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August 24, 2003

Well, one more week of training done! This past week has gone significantly quicker. Not everything is feeling "new" now which helps the body and mind in processing what's going on around you. The routines of the day are starting to settle in as well and that helps. One thing I added onto my routine a few times last week was catching the bus that comes near school and riding down into town to Chock beach. It's small, but close and perfect for cooling off after a long day. If I can have that be any part of my routine for the next two years, I think I'll do fine! Seriously though, it is nice because some of the days are getting pretty long. I forgot what it is like to have to sit all day (especially at school where I rarely sat!). The information they're giving us is good, but it is very theoretical at this point and sometimes takes a lot of energy to motivate and understand. We have had some really good sessions though about religion of the area, issues in the workplace, our roles as a volunteer and a youth panel giving their perspective of St. Lucia.
All in all, the last two weeks have been helpful, but I'll be glad to move on to my island and have the training be more community-based. Speaking of islands...we all had interviews on Saturday morning with one of the island directors. They asked us pretty general things like, do you prefer a rural or urban setting, what are your strengths/challenges, what do you thing will be toughest about your adjustment, what kind of support system will you need, etc. Pretty basic. Evidently, the island directors all get together and work on placing us as a team where they feel we will be the best fit. There's about 60 spots and 40 trainees. I did find out that there are no special ed volunteers on Antigua right now, so that's off the list! We will find out on Thursday afternoon what our placement will be and a brief bit about our job. I've heard though that even when we find out our placement, there's still a lot of unknowns. If I was becoming a master of patience and flexibility before leaving, I think I am now becoming master of being OK with ambiguity! Speaking of special education. I've found out a little about what's going on here for kids, and it's not much. Kids with mild disabilities (LD, etc.) are serviced in their public schools, if at all. There is no legislation at all mandating special services and their at a pretty basic level of helping teachers identify what kids might have an LD and how to help them in the classroom. The educational system down here is very test-driven and kids who don't pass a test don't get to go onto secondary school. There are no testing modifications either. The other day we were in class at the secondary school and heard a girl just bawling--so loud that I though surely there had been some tragedy in her family or something. We laster found out that the girl had just found out she failed two subjects on her exams. As far as services for kids with more severe disabilities, there seems to be very little. There are some privately run "schools" that were started by parents, but I've not heard great things about them. More similar to an institution than a school I think. Many kids live at home and just don't attend school. Louisa was telling me about one little boy who has parapalegia and is in a wheelchair. His uncle used to drive him every day, but can't anymore and so he is not able to attend school. I know that this is the circumstance in a lot of countries, but it really hits you when you're living it...
I have had a chance to do some pretty fun things too. There was a local community theatre production of "Sarafina" that a group of us went to on Friday night. It is a musical about a school in South Africa in the late 70's. The music, dancing and energy! on stage was wonderful. What a super way to spend the evening. On Saturday, I attended a wedding with Louisa, Linsley and her brother. It was similar to weddings in the states in a lot of ways but using about 1/100th of the budget of most weddings. Today, I went down to Soufrie in the south west part of St. Lucia with another volunteer and his family. We saw the Pitons, which are two huge pointed mountains on the coast. We also went and took a "bath" in the hot sulphur springs. Afterwards, we had a mini-tour of Soufrie visiting their family. Lots of down time and relaxing and "going with the flow" today, but it was nice.
I'll try to update this site again Friday when I find out where I'm going and what I'll be doing! Check out the pictures I put up as well!