Thursday, June 24, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Fuel-Propelled Flying Machine

(Judy and I on our last night in town, eating at our favorite pizza place, Key Largo.)

I'm packed. (Believe it.)

I'm up at 6 am. (what?!)

I checked my flight (on time it says!!).

I am editing my draft of my deliverable (ok... i am currently blogging, but RIGHT AFTER i post, THEN I am editing).

What in the what? I never get up at 6 to edit. I guess the Clinton School has made me a bit more prepared about life. Even the "no problem" attitude of the Caribbean couldn't erase that first year training.

I will be posting next week I imagine, as I am still writing and reflecting about my project. But as I prepare to see my family today (so excited!) and to say goodbye to Judy and Alleyne (not so happy about this part), I wanted to leave you with the look of my last few days.

Judy posted that her computer was "fired." But then, this wonderful St. Lucian who works for Dell came to our house! Have you ever seen a laptop being fixed? It's like computer surgery: he took everything apart to put it back together again. And of course... we made a video. Enjoy:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


In 48 hours I will be home. Well... home in Texas. So, not HOME in Arkansas, yet! I am uber excited.

I apologize, I haven't posted for a week! For shame, for shame! Judy "Writes More than Steven King" Watts and I went to the cocoa plantation, she wrote about that. And we went to the recycling place and the landfill... but she wrote about THAT. Dang, Judy got to all the good stuff first!! :)

I will bring just share with you a few highlights from my week:

Alleyne has been promising to take us on a tour of the island, and last week. He. Did. It was amazing. As we traveled around the island, I tried to calm my stomach (cause I get a bit carsick), I thought, wow. I have been here for 2 months and This island is gorgeous. We went to some spots we had been before (Dennery), but then we also went to Soufriere and stopped in Anse La Raye for their Friday Night FishFry. The people were lovely and inviting. I couldn't stop thinking that the island brought us here (LOST, anyone, anyone?) and the reason Judy and I were here, helping Alleyne with the radio drama and the action campaigns, is for everyone. It is to benefit the whole. All of the running around, trying to find the school resources that would best help the youth of St. Lucia and throughout the Eastern Caribbean - THIS is what it is all about.

It is as if we are writing the story (or a part of the story) of their future. Media Impact has entrusted Alleyne, and Judy and I are to be the authors of this part of the story. And as we visited Each part of the island, each climate change-themed chapter came more into focus. The people at the fishfry (read: food security, clean, safe oceans). The market at Soufriere (read: less litter, increased tourism). The village of Dennery (read: the vanishing habitat of the endangered white-breasted thrasher). Maria Islands (read: reserved land, not inhabitated, and therefore, home to snakes found no where else in the world).

I have lived here for over 2 months, and I was thinking: This is why people never leave. Each village and town has a personality and each an environmental structure worth preserving and protecting.

I took this while Alleyne drove us home. It is one of my favorites.

Anse La Raye. Gorgeous fishing village. (Storm rolling in.)
Caribbean Sea on the left. Atlantic Ocean on the right.

Overlooking Dennery Village. One of my favorite spots.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The A-Team

"I pity the fool that doesn't read this blog!" -Mr. T

Alleyne, our supervisor on the ground, whom Judy and I have spoken about several times, is in a word: wonderful. The man is undoubtedly one of the greatest bosses I have ever had. He is kind, brilliant, inventive, and supportive. (He is also quite a calming influence on me when I get upset about, oh, I don't know... possible impending hurricanes. It helps that he has worked with/ lives with his wife, who is an actress... so he can smell drama a hundred yards off.)

Anyway, the other day, we got to see Valerie (yea!!) when she came to stay with us on her way to Dominica. We took her to work with us and had a lovely time. We also took her to several meetings we had scheduled. These meetings are helpful to my project in gathering what resources are available on the island in the area of educating youth and children about the environment, and discussing what exactly the children of St. Lucia learn about in primary and secondary schools. It is a constant thought of mine: "wow, this is a really helpful meeting to my project, hope it is helpful to Judy..." But then Judy assures me that yes, the meeting helped her see things/ assess situations/ ask questions that help her along.

I give all this background because Alleyne made a lovely comment to Valerie last week that has stuck with me. He said that anything we do, be it a meeting, a skype call, a discussion about why there isn't a recyling plant on the island (don't get me started) ... that anything we do - he considers that we do it as a team.

