Friday, October 19, 2012


I would like to take a moment to thank my devoted readers and the many unexpected followers my blog has attracted.  This blog has reached people at the edges of the earth.  My blog has been viewed by readers in countries as far as Albania to Azerbaijan; Bahrain to Colombia; Denmark to Ecuador; Ghana to Hong Kong; Ireland to Jersey (not NEW Jersey); Laos to Pakistan; Senegal to Tunisia; and United Arab Emirates to Vietnam, and many more in between.
This blogs offers my devoted readers (presumably just my mom and a few close friends) assurance that I am alive and well.  For others it gives them a look into my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer or what Peace Corps life may be like. For others still, they stumbled upon it in Reddit posts, Google searches for obscure things like “goats”, “hot pepper lip swelling” (yes unfortunately, my blog pops up for this due to my “busted lip” (another popular search that directs you to my blog) entry about my rugby injury. Many more found it as a result of, I am sure. Whatever the source or referring link that brought you to my blog, I am happy that you have come across it.
Because of this blog there have been many serendipitous events. For one, the founder of a prominent non-profit organization based in Philadelphia that is devoted to increasing literacy in the Caribbean, the International Alliance for Child Literacy, saw my blog.  After seeing that I was a Drexel University grad, also in Philly, she contacted me to see if her organization could benefit the school that I was working at by providing books and school supplies.  Only a few months after receiving that initial email, I received a barrel full of over 300lbs of books and school supplies! What a wonderful surprise.  Had she not seen my blog, my students would never have had such a wonderful library.

Another fortuitous event occurred a few months back.  I received an email from a former PCV asking for help for his book.  He was creating a book, which includes recipes from Peace Corps countries, entitled “Cooking in the Peace Corps”. He was contacting volunteers and found my blog and asked for my input.  His book has been published recently and includes a section about St. Vincent and the Grenadines and some classic Vincy food.  You can find it here.

Additionally, I have had many people contact me in regards to things I have posted.  Many were strangers who have given words of encouragement, thanks and praise, and anecdotal comments.  It has been very uplifting to see that my blog has had an impact on so many.  It was initially intended only to keep family and friends abreast with what was going on in my life, but it has turned into so much more. To that I am grateful and inspired to keep writing.
Love and Peace

Carnival 2012-A Little Late

I previously stated how the music genre varies as the seasons change.  However, in the tropics, the seasons are a little different. So instead, beginning in February, Soca music is starting to be played almost exclusively in preparation for Carnival in July. This time around, I was enjoying the carnival spirit a little more.  I knew a little bit more of what to expect, and this year I was going to “play mas”.
When the carnival season was gearing up last year, I was still relatively new to all that was Vincy Mas.  I didn’t fully appreciate the music, mostly because I couldn’t understand any of it, and I didn’t participate in only a few of the carnival events.  With a full year under my belt, I found myself singing along to the songs this year, even bustin a whine (ha!), and getting into the carnival spirit.  I was invited to play mas, which entails parading around town on Mardi Gras/Carnival Tuesday in a very skimpy, very beaded and flashy bikini, and a wild feather headdress, with my closest Vincy friend and her friends.  In addition, one of my best friends from college was coming to visit, to experience Vincy’s most important cultural event of the year. Another friend from college who had been traveling throughout Asia and the Middle East for the previous 3 months, decided to meet up with us and stop in SVG before returning home to the States.
It could not have been a better group of friends to have come visit during this very exciting week long party.  Who better than my college partner in crime to experience 4 days of non-stop drinking/dancing/partying? While she didn’t get to see much of the country I now call home, she did enjoy carnival, which was the primary reason for her coming when she did. Nick arrived ahead of Rose and got to see most of the key “tourist” destinations on the island.  These adventures also resulted in my phone mashing up, but only after I realized that the phone company shut off my phone because I failed to pay my bill on time.  I guess I wasn’t able to manage my money with all the carnival activities. So in the end, not having a working phone didn’t matter much, when I couldn’t actually make phone calls.  Although, what a week to not have a phone!
Anyways, once Rose arrived we promptly began the carnival festivities.  First we had to pick up our costumes. We then went back to town for a concert.  However, after traveling for so long, due to the remoteness of SVG and customs issues in Trinidad, she was beat so we decided to rest up for the next few days’ activities.  Boy am I glad we did.  The next day we relaxed around my house in preparation for J’Ouvert that night, cooked some authentic Vincy food, and explored my community a little bit. Later in the evening we headed to town for J’Ouvert, a street party starting late at night, whereby you pour paint all over yourself, your friends, and strangers, while dancing to Soca music, drinking rum or Hairoun into the late morning.  By the end of it, we were completely covered in paint from head to toe, I mashed up both my shoes and subsequently had to walk home barefoot.  By the time we got home, bathed, tried to remove all the paint, cooked, ate, and got ready to go back to town in the afternoon, there was barely any time for a nap. We set off down the road for a van again in the early afternoon, only hours after returning home from J’Ouvert, for the T-shirt band jump up.

