In.Light.In Fridays

One of the highlights of my week is hanging out with some of my favorite kids at In.Light.In on Friday afternoons.  This is the fourth semester that I’ve been involved with In.Light.In, so I’ve known most of these kids for over a year now.  I love hanging out with them, coloring, playing Uno, and kicking the soccer ball with them.  I have a soft spot in my heart for these kids, especially the hilarious boys and sassy little girls.  They are just too cute!

{just hanging out. love him!}

{all smiles}

{sassy artiste}

{mesmerized by the toy airplane on the field that's gearing up to fly}

{so serious and proud of his penguin}

{back handspring - midair! so impressive!}

{sweet girls}

{sweet girls}

Bon weekend!

Wednesdays at CALLS

{One of my favorite afternoons at CALLS - we walked to Purple Turtle Beach to sketch and enjoy snacks. I love these kids, even though they are trying way to hard to look tough in this photo!}

For the past year, I have spent nearly ever Wednesday at CALLS, the local alternative high school.  For my first two semesters in Dominica, I tutored students and recent graduates, working with them on homework, reading, and math skills (aka maths), in addition to mentoring them and just chatting with them about life.

I have worked mainly with the boys, which is pretty rewarding and entertaining, but also, often frustrating, since many of them have a hard time in school and come from difficult backgrounds.  A few of the students I have tutored have left school and dropped out, which is  really disheartening.  I am always so impressed by the students who stick with CALLS and complete the two-year program.  CALLS provides job training and vocational skills, so even for students who don’t excel in a traditional classroom setting, CALLS can teach them a great deal.

Last semester, I joined my good friend Mary, a Peace Corps Volunteer here in Dominica, and helped her teach art classes at CALLS on Wednesday afternoons.  It is always interesting – some days good, some days bad – but overall, I love being part of the school and getting to know the students, even though they aren’t always thrilled about art class.  In a few minutes, I’ll head to Portsmouth for my first art class this semester.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have a good afternoon!

 

2 Ladies, Come & Gone

My two besties

Tropical cyclone Emily:  We’ve been busy preparing for her for the past 2 days… Purchased electricity, check. Filled up all our water bottles and pitchers with water, check.  2 extra gallons of water from the grocery store, check.  Washed all the dishes in the sink (the water cuts off when it rains for long periods of time, so if you forget to do those dishes… yuck!), check.  Non perishable food in case we really get in trouble, check.  Luckily, Emily has now passed us and all we’ve seen of her is a little wind and lots of rain.  We did wake up this morning with no water though, so I am glad we have lots of extra on hand, because I am using it already!

This week Charlie and I were also lucky enough to have a sweet little puppy for a few day, until we found her a permanent home. We aren’t allowed to have pets in our current apartment, and our landlord tends crops in the garden behind our apartment, so she’s around way too much to sneak anything past her.  We found our pup a home for good last night, with some loving students, but I’m not going to lie, Charlie and I both definitely cried a little when we had to give her up!  She was the sweetest little puppy, and we loved her!  We’re not sure what kind she was — but she looked like a mixture of an island dog with a Rottweiler or Doberman Pinscher.  She had the sweetest little personality!

And now, the humorous story of how acquiring the puppy went down.
Last week when I went to Portsmouth to tutor, I spotted her as I was walking down the street.  She was cowering and crawling out from under a shack.  She approached me timidly, crouched down in fear, but she covered my face in kisses the minute I scooped her up.  I held her for a little while and then put her back on the ground, and she stayed near me, although she was also interested in scouring a nearby trash pile for something to eat.  A group of local women passed me and told me, “Take her!  She need a home.  This is not a life!”  I told them that I’d love to take her, but that I didn’t want to take someone’s dog.  They replied, “She live on the street, she need a home!”

Done.  I knew right then that I couldn’t leave such a sweet little lady on the street!

I carried her down the street to CALLS, where we played with some of the kids in daycare while I waited to meet James for tutoring.  She loved me, she loved the children, she loved to play.  After CALLS, we walked to Best Buy (the hilarious Caribbean junk shop, not the awesome techy Best Buy of the U.S.) so I could buy her a collar.  I walked in holding the puppy, and a woman inside smirked.

“Where you find dat po-ppy?”

“I found her in the street in a trash pile.”

“That Alvin’s po-ppy!”

{Oh sh*t.}

“Hey, you see dat po-ppy?  That Alvin’s po-ppy!”

“Yeah, dat Alvin’s po-ppy.”

{Double sh*t!}

“Oh, then I’m going to put her back. I don’t want to steal someone’s dog.  A group of ladies told me she was a stray, that’s why I was taking her.”

“Alvin don’t care for her.  She live on da street.  It don’t even look like he feed her.  She need a home.  Take her!”

“Well I don’t want to steal someone’s dog…”

“Take her! Take her, people don’t know how to treat dogs round here.”

So I leave the store, worried that some man named Alvin is not going to be happy with me.  I walk back to the spot where I found her, deciding if I should leave her or not.  I turn around and see that one of the women from Best Buy has followed me.  She sees me and laughs.

“Don’t put her back.  She need you.  My store is right here.  If you can’t keep her, you bring her back to me and I will find her a home, but take her.  Go, go.”

So… I hopped on a transport {bus} and took Little Lady on her first bus ride.  I. Stole. A. Puppy.

Don’t tell Alvin!

{Coming soon: how we cared for Little Lady, found her a home, and as a result, a security guard was paid $200 EC…}

Graduations

The past few weeks here in Dominica have been filled with graduations, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend 2 of these.  The first was at CALLS, where 12 hard-working high schoolers beat the odds and graduated, despite having to drop out of secondary school earlier in life.  CALLS gave them a second chance, and they completed their studies and internships, which is a huge deal.  These kids are amazing, and I felt so lucky to be able to celebrate with them and wish them well.

The following week I attended the St. John’s graduation with two friends.  There, we cheered on two sweet boys we know from In.Light.In as they graduated from primary school.  We felt like proud moms!  These boys are so great, and they looked especially dapper in their bright orange graduation blazers… don’t you love them?!?

It was a big week!  (Did I mention that it was a long week, too?  Each graduation ceremony was over three hours long!)  I love these kids and am so glad I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with them and help them celebrate their big achievements!  You go, grads!

What we do all day…

Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around and pick my nose or eat bon bons all day long (only for a small part of the day).  I am actually really busy most days, as is Charlie, who rarely has a chance to enjoy the beach, or much of anything, for that matter.  After tests and exams, however, we both look forward to a fun afternoon and evening together.  Until then, however, here is what a normal day here is like…

I get up between 8 and 10, put away the dishes that dried overnight, and do whatever dishes were left in the sink from the day before.  Then make coffee or tea and have breakfast (usually fruit, oatmeal, or eggs) outside, if the porch isn’t swarmed with the remains of dead bugs (in which case I avoid going outside for as long as possible so I can put off sweeping them up.  It’s pretty sick.  Currently the porch is covered with the inch-long wings of these crazy rain-fly termite things.  ICK!).  If Charlie is media-siting (watching class lectures online) that day then we’ll have breakfast together, if I’m up early.  If he’s going to class, he’s gone by 8.  After breakfast I do the breakfast dishes.  Then I make the bed, clean up our apartment, put away clothes or laundry.

bug covered porch... good stuff.

If it’s a busy day, I’m up early for an RSO meeting, an assembly at CALLS, a day trip with friends.  If it’s a low-key day,  I will check emails, write a blog post, catch up on news and blogs, read about re-finishing furniture and other how-tos which I will bookmark for use in several years when we have a real home.  I’ll peruse the food blogs and book mark recipes with minimal and/or tropical ingredients for current use, and ones with fancy shmancy ingredients or luxuries not available here like berries, buttermilk, and arugula for later use (again, in several years, when I can also break out those DIY home projects, like making an upholstered headboard!).  If I’m feeling energized (which usually I’m not), I’ll walk to the gym and get in a nice air-conditioned work out, or I’ll visit my friend Brandi and play with her 4 week old kittens.  At noon, Charlie will come home for lunch or I’ll make him lunch and bring it to him at school.  We’ll sit outside under a tree by the library if the weather is nice.  I’ll head home after lunch and do some more dishes.  Then I’ll relax and watch some TV shows on my computer… The Wire, Big Love, Mad Men, Weeds.

lunch with Charlie at Pagua Bay after exams

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll do some laundry.  Here’s how this goes down without a washer or dryer: I’ll turn on our hot water heater (which we rarely do these days, as cold showers are the only way to go when it’s just as hot or often hotter inside our apartment than it is outside), put a bucket in the shower, add a scoop of detergent to the bucket, fill it up with hot water, throw in some clothes, and swish them around for a little while with a clean plunger.  Then I’ll rinse the clothes and wring them out in the shower.  Then I’ll go on the porch and rig up a clothes line and hang up the clothes to dry.  I’ll do this for about an hour and if I’m lucky, the clothes will smell nice when they’re dry.  Sometimes, they still smell sweaty once they’re dry, and I lose my gumption and send my stiff, sweaty, horribly hand washed and line dried clothes out and pay someone and deal with them effectively.

