24 August 2012

Funnyquote Friday

As I mentioned, I went to church last Sunday, where, during the Parish Notices segment (i.e. announcements), I was treated to this gem:  "Thanks to all the parishioners that donated to the youth fund drive...

"The vouchers you received, redeemable at Walgreens or Wal-Mart, are a token of our appreciation."

This unironic blurb earned a chuckle from the congregation that morning.  There are, of course, no Walgreens or Wal-Marts on island, and it's likely that the closest they could be found would be in Puerto Rico, a US$200 flight on LIAT from here.

Well, Tropical Storm Isaac did pass by here, waving his arrival on the Atlantic/windward side of the island, and waving his departure on the Caribbean/leeward side.  As I am on a hill facing the Caribbean Sea to the south, the brunt of the northern reaches of the storm hit my side of the island around 4:00-6:00 P.M. on Wednesday.  But being high up on a hill and also on the first floor of an apartment building, I have the best of both worlds: no flooding at all.  And even a full day later, the Caribbean Sea is still swollen, with waves buffeting the Bay Road in Basseterre relentlessly, washing up silt, sand, and kelp right onto the road.

No real news with regards to projects; it's slow going with the TRI website, but I expect to have things a little bit clearer come Tuesday of next week, when I am scheduled for my second meeting with our representative from the ICT Department.  That's it for now – here's looking forward to a productive weekend.

21 August 2012

Keys to the Kingdom

I'm just going to leave this here...

This is the surprise gift basket that the UWI Project Coordinator in charge of the Smart Moves Strategy Board Games Summer Camp sent to my home yesterday.  Allow me to emphasize that this was a complete shock; she had requested directions to my house, ostensibly to send me a thank you gift, but I was envisioning something along the lines of a book or the long-lost Chess Display Board – nothing of this caliber.  And considering that I've been feeling under the weather the last few days, this came at an absolutely ideal time: I don't feel up to going out and grocery shopping, I can stock up on fresh fruits to combat this fever, and we are expecting a tropical depression to visit us in the next day or so.  (Barring power outages, I'll keep readers informed of the status here in the northeastern Caribbean.)

I went to church Sunday.  It was the first time in some months.  I've been having trouble reconciling God's plan for my life with my job search situation (sound familiar?).  The brass tacks of it all, and the part I have to come to grips with, is that whatever next step God has for me may not be revealed until the eleventh hour.  There is some precedent for this in my life, and so I would do well to keep the faith that, like He did this time over two years ago, He will have a next stepping stone waiting for me when it comes time to take that step.  With no clear vector from where I am standing, however, the reader will understand why it is so hard to stay positive in light of the prospect of time forcing me off my stone right into the river below. 

I'm working on the website for The Ripple Institute.  The ICT Department uses a rather sophisticated open source content management system called Drupal, which is more useful for corporate enterprise management of multiple websites and entities than setting up a simple non-profit web portal.  But the upside is that I am forced to sit down and learn a wholly different (and rather elaborate) system for creating an attractive and suitable website using software whose tenets will undoubtedly be transferable into whatever design work I find myself doing in the next phase of my life.  As for the website itself, though, I am exhausted by merely the prospect of having to plan out each of the 20+ different pages that will make up the core of the website, going through and (with no known shortcuts yet) creating and populating each one by hand.  What with the construction on the new house going up just a matter of yards from where I'm sitting at home, I feel a small connection to the 'locked workers toiling in the heat: they are building a house from the ground up, and I am constructing a website from the ground up.  And while one job is more physically taxing, both are equal parts invigorating and exhausting.  I'm just pleased to actually be working on something substantial after all this time of waiting on the ICT, to be honest.

Lastly, this is the link to the radio program that aired on Sunday at 2:30 on WINN FM.   It's called "Perfect Day" and my friend Dodd hosts the approximately 45 minute show.  To listen, just load the embedded player below.  Enjoy!

10 August 2012

Funnyquote Friday

On a date a couple Wednesdays ago, I impressed a girl with my knowledge of Caribbean cultural tropes and expressions enough to warrant the comment,

"I never met a White boy who could stroopes before."

For the uninitiated, stroopes is the act of one person, as they say here, "kissing his teeth."  That is, it's a common singular oral gesture, used when expressing discontent or distaste of something or someone.  It's usable in largely the same situations that Americans might say "Pssh!" or something to that effect.  It rings synonymous with expressions of "I can't believe it!" or "The utter gall!"

I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on the important aspects of closing out my term of service.  Yes, I'm carefully getting through my necessary medical clearances; yes, I'm considering all the possibilities of what I might be doing when my term of service ends, scheduled for October 18th; but even so I wonder if I'm doing enough to put my respective institutions in a place for them to sustain the work that I put in place without my presence here.  As so many of the Volunteers getting ready to leave will tell you, this simple answer is usually "no."  That reality sinking in even as time slips away from me, in conjunction with a few pervasive distractions, some pleasant and some not, serves to sap my strength and motivation away from what should rightfully be the most significant and memorable three months of my entire term of service.  Instead, the uncertainty of what I will be doing following my term of service is stifling, and the ambiguity of what good I could be doing now for my organizations with the limited time I have left is disheartening.

08 August 2012

A Glance Back Over the Shoulder

I'm spending part of today working on my Description of Service, the official government record of my activities here in St. Kitts.  It's simple enough to take the complete but concise overview of each project of mine from the trimesterly Volunteer Report Forms I've submitted before, but adding in the quantitative and qualitative impact into each item – that's a little tougher.  Furthermore, neither making it fit into a more or less standardized form nor limiting that to at most three pages is consistent with my natural writing tendencies.  Not that I'm strictly concerned; I just want the official standard record of my service here to be clear and complete.  And like this blog, the usual way that I ensure both standards are met is to overcompensate on thoroughness and repetition. (You're welcome.)

