Monday, August 20, 2012

If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever

        I frequently complain that I live on an island but have no sea views from my house. I frequently complain that I have to take two vans to get to the beach, which is somewhat expensive and not very convenient. However, I love the community in which I live and I have found that I have some of the greatest neighbors. I wouldn’t trade my neighbors for a sea view.  So what, I need to take two vans to get to the beach, it’s still closer than I’ll ever be to the beach. Views don’t buy peace of mind or build lasting relationships.
My neighbors are always looking out for me, watching my house/dog when I'm gone, sending over fruits and vegetables, or lending me random things (like a cutlass or shovels for those rare times that I decide to clean my yard) when I need them, and even letting me use their stove to cook when my gas tank runs out, and above else helping me feel welcome and comfortable in my new home. 
Over the course of only a few months of living in my house, I grew particularly close to my closest (in proximity) neighbor, Amy.  She was an older woman living alone. When I would come home from school I would find her sitting on her porch.  I would stop by and we would talk.  Sometimes it would be about mundane things such as the weather but other times we had deep conversations about her life, her children, how times have changed, learning about wealth of experience and wisdom etc. We would share a Coke sitting on the porch watching the sky slowly fade from blue streaked with pinkish purple to the faint sparkling of the stars while talking about life, all while being eaten alive by the sand flies.  These are some of my fondest memories of living in SVG.
I don’t know why our relationship was any different than any of the other people that I frequently find sitting on their porch and strike up conversations when I pass by, but it was.  Amy embraced and welcomed me like her own child. She was like a mother to me. We shared a bond, a connection that I cant quite put into words.
As the holidays drew nearer, I was kind of bummed I would not be home for the first time in my life to spend Christmas and my birthday with my family. We had talked about our holiday plans and decided to spend the Christmas holiday together, so neither of us would feel so alone.  As it turned out, she would not end up alone, as her daughter came from Trinidad.  But Amy still included me in their festivities. I brought over the Christmas tree my mom sent for me, Amy took out her finest china and together we had a feast that was only overshadowed by the love you could feel in the room. It was a lovely day, but it was also bittersweet because at the end of the week she would be moving (temporarily) to Trinidad to be with her daughter, as her health was not in the best condition. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such loving and caring people, at a time that could have very well been very depressing and lonely.
As the day of their departure grew closer, you could feel the sadness in the air.  Amy was very sad to leave her beloved homeland behind and did not want to go to Trinidad. It was for her best interest to be with her daughter, who is a nurse, but I was sad to lose my Vincy mother.  It was really hard to say goodbye, and I cried as I watched the vehicle pull out of the gap that night. I remember thinking, if this is what its like to say goodbye after not even a year and when it was only temporary, what would it be like when I had to leave SVG at the end of my service? I don’t even want to think about it.
After about 4 months Ayana, Amy’s daughter, came back to finish the house in preparation for Amy to move back. I was so excited for her visit.  1. Ayana is a lot of fun, and one of the closest friends I have in Peace Corps. 2. I knew that Amy would be returning to SVG soon. I was so excited.
I had high hopes when Ayana left SVG to return to work in Trinidad.  Amy’s health seemed to be improving and she couldn’t wait to be back in her fair and blessed isle where the mountains are so high, clear and green. Not too long after Ayana returned to Trinidad, I received a call from her.  It was a Thursday night, I actually was in St Lucia for MST, but I didn’t think anything of the call.  Ayana and I talked frequently and so it was not unusual to receive a call from her at that time of day. However, what she told me, I was not prepared for.
I was in shock, disbelief, denial even. I cried initially, but with everything I to going on around me in regards to MST and with being constantly surrounded by people, I did not have ample time to process how I was feeling.
When I returned home, it was as if nothing had happened. I still felt like it was a bad dream, and any day now Amy would return home. I still feel this way, 3 months later.
This is my attempt to reconcile those feelings of losing someone too soon and so suddenly and unexpectedly.  This is my attempt to properly say goodbye to Amy. Amy was a wonderful woman; caring, kind, welcoming, loving, everything that a mother ought to be. I truly believe we must have been related in a previous life because our bond was so strong, it was instant and it was unique. I had felt like I had known her my entire life. I am so grateful to have met Amy, even if it was for such a short period of time.  She has touched my life profoundly, unbeknownst to her.  I will take some of the wisdom she imparted in me with me for the rest of my life. She will forever be missed, but we will meet again someday when the time is right.  May you rest in peace Amy.

No Farewell words were spoken,
no time to say goodbye, you were
gone before we knew it, and only
God knows why.

The 5 Senses of SVG

Sights, Sounds, Smells, Tastes, and Feels of Peace Corps/Island life

o   Goats on the way to school
o   Chickens/roosters/goats/sheep in my yard
o   Street dogs-they are the equivalent of squirrels in the States
o   Concrete jungle-everything is concrete: buildings and houses, walls around buildings, yards, the list goes on.
o   Greenery everywhere, which is contrasted by the concrete
o   Fruit trees everywhere-I can identify most fruit trees now
o   Uniforms-students, bank workers, nurses, govt workers, everyone wears a uniform
o   Men peeing anywhere they feel like at anytime, they don’t even try to hide it
o   Garbage everywhere unfortunately…
o   Brightly colored houses and cars
o   Bright and tight clothing
o   Really pretty hummingbirds that fly around the trees in my yard

o   Crickets, roosters, frogs, sheep, goats
o   Terrifying roar of the rain approaching from down in the valley
o   Pounding of the rain on the galvanized metal roof-like golf balls landing on a car
o   Garbage truck plays a really morbid song that sounds like creepy organ funeral music so you know its coming
o   Gas tank truck also plays a song so you know its coming but it’s a little less creepy
o   Ice cream truck plays predominantly row row row your boat or London bridge is falling down
o   Fish truck blows a conch shell to let you know its approaching
o   Music music music…music from the rum shops in valley on Fridays, music blaring from the vans. Interestingly, music genres here follow seasons.  Reggae=summer; Soca=winter/spring, leading up to Carnival in July; Dancehall=fall/winter.
o   Barking dogs
o   Chickens at the crack of dawn (~5am)
o   Car horns: saying hi to people; letting you know they are rounding a corner; over taking another car, etc.
o   Birds
o   People shouting my name all the time; also people singing Valarie, Valara, ah, ah, ah. BTW they aren't actually singing my name, even though it sounds like it, but I'll take it.  I think the song is fitting. :-)
o   Breadfruit dropping from the tree-sounds like a bowling ball thudding into a carpet.

o   Funky smells that cannot be identified nearly all the time
o   Animal manure
o   Rotting fruits/vegetables-I seriously hate this smell, and it seems to be very prevalent during mango/guava season in my yard, also the fact that I compost.
o   Urine in the streets in town, or anywhere really, but especially town
o   Smoke/roasting breadfruit
o   Perfume-everyone smells real sweet, even men wear women’s perfume.
o   Bop-insecticide to kill those big bugs

o   Concrete floors
o   Rigid, brittle laundry from handwashing, air drying
o   People petting, touching, feeling my skin or hair
o   Sponge (foam, and I'm not talking about memory foam) mattress/cushions
o   Sweaty all the time

o   Curry
o   Fresh fruits all year long
o   Sugar overload-in fresh fruit juice, in cakes, in sweets, in nearly everything
o   Fried food-if it isn’t sugary, then it’s fried.  Fried chicken, fried fish, French fries, bakes (which are actually fried dough), etc.
o   Soy chunks-my main protein source since I don’t eat meat.
o   Pepper sauce and green seasoning.