Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mid Service Revelations

I recently returned from St Lucia where PCEC 83’s Mid Service Training (MST) was held. St Lucia is the headquarters for Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean (which comprises Grenada, Dominica, SVG, SLU, and the recently closed St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda). We were put up in a nice hotel with hot water and air conditioning, unlimited food, pools, and comfy beds.  However, it was pretty chaotic getting there.  Although we were traveling a mere 20 miles, a 30-minute flight away, we had to first travel to Barbados for a connecting flight, which we almost missed for reasons which completely our own fault. In all it took ~9 hours to travel ~20 miles. Upon landing and arriving at the hotel, confusion ensued. The hotel we were supposed to be staying at did not have us booked until two days later, and to top it off, was completely full up due to the internationally recognized Jazz Fest being held nearby.  This made it really difficult to find a hotel with enough rooms for 40+ volunteers.  It resulted in us all being dispersed in nearby hotels for a night, and being bussed back and forth for meals at the original hotel.  
one of the nice hotels we stayed at..sort of.
Luckily (?) we returned the following day to all be together again. I lost two shirts during all the commotion L.  It was complete chaos, frustration and confusion; with no one knowing what’s going on or what was going to happen. In the end everything worked out fine, and there were no other major problems during MST. But for MST to start off in that direction, I was a little more than concerned.
In fact, MST was a lot better than I had originally thought.  Most of it focused on us sharing our experiences and one session of technical training, which I thought was going to be a waste of time, but ended up being really helpful. We even managed to have some fun; such as MSTIIIC-our Mid Service Training Inter Island Integration Competition, which included activities ranging from a coconut water drinking relay race, ring games, hair styling competition, wining, among others; all the essential components of integrating in the Caribbean.
coconut water is delicious

The most interesting and beneficial part of MST was hearing about everyone else’s experiences. It was remarkable, the array of experiences; some very positive, some not so positive, and everything in between on the spectrum. It was thought-provoking to learn that everyone’s experiences are so different and unique even though we are all doing relatively the same thing on a relatively similar island. Although, we face similar challenges and struggles, each volunteers experiences are completely their own.
peace corps eastern caribbean problems....

In the end, the nice hotel was merely a tease.  I find myself now longing for American comforts and commodities, when I was not before.
In fact, when I went to St Lucia, I thought it would be the same as St. Vincent, but that was far from the case. The whole “vibe” of the island was different.  At first, during MST we were stationed in a very touristy area.  I felt like I was back in America.  There were large supermarkets that literally had everything you could ever want (just like in America); that’s not the case in SVG.  You can get some things, but I never realized how little we can actually get (even if we could afford it). There was a shopping mall with designer shops, a casino, nice restaurants, etc.  The roads are wide, there are traffic lights, multiple lane roads, vans ran quietly and peacefully, no loud music, no conductors, no mashing up.
mashed up in the van with all my stuff

After MST wrapped up, I spent some time with a friend who is serving in a community just outside Vieux Fort, at the southern tip of St. Lucia.  We had to travel about 2 hours from Castries in the north to Vieux Fort in the south, traversing the entire island.  It was a great way to see the island (if you like being mashed up in a van with a 25lb backpack on your lap). Luckily the ride was nice; the roads are wide, fairly straight and flat. The drivers don’t drive that fast, although it was too quiet for me. Once we got to Vieux Fort, it was like being in Town all over again, only this wasn’t the capital. Castries felt like being back in Philly compared to Kingstown in SVG.  Vieux Fort felt more like Town in SVG.  My friend had virtually no reason to travel the nearly 2 hours to the capital for groceries, to pay bills or run other errands, as she could travel about 20 minutes to Vieux Fort and do all those things.  She even gets her mail forwarded to her community’s post office. It was amazing.
gross piton as seen from my friends village

you can see my friends house (lower right) and her school (lower left) and all the beautiful mountains in the background

While visiting my friend, we hiked Petit Piton with a few other amazing volunteers, which was quite the experience (more on that later), we went to the beach (think white sand and touristy), saw amazing views from a lighthouse, saw some communities outside of Vieux Fort after we got a ride from some workers after walking back from the lighthouse, saw some very beautiful waterfalls, jumped off a rope swing, saw more of the country after getting more rides with some people, ate some mangoes, hung out, cooked, etc.
Petit Piton (kicked my butt)

view from the top (courtesy of Rachel!)

Gros Piton as seen from Petit Piton

so we got a ride to the top of this mountain to go to the light house, we somehow ended up at the cell tower instead (equally nice view though)

Vieux Fort and surrounding areas

On top of the world

Walking to LaTille Falls through a banana plantation

LaTille Falls, it was absolutely gorgeous and run by a Rasta guy who was completely self sufficient, he even generated electricity from a dam.

Swinging from the rope swing into the pond.

After all the excitement, it was nice to get back home.  It was such a good feeling to be back, with new perspectives, new insights, new experiences, all of which will help me in the next year to come.  But it was especially nice being back and having all my neighbors tell me how nice it is to see me, how much they missed me; they thought I had gone back to the States.
Here’s to another amazing year!

No comments:

Post a Comment