31 December 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Thanks for the short hiatus; I'm ready to get back to business.  And starting us off is your quote for this Old Year's Friday:

"I think it's just despicable that you're in 
a short-sleeve shirt and shorts..."

Give my grandmother some credit: she has been stuck in North Georgia in seven inches of snow and sub-freezing weather for a week.  And the cabin fever and uncomfortable chills can make for some serious envy for those of us struggling with 75° weather, 12-hour sunshine and ocean breezes. 

And now for the news from Peace Corps Land.  The country directorship of the Eastern Caribbean region changed hands, on schedule, as we were told it would.  Remarkable, however, was that the new director visited us here at St. Kitts and brought with him some disruptive news: the new batch of EC83 PC volunteers scheduled to start in February of 2011 have been reassigned to different posts, leaving the Federation with no incoming PCVs for at least one year.  This means that upwards of 10 NGOs on island, including the Ministry of International Trade which I have started teaming up with on an island-wide entrepreneurship program, will not be receiving their promised 2-year volunteers.  (Which means, in their case, that I'll probably be picking up a lot of the duties that were intended for the newbie.)  Presumably, requests for 6-month response volunteers can still be made, though nothing is certain.  Since a dearth of funding is the primary culprit for choosing to send the volunteers to other EC islands, we volunteers remaining on St. Kitts have a few concerns yet.

Christmas Eve dinner at a fellow PCV's house in Middle Island was a great holiday joy.  Never have I ever spent Christmas away from home before, but I cannot imagine an easier first step.  Everybody was pleasant and cheerful, the food was unparalleled, and Santa didn't do too badly either!  With a gift exchange at the end of the evening, I walked home with a sheet of rum cake – a very merry carb-filled Christmas indeed.  Also, a note to self: Christmas enchiladas a must in future years.  Who knew that not only were the colors naturally festive, but also that they paired well with everything?

I did have a traditional Christmas meal with my host family, but it was on the afternoon of the 26th, which worked out fine for me.  I was pleased to see them, bake a homemade, homegrown pumpkin pie for them, and fill up on a solid holiday meal before staying up all night in preparation for J'ouvert.  For which, after some deliberation, I decided to join the Digicel-sponsored J'ouvert troupe, which many of my friends, and about 500 people in all, also marched.  We started from Bird Rock at about 2 A.M. and marched the Bay Road over several hours, joining up with 4-5 other large troupes and all congregating at the Circus by dawn of the 27th.  Paint, noisemakers, and cups littered the streets where thousands of people had spent the daybreak (J'ouvert means daybreak in French) dancing and marching to really, really, REALLY loud soca music.  By the time I got home that morning, I had to decide if whether my refrigerator was running double time, or if my ears had not stopped ringing yet.

Well, I guess that's about it.  I'm staying busy with projects that I lined up for myself before the winter holidays, and the weather is still so perfectly acceptable that I can conceivably go to the beach or hiking in the interior any day I want, and don't have to wait for a warm weather day.  And now, for those of you that were good this year and read all the way to the end, here is the December highlights video.

17 December 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Here's your quote, the first line to a poem read by a very self-assured young lady who was flexing her satire muscles at the Christmas concert at St. George's parish on Monday:

"Tonight, I bring a message for our
Very Anxious Times (VAT)."

The poem went on to explain how Santa could not afford to fill up his sleigh with toys and goodies this year, in view of the new sales tax.  Needless to say, it was met with resounding applause and raucous laughter.  Except, perhaps, from some members present.

Not much to add today.  I'm getting over a new sinus infection that cropped up on Wednesday.  Fortunately, some OTC medication seems to neutralize the symptoms, though I am still sapped of my energy throughout the day.  And in spite of this, I find myself going in to work today to hold a site meeting with my APCD and my IPP.  Also, today will include a luncheon to celebrate a co-worker's last day before retirement.

As noted, some of the pictures from Wednesday's post came courtesy of a fellow PCV who served on St. Kitts, but who I did not have the pleasure of meeting myself.  Nonetheless, feel free to visit his blog.  He is a talented photographer and has lots of cool pictures of the Kittitian interior.

15 December 2010

Yes, It Is The Same St. Lucia

Thanks to everyone that sent me birthday greetings on Monday.  In addition to your felicitations, I received a birthday card from my Sunday School class (very special; much thanks, everyone!) and a package from home, which included my much-anticipated birthday present, a replacement camera!  So I can for-sure regale readers with pictures and video of the holiday goings-on here in the Federation.

I had an enjoyable weekend, planning for the festivities at the beginning of the week.  Monday was Santa Lucia day, the Swedish Christmas holiday and the first day of winter before the Gregorian calendar moved it to the 21st.  I celebrated by attending my church's annual Christmas concert, a rather big to-do on the island; the Governor General and the Prime Minister were in attendance, among hundreds of others.  My host father sang in the choir representing our parish, and some other friends sang in the St. Christopher Memorial Choir.  The combined ensembles finished the performance with a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus, which effectively lodged itself in my cerebrum for the rest of the night (not a bad thing, incidentally).  Some other favorites included Schubert's Ave Maria on trumpet and a male solo of O Holy Night.

And though it was technically my 25th birthday on Monday evening, I chose to celebrate it with friends on Tuesday evening instead.  As mentioned before, about ten of us went to dinner at Domino's, which is conveniently located next door to the movie theater, before catching a discounted viewing of Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Without going into the details here, suffice to say the movie was mostly worth the wait.  I was thrilled to have everyone that could make it over to the apartment afterward, where I was delighted to entertain for an hour-and-a-half before we all got rained on waiting for the bus.  But that's okay; it was a warm rain.

All the while at work I have been helping clean up around the office.  In the islands, what we think of as "spring cleaning" is generally observed in the weeks anticipating Carnival.  It's still quite warm here, of course, with seasonal lows of 75 degrees, and so there's no need to find a small hole to hibernate in for four months like those in the Midwest are already having to do.  No cabin fever, no spring cleaning, no snow.  In fact, I might just find myself at the beach on Christmas! (Now it sounds a little like bragging.)

I think I'm coming down with a mild sinus infection; I've had mucus issues for a few days now, and now the fever and lack of energy is kicking in.  But it's not enough to knock me off my feet, so I'll just wait for it to pass in time.  And with Carnival and J'ouvert looming on the horizon, I've still got a few things to take care of before everything on the island shuts down until the new year.  In the meantime, find some time one evening to Skype me!

10 December 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote this week comes from Jonathan, who upon learning that I had inadvertently left my laptop's charger at my work office this past weekend, texted me the following:

"OK, that stinks.  
Well, have fun reading this weekend."

And I did.  I'm down to just 200 pages remaining in Rutherford's London, and can hear the quiet but persistent calls of the books currently waiting in the queue.  "I'll be gripping!"  "I'll be enlightening!"  "I'll return you to the nostalgic euphoria from when you just began enjoying to read!"  All good promises, to be sure.  Although it seems like fewer and fewer selections are able to make good on them.  It's probably a problem with me (and unreasonable expectations).  Especially if all of the praise and hype on the back covers of these books is to be believed!  (It isn't.)

