27 April 2012

Funnyquote Friday

A good-humored prod made at me on the interwebz the other day:

"Woo Peace Corps! Even lower down the
totem pole than UNDP!!"

I agreed to puppysit for a friend while the Ross Veterinary students are on break.  My new charge is a three-month old island Rottweiler named Ty, who is planning to adopt a Peace Corps couple as his guardians.  But until then, I am the one responsible for pulling the little twerp's nose out of every avenue for mayhem and destruction it can find.  And we both seem to be doing an admirable job of living up to our roles.

I'll be so happy to unwind this weekend with no more thoughts towards these application assignments that have consumed my time and will for job searching the entirety of this last month.  I have completely finished all four deliverables, (1.5 page Statement of Purpose, 4 page Procedural Recommendation, 4 page Application Review, 3 page Performance Analysis) but the damage has been done to my central nervous system: my brain is fried, and I intend on getting back to full strength with a weekend of R&R.

I enjoyed my first mango of the season this morning.  Bright yellow with dark spots means it has fully ripened, and I'm looking forward to the multitude of similar offerings from the mango tree at my office all this month.  In due time, the flamboyant trees will start to fill their canopy once again with needles, creating a large shady haven below their branches that enjoys a 10° cooler atmosphere than the air around it.  Also looming on the metaphorical horizon is this year's hurricane season, when the tourists stop coming and the midday rains and gusts come instead.  My understanding is that scientists are anticipating a light season this year, though judging by their recent gaffes, (at least as far as St. Kitts is concerned) we have every reason to take this year as seriously as any other.

This evening is set aside for seeing off a fellow volunteer who is heading back to the Midwest via Puerto Rico.   She has come to be a good friend of mine, someone I admire for her poise and droll disposition as much as her charm.  I wish her good fortune and faithful friends who were as thoughtful and inclusive to her as she was to me.

20 April 2012

Funnyquote Friday

The NSTP's registered students in the A Ganar program hosted the children of the St. Christopher Children's Home, an orphanage for homeless children in West Basseterre, to a special luncheon as part of their Food Preparation Course's community service mandate.  The result was a snazzy white-tablecloth affair and a fully catered meal of fine Caribbean cuisine.  The kids had a good time getting to ride in the bus to the Challengers Community Center, then rub elbows with the older girls in the class serving as hostesses.  In fact, one particularly flamboyant girl was having fun chatting with A Ganar Instructor Ms. Gloria Mills, and teaching her to sing her own made-up songs.  One included, "My name is Erubo Nikki / My name is Erubo Nikki" to a tune that almost immediately got locked in my head.  At Nikki's insistence, Ms. Mills tried her hand at the tune as well.  Nikki patiently waited while Ms. Mills got the gist of the rhythm, but when she could hold it no longer, she protested, to everyone's great amusement,

"Hey, you are falling out of tune!"

More of the usual here.  If not for the measurable progress in my workout routines and my fictional baseball team, I would probably go crazy from boredom.  But I'm continuing to stay busy – in fact, school starts back up next week, which means I will be on the hook once again for maths tutoring at Beach Allen Primary come Tuesday.  They will be focusing on readying students for end of course testing, known here as the "Test of Standards" for grades 3-6.  So any progress I can make in students' understanding of traditionally difficult topics (e.g. fractions) will hopefully go a long way towards their performance on these tests.

I've been working on another extensive themed post, and haven't got around to finishing it yet, so that's why the delay in posts this week.  Because of this, I didn't get a chance to mention that I experienced a new island first on Monday: I got stung by a centipede!  Yes, a baby centipede found its way under my pillow one night, and when I shifted my arm while half asleep, I apparently confounded the little bugger because it saw fit to use its self-defense mechanism and sting me.  I was lucky: it caught me in a very insensitive part of my body, and led to no actual swelling – just a slight pain that went away overnight.  Though, to be sure, since I was now wide awake and subject to a difficult prospect of falling asleep with the thought of bugs crawling around uninhibited in my bed, I took an hour to collect myself, and proceeded to replace the sheets the next morning.  All in all, a pretty decent way to deal with a threat I had been warned of since day one of PST, and I'm all the more glad that now I can say I did.

13 April 2012

Funnyquote Friday

Overheard at Easter Monday activities at the ferry terminal:

"Boy, I wish my camera had a phone on it right now."

Last week I promised myself and you, my readers, that I would try my hand at a 10K / 6 mile run very soon.  I got up the energy and the nerve on Thursday, when I ran all the way from my apartment to the airport roundabout on the east side of town, and all the way back.  By my reckoning, it's almost exactly 3 miles one-way, and a small but noticeable vertical displacement.  Furthermore, I forced myself to start out at nothing faster than a 10min/mile pace, and was able to maintain that the whole way; my final time was 1:00:09.  A perfect 1 hour of running!  My first 10K!  I was very proud, and not at all exhausted afterward – just far hungrier than usual.

