Saturday, May 12, 2012

Surreal Experiences

One of my favorite things about being a Peace Corps volunteer is that about eighty percent of my job depends on what I want to do.  Peace Corps assigns a primary worksite, for me this is the elementary school where I am starting a remedial reading program, but beyond that I have the freedom to do whatever I want.  As many of you know, giving me this much free time is a bad idea.  I’ve been a volunteer for a month and have already met the right people.  Let’s start the story telling!

The last four weeks have been extremely hectic.  Work has been pretty relaxed.  I’ve spent the last three weeks administering the GRS, Grenada Reading Screen, to recommended students.  The screen is a pretty cool test put together by former Peace Corps volunteers and Grenada’s Ministry of Education.  Essentially, it evaluates the student’s reading capacity based on oral vocabulary, auditory and visual discrimination, letter identification, phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, and writing.  Yeah, it’s a lot for the kids to take in, but it helps me decide which of the fifty recommended kids need the most attention.   Picking fifteen kids out of a pool of fifty makes me feel extremely guilty, I mean who am I decide which kids qualify?  But, the decisions have been made, and I officially started teaching! How crazy is that? Parents, watch out, this PCV is going to make your kids work, work, work!

Besides work, I’ve been lucky enough to meet the most wonderful woman on the island, and she’s keeping me busy.  When I first got my invitation to serve in Grenada, my dad went crazy researching, and was ecstatic to come on across this organization,, The Indo Grenadian Heritage Foundation.  Guess who’s serving on the board? Yup, wonderful woman friend!   She herself is a descendent of a Grenadian Indian and has made it her personal goal to preserve and promote Grenada’s Indian heritage.  One of her many projects on island include organizing an Indian classical dance classes in Manipuri, via the Indian Embassy in Trinidad & Tobago.  While the prevalence of these classes depends on the Trini calendar of events, the Grenadian women enjoy each and every class and are committed to learning the intricate technique.

In addition to taking these classes I’ve already had the opportunity to perform.  I still can’t believe how fast everything happened.  On 1 May 1857, the ship Maidstone landed in Irwing Bay, Grenada carrying the very first batch on Indian indentured servants.   These were the ancestors of the most the Indians living in Grenada today.  The Indo-Grenadian Heritage foundation annually celebrates their arrival and history.  This year they hosted a fundraiser lunch and performance and erected a plaque on the beach where the Maidstone landed.  What I didn’t realize when I agreed to put together a few pieces for this event was how official the event was.  We danced for the Prime Minister of Grenada, Grenada’s opposition leader, and the High Commissioner of India to Grenada, wowzers.  Furthermore, being surrounded by a population of Indian Grenadians was mind boggling.  I mean you could really see a mix of the cultures.  The traditional Indian culture manifested in the clothes and rituals, but the Grenadian was present in the names and society.  This group of people is definitely Grenadian, but they share the same history that I do.  We’re from the same people yet have culturally evolved in two distinct ways.  I love how much of an effort is being made to preserve the Indian ancestry and can’t wait to become a part of the endeavor.  I do have to say that I am grateful for the presence of Indian food and spices.  It has made transitioning a little bit easier because it’s like I’ve brought a little bit of home here with me.

Callaloo, Mango, & Lentils:  What I've been eating for the past month

Irwing Bay in Sauters, St. Patrick's, Grenada Where the Maidstone first landed bringing Indian indentured servants to Grenada

High Commissioner 

Prime Minister of Grenada Hr. Tillman Thomas

Sam, a fellow PCV recruited to perform & Debolina Paul, our Manipuri instructor  in front of the newly erected plaque