30 March 2012

Funnyquote Friday

My mother, who was under the impression my apartment was about twice as large as it really is, on my sleeping arrangements while my parents were visiting me here in SKB:

"His head was in the living room,
and his feet were in the kitchen."

Yes, I was very grateful to get off of the floor and back into my own bed after my guests returned back home to the States.  And especially to get off of that silly little air mattress, which is so noisy that I woke up every time I turned over in my sleep.

I finished up Week 2 of the 100 Pushups Challenge today, knocking out 72 of the suggested 81.  For tomorrow, I have to max at least 25 in one set in order to progress on the track I am currently on.  It's challenging, but I am being rewarded both physically (increased strength and toning of my triceps, pectorals, and lats) as well as virtually (Fitocracy points; see Not Real).  I'm pleased with the progress I'm seeing in only two weeks of being on this pushups regimen, and I'm well on my way to reaching the stated goal of doing 100 pushups in a single set.

Tomorrow is a big day – a community service volunteer project to clean up the Irishtown Bay Road in the morning, followed by a Hash run starting at Black Rocks in Saddlers.  Hopefully, the nearly 50 student volunteers from local secondary and tertiary education institutions will be enough to clean up all of the garbage on the bayfront in Basseterre during the morning hours, and the one-off project will be a success.  The Hash that afternoon is being planned by a fellow volunteer, so I want to support his efforts, despite his assurance that the run is going to be very difficult.  Eh, part of the fun of doing these runs through the bush and through the country is getting to find out what I am capable of when I don't limit myself.

28 March 2012

Can't Tag This

I chose to follow some good advice for today's post: for what may prove to be my longest update so far, I'm not going to bore you or take up bokoos of space on my front page by listing the whole thing.  Instead, it's going to be available "below the fold."  So if you are interested in reading this week's latest intrigue, Why I Don't Use Facebook, please click the "Read More" link below.  Else, keep reading this otherwise normal post and enjoy your day.

I took to heart some other good advice and got a haircut on Monday, and am constantly reminded of it everywhere I go (even from strangers who ostensibly recognize me, but I don't recognize them) – but in a good way!  In fact, some of my friends indicated the change was very beneficial, saying the 'do looks "really, really good" now, whatever that means.  I did, of course, meet with a few awesome people who lamented the passing of the shaggy mane, but I assured them that it would have a fair chance to return in 8 months' time.

I kind of feel inundated with small things to do – apart from my job search, which is inseparable from a small sense of urgency and priority, I have these innumerable small tasks to think about, each too small to focus on but too relevant to ignore.  The stress isn't getting to me, though; someone out there in Internetland must be praying for me, because I've been emotionally buffeted all week since last weekend, but have managed to keep my head above water, so to speak.  I'm not getting down on this job search, either, though the progress is slow and, as always, ambiguous.  But maybe a third bit of advice explains well the reason for my buoyancy: it is always easier to search for a job when you have a job, or as in my case, something to do with your time.

Congratulations to all of you (I guess?) for reaching the next milestone on this blog: 7,500 pageviews!  Thats 83.33% of the way towards earning a special reward for your consistency.  Keep reading, and don't be afraid to use any media sharing apps to spread the word.

26 March 2012

Clear Enough to See the Bottom

I kayaked across the channel on Sunday for the second straight year.  My fellow PCV from Boyd's Village and I teamed up to usher across the 130 swimmers participating in the StarMile 2.5 Mile Swim Across the Channel.  We took off from Cockleshell Beach, St. Kitts this time, and swam southeasterly towards Oualie Beach, Nevis, which is the reverse direction from the previous 9 years this competition has been running.  The result was a slightly more difficult trip across, since we had to face a strong current that was about 30° against us, as opposed to in our favor.  Still, the winning time was no worse than previous years, with the fastest swimmer coming in at ≈68 minutes, an astounding pace.  Even kayaking for 2 hours is wearisome (mostly on the wrists and glutes, I've found), and with the majority of the swimmers in at that point, we decided to float ashore as well.  As for Peace Corps representation, this year we fielded just one swimmer and three kayakers, but we encouraged the participation of three friends-of-volunteers and one former PCV.  It is a little disquieting to think that this time next year, there will be no official Peace Corps representation at this fun and challenging local annual event.

I'm going to say that my job search is in full swing, despite not having any replies from the dozen-or-so applications that went out last week.  I am finding ways to keep myself productive, both when I have leads and when I do not.  For example, the latter half of this past week I spent designing my first Graphics Arts and Design résumé, which incorporates a number of alternative elements, like very casual language, humor, logo graphics, and color!  As it is merely an attempt to get me noticed and, hopefully, stand out a little bit from the crowd, I took a lot of liberties in achieving that end.  Of course such action risks being ignored by employers who are interested in someone with more coursework, job experience, or professionalism in his/her CV, but I opted to have a little more in the way of fun and self-expression in this particular work.  And now that is finished, and I can apply to the more artsy positions I have been examining, I find myself with several more leads to once again begin this week with.  So God has been good in keeping me positive, and in seeing fit to use circumstances and my fellow Christians to guide my search thus far.