A Ganar paperwork, data entry, filing and sorting and retrieving files at work is getting pretty dull.  At six months out from Close Of Service, this is where the typical Volunteer begins to ask questions like, "Am I doing enough to support my NGO?" "Am I involved enough in my community?" and "Will my organizations be able to carry on the work I've done after I'm gone?"  As I suspect is the case with other Volunteers, I am reluctant to seek definitive answers to these questions, already aware of their likely outcomes.  Instead, I continue with the day-to-day and try to give myself something positive to look forward to on a regular basis, which feels like I'm ignoring the real meat of the problem sometimes.  I hope this doesn't come back to haunt me in job interviews...

You know, self-efficacy used to exude from me like sweat after a run (refreshing and natural, but borderline antisocial to some persons more stiff-necked than myself), but the combined experiences of switching my major of study, cancelling a wedding, and fruitlessly searching for a job for 18 contiguous months had effectively curbed that.  So it's been a nice change as of late to experience some reaffirmations of my potency: starting on Monday, when I was getting chatted-up by a very attractive local chick; then on Wednesday, when I achieved 100 pushups over 5 sets for the first time; then again Thursday, when I ran 6 miles uninterrupted for the first time; and lastly, I guess I should include last week's response to one of my applications that wasn't a rejection letter.  Aside: at what stage in my job search do I have to be to not be emotionally affected by typing that I'm receiving plenty of rejection letters right now?  The mature stage, or the jaded stage?  It feels like more of the former, so I'm going to stick with that.

Oh, and some people still don't understand why I was scared of E.T. growing up.  Those people can read this comic.

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

10 April 2012

Kittitian Tradition (or Shades of Awesome)

Another long Easter weekend come and gone – another chance to experience St. Kitts' more easygoing, more mellow holiday season of the year.  In stark contrast to the frenetic Carnival season at yuletide, the island's springtime-welcoming Eastertide traditions are all decidedly less demanding: flying kites and hiking to unique locations in the interior is the Kittitian pastime on Good Friday, set to the aroma of saltfish, dumplings, and mashed figs (green bananas).  Saturday and Sunday are spent in largely the same way, with hikes going up every morning and church services lasting about a half-hour longer than usual.  Then Monday sees the competitions in town, starting with the swim meets at the wharf, and followed in turn by the Greased Pole and Ham, the Pole Climb, as well as boxing matches that occur in a makeshift ring right there at the bus terminal, where beer and conkee is the fare of the day.

I got to make good on some of my own Easter traditions as well.  That is, I took part in the hike up to Dos D'Ane Pond (pronounced dieu dawn) on Friday, where due to my and a fellow volunteer's shared impatience with the tractor chartered to give our group of 50 a lift up to the trail head, we ended up hiking a good half-hour longer than everyone else.  This made for a total of 2.5 hours in to the rain-fed, natural pond at the peak of the ridge forming the spine of the island, and about 1.5 hours out.  Needless to say, I was completely spent after an elevation change of roughly 3000 feet in the space of 2.5 miles.  With Saturday to recuperate, and Sunday morning for church, I enjoyed my semi-annual visit to the Marriott on Sunday afternoon, where I took in all the sun, surf, and air-conditioning I could stand for an overnight stay.  Indeed, in the time when I'm so focused on identifying and developing skills that I can refer to in a job interview, I took a brief respite and worked on an altogether different skillset, like finding the ringing phone in a dark hotel room at 6:00 AM.

Getting back into the swing of things come Wednesday shouldn't be too trying, and I've really appreciated the time off from the usual routine.  I have a special coconut shrimp fry scheduled for this evening, where my cooking talents will be on full display for a gaggle of PCVs.  Wish me luck!

06 April 2012

Funnyquote Friday

As I mentioned, I started a job search late last month.  Since part of the payback for volunteering for the government of the United States for two years was that I would receive certain non-competitive statuses in my applications, I have been applying to public service jobs as well as private sector positions.  As such, I am using USAJobs.gov to guide my search for analyst openings, and in the process of filling out an application for one such opening, I stumbled across this little gem:

I learned something about myself yesterday: I could run a 10K in the shape that I'm in right now.  Even in high school, being a cross country runner, my training rarely ever exceeded running 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles, and as such I've never really pushed myself to try for greater distances.  But, bitten by the fitness bug recently, I took to running as far as I could yesterday morning, but slowing my usual breakneck pace down to a casual 10 min/mile.  You know what happened?  I ran as far as I could one way (which amounted to about 1.5 miles along a trail into the next village), turned around and ran back, then kept going for another 1/2 mile, and looped around and came back again – all while maintaining my starting jogging pace!  I wasn't even spent by the time I was finished!  Tired, a little, yes – but I believe capable of lasting another 20 minutes at that pace.  In fact, I'm going to test my theory one day next week, when I have an hour to spare in the morning.  I've never run 6.2 miles in one go before in my life, so if when it happens, I'll report back accordingly.

