30 January 2012

The Late Great Update

I'm going to spare my sense of guilt and not bother to look up the exact date of my last post – I know it was some time earlier this month, and that's enough for me.  Better to be proactive in turning this around than to spend time worrying about not.

I say this entirely because this is something I've been spending a whole lot of emotional energy on already this year.  As someone who struggles to find a balance between objective, rational thinking and a healthy expression of sincere emotions, I know that I have a tendency to lose a lot of positivity and productivity when I am confronted with the fear of not living up to my own expectations or, worse, someone's expectations for me.  That fear that has the potential to haunt so much of the work I do here, I find it to be paralyzing – it freezes my desire to move ahead, until the shadow of a fear of anything going wrong has been dealt with.  And, as it would turn out, this is not a realistic way to approach community development.  As I learned firsthand from my Iron Band project, sometimes just moving ahead without all of the pieces clearly in place is, despite all of my expectations, the best course of action.  In that case, I had 10 students to make a band, but no instruments to give them for the first week we met.  I was afraid this would doom the project to oblivion, but instead, we spent the first session just getting to know everyone, inadvertently creating some firm band traditions at the same time, and was equipped with a basic collection of instruments by the next meeting.  Now, however, if this Youth Group idea is to take off, I would need to coordinate the schedules of 5-10 working and busy adults, finding a regular meeting period that doesn't burn out individuals before the project has had a chance to take off.  But, even as I write this, I see the seeds of needless worries, things I cannot control at this stage that probably take care of themselves by the time the problem rolls around.  Or am I right to consider the ultimate outcome of my planning actions?  I just don't know.

There have been some unpleasant developments this month (though none of which are directly related to me, fortunately) that I feel obligated to share: a couple of violent altercations that involved either current or former students of the NSTP, leaving one incapacitated and in the hospital, and the other fatherless.  The most troubling aspect of this is not the coincident timing, but that both victims share the rare quality of being known homosexual males in a society that is decidedly closed-minded on the subject.  The paradigm is so far anti-homosexual, in fact, that even as the one openly gay young man of 16 lay in the ICU bed, thick gauze over one eye and deep gashes on limbs he is unable to move under his own power, I would overhear associates of mine discussing the ordeal.  They would lament his situation and, in the very same thought, conclude something to the effect of, "Well, if he didn't go around parading it so much, he wouldn't be in this situation."  As though his form of self expression was an invite for violent reactions from his peers.  DISCLAIMER: Now, just to be clear, there have been no objective determinations that these events are related in any way, nor am I insinuating that they are.  Only that the proximity in timing was unfortunate and coincidental, and that the mere fact that either happened at all is appalling and saddening.

And now for some good news: I was on Nevis all Sunday morning for the first annual Nevis Half Marathon fundraising event that was put on by my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer's organization, the SKN Diabetes Foundation.  With a big time corporate sponsor in DHL and 100+ participants in only its first year, the event was a near perfect success.  Lots of locals, hashers, students, and internationals came to Nevis bright and early Sunday morning for the 5K, 10K, and half marathon runs, and the winners even went home with a sizable check from DHL.  I did not get to run myself, but instead helped out with logistics, preparation, and just general footwork/manpower.  And while I was a little disappointed that I didn't come prepared to run, I still had a good time speedboating over to Nevis at 5:30 AM, and casually boating back at noon, skirting the length of St. Kitts' Caribbean Seaside beaches.  I had not got to experience that kind of boat tour before, and probably won't get to again; needless to say, it sure beat paying for an hour-long ferry ride!

My parents purchased tickets for their week-and-a-half-long vacation here on St. Kitts, so I'm really excited to finally get to share the island in a tangible way with family.  I trust that, come April, my reports home will come in a very different light to those that experience the island first hand.  I'll check back then to see for sure, but for now, I'm enjoying telling friends that "I'll have trans" for a period in March (that means that I'll have someone who can drive a car) to all the places we usually go, like Tuesday Trivia and a Saturday Hash, as well as to the places I don't usually get to go, like the beach and to nice local restaurants.  Woo vacation time!  It's always nice to have something to look forward to – it's a great external motivator to help me get through each day. 

