Here is the truth, plain and simple: living abroad is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Disclaimer: I love my life!
Many of you have requested details on my everyday routine. Up until this time, that routine has not existed. Even now, the everyday normalcy of an expected life evades me. I’ve come to understand this uncertainty as a component of living abroad. Things just seem to catch me off guard, take me for a spin, and drop me off at my doorstep with piles of processing to do.
This past year can easily divide into four parts: pre-service training (PST), the freshly minted volunteer period, a whirlwind summer full of amazing experiences, and the productive period. Of these four periods, PST and the freshly minted volunteer period where the most frustrating. I started my service with a mind full of hopes and possibilities as I attempted to picture what my life as a volunteer in Grenada would be like. For years I had dreamed about the Peace Corps and I knew I wanted to give back, experience a culture without being a tourist, and understand development work through personal experience. These visions made it really difficult for me to understand my purpose in Grenada mainly because I had to wait for the dreams to manifest in reality. Training was tough because I was stuck in a classroom all day, when all I wanted to do was experience and influence. This notion stuck with through the three months after training when I’d become a real life volunteer with my very own apartment.
In those first three months of my service I constantly struggled with the unknown. I had no idea what was expected of me or what I hoped to accomplish during my two year stint. My primary worksite is a Roman Catholic primary school, where I work to meet their need for a literacy program to target the students severely under grade level. My experience at home dealt with empowering at-risk teenagers, and NGO development; therefore you can conclude that tiny people scare the crap out of me. I was a fish out of water fighting with myself for failing to understand my responsibility. I wanted to help, but did not know how. I tried to remain optimistic, but by the end of the school year I was ready for a break.
As the new school year began, I dug myself into the very same ditch. How was I going to teach children with learning disabilities how to read? What these last two months have taught me is that my whole approach to this experience has been severely flawed. I’ve been struggling because I’ve been attempting to evaluate my success, and frankly that is not my priority right now. My life isn’t about me. My purpose is to act as pawn and design a program that will provide these children with the right encouragement and safe learning environment so that they can achieve their full potential. Naturally, I am the type of person that gains personal satisfaction from achievements. I set goals, meet them, and develop new ones to continue to endow my life story.
I’ve realized that the Peace Corps assignment given to me by the local office challenges me in ways I never expected to be. Therefore, to ease my sanity and continue on my path as a development worker, I’ve sought out new opportunities that cater to my skill set, give me that sense of achievement, and fulfill my desire to serve. First, I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to expose the secondary schools in my area to arts education. Specifically, I’ve started teaching two classes a week at an all-girls school attached to the St. Joseph’s Convent in Grenville. It’s amazing!! These girls have so much raw talent, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to challenge and support their growth as dancers. Ultimately, I’m hoping to reach out to two more schools, and put on a recital before my time here is up. I know my dad would be rolling his eyes asking me how important dance is. Personally, I’ve gotten the opportunity to network with a couple of dance communities on Grenada and am currently part of an African-Modern company. What I’ve learned through this personal experience is that everything happens in town, St. George’s. There are virtually no opportunities to participate in dance if you live in the country. Fortunately, this country bumpkin budgets wisely and can afford a trip down to town for company rehearsals. If I had a dollar for every time a local parent/friend/acquaintance has asked me to teach a dance class for their daughter, I wouldn’t have to budget as strictly as I do now. Dance and other art forms engage students and youth in ways that academia doesn’t. Art does not counter academic intuition, but rather encourages it through the development of creativity and imagination, as well as personal and life skills. Therefore, I as an artist strive to inspire these skills through teaching dance.
Second, I’ve fallen into the perfect opportunity and start yet another secondary assignment with Grenada’s National Commission for UNESCO. Currently, the branch of UNESCO is working on a Caribbean youth conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage. Finally something that falls within both my educational and professional experience! Having the opportunity to work for UNESCO coupled with my dance explorations gives me the satisfaction I need to persevere through teaching.
While reading this post you’ve probably deduced that I despise working at my school, which would in fact be a false conclusion. I LOVE going to school now. With my secondary projects satisfying my quest to be true to me, I’m game for exploring the unknown and have all the patience in the world to deal with my special students. I love being surrounded by their innocence and energy and enjoy challenging them to strive for the best. This is the productive period of my service, where all the stars have aligned and everything is going to plan!
That said I cannot wait to go home for a break! So much has happened/is happening in my family right now and it’s tough being so far away, but I’m here for a reason and by golly I’ll fight tooth and nail to see it through.
T-minus 44 days until I’m stateside, get ready to mange!!