Sunday, August 31, 2008
Pictured are Elvira and Fern, Elvira and Dorellen, Sunday Lunch!, my new little friend, Anisse and Anisse and her lovely sister, Javanie.
Posted by Re's Home on the Road at 12:54 PM
After island hopping from St. Lucia to Dominica to Antigua we landed on St. Kitts around 1:00 p.m. We were greeted by our island Peace Corp director and several PCV's who have been living and working here for the last year. After clearing customs, we loaded what luggage had arrived on a bus and headed to the community center to meet our host families. To say I was nervous is a understatement. I think this part of the 7 week training period had me to most worried. I've basically lived alone for the past 8 years and enjoy my own space and quite time. I had imagined a large family with numerous children. The PC had told us our family would treat us as 'their own', teaching us about the island and the customs, how to wash our clothes by hand using a washboard, etc. etc.
So there we sat - we newly-minted PDV's across the room from a group of Kittians, staring at each other. They each stood up in turn and welcomed us and then had made up a little story which somehow worked something about their individual PCV into the story and we had to listen and guess who was our 'Mom & Dad' for the duration. About 1/2 way through this beautiful woman stood, talked about traveling the world, but she had never traveled to Scot(t)land. And that's how I met Mrs. Elvira Lawrence. Since I was a few years older than she, we agreed on the spot I wouldn't call her 'mom' but that we would become "sisters". And in just a day and a half, we are already working our way into that kind of relationship.
Did I hit the jackpot, because Elvira and Oliver live in a beautiful home overlooking the Caribbean Sea. She is a retired nurse and and Oliver is a retired environmentalist. (You are required to retire on St. Kitts at age 55). They both now teach part-time at the University here. They have 3 grown children, 2 living in Maryland, one in Atlanta. Both boys attended Harvard and the daughter just graduated with a degree in Business Law from Boston.
The home, as you can see, is just beautiful. 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, a great surround porch with a dining and napping area, huge kitchen and a WASHER! They also have wireless internet and their own brand of VOIP based out of Maryland so I can call home and if anyone would like, can call here - the same as calling me in the States!
After we left the gathering, we came 'home' and I started to get unpacked when Elvira said I had to go meet one of my 'other sisters.' She comes from a family of 8 (4 boys and 4 girls) and off we went to pick up Fern and take her to the ferry so she could visit her daughter on Nevis for the day. Fern is the youngest girl and is a head administrator of the government insurance agency here on the island. She thinks I should let my hair grow and she'll see that I get a beautiful set of braids like hers! Then, after dropping off Fern, we stopped by my other new sister, Dorellen. She runs a day-care facility and sings in the choir. Their cousin from Manhattan was there with her 2 daughters (they had come for the day off the Carnival Cruise ship that was docked for the day at St. Kitts). After all the meeting and the greetings and hugs, I was allowed to lay down and nap for about an hour before it was time to head back to the pier to pick up Lawrence who had been in Nevis for the day visiting his sister and family.
What a wonderful, intelligent man. We've talked politics (a lot). Both he and Elvira are big Obama fans. He's promised to teach me and I promised to learn the intricacies of the game of cricket if he allows me to watch the Bears play on Sundays. Did I mention they have cable TV, including HBO? Life in the Peace Corp is tough.
I collapsed at 9 p.m. in my own room, on a big, soft bed with no bugs and slept soundly until 7 a.m. Wonderful!
Today, Sunday, is the day of church and visiting. I am going to 'bounce' from attending Elvira's Wesleyan Evangelical Church to singing in the choir with Oliver at the big Anglican church. Everyone was so gracious and kind when I was introduced during this morning's service. It's strange to be the only 'white face' in the crowd but will get used to it, I am sure. Elvira drives Oliver to his 8 a.m. service, comes home and gets ready for her 10 a.m. service. He's pick up the car from her and then she calls him to pick her up after her church is over. And while she's a church, he is in his domain - the kitchen! Just look at what I had for Sunday lunch! And I was told if I didn't clean my plate, I would be spanked and no football! There was no way I could get through all of that food - but ever single thing, from the plantains to the white sweet potatoes to the chicken to the fresh veggies and rice was absolutely delicious. I am not going to starve!
