27 December 2011

Sugar Mas Is In The Air

The cats are earning their keep.  As you may recall, I'm watching my girlfriend's cats while she's on winter vacation in the States.  In under one week that I've been watching them, they've already managed to trap and kill four cockroaches and a centipede!  Nebula is the more personable of the two; she finds plenty of opportunities to find me and rub up against my arm when I am at the computer table (like right now).  Pigeon stays mostly to herself, but they both make their presence felt when it's feeding time.  The effort on my part is miniscule, as it would turn out: cleaning two small litter boxes and feeding the cats twice daily is hardly a chore, and more like fair wages paid in the name of free cleaning service.  (No cobwebs when you have two diminutive, omnipresent wanderers!)  Mostly they're a pleasure to have around, whenever Nubs isn't trying to pull my septum out of my head.

The Christmas concert was Monday the 19th; it didn't offer quite as many "edgy" pieces as last year, and eliminated all of the performances differing from singing a traditional Christmas carol.  Fortunately, my friends and I were in attendance foremost for the music, but I was disappointed to see that, perhaps, the planning committee felt that the free thinking, alternative works of poetry and dance (a few of a more political persuasion, in fact) were not in the spirit of the event.  Whatever the reason, we still enjoyed reaffirming our now veritable Christmas tradition of singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as loudly and as functionally correct as possible at the end of the service.  That's one thing that, come this time next year, I expect I will miss about not being here!

J'ouvert was a fun ride again this year.  What with it being my second go-around, I had a jump on most of the other Caucasoids that partook in this year's reveling.  Oh, and before you ask, I'm sad to report I have no picture and video this time, due to my one planning oversight: double-checking to see that the camera I brought along had an actual battery cartridge loaded in it.  Apart from this, the measures I took were largely responsible for the whole day going off without a hitch, so to speak.  I caught a lift to the meeting place no earlier than midnight, which means I had at least 3 hours of sleep before joining the others this time (plenty if you're not planning on staying up any later than noon).  I brought along both food and water this time, as much to sate my inevitable morning hunger as to avoid a regrettable migraine should the threat arise.  Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I remembered to bring ear plugs along!  I cannot overstate how critical these little devices are at a j'ouvert jump-up.  Lastly, I did virtually all of my alcohol imbibing at the meeting place before going on the march, where the drinks were mostly harder stuff like mixed rum punch and the like.  By writing in big Sharpie® letters on my hand "BEER," I didn't even have to shout my order to the bar-trailer attendants over the cacophony of the soca blaring from over a dozen amps 100 feet away.  In the end, I had the equivalent of 2 beers during the march, which settled in nicely with the principle of always following hard drinks with beer chasers, and not the other way around.  All of this planning went a great way towards making sure I actually enjoyed myself during this year's revelries.  Now if I could just find a girl to wuk up with...

I think Peace Corps are the street performers of the world.  I say this for a couple reasons: first, because the similarities are too clear to me to be denied.  We move from a place far away to a new home, often with little or no experiential concept of the place we're going, and always end up trying to make a living doing some good works under impoverished means.  Even the people we're trying to help ultimately are presented with the choice to pay attention, or else to simply ignore us completely.  And, depending on who you ask, we probably have a comparable success rate.  Furthermore, we choose to live our lives under the wary eyes of the entire community we serve, winning some hearts and minds and confounding others.  Perhaps the last one is not unlike life everywhere for most, but when the only real currency one traffics in is personal contacts, and when one has as pessimistic an outlook as myself, a single bad connection is a tougher drain on morale than half a dozen good ones can make up for.