An interesting phenomenon I have noticed: As we know, a cultural touchstone in the Caribbean is the writing of English in dialect here, which is prevalent in American literary history as well.  But despite the negative stereotype that speaking or writing in dialect implies that one is a poor English-speaker, commonly accepted even here in the islands, I believe that it lends itself to a firmer grasp of basic phonetic principles than people who speak "Standard English."  For example, if you asked a common person in the US to describe the difference between a hard "th" sound and a soft "th" sound, I believe that person would be unable to mark any difference.  And yet if you asked them to repeat the phrase, "throw the thing," they would unknowingly exemplify both phonemes.  The reader will see that the words "throw" and "thing" are said by pushing air between the tongue, extended out to the front teeth, and the upper row of teeth, whereas the word "the" uses the same mechanic but allows the tongue to vibrate slightly, giving it a soft sound.

Here in the Caribbean, a heavy accent would change the sounds to "chrow de ting," indicating again an almost subconscious awareness of the difference between the hard digraph and the soft digraph.  For in all cases, the dialect here distinguishes between soft "th" sounds by changing dem to a "d" sound.  But hard "th" sounds are changed instead to a "t" sound.  And this happens within words, too, not just at the beginning of words.

The last day of the schools' Fall trimester is today.  That means that I finished my work on the library yesterday, sorting and beautifying the last two categories of children's literature, and moving the shelves into the rear half of the room.  All of the books are in surprisingly poor condition; I wish I had more training in repairing or reconditioning these materials to improve their longevity.  I have to say, it is at once chilling and depressing to have to look on a copy of Frog And Toad Are Friends that is so dilapidated that it cannot be reasonably expected to be legible anymore.  So when there comes a time to add new books, you can be sure there will be steps taken to ensure the longevity of their respective lifespans.

And as a special bonus, nature pictures.  To tide you guys over until my camera comes in.

Mt. Liamuiga, the highest point on St. Kitts and home of the dormant volcanic crater. 
*Photo courtesy Will Murray

It's an African Green Monkey!  Plentiful here on island, imported from Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1700s. 
*Photo courtesy Will Murray

Sign outside ShipWreck bar at South Friars Bay

A black sand beach, a common sight on the island of St. Christopher

08 December 2010

Work and School Are Winding Down

I organized the youth novels at the primary school library on Tuesday.  I sorted them alphabetically by author, placed them on four shelves, and separated out the popular fiction series, like Goosebumps and The Babysitter's Club, and spread these out over two more shelves.  Still remaining to be sorted are the nonfiction books, i.e. biographies and science exploratory, as well as the first readers and beginning readers books.  The teachers' materials are almost completely grouped on the high shelves, and the adult novels are sorted and alphabetized away from the students' reading materials.  Unfortunately, my time is running short, as school will close up for winter break after this Friday. 

At work today, I held a meeting on the adoption of the new Entrepreneurship initiative, which I will apparently not be writing the material for, as originally believed, but may in fact be co-facilitating.  I told my coworkers that I would "reluctantly" pick up class facilitating duties if there were no other feasible options, and apparently there weren't.  So, assuming NEDD, the Ministry of International Trade's National Enterprise Development Division and our collaborating nonprofit on island, does not have another arrangement in mind, I will pick up teaching duties early next year when we get an entrepreneurship course on the ground.  I also received some positive feedback for the Career Development Handbook I had been revising, and we discussed options and roadblocks to implementation of the program in secondary schools on island.

So while I am baffled at my school project by the sheer undertaking of a project meant for much more than one person, I am simultaneously encouraged by developing routes in my work projects.  It was especially heartening to discuss the possible implications of successful career development and small business development initiatives in the meeting this morning!  But at the same time, it is frustrating to consider the reality that there is currently no system, nor even constituents, who have a practical stake in the continued maintenance and upkeep of the school library.  So one of my jobs as a Peace Corps volunteer responsible for instituting sustainable changes will be to create an environment or artificial device to ensure that there is.

In other news, I won't be able to afford Christmas decorations this winter; instead, the lights at the top of this page will have to do.  In lieu of holiday adornments, I am making a conscious effort to invite a friend over for dinner about once a week to help stave off some of the loneliness.  What with work and school winding down for everyone, most PCVs' primary projects will be on hold for the better part of December, so I have had success at booking visitors for nights that I cook anyway.  And as anyone that knows me well remembers, I enjoy to host very much.  So in lieu of playing soccer or steel pan lessons right now (both of which, in time, I will pin down and fit in), I'm playing host.  That, of course, extends to anyone that's taking a vacation to the Eastern Caribbean this holiday season.  Just give me a heads-up!

Jon, I responded to your comment.  Sorry about the delay.

03 December 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote this week is by my PC comrade on Nevis, directed at me:

"Your references are always lost on me."

Well, it wouldn't be me if I wasn't confusing my friends with obscure nerdy pop culture references.

Not a whole lot to post about today.  I'm going to get a real PC haircut tomorrow, trading my services in multimedia presentation preparation for a free, quality 'do.  When living on as tight a budget as we have to on St. Kitts, you learn to find the lowest-cost alternatives for just about every good or service.  In the states, the time/cost trade-off leans heavier on the saving time side, willing to front the extra cost to avoid having to shop around for a better deal.  Here, with little material resources and vastly plentiful time resources, the trade-off swings dramatically in the other direction.

I have some takers for The Chronicles of Narnia for my birthday in two weeks.  I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since before I left, and so Murphy's Law is due to strike when it becomes clear that the release of the movie on St. Kitts has been delayed or somesuch.  But maybe I'm being overly pessimistic; I'm sure we'll have a good time even if the movie falls through for any reason.

I am going to try my hand at Curry Mutton tonight, so wish me luck!

Yay animated gif.

01 December 2010

Unfavorable Expectations

I figured out what I want for Christmas this year.  So if you want to get me one, just hold on to it until I get back to the States, since I won't be allowed to use it here until I am released from service.  (Thanks, you're the best!)

I've been having some bad luck with expectations lately.  Cooking expectations, project expectations, and other expectations more or less dramatic.  It should come as no surprise that stresses one faces in Peace Corps service have a tendency to sneak up on you, even when you are actively resisting their effects.  It's like continuing to hack down the same weed in your yard over and over, even as the roots spread out underground and unnoticed.  In my case, these stresses have come in the form of falling short of my own expectations, even expectations I had previously regarded with little concern.  As readers will recall, I've been very pleasantly surprised with my cooking ability, enjoy the freedom, experience and experimentation, and at a rate of two nights per week I'm not burning out of it quickly either.  But I noticed something last night after frying barbecued chicken legs: I was disappointed that they weren't better than they were.  This despite the fact that for a spur-of-the-moment decision to cook them, and for my second try at frying barbecued chicken, they turned out very tasty and mixed very well with the fresh vegetables and rice.  Yet I was hoping that they would soak up a little more of the barbecue flavor.  Really, they just didn't have enough time to marinate, or else they no doubt would have.  But the results were very satisfactory all things considered, and I shouldn't have allowed myself to feel down about them.

Similarly, I have some faulty expectations with a project at my school attachment.  The library reorganization project was and still is a challenging undertaking, pitting me, my best efforts, and a handful of students against a room full of disorderly and dilapidated books with a lot of inertial resistance to change.  So what if it took more than that first day to unshelve, sort, label, catalog, and reshelve all 1000+ books?  That doesn't mean our first efforts were any less fruitful just because we did not completely finish on that day.  I recognized, even at PreService Training, that marrying my own expectations of my performance on projects with the expectations of my counterpoints would prove challenging for me.  I know now, as I feared then, that my own expectations for myself tend to be higher than practicality will allow in my situation.  My timetables are far shorter than the typical Kittitian approach to productivity, and while I have not faced any particular resistance to setting my own schedule for things, I have been left disappointed when unable to finish a project in its anticipated time allotment.  This is ultimately harmful to my morale and to my motivation in proceeding with the project, and all because of my own presumptions of what defines "productivity."  So when I ask for prayer for patience, this is what I mean.  The ability to slow down my natural anxieties that I am not living up to my mandates, and instead acknowledge God's guidance in all of my projects here.

I miss everyone, but not nearly as much as I will during Christmas.  So find some time this month to give me a shout out on Skype; my birthday is in two Mondays, too.

29 November 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Carnival

I had a relaxing weekend: just one trip to town to do some Christmas and housewares shopping.  No cooking, no real laundry to speak of, some basic house cleaning.  So with nothing much to update, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about the anticipated upcoming holiday events, namely Carnival, Christmas, and J'ouvert.  The December calendar looks something like this:

17 December – Official opening day of Carnival
If you're familiar with Carnival, you'd think that it was held during Mardi Gras, the week before Lent.  And you'd be right, except that apparently among all of the countries that hold a regular Carnival season, some refrain from competing for interest from the largest ceremonies, opting to hold their own at a different time of year.  St. Kitts holds its Carnival pre-Christmas.

18 December – Soca Monarch.
St. Kitts' own American Idol for soca stars.  Some of the island's best calypsonians will be there.

25 December – Christmas.

27 December – J'ouvert parade at dawn.
People begin to gather before 4:00 AM, and start off on the march through the circus by 6:00.  Historically, this took place the very morning after Christmas, but was bumped to the 27th this year.  I'm still in the process of looking for a troupe to join – it's a very big commercial endeavor nowadays, with many of the high-visibility corporations on island sponsoring catch-all, low-cost troupes.  Most of my friends who are also going to participate have already confirmed with one group called the "Red Devils" which just isn't for me.  So I'm still looking.

1 January – Grand Carnival Parade.

3 January – Last lap.
With no more days left to celebrate, celebrate the last day with one last go.

So that's what I look forward to following my birthday.  But won't I be working, you ask?  Yes, but I will not be going into the office starting the 17th, seeing as how it and so many other businesses are closed for holiday through the first week of January.  I have already taken steps to ensure that I have work to engage me throughout the month of December, namely the Entrepreneurship course initiative currently underway.  So no worries.

The highlights for November have been chosen, sorted, and recorded for posterity.  Enjoy.

26 November 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Here's your quote for this week, fresh from my latest Skype conference with my good friend Michael:

"You know, algebra is just so useful, 
all of the time... I'm just sayin'."

Thank you, Michael, for that nugget of wisdom.  I can't help but concur, and point out that I have been conveying this sentiment for many, many years now.  But, hey, small steps, right?

Well, yesterday was indeed Turkey day, but fighting off a 72-hour bug kept me home from the celebrations at a fellow PCVs house.  I was able to contribute my green bean casserole in exchange for a plate of some very delicious and unapologetically carbohydrate-laden T-giving comfort foods, but I was heartbroken to miss out on the chance to share a special American tradition with my comrades.  Especially when I received a text asking if I had a football to bring to the get-together.  Imagine!  I haven't got to throw a football around since, oh, November of 2008, when Georgia Tech was gearing up to thwomp Miami.  Good times.

As an update, I felt well enough this morning to go into work for the first time since Monday.  I worked a little from home this week, and was able to complete the latest revision of the NSTP's Career Guidance Handbook, leaving only a handful of content decisions that need to be made by my counterparts before it is dubbed fully finished.  In addition, I am going to seek confirmation on my intention to begin working on curriculum for an Entrepreneurship class, an initiative that has been sought not only by my office but by the government as well.  I anticipate getting a basic skeleton of the program prepared before January, when I will work closely with my office associates to flesh it out with some practicality.  With no cash flow to fund common resources needed to run a class, we will be relying on what resources we have available, e.g. human expertise, the internet, in-office printers, etc.

Go Jackets!  Beat U (sic) GAg!

P.S. The November highlight video should be ready, on schedule, at the end of the month.

24 November 2010

On a Lighter Note

I realize that my posts have been increasingly anxious as of late, and so I wanted to shed a little light on another side of living here, namely what I have found to do in my spare time.  And we EC82s are discovering exactly that which previous volunteers made clear to us during pre-service training: there is lots of spare time.

As followers know, I am indeed catching up on my reading, something I had been forgoing months before leaving for staging.  Right now I am currently working on two books, a novel set in London spanning from prehistory to modern day, and a biography of Albert Einstein.  On my shelf (metaphorically speaking, since my apartment does not, in fact, have a bookshelf) is Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, a book which not only all of my finance professors, but also the multimillionaire major-corporation CEOs they invited to speak to our classes, insisted that we not graduate without reading.  Next to that is Kathy Reichs's Bare Bones, which is one of her murder mystery novels whose popularity helped launch the popular FOX television show now in its sixth season, Bones.  Next to that is A Brief History of the Caribbean.  Then John Grisham's The Firm.  Then the STAR WARS novel I am currently on, Star By Star by Troy Denning, which is kind of like the third act of a The New Jedi Order five act play, for you Shakespeare buffs out there.  It means that the major turning point in the series is expected by the end.  And rounding out the list is the relatively new fantasy first-part by Christopher Paolini, Eragon.  All in all, a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, I think, expanding on my usual fare while holding onto some familiar staples as well.

I also find time to invest in my most ego-sensitive pastime, chess.  Specifically, I rediscovered a lost love in internet correspondence chess, provided by Stan's Net Chess, for which there is none better.   Feeling up to a 2-month long game at a pace about 1 move per day, friend?  Find Rainman and challenge me to a match; provisional memberships are free!  In the meantime, I am currently fending off six opponents from six different corners of the U.S.  The leisurely pace is a welcome diversion from the typical play-against-the-clock speed chess so prevalent on popular hosting sites nowadays.

For exercise, the reader knows that I seek out opportunities to engage in recreational running, like attacking the hill here at Mattingly or participating in the monthly hash.  I also walk to the grocery store, roughly 10 minutes one way.  I do not have any handy weights in my apartment, though I have considered curling those 5 liter jugs of water to build up my biceps. (I'm half-kidding; I haven't actually done this)

Of course I still find time for my daily/weekly webcomics.  For those of you who are unclear about what those are, they are simply the internet response to newspaper syndicated comics: instead of having to be the top 1% of nationally-recognized comic illustrators to be published, for the mere price of a domain, anyone can create an internationally-available comic to be updated at whatever rate the artist thinks he/she can manage.  Still unclear?  Here are some of my family-friendly favorites, in spite of some of their names: xkcd, perhaps the most internationally recognized and widely parodied "nerd comic;" Cowbirds in Love, a philosophy and science comic with a penchant for bad puns; Spiked Math, far and away the funniest and nerdiest strictly-math-major humor site; and Brawl In The Family, a webcomic that parodies the lives of Super Smash Bros. characters when they are not brawling.

Since I am not willing to pay for cable television here, I have an incentive to use the internet for that purpose as well.  And through the glories of IP masking, I am able to bypass regional restrictions and still watch my favorite TV shows on Hulu and Comedy Central.  Also, Saturdays mean Gameday, and I can usually listen to the Yellow Jackets play by streaming the radio station carrying the game if I want.  In addition, I have a radio in my apartment, and I go back and forth between ZIZ radio (pronounced as in the British, "zed eye zed") and Big Wave 96.7 FM.

And of course the occasional Sporcle quiz.

Well, I hope that was as interesting or enjoyable for the reader as it was for me.  Suggestions?  Comments?  Reviews?  Add your thoughts here.  Thanks to everyone that is remembering to pray for me; I entreat everyone's continued prayers for faith and patience, among other things.

P.S. Yay 50 posts

22 November 2010

Spread the word! Tell your friends!

Later post today, I know: I'm not feeling very well this afternoon.  My joints are achy and hypersensitive to the point that it's laborious to type.  But it was an even busier weekend than usual, so I'll try to crank something out all the same.

I was on Nevis all day Saturday for the follow-up to the march the previous week.  It came in the form of a video that will be aired on Nevis TV between the dates of Nov. 25 and Dec. 10.  Here is the link; please check it out. My fellow PCV on Nevis and I are very proud of the result, and hope that it will serve to enlighten and encourage the people of Nevis in this time of increased incidents of domestic, and organized, violence.  In fact, things are getting increasingly desperate here by the week: just last week a taxi carrying 17 tourists was held at gunpoint outside the gate to Brimstone Hill and robbed by a couple of criminals.  The resulting swift action by the cruise lines culminated in about half the tourism activity during peak season, and a call for higher security measures to be taken on island.  The reaction from the government was an eloquent reproach by the deputy prime minister and minister of national security (which you can see here) tying the incident to the repercussions for all of the tourism industries on island.  Still, what with Carnival and Jouvert approaching, the environment is a unique and mildly unsettling mix of "Good Will Toward Men" and "Watch Your Back."

But it wasn't all work over the weekend: I got to see each of the PCVs on Nevis at one point or another: one when we took to the beach for a few hours, and the other on Saturday night at this very chic yet amiable club that was celebrating its 1st year anniversary.  Here's hoping both it and I are around this time next year to celebrate lucky number 2!

19 November 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Seen on a jewelry outlet sign at Frigate Bay:

"Sometimes it's okay to throw stones at women."

I hope everyone finds this quote in good humor.  It certainly lends itself to a certain disregard for historical sensitivity, but I'm all for remarking on odd cultural proclivities in good faith.  Right?

It's been a challenging week.  Between the march last Friday, the hash on Saturday, and the library realignment on Tuesday, my legs haven't had time to recuperate enough to pick up running Mattingly hill again.  My resolve is far from wavering, but the circumstances have demanded that I push my regimen back another week.  I'm looking forward to an especially relaxing weekend, and preparation for Thanksgiving dinner at a fellow PCV's house here on St. Kitts.  I'll be in charge of the green bean casserole!  So Mom, don't forget to e-mail me that recipe.

 And now, some pictures from sunrise:

17 November 2010

A Veritable Entropy Machine

Oh, so exhausted.  You know, I abuse that word to the point that I've devalued its meaning – I feel bone-tired.

Phase I of the Library Reorganization Project happened yesterday.  Let me tell you: trapped in a library from 8:30 to 4:00 with an assortment of between half-a-dozen and a dozen 5th and 6th grade boys does wonders for your powers of shutting out distractions.  Now if only I could have taught them the same trick.  At least they weren't trying to touch my hair every three seconds (again).  With their help, we ultimately managed to unshelve and reshelve about 99% of the books that we set out to sort.  We did not get around to cataloging each entry yet, but I plan to spend some time on Thursday going through and alphabetizing shelves and adding card entries and shelf labels.  PC staff was able to capture some video and pictures, so I'll post some just as soon as I get my hands on them.  All in all it was relatively close to what I had in mind for a single day's activities, and we did make several solid steps of progress, but I have to believe that we could have accomplished a little more if the students had been able to maintain focus.  But that's one of the challenges that all teachers have to go through here, so I guess a WELCOME BACK TO REALITY is in order.

Anyway, for reality, it's not too bad – I think I treat myself to a dinner from Neville's Eatery tonight.  Mmm... carbs.

14 November 2010

The March Against All Forms of Violence

The rally and march from Pond Hill to Charlestown was a rousing success: it boasted a substantial turnout, a clear message, media attention, and a stirring conclusion.  It began at the bus stop outside the neighborhood of a young lady that was tragically killed in a domestic violence altercation just a number of weeks ago.  A wreath was placed there, in her memory, and a speech was given, stating the purpose of our march and our resolve to see this trend of violence and abuse in homes discontinued.

Then about 30 strong began the walk down towards the square in Charlestown, with signs decrying the anti-violence message in countless different ways, and with heartening songs and chants to walk to.  Various groups joined in for stretches of the path, at times bringing our count to near 60, including a primary school class, a group of secondary school students, some other Peace Corps volunteers, and women and men from the communities we passed along the way.

Around 3:30 we reached the square in Charlestown, making the march portion of the event a full hour.  We were so many by this point that we had to spread out around the park as best we could; the park was already starting to crowd up with people from the island, since it was a Friday evening.  With heavy-duty amps blaring, we christened the march with stirring speeches from representatives of the Ministry of Social Development and VOW: Voices of Women, together with music and song suitable for the occasion.

The speeches culminated in a prayer and another moment of silence for the remembrance of the young lady, which segued into the final exhibit at sundown: a candlelight vigil.  A stirring ceremony, it began with the laying of a wreath at the base of the monument in the square, a wreath with a candle at the center, and every man and woman in attendance was given a candle to light from the flame of the wreathed candle, and pass that light on to a nearby participant.   

Similar to a Christmas Eve ceremony in the States, but instead of singing a song with candles lit, participants added their candles to the steps surrounding the monument, a symbol of solidarity with the deceased.Pretty soon, the base of the monument was brightly lit by a candle for each person who was made more aware of the evils of domestic abuse right in their own country.  I was honored to be a part of such an inspired project, not to mention motivated to see some degree of similar success with my own projects.

