Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jumping Towards Healthy Living

As we piled into the bus that would bring us to the Jump 
Rope Festival location, I could hear voices talk in anticipation of getting to skip.  Before we had left, I helped to warm up the girls with short little competitions of 
who could jump the longest, a showcase of their skills, and double-
dutch dynamics.  Despite my attempts to use some of their energy before the bus ride, they all managed to maintain an energetic personality on the ride over.  Singing songs by Serani, Beyonce, and other popular St. Lucian artists, I was amazed that these girls have such a broad spectrum of talent.  To hear their voices was a blessing to me, but for the bus driver who has learned to tune them out; unfortunately, he just kept driving.  

As we walked into the Vigie multi-purpose courts, I looked around at all 24 of the girls with excitement.  Every single one of them had a gleeful, bright smile on their face and I could tell that they couldn't wait to get started.  I could hear the light brush of the ropes hitting the pavement all around me.  In the background, there were voices singing different tunes and girls laughing simultaneously.  As we waited for the balance of four other girls from the Primary School and Mr. Long, the Primary School P.E. teacher, to show up we searched the stands for a good place to sit.  In addition to Gros Islet Primary, around 25 other schools were in attendance.  

Seeing an array of colors jumping up and down was quite the site!  Each school was sporting their own uniform, owning anywhere from one to four colors.  The Gros Islet Primary School girls were wearing bright green jerseys; red, blue, or white skirts or a pair of jeans.  The girls were anxious to put on their jerseys in the morning; anxious to look like a professional skipping team.  To me, they were that day.  

Mr. Long warmed up the girls with stretching and light aerobics, while I helped to prepare them for the skipping activities.  The staff in charge of the event, which included Kelly, another Peace Corps volunteer, promoted healthy living and proper nutrition through out the course of the day.  We were given plenty of water and fresh bananas, oranges, and grapefruit.  In the middle of the day, the girls were given fruit plates full of watermelon and grapes.  It was a nice change to see the students filling up with fresh fruits rather than candy and sodas.  Mr. Long and I encouraged the 
girls to focus on eating healthy for the day.

The events began with single skipping skills.  Including basic skipping, cross-overs, double-skipping, skiiers, and diagonals.  I stood in front of the girls in our section to give them an example of the skill at hand, just in case they got lost in the excitement.  All of the girls showed exceptional skills.  Grades 3 and 4 went first, and then we followed up with grades 5 and 6.  

In between events, many of the girls hung near me or on me, making sure I was involved in the social scene included at the event.  All of the girls are curious about the differences between us, as humans, but their 
curiousity is a good one.  Despite the obvious differences of skin color, eye color and hair color, they focus more on why I have freckles and why I am short.  Just as I enjoy finding out about their lives, they are just as interested in mine.  They ask about my family and whether or not I have a boyfriend; they ask about my brother and the sports I love; they ask about my interests and what type of shoes I like best.  

These girls are part of the reason why I am recently so 
interested in going back to school to get my teaching certificate and the reason why I am in love with eventually becoming a wife and a mother.  The girls are always fascinated with either being photographed or using the camera to photograph others, so we had a little photo shoot in our spare time.  I am hoping a photography club will be of interest in the next two years!

The skipping competition continued on with a skills set of partner skipping; including double-dutch and two persons-two ropes.  All of the participants were rather impressive at these skills.  I don't remember ever being able to do the two persons-two ropes skill when I was in elementary school!  At times through out the festival, I joined them in skipping.  It brought back many memories of care-free days and recess agendas.  I still am able to do a cross-over and a double-skip 
jump along with jumping in reverse, but I am a little rusty on all of the rest.  

It was a long day of skipping but it was a good day in St. Lucia.  I had a lot of fun helping these girls show off their talents while at the same time building self-esteem and active lifestyles.  The girls had a ton of fun, and they want to participate in the Trinidad competition next 
summer.  I am hoping that I will be able to go with all depends on fundraising and whatnot.  At the end of the day I got a little sun, I had eaten three 
bananas and two grapefruits, and I got a little exercise. The best part of the day, however, was seeing the joy on the girls' faces every time the skipping ropes hit the pavement underneath them.  They were somewhere else for the day, 
and that is what empowered them to live actively.