Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The World Is Yours

            And so begins the new school year.  It seems like just last week that I was sitting on a bench in the Hebron Gospel Chapel during the Opening Ceremony to the 2011-2012 school year at EHSM. I cannot believe an entire year has passed by so quickly and I am starting my last school year in St. Vincent.  I feel like I have just gotten adjusted to life here, and accustomed to the way school operates here to actually be an effective volunteer/teacher.
It was so nice to see all the students.  I am extremely proud of the students I worked directly with who have been promoted to Form 2 and Form 3. I am happy to see the students that I did not work directly with but were my enthusiastic helpers/book borrowers in the new Annex library. I am looking forward to another rewarding school year.
True to Peace Corps fashion, my ability to be flexible and creative will surely be tested this school year.  The school year is starting out a little hectic, as we are short a few teachers, so teachers and staff must pick up the slack.  This means in addition to the teachers teaching more subjects and more classes, the principal, and secretary will also be teaching, oh and the Peace Corps volunteer.  My capacity at the school consists of assisting the Literacy Coordinator in providing extra help to students who are below their grade levels in reading.  I generally work with students in small groups by pulling them from class to focus on their reading/comprehension skills.  Additionally, I facilitated the unofficial re-opening and operation of the Annex Library by acquiring books from Hands Across the Sea and the International Alliance for Child Literacy and promoting a love for reading by exposing the students to books.
However, this year may be a little different, at least for a while anyways.   I will be filling in as the 5th Form Chemistry and Physics teacher until a replacement is found. If I must be honest, I kind of don’t want a replacement teacher to come.  I am really excited to be teaching chemistry and physics. But also a little nervous. So why must I be flexible and creative you ask?  If you remember a previous post, If You Believe In Love, I stated my frustrations about my role at the school.  As a remedial reading teacher, I have complete control over the classroom, as there are only 4 students.  But, on the other hand, I have no background in literacy and frankly no passion for teaching reading.  I find it difficult for me to be enthusiastic about it. And I find it even more difficult to be comfortable (read: competent) teaching reading.  Who knew that just because you know how to read, doesn’t mean you can teach some one else to read. Then, when I was teaching math in Form 3 while a teacher was on maternity leave, I felt passionate, competent, and excited to be responsible for an entire class.  I loved being in the classroom, and getting the students excited about math, as well as Life Skills which I would teach during my math classes on “Skills for Success” Fridays, but it was extremely difficult to gain the respect of the students as well as control the classroom.
The need for flexibility and creativity comes in that, I have no guide to go by and really no direction as to what the future holds this school year. While I love chemistry and physics (my all time favorite subjects), I still feel unsure about my teaching abilities-I have never taught chemistry or physics, and it’s been a while since I have really used that side of my brain.  I will need to be creative in designing lesson plans, experiments that engage and excite the students, especially since I have no curriculum to follow. I will need to be flexible in teaching whatever subject is asked of me for how ever long, until the appropriate teachers are placed by the Ministry of Education.
Overall, I am more excited than nervous for this school year.  Sure I have no idea where to begin or where I am going, but it doesn’t matter.  Half the fun is figuring it out, and that seems to be the theme about Peace Corps, after all. In the mean time, as Theodore Roosevelt said, I will do what I can, with what I have, where I am. All I know, is it really helps to be passionate about the work you do.  Otherwise, the quality of work you produce is subpar and sometimes not worth doing.  Dad, it only took me 25 years to realize that what you have told me from day one about choosing a career (do what you love, so that it becomes more of a hobby that you get paid to do than a job) is true. I am looking forward to instilling in these students a desire to ask questions and inquire, problem solve, think critically, realize their potential, set goals, and dream. It’s important to me that I must be creative in incorporating Life Skills into my science lessons.
The show goes on whether I'm ready or not.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Did Your Boyfriend Beat You?