As a completely unrelated aside, I was working on this the last time I updated, and so I haven't posted it before now.  But it is another attempt at mine at observational humor in the form of a colorful graph.  However, this one isn't really that funny; it's just a look at all of the rock songs I own by year and decade, from 1961-2010.

For someone who says he loves the '90s so much, I'm sure not representing it very well.

And while on the subject of creative output, I am working on the movie for December highlights, and I should also have material for a January movie as well – just as soon as I have the time and gumption to go ahead with them, I will.  So sorry for the delay, and have faith (as I do) that it'll be worth the wait!

P.S.  For the new year, here is a new header.  You're welcome.

03 January 2012

What It Could Have Been Like, v2.0

A happy new 2012 and all the best to my readers back in the States.  Just the word "twenty-twelve" is enough to make me happy, it's so euphonious in its alliteration it just kind of rolls off the tongue.

As last year's first post of the year was a hit with so many, I'm going to try to recreate the mystique of that experience again, this time putting myself in the shoes of a young girl in St. Kitts.  Please bear in mind that while all the descriptions and scenarios are inspired by the socioeconomic situation here in SKB, none are based on actual events or people.  The story is entirely fictional, and meant to inform and encapsulate the average struggles in the Federation, and not meant to disrepute any person or group of people.

I got home from school yesterday to find Greyg, my stepfather, drunk and yelling at my mother.  He had spent the afternoon at the rum shop across the street, and had imbibed too many Caribs before five o'clock.  I had witnessed this abuse one time before from him, and so I knew that there was nothing I could reasonably be expected to do to stop it.  I went to my room instead.

My room is a bedroom shared with Paul, my 12-year-old younger brother, and my younger step siblings.  My name is J'recia, and I'm a 14-year-old second form student at WAHS.  I was born in New Jersey, but can only remember living here in St. Kitts.  I had an older brother, but Shakim was killed in a gang altercation 2 years ago.  Mom believed he was going to be the first in our family to graduate from secondary school.  Due to my entering secondary school pregnant, the honorific of "first high school graduate" simply bypassed me and now lays with Paul, who is still in primary school.  My son, Skimbo, is now 6 months old, and represents the primary reason for my contemplating dropping out early, in spite of what the guidance counselor at Washy was trying to convince me of yesterday.

Skimbo, like a gift from God, came to me as a bit of a shock.  My family has always been friends with the driver of the bus Too Fast, so about the time I began seeking trans around the city to visit my friends from school, I preferred to use his services, since he didn't charge me.  One night, however, after the last patron was dropped off in the country, we took a detour from heading back into town, where he raped me.  I carried out the resultant pregnancy to term, as my family and pastor said I had to, and now my mother and I have an additional 6-month-old charge.  While I resent having my body and honor taken advantage of, I don't hate the man, and still see him in town frequently.  Mostly, I'm thankful for my beautiful son, and dutiful to bring him up in this warm corner of an otherwise cold world. 

As I lay down on my pallet contemplating these things, Paul comes in after me, seemingly undisturbed by the cacophony of Greyg's shouting outside the door.  The smell of dope wafts around him.  When I inquire, he says he doesn't partake, but he was hanging around with a group of older boys who were smoking.  He says it with the ease of someone with no guilt, so I don't press the subject; he hardly has a reason to hide anything from his older sister.  Instead, he continues on about the boys, clearly and profoundly impressed.  The hair starts to raise on the back of my neck, and just as I open my mouth to confront him, he beats me to the punch:

He says he wants to join their gang.

I hope you enjoyed/were moved/learned a little from my story.  Leave a comment if you were.

I'm due to start back at work on Wednesday (I think), and so am looking forward to getting back into a routine.  Carnival has been good this year, with a much more relaxed feel to it.  I have been able to take part in the activities I wanted to, with full knowledge of what to expect ahead of time, which has made it far more easy-going for me.  In fact, the longer I do this, the more I agree that a two year term of service is a very good length of time to be immersed in another country.  Granted, it is a very long time, but in the end, just long enough to ensure that one has taken part in everything one can in a calendar year.  So thanks, Peace Corps, for that.