September 29, 2003
Monday afternoon...I've discovered that even here your weekend can slip away from you without you having accomplished what you thought you might (like write another journal entry!). A trip to the beach, a visit to the Caribbean arts and crafts fair (hosted here in Grenada), a 3 1/2 hour church service (ouch!) and a birthday party for my host mom's friend somehow took over. I'm not complaining though...it was a good weekend overall.
I have found a different apartment which I think I'm going to take. It is also a 2 bedroom place, but it is much smaller and seems like a better, more manageable space for one person. There is a family that lives upstairs in the house and the apartment is on the ground floor. It is much closer to town and is really centrally located between most of the schools and is only 5 minutes walk maximum to the busses. It's enough off the main drag though that the current tenants and landlord assure me it will be quiet. The whole property is fenced in and has a padlocked gate which makes me feel quite safe. Franka is meeting me out there Thursday afternoon as she needs to do a "safety check" on any place that we rent. I'm quite sure that she'll approve it--I will be able to move in sometime after the 15th of October. It's exciting to think about my own first apartment in Grenada...despite the reality of no hot water and many loads of hand laundry in my future. Then again, I am in the Peace Corps!
I've started to fill up my schedule with a variety of things at the schools. Since I am now working with 5 different schools, I'm trying to figure out a schedule so that I can dedicate one day a week to each school and still try to keep myself sane. The good thing is that the needs of the schools vary a bit, so I won't necessarily spend entire days at all the schools, which will give me time to do some planning and other work that needs to be done. I met with all the teachers in the schools last week and had good interest in getting involved in a "study group" of sorts. Today was our first session with the teachers at the Methodist School. It's challenging me because I'm really having to sharpen up my teaching skills and make sure that I'm demonstrating best practices. I'm not entirely sure how today went. I had some interactive activities planned that went OK, but not fantastic. I don't feel discouraged though, more so puzzled about whether the activiites were not what they needed or wanted or if they were just uncomfortable with that way of learning. Or perhaps it went OK and I just read their reaction wrong. I'm repeating the activities on Thursday at the Catholic school where my host mom teaches, so I'm anxious to get her feedback afterwards. It's a learning process, for me for sure and hopefully for them. I'm also doing a little talk tomorrow at one of the PTA meetings and have some small assessment/1:1 sessions scheduled with children. It's a good variety and it's keeping me excitied. The challenging thing for me is to know how much I can take on and how much to put on the back burner. My tendency is to say yes to everything and give it all a go, so I'm trying to keep a balance for myself.
One thing I'm noticing that I didn't anticipate is how difficult the dialect is at times. When I'm involved in a social conversation with two Grenadians, I think I miss about 25% of what is being said. It's a bit frustrating (for them and me) to have to stop them all the time and have them repeat what was said. I've noticed that in the formal, professional setting, it's not too much of a problem, but during the informal times is when I struggle. It was really nice not having to learn a new language and to be able to come in and speak my native English and be understood. However, I think that it is going to be a long process of trying to figure out the patterns of speech and pronunciations of words, etc. There is not written text or guide that I can use, so it's just learning experientially over time. The other way that this is really impacting me is in working with children. I have a harder time understanding them at times. It's also going to make teaching phonics incredibly difficult. I'm anxious to do more "research" and figure out how the teachers accomodate for their accent when teaching phonics. For example, they say the sound "th" as a "t" sound and a long "a" is pronounced like a short "e" sound. The first question my "mom" asks me when I get home is "You eht?" Meaning--did you eat? (I always assure her yes!).
This week, I will be visiting more schools and have training again on Wednesday (next week Wed. is our last day of it!). On Thursday, I'm going to be attending a meeting of the St. Andrew's Development Organization. I met with the director last week and talked about possibly getting involved with their public education a little (HIV/AIDS, life skills for adolescents and disability awareness). That probably won't happen for a while though--especially if I remember to put that on the "back burner".
And, don't forget the Fall Foliage Fiesta. I've heard that the people on the east coast think they have an unfair advantage over you Coloradans. Hmmm... a little healthy competition never hurt anyone. I've been scoping out some pretty cool prizes!