So, I just returned from the dentist, and it was determined that my tooth is dying.  Its super sensitive to temperature, and just sensitive in general really. It just doesn’t feel right.
Lets rewind 6 weeks.  I was running, a large man was running and my face collided with his head.
Now lets rewind about 6 months.
Who knew SVG had a national rugby team?  Certainly not me, for nearly a year, too! And why would any one? The only sports that are advertised and supported/promoted are football and cricket, and a handful of others to a lesser extent. I actually stumbled upon the team by chance through a friend of a friend of a friend’s boyfriend.  One of my close Peace Corps friends knew that I really missed playing rugby, a sport I picked up, again by chance, in college. Somehow it got brought up in conversation with one of her friends that her boyfriend plays rugby and they were looking to recruit more girls for the women’s team.  My Peace Corps friend promptly informed me and I was training with the rugby team within a week!
However, I may have been their only recruit, as training consists of playing touch/hold rugby with the guys.  At most, 2 women, including myself, come to training on any given night. Although it’s not much of a women’s “team”, it is a lot of fun to be playing rugby again, if only for fun, and with guys.  I must admit, it was a bit intimidating to be the only girl training with a bunch of strangers, a bunch of guys at that.  But they were all exceedingly welcoming and fun to be around. It didn’t take long to feel a part of the “team”.  My only qualm about playing (especially with guys, even though we never actually tackled) is that I didn’t have a mouth guard and there was nowhere to get one. I am terrified of knocking out a tooth.
This fear, my biggest fear, when it comes to playing rugby, came to fruition pretty quickly.  It all happened so fast; another player and I were both going to “hold” the guy with the ball at the same time.  We were running full speed from opposite directions and wrapped the guy with the ball from opposite sides, resulting in my mouth colliding with his eyebrow bone.  I immediately fell to the ground, but felt fine, just a little bump I thought.  Before I got up, I looked up at one of the other guys standing above me, presumably wondering if I was knocked unconscious, and hastily inquired if all my teeth were in tact.  He informed me that my teeth were, in fact, all there.  Thank god, I thought and began to get up. I insisted I was fine, but all the guys kept contending that I was not fine, and needed to go to the hospital for stitches.  I couldn’t really feel anything wrong, just a little swelling of my lip, and some blood, but its not like it was gushing or anything.  Again, I insisted I was fine.  Then I realized my front tooth was loose.  My worst nightmare was true.  I kinda started to freak out at this moment.
Well that effectively ended training, and all the guys gathered their belongings pretty quickly and we all piled into one of the guys’ Jeeps.  At first we went to the nearest clinic, but Peace Corps policy dictates which doctors we can see.  So, while there I cleaned myself up a bit; interestingly, all the other players were in their nice clothes already, I was the only one still in rugby clothes, covered in grass and dirt.   From there, they all drove me into Town to go to the hospital. A place I hoped to never have to go, but also thought that this would be the last reason to end up there, if anything I thought it would be a nut allergy related incident (thank god it wasn’t).  The emergency room in SVG is nothing like going to the emergency room in the States.  First of all there wasn’t pages upon pages of paperwork, copays, and long waits.  There was one child who had a pretty bad cut on his head before me, but other than that I was in and out. I thought I would have been there all night, and was worried about being able to get home so late.  Most of the rugby players waited with me at the emergency room until I was finished up.  I was pleased to not have to sit there alone and am truly grateful for their thoughtfulness and care during the whole ordeal.  In retrospect it was a little terrifying, however, I think I was in shock at the time to notice.
While I was waiting, I went to the bathroom. It was then that saw the damage for the first time, as there were no other mirrors up until then.  They weren’t kidding, it was pretty bad.