I attended this month's Hash on Saturday, a run around the grasses and up the cliffs at Banana Bay, one of the southernmost points on the island, directly facing Nevis.  It wasn't a tough run this time; however, much to my dismay, an ill-fated contingent of four of us hashers took a wrong turn up the side of one cliff, and only discovered our mistake once we reached an overlook that was in view of the line of hashers going a different direction.  So I guess I ended up doing a hash-and-a-half this time – suffice to say I was mortally exhausted when finished.  The moral of the story?  No good comes from being in the front of the pack at these things.  You just gotta be average and you'll do better than most!

My fellow PCVs, EC80s all, and I mark a successful day concluded

12 November 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote for the week is a sign on Church Street just outside my parish of St. George's Anglican:

In truth, this wasn't that funny to me, but a friend pointed it out as being deceptively ironic, so hopefully it is sufficiently funny to readers.

Big news!  I'm scheduled to be on Nevis all day today, filming a gender awareness march directed by a fellow PCV there.  So I get to take the ferry across and see the other 1/4 of the Federation.  I am very much looking forward to it; I've met so many fantastic Nevisians already in my time here on St. Kitts, that I want to find out what all of the hype is about.

In other news, cooking has been going well; I made delicious tacos complete with homemade salsa last night.  Fun!  Come to find out, however, that a little onion goes a long way, so I definitely need to go easier on the onion next time.  Additionally, I'm giving the passion fruit juice experiment a second go-around, since the last try was kind of disastrous.  So I'll get back to readers on that in due time.

I finally finished hanging all the new/clean curtains in my apartment.  The improvements in the arrangement of light are immense: my bathroom is far more lit up now with a set of half-length sheer curtains for half-length windows that match the kitchen's curtains, and my bedroom is finally dark in the morning thanks to a new set of sufficiently-masculine semi-opaque beaded curtains.  So apart from drilling into the concrete wall, which my neighbor said he has the hardware to do, I am quite nearly done with internal improvements.  Now to just decide what to do with the 36" CRT sitting on my floor.  Anybody with suggestions for pumping a digital signal through to A/V cables?  It'd be great if I could watch DVDs on the monitor without having to finance a DVD player...

10 November 2010

A Blurry Flurry of Acronym Fury (BFAF)

Mr. Wilkin Chairs the Graduation
 On Sunday, I attended the National Skills Training Programme's most recent graduation, where about 30 youth and adults earned certificates for training in ITS (Information Technology Services).  It was a joyous affair, with some of the graduands earning their very first certification/degree.  I was responsible for photographing the event, since the media was unable to attend due to the adverse weather conditions. So if the pictures came out funny, blame me.  The IT classes that were offered this past season were put on as a joint effort of the NSTP, the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), and the Community Upliftment and Enhancement Team (CUET).  In addition to remarks from representatives from each of these NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and the SKNMOE (St. Kitts/Nevis Ministry of Education), a troupe of primary school girls performed an interpretive dance and a young lady sang a beautiful piece to commemorate the occasion.  After the ceremony, a dinner of finger foods was served and the guests, staff, and resident PCV went home satisfied.

Over 50 People In Attendance
I am very close to finishing up my first revision of the final draft of the CDH (Career Development Handbook) for the NSTP.  I am working on the final module, leaving only the appendices and any additional material I have not yet received. Unless something changes, it should be all ready to submit by this time next week, for the perusal of the newly-appointed director of the NSTP, Mrs. James, and the former director and newly appointed director of TVET in St. Kitts (UNESCO's Technical and Vocational Education and Training program), Mr. Wilkin.  Here's hoping for the best!

Mrs. James Delivers Remarks to the Graduands
On Monday I visited a fellow EC82 PCV stationed on Antigua, who was on-island for a VAC meeting (Volunteer Administrative Council).  It was held at the GL (the Golden Lemon, a resort at Rawlins Plantation in Dieppe Bay), and in addition to the pleasant company, we enjoyed the private pool adjacent the two bedroom suite at the resort.  The VAC representative from SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) also joined us, so we got the updates on all our Antiguan and Vincy EC82 friends.  Both groups appear to be doing very well, with no leave-takers since staging at Miami – EC82 is still 28 strong!

Graduands, Trainers, and Speakers

08 November 2010

Measuring Immeasurable Quantities

I gave my 328 sq. ft. corner of this world a good scrubbing down yesterday, including washing the curtains in the living room.  Even just sweeping the sand, dust, and spiders from the floor is enough to make the place feel 200% less grody.  The decorations are going to be more difficult to hang than I expected: in order to hang a curtain of 50 CDs, I'm going to need something more substantial than the plastic hooks that stick to the wall.  But I don't have a drill to put a screw into a concrete wall, so that's kind of at a standstill for now.  Also, the curtains in the bedroom still need to be replaced with something of the plain and opaque variety.  But those are not readily available at most department stores here on island (who knew?).

I saw my first mongoose on Saturday!  It was looking for food next to Shipwreck, a beachside bar at South Friars Bay, and was later joined by a full-size adult monkey, who, like some bears in Hiawassee, are apparently willing to risk the proximity to large groups of humans when they are confident that food is forthcoming.  Which poses an interesting paradox: apparently the best way to see the natural part of the island, the beautiful animals in their natural habitat, is to go to the least natural part of the island, the tourist corners where food is readily available and locals do not shoo them off.

I'm continuing my efforts to get more in shape, and I'm taking it to the bubble chart!  I promise to glitz up the page very soon.

05 November 2010

Send Me a Skype!

With a stable internet connection, assuming of course the power doesn't go out, I can now Skype® anyone that wants to enjoy long chats by the beach... for cheap!  If you have a Skype account yourself, send me a friend request (rainmandx, Basseterre, St. Kitts) or e-mail me your info and I'll add you.  If not, but you are still interested in talking via telephone, just tell me what times are good for you and I'll pick up the nominal cost.  Bear in mind, denizens of the east coast, that following this weekend, I will be one hour ahead of you, so I will not be available to talk after 8:00 EST or so.  Gotta keep up my killer sleep schedule so I can run before work!  Thanks in advance.

Don't have Skype?  Get it here.

P.S. Ha more like SKNype, amirite?

P.P.S. 42 posts

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote for today comes from my fellow PCV and friend from Halfway Tree, referring to her internet connection:

"If the wire reaches everywhere in your house, 
it counts as wireless."

Well said by someone who carries a generous portion of the requisite Peace Corps optimism.

I am enjoying full-fledged DSL internet at my apartment, finally.  And the plumber came by one morning this week and fixed my hot water knob in the shower.  And I cooked for myself again!  So I am riding high on the shower tower of Skype hype and flour power.

I cooked on Tuesday, this time I fried some eggplant I purchased at the Basseterre market, which opens about three mornings a week and one afternoon when the produce boat from Grenada comes in.  The inspiration came from another time gone by when friends Patrick, P.J. and I found ourselves on campus for summer semester and the need to cook.  Patrick's favorite dish is none other than Eggplant Parmesan, and we teamed up to produce a satisfactory portion for dinner and, in the process, set the smoke alarms off in a deserted Freshman dormitory.  So the Atlanta Fire and Rescue got to appreciate our cooking as well!  I still remember the cooking instructions, and so I used that experience to guide an attempt at fried eggplant with sauteed vegetables on white rice with lentils.  Success?  Let's just say it was infinitesimally better than... edible.

I picked up some passion fruit at the market as well, and am waiting on a friend to show me the right way to juice them.  In case the reader does not know or forgets, this is what the inside of a passion fruit looks like:
So part of the fun of juicing passion fruit is holding back one's gag reflex in the process.  But the end result is so worth it, it comes at an easy cost.

The commercial was a success.  And more importantly, the ensuing Healthy Breakfast Cereal sale was demonstrably successful, to the point that the students ran out of cereal to sell within the first hour of opening.

Progress at my primary attachment, the National Skills Training Programme, is progressing, if slowly.  I am loosely scheduled to submit the fully revised copy of our new career development material by the middle of November, so more updates are sure to follow this month with regard to the reception of my suggested changes and added clip art.  Following that, I'll put together some interview materials to be used to gather post-service information from previous clients of the NSTP, eventually culminating in statistics and success stories to be used towards acquiring funding.  Also on the docket: setting up data collection systems to accommodate these new data, as well as transferring a large portion of the NSTP's stock of manuals and textbooks to electronic form for accessibility and preservation purposes.

I ran again this morning, making it the third time this week and in three different directions.  This time, I took the dirt road that parallels the main road going west from Mattingly, and ran all the way until I was North-South even with a visible cell tower on a mountain, a displacement of about 1.75 miles by my estimation, whereupon I came across a donkey that was hogging the whole passable portion of the trail.  So I turned around and ran back.

04 November 2010

I Gotted Teh Internetz

Oi! It's about time!  On the fourth attempt in four different days over two weeks, I finally have a stable internet connection at my apartment.  I have other duties in town right now, however, so I will make a proper update later, maybe today but definitely tomorrow.

01 November 2010

Some Tricks, but More Treats

I'm officially submitting my application for honorary membership in the Olympia Academy, posthaste.  I require nary a response to be assured of my immediate acceptance.  The inspiration comes from my recent acquisition of a copy of Walter Isaacson's biography of Albert Einstein, wherein the author recounts Einstein's core group of fellow physicist philosophers that would stay up nights and talk and charlar about... well, physics, philosophy, and no doubt some other topics as well.  Unfortunately, such a congregation I have not yet found on island, though I am continuing to search away.  I still require the services of Skype to take advantage of the willingness of friends both in the States and on other islands that share my penchant for deep discussions, but LIME assures me that they will be able to install a cable modem at my apartment by Tuesday.

As many a reader may have noticed, this past weekend was Halloween.  The common traditions associated with the predominantly U.S. holiday are not observed here in the islands – instead, a slightly similar glorification of pranks and trickery loosely associated with Guy Fawkes (mostly in the form of lighting firecrackers in the street, day or night) takes place the last week of October through to the first week of November.  But the dearth of familiarity did not stop a half-dozen of us PCVs from getting together, baking sweets like fudge muffins and rice krispie treats, and watching Halloween movies like Casper and Shaun of the Dead.  Nobody dressed up this time; it's underrated hard to pull off, since there are no costume shops (at least not geared towards Halloween costumes) and we couldn't be expected to pack anything so frivolous.  All in all, it made for a delightful evening, and I didn't face a bit of homesickness until I went into the office this morning and explained all of the familiar details of the U.S. tradition to coworkers...

I was true to myself and did my running this morning before work.  Furthermore, I was pleased with my performance: I ran for a full 20 minutes, going in my estimation around 2.5 miles in that time, and walked the last mile.  I ran from my apartment at Mattingly along the bypass freeway all the way to the Monkey Hill roundabout, which is about halfway down the SKB airport's landing strip, and back.  I plan to continue this habit 5 days a week, maybe meet my friend at Sandy Point to run Brimstone Hill on Saturdays, and rest on Sundays.  I'm staying realistic, which is to say I'm not going to get overly upset if I'm not able to maintain that regimen for long; alternatively, if it works out and I get bored, I want to eventually add push-ups and sit-ups to it as well.

It was brought to my attention the other day that I have not shared with my readers the nature of public transportation on island.  Since I myself am prohibited by the Peace Corps from either operating a motor vehicle or even riding a motorcycle while on island, I am quite subject to relying on public transportation every day I need to go anywhere except grocery shopping.  So here's how it works: there are two forms of for-hire transportation available to the public, taxis and buses.  However, one is not immediately differentiable from the other – both taxis and "buses" are actually full-size 16 passenger vans of every color under the sun and with large, garish script on all sides declaring the handle of that bus. (For example, some buses on that frequent my route are "Mr. War," "Sacrifice," "Big Blue," "Hulk," "Up 2 De Time," "Passion," "Jehovah Jireh," "Crunch Time," et al.)  The only real way to discriminate between Taxis and Buses-For-Hire are their license tags: Taxis read TA #### and are yellow, while buses read HA #### ("H" for "hire") and are green.  And it's vitally important that one discriminate between the two: a bus will take you three towns over for EC$2.50 or to the other side of the island for EC$3.75, but a Taxi will take you anywhere on the island for a mere... EC$45.00.   So no taxi riding while I'm here!

The bus names are a kind of cultural touchstone here; not only does it serve to differentiate bus drivers and their services (it works, too: some buses won't fill up at the terminal because people recall which ones don't have air conditioning, have bad tires, etc.), but it also is a form of expression and abject pride for the bus owners, many of whom willingly go by their handles in public and around town when not driving their buses.  In fact, it's given me time to think about what I would want my bus to be named, were I to have my own.  And I think that, short of settling on only one thing, I would want it to read, "All Dem Tings" in the drippy goo font that is so popular in that circle.  Have a different idea?  Post the name to your own virtual bus here.

MIG's created a blog.  So read it if you want.  I mean, I don't know what he thinks he has to say, and it's not as interesting as mine, certainly, but... whatever.

Also, 0 Comments on the video? Really?  I put a lot of effort into that, people!

29 October 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote is an excerpt from the PCV Caribbean Cookbook, provided to every new trainee:

     1 Medium eggplant
     4 tbsp. Butter
     Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp)
     102 tsp. sweet or hot curry powder

Whoa! I like curry and all that, but when I get around to trying this recipe, I'm going to go on the assumption that it should actually read, "1-2 tsp..."

I am quite discontented that, for most likely another week, I have to resort to going to Ballahoo for internet service.  So if you're wondering where I am when making these posts and why they are coming at odd hours of the day, there you are.  But any excuse to visit my favorite restaurant in town is a good excuse!  For that matter, anyone that has plans for visiting me in paradise can expect to get their first meal on island from here; it's classy, sharp, "chillax," and (most important for an aspiring PCV) reasonably priced.

I tried out my first secondary (tertiary?) project yesterday.  A fellow volunteer is heading it up for her Service Learning Project, and it's a rather involved project empowering students to create, market, and distribute their own varieties of cereal.  Where do I come in?  I am helping her create a commercial that will (hopefully) be aired on the local television stations to both popularize the Healthy Breakfast Cereal Entrepreneurial Project and to provide a valuable PSA for viewers regarding healthier eating habits.  This involved getting motion capture from 19 3rd graders singing and dancing a song written specifically for the commercial, and then having them individually demonstrate certain healthy lifestyle habits.  All in all, the final product is about 90 seconds long, and so far is scheduled to air on television beginning on Sunday.

In other news, the October highlights video is complete!  It's way longer this time – nearly 15 minutes.  You'd be surprised just how different the apartment is with the new decorations and arrangements I've made in the two weeks I've been here, but I'll have to post the updated pictures later.  In the meantime, enjoy!

27 October 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Gorgeous

I forgot to mention in my last post that when in St. Paul's parish on Saturday, I myself finally got to go Dung By Betty for a late dinner.  And it lived up to the hype – it's hard to beat the warmth and filling sensation from the heap of carbohydrates in a satisfying platter of chicken and chips.  (That's, of course, fried chicken legs and french fries with cane sugar ketchup.)  So that might have to happen again, whenever I'm on that end of the island on a weekend.

Tuesday was its own story, a deluge of frustrations, glories, disappointments, and surprises.  It all started with a vain attempt to install a wireless cable modem in my apartment, a two hour exercise in futility.  Somewhere between the technician arriving at 9:30 and him leaving at 11:30, it became clear that mere access to the two coaxial jacks in my apartment was not enough, and the entire wiring had to be investigated.  However, this involved searching the adjacent apartment, since my cable is apparently at the end of the line, and nobody residing there has access to the adjacent apartment.  Moreover, my property manager could not be lifted by phone, and it is presently unclear whether or not he even has the necessary keys.  The sad offshoot of all this is that I probably won't have internet access at home for another week at the least.

I explained to my school that I would be arriving later that day, and so they were expecting me around noon when I arrived.  However, my contacts both had arrangements over lunch break, and so I found myself again admiring the simplicity and elegance of Plan A but resorting instead to Plan B.  In this case, I walked into town, where I had a few errands to run and could pick up lunch for cheap at the bayfront. When I got there, I found both shops that had exactly what I was looking for... closed.  I did manage to secure some lunch, however, in the form of Ms. Moore's exquisite salt fish fritters and passion fruit juice.  Yet another example of a day-brightening meal, but one that my arteries can only handle once per month or so.  (Compare it to eating a BK® Whopper for lunch.  Would you do it two days in a row? No.)

I somehow worked myself back to school, where my counterparts were ready to sit and dialogue with me on the various projects I am spearheading.  Right now, those are the Math Games and Activities collection that you have heard of here before, and the improvement and expansion of the school library.  I have made a gesture of good faith in both projects already, showing my willingness to move ahead with the project and my comfort level with the implementation with respect to both.  Now, I am mostly waiting on my school counterparts to make a similar display of commitment, in the first case actually trying out a handful of the math activities that I have developed and recording notes for their improvement, and in the second case nominating a handful of students that would be willing to help take on the project of improving the school library.  Who knows, at this stage, what timing will be involved in either effort, or whether or not either project will get off the ground?  Patience is the key.

So ultimately what needed to happen at school did, and I found myself trucking back into town to try those shops again and to catch a bus back home.  Lo and behold! Both shops are open for service, and had exactly what I was looking for: double-sided wall stickers for hanging things on concrete walls, and about 30 yards of fishing line to hang a curtain of CDs in front of my washing machine and appliances.  (I don't know that I can be more specific than that now, but pics soon will clarify.)  So with the bus back home, I discovered that my electricity was out.  And just when things were starting to look up!  I still had several hours of daylight; in theory that's enough time to still cook dinner for myself and a friend, but after hanging the Federation flag and the world map on my wall, and grocery shopping for that night, I was left with about an hour-and-a-half of daylight – not quite enough time to prepare vegetables, marinate mushrooms, boil water and cook rice, sauté the vegetables, and fry mahi-mahi patties.  So we lit a few candles and waited for my neighbor to get back home.  My neighbor surveyed the situation, walked out to the fuse box, and replaced my apartment's fuse with another one, and Ding! everything worked just fine.

I was able to wright yet another miracle in the kitchen, this time with an objective judge not myself.  Despite the difficulty in trying to recreate the success of a seeming fluke the second go around, and the fact that I was partially cooking in the dark, I think the pan-fried mahi-mahi on rice with veggies and marinated mushrooms turned out very pleasing.

Did I mention I cooked for myself last night?  So, all in all, everything worked out as planned except for the internet installation.  That's the happy ending!

25 October 2010

Of Hashers and Hollers

If you know me well, you know I don't deal healthily with being singled-out in a public setting; I personalize everything.  And as with so many other things here, being singled-out in public is feast or famine.  For example, walking the route to the Peace Corps Office two times over two different days: the first day I receive two calls of "Hey, white boy!" followed by some consternation at my unwillingness to acknowledge them; the second day I receive two "You are Peace Corps?" which is welcome, and two more "Chris! Good morning!" from passersby in cars (one of which passed before I recognized who it was).  So one can never tell, and being forced to deal with that uncertainty every time one walks into town can be wearying.  But I'm making efforts to expand my circles of acquaintance, from job shadowing at NSTP's non-profit analog Project Strong, to just making friends with the security guard who works at the entrance to my community.

Moreover, I went to my official virgin Hash on Saturday.  It was a 3.5 – 4 mile run around the railroad tracks at Kittitian Hill in St. Paul's.  Some frivolities took place, including an initiation ceremony.  It was nothing too demeaning, and quite mundane by some standards.  But everyone had a good time, and we had a strong turnout of PCVs, locals, Ross students, and British expatriates.  Pics soon.

The weekend felt long and was productive.  The key to a fun and productive weekend? A solid sleep schedule.  Staying up late one night, either Friday or Saturday, is fine, so long as there's time the following afternoon for whatever assignments/homework/chores needs to get done and an hour-long power nap.  In my case, I had Saturday morning and Sunday evening for a secondary iMovie project that needed to get done before Monday, and I was able to hang with friends after the Hash on Saturday, do chores on Sunday (including further decorate the apartment), and help a friend move into his apartment in Sandy Point on Sunday after church.  Decorating is indeed coming along, though a bit slower than I would like.  I need to pick up some adhesives and hanging materials next, but "Glen's BIG Deal" in town is always closed when I go by.

22 October 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Here's your quote, the salutation to a note left by the PCVs who left to me their wonderful apartment:

"Enjoy the ride!  
P.S. The weird looking thing in the freezer is Conch."

*horrified sharp intake of breath*

But in all sincerity, thanks again to you guys for all of your thoughtfulness and generosity in making my transition into the apartment smooth and (mostly) painless.  I've done some rearranging of furniture, added some decorations including a new Federation flag, and enjoyed the hammock on the porch enough for two years already.  I cooked stir-fry for myself last weekend too, which was an important step for me: it meant I'd finally got back to living on my own and being more independent.  I'm still working on some additional decorations, and I think the curtains in the bedroom need to go.  But other than that, some rudimentary repairs that may or may not happen soon, and getting cable internet installed, things are starting to come together acceptably.

