September 20, 2003
Week 6 (wow!) has been a good one for me. I'm half way through my home stay and am starting to feel more and more settled here in Grenada. My family is great and I feel very comfortable here. There's times when I feel fortunate to have people around to connect with, ask questions of, seek information from and laugh with. At the same time, there are times when I feel anxious to have my own space. I found out about one place for rent this week and checked it out on Monday. It is in an area that is about 15-20 minute walk from downtown Grenville. The family that owns it lives nearby and has usually rented it to volunteers in the past. It is a two bedroom place with a nice porch and a big kitchen. It's quite possible that my entire living room and kitchen on Downing St. would fit in the kitchen. I'm not sure what I'd do with all the space. There is another apartment for rent closer to town also that I am going to try to check out this week. It seems a bit ridiculous for me to have that much space, but the options for renting are limited and I want to make sure that I feel safe in the area and place that I rent, especially being new (and obvious at that). Both are affordable with my monthly allowance and so it is just a matter of weighing the pros and cons as it always is when apartment hunting.
On Monday of this week, I went into the school to observe and help out and was able to talk to Mirthlyn (the principal) and clarify my role even further. She envisions my role as being an "outreach coordinator". My primary responsibilities (for now) will be to coordinate home visits and programming with some families from the special ed school and to help coordinate resource programs within the 4 Grenville-area primary schools (plus one more primary school a bit further away). On Friday, Mirthlyn and I went to meet with the four primary schools. They were all eager to meet and get the help--all 4 saw the need, which is a good start! My main goal was to find out what their school population is like and what their identified needs are. I also wanted to discuss ideas about how I could best be used in their school. With each school, I discussed ideas such as using peer or parent volunteers, doing parent training, teacher training, providing remedial support and facilitating a teacher study group. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, all 4 schools identified different areas of need. One school (the poorest in the area) really wants me to work with their kindergarten and 1st grade teachers to provide training in support in early intervention. In addition, the ministry of education has sent someone a couple times a year to do some practical early intervention training with the parents. They talk about things like having the kids play with dumpling dough at home to increase fine motor skills or simply having the kids identify numbers on cards. Very simple learning activities that these parents aren't familiar with. Evidently these classes were one of the few well-attended events by parents and they've requested more of them. I was quick to offer to help in continuing these. Another school really would like to focus on reading strategies for their students and already has one teacher who is willing to help co-facilitate this study group. The other two really liked the idea of a study group as well and letting the group dictate the needs and areas of focus. I have meetings next week at each of the schools to briefly talk with the teachers and find out who is interested in participating. All of the principals agreed (as did I) that it is best to get volunteers rather than make it mandatory. Mirthlyn and left the last school in the morning and both expressed how excited we were about how the morning went. She said that she's seen this need for so long and is so excited that it's finally starting to get addressed. I know it's going to be a lot of work and there will be times of frustration ahead for sure, but for now, I'm just riding this excitement.
On Tuesday of this week, we had an "agricultural" field trip where we visited a nutmeg processing plant, an organic banana farm and had a picnic at the beach with some "Oil Down" (Grenadian national dish) for lunch. It is a stew of sorts with dumpling, vegetables, green banana (non-ripe ones, used for cooking), fish and a great collection of spices. Yum. The organic banana farm is a pilot project by the ministry of agriculture which is apparently doing quite well. Evidently, the banana farmers down here are struggling because, although their bananas are great quality, they aren't able to produce enough quantity to compete with the mass-producing countries and companies (like Chiquita). This organic farm has allowed them to tap into a different market (the Boulder hippie crowd!) and do quite well.
The other exciting thing I've mastered this week is how to make it down to Bathway Beach. It involves a couple busses, meeting up with a friend and flagging down a ride (aka hitchhiking, which all Grenadians assure me is very safe) for the last mile down to the beach. In fact, I plan to practice my newly acquired skill this afternoon...
It's been so nice to hear reports of fall weather hitting all over the US. Although I love the sun and beach here, I'm already missing the thought of seeing the leaves change color. Hey, I just had an idea for a contest. If Dan Savage can do it, so can I (if you don't get that reference, it's probably not worth explaining). We'll call it the Fall Foliage Fiesta. There will be one prize for the most beautiful fall leaf and one for the biggest one. I'll make sure the prizes are good ones! You can send entries to me at the Peace Corps Office--P.O. Box 766, St. George's, Grenada, West Indies. You can submit as you'd like, but only 1 leaf per envelope please. I'll be accepting entries for the next 2 years, but I'll announce the winner at the beginning of November. So, keep those eyes on the ground and get out your overseas stamps. Let the games begin!