I have a history with stitches and my lip. When I was four I fell off my bike, essentially head first, and busted my lip open.  I needed about six stitches on the inside of my lip.  I also have a history with doctors, emergency rooms, etc. from my numerous nut allergy related incidents.  Consequently, I do not like them. I have a huge phobia of hospitals/doctors.  When I was four, they needed to papoose me in order to be able to put the stitches in, because I was fighting the doctor so relentlessly.  I must admit I was a little bit better behaved this time, no papoose required, but that was still not a fun experience.
The doctor, who I knew personally (she is my Host Sister’s cousin), first sat me down on a stool, cleaned the cut, which stung like hell, applied a topical numbing agent, which dripped into my mouth numbing my tongue too (what a strange feeling) and then gave me a shot of something: more numbing agent I believe.  She then began to stitch me up.  Again, this hurt like hell. I was literally shaking. I also didn’t quite realize its just like sewing a shirt, only its my lip. I may have cried. She may have (read: definitely) made fun of me. The nurse aide asked me a few questions; my name, DOB, occupation, religious affiliation (?), and just like that I was done.  They gave me a referral to see the dentist about my loose tooth on my way out and that was it. Nothing to sign, nothing to pay, nothing else left to do, except walk clear back across Town to catch a van home.  This was only mildly embarrassing; still covered in grass and dirt, in rugby clothes, with a HUGE stitched up lip.  I got many stares, but luckily it was late at night and not many people were
The next day I had to go back into Town to the Peace Corps approved dentist to get my loose tooth fixed.  I was just there about a month ago having my first cavity filled so when I arrived they thought it was because a filling came out.  That was until the dentist got a good look at my very swollen, stitched up lip. In which she promptly replied, “oh lawd” and started laughing. She apologized, but I didn’t mind much, it must have been ridiculous looking.

This trip to Town was not a fun experience at all. Most people stared, gawked, and a few even commented.  Since most people do not know what rugby is, I'm pretty sure they thought I was lying when I emphatically denied that my “boyfriend beat me” and that it was in fact a rugby injury.  After the appointment, in which the dentist put a splint on my tooth, stabilizing it to the two teeth next to it, and shaved it down (it got knocked out of its socket so it was longer than the rest) to be level with the others so I could effectively close my mouth, I didn’t stick around in Town long.  I wanted to get the hell out of there, and go hide inside my house until this whole thing was gone and forgotten. It wasnt so much the appearance that bothered me, but the comments in reference to domestic violence that upset me.  All I kept thinking was if I were back in the States, would that be everyone's first assumption as well? Unfortunately that wasn’t entirely possible, as I would be speaking at the Adult and Continuing Education Center’s Graduation Ceremony, the next day.  Again more stares and inquiries and disbelief.

The stitches needed to be left in for a week, and the stint on my tooth a month.  I could not wait to get the stitches out.  They itched and drew a lot of attention.  Luckily the swelling wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and my lip returned to its normal size after only a few days.  I had set up an appointment with an ENT doctor, just to be sure everything was going to heal correctly.  I had wanted to get my stitches removed by them, but I couldn’t wait. Instead, I walked down to the Clinic in my village.  More awkward stares and inquiries.  Again, I knew the nurse-she was one of the participants in the IT classes that I teach through the Adult and Continuing Education Center.  Again, I may have cried, and again she may have laughed.  To be fair, she lied to me and admitted it.  I asked if removing the stitches would hurt and she replied emphatically that no they wouldn’t.  As she was ripping them out, I was flinching in pain and crying.  “You lied to me, this hurts a lot” I said to her.  And her response was simply: “I know.”  She did offer me a parting gift: 5lbs of rice, 2lbs of milk powder, a bag of beans and 2lbs of sugar; however I left it for someone who could really use it. As the clinic was pretty busy that day, I’m sure someone else could have used it more than me. Evidently they give packages of food staples to all patients that go to the clinic.  Something you certainly don’t get when you go to the hospital in the States. All you get there is a fat bill. 
What I'm let with is a huge gap in my front teeth, a thick bump in my lip from the buildup in scar tissue and a future root canal.  All this, and the scar is barely visible.  Ugh!
As this was all going down, I had numerous people ask me if I was going to quit rugby.
And to them I say:

When you get injured and someone tells you to stop playing rugby: