Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A few Wedding Photos

Hey Mon,

The lovely bride and I have just arrived in Seattle, just getting settled in after a blitzkrieg of meetings with dear friends and family. I know people are eagerly awaiting wedding photos so I thought I would put a few up; once things calm down I will put a full blog entry on the wedding. Marcella and I would like to thank all the people who made it special; the generosity people showed in both their time, love and gifts. I would like to especially send a quick shout out to Michael Ward, we are absolutely delighted at how the wedding photos turned out!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Triumph of Climbing Mount Gimie, Saint Lucia

Base of Mount Gimie

Mount Gimie, Peter preparing some coconut.

Mount Gimie, Peter John Baptist

Mount Gimie, Big Dog talking about the climb ahead.

Mount Gimie, Brutal hike, halfway there.

Mount Gimie, Big Dog Summits

Mount Gimie, Big Country Summits

Mount Gimie, Keens Blowout

Mount Gimie, Summit, Praise to our guide Peter John Baptist

Mount Gimie, Big Dog Reflecting on the 10 hour hike.

Mount Gimie, Big Country Reflecting on the 10 hour climb.

The End of Posts for this Blog is coming...

Hello Folks,

Just a quick reminder, once I close my service August 15th, this blog will be finished, I will leave it up but their will be no new posts.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"Share the Love!" Canaries Mango Festival July 4-5th, 2009

Well as you know me folks, I like to stretccccccchhhhhhh myself thin:)

Not only do I have to wrap up Canabelle Soap "let me just say we have an amazing trainer named Tim from the Soap Shed coming in from North Carolina to take the ladies to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL" find a job "check that one off!", wrap up the Creole Pot Street Party and the Rabbit Project to name a few.

So, back to the Mango Festival, over the past two years I have been mulling over the question of why doesn't gorgeous Saint Lucia have a mango festival? The mango is the sexiest fruit in the world "if you have not tasted a mango in the Caribbean..well you just cannot understand this" with its incredible sweet sensuous smell and taste as you bite into the perfect sweetness of its flesh-the Body Shop makes body butter out of mangoes, you get the idea.

It doesn't make sense that Saint Lucia does not celebrate this fruit. As I have watched the mangoes drop to the ground and rot I have been thinking about how to pull this off.

Well this has all changed after I met Chef Orlando "who is quite possibly the best Chef in Saint Lucia" with my Aunt Tina at Ladera restaurant.

Orlando talked to me and my Aunt about his desire to do something special in Saint Lucia, something that would demonstrate his incredible personality and talents and benefit the people. My brain-pan has been thinking about the mangoes and with Chef Orlando's reputation for gastronomical excellence and the newly finished Moon River Entertainment Grounds that have just been finished by the Edwards family I saw a connection and an opportunity.

From there I pedaled my idea to Orlando and Mrs Edwards organizing a meeting and coming up with a draft idea of how to have this festival. After that I spent the next few weeks developing the logo "learning how to use Adobe Photoshop", materials and marketing for this festival. With that the The Share the Love, Canaries Mango Festival was born. We are now working closely with the Distillery as I write this. I would like to take a moment to wish the Saint Lucia Distillery a special thank you for their close relationship and financial support of developing Canaries. I would like to especially thank Bernard Thomas who has time and time again displayed his passion for development in Canaries.

I have also received tremendous assistance from Clifford a fellow PCV in Antigua who assisted me in designing the "Share the Love" logo and provided some form templates that saved me two weeks of work at the very least.

The Mango festival is set for next year July, 4-5th 2009 at the peak of the mango season.

It will certainly put Canaries firmly on the mental and social map of Saint Lucia.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Politically Correct

(Canaries Village directly behind me)
Politically Correct

First, I must admit that when I look back at my blog it makes the "Peace Corps experience" seem like a bed of roses. Yes, it is an accurate representation of the work and experience of being a Peace Corps volunteer in Saint Lucia but with this blog being available to the public I have to be careful what I say.

Sadly this leaves out the crazy stories of that have happened during this whole incredible experience. The cultural differences alone that have led to misunderstanding could be story. The different pace of accomplishing tasks and projects in Saint Lucia vs the more aggressive American timetable is another adjustment.

Leaving out the incredibly painful, boring and tedious meetings that go on for 2-3-4 hours can be misleading. Meetings where the same issues are discussed again and again seemingly without resolution. Meetings where you often ask yourself, "What did we accomplish", remember folks I am in one of the more dynamic forward moving villages. Even more interesting is how you can be two hours into a meeting and have someone shows up and you have to recap the entire meeting debating and re-making all the decisions again. Lastly, in regards to community development meetings. It is a Caribbean fact that if a meeting is set for 7:00pm you do not want to waste your precious time by arriving early or on time. The meeting will start 10 minutes late at the minimum, 20 min most likely.

A funny cultural difference that took me a while to figure out; knowing when someones is agreeing to something because they do not want to embarrass themselves or lose face. The person in fact: has no intention of doing what you have asked and they will avoid you, putting you off afterward so they do not have to do it.

Another struggle is understanding the mentality of quite a few development groups across the island; in helping themselves to some of the monies as I have been told by a few volunteers. An attitude that would never be tolerated in the US but in the EC people look the other way and ignore it. How is that possible you ask? It goes back to the years of development money being brought in without proper accountability-this has created this climate of acceptable corruption. The other part of it, and this is difficult to really appreciate. Everyone is related to each other, if you accuse one person of corruption you are attacking the entire clan. Being in small village you will run into the family members every day where that bitterness can grow and cause serious conflict. When you look at it from their point of view you can see why a villager would let that slide by instead.

Some of this is traced to a lack of transparency in financing. My only recommendation is that you must have an outside accountant who does not live in the village that services are being rendered for reasons mentioned above. In addition, the group must have 3 signature minimum for all withdrawals.

I have gained an incredible amount of experience seeing these barriers to sustainable development played-out on the ground level stopping infrastructure and capacity development. But I also know that they can be worked through with patience... make that extreme patience:)

I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be in some of the developing nations in Africa where resources are extremely scare and the consequences of not having them sometimes means the difference between life and death. The fact that we even have access to banking institutions that are less then 20 minutes away puts development work in Saint Lucia in a whole new playing field.

I am thankful for the genuine appreciation that the people of Canaries have expressed to me for the work I have done. For the giving nature of many of the community leaders who would never say, "No!/Awa!" to giving 50-100EC to a small project I am working on. To the genuine helpfulness and friendliness of Saint Lucian's which is extraordinary compared to the other islands.

Every Peace Corps volunteers experience is unique and challenging, I feel that I need to talk about the some of the low points that happen in this daily community work so that anyone considering becoming a volunteer will have more realistic expectations.

That has been the entire goal of my blog, to give a chronology of 24 months of work and life in Saint Lucia for future volunteers. It has been amazing experience and again, I feel blessed and thankful to the US, to JFK, to the US tax payer and the Government of Saint Lucia for allowing me this opportunity to serve.