September 2, 2003
Well, I made it through my first few days of "cultural integration" and tomorrow I head back out to be with the other trainees for two days. I'm realizing that the theory of going out and getting to know your community and the people in the town and actually doing just that are quite different. It's tough to just head out and start chatting with peole in town that you absolutely don't know. I'm obviously quite different so they're checking me out and think I'm a little funny looking already and then I just start chatting. I had high expectations for myself that I'd go out and start making friends right away. I got pretty discouraged and then realized that it is just going to take time. I called my Franka (my island director) to chat with her about it and she was quite encouraging and let me know that if all I do this week is observe behavior and people that that is plenty of "work". Whew! The other thing that really was tough was all the cat calls and hissing and "Hey white girl, hey beautiful". I had heard about this a lot during training, seen videos on how to deal with it, had discussions and thought I was prepared. But it really was tough on Monday. I think it is just a big cultural difference. That's really common behavior here and it is well-accepted. But not knowing the guys, or how to deal with it or what they were thinking about me made me feel pretty vulnerable and powerless which was not fun. I met up with a few of the other volunteers who have been here for a year that evening and was able to chat with them a while about it and that was really helpful.
Another interesting thing for me today was chatting with my host mother about the Grenadian revolution and American involvement back in 1983. She had been telling me that Grenada is “an island of conflict”—going way back to the French and British fighting for it. From what she told me, there was the revolution in 1979 that overturned the gov’t. (They became independent in 1974.) At that time, a largely communist government came into office. I asked her opinion of that government and she said that she really liked the programs that the gov't did. They did more from 1979 until 1983 then has happened since. Built a whole new airport built schools, established a lot of programs. But the downside was that anyone who spoke out against it could be and was imprisoned. Not good. Cuba was evidently a large supporter of the gov't. In 1983, there was internal rebellion and that’s when the US “invaded” (she said some people call it intervened, but she calls it invaded) to “restore” a parliamentary govt. And, not too surprisingly then left and did nothing to continue the work or set up programs, assistance. Anyway, that’s just one Grenadians version, but I’m anxious to find out from others. I do know that there’s quite a number of eastern Caribbean students who still go to Cuba to study at their university. I'm anxious to talk to more Grenadians about it and get a feel for how they're feeling about it.
On a technical note, I'm having a hard time getting photos downloaded. The connection here is pretty slow and they contain a lot of data. I just got online last night from the home, so hopefully I'll at least get these journals posted.