"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." --Henry David Thoreau

"Service is the rent we pay for being, It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."

--Marion Wright Edelman

"The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE" --Mother Teresa

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dear Grenada, With Love...

Dear Grenada,

Oh what a beautiful little island you are, resting in the Caribbean Sea among white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Your lush green trees and the sweet smell of spices lets everyone know you are the Spice Isle. But past the beaches and the beautiful scenery lives the place I have learned to call home, my sweet Grenada. You see, behind those beaches and trees there live the humblest of people, who are willing to stretch out a hand to help, feed you food from their table, open their homes and greet you with the biggest smile. For the determination of the people to live their destiny and reach for the stars, its hard not to call everyone family. But you are family, many of meals I've shared, and many of tears I've shed for you Grenada.

Your Carenage has given me a place of peace, a moment of silence and the ability to rest in sincere gratitude for the opportunity you have given me. The world knew Grenada was one of a kind when it created your lovely views, hold on to these pictures, for they will bring peace to many in the years to come.

Grenada, as the times continue to move forward and the world begins to change, remember to always hold on to your truth. The small things that make you unique, like this road side vegetable stand, remind me that life must be taken slowly and with appreciation for the days you are given. The fertile land you bear has fed me the best vegetables I've ever had, and the conversations by the road always leave me laughing.

How could I forget the always memorable moments that involve 3 for 10 dollar beers and roadside rum shops? The availability of the good time always helped me enjoy the long days of work or the boring weekends. I learned to play pool in your rum shops, tried homemade rum, cooked your local dish Oildown, watched countless sunsets and even managed to fend off some overly aggressive island men. These shops didn't have clocks or deadlines, work or meetings, and always involved good company and plenty laughs, and for that I thank you Grenada.

Grenada, for what you have taught me over the last 27 months, I will never be able to repay. You have given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally with the help of your culture, your people and your love. You embraced me, pushed me down, picked me back up again and finally sent me into the world, equip with your knowledge, your humility, your honesty and your passion for humankind. Grenada will always be a part of my life and the people with forever hold a place in my heart.

My sweet Grenada, until next time....

One Love,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Water...And My Health

Guess who is sick again?!?! Yep, that's me! UGH! I cant seem to catch a break lately when coming to my health. Just a month or so ago I came down with a bacterial stomach bug likely due to unclean vegetables OR the water. It could of been either one, but it was one of the most painful illnesses I've had in my life.

Then, Sunday morning I wake up with severe stomach cramps and running to the bathroom. Sparing details, I haven't been far from the bathroom since. Body aches, blistering headache, temperature around 100 degrees, stomach cramps and diarrhea. I honestly haven't left my bed since Sunday and I have been absolutely miserable. I have to peel myself out of bed to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes and am constantly layering on clothes while shivering, then stripping them off when burning up. Sounds miserable right? It has been. Finally, with some push from the girl, I emailed our Peace Corps doctor and told him my symptoms. He immediately called and pretty much told me to get my @$$ to the hospital, in a much more professional kind of way of course.

After stumbling down my stairs and into a taxi, I made it to the hospital where I was quickly given an IV drip and hydrated with three bags of electrolytes, given some pain medicine and some other fancy medicine. I spent most of the day sitting in a hospital bed counting cinder blocks and staring out the window, but thankfully I was slowly feeling better. They diagnosed me with Gastroenteritis, likely from unsafe drinking water.

I came home a few hours ago and have been resting up as best I can. I still have a splitting headache and my neck is killing me, so its hard to stay asleep for long. But, good news is I ate for the first time since Sunday and seem to be keeping fluids in me. This might be one of the worst illnesses I have had, outweighing the last intestinal sickness a few months back.

Never take clean drinking water for granted... 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Something To Return To...

I have recently been caught up with all the goodbye's, last trips to my favorite parts of the island, going away parties and packing that I forgot to share some AWESOME news with my blog friends....I GOT A JOB!!!!!!

Yep, that's right, this girl is employed upon returning to the States. No more ramen noodles, paying bus fare in dimes or begging Obama to pay me. That is such an amazing feeling. Although I have loved serving my country while living like the locals, I am very excited to be able to afford things I need AND want. So what is this job I'm speaking of you ask?

About a month ago I started really updating my resume and committing to searching/applying for jobs. I was surprised to hear people back in the States listening to Fox News to much while telling me "oh the job market is still terrible, good luck finding something". As a matter of fact, there are PLENTY jobs out there, you just have to have the right connections and near awesome resume, both of which I have! haha.