The second reason I've been cogitating on this is because I find myself at a vulnerable point in my term of service.  With a whole three weeks to devote in part to secondary projects, namely the ones I have let languish as the 2011 work year wound down, I nonetheless prove to have difficulty summoning the emotional energy to tackle them, fearing that my best efforts will somehow prove fruitless.  So instead of being able to address these concerns by actually trying to do the work on a given day, I am hamstrung into lounging around, choosing instead to read Fahrenheit 451, or catch up on my virtual baseball team, or write this blogpost.  Can anyone offer me any clarity on where the fault in my emotional expectations lie: in the inflexible goals that I set for myself before the holiday began, or in the fear that I've doomed my own productivity by not following through on them?  As someone who derives so much of his self-esteem from his own sense of productivity, this question is deeply concerning to me; yet even as I write it, I realize that the true answer is probably a third option that I have not considered at all.

16 December 2011

Funnyquote Friday

"Ask not about the stipend.  When it is ready,
you will be informed.  In the meantime,
learn as much as you can!"

This admonishment can now be found posted above every door and archway at the NSTP, presumably in response to the swarm of inquiries, phone calls, and possibly impolite nudging by the trainees and their families, wondering about the first portion of their training stipend.  Despite being a mere pittance, on the order of EC$40, many are counting on it to supplement their Christmas shopping demands.  So while the need is real and serious, I couldn't help but laugh at the measures the office attendants took to assuage the more boisterous trainees.

Nothing much new to report – as I mentioned, today is my final stopoff at the office for the year, as all government agencies will be closed through the winter holidays and Carnival.  This will give me the opportunity to alter my focus for a time to some unfinished secondary projects, including finalizing the (Not Just) Math Games booklet, adding to the Youth Group proposal (which I'm considering naming S-Pres – but I can't remember why now), and getting a head start on the next issue of the Serious Ting.  All while attending Carnival goings-on in town in the evenings.  And catching up on reading.  And watching my girlfriend's cats.  And... Wait, will I have more free time, or less?

14 December 2011

36 Hawksbill Sea Turtles Saved

Following Team Trivia last night, the alarm went out through the SKN sea turtle conservation team (generally a Ross U. student-led organization) that a nest of dozens of baby sea turtles had been found outside their usual nesting grounds: instead of in Keys or somewhere on the Atlantic coast, this nest had been found on the East Bay Road in Basseterre, far closer to the city and its bright lights.  A team of locals, who stumbled across them, contacted the right people, and soon the conservation team's director was on the scene and directing helping hands and foot traffic.  She informed all of us there that the nest that had been found were of the hawksbill variety, and that they were critically endangered, so it was fortuitous that they had been found and collected.  She made an easy count as we set down 3-5 at a time on the shore nearer the water.  The hatchlings then began their three day, food-less trek to reach as far into the ocean as possible before getting settled and... doing whatever comes next – that was the extent of what I gleaned from last night's excursion.  But what an uncommon opportunity!

In other news, Murphy's Law strikes again: I brought in little Christmas gifts for my coworkers today, only to have everyone save one not show up due to feeling ill, taking vacation, or being busy with personal matters.  After spending a couple hours cogitating and manipulating a meager supply of holiday wrapping to satisfy the demands of seven, rather small, pyramids of chocolates, I am able to give out less than half of the presents I prepared.  Oh woe is me; I'll just have to wait until Friday, and hopefully the chocolates won't melt before then.

Also, Happy [2 × 13]th Birthday to me.  I don't feel a day over 25 – until I stop and think that I'm a mere four years from 30! *horror*

12 December 2011

HARD WUK Wuz Hyah!