Just as we were finishing lunch, one of Elvira's friend's, Anne, and her daughters Javanie (freshman in HS) and Anisse (1st grade) came by to visit. After their initial shyness wore off, we became great friends. We played with my iPod and computer. Loved having their pictures taken, told me all about school and Javanie and I share a love of Kipling handbags and she promised to take me to the Mall shopping!
Tomorrow starts the school term so Elvira and Oliver are back to teaching and I start my 7 weeks of training. Classes are from 9-4 each day, 5 days a week. We also are expected to get involved in a community project and I learned that they have a First Tee program here at the Marriott's golf resort so hoping I can waggle my way into assisting in some way - and maybe play a round or two!
So life as a Peace Corp Volunteer on St. Kitts is not bad! The hurricanes have missed the island, so far, this season, but there is another brewing to the east of us. I will acclimate to the climate at some point in time, and adjust to working a full-time schedule once again, after several years of not. We will take our Oath of Office on October 17th and then move into our own living quarters. Elvira has offered for me to stay here but then I reminded her it was for 2 years she quickly re-sended her offer!
Will keep you all posted on live here in the EC as it happens. Please keep those emails coming. I miss you all.
Posted by Re's Home on the Road at 12:07 PM
We arrived in St. Lucia on Wednesday after spending hours in the Miami airport (departed the hotel at 6:30 a.m. for a 11:30 a.m. flight which didn't depart until 12:30 p.m.)and then a 3 1/2 hour flight. The weather, as I am sure you can guess, was very hot and extremely humid. We stepped off the plane and was immediately drenched in sweat. I get being told that I will adjust and I just keep hoping it's soon.
We drove around mountains on an extremely curvy road for an hour and a half to the Bararnd's Hill Catholic Retreat Center. All 39 of us piled out with loads of luggage and were assigned rooms in the various on-site dorms. I ended up in the Seminary - at the very top of the hill - looking down over the Center. Beautiful view but a hell of a climb. (See picture of beautiful mountainside and look at the very bottom and you will see a little brown roofed cream colored building. That's the dining hall and will give you a perspective of the climb up and down from the Seminary!
Training classes started at 8:30 a.m. each morning and went till 5:30 each evening. We were all in a small conference room and were given so much information in the 2 days that it is doubtful that we retained the majority! Thank God they gave us handouts that covered what they taught. We broke from lunch at 1 p.m. and dinner was at 6:30 with 2, 15-minute breaks. Need I say that it was exhausting? So you would naturally expect that at my age I would fall into bed each evening and just crash - right? WRONG! Several of the rooms in the Seminary had had their mattresses infested by bedbugs! The first night my roommate and I tossed and turned and itched and got up and laid back down and just couldn't understand what was happening. We knew it wasn't mosquitoes, even though they were around. By the end of the first night, if either of us had gotten 1-2 hours sleep, it was a miracle, and we were covered from head to toe by little red spots that itched like crazy. That's when we learned we weren't alone. After much talk with the staff, they moved us to another room. The second night wasn't bad but these nasty critters seem to enjoy warm bodies and that's when they wake up, so by the third night it was worse than the first. No sleep at all! And I need my sleep or I'm not a nice person(:
All in all, the time on St. Lucia was okay. Way to much information to even try to absorb but we did get to meet the Peace Corps' Eastern Caribbean staff, including the new Country Director, who will be the main person overseeing us for the next two years. Margo is great, from Chicago and a Bear's fan - what more could I want in a CD?
