I am living with a 65 year old St. Lucian woman, whose two 30-something children (a son who is a welder, and her youngest daughter, who works at a bank) share her house. Her other daughter is married and lives nearby. That oldest daughter’s three year old child spends a lot of time here with his grandmother between when he gets out of pre-school and when his mom stops by after her job (as a high school teacher) to pick him up. He is a lot of fun!
I have moved into a small bedroom in the house (which luckily has wifi!). It is a nice home with cathedral ceilings that extend into all the rooms, which I think helps with the heat (I imagine that attics would get very hot, so why not just open up the ceilings to the roofline?). Air conditioning is rare here, so you just grow accustomed to the heat. The island of St. Lucia has also been dealing with drought conditions, which means that we all take bucket showers as well as other measures to conserve water.
My host mom is doing her best to teach me how to cook. I’ve tasted lots of new foods, such as breadfruit, crystaphen, dasheen, tamarind, etc. This is in addition to other tropical foods I was already familiar with, such as mangos, passionfruit, papaya, plantain, etc. She has a nice garden in the backyard with a huge breadfruit tree. She is a good cook and takes care of me quite well! For example, tonight she fixed what is called “one pot”—a soup comprised of salt pork, various garden vegetables, plantain, and dumplings, with passionfruit juice to drink.
We also spend a lot of time talking as she educates me on St. Lucian life and culture. We also have been watching the local news. Last night, the television news carried the story of the 32 new Reading Literacy specialists that have arrived and are now in training with the Peace Corps (plus, there are two short term Peace Corps Response members training with us for the first two weeks before they begin their special projects).
Our training group spends each day at the meeting hall in a town halfway up the mountains known as Babonneau. The training classes are “hard core”—in fact, it seems as if I am back in grad school. The training is intensive because we have a lot to learn to adequately perform our jobs with the Peace Corps. It covers the literacy program we are here to do, as well as cross-cultural, medical, security, language, and other issues. We must pass a test at the conclusion to be sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers.
There are six of us new Peace Corps trainees living in a small village near the top of a mountain. Although it is not visible from my home, some of my colleagues have a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside spreading out below and then the sea beyond. The land here is beautiful!
The other 26 trainees are spread out in other locations in and around Babonneau. Since we live above Babonneau, three of us have been walking to our training facility in the coolness of the morning, and then taking the local bus back up the steep, windy road at the end of the day. It provides an opportunity to get some exercise, while also taking in the lush scenery of the area. It takes about 25 minutes to make the walk. Then, on the way home, we get some practice using the main method of transportation here—the local bus system (which is really just vans with a special green “M” license plate).
This time one week ago, I was in Morgantown, West Virginia. It is still hard to believe that I am now living on this Caribbean island! Also, at this time last week I had not yet met what are now my 32 best friends—all of whom are amazing! The next two years are going to be very interesting!
[The pictures below were taken at the end of our driveway. The first looks over at our house, while the second looks up the street (showing the mountaintop plus a local bus passing by), and the third looks down the street.]