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August 31, 2003

Greetings from Grenada! I arrived here safely yesterday morning. We had a 6:30 flight out of Castries. After stopping in Barbados and St. Vincent, our plane landed safely about 9:30am in St. George's, Grenada. The seven trainees(including myself) were all craning and straining to try to get a bird's eye view of our new home for the next two years. The island is hilly and even has some mountains that reach 2,700 feet (still only half way to Denver!). We were greeted at the airport with signs and cheers from 12 of the other 14 volunteers currently serving on Grenada along with our APCD (Peace Corps loves acronyms--Associate Peace Corps Director) for Grenada, Franka. She is a native Grenadan and has been working with the Peace Corps in various roles for a number of years. She seems very supportive, kind and light-hearted. We had all gotten to know her (and the other island APCD's) in St. Lucia, so it was good to see a "familiar face". After loading all our luggage onto the bus (there's was significantly more now more, due to mosquito nets, med kits and a number of books and binders), we went to the Peace Corps office in St. George's with the other volunteers. We got a chance to talk to them and hang out for a bit, although the 7 of us kind of looked like zombies from the shock of the new things, but more importantly, the average of 3 hours of sleep we had all gotten in the night before. The other volunteers been here anywhere from 3 months to a year. They all seemed cool and full of energy and excitement that the new group had arrived. I think we will have dinner with them next week, but are not supposed to hang out with them too much in the near future as we're trying to establish ourselves in our community. We were sent off to our homestay families in the early afternoon. I am staying with a famliy in the city of Greville. Liz and Dunbar Peters have 3 kids. Junior (15) and Dee (18) live at home. Their oldest son (24) attending university in Cuba. I've met quite a few young people in the Caribbean who go to school there. I've heard it explained that the island nations need all the help they can get and have gotten assistance from Cuba in the past (including having their airport in St. George's built) and so maintain good relations with them. Liz is a primary school teacher and Dunbar owns a nearby "shop". It's kind of a rum bar/convenience store combined. There's a bar counter where you can get beer, rum, etc. Behind the counter are shelves stocked with the essentials like motor oil, baby formula, soap, hot sauce, ketchup, diapers, etc. Pretty random. You can also get some of his fried chicken or a hot dog. Mostly it's a place where people come in and "lime". Liz is very nice AND a fish-eating vegetarian herself, which I was psyched to find out. Yesterday when I arrived, I had some lunch and took a big fatty nap to try to catch up on that lost night of sleep. When I got up, we drove into Grenville (although it's only like 10 blocks). We got some ice cream (nutmeg flavor, from Grenada, the spice island!) and walked around the town. Grenville is basically two one way streets just off the waterfront. Downtown is probably about 8 city blocks by 4 city blocks, from what I can tell. There's a small supermarket, an outdoor market on the weekends, a police station, a few schools, churches and a lot of small shops and bars (oh yeah and 1 movie theatre!). On the weekends, Grenville turns into a young people's pick up joint. The streets were packed with 15-25 year olds just hanging out. Lots of energy, music, street food, etc. After the tour of the night life, we went to Liz's sister for a visit and then over to the shop to meet my host dad and to have a Carib (local brew!, good but it's NOT Fat Tire!). I crashed in bed last night and this morning got up with them and went to a 7:30 mass. We just had spicy fish omelettes for breakfast and I think we're going to the beach for a while after lunch. There's a beach about 2 minutes from where I am, but Liz says she usually goes a bit further away. My actual "assignment" is still a bit vague which I think it will be for a while. Like I said in the last journal, I have been assigned to work with in the Parish of St. Andrew's (where Grenville is) and will be working with a special ed school here. From what I understand, it is for kids who need more than a public school can offer, so I'm assuming there are kids who have mental and physical impairments, but I still don't know the exact population. I have heard really good things about the principal of the school from volunteers and people in Grenville already. We drove by the school yesterday and I was pretty surprised. It looks like it is about 6 rooms and is not in great shape. I'm anxious to go in and see what it is like. Evidently there was another volunteer who just finished service here before who had a very good experience which is encouraging, but also makes me a bit nervous about having to live up to expectations and about being able to create this as my own experience. Monday and Tuesday of this week, I will be here in Grenville and have assignments like making a community map, with the major landmarks, checking out bus routes, reading the local newspaper, interviewing someone of interest in the community and begin reading about needs assessments. On Wednesday, the 6 other trainees and I will gather at a retreat spot near here and have training as a group for Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, we will be doing things like visiting the safehouse (volunteer homes identified in case of hurricane/civil unrest,etc.), opening bank accounts, visiting the market, etc. Next Monday afternoon, we will be having a workshop with our community partners and then on Tuesday and Wednesday we will be back at the retreat center for training. If all goes well, we will be swearing in as official US Peace Corps volunteers on Friday, Sept. 12. Well, I think that's all the news for now. I love getting all your e-mails and hopefully will have a bit more time and opportunity to answer a lot of them these next few weeks. I have a new mailing address which is on my home page. Happy Labor Day to you all!