to say that St. Lucia does not also work hard, but they do not forget what it means to spend time with their families and their communities in celebration for a good life.

Jounen Kweyol: Creole Day in Patois. Celebrated by St. Lucia every year in three distinct areas of the island. In order to become one of the three celebration locations, each area interested must apply. Judging depends on amount of accessibility, resources provided, and etc. This year, Jounen Kweyol was held at Grande Riviere, Canaries, and one other location I can’t think of right now.

Jounen Kweyol was everything that I expected and nothing that I expected. As Ash and I walked from the Marisoul Gap to the open area that Jounen Kweyol was being held this year in Grande Riviere (a couple of miles from the gap), we were instantly overwhelmed. Not only had we both been sun burnt before even arriving, but the minute we arrived, we were instantly lost in a crowd of St. Lucian style plaid! It was lovely. After spending the first hour walking around to all of the different booths, we finally decided upon one particular booth to provide us with our traditional kweyol meal. I found a great saltfish and breadfruit meal for $6 EC (about 2.5 US), which was absolutely delicious! Ashley, on the other hand, managed to find herself eating chicken feet! The sauce was good, apparently.

After jotting around for a couple of hours, we ran into three of the Japanese Volunteers that are here in St. Lucia. The JOCVs, as they are called, have a similar setup to the Peace Corps. They, however, come here with slim to no English, so they have a language barrier that we as Peace Corps Volunteers do not have. I have often contemplated what it would be like having my service be in places where English is not the primary language. Despite the fact that English is the main language spoken in St. Lucia, there still remains a heavy accent that I still have trouble working around, and the kweyol that is spoken in the villages. I can understand how PCVs in areas where English is not the primary language, have issues with isolation and often times, depression during the first year of their service.

Speaking on the idea of isolation; I can already understand why it is PCVs must be able to handle isolation well. I have always been, at times, a solitaire individual. As much as I like being around people, I also enjoy being around just myself. It is in this quality that I come to really like about myself so far during my PC experience. However, living in the area that I am living, I am finding that I am going to have to work five times as hard as many of the other volunteers to integrate due to my location. I am, unfortunately, not in the village in which I am going to be working. I love my apartment; and find joy in living below my landlady who is gracious and an amazing woman. I do, however, constantly find myself wishing that I was closer to my community that I will be working and recognize that my neighbors are hardly ever around. Because this area is the “nicer” area to live, I am behind a gate for security and the houses are more spread out and protected. I am thankful for the security of where I live, but have a difficulty in meeting people in the area. While I hear stories of my PCV friends having children on their porch daily and their neighbors coming to bear fruit, I find myself desiring to be more in the community. I am caught between being lucky enough to get a nice apartment on the chance that my landlady’s family members have benefited by PCVs in the past and feeling a little isolated from not living in a more integrated manner. I desire community belonging so much.

I am going to warn you readers that this next passage might be a little heavy…stop reading now if you cannot stand heavy reading…but it is the truth about my perception of how I came to be where I am now.

As I am experiencing my time here in St. Lucia, I find myself wanting to spend more time with people so that I can genuinely connect. Back in Seattle there is a desperate need for a reconnection. So often people forget about their communities and their families in efforts to afford a “better lifestyle” that they get lost in work to such a point that a connection to their surroundings is extremely sparse. I, among other Seattle-ites, have been one of these people. I admit fully that I became so intoxicated with luxuries and working toward these luxuries that I was infatuated with an entirely meaningless lifestyle. Because I always wish to remain honest with you readers, I will admit my fallacies in attempt to remind myself and you all that life can really hold meaning when you wish it to. To further state, shortly before I joined the Peace Corps, I, myself, went through a period of living a selfish and rather numb life. I took for granted my close friends and family much of the time and forgot to cherish every moment that I spent with them. To be honest, I felt as if I was surrounding myself in a bubble and I just could not break free from it. It was as if this bubble was strong plastic that began to suffocate me slowly. It’s not that I did not possess the desire to break free from this suffocation, rather that I did not have the capability. Looking back on this period in my life, it often haunts me that I did not appreciate all that I had in my life. I was too preoccupied with where I was going and the things that I wanted, that I was not “sober” enough to realize that all I had wanted was right there in front of me. My desire to become who I was supposed to become, in actuality, distracted me from being that person. I had the right intentions, but my actions did not follow. To look back on this period took some needed courage and observation, but alas my preparation and my journey into Peace Corps service led me back on the right track. Every person must go through a similar journey, one that leads you off-track onto the road that leads you nowhere. I am lucky enough that I found that road early on in life and realized after following it for a time that I was on the wrong path. My desire to fully exert myself and my abilities into the humanitarian lifestyle by giving what I can to the people who need it most continues to be the motivation behind my service as a Peace Corps volunteer. I may lose confidence from time to time, and become nervous or shy that I may not have full ownerships of all of the skills that I need to, but my heart knows where I should be at this moment and where I wish to employ my work and personal ethic in the future. I love volunteering; every aspect of it. I enjoy sharing my skills and abilities with others who lack these skills, but I cannot resist the smiles that I see just from building a connection from heart to heart. I will have to work hard to “reconnect” myself with my environment here in St. Lucia during my service, and when I return to Seattle. It may take my entire life to do this and it may be difficult for me, but I am declaring right now that I am committing my life to making these connections. I urge you to do the same.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oh, the Joy of Washing.

I am constantly amazed at the fact that even the littlest of tasks to get done on your day off back at home take ten times the time and effort, here in St. Lucia. For instance, getting your mail. It seems to me that the post office has no desire to be open when I need it to be. They must know that I am coming and say, "quick, close the doors"! While I know that they don't actually fear me, I am very aware that I am forced to make multiple trips to the post office just to buy a couple stamps. Why not buy a book, you ask? Well, we live minimally and I really don't feel like spending the money on all those stamps. That and they don't sell books of stamps in St. Lucia anyways.

Going to the post office is just one of them, though. To move in to my apartment, it took multiple trips to the "super j" (the local supermarket) and to smaller stores around Castries. I think I just may be all moved in now, except I am not quite settled. The littlest tasks here sometimes fill up your day, and it really is quite the accomplishment to get it done. It makes me live for the moment, that is for sure. Laundry, for instance, takes me all day because I do not have a washing machine. You know, it's funny, because when I thought of the Peace Corps, I thought of hand washing clothes and now look at me. I am in, ironically and VERY luckily, the nicest place that I have ever lived on my own, yet, I don't have a washing machine! There really are pluses and minuses to it. I get to enjoy music and sing to myself while tediously scrubbing, and I get in a lot of quality bonding time with myself. The miraculous part is that it actually made me start to enjoy doing the dishes. Ha, Brian would laugh at that one... YES, I like doing the dishes...even if I get nothing more out of the PC (which I already have) I will have at least increased my fondness for scrubbing dirty dishes. How lovely.