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February 8, 2004

Happy Grenadian Independence Day!

Grenadians celebrated 30 years of independence from Britain yesterday, February 7. In celebration, the country was painted in their national colors of red, green and yellow. Flags, banners, balloons, bunting, t-shirts and clothing created a sense of pride and festivity. Independence originally came with mixed emotions because the country was under the rule of Prime Minister Geiry in 1974. That period was viewed by some as overly oppressive and by others as what the country needed. 30 years later, those memories are still fresh and can taint the celebration. However, most Grenadians seemed to put those feelings aside and welcome the day. The motto for this year was "Grenada - recognizing our worth, celebrating our achievements, exploring new frontiers".

On Thursday, the St. Andrew's RC School had a Independence Gala and Exhibition for the children, parents and community. The purpose was to celebrate all the wonderful things about Grenada, including agricultural products, songs, stories, traditions, artwork and inventions. All the children were encouraged to wear the national colors instead of their uniforms. The result was an ocean of bright colors that added to the festive mood. Some children also dressed up as different folk characters that are part of traditional Grenadian lore. The products on exhibit included fruits and vegetables as well as locally prepared dishes and sweets. A local artist that collects antique tools and other artifacts had set up a display for the children. He had lumber saws, mortar and pestels, cassava presses and a variety of others. The children participated in traditional dance and song as well as more contemporary carnival traditions. I left there impressed by the vibrancy of Grenadian traditions and the pride the children, teachers and community took in their home country.

On Saturday morning I made my way over the the national stadium in St. George's for the national parade and celebration. The event involved many of the uniformed groups in Grenada. They were all out in their dress uniform and made an impressive display. Participating were groups such as the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), the prison guards, the coast guard, women members of the RGPF, the RGPF band, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Also in the parade were members of the Taiwanese dance troupe. Taiwan and Grenada have a close relationship that is largely a result of financial support given in exchange for political recognition. Hey, you got to get the help where you can! In attendance at the celebration were the various dignitaries including the new US ambassador in Barbados (who I got to meet at a reception earlier in the week) as well as ambassadors from about 10 other countries. The groups participated in a lot of marching and other fanfare on the field including a cannon/gun salute. While the groups marched out and paraded along the coastal road, a plane flew by and dropped 5 paratroopers. There was palpable anticipation as the crowd watched them maneuver closer and closer to the stadium. Everyone cheered with each landing in the stadium. Unfortunately we only got to celebrate 4 times as the 5th landed outside in the car park (Grenadian for parking lot).

On another subject, last week I volunteered (can volunteers volunteer?) at a Special Olympics training here in Grenville. Special Olympics Grenada is in the process of being revived by a board including a few special ed teachers, one PCV and a few other community members. So far, we are only having athlete training events as participating in competitions would involve inter-island travel. There were about 40 athletes participating and we had a great day. The athletes got to pracice their skills in football (soccer), bocce ball and athletics (long jump, shotput, etc.). There were about 5 other PCVs volunteering as well as a majority of the staff at St. Andrew's School for Special Education.

As far as day to day life, things are going well. I'm still visiting schools on a daily basis and getting to know the children and teachers better every day. Last week I spoke at 2 PTA meetings about study tips for home. Both times I was introduced as "Sister Sara". I attribute it to the complexity of pronouncing my last name more than anything, but I appreciated the affection of the term. This school term (the 2nd of 3) is largely centered around school sports and often takes over instruction. Between that and the school independence celebrations, I'm not sure February will be the most productive month, but I'll keep hoping! I hope this finds you all well and warm!