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.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

No business like Show

Once upon a time … (I believe it was a few weeks ago) when I was spending more time processing than blogging, Judy and I went to the mountains of St. Lucia, to a village called Dennery. The village is home to our supervisor, Alleyne, and is gorgeous. The trip up to Dennery… well, let’s just say that I feared for my life a bit. Judy wrote a bit about the trip in her blog, so I won’t go in to details. But let’s just say the trip was… eventful and a little scary. I did look down at one point and thought, perhaps, if I plummet over the edge here into this rainforest down below, at least I died doing public service. Which seems like a decent way to go.

Why were we traveling up the windy road, potentially an ill-fated idea in a bus, we crested a hill and the Caribbean Sea was a beautiful blue-green below us, crashing against the rocks. Now, granted, all I could think at the time is. .. “Wow, we are mighty close to those rocks and the side of the cliff. How gorgeous… wait, what was that noise… did the bus lurch forward? Are we swaying… why is Hanson playing while we ride so close to the edge…” You get the idea.

Finally, we made it to the Primary School and thus began one of my favorite days… ever. Not just one of my favorite days in St. Lucia, but indeed one of my favorite days of all time. We spent the day with a primary (read: elementary) school teacher of THEATRE ARTS. Yes, I was in a kid’s theatre class all day. Sheer heaven!

Judy and I probably took about 100 photos each, so I can’t share them all with you now (ugh, reason #3,813 why I need Flickr!), but some of my favorites from the day will be featured in this post throughout.

This day was epic and lovely and made me wish that Ms. Valerie had been MY teacher in primary school; heck! I wish we had had theatre class in primary school at all! I could go on and on, but here are some life lessons I was reminded of in St. Lucian theatre class:

Shoes are overrated. I like shoes just as much as the next red-blooded American woman, but truthfully, I really love activities I can do barefoot (I AM from Arkansas, the Natural State - Our people belong outdoors.) This theatre class banished shoes to the corner of the room. Very cool.

Be silly … in community.
Everyone needs to stop trying to be cool all the time and embrace their inner silliness. I find that Judy Watts and our cohort in fun, Ms. Becca Swearingen, live this out very nicely. In theatre class, we walked BIG and LOUD and then soft and with small steps. We rolled around the floor and got all dusty and dirty. We explored what it meant to be free and silly… together.

Be a Storyteller. The students drew fairytale characters then talked about their characterizations. It was a great opportunity for students to tell stories with their characters and

be creative as they created back stories.

Listen. If you were not adequately dressed when you came to theatre class (i.e. not school uniform clothes), then you had to stand for 5 minutes in the “invisibility box” with your hands in the air. Not good. Best to listen the first time and spend more time playing with your friends than being punished.

This day I also learned quite a bit about St. Lucian folktales that actually changed the direction of my project. I also learned that the teacher here is using The Lorax for the literary foundation in her environmental club. The Lorax, Erin O’Leary! Did you hear that?! I am using that in my project as well.

Following the local wisdom… just something I picked up in Social Change class. Here are some of my favorite subjects from the day:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Water, Glorious Water

I know it has been a while since I posted. The thing is, I have about 4-5 posts in my head, but each time I want to share something, I end up spending my time processing about everything that is happening around me, so please excuse me for the lag in posts.

I wanted to talk about an important thing here on the island: Water.

I am on an island. Water surrounds us, it’s everywhere. But two weeks ago, when Judy and I had the opportunity to take some time out and take a little day sailing trip down the coast for some relaxation and volcano-gazing, I noted to the person booking our trip that it was raining.

“Ugh,” I groaned, “It’s raining again.” Mistaking me for a tourist, the booking agent said, “Yes, well, we love when it rains here. We had an awful drought this year. We don’t complain about the rain.” Looking sheepish, I muttered, “Oh yeah, heard about that … sorry, yes … of course. Rain is a good thing!” The “booking agent just grinned at me and said, “I understand, you are on vacation.”

Ok, then I felt horrible. I mean, I’m not on vacation, I’m not a tourist. I am in a beautiful tourist destination, trying to do some public service.

So I have been diligent in conserving water here. I shut the faucet down quickly; I take uber quick showers. I am working on it. Because she was right, water is vital here. When it rains, the people rejoice.

