Thursday, November 13, 2008


My favorite venture so far, however, was the one that I just went on a last weekend from Laborie to Frances Jacques. It was a beautiful hike through the rainforest that took us from trail to river and back. We lost ourselves, mainly on purpose but partly by accident, a few times and found it quite enjoyable to be following the river to reach our destination. A hiker is always told that if s/he is to get lost near a river in the woods, to follow the river downward because the river always has an outlet. Because I was with 7 guys and 2 other girls, you can imagine the amount of effort it took to convince these guys to follow the river. As we hiked through muddy hills covered in unknown, potentially harmful greenery (things like the razor grass and some itchy plant) , we stopped quite a few times to cut fresh fruit from the trees around us. Starfruit, guava, sour oranges, grapefruit and golden apples were on the plate for the day. You have never tasted a fruit until you have tasted one ripened and freshly picked in the rainforest! With the help of a few machetes, we supplied the entire group with lunch for the day. My favorite part of the hike was the waterfall that we came to about an hour and a half into the hike. Secluded from the rest of the world, not too large and not too small, we swam and sat lost in thought about how great St. Lucia really can be. In fact, how great life can be. The water was slightly chilly to a Seattle-ite, but to a St. Lucian it was almost intolerably freezing. I wonder how they would deal with jumping into the Puget Sound during the winter months for the annual Polar Bear Swim. Something tells me the St. Lucians I have met so far might not do it.

The group that we went with was great. It is a group that gets together almost every weekend to go on outings in St. Lucia. I am hoping to be able to join up with this group for awhile...they really are a great bunch. When it comes to hiking, I enjoy two things. 1) I love the sound of silence in nature. Silence really may not be silence at all when it comes down to it, but it is the nicest sound to my ears. Being outside of the hustle and bustle of the city life allows me to settle down the mind a little bit and surround myself in thinking nothing; in a good way. 2) I love the simplicity of happiness that it brings me. Just walking and observing the environment around me is one of the biggest satisfactions that I get out of life. Paying attention to the littlest of things such as a branch that looks like an apple, two trees intertwined, or the mud that squishes below my feet is satisfying in the purest of ways. Hiking can clear even the busiest of minds to return it back to the reality at hand.

The reason for the title of this blog: Hiking in a Pig's Heaven is because it had started raining and got incredibly muddy as we went along, but well worth the dirty shoes!

What did you do during election night 2008? I was lucky enough to be invited to a party hosted by the US Embassy at the cultural centre here in town. The centre was fully stocked with a full bar, food, and many important people here in St. Lucia. There were two tvs to watch the election results, which proved to not be quite enough. It was difficult to hear what was going on, so I ended up having to leave with a few other volunteers in order to hear the speeches. But I will never forget where I was when I saw Obama get elected for presidency… “yes, grandchildren, I was with the US Embassy in St. Lucia while serving for the Peace Corps when I saw the first black president get elected; which ended up changing the world.” You don’t get the chance to say something like that too often! Now is a good time to be involved with the Peace Corps, being overseas serving as a government volunteer at the time that the US government needs us the most is quite exciting. However, I can’t hesitate to think how it was to watch the election back in the states. I am sure you all were focused on the tv screen that night and have quite the story. I hope that when I return home you will all share it with me.

Working in St. Lucia is different than working in the states. Things happen at a slower pace, but when you least expect them to. While you think that something is not going to happen because you have been waiting a couple weeks to even get a meeting in, the next day you find yourself hectic as hell trying to fit in every possible task you can accomplish. Being a Peace Corps volunteer means to be flexible, and in scheduling for work you truly do have to be the utmost flexible and spontaneous individual. With this, I have no problem. It is difficult at times to accept the down time as quality time for myself though. With too much downtime I will find myself sleeping a little too much, reading a little too much (already have read 12 books and counting so far), eating a little too much or just being on the internet when I can. Embracing the down time and using it for the benefit of reflection and growth is what the Peace Corps demands of us. Already, I do feel like a different person; an improved individual. I can only imagine what will become of me in the next two years.

I am currently working with a Non-profit organization called Grow Well Inc. Grow Well focuses on providing outlets for at-risk youth and families to, well, “grow well”. I am currently putting together two programmes with them: one working in the area of sporting and the other in after-school activities related to but not limited to arts and crafts, tutoring, and team-work skills through gaming. I am also in the process of helping them to develop their current programmes for the CARE school. This school is a one-year programme giving students who did not pass the standardized test at the end of grade 6, dropped out before hand, or students that just found themselves in need of more help, a second chance. After one year of studying with the CARE programme, the students are asked to pick a skill in which they will then move on to the skills training centre to learn for two years. The CARE school offers classes that focus in human development more so than academic development; but also involve subjects such as English, writing, and mathematics just as a primary or secondary school would. The youth here are in need of guidance before it is too late. My work with the CARE school will be mostly in the areas of arts and crafts, sporting and also mathematics and IT.

In addition to Grow Well, I am also working with the Gros-Islet primary school. Here I have been working hard with the Grade 6s to prepare for the standardized tests, and with the Grade 4s for what is called the SBAs. The SBAs allow the teachers to see how the students have progressed thus far and in what group they will be placed in for grades 5 and 6. I have also been working as a small-group/individual tutor and working on arts and crafts during lunch time with the students to help build self-esteem and positive relationships between teacher and students and also peer to peer. I have worked with grades 3-6 on literacy, numeracy, and arts and crafts; along with becoming a teacher when other teachers are out for the day. Who knows, I might be a teacher after all...I'll tell you, it's difficult but it is an amazing "ting" when you hear a child understand something for the first time.

Discipline at the schools is something most of the Peace Corps volunteers have an issue with, including myself. In St. Lucia, students have undergone many years of “alternative” discipline. While it is going to take time for the students to understand that I will never hit them, I believe strongly that my actions will eventually wear off onto other teachers. These are high hopes and small steps, but I am not trying to change the entire world. Helping one person to improve their life can be substantial. Small steps can eventually lead to giant leaps further on down the road. So if we, as Peace Corps volunteers, help to be role models for positive reinforcement in the classrooms, at one point we may find better disciplinary methods used in classrooms around the world. So while this may be a small step for me, it can be a giant leap in the bigger picture…who knows…it may happen.