I've had occasion to tell others about the work I did at the Smart Moves Strategy Board Game Summer Camp, and whenever I do, I'm always inclined to rank it as among the most rewarding work that I've had the privilege to undertake in my term of service.  So much so, in fact, that I volunteer my own willingness to have a go at it again, though likely not in a similar camp setting.  Fortunately, my secondary attachment at The Ripple Institute gives me the opportunity to do exactly that, with the blessing of my IPP already.  Whether or not I will personally be around to lead instructional classes on Chess or manage a local chess club, I can certainly hand off my lesson plans for each of the days I taught at camp to another qualified individual.

I've been asked by a local friend of mine to appear on his radio show on Sunday.  I'm to prepare notes on what I would like to do on My Perfect Day: no expense barred, no location too distant, and (shockingly) no time-space continuum interference.  So for the hour broadcast, I will get to talk about how I would spend an 8 hour period seeing all my favorite time periods from history, with three meals unfettered by the bounds of reality, and set to whatever soundtrack I desire.  Quite the open-ended question!  I've already got some ideas, but I don't want to spoil them here in the event I am able to acquire a recording of the broadcast - I'll certainly keep everyone posted on that.  In the meantime, a new Funnyquote is expected on Friday.  I can't wait!

06 August 2012

It's Over 9000!!!

I really did enjoy the Chess camp so much that I have come to realize that it is something I would like to do again – not necessarily in a camp setting, but certainly with children of roughly that same age group as a sort of extracurricular activity at a school.  I keep falling back on the Saddleback Knights  youth chess organization that visited my elementary school once a week and taught me the baseline strategy wherein my life's pursuit of stronger Chess has been grounded.  It was my great pleasure to be able to transfer all the things I learned from those before-school sessions in 4th and 5th grade unto this group of youngsters.  Their willingness to learn was, of course, all the difference, and I hope that kind of buy-in could be expected in other settings as well.  But until the time I find out, I have these pictures to remind me of a successful first attempt:

My cubbyhole of a classroom.  Thankfully I was away from the hubbub of the other students.
Day 1 practice.  The students had just learned how pieces move for the first time.
Day 2 instruction: Check, Checkmate, Stalemate, and Castling.
One of my most promising students.  I hope she has the opportunity to continue practicing after this summer.
Some haggling over end-of-session rewards may have taken place.
Day 5 final group – we were all a little reluctant to leave that day.
The glazed expression on everyone's countenance bespeaks of an exhausting week, but also rewarding!
Today is a work holiday in St. Kitts, probably honoring Nevis's Culturama weekend, which is its mid-summer Carnival.  It has its own jump up (read: J'ouvert) and everything, but it tends to be significantly smaller celebration than St. Kitts' own winter bacchanalia.  I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing Culturama myself, but two SK Carnivals is probably enough for me anyway – I'm not concerned that I'm missing out on anything.

And lastly, a big "Thank You!" for everyone that has followed along with my blog for the last two years; yes, here on the two-year anniversary of Chris in the Eastern Caribbean, I'm thrilled to say that we finally reached my goal of over 9000 pageviews!  So, as per my promise, here is a special surprise to commemorate the achievement:

03 August 2012

Funnyquote Friday

As you may know, I've been heading up the Chess instruction at the Smart Moves Strategy Board Game Summer Camp at the University of the West Indies open campus this past week.  This morning I return for day 5 with the 20+ 10-12 year old kids from the greater Basseterre, and pray that I don't lose my voice from all of the talking, whispering, and shouting that I've done over the last five days.  And despite the kids' anticipated rambunctiousness, I've found that, on average,
  • 50% of the students really love the game of Chess, get excited about learning something new, and look forward to Chess class every day
  • 25% look on it as more than a game: the allure of the deeper meanings in Chess and the desire to become a stronger player is in their eyes
  • and 25% are more or less ambivalent, content to come to class and play with the others, but not particularly enthralled about the advent of Chess as a hobby
A funny practical offshoot of dealing everyday with all three groups of students (usually in the same class) is that they all relate to me differently.  The top-performing 25% hang on my every word, and often seek out my attention for things that only loosely require it.  Furthermore, when a student from this subgroup happens to be a girl, (recall, this is the 10-12 year old range) they are oftentimes unabashedly seeking my attention more fervently than is, perhaps, appropriate.  Take, for example, when one girl took notice of my hair, and at one point reached out, uninvited, and grasped my (now relatively long) goatee, saying "I like your hair and all –

"But this... this has to go."

It's been a very rewarding week for me, as you might expect, and equally exhausting.  Even as I write this in anticipation of the day's events, I can't fathom yet another 8 hours with the students.  That said, I have been duly blessed by their cooperation and buy-in to my Chess teachings, particularly the ones that have taken off on their own and seek to challenge themselves further.  I look forward to trying out a possible mini-tournament, every hour on the hour for the four students at a time that I am hosting in the Chess classroom.  I'll let the readers know how that goes with my post next week.

Well, it must be hurricane season again, because we're already starting to get alerts for possible hazardous storm systems coming up from the Atlantic.  The first big one that is approaching is predicted to pass South of us, though as we know oftentimes the storms tend to gravitate North when they approach the chain of Lesser Antilles.  Still, as I was telling others, I would welcome the excitement of a little mini-hurricane: it would be the first one I've experienced since living in my own apartment.  But I don't want to jinx myself either, of course.