Sundays, St. Vincent, and surviving / by Alan Strathman

Those of you who know me well know I am a creature of habit.  Back in the U.S. I mostly went to the same restaurants, wore the same clothes, did the same things on weekends.  And I am glad that I have some degree of routine here.

On weekdays I am at school from about 8:30 to 3:00. After school Monday and Wednesday I come home, make dinner, then go out to tutor two kids in the village. Tuesday and Thursday after school I go to steel pan practice, have dinner with Doug, and then we go to our Creole language lesson.

Friday after school I relax or make a trip to hang out with the other PCVs. We have bonded into a very tight-knit family and serve as a much needed support group for each other.  If we get together on Friday night it usually lasts into Saturday when we go for a hike or to a beach.  If I do not see them on Saturday then I do laundry, have lunch, go to steel pan practice, have a sea bath (as they call going for a swim in the sea) with Doug, and then usually have dinner in the village or at home, depending on whether Doug stays in Laborie for dinner or goes up to his community in the countryside. After dinner, I walk into the village and visit.

Sundays, like today, I catch up. On email, laundry, blog posts, studying Creole.  And I realized, just today actually, that Sundays I typically don't see anyone.  The other six days I am so visible wherever I go, so in the spotlight, that I need a day where I can decompress.  Sundays are nice days. Keep in mind that I couldn't really leave the village on Sunday even if I wanted to because there are very few buses running. And in the village everything is closed.

St. Lucia, though still a developing nation, has much better infrastructure than many of the places Peace Corps sends volunteers. This past week the St. Lucia volunteers and our counterpart teachers flew to St. Vincent for a week of literacy training with the St. Vincent volunteers and their counterparts. It was fun to see the SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the full name of the country) volunteers, with whom who we spent 7 weeks during training in June and July.

Sadly (Frustratingly) we did not have any time to tour the island to see some of the villages where volunteers lived and their schools. But if we had we would have seen a country that is much less developed than St. Lucia. Volunteers live in villages that are more remote from each other, with fewer (or no) shops, in houses that are less well-maintained.  The trip to Kingstown to get groceries can be as long as three hours on buses that are less reliable and filled beyond full (15 seats but 20 passengers).  Though I could survive wherever i was sent, I am glad to be here in St. Lucia.

One more thing about routines.  When I was accepted into the Peace Corps I thought that I would have to give up many of the things I used to do as part of my normal routine. But since St. Lucia has better infrastructure than I had imagined, very good internet at my house, for example, I can listen to podcasts, download audiobooks, and use my subscription to the New Yorker online. I think it is essential for volunteers, wherever, to use what is afforded to them by their communities to establish routines, new and old, that make their time away rewarding.