Month #3: Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Reflection

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This has been a substantial month with many highs and lows, many realizations and conversations, and countless A-ha moments.

I’ve been living in Grenada now for two months, and initially when I first arrived and the following weeks, I felt like a tourist who was so caught up in trying to figure out my new norm that I was missing the whole point of my early transition and integration stages in a new culture. Through writing and honest conversations, I was able to identify some of my shortcomings and rectify them as this was a whole new avenue I had never been down.

I understood better that adapting and integrating while still holding onto the core of who you are isn’t a walk in a park; it challenges you in ways you never knew possible. 

I was hard on myself for that reason; I wanted to know and do it all right away, but I’m only human and things take time. Now two months later, I see the beauty in easing in and making genuine and authentic relationships and connections with those around me. 

At the beginning of September, I began working at a local Roman Catholic school in Grenada. On the fourth, I was officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteer by our Program Manager and the Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Swartz Taglialatela. All the training we had done for the last two and a half months in St. Lucia and Grenada was now worth it because we could be do actual meaningful work in our schools and around our communities. 

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The hands on learning in the Grenadian classroom from the kids and with other teachers has been so vital in my adjustment process. Yes, I’m here to help wherever I’m needed, to be a human resource and promote sustainable practices. I’m here to co-educate and share my knowledge, but the truth is, I am learning more everyday from these kids, fellow teachers, and community members.

I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for education, learning and sparking kid’s interest in gaining knowledge in all aspects of life.

The teachers I work with are so resourceful and creative, and I admire all that they bring to the table. I love sharing ideas and collaborating as we have great conversations about implementing new strategies, games, activities, standards, and classroom management.

I’ve started to explore my community more and take myself on walks (even though sidewalks are very scarce and these twisty rainforest roads make my heart drop). I greet every passing face with a smile, and often times, they already know me as Ms. DeBoer or Teacher Ashley. I talk to the baker about her baking tips and the shop owner about his saltfish bakes. There are a lot of side stands where people cook/ grill out and sell all kinds of BBQ food or Oildown, and I am constantly making new friends because I love food, but hate cooking. God bless, WhatsApp to stay connected. 

This life has required a new version of myself— one that speaks up, says hello first, leaves fear at the door, and steps miles outside of an ever expanding comfort zone.  

As a PCV, there are internal struggles you endure. You are no longer the person you were when you boarded the plane, bright eyed to take on this endeavor, and said goodbye to your loved ones. It can be very isolating at times to undergo so much self-realization and self-actualization that put your convictions and beliefs through the ringer. You’re stripped of your masks and comforts, and you have to face the person you are at the core. While I’ve been unpacking my own upheavals and fallibilities, I am learning to be kinder to myself and more appreciative of this journey. 

Month 3 has been a whirlwind where I’m actually in the school and living on my own, making lifelong connections with host country nationals and other Peace Corps Volunteers. I’m reminded that making human connections that are sincere and genuine is what life is all about! Thank you for following along my Peace Corps experience because it’s a goal to share Grenada’s culture and beauty with you all too. 

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**these thoughts and opinions are my own, and do not reflect the thoughts of the US government or Peace Corps**

Favorite Hot Spots in St. Lucia

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Living on an island is really one of the coolest things I’ve ever done; life moves with ease and much slower than I’m use to, which has taught me the importance of being patient and understanding. Every passing face wishes you well, and everyone knows each other’s names, which brings me back to my small town roots. I’ve enjoyed the simplicity of my day to day; I spend a majority of the week at training and then spend my free time hanging out with my host mom, making memories with my fellow trainees, and getting to know the local Caribbean culture. 

So here are my favorite things I’ve done while in the beautiful island of St. Lucia—

Hiking the Pitons in Soufriere, St. Lucia

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Let me tell you, hiking Gros Piton is no easy feat, being 2,619 ft above sea level. It required some grit and more sweat than I had ever imagined, but it was a great way to spend the day. It was drizzling a little when we went, so it was kind of slippery, but completely doable. It took two hours to go up, a 45 minute break at the top to have lunch and take in the breathtaking views, and another two hours down.I highly recommend hiking Gros Piton with a fun group, especially if you like to be active and explore nature. 

For more info/ pricing: http://www.grospiton.com

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Sulphur Springs in Soufriere, St. Lucia

The world’s only drive-in volcano is nothing short of amazing, especially when the hot springs allow you to take an exfoliating mud bath in the hot spring pools. First, we took a 20 minute tour of the volcano, learning all the ins and outs and facts about what was all around us. The springs are the hottest and most active geothermal area in the lesser Antilles, which is really cool. Then, we went down to the hot springs, covered ourselves in mud, and ventured into the 4 hot pools. It was so much fun, and left us all feeling relaxed and fresh. 

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For more info: http://www.sulphurspringssaintlucia.com

Choc Beach in Castries, St. Lucia

It’s simple, quiet, close to shopping centers, the movie theatre, and food, plus beautiful views. What more can you ask for? 

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Choc beach info: http://caribya.com/st.lucia/choc.beach/

For more great beach options: 

https://www.tripsavvy.com/st-lucias-best-beaches-1488648

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I hope you enjoy St. Lucia as much as I have. I’ll be moving to Grenada on Aug 3, 2019 for the next 26 months, so be sure to follow along my journey on the Spice Island!