After the laundry nightmare I’ll read for a little while and figure out and google some recipes to help figure out what to make for dinner.  I give myself extra gold stars if the meal requires little to-no oven time.  Here’s why: 1. Our oven sucks.  When you bake anything, the oven handle gets so hot that when you touch it your burn your hand.  2.  Our oven really sucks.  In our last apartment, the baking temperatures were in degrees Celsius.  That I could handle, I just made a conversion chart on a post-it and stuck it to the fridge.  Boom.  In our new apartment, however, our oven is the worst.  Seriously, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.  There are no temperatures.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No temperatures.  Just a knob that says “1 2 3 4 5.”  (I really wish I were making that up.)  So, I just guess on baking temperatures.  You can imagine how that turns out… burnt everything, all the time.

every baker's dream

Good stuff.  Anyways, I figure out what to make for dinner.  Usually it’s something vegetarian because sometimes the meat here is scary and/or hard to find, or just really expensive.  I wish I could say that I bought and cooked fish all the time, but I don’t.  I’ve bought it once.  Buying fish requires walking for 20 minutes down to the waterfront when you hear someone blow a conch shell.  The problem is that where I live, you can’t hear anyone blow a conch shell, so then you trek down to the water and loiter and act sketchy and wait for several hours until you actually see someone blow a conch shell, and well, that is really not my idea of fun.  Then you trek 20 minutes home with a plastic grocery bag full of fresh fish.  I need to figure out a better system for this, because the fish is amazing.  It’s literally fresh out of the ocean, and is usually tuna or mahi mahi, for $7 a pound.  I made the best fish tacos with the tuna I bought last semester.  Note to self: figure out the fish situation, ASAP.

If it’s a Tuesday, I help my friend Emily teach a sewing class at a local Women’s Center.  (Actually, I provide moral support and do a kid-friendly fabric project with the women’s children, while Emily teaches the sewing class, since I literally cannot sew a stitch).

me with my little friends at the women's club... aren't they precious?

If it’s a Thursday, I tutor at CALLS, the local alternative high school that gives at-risk students a second chance.

me with some of the amazing girls I've gotten to know at CALLS

If it’s a Friday, I spend the afternoon at the park in Portsmouth with friends and local children at In.Light.In, an after school program and ministry, where we play with the kids, do a craft project, and then feed them a meal.

some of my favorite sassy ladies at in.light.in

Some days I’ll spend a few hours at the pool with friends, read a book on our porch or in the hammock if it’s not excruciatingly hot out, go to yoga in the early evenings, walk to the grocery story (not an option until a few months ago!), go on a hike or take a trip with friends, or meet friends for coffee at Rituals, the fabulously air-conditioned coffee shop.

after a hike and swim at Bense Pool

Charlie and I have dinner together almost every night around 7.  Usually I cook and he either comes home for dinner on the porch or I bring him a meal at school.  Then, he hits the book again until midnight.  After dinner, I do some more dishes, tidy up the apartment, and either enjoy a cold shower and some TV or a movie in our air-conditioned bed room (we have AC in our bedroom only and only turn it on for a little while before we go to bed since electricity is pricey here.  We have don’t have AC in living room/kitchen (they are the same room) which is brutal this time of year!), or a meet friends for game night, drinks, a night swim at the pool, a cookout, or a Friday night movie on campus.

By the time the day is over, I’m usually exhausted.  Between the heat, the walking/carrying everything everywhere all the time, and all the cooking and dish washing (I am the dishwasher), I am out like a light by bed time.  Charlie conks out, too, exhausted from the heat, the walking, and mostly the studying.  That, my friends, is how we spend out days!

Charlie, victoriously posing with 7 weeks of material, after Mini 2