Well, that got me thinking.
First, I thought: a team with Alleyne and Judy! And I have been on it this WHOLE TIME! What?! I am so lucky!!
Then: wow, we would be a really good trivial pursuit team - Alleyne and Judy are SMART.
Oh, and finally: I totally agree.

We do operate as a team. The Clinton School gave me a great opportunity last year to work on my project in Newport with a wonderful team of William and Patrick. But this team is different...

Since Alleyne is our leader, we are... The A-Team? Get it?? (cue theme music:

Judy has a totally different project than I do. And she is adept at cruising all corners of the interwebs to find what she needs. She knows her evaluation and her monitoring. She can design a website, or thrill you with stories of E-E and cane toads. On our team, she is: [1.21] Jiga-Watts

Then there is me... I love some theatre, I enjoy being able to do service. I am working on a piece of this massive undertaking - the youth and children's strategy in our regional Caribbean radio community action campaign. My favorite color is yellow. In this team I am: Sarah Poppins

**Note: - Judy came up with my name - apparently I fly in and take care/ teach the children (Oh, Julie Andrews, I am honored)

Then there is Alleyne. He's the boss man down here in the field. He gets stuff done. He knows everyone. If we need anything, he is there. He is the main man, the head honcho, the Face of our operation. Most importantly, if we need anything, he makes it happen - he is magical. Alleyne is: Houdini. or Mr. President. (I couldn't decide).
See, Dr. Singhal wanted to shake his hand!!

We make a great team, the three of us. As I near the end of my time here on St. Lucia, I am thankful for Alleyne and Judy. How grateful I am for a supervisor and colleague who view my work as valuable and I view their work as innovative and vital! We have created a bit of a family here, and the trust we have amongst our group anchored my time here.

Alleyne helped navigate tricky waters and showed us the ropes. Judy is kind, funny, balanced, and supportive. I am trying to keep us moving forward, and always checking the weather report (someone has to!). I couldn't have asked for a better team; I know that after I leave, in 10 short days, this project will continue to grow and improve and adapt to the needs of the people in the region.

The Caribbean is lucky to have Alleyne on the ground. I am lucky he invited me to be on his team.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quote of the Summer

First off, I love that Cornel West tweets. Full Stop. Love that a great philosopher and academic of our time tweets nuggets of wisdom. It's like when I wake up to discover His Holiness the Dalai Lama has tweeted. I think Prince Siddhartha would be pleased.

But I digress, my first thought was: 1) wow, Cornel West tweets about Chekhov 2) Hmmmm, I wonder what West and Chekov would say about KAP (Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices) - I have my doubts about KAP methodology 3) this describes my experience this summer and at the Clinton School in general pretty perfectly.

Chekhov, as much as his plays are not exactly my favorite (must EVERYONE in your thousand-person cast be named the same, or virtually the same, thing?? really, Chekhov?), makes a point.
Knowledge is nothing without practice. I am pretty sure that is the attitude we are all discovering this summer, during our public service projects. I, for one, am nearing the end of my project and I only wish I could see where all this knowledge gathering is going to lead my supervisor and PCI - Media Impact. It is difficult to sit in information-gathering meetings, which is helpful and necessary work (see previous post for "the necessary"), but I want to put it into practice! That is what makes these short service projects so difficult. Sometimes, many times, we design or plan without the implementation, but most of us want to see the results of our work.

Which brings me to a major lesson of the summer: do what you can, serve while you can, but know that you can only do so much. Take your knowledge of Year One in the Clinton School and put it into practice, the best you know how. Then take the local knowledge and let it revise, sharpen, and improve your knowledge. In the end, I think of the IPSP (the International Public Service Project) as KAP-PAK - I want to tell Anton all about my Clinton School service work and then say - yes, put the knowledge into practice, then go into the field, talk to the people who live there, and put the practices from the people here back into your knowledge base. It's a cyclical thing, this public service life.

All that theatre I have seen and to think, Chekhov had the answer the whole time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Service is Love - Love (Tennis pun? anyone?? Bueller?)

(Flat Judietta and Flat Sarah ready to serve!)

It was like the perfect Dean Hemphill lecture/ story about serving versus steering in public service.

Judy has already introduced you to our wonderful supervisor, Alleyne, and how amazing he is. I was on a skype call with him this evening (you know, getting the work done, no matter the hour - public service isn't 9-5, right??). And talked to Alleyne about my project.
We discussed the project, my deliverable, as we do from time to time to stay on the mark and he said, "I just want to make sure that you get what you need taken care of. What you need for your purposes." Presumably, he means my project for the Clinton School - my deliverable and my reports for Joe.

A year ago, I might have responded that I needed "xyz" to get an "A" on my paper. Or I needed to hand in a certain product.

But after a year at the Clinton School, I was completely authentic and comfortable when I said, "Well, what I need is to serve you and this project. I want to help you move forward and do whatever I can to take some of the stuff off your already-full plate." Alleyne is an incredible person, and he works hard. I know he is like many people in the public service/ non profit/ NGO world: they know how to get it done, and they can do it. Head down... all systems go.

But that is why we are here! Super Sarah and Bionic Judy to the rescue! (We are superheroes down here, really. Seriously. Super.)

There is so much to do in this project and we are only here for 10 short weeks. But the purpose of us coming down? What do I need to get "taken care of" before I go home? I need to serve, not steer my project. I need to serve PCI-Media Impact's needs and do the work Alleyne doesn't have time to do.

My first thought was "tell him about serving versus steering!" then I remembered we were not in class, we were in the field.

This is what it is about, talking to a boss who works very hard, who tries to make time for everything, including his lovely family. The Clinton School has taught me to just jump in and say, point blank, let's talk about what you need to make this project happen. That is what I will do.

Important questions as I board the plane home: did I make Alleyne's load a little lighter? Did he, in the end, say thank you, we will make this project a success? Did we share a little about how to protect and conserve the Caribbean with our partners?

Good. I have served rightly.

When I clarified our plan for the week, I said something like, "Those meetings are important for us to have, yes? That information is good to gather?" He said, "Not just important, necessary."

"OK." I said. "The necessary stuff, that's what I need to get done. For my purposes."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AR Presby Kids Shout-Out

So I think my balance post may have to be in segments, and this one is all about connections.
(Oh, and Enjoy High School Presbytery event Sarah.)

Remember when facebook was new and there was a great divide about it - some said, oh, there's this chat feature! It's great! and some of my friends hated it and refused to use it because it is just too much or they get bombarded (read: popular) when they are just trying to facebook, gosh darnit!

Note: This is not an advertisement for facebook, it's a testament to social networking as we are spread all over the country and all over the world. We meet up for Arkansas games and weddings; people are having babies, and we text each other, anxiously awaiting the new addition to our little Arkansas Presbytery clan.

Balance means connection to some of my favorite people in the world: my friends from my high school Arkansas Presbytery days. Over the 15 years I have known these people, we have moved on to different career paths, but social networking has brought us back into instant communication with twitter, facebook, blogs, and emails. These friends are my family and they continue to help me grow as a person and a public servant.

Some examples on how I stay connected, wherever I am: Ashley used to be an adult advisor in the Presbytery, now she is my friend and mentor, we catch up on the fb chat. I can often find Rachel (a resident with a busy schedule), Meredith (while she is managing new-baby land), Stuart, while he is educating young minds in NC, Jeremy while he is sermonizing, Melia between counseling sessions or Casey while he is working at a camp in France. And Heather? I know she is facebooking & co-ordinating youth events. Yes, my friends are quite incredible, but that's Arkansas for you - producing those who serve others.

In my life my family (be it blood-related or adopted), are the ones who most help me to be comfortable in a space of openness and vision.

The other night, I was sitting at the coffeeshop, doing some work for my client, and I got into a conversation with Casey. He and I met almost 15 years and it never ceases to amaze me that no matter where life has taken us, he and I continue to be in contact over email and various chat-mechanisms.

The reason I explain all this? Well, Casey and I spent about 3 hours dreaming about life after I graduate from the Clinton School. He asked me questions about my vision (class 5, it was like noble goal session #2) and kept posing new situations, suggestions, options for the my future career. The future non-profit theatre I would like to run for youth? Well, the depth and breadth of this vision continued to grow as we spoke.

