Sunday, March 23, 2014

In Case You Missed It...I'm [Never] Coming Home...

Some of you may/may not have heard, but I'm Extending (again…)

Yes it is true.  I have extended my service for maybe the 4th time, honestly I’ve lost track at this point. The point is, I feel like my projects are just starting to take off and the work I am doing is finally meaningful. Leaving now would be detrimental to all the effort I have put into to see these projects take off.  Since the projects are in their early stages, leaving now would possibly forfeit the successful completion of these endeavors.  If there is one thing that is certain, its that I'm not a quitter.
            In addition to extending for my projects, I have realized I am just not ready to return home to the States to begin a career in engineering in a typical 9-5 setting.  Judging by my friends, I don’t think I would be happy.  I have fallen in love with this place, its sheer beauty of the landscape and the people.
         In case you missed the subtly of that, I am applying for jobs in St. Vincent so that I can remain here after I finish my PC service.
         So, this obviously means you should come visit me ;-) because I’m not coming back Stateside for a while….


It just occurred to me that I have never written a post about the “national pastime” here in St. Vincent.  That would be none other than village football games/competitions.
Most villages either host an intervillage competition or compete in one or multiple competitions. Since there is a playing field right across from my house, my village hosts an intervillage football competition every year. Teams can consist of old men, young boys, and everything in between, except girls/women, sadly. Some, if not most villages have more than one team.
Usually there are games held everyday. However, Sunday evening games are the main attraction. Sunday football can be compared to high school football games.  Most people don’t go to watch the game.  You all just put on your trendiest clothes and socialize. It is a time to show off your newest, hottest clothes, and make a lime, drink a beer.  It’s a time to see and be seen. People come to sell all things; candy, popsicles, cigarettes, mints, popcorn, pork, drinks, other food, etc.
Before the game, during half-time and after the game you will hear loud soca and dancehall music. After the game, most people hang out, dance and drink a beer or strong rum. Sometimes I can hear the music from my house late into the night.
Games can get intense with fierce competition and rivalry between teams/villages. These are usually the best games to go to.  Crowds get riled up, become raucous and rowdy, cheering, cussing, you name it.

Its a lot of fun and the highlight of Sunday evenings during football season.

whos sucking?

Health Is Not Valued Until Sickness Comes

A short list of the various illnesses I have suffered since coming to SVG. Oddly enough I have not gotten dengue....
  1. Bronchitis
  2. Numerous colds
  3. Weird bush rash

  4. Busted lip
  5. Loose tooth
  6. Root canal
  7. Gastrointestinal issues
  8. Fillings (my first)
  9. Infected tooth
  10. Crown
  11. Infected finger
  12. Staph infection
  13. Eye sty
  14. Skin boils
  15. Weird fever 
I feel like I have been sick more times in the last 3 years than I have been in all my life. Granted, most of it has been “flu” (colds), presumably from walking in the rain; I never have my umbrella. I also never thought that you could get sick from walking in the rain, but I think its true, based on first hand experience. 
Also, most of my doctors’ visits, and subsequent reasons for taking antibiotics (which I loathe and try to avoid at all costs) have been related to my rugby injury when my tooth was knocked out L.  The dentist and I were on a first name basis, as I was going to see her about once a week for a month, and then once a month for about a year afterwards.
I’ve also had some strange illnesses that have not been explained.  My brother and I got a weird rash that covered our entire body.  I think we got it from swimming in the waterfalls. But still not really sure.  It was incredibly itchy and made me miserable.
For a couple months I had some pretty serious gastrointestinal issues.  Went so far as taking 3 stool samples, which needed to be stored in my fridge until I could make the hour trip to town to get them to the lab.  Oddly enough everything came back normal.  That was fun.
Most recently, I had a pretty high fever for about 5 days, with hardly any other symptoms.  Not sure what that was about, but it sure put a damper on my New Years and Birthday celebrations.
Ahh the joys of living in a tropical climate.  Wounds fester. Infections spread. It’s a wonderful experience.  Really.
Luckily, knock on wood, I have been relatively healthy lately. Here’s to keeping healthy.

