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.