Objectively speaking, I cannot blame my lack of updates the past few weeks on the usual biannual laziness (read: May and December), and instead refer the reader to the long, long week of activities that the NSTP had planned out for its 25th Anniversary celebration, observed this year.  Beginning Sunday, the NSTP was a collective guest at the Antioch Baptist Church in Basseterre.  That is to say, staff and students from the NSTP filled the center row or pews, and a special comments were made by each of two representatives of the NSTP - the interest of which was quickly overshadowed by the announcement of one parishioner's 90th birthday, which received tremendous acclamation.  All the same, it had been a long while since I was in church, and God used the opportunity to share with me.  He taught me, along with a reading from 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2, to remind me of a simple truth: that success in my mission here will not be measured by my ability to help those that do not want to be helped.  This reminder altered first my perspective on closing out my assignments here a year from now, when the Peace Corps pulls out of St. Kitts for the foreseeable future, and second helped me to deal differently with day-to-day setbacks.  Just last Monday, in fact, the printer failed to print in black ink, and despite my best efforts of manually cleaning the printhead, would not submit to its share of the labor.  Even replacing it with its older predecessor has proved ineffective.  But rather than get discouraged, something that would be very easy for me given that in the interim the onus is on me, the IT "expert," to print copies in demand despite the lack of working hard-copy producing printing devices.  Did I mention the copier has been out of toner for a few weeks?

The rest of the week was no less hectic.  Monday was capped with a three-hour Facilitator Workshop and Professional Development Seminar hosted by the NSTP and patronized by our sister organization Project Strong, as well as ministry education officials and a keynote speaker from local conglomerate TDC, Inc.  On Tuesday, I submitted the final copy of the World AIDS Calendar, a project begun by my PCV colleague as a fundraiser for the Ministry of Health and as a tool for HIV/AIDS awareness and stigma reduction.  The cover art is to the left; it is a collage of works prepared by school children on the importance of accurate AIDS information.

Wednesday saw an office-wide excursion to Nevis with the Electrician class to see the new developments in alternative energy being installed here in the Federation.  Already, a fully functioning wind farm exists on Nevis, supplying around 3MW, sufficient to cover half of the island's electricity needs at every time except peak demand.  Furthermore, eighty acres on the western side of the island have been cordoned off for the new geothermal energy-harnessing plants, whose wells are scheduled to begin drilling come March 2012.  Both fully renewable and eco-friendly energy sources, the combination of the two would fully cover the energy demands of Nevis and St. Kitts for the foreseeable future, with enough leftover to sell to neighboring islands.

Finally, on Friday, I was up at 5:00 AM to head into town for the fitness "walkathon" hosted by the office.  Sporting my new T-shirt with the 25th Anniversary info emblazoned on it, I walked about five miles from the tamarind tree in Greenlands to the Sir Kennedy Simmonds Highway roundabout in Frigate Bay.  Leaving at 6:30, I arrived at 8:30, to a lovely rainbow and a light breakfast.  Due to the ensuing rain, however, the motivational speakers (one was none other than my APCD) had to be moved from the idyllic outdoor sanctuary under the trees to a stuffy classroom back at the office.  But we got through with the ceremony, and around noon I cashed in the goodwill that I had built up all week and bought a lift home, whereupon I slept for a solid two hours.

In other news, my food selection of late has been long on grains and proteins and lipids, but short on excitement.   In order to combat the diet doldrums, every other month or so I stock up on hot dog items and conjure up a meal once or twice a week.  (Not counting special spectator sporting events!)  This habit has led me to make the following observation: eating two hot dogs is just a little bit too much for my stomach.  That is, the preparation time is substantial enough that I am generally very hungry by the time I start on the first hot dog.  Then, after inhaling the entire first one, my hunger has peaked but not yet begun to appreciably decline.  So I begin the second with no sense of fear or indecision, only to be confronted with a sudden wall of pain about three-quarters of the way through the second hot dog.  The final two bites, then, are decidedly unpleasant: thoughts of "Why??  Why am I doing this to myself?" pervade my mind.  A pall of regret hangs over my decision to ingest the last four or five centimeters, but I bite the bullet (so to speak) and finish my cursed meal.  The diagram to the right further clarifies my deliciously deplorable experience.  Well, here's to Tomato Soup and Stir Fry the rest of the way.

I just finished November's highlight reel, so I've added it below.  Truth be told, I'm already working on the December flick, chock full of bits from the NSTP's busy week; but that will have to wait until next month to be posted.  In the meantime, enjoy: