September is the month we start teaching. Today we heard about our pay. We get a living allowance of $1350 EC per month. This includes $24 US for travel and leave. We will get an amount equal to this to settle in on our island of assignment.
We also have been getting walking-around allowances of $10 EC a day. We received $100.00 in Dominica and $130 for St. Lucia. From what I hear the homestays have been getting $50 a day to take care of us. Madeline was talking about how she hasn’t gotten the rest yet.
In our handbook they have suggested percents for us in our budget. One thing I plan to do is save 10% in a savings account. We were told today that our pay would be placed in a checking account. Some volunteers said the checking did not earn interest so I plan on having a savings account for what I am not using.
We also get $200 per month as a readjustment allowance when we return to the states. Half of that I’ve asked to be placed in savings bonds.
It was hot and sweaty making it very difficult for me to sleep with all the sea water. I did get to brush my teeth before bed and wash a little bit. Because it was so hot, Madeline thought it was a sign of an earthquake or hurricane coming.
There have been two earthquakes since I came to the Caribbean. One was on July 12 while we were in a taxi coming from Melville Airport to Roseau. None of us felt it. The other was here on St. Lucia last week. It was in the middle of the night and although something woke me up, I am not sure it was the earthquake. I thought I felt the bed shake that night but again was not conscious enough to be certain.
The earthquakes may be related to St. Lucia’s volcanic activity which has increased recently and enough to change its status. Both St. Lucia and Dominica have volcanic activity and sulphur lakes but Dominica’s volcano is dormant, I think. This does not mean it is dead.
Either way I think the biggest concern is hurricanes. This concern will last until September.
I did not see any accidents today but did hear that yesterday’s accidents resulted in two deaths. Today was Sunday and it was a much quieter day.
To start the day Dave, Hugo, and I went to church. We met Catherine and Betty when we arrived at 7:30 mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The mass was much more typical of the mass at St. Hedwig’s [my church in Kingston, PA where I grew up] with the organ music and old white priest giving a mass shorter than the one in Grand Bay. Near the end of the mass David pointed out that there was a bat underneath my kneeler -right next to my foot. He pointed out later that there was a worm coming out of its head.
After church we ate breakfast, napped until noon, had lunch, and went to Vigie Beach. Catherine went along and while were there we saw Bill Gaynor, Carole, Brad, and Em.
When we arrived home we snacked, watched wrestling and Madeline getting excited over it. The water went off again today and returned barely near bed time.
Celebrations and relaxation occurred this weekend in the form of the “jump-up” and a picnic at the beach.
Last night David and I took a transport to a Texaco station to meet Mikki, Jay, and their homestay near where they lived. We then got another transport to Gros Islet’s “jump-up,” a party with music from huge stereos in the street and people selling food and drink. There were also some restaurant/bars that had their own music and enclosed dance floors. I impressed a few people with my dancing which was nothing too outstanding. I suppose I just exceeded their expectations.
The next day we left after 11AM for the Pigeon Point Beach above Gros Islet. The water was warm, clear, and beautiful. Madeline brought breadfruit salad which I had a small hand in preparing. I diced it and peeled some skin. The peeling was difficult for me with the knife.
Almost everyone was there. Bill Gaynor was not and David Matheny chose to explore the island. On the way back we saw two accidents on the highway.
Today in training we were warned about how rumors could bring us a separation if the rumors are about Peace Corps Volunteers using drugs. Richard Pyle explained this during his overview of policy in the Eastern Caribbean.
In addition to that and the creole lesson, we heard about the experience of a deaf Peace Corps volunteer, planning lessons in the EC, and we had to sing during our report on our language instruction. We sang the National Anthem of Dominica and a little ditty about how sweet Domnik is.
In the middle of all these activities Jay and I walked around town looking at all the stores. We went to an art gallery with all types of paintings about St. Lucia by St. Lucians. I bought two of the most expensive postcards ($1.50 EC).
Beside this nice, clean, organized gallery there are many other stores in St. Lucia. The supermarkets are well organized and products seem plentiful everywhere.
To celebrate the end of the week’s sessions a third of the PCVs went to the Pink Elephant for drinks. Most were Dominican.
Television is relatively new to the masses down here. More and more houses in the Caribbean have their own television in color with cable. They pay about $40 EC (approximately $16 US). However the price includes a movie channel like HBO or Showtime. Wrestling and Soap Operas are the most popular presentations.
“The Young and the Restless” and the CBS soaps that get shown are watched at the snackette near the Shillingford house in Grand Bay by everyone, young and old, male and female, in the nearby neighborhood. Wrestling gets watched by males and females. Mrs. Leathum was watching one night while we were at the house and seemed genuinely interested as if it were real. Everyone else there, Brad, Jay, and Mikki, laughed and I confessed that I was a fan. Mr. Shillingford also watched it when I was at his house and asked me about my favorite wrestlers. Mrs. Leathum said they’ve put on wrestling shows in Roseau. I don’t know who came. Jay told Mr. Leathum that it was fake when he asked Jay. Pat Klinger, a Dominican PCV, said they believe it is real because it is on TV.
Not about about my day in St. Lucia, but I did write at the top of the page: went to Vigie Beach.
My abilities at ironing must have improved since my homestay did not make me take them off so she could iron them. The rain from tropical storm Arthur kept the chickens quiet so I was able to sleep until 5:30 after a night of having trouble falling asleep due to anal itching. They have predicted three hurricanes this season. I hope Arthur is a failed one of the three.
After two bananas, toast, and guava juice we went off to a day of discussions not lectures on education in the E.C. After a lunch of an apple and guava juice (I threw away my sandwiches again), we learned some dirty words in patois. We also learned some dances and about common areas of stress. We were also treated to creole poetry and PSAs created by Felix.
We arrived home for a casserole dinner and “Days of Our Lives” which Mary Frann of “Newhart” was a character. Like many people, Mrs. Clauzel wondered why she watched soaps even though it seemed stupid sometimes.
For breakfast I would have loved to have eaten all of the damn chickens making noise outside my window at 5am. I read a chapter of Catch-22 and took a shower until it was time to eat. I ironed some of the wrinkles out of my pants but not enough to satisfy Mrs. Clauzel who made me take them off and ironed them for me before I left.
In addition to that she made us breakfast and our bag lunch. Breakfast was only toast and juice because unlike David, I passed on the egg. She made corned beef sandwiches which I didn’t eat. I only drank the juice and even passed on the mango.
After I drank the juice, I had my medical interview during which I confessed that I was not sexually active when asked what forms of contraceptives I used. My blood pressure was 110/60, told I was young and fit, and that I didn’t look my weight, 145 lbs.
In addition to that interview I also had one with Dick Pyle, Country Director, whose wife is best friends with Mikki Jarvis [I think that was my college Spanish professor]. He was very good at complimenting me and acknowledging my skills and abilities.
I slept on and off but overall pretty well until 5AM when Brad’s alarm clock went off. Don was in the shower again so I waited in line. I let Catherine use the toilet before I took my shower with some bug. Of course it was cold but it was a shower hose.
I went back to my room and used the sink to prepare for the day. I wore a wrinkled shirt, black pants, white socks, and my Reeboks. I forgot my toothpaste and had to wait for Brad to get up before I brushed my teeth.
After waiting a few moments, we had a breakfast of juice, coffee, and toast and loaded into the transport to the airport. We all made it on this time. We left late and had to get off the plane in Martinique.
While we were waiting for another plane, I bought water and a danish. It cost me about $3 US. I also paid for Don’s beer ($2 US) because he only had coins with which he paid me. We got back on the flight and took a 15 minute trip to St. Lucia where Felix was waiting.
We received our spending money and rode to the school where the training was. The others were on a scavenger hunt and we went off for refreshments.
After 12 we headed back to the school, listened to the results of the scavenger hunt for various cites in St. Lucia. We signed up for interviews and received T/D shots.
Following these activities we went for a walk and ate at “Flintstones.” I had chicken, bread, and lime juice. I had soursop ice cream for dessert which tasted just like Brad’s Passion Fruit ice cream which tasted just like vanilla.
The training session resumed with skits. Ours was the shortest and least telling of the trainees’ adventures in their countries. We also had an explanation for the creole training.
After training Dave Matheny and I were picked up by our Homestays for St. Lucia. They are a retired couple who lived in England many years. We got the chance to watch the Bush announcement of his Supreme Court nominee and had tuna for dinner.
The move to St. Lucia started with me removing clothes from the line. The clothes were extremely wrinkled after sitting in a hot washing machine during the afternoon. Frustrated, I ironed them and packed everything away.
After packing, we said our goodbyes to the Shillingfords, gave them our gift (Lennox Honeychurch’s Island Culture), and walked down for breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the Leathums and gave them their gift (a map of Dominica).
We finally picked up, got our suitcases and left for a spaghetti dinner at APCD MaryAnn Murray’s house. I met some more PCVs and RPCVs who returned to Dominica. Tony was working on a masters through Pitt and attended McDowell High School [where my niece and nephew went to school] since he was originally from Erie [PA]. His dad is in charge of hiring.
We left Trafalgar for the airport to catch our flight to St. Lucia. Two of the volunteers were bumped and eventually we were all bumped and taken to a guest house not far from Melville Hall Airport. We were given very beautiful rooms and a beautiful meal.
The meal was a choice of chicken, beef, or fish. I chose chicken. We were served in addition to the chicken, a dasheen puff, rice, carrots, lettuce, banana salad, a cucumber slice, and beets. For dessert I had fruit cake which was fresh and delicious.
After that the manager showed us the craft shop. They had hats like the one Catherine made Brad and Sue. However they charged $25 EC fro the hats. Although I liked the thermometer I decided to pass on souvineers [sic] and went to bed.