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.”


  1. I wish I were related to Ira Glass, but I am so thankful that I know Sarah Leer.
    Miss you, dear! Glad you are hot and dramatic in St. Lucia!

  2. NPR is definitely on the list of things I'm missing. Also, s'mores and being warm. Keep up the awesome - I'm so excited to see where everyones' projects take them!

  3. Required attendee of my storytelling campfire: Sarah Leer.