Friday, March 21, 2014

You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home

After over two years away from the motherland, I finally made it back.  Just in time.
Just in time for many reasons. As I stated in previous posts, I was in a dark place.  It always seems everything has a way of conspiring together at the same time.  My trip home could not have come at a better time.  In fact, I actually had to push my trip ahead by a month.
Sometimes, you just need your mommy and to be surrounded by familiar love, family and friends.
Here’s a bit of a recap of my reverse culture shock and a highlight of my month long trip home.
My trip home started off with a bit of a high school reunion, at my best friends baby shower.  It was so amazing to see my friend glowing and with a nice size baby belly. It was also interesting to see people I went to high school with whom I have not seen in 5+ years.  When I returned home, I was feeling a bit guilty about not wanting to return back to the states and “start my life”.  As if I haven’t made a life for myself in St. Vincent, but that’s another story? However, after catching up with them, it just solidified that that is absolutely not the life for me.
After a solid week of relaxing at home with my parents and enjoying my bed and my room, left in almost exactly the same way as I left it, I felt confident enough to venture out into the world of consumerism and materialism and confront my reverse culture shock. I could already sense my outlook and the general culture of the States no longer saw eye to eye. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the customer service and general politeness of people. It was amazing, even in Philly, which I always remembered as being the worst place for rude people, everyone surprised me by being helpful and courteous.
The first thing that I found particularly difficult was driving. I may have gone around a round-about the wrong way, but luckily it was not this monstrosity (its worse than it looks): 

It was so intimidating and I kept getting confused as to which side of the road I belonged on.  I drove like a grandma, slow, two hands on the wheel at all times, up close to the wheel, music down low.
The next thing I found overwhelming was the sheer number of choices at places like the supermarket, target, Wal-Mart, restaurants, etc.  So.Many.Choices.  It was all a little too much and seemed so unnecessary. The other thing that really got on my nerves was everyone’s constant obsession with their phone/tablet/etc.  People don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company anymore?  The last thing that bothered me was the constant allusion to pop culture.  I never was one to follow pop culture even when I lived in the States, now I felt completely out of the loop and had no idea what any one was talking about more than half the time. It got old.  There are far more important things going on in the world than what Kim Kardashian is doing.
In spite of all the little intricacies that were somewhat disturbing and/or confusing to me, that were also once engrained in me and would probably still be had I not taken on this challenge that is Peace Corps, it did not take long to revert back to some of my old ways or enjoy the comforts of life in the “first world”.
It was a bit troubling to me that I went out to dinner with a dear friend and spent the equivalent (or more) of what I pay for a months rent in SVG on the meal. However, it was fun to drink 4 bottles of wine. I enjoyed taking hot showers and putting my laundry in the wash machine.  Clothes fresh out of the dryer are so soft! My straight hair was a nice look.
It was humbling and inspiring to visit old stomping grounds and realize how much they have changed/grown/evolved. It was amazing to see old friends and pick up right where we left off, despite all the major life changes in their lives that I have missed out on. Something’s never will change and I am thankful for that.
Overall, home was filled with quality time with my parents, tons of time playing cards and games with my grandparents, tea dates with my pregnant best friend, catching up and a lot of time up and down the East Coast visiting friends and family in NYC, Philly and DC. I spent more time on a train than I would have liked, but it just reminded me of my days in University travelling about to see family and friends on the weekends.  Those times on the train were always some of the best times for reflecting on my life and this continued to prove true. It was also filled with unforgettable memories: peer pressure from my mom and her friends to take shots.  Wait is that even peer pressure? Celebrating milestones: my grams 80th birthday; best friend’s first baby shower. Firsts: experiencing brunch in NYC with my best friend, her husband, and subsequent traipsing throughout all of Times Square and surrounding areas, all while making new friends and connecting old friends. Drinking plenty: 4 bottles of wine with one meal; bellinis at noon; margaritas; microbrews; tons of tea. Eating plenty: sushi; thanksgiving; [early] birthday cheesecake; Mexican; many breakfast dates with my parents and my godparents. Oh and I got a new tattoo in part to represent my love for SVG.
My trip home was exactly what I needed.  It was just what the doctor ordered in order to gain my sense of self back and to clear my mind and refocus.  Had I not gone home when I did, I feel very confident that I would have ended my service, leaving so many things unfinished.  This month long furlough allowed me to refocus, rejuvenate my body and mind, and fill up on the much needed and depleting love in my life from familiar family and friends. I am eternally grateful for my family and true friends, those that stick by you thru your hardest times.

 i was greeted at the airport with balloons and this sign. <3 my mommy
 daddys little girl
 my mom, my best friend
 live your dreams.  the "V" is inspired by the national flag of St. Vincent And The Grenadines. The diamonds are arranged in a "V" and represent Vincent (both in the flag and my tattoo). However, in my tattoo the diamonds are shaded in the national colors; blue for the sky and seas, yellow for the sands and green for the lush vegetation.

 straight hair and i didnt even do anything to get it that way!
 my god mother
 reunion with friends in Philly
 night out with my mom
 my #1
 my #1's husband
 connecting friends. my #1 from childhood (emily, left) and my inspiration for joining peace corps (lindsay, right).
 being tourists with rip and emily
 speak easy
 thanksgiving with the family. my dad, grandfather and uncle
 celebrating my grams 80th birthday
 my mom my grandmother and my uncle
 my grandmother absolutely loved her birthday flowers
 breakfast with my god mother
 my gram<3
 staceys baby bump!

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.
Sarah Ban Breathnack