Not a whole lot going on at work lately – the A Ganar program is off the ground, and appears to be running smoothly so far.  I was informed by my contact at the Beach Allen Primary School that I wouldn't be needed for the next several weeks, as the students begin their first wave of testing on Tuesday, and then Easter break takes them through to the 23rd of April.  So I have a little extra time to get caught up on secondary projects that have been on the back burner so far this year, like finalizing and publishing the Math Games booklet for distribution on-island.  Also, job searching.

Also, a happy birthday shout-out to Jonathan.  As it turns out, 23 is quite a versatile prime number.

23 March 2012

Funnyquote Friday

In Palmetto Point, the next village over from where I live, there is a nice little down home grill on the side of the road which a family runs on Friday nights for a little supplementary income.  I was there a few weeks back, enjoying some barbecued ribs and beers with friends, when one of the patrons stepped over to our table and introduced himself.  He was clearly a little less inhibited, and possibly did not understand what we meant when we were Peace Corps Volunteers.  Whatever the reason, when we were leaving to walk up the hill to my fellow PCV's apartment, he said,

"Good night! Drive safely!"

For those readers who don't get the joke, it's not only that none of us had taken a car down to the grill in question, the irony was mostly borne of the fact that as Peace Corps Volunteers, the lot of us are not allowed to drive.  At all!  During the full extent of our term of service, as long as we are on-island, we volunteers are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle of any kind, or accept a ride on a motorcycle or other non-enclosed vehicle.  To be caught in non-compliance with this restriction could, if the circumstances warrant it, result in administrative separation.  The reason for this stipulation is presumably the inability of the Peace Corps Agency to afford liability insurance for all 9000+ current volunteers, which seems reasonable enough.  The practical offshoot of this reality is, however, that I have made an occupation of relying on either public transportation or on the generosity of friends to provide me with a lift whenever I need to go anywhere that is farther than I am willing to walk.

Speaking of walking, I'm getting into this fitness thing – just finished week 1 of the Hundred Pushups Challenge, a 6 week workout regimen designed to train your body to do 100 pushups in one go.  This week alone was a challenge: today I did 51 pushups over 5 sets.  Next week begins with 5 sets totaling 60+ reps and ends with 80+ reps!  Add to this my daily run and sit-ups, and I'm actively combating (pun ostensibly intended) my otherwise sedentary lifestyle.  I'm trying to bring my time for 1 mile down to around 6 minutes – today I managed to set my personal best for the year at 7:02 minutes.  So things are looking up!  Anyway, I'm tracking all of my progress at Fitocracy - the premier online social networking site for people trying to stay fit - and you can too!  The program is currently in closed beta testing, so you need an invite from me (while supplies last!)

The newest Serious Ting has been officially released online; check it out when you get a chance.  As with the previous issue, I'm very proud of how it turned out, and I really like the HEART & SOUL theme that sorta happened on its own.  St. Kitts and Nevis was very well represented in this issue, too, offering 4 articles by 3 PCV authors and 2 contributions from a pair of host country nationals (not to mention yours truly).  The printed copies are expected in a few week's time, and I'll make sure and grab my fair share to spread around to each of my public circles.  Gotta spread the good word!

Also, I never did quite get the hang of networking.

16 March 2012

Funnyquote Friday

When interviewing secondary school students who had applied to join the A Ganar program starting this month, I got a lot of bland, run-of-the-mill responses to typical interview questions like "tell me about yourself," and "how do you see yourself in five years?"  This made the thoughtful and clever responses all the more enjoyable for me, since it tended to reveal a glimpse into the character of the interviewee in a way that 90% of the questions were unsuccessful in doing.  One question that tended to cajole the most peculiar answers was, "Think about your island country of St. Kitts and Nevis: what is one thing that you like about it?  What is one thing that, if you could, you would change about it?"  One particularly spirited girl had a unique response to this, saying that she loved everything about her country, from the beautiful landscapes to the knowledge that her family and friends were there with her.  She added, with a straight face,

"Now if only the White people would stop coming."

I was completely unable to suppress a chuckle at this.  Caught in the moment, I was hardly offended, but instead filled with mirth at the layers of irony in this statement.  I know, I thought, darn tourists crowding up our island, bringing their pasty, untanned legs, their sunglasses, and their silly money.  And then to have the vacancy of mind to say this right in front of me, sans malice or insinuation at all.  It was priceless!  I think she was my favorite student to interview.

I saw Mom and Dad off en route back home after spending a week-and-a-half here on my little island.  I'd say we managed to fit in 97% of everything I could even think of doing, and that with taking Thursday off after the volcano hike.  (Yes, you read that right - Mom and Dad get some GamersCorps points for scaling the tallest mountain in the entire country.  Kudos!) 

In fact, here was our itinerary - for posterity, but also so you can see what you could've been doing last week in the Eastern Caribbean:

  • Circumnavigate St. Christopher island
  • Visit Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor
  • Visit Fort George at Brimstone Hill
  • See Black Rocks, Dieppe Bay
  • Lunch at De Green Valley Pub, Cayon
  • Walking tour of downtown Basseterre
  • Visit Mr. Zach Nisbett's cultural heritage museum
  • Walking tour of Port Zante and Amine Craft shops
  • Lunch at Ms. Moore's (Saltfish fritters and bottomless Passion Fruit juice!)
  • Hike Mt. Liamuiga (2:30 hours in this time)
  • Lunch at Cooper's of Dieppe Bay
  • Recuperate
  • Ferry to sister island Nevis
  • Visit Horatio Nelson museum
  • Circumnavigate Nevis island
  • Lunch at Oualie Beach resort, snorkel and swim at the best beach in the federation
  • Visit Chrishi beach for pictures and refreshments
  • Run/Walk with Hash House Harriers, the international running club
  • Visit St. George's Anglican Church
  • Grill Jamaican Jerk Chicken for guests 
With just a handful of other notable excursions that followed, but the bulk of the trip's activities were handled in the first week.  From a planning standpoint, everything worked out perfectly - my parents were never overworked to the point that we had to go somewhere and they didn't have the energy, and we never ran out of time to fit something in that I felt was essential.  So I consider the visit a success!  And I know they had a really good time getting a feel for what life was like down here (life with trans, anyway!) and getting to meet all of the people that are involved in my day-to-day.  Bar none, I feel like everyone here was pleased to make the acquaintance of my parents as well, which came as a bit of a surprise to me - with so many people to meet, it's only typical that there is one or another awkward encounter to shrug off, but not this time, I think.

I'm using today to get back into a regular routine - and hoping that it is a quiet day to offer a soft lead-in to the weekend.  With no Serious Ting to work on anymore, I turn my attention anew to my job search.  Kicking off a few months later than anticipated (I originally planned to start in November), I have finally screwed up enough of my courage to hit the hunt hard this weekend.  Please pray that this motivation and steeled resolve doesn't wane in the face of insecurities borne of ambiguity and inevitable rejections.

02 March 2012

Funnyquote Friday

In praise of a particular high school instructor that hosts A Ganar meetings in her classroom, an upper level administrator from the same school mentioned that she is always present, always comes early, always leaves late – even on Fridays!  Moreover,

"What other 4A6 teacher do you know
that comes to work on a Friday?"

So a rather poignant quote for this week, more than a LOL kind of funny.  But it serves to highlight one of the curious problems the schools here in St. Kitts and Nevis faces.

Well, the latest edition of Serious Ting, Volume XXIII Issue 1, is metaphorically out the door!  As soon as they start shipping, I'll post a photo of the cover, and there should also be an accompanying link to a virtual edition of the magazine as well.  I'm pleased with it, for my part, and once again proud to show off our mutual contributions as a Peace Corps community here in the Eastern Caribbean.  This edition will be printed just in time to be made available for the outgoing EC81 class, set to COS in mid-April.  Analogously, there will be plans to prepare a second issue for this calendar year, presumably in time to be distributed before I end my term of service in mid-October.  I, however, will decline to be responsible for the layout of that edition, as I anticipate a hefty schedule in the declining months I have here.  However, it will also be satisfying to pass on my previous examples and assistance to the one that eventually takes my place – not to mention enjoy the expression of another one's expertise.

I recently threw my lot in with the Fitocracy, due to a previously sought yet admittedly unexpected invitation to their limited-membership beta test.  It's a social network for people who want to (1) get in shape, (2) stay in shape, or (3) brag about how in shape they are.  Since experiencing those rare and usually fleeting desires myself quite recently, I took to it swimmingly rapidly.  I've already carved out a workout regimen for myself, involving running the dirt path away from town and back for a total of ≈2.25 miles, followed by alternating sets of inclined push-ups and sit-ups, up to 4 sets each.  I'm seeing some moderate performance results already: I set my personal best in total push-ups and sit-ups yesterday.  The physical results, i.e. strength, conditioning, and muscle tone, are naturally slower to come.  But I'm staying positive, and not getting down on the times when I am unable to fulfill my goal for the day.  Rather, it usually steels me with a stronger resolve to make up for it the following day.  Here's hoping my parents' much-anticipated arrival on Sunday doesn't mess up my routine too much.

Speaking of which, I went ahead and planned out the first eight days of my parents' stay here, almost down to every meal.  I'm much more excited about getting to show them a piece of my life here on the island, though admittedly it will never meet up to exactly the same experience, since, for among so many other reasons, they will be driving me around in a car.  Woot!