Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Desired Things

If you know me even a little bit, you will know that I am not "literary". I have never liked English, writing, or reading or anything to do with them.  How ironic, that now I am a reading teacher! Of all things literary, poetry was always my least favorite. I never could understand why people couldn't just say what they wanted and get to the point. I do however, have many friends that are literary and have shared some very insightful poems with me. And I have come a long way and have grown to appreciate reading, writing and even poetry to an extent. Below is one of my favorite poems. It was presented to me  during some difficult times and now when I encounter adversity during my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I reference this poem to keep me grounded, stay positive, keep focused and to remind myself that the choice to be happy is mine.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann c. 1920

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender
Be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
And listen to others, even the dull and ignorant;
They too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
They are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
You may become vain and bitter; for always
There will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
For the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. 
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
It is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
Whatever you conceive Him to be,
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. 
Strive to be happy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Plastic Bags

The unlimited uses for Black Plastic Bags...

Black Plastic Bags, affectionately referred to as BPB from here on out, are ubiquitous in St. Vincent. The most common place to find BPB is the grocery store and any and all small shops, whether it is a supermarket, clothing store, pharmacy, what have you.  Whenever you purchase something, anything, it is placed in a BPB.  Often times, the bag is tied.
I just bought $5 or $150 worth of groceries and it’s all put in BPB.  Depending on the items, the bags are double bagged and sometimes tied.  The way they tie the bags here is different, and I can never get them untied.  I always have to tear open the bag.
BPB are used to put Styrofoam (as a materials scientist and a self-proclaimed environmentalist, this is the material I abhor the most) food containers in after you leave the shop/restaurant/stall.
BPB are the go-to method of transporting goods to/from one another and from stores.  You brought some food to a neighbor and left your plate there, no problem it will be returned to you in a BPB.  You left your clothes at my house, its ok, it will be hand delivered to you in a tied BPB. God forbid people know what it is you are carrying. You want to lend your DVDs to someone; sure thing coming at you in a BPB.
Other Uses for BPB include:
Trash bags-I have never bought garbage bags.  And I still have a crap load of BPB.
Food containers-I have used BPB to carry snacks, to pack my lunch for school, and to store food. 
Purses-I have seen women carry everything they have in BPB.
Wallets-I have also been behind people at the grocery store who pull out all their cash/cards from a BPB.
Shower/bathing caps when at the sea or when it rains-BPB come in handy when you cant/don’t want to get your hair wet at the beach or when it rains.
Bookbag-I have carried many students’ notebooks in BPB.  It’s just easier to carry when my school bag is already full.
Waterproofing for electronics-Don’t want your phone to get wet? Don’t want your camera to get paint all over it while at J’Ouvert? No problem, just put it in a BPB and tie it up.
Gloves-I have use BPB for cleaning, or any other time I dont want my hands to get dirty.

Special Guest Appearance: the Clear Plastic Bag (CPB)
            The intended use of the CPB is mostly for food packaging.  Sugar, flour, rice, salt, popcorn, and most other food that is bought in “bulk” is sold in CPB.  If you buy any vegetables or fruit at the Vegetable Market, they will be put in a tied CPB for you to carry home.  Fish, chicken, bread and eggs come in CPB.
            Similar to BPB, CPB can also assume the aforementioned roles once they have served their initial purpose.  

 Types of BPB

The BPB comes in a vast range of sizes and different “types” of plastic.  There is matte black and there is shiny black.  Let me digress and give you some lessons in materials science (oh how I miss this!). They are made of polyethylene (PE); the most common plastic.  There are many types of PE with various molecular structures and properties.  Depending on the density of the PE, will determine properties including flexibility or ductility, toughness and chemical resistance.  Applications of PE range from (in order of highest density to lowest density): artificial joints and implants, milk jugs, detergent bottles, pipes, shrink wrap, bubble wrap, plastic bags, hoses, tubes, food packaging, etc. Most BPB are Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE).

Many times I have found unusual uses for BPB and CPB.

 EVERYTHING comes in a BPB.
 Most staples come in CPB-sugar, flour, rice, corn meal, pop corn, peas, beans.  They are also used to put vegetables and fruits that are purchased in the Central Market in Town.
oh and for fish bought at the fish market.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Burning Questions

Good Morning Faithful Blog Followers,

As is evident by the stats provided by Blogspot, it appears many more people read my blog than I intended, which is great!

So I was wondering if you have any burning questions that you have regarding my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer?  Is there anything you would like to know more about; different cultural norms, food, religion, social norms, people, etc?

This is turning out to be akin to AMA on Reddit, but please leave a comment or send me an email and I will try to cover it in upcoming blog posts!

Peace and Love,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When did I get so busy?

A Day in My Life

Here is a breakdown of a typical day for me. I will break it into week day and week end.

Week day:

530am wake up
            wash wares from previous night
cook breakfast; usually eggs and toast or fried plantains
wash wares
choose outfit and iron clothes
pack lunch
prepare a few lessons or grade hwk
wash clothes by hand
hang clothes to dry
get ready for school
830am-3pm school; teach physics, reading, and integrated science; operate the library.
320pm reach home, eat, and relax

on Monday and Wednesday:

415pm walk down the road to the community library and computer center
430pm teach intro to computers/basic IT skills class at the adult education center
630pm reach home (it usually takes about half an hour to reach home because of all the people I stop to talk to J )
645pm start cooking dinner
8pm eat dinner
wash some wares
clean kitchen
do any necessary prep work for school
930pm SLEEP!

On Tuesday and Thursday:

415pm walk down the road to catch a van to the Sports Complex to play rugby
445pm reach the road that leads to the sports complex
510pm reach the sports complex to play rugby
7pmwalk to the grocery store and pick up a few groceries
730pm wait endlessly for a van
830-9pm finally reach home
start cooking dinner
930-10pm eat dinner
wash some wares
clean kitchen
1030pm SLEEP!

And on the weekends:


3pm Leave school
            reach home, bathe and change
            walk down the road to catch a van to town
430pm reach town
            go to bank, run a few errands, pay some bills
            go grocery shopping
lime in town
wait for a van for a while
9pm reach my village
lime at the local rum shop
reach home
10pm sleep!!!


Saturday is typically my only day to have to myself to explore, relax on the beach, or hang out with friends


6-7am wake up (not sure why, but I can never manage to sleep past 7)
            wash wares
            cook breakfast
start cooking lunch
            wash more wares
            clean the kitchen
            wash laundry
            take down and fold clean laundry
            hang more laundry
            sweep out the house
            clean house/mop/etc
12noon finish cooking lunch
            eat lunch
            wash more wares
relax a bit
finish cleaning/wash
make lesson plans, exams, grade hwk, prep for school
figure out what I am going to wear to school, iron clothes
eat again
8pm SLEEP!