I made a few calls, sent some emails and finally landed an interview with the Ozark Center in Joplin, Missouri. Most people in and around Joplin know the Ozark for lots of different reasons from drug rehab to autism support to behavioral health and counseling. It's that one stop shop for all your mental health needs. I interview with two awesome ladies who went out of their way to call long distance (sorry about that) and we had a great conversation. They seem like they love their job and are eager to find people who want to help.

After about a week and a half of nervous waiting I was contacted by the Ozark Center and offered the position of Community Support Specialist with Family Preservation. Due to the increasing needs of the community, related to the May 22nd tornado, Ozark Center has seen a need for additional Support Workers. That is where I come in. Named after the honorable tornado victim Will Norton, "Will’s Place, developed by Ozark Center in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children ages 2-18. Services provided include psychiatric services, outpatient therapy for children and families, psychological evaluations, and targeted case management. All services, developmentally- and age-appropriate, are responsive to the child’s social/cultural situation and communication needs." (source http://www.freemanhealth.com/willsplace).

In summary, I will have a case load of children whom I support through referrals to resources in the community. The most exciting part of the job for me will be building relationships with these families and helping them with their needs as best I can. I think this is a great step for me and I am honored to be part of the amazing Ozark Center.

Alas, something to return to...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Are You a Visionary?

You know you’re a visionary if:
  • You sense that something’s wrong with the world and long to be part of the solution
  • You’re doing it, you’re part of the solution and your aching to get it into the world in a bigger way
  • You experienced a life-altering event that changed everything for you, and now you want to use that experience to help others
  • You’re fed up with living an unremarkable life where you trade your soul for a paycheck - and now you’re ready to do something meaningful with your life
  • You have an innovative idea that might make the world a better place
  • You’ve found your calling, you know what you’re here on this earth to do, and you’re ready to light a fire under your mission.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Can Do Without....

After reviewing my last post, I came to the conclusion that it sounded a little "rosy", as in it might of made it seem like my time here has been easy, full of only successes and with no real strife. I have to say, that is FARRRRR from true. Sometimes I think that I have learned more from this journey and received way more from the people than I was able to give back to them. The number of life long friendships I have gained while learning so much about myself is something I will forever cherish about this experience. This culture is beautiful, the people so vibrant and animated. They have allowed me to be weak, to fail, to pick myself back up and then see the journey I went through. I owe so much to this beautiful island of Grenada.

But, along with every wonderful experience, there are some times of trial, some moments where the only thing you can find to say is "I miss my culture". I always tried to remain positive in those moments and use them as a learning experience, but some days that was hard to do. So, after my "rosy" post, I decided to highlight some of the things I will kindly NOT miss about Grenada. Here they are:

  • Rice. We eat rice with just about every meal here. Its cooked with every vegetable, every oil and every spice you can think of, and always accompanies meals. I have mastered the way to cook rice in about 15 different ways. I can happily say I have ate enough rice in the last two years to last me the next 15. 
  • Biblical debates. Caribbean culture is very religious, with the main religion being Catholic. But, there is also a wide range of other religions that encompass the culture, from Baptist to Pentecostal to Seventh Day Adventist.  This leads people to argue of scripture alot, whether it be in the bus, at the grocery store, the street corner and alot of times on the radio. Though I respect everyone's choice of religion, I will not miss the moments of loud, aggressive, finger pointing arguments. 
  • Mosquitos. I hate them! They buzz in my ear, land on my body and suck my blood CONSTANTLY. They find their way under my mosquito net, bite me up at night then leave me looking like I have the chicken pox. I wouldn't mind if these things go extinct. 
  • Men. Especially drunk men. There is nothing more frustrating then walking to work at 8am and being harassed by a drunk man who hasn't been to bed yet. Not to mention the constant harassment from men everywhere, the pppppssssssttttttt and the "hey baby" and the "I love you" and the "Can I have some of that white meat". Yep, all of those, I sadly won't miss. 
  • Bureaucracy. Yes, I know it exists in every culture and at every organization. Let me clarify. Is a non-profit really a non-profit if they have to ask the government for permission to do anything? Including programs, projects and advocacy work. I won't miss the overwhelming control the government has on all of the non-governmental sector of work. 
  • Rain. With no umbrella. I can't count the amount of umbrellas I have gone through in Grenada. They either break, deteriorate or get left in the bus. I can't wait to quickly run to MY car and be dry until I reach my destination, rather than walking in the rain where my shoes are soaked, the bottom half of my clothes are drenched and I'm just pissed off. Ahhhh, the small things. 
  • Cell Phones. The phones here are Zach Morris (Saved By the Bell) style from the 1990's and must have credit put on them in order to talk to anyone. Therefore, broke Peace Corps Volunteers rarely have credit to call people. I can't wait to call whoever I want, whenever I want and talk for however long I want. Yes! 
  • Cold Showers. They are wonderful after sweating, but when its morning time and you must shower off the sweat from the night, its FREEZING. The water pressure also depends on how many people are using the water at the same time you are. My neighbors realllllly like water, so my water pressure is usually a trickle. 
    I'm going to miss this view...
    And this one too...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lessons From The Journey