After the movie on Monday went so well, I have not one... not two... three requests already for help with specific other slideshow presentations.  I guess that's what I get; maybe I should add "movie making" to my list of interests on my profile?  It's a good thing I enjoy it so much... More work and school updates next week.

20 October 2010

A Week in Sugar City

I apologize for my truancy; between moving into my apartment on Friday and Saturday, preparing an 8 minute movie for the Swearing-In Ceremony on Monday, and not having internet at home just yet, this is the first time I have been able to get online since Friday.  I have some good stories, though, and pictures! So you are obliged to forgive me.

Tropical Storm Otto on the Bay Road
Let's begin on Friday.  I moved into my "new" apartment that morning, took inventory stock of everything inside, literally and metaphorically, and rued the advent of a home-cooked meal that would not be mine to enjoy until Sunday night.  I took some pictures and video of the apartment as it was that first day, so that will go up with some other highlights at the end of this month.  Later, I spent the evening working on the movie, and at one point tried to plug an APC surge-protector strip into a 220-Volt adapter plugged into the wall.  The result was a loud BANG and all of the wall lights went out simultaneously.  *shock and dismay* It was clear that I had tripped the breaker on that circuit, but I hadn't even plugged anything into the APC strip yet!  Anybody have any idea why that would happen?  Nobody here had a similar experience, to my knowledge.  Ultimately it was fine, as Mavis helped me find the breaker box in my apartment, and we flipped the circuit back on with no problems.

The Bay Road following Otto
The next morning, Saturday, I was up early and bussed into town to purchase a house fan and EC$140 worth of cleaning supplies.  I gave my place a good scouring, including spending 3 hours on the bathroom alone, but not before getting home and realizing that despite having keys that turn the knob to my bedroom door lock, none of my keys actually unlock my bedroom door.  *extreme dismay* After about two hours of phoning friends and considering options I was eventually able to re-enter my bedroom, and I learned my lesson at that point.  Ultimately, I was able to get my laundry done on schedule as well, with time left in the afternoon for two walks down to the grocery store. 

Front of my apartment at Mattingley Heights
Now with a minimally stocked fridge and pantry, a clean apartment and some clean dishes, I was ready for anything.  Except, apparently, waking up the next morning to find I had accidentally left out my dish of food from the night before instead of putting it away and cleaning out the dish which I had intended to do.  What greeted me was a dish full of ants and a steady oncoming stream to and from the wall.  *mild dismay* It was nothing that a little Windex and Raid wouldn't fix.  (The Windex is perfect for stopping the ants in place immediately and sweeping them up with a paper towel, rather than spraying your dishes and counter with Raid.)

A view of the front step
My host father is gracious enough to give me a lift to church on Sunday mornings, despite my living on my own now, so I attended with him again that Sunday at St. George's Anglican.  I really enjoy it there, I'm getting around to recognizing people and they are getting around to recognizing me, though slower than I would have expected.  With a service identical to an Episcopal service in the States (except being twice as long), it is exactly what I grew accustomed to the last two or three years before moving back to Hiawassee.  The two hour service took only two visits before I didn't even notice anymore, and I'm quickly becoming accustomed to the parish-specific customs and songs.  For example, instead of reciting the Lord's Prayer after taking the offering, the congregation holds hands and sings the Lord's Prayer.  But of course, the music is not written down anywhere, so one must learn by ear the tunes intended to be chanted in both the bulletin and the Book of Common Prayer.  Just a few more visits, and I'll have it, no doubt.

A common Friday night sight from my veranda
Monday was the Swearing-In Ceremony.  As anticipated, it was akin to a college commencement, with formal protocol and remarks from a variety of VIPs, American, Kittitian, Peace Corps, and otherwise.  The Deputy Prime Minister was in attendance, and spoke on behalf of the Prime Minister and the sitting government.  The Deputy Governor-General was also there as Acting Governor-General, presumably because the appointed Governor-General is currently off-island.  Peace Corps's own Eastern Caribbean Country Director was there and made her encouraging comments.

At the Swearing-In Ceremony
I had not had the opportunity to hear the Deputy Prime Minister speak before, even though he is the government's appointed representative from my district, but it turns out he has a bent for the deadpan.  At one point, he apologized that his schedule did not permit him to stay longer, as his assistant scheduled for him a cabinet session that afternoon, but forgot to ask "whether or not he wanted to go to cabinet."  He cited his preference for the present company, and, in apologizing for the absence of the Prime Minister, pointed out that, curiously, he "would rather be in cabinet," to much laughter.

Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Sam Condor
The movie I compiled was a hit, I think.  I got lots of positive feedback from PCVs and host country nationals alike.  Yay, iMovie.  I can say with confidence that the audience laughed in all the right places, and I think the music selection went down well.  Especially popular was the wipe-to-profiles segment at 2:25.  Some people asked how I did that, but a true magician never reveals his secret.  For my part, I thought the music was a perfect fit for each segment, and catchy, too: I had "Don't Stop the Tempo" stuck in my head for days after.  I would have liked to add some footage from some other activities EC82 participated in, but a lack of either material, time left in the movie, or time left to make the movie constricted me to the four segments that ultimately passed muster.  And despite all of the planning and time and thought and attention that had been poured into making the movie happen, I was still so nervous on Monday morning, that I had to stand up in the back of the room whilst it was playing.

Newly dubbed PC Volunteers with PC Staff
But it all went well.  My class of EC82 stood and took our oath of service, not unlike the president's oath of office in structure and content, and signed official forms to the same end.  My fellow PCV from Nevis was asked to deliver the remarks from our training class, and performed with gusto.  He hit all of the good points and kept it brief and entertaining.  I will have his speech, as well as more photo and video footage from the ceremony, included in the highlight video for October.  But if you're dying for more video now, my friend from Antigua posted a video of some of her clips from St. Lucia and the first month at her site.

With that over and done with, most volunteers took the rest of the day off (it was 2 o'clock by the time we were back home, anyway) and we celebrated the end of training and the official beginning of a 730-day commitment to improving community-building capacity and bidirectional cultural discourse in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.  For my part, I am still engaged in my projects at the school and at the NSTP, so more specific updates for those in the future. And that brings everyone up to date.

P.S.  1500 all-time page views today.

15 October 2010

Funnyquote Friday

Yay for what I believe will be my last PST post! Here's your quote:

"For the next activity, I want you all to pretend...
like you can work together."

The tongue-in-cheek humor of our esteemed NGO Development instructor managed to lighten the mood for some of our number, after being confined to a little training room with the same people for far too long.  But with the end of training comes pictures of Happy Moments in PreService Training!

P.S. I've just seen my new apartment!  It's wonderful.  Hold out for new pics very soon.  I can't wait to get to cleaning it, decorating it, and making it my little corner of the world for the next two years.