After we left the coffeeshop, I recapped with Judy about this wonderful conversation, and Judy noted that spending time visioning and imagining in a completely creative space was much like this video that Dr. Singhal sent us:

The international public service project (ipsp) has taught me that while in another country, serving the people of this nation and other caribbean nations, I still need to be connected to those who mean the most to me. I also learned that to be truly balanced whilst serving abroad, I need to keep dreaming and visioning about my future career as a public servant in the arts (hopefully!). The Clinton School has taught me that I am equipped to take on this challenge and that I will continue to grow and learn while I do my final project next year, the Capstone.

This summer, Balance means not only connecting to those from your past and enjoying the present experiences, but it also means remembering to dream and vision and expand beyond this experience into serving people in the future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

This American Life [in St. Lucia]

You might recall that my international project involves working with PCI – Media Impact on a radio program that will be centered around climate change in the Eastern Caribbean, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Radio is central to our project and thus, something Judy and I discuss on a regular basis.

In an upcoming blog (think of this as the trailer), there will be some reflections on balancing one’s life while on the International Public Service Project (IPSP). But as I was thinking about it, I want to highlight one of those piece of my life here that makes me smile: listening to saved podcasts of “This American Life” from NPR. I have some of these podcasts saved for when I actually have time to listen to them. Some are two years old! Well, friends, that time is now. I dedicate this post to TAL: thanks for the memories.

My blog today is brought to you in three acts: Act 1 – “Sleepless in St. Lucia,” Act 2 – “Drama, drama, drama, ” and Act 3 – “Pass the S’mores.”

Act 1 – Sleepless in St. Lucia

My time here in St. Lucia has been toasty. We are pretty far South, we are not far from Brazil down here, and yes, the sun is a powerful, bright entity. The night time isn’t much cooler. Recently, Judy blogged about ways to stay cool in the hot St. Lucian home of ours. Each night can feel restless because of the heat; so, before I nod off to dreamland, I listen to a podcast from This American Life (TAL). Partly because Ira Glass’ voice IS the last thing I want to hear before I go to sleep, I am not going to lie. Partly because it’s like having a bedtime story read to me … BY IRA GLASS.

It’s just me, Ira, and his stories, read by TAL producers or some of my favorite authors (Sedaris, Vowell, Rankoff, Savage, just to name a few). It’s like their stories are just for me, for anything that has happened that day, I have Ira and the stories to look forward to. It’s like I open a new podcast, press play, and surprise! I am lulled into peaceful slumber by storytellers.

Act 2 – Drama, Drama, Drama

I am a theatre kid, one might even claim that I am dramatic, but I am certainly not a drama queen. What I do love is listening to other people’s drama; that is why people choose to confide in me, I think, I am open and ready for the drama. I will vault the information, I promise you, but I will sit all day and listen. Since I like to keep little drama in my personal life, I welcome the drama on the radio. It makes me wish I were going to be here when the PCI – Media Impact radio drama goes on the air!

Act 3 – Pass the S’mores

You need to know, dear readers, that I am also a camp kid. Campfires are my favorite place to be in the summer because you get to share a meal (ask me for recipes!) and dessert (s’mores!). I love camp people; they know how to play games and be silly, they know how to have fun, they don’t get worked up when you get pegged in the eye by a water balloon (that happened to a “friend” of mine).

They are ingenius: a particular former camp bossman of mine made a 100 foot slide out of black roofing tarp, some dishwashing liquid and two hoses (I held a hose… then I slid). But what do I really love about camp?? Telling stories. Scary, meaningful, Bible, personal, funny – the campfire brings out the storyteller in all of us! Listening to TAL each night makes me feel like I have a s’more in one hand, my water bottle in the other, and I am sitting at the campfire, listening to how Geoffrey Canada transformed Harlem, or how Dan Savage never wanted to own a poodle (ever), or how Sarah Vowell was in a musical group, all recorder players, in Montana. David Sedaris is always welcome at my figurative, metaphysical campfire. The best part? I don’t even have to show up at a campfire, I can take them with me (thanks Apple technology!).

In case you haven’t gathered, Storytelling is central to my work and my life here in St. Lucia, even in my “off” time. The stories each night prepare me for another day – they keep me grounded, keep me focused, keep me moving forward.

Thank you, Ira.

And friends in the internet ether, thanks for reading. As my roommate and classmate Judy Watts would say, “Radio is the soundtrack of our lives.”