Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The view from my back porch.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Roosters don't just sit on the roof of a red barn on a cute little farm, waiting for the sun to come up so they can crow and wake up their owners. They are not used as organic alarm clocks the way they are depicted in American storybooks and TV shows. No, they actually crow at all times of day, including when I'm trying to get in a nap. They crow at three o'clock in the morning, they crow at three o'clock in the afternoon. They are persistently loud and obnoxious.
I initially sat down to write this blog in a list form. It was going to be a solidified list of everything I had learned in the year I have been here. But when I started writing, the only thing I could think of was the roosters. And just how wrong my initial American perspective of them was. How the storybooks were that off about these insanely annoying animals I'll never know. But when I hit the enter key and typed the number '2', I realized there was nothing else I could write down. I literally knew nothing else. And that's when I knew I had changed.
If there's one thing I've learned this passed year, it's that you (and me..) know absolutely nothing. We are often comforted by our college degrees and worldly experience, but that tends to only give us a false sense of security. There is still so much out there to learn about people, about places. About reasons why people are the way they are. And when you think you've learned all you need to learn, you find something or someone else that surprises you.
I have learned that there is no fact, there is no reality. There are only assumptions and perspectives. After all, it was a fact once that the world was flat, wasn't it? And we all thought Y2K was the reality of the situation, didn't we?
So instead of making a list of everything I want to accomplish this next year and make all these lofty promises, I'm just going to make a vow to not see things at face value. To question and then re question. To remember that as loud as I may talk, I still don't know much. And to never assume I know what someone has gone through. Because, really, you never do.
As much as a boast and brag about making it a year, it is an even bigger accomplishment that my parents have made it through 25. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
I have no program for
saving this world or scuttling
the next: I know no political,
sexual, racial cures: I make
analogies, my bucketful of
flowers: I give flowers to people
of all policies, sexes, and races
including the vicious, the
uncertain, and the white.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I know you’ve been to Africa before, but this time will be different. You’re staying for three months. This isn’t a vacation and you will not be a tourist. Things will change, you will change.
But don’t be scared of the changes. Your core will still be there in the end.
The American ideals and values you have been instilled with will be challenged daily. Lose some of them. They’re shit anyways.
Don’t be afraid to cry. Just don’t cry in front of any of the locals. No matter how much you explain to them, they will never understand.
Don’t worry if you lose your faith. It will come back again.
Try to see the beauty in everything. It may be impossible, but trying is the most important part.
Nurture your relationships with your fellow missionaries. They will be the only ones who understand what you went through.
You will see and experience things that no one back home can understand. Don’t fault them for this.
Wear bug spray.
Work as much as you can with children. They are the most impressionable and your impact on them is far greater than you think.
Don’t compromise who you are just to fit in. Ever.
Find a beach when there‘s a full moon.
Video tape everything.
Don’t drink the local rum..every day. It’s homemade and ridiculously strong.
Take diarrhea medicine as soon as your stomach starts to feel even a little weird.
Take a piece of home with you. Whether it be a picture, a stuffed animal or a song. You’ll want to feel home from time to time.
Hug people a lot this last week you’re home. You have no idea how much you will miss getting a real hug from people that love you.
Take a journal.
And always, always remember how much you are loved and missed.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Because of recent donations, we were able to add two more programs in the areas of Sandy Bay and North Union. Your donations are greatly appreciated and put to good use :)
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Thanks to some very nice friends of my mom, I was able to plant broccoli, cabbage, marigolds, tomatoes and cilantro in my yard...all with the help of a local of course. I mean, come on, me instinctively knowing how to plant a garden, not gonna happen. But it's day 4 and nothing has died yet. Nothing has actually grown either, but that's a glass half empty way to look at it.
This morning it started to pour during break time, so I had a couple minutes to myself before students would rush into my classroom. And I got to thinking about all the various and controversial teaching methods I use. Most, of which, would disappoint anyone with a teaching degree and probably most without one.
How I became in charge of the whole remedial reading department at my primary school is beyond me. My classroom management skills are sub par and my knowledge of teaching strategies is even worse.
Case in point: I spit gum at a student once because she wouldn't stop talking.
I also give my students a 10 second countdown to return from using the restroom. This strategy prevents any hand washing or toilet paper use. But, hey, I get on with my lesson. This is probably the reason I get a virus every other Tuesday.
When a kid starts to complain about homework or my strict 10 second rule, I start fake crying. The crying gets louder until the kid stops complaining.
If someone tattles, I mock them.
We have dance offs and hand slapping competitions. Farting contests and animal noise impressions. And I have yet to end a class without playing hangman, where, of course, I always win.
And every once in a while I'll catch myself in the middle of one of these and wonder what the American Board of Education would have to say about this. And then I realize that thankfully they will never have to know.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you and miss you everyday.
Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.--Boondock Saints
Monday, April 19, 2010
If you are interested in donating, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send checks to :
Neely Thomson, US Peace Corps
Cyrus Street, New Montrose
Kingstown, Saint Vincent W.I.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. --Margaret Mead
Thursday, March 11, 2010
My mother always said, 'you are who you hang out with.' And for the past seven months I have been on the financial level of my friends, eaten their food, danced with them, worked with them, lived with them, loved them. But I could never shake the color of my skin. I tanned until I burned, used black people hair dye, talked like them, lived like them. But I could never get rid of the person I was and the evidence lay plastered on my skin. I was different and always would be.
This past week my friends from the States came to visit and I was placed in a completely different world. White people, money, sail boats, American music, American dancing. And as much as I wanted to fit in, I just couldn't shake the person I had become. My clothes didn't match up, I wasn't as affluent and whenever they would ask where I was from, I proudly exclaimed 'I'm not a tourist. I live here.' I was different from them and always would be.
So, as I lay in my bed completely defeated, feeling as if I didn't belong in either world, I realized that maybe we're not who we hang out with. Maybe sometimes we just are who we are.
There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape Nuts on principle. --G.K. Chesterton
Monday, February 15, 2010
He and I have been running six days a week (I give him Sunday off so he can go to church) for the past two months and he is the only student that hasn't missed a day. Most kids show up for 2 or 3 running sessions a week, but not Gus Gus.
We look ridiculous running together down the main highway in St. Vincent, but he doesn't seem to notice. He's short and noticeably overweight. I am tall and noticeably white. People yell and laugh at us. They shout 'fat man' and 'whitey' around every corner we turn. And finally one day I asked Gus Gus if it hurt his feelings when people called him 'fat man'. And, to my surprise, he said