In February 2010, a water emergency was declared in St. Lucia due to the water crisis. Water restrictions and possible fines were imposed upon the population. According to my supervisor, the crisis didn’t end until right before we arrived, in late April. Two months of severe water restrictions because of rain shortage.

As I learn more about climate change, I recognize the need for our Entertainment – Education program here. Our program will educate and promote positive change and environmental respect throughout the region. I now gladly walk in the rain here because I know it represents a positive future to the people.

Besides, my job is to help preserve this beauty. It’s a great place to be: Surrounded and blessed by water.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We were on a boat. (part 1)

For Josh. Challenge accepted.

Friday, May 14, 2010

And now for something completely different...

Ok, so Judy wrote about cricket.

And she made many many great observations. But I am one who likes to screenplay my events – so listen in on our cricket conversation:

Nice ticket agent: No more “stands” tickets left, just the “grounds.”
Judy: And it’s cheaper, but just hotter? We’ll take it.

Sarah: It’s like Derby! Or sitting out on the grass outside the Razorbacks’ baseball stadium.
Judy: So… what is the placard all about?
Sarah: The most they can score is 6. Then the other side says “4” cause when the ball gets to… some … point… it’s 4 points?
Judy: Right. So…
Sarah: India is in the Orange. I think. And Sri Lanka in the yellow. Their uniforms look so comfy.
Judy: Like pajamas!
Sarah: Ok… Now… something has happened that made the India fans excited.
Judy: Right.
Sarah: And they are running back and forth which is how they are scoring runs. And… oh… they must have hit it – cause they just got
4 points. I get that there are 20 overs, but not sure why the overs are taking so long. Hmmmm…
Judy: Yeah. Why is each over so long?

Sarah: No sure. This is fun! Glad we are here, just wish I knew what was going on…

It went on like that for about 4 hours. We w
ent to our ICC World Cup cricket match India vs. Sri Lanka. We were cheering for India, cause, ya know, of our allegiance to Dr. Singhal and so many other fun Indian friends of ours. I love getting to know new sports and seeing how they work. I was introduced to some serious footie in 2002 when I lived in England. I watched the FA Cup from a Pub with Chelsea fans. I mean, really, who does that?

So learning cricket in a country that loves their West Indies team? Fun. This is not my first time trying to learn cricket. When Gareth was my roommate, he would try to teach me about cricket… but I was still pretty unclear. Then Dr. Singhal, bless his heart, trie
d to tell me how nuanced the game is. Still pretty clueless. But I think I have it a good grasp now.

For those that want the quick guide
from the SL perspective: So there are test matches – they can go on for DAYS – but then there is twenty20 cricket. This is the quicker, 3.5 hour version. This type of cricket means each team has 20 overs are bowled (pitched) and each team has to score as many points as they can in those 20 overs. There are 6 balls to an over. So the first team has 20 overs to try to score as many points as they can; they want to get the ball over the boundary (6 points) or up to the boundary (4 pts). In the meantime, they don’t know WHERE the ball goes immediately after they bat, so the batter and the other guy who is in the same gear as the batter (not sure his name) on the same team run back and forth from like a batting position to the pitcher’s mound location - it’s like watching a repetitive 10 yard sprint…. Back and forth. Each time they complete a sprint it is one run. I think. Now what I love about the sprinting bit (this is from what I could see, mind you) is that they appeared to be able to use their bats to extend their reach - so it was like a repetitive 9.5 yard sprint. I love when you can use the items in a sport to extend your reach and score points. Like in tennis or in… um… cricket.

So there is your guide and a play by play of what it was like to be sitting near Judy and I at the match. Here are some lovely photos of the people we shared an afternoon with. (There was a band)

My favorite part? That people refer to it as “the cricket” I love adding definite articles to things.
Until the next time.

Monday, May 10, 2010


You know that feeling when you find yourself in a moment that feels like it should be filmed and fun movie-soundtrack music plays in your head? That happens to everyone, right?
Well, last week we had a bit of a celebration with the My Island – My Community folks. It was the official launch of the initiative and we heard from some pretty wonderful speakers including our own Dr. Singhal. We saw some dances from a troupe I will write more about later. But for now, this photo.

I, of course, immediately started hanging out with the children. I think this little girl was about 5 or 6 and she said her dad played in the band. I started to show her how to use my D40, it is one heck of a great camera, and she started to snap photos. She took it out of my hands and started to spin and take photos. I actually let go of the camera… ok, ok, I held on to the strap, but she was holding it all by herself! It takes quite a bit for me to let go like that.

But I did let go. And She just started spinning and clicking. I am not trying to give a plug for the D40 (it’s so easy, a 6 year old can use it!) but I did love that she could work it with such ease.

Here is one of her photos:

She had a yellow balloon sword. I am not sure that I will ever see her again, but I love the concept of giving kids the tools and they will create art. All I did was put the camera in her hands. The rest of the night, she would find me and wrap her arms around my legs in a giant hug with a huge smile on her face.

It’s that Born into Brothels concept – just give a kid a camera. See what happens. Maybe they will be like 11 year old Lillian in Newport, Ark. who sold two paintings at the Art Show this year. Or maybe they are a budding Annie or Ansel like this St. Lucian. She has vision.

Dear World:
Give every kid a paintbrush, crayon, clay, a camera… when they are little. See what happens.

Monday, May 3, 2010

STOMP!! ... I mean... STOP!!

Judy and I have begun to master the public transit system here on the Lucia. To be fair... we have really only mastered about 5 miles of it, but we find that to be an accomplishment.

The buses here are minibuses... they look like
<-- THIS.

Personally, I love the bus system. They show up all the time, they each have different drivers, so it's a distinct adventure every time you get on. Like today, it wasn't a long ride, but our driver stopped for every passenger that wanted to cross the road. Then we had people get off and on all the way until we got to our stop. Still, we got to the workshop on time. One time, the ride was so... er... um... efficient, that when we stopped I thought I might keep going over the bench in front of me. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: stopping. Now in England, when you want the bus to stop, you press a button. It was polite, highly individualized, and a very quiet atmosphere on the bus. In Chicago, you pull a cord to indicate to the driver that you would like to stop. Sometimes you had to be quick about it. Here in St. Lucia, it's a different system. As you are on a minibus, each bus ride is like a mini-road trip with strangers... and Judy. So to stop, you yell: "BUSSTOP!" One word. Said. Loudly. Not "Bus, Stop!" Not an instruction to the bus. Not "Bus. Stop." Not a declarative statement. You yell "BUSSTOP!!" Like it is the first time you have ever seen a bus stop. Like that bus stop is the last stop before the edge of the earth. Remember that time I told you about where the bus was moving at a pretty quick clip? (of course you do, it was 5 seconds ago), Well... our stop approached so quickly that I yelled, "Stop PLEASE!" And that seemed to work. We stopped. It was a bit sudden. But we stopped. Maybe there will be a video of us riding the bus in the near future... if you are lucky. Busstop: It's not just a location, it's a way of life.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow... is Judy

Meet my friend, Clinton School classmate, and overall awesome partner-in-public service, Judy Watts. First - a plug: if you want to read about some more adventures on the Lucia, read Judy's blog @

Ok, now that I have promoted the uber wonderful JWatts blog (she is a GOOD, the blogosphere should give her some kind of bloggy award), here is some more about Judy:

Favorite Number: 12. To quote Judy, "It's a dozen. A perfect dozen. And I like to bake."
Myers-Briggs type: ENFP... (I am one as well, just a different flavor of ENFP.)
Favorite Song: "If I had a Boat" by Lyle Lovett
Favorite Color: Pink. Yes, it is true. The girl loves her some pink. This beachy picture I have altered to honor Judy and her love of the pink.

She likes to bake, she loves pink - is Judy an uber Texan girly-girl in disguise...? Maybe, just maybe.

I have learned that Ms. Watts is truly undefinable, that she loves to do yoga, explore different countries, and that she is an adventure in a Judy-sized package.

What I appreciate about the Clinton School is that it brings together all kinds of people with similar cores: though Jude and I are different people, we still love people, to learn about different cultures, and are devoting our lives to serving and working towards the common good. I am lucky to have a friend here like Judy. She is balanced, caring, and overall, just fun. Where could you find Judy on any given day? At a coffeeshop, with her bff, a cup of coffee, sitting, enjoying the day, streaming some public radio and maybe reading or cruising the interwebs.

Oh... and a hidden talen she may deny? Dancing - she's a good dancer. I have proof: