What am I doing with my life? In a nutshell: a lot more than my homebody self was doing a couple months ago. I want to write a little bit about the extracurriculars that I’ve been up to for the last few weeks.
My host family has been so great. They have been happy to hang out with me and let me have free time as well. My host mom likes to have a rest day on Saturdays, and hang out with me on Sundays. This allows me to have some time to explore the island both with my family and with my fellow trainees.
The first Sunday, I went to church with my host family, and my fellow trainee who is technically my host cousin. I wasn’t struck by lightening upon entering, so that was a good sign. They are Evangelical Christians, which is very similar to the Methodist church I attended when I was in middle school. Don’t ask me what the specific differences are, because I couldn’t tell you. They sang the same songs though. The style of the sermon was very different. A lot more… spirited. There was a lot of leaning over the podium, shaking fingers, and yelling at the congregation. It was interesting to see. They also did a special Father’s day event where they gave all the fathers in the congregation a gift. It was very nice. It seems like there was an emphasis on how many fathers here don’t stick around, so it’s important to remember the heavenly Father. It was nice though that they showed the fathers present how important they are. It made me miss my dad.
My second church experience was this past Sunday. I didn’t go to the service in the morning because I had committed myself to going to a memorial service in the afternoon. A relative of my host family had passed away at his home in the states last week. The service was held at a Jehovah’s Witness hall. It was very similar to services I have been to in the states. Just a lot more God-centric. It seemed like more of an opportunity to gain new followers rather than to remember the deceased. They did share a couple anecdotes about the gentleman who had passed, but no one from his family spoke, which is one difference from a service in the U.S.. I also didn’t see any tears. Since that was my first experience here, I’m not sure whether or not that was an anomaly. After the service, we went to the daughter’s home and had refreshments. It seemed like the whole neighborhood showed up for the food.
I’ve spent quite a few days at the beach during the last few weeks. The first weekend, the trainees had to meet at our consolidation point. That is where we will go if there is a hurricane or other disaster. After we all navigated our way down to the consolidation point (my first time using the public busses), we went into the capital city of Castries for a scavenger hunt. We had to find various landmarks and items around the city. We kind of rushed through it, because after 9 days here, we were desperate for a beach day. We got to Rodney Bay and had such a great day. I got my inaugural sunburn, and swam around in the gorgeous turquoise waters all day. This place isn’t run by the questionable rules present in California, so we were able to get drinks at the bar and bring them right down onto the beach. There are no open container laws here. On that note, you can also drink at 16 apparently, so make of that what you will.
On the Sunday of that weekend, I went to Pigeon Island with my host family and another trainee. There is an old fort on Pigeon Island that traded hands many times between the French and English when they were the colonial powers in the region. We swam around all afternoon. At one point, a torrential tropical shower swept through. We kept swimming as the clouds emptied on us. It was a really cool experience.
I went again to the beach with the other trainees the following weekend. We found a big, beautiful, coral colored starfish. A couple of us swam into the deep water where the yachts are anchored. We swam around and talked to a few people on their boats. We met some really nice guys from Martinique, who only spoke French. One of them swam back to the beach with us for a drink at a little hole-in-the-wall beach bar that we love. The local beer is a little over a dollar a bottle, which is good for our low budgets.
We went, as a group, to the beach again on the 4th of July. We celebrated with sunshine and later a BBQ at another host family’s home. It wasn’t fireworks and burgers, but it worked us. We danced and ate and had an awesome time.
Last Sunday, we hiked Gros Piton, one of the famous cylindrical mountains that rises out of the St. Lucian coast. The hike was a once in a lifetime experience, mostly because I would be happy to have that be the last time I hike it. The way up is brutal, to say the least. The trail is so rocky that you have to keep your eyes on your feet to keep from twisting an ankle (which someone from another group did on the way down). It is also incredibly steep, with tall, shallow steps made out of roots, stones and an occasional board. We were using our hands to crawl up the stairs like babies. I was clinging to every root, tree, or handrail I could find. The summit was, as summits always are, completely worth it. We felt like we were up in the clouds. We had a great view of about half the island as well as the Petit Piton to the North.
After an even more difficult trek back down, we stopped in Soufriere for linner. I had a chicken roti, which is one of my favorite things to eat here. We also stopped at a little place called Plas Cassav, which makes really excellent cassava bread. (I have tried so many new foods; I’ll have to do another food post soon)
In a nutshell: a party in the street. A jam, if you will. This happens in Gros Islet on friday nights, and it’s a good time. There are street vendors, dancing, a DJ, and fun had by all.
I got to go to my host sister’s dance recital. It was a bunch of girls doing everything from ballet to modern dance to traditional african dances. We started on island time (about 45 minutes late). The girls did a really nice job. They were adorable in their big group dances,and you could see the pride on their parents faces. Some things don’t change between cultures.
It hasn’t been all fun and games, we have also been working very hard in training. The process has been full of ups and down, and I’m hesitant to reflect on it too deeply until I have some time to distance myself from it and get a little perspective. We find out our islands in a week from Friday. Wherever I may end up, I really don’t feel like I’ll lose. I’m just excited to find out whom I will be with. I’ve gotten closer with the trainees in the month we’ve been together than I ever thought possible. It’s reassuring to know that we’re in this together.