The jump up is another street party involving drinking, dancing, and parading around Town.  A lot of revelers purchase T-shirts for particular “bands” which allows you unlimited drinks (if you can get them).  When you purchase your T-shirt you also receive a water bottle and bandana; the water bottle to fill with beer that is handed out from pick-up trucks, and the bandana to protect your hair from the rain that will inevitably come, or in my case to wipe the sweat you produce from dancing so hard. It was nearly impossible to get your bottle filled, as the truck was continuously moving and constantly swarmed by people also trying to get their bottles filled. To get your bottle filled you needed to shove your bottle in one of the guys giving out the beer’s face and hope that they chose yours to fill. Luckily?, one of my students was dispensing the beer, so he gave me first priority.  That sure doesn’t happen in the States.

Surprisingly, we lasted pretty late into the night, despite running on little, if any, sleep. Unfortunately, since it was so late, vans were scarce, or already full.  We had to walk pretty far out of Town before we could catch a van. The next morning was what we had all been waiting for: Vincy Mas.


              All while growing up I rarely ever ate meat.  The only meat I would eat would be chicken.  My parents rarely cooked red meat and when they did I would forgo the protein portion of the meal for the night. For as long as I can remember, I would only eat all the side dishes at Thanksgiving and leave the turkey. So at the end of college when I decided to be fully vegetarian, it was not that difficult.
            My reasons for being vegetarian are mostly for environmental concerns.  After taking a few courses in college focused on sustainability, it became evident that the way meat is processed is not very sustainable for the environment.  I do not like how meat is a factory process and that it consumes vast amounts of energy input versus the energy output you are getting when you eat that meat.1 In addition, I do not like what it does to the environment; deforestation, water consumption, waste, global warming, etc.2
            Now lets jump to today.  I find myself eating meat. But only occasionally.  And mostly when I have consumed some amount of alcohol.  I blame this on the fact that there is no where to get a burrito at 2am (or at any time for that matter).
Sometimes I even crave it. I am getting awfully sick of eating soya chunks and beans. And chicken is EVERYWHERE here in SVG.  It’s not very difficult to be vegetarian or vegan in the Caribbean, but it’s also a lot easier to eat meat. You can find chicken and chips, fried chicken, roast pork (more on that later), bread and chicken, etc. on any street corner, in any shop, anywhere, at anytime, day or night. It is very easy to cook for yourself entirely vegetarian or vegan meals.  Fruits and vegetables are plentiful and there is always something delicious in season.  Soya chunks, beans, peas, and nuts (if I weren’t allergic) are easy to find and prepare.
But it’s a little more difficult to find vegetarian options at anytime or anywhere. I should note that I am not actually vegetarian but pescetarian, which makes it even easier to not be a carnivore here. Fish is readily available. But mostly at the market (which needs to be prepared at home), and only occasionally available out.  You wont find fish on the corner, but you will find it in a shop or restaurant usually. There are also a few I-Tal restaurants (Rasta), but these can only be found in Town.  So that leaves me with few options for vegetarian meals when I am at school, at home in my village or out and about somewhere other than town.
Then there’s roast pork, which is in a league all its own.  Never did I eat pork at home; never did I ever crave pork at home.  Every Thursday and Friday a shop next to school roasts pork.  The staff room is directly downwind of the shop, and all day long the sweet smell of roast pork wafts into the building.  Come lunchtime, all the teachers are eating roast pork and breadfruit.  I don’t know why, but it smells so good.  So naturally I had to break down and eat some.  At first it started when I would be out with friends at a club, appropriately called Pork City.  As you imagined, they also roast a pig.  Come 2am when I am hungry and everyone else is eating roast pork, and there are no vegetarian options for miles upon miles, I broke down and ate roast pork. This may have happened on more than one occasion. I resisted the urge to eat pork, and for a while, I would only crave it if I were drunk. I thought maybe if I ate it while I was sober it would satisfy this strange craving. And it did for a while.  But that urge to eat pork came back, even when I was sober.
Eating meat in the Caribbean doesn’t make me feel as bad as if I were eating meat in the States.  For one, people in SVG eat EVERY part of the animal, from the skin (cattle skin soup) to the organs (liver, cow balls) right down to the bones (chicken necks, chicken backs, cattle hooves, etc).  That means there is very little waste, which is how it should be.  Additionally, the meat is not factory farmed and injected with nasty chemicals at every chance.