The second day we were there the U.S. Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean came to say a few words to us and join us for lunch. As you see from the picture, Ambassador Mary Ourisman is one classy lady. She's tiny, originally from Texas and modeled for a few years in NYC. She chatted with any and all of us over lunch and being the 'fashion maven' that I am, my question to her was 'Who designed your outfit?!' She laughed hysterically, said she had a degree in Fashion Design and said she couldn't remember who the designer was but feel free to flip out her label on the back of her blouse and look - Zac Posen! I was impressed! (See pic)
After a great farewell barbecue with live musical entertainment, those heading for St. Kitts were up and loading our luggage onto the bus at 5:00 a.m. We knew that not all of our luggage could be loaded on the small planes that island-hop, so we had to re-pack just-in-case we didn't get the rest of our luggage for up to 3 days. Fortunately that wasn't the case and it all arrived on the last flight in the same day.
And finally we were on St. Kitts/Nevis - our home for the next 2 years and 3 months!
To be continued.....
Posted by Re's Home on the Road at 11:24 AM
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Flew into Miami on Monday morning, arriving mid-afternoon. Our first meeting started 15 minutes after I got checked-in the hotel. Lasted to 6:30 and by then everyone was just totally brain-dead. The PC staging officers are really trying to stuff as much info into our heads as possible. We have a fairly large group - 32 - with 4 married couples, one married man who left his wife in Indy for 2 years (we haven't heard the whole story on that one), 8 of us who are way over 50, with the most of rest being newly-minted college grads. All very eager and fresh-faced and ready to tackle the world.
We spent from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today back in the conference room listening to more rules and regulations. Did some role-playing, ie Chicken-man, have eaten all 3 meals at the same, very good Cuban restaurant directly across the street. Tomorrow we are actually 'really starting' the adventure. We check out of the hotel at 6 a.m. for an 11 a.m. flight to St. Lucia. We will meet the Eastern Caribbean Peace Corps leaders and spend 3 days in a conference center learning more about safety, security and cultural differences. On the 4th day we fly out to our own islands. We have 10 going to St. Kitts/Nevis. We then spend the next 7 weeks training, shadowing current PC's, and getting to know our new home, the area and the people.
During this time I will be living with a host family. This, next to bugs, is my biggest concern. After living for the past 8 years basically on my own, I've come to enjoy my own space, the quite time to read a book or just sit and watch the sun set. We don't know anything about the family we will be living with - whether they will be a large family with lots of children, grandparents, etc. all living together or just a husband/wife combo. I know I can pretty well endure just about anything or anyone for 7 weeks but know that I will really look forward to once again having my own place. The 'kids' are even more excited as this will be their 'very first place.'
Tonight a few of us 'older volunteers' are off to an authentic Cuban restaurant where they play music and the 'old guard still gather.' The younger set are having a pizza party around the pool. I'll say goodbye for now. We've been told it may be between 3 days and over a week before we have internet access again.
So toodles for now - take care of each other.
Posted by Re's Home on the Road at 3:28 PM
Friday, August 8, 2008
Information keeps trickling in. Today I learned that I will be living on the island of St. Kitts and working in the Department of Gender Affairs. Do I have a clue what that entails - no! But it sounds interesting. I even have a mailing address to where I can ship the rest of my stuff.
I've attached a picture - pre-packing. Any ideas as how to get all of this into 2 duffel bags, one large backpack and one carry bag and have it all be under 80 lbs. The large box that the clothes are resting on is the box of stuff I'm shipping - flippers, books, winter clothes, shoes! I have found a Forum online of very kind and helpful folks who live on the island who have been more than willing to answer all of my questions. They tell me that food is the most expensive item on the island so all visiting friends and family should be prepared to bring my favorite nibbles when they come visit. The most craved item that those that live there have brought to them - canned tuna fish! Did learn that there is a brand new cinema multi-plex set to open in the Fall which will show first-run movies and that there is a lending library at one of the bars where the ex-pat community hangs out.
No nibbles on renters for my house as yet - so all of you start saying little prayers that it will rent soon. Don't forget, my email remains the same and you can leave notes and access my email directly from this blog site - just click on My Profile. If I can access my Vonage phone, like I'm told you can, then anyone in the States can just pick up their phone and call me in St. Kitts - the same as if you were calling me here at home - and visa versa. Same number, no charge. Will let you know when it's up and running.
Thanks for all the great emails and well-wishes.
Posted by Re's Home on the Road at 7:34 AM