01 February 2012

In the Lee of the Stone

Despite the otherworldly silence that I had managed to keep for the greater part of January, things continue to happen here on my little island.  Incidentally, I've got some good news, some bad news, and some as-of-yet neutral updates to share with the reader.  (And pictures!)

Let's start with the bad news this time.  There was a burglary at another Peace Corps Volunteer's home last weekend, the second at that particular location.  It's clear from the M.O. that not only was the criminal most likely an acquaintance of the victim, but also that surveillance was being kept on the volunteer's home immediately prior to the incident, as the victim was away from the premises for no more than a few hours, by her reckoning.  In this case, they broke into a hard-to-reach second story window that was not barricaded, and proceeded to work their way through the cordoned-off second floor to the victim's apartment downstairs.  Furthermore, without actually making a big mess of things, they carried out several high-value items that had been placed in hidden-away locations around the apartment.  When I received word of all this, I was taken back to the feeling I had when someone attempted to break into my apartment, and I tried to amplify the unsettled feelings of insecurity and betrayal with feelings of remorse and helplessness.  That meager attempt at empathy was enough to alert me to two truths: first, that I would be unable to grasp the full extent of my colleague's turmoil, and second, that I had been very blessed to make it this far without any equally fearful invasions of my own safety.  Especially with the documented rise in violent crime in the Federation in the time I've been serving here, I feel more than ever like I've been kept in the lee of the stone, a place where I am in the middle of all of the turbulence of life, yet return unscathed from the plow's blade.

There are more employees at the NSTP than ever before.  I was surprised to come in to work today and find the premises practically inundated with people.  Besides the trainees, who are here for the last weeks of their Basic Electricity and Hospitality Industry courses, there are 40% more employees in attendance since before the Christmas holidays.  I'm unclear, as monetary concerns are paramount and all new operations by the NSTP are on hold until monies are sent over by the Ministry of Finance, whether or not the addition of full-time employees to the payroll is a wise step.  For that matter, I'm as of yet unclear exactly what purpose more than one of the individuals in questions serve in the organization.  And as if the premises were not constricted enough, the addition of 10 "new" computer monitors, of the 20-inch CRT variety (i.e. MASSIVE), were just donated from TDC, Inc. to the NSTP's computer lab.  The downside?  We already had more flatscreen monitors than operable computers, so they're definitely not needed in the computer lab.  They can still find use as objects in a computer repairs class, though the issue of Where to keep them in the meantime? goes unresolved.  They are currently eating up whole cubic yards of space in the already-cramped computer lab, my bastion of air conditioning, electrical current, and productivity. 

To the best of my knowledge, we volunteers here in St. Kitts still have not received our living allowances for the month of February.  This means that rent, bills, and any other living expenses that come up at the beginning of the month are either covered by the leftover funds from the previous month, or else ignored until the funds do arrive.  Fortunately, for my part, I was careful to cultivate a EC$1000 cushion with which to weather just such a situation.  Most of my colleagues, on the other hand, were not so fastidious, and are now running into the same end-of-the-month issues that so many people living on tight budgets face, here and everywhere.  I do have one particular complication, though: my rent is automatically deducted from my savings account here, in a standing order for the end of every month.  But my monthly rent is greater than the monetary cushion I regularly keep (in what seems like an untimely oversight now), meaning that as of yesterday, my account is either in overdraft (in hardly any fault of my own) or else my landlord, who resides in New Jersey, has not yet received payment for this month's rent.  Either way, when I head into town today, I will have to go by the bank and take stock of the situation before spending any more of my standing cash.

I'm helping out at Beach Allen Primary School on Tuesdays now, tutoring a small group of students that have been selected by their teachers as requiring special assistance in mathematics.  We've had four sessions already, the last four Tuesdays in the month of January, and I'm starting to get to know the students a little better now.  One grade at a time, I pull out a single student from his/her classroom and gather the three to five children in a separate room, with stools, a chalkboard, and air conditioning.  Curiously, the last is such a disparate change from the usual for the students, that it oftentimes proves to be more of a distraction than a boon to the students' concentration.  But assisted by my bag of math implements and cadre of classroom activities, we put in a half-hour session where I give special time to each student that displays a need in a particular area that the teacher has identified in previous classroom time.  Already, in our short time together, I have seen dramatic improvement in the form of positive affect in one student, who, when she isn't acting depressed and moody, participates at a level that should categorize her as solidly mainstream, leaving her special-needs peers in the dust.  I intend on recommending to her teacher that she soon be replaced with another student whose needs in mathematics are more pressing.  So that might prove to be my success story for this trimester's Volunteer Report Form!

And work with the Serious Ting is gearing up at the same time.  It's now February (the reader may have noticed) and so my deadline looms now in the radar of my mind.  I plan to spend nearly all of my free time for this month on design editing the next issue, scheduled to be printed and distributed by April.  If I can maintain a pace of about 1 article per day, that should be sufficient to achieve my goal of submitting the completed first copy to St. Lucia for approval by Sunday the 26th, giving that week for final changes.  If everything happens in the planned timetable, then the issue will be all ready and in Volunteers' hands before the class of EC81 departs for their close of service.

Oh, and I got to go camping, too!  A few weekends ago, half a dozen of us went over to Banana Bay adjacent Cockleshell Beach on the Southern Peninsula to test our abilities to wield fire at will and engineer a makeshift shelter before sunset.  The experiment was a success, and I had a blast camping beside the omnipresent waves.  I even awoke before sunrise to see the Southern Cross just above the southern horizon!

The three-sided tarp shelter design was my idea.  It kept the wind out of our hair for the night.

A bright Sunday sunrise between St. Kitts and Nevis at 6:00 AM.

Breakfast is the camper's special: bacon and cheese omelet hamburgers.  <-- Not a typo

By all appearances, no worse for the wear.  (This may or may not in fact be the case.)

No comments:

Post a Comment