It's Easter break here already, which means I have today (Good Friday) off from work, as well as Easter Monday starting next week.  I learned this well from last year, as the reader might recall I did not know this going into the long weekend, and I ended up being the only one showing up for work on this day a year ago.  This year, however, I have my act together: as you read this, I'll be hiking in the interior rainforest, effectively combining some good sightseeing with getting in shape and spending time with some great people.  I might even take some good pictures, too.

Oh, and if you did not get a chance yet to check out the newest edition of the Serious Ting, please click the cover art to the left to be magically transported to an external website that allows for online viewing of periodicals and downloading in PDF.

02 April 2012

Schrödinger's Catalyst

You know why I don't like "putting myself out there?" Because it forces the issue.  It begs the question.  It demands a snap judgment.  And all too often those judgments of late have been "No," "Not interested," and "Look somewhere else."

When I'm faced with any situation with only two actual outcomes, particularly when one outcome is in my interest and the other is not, the first decision I must make is whether or not I want to get involved in the deciding – "putting myself out there" as it were.  But what I realize now is that if I had any reason to be confident in an outcome being favorable for me, it usually meant I could afford to be patient with the deciding, and refrain from involving myself in the goings-on.  The converse, then, being when the odds are not in my favor, tends to lead to a speedy denial of my good fortune.  This phenomenon, occurring several times this past week in various aspects of my life, has been a source of great frustration for me, since it seems like despite my greatest efforts to the contrary, nothing I do has any meaningful effect on the outcome of someone's decision – even when that decision is in regards to my fate.

My job search, for example, feels like scaling a 20-foot rock cliff with few, if any, handholds.  Looking up at it from the bottom is daunting and demoralizing.  I have no climbing gear.  I have no compatriots calling down to me from the top.  I have no guides giving me advice from the bottom.  The only thing I do have is a map of the suggested route to the top, but like all maps, it doesn't give feedback on whether or not my toils are amounting to real progress.  For that I have nothing but my eyes and my fear of looking back down to tell me where I stand.  Even my search for a mate parallels this metaphor with unpleasant precision.  Yet society demands that I keep trying, that I keep offering up my fate to others, regardless of how well-equipped they are to make such influential decisions.  Wouldn't this company be better with me at the helm of their internal financial controls?  Wouldn't that company?  Wouldn't this girl be happier having the loving support of a man who is sensitive to her feelings and needs?  The answer is almost always yes, and has been for those few who have tried, but until another risks taking me on, I float on a deep pond of indeterminacy, making no headway in any particular direction.

All this, to say nothing of the single worst scenario: being trapped somewhere in the middle of being selected and being rejected.  The ambiguity alone is enough to make one distrust every life truth he clung to before subjecting himself to the whim of another.  Do Human Resources reps not remember what is was like when they began to search for jobs?  The two weeks..... four weeks...... two months...... four months (?!) between first contacting a company and receiving a final decision from them is unnerving and, frankly, inhuman.  Do girls know how dejecting it feels to be calmly explained to that I'm not their "type," only for them to be whisked away by the next guy that comes along, often in my company? (Especially when that guy is the same guy... twice, three times, now four times running...)  I have to remind myself that I am subjected to a very specific (read: small) social environment down here in SKB, one that I will be relieved to have extricated myself from when the time arrives.  But until that happens, I take solace in just having a little apartment space all to myself, where no one else has sway over me.

An aural reader would say that I have a lot of negativity surrounding me right now, and I'm not exactly clear what I've done to invite that upon myself (apart from putting myself out there, which is already having a negative impact on my continued ability to do so).  Despite this, I find myself buoyed by some unseen force, preventing me from slipping into another depression like I was wont to do so often last year.  I credit this shield from disaster to the faithful prayers of my friends and family back home.  When I was struggling with my roller coaster of emotions last year, I discovered after the fact that my Sunday School class had disbanded previously.  Confident I was a frequent standby on the prayer requests list there, I was suddenly shown that I didn't have a SS family to lift me up on a weekly basis anymore, and I believe I felt the effects of that (or more precisely, felt no effects because of that).  Now, however, that has changed, and I want to thank everyone that continues to remember me in prayer – without your love and support, I would be an ineffectual basket case down here.  As it is, I'm at least a somewhat effectual basket case.