Forty two days until I return stateside. I've been avoiding looking at a calendar because I have mixed feelings about that countdown. Countdowns are for things you are excited about right? But what if you are excited, scared, anxious, terrified, and sad? Then is it still a countdown? Either way, the only way I knew the magic number today was because a friend asked, then it got me thinking. Over the past two years, the number of life lessons, personal milestones and professional accomplishments I have made really do speak to the magnitude of this Peace Corps experience. I can't help but reflect on the things I've learned about myself in these two short (and sometimes long) years. You know I love lists, so here is another of my personal lessons learned. I feel vulnerable sharing this, but I think it's important to document for my personal self so I can always remember it.

•I have learned to live with the most basic necessities. I can cook anything from flour, sugar and chicken. I can go a month with one bar of soap and don't always need running water.

•I need connections to back home, wherever I go. They keep me grounded, allow for me to grow and remind me where I'm headed.

•I can adapt to the most adverse situations with a little bit of self reflection and a lot a bit of motivation.

•America may be the "greatest country on earth" but that doesn't mean we always do things right. Seeing how other countries do things helped me to realize there is always another good way to do something.

•Slow down. Enjoy the view. Say hello. Appreciate the small things. Hug your friends. Tell people you love them. Do what makes you happy!

•Be yourself. People appreciate you for your differences. I had to step out of my comfort zone to realize people like my weird ways.

•Although I want to help every child, beaten woman or HIV+ person, I can't. It's not always about the final reports and numbers, it's about making a lasting difference in one persons life.

•To feel fulfilled, I need to make someone smile every day. It's the smallest things that matter. And those things are what can make or break someone's day.

•When doing something I love, it's all I think about. I want it done right and I want it done with love.

•The alone time I have (and I have a lot) allows for self discovery. It gives me a chance to reflect, to adjust and to plan. I've learned this time is important and valuable to me. Be still, for in stillness comes understanding.

•Bugs are evil! Particularly blood sucking mosquitos. And cockroaches. Ew!

•Show people you care. Go the extra mile. Do the extra work and people will notice. Good things have come from me doing that little extra thing.

•Love. Love with all you have. For what you give, you will always receive.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Things I'm Going To Miss About Grenada....

Chasing rainbows on the morning bus route.

Shades on the ocean

Little kids referring to me as "Miss"

Rasta men constantly saying "one love", "respect" and "bless up"

Conductors on the bus knowing where I live without having to knock at my stop.

The drunken men at the rum shop calling me royalty.

Late night BBQ on Wall Street.

Snow ice

Fridays at The Centre. Laughing, joking and talking nonsense.

Lazy Sunday's full of reflection.

Running into people I havent seen in a while and them remembering my name.

Receiving packages full of goodies.

Bus rides through the countryside.

Early morning wake up calls from Earths creatures.

The "morning", "afternoon" and "goodnight" greetings.

The smiles on the children's faces when they see me.

Being asked why I'm white by students.

The sounds of an approaching storm.

Looking out my veranda and seeing the ocean and beautiful horizon.

The constant noise of my fan, that rocks me to sleep at night.

Market vendors, eager to sell their fresh, organic produce. And the lady who always gives me an extra tomato.

Green. It's everywhere.

The accents, the dialect and the lingo I've grown comfortable speaking in.

The friendships that I will cherish forever.

The free time to reflect on your life, where you want to go and who you want to be.

I will soon be departing you my sweet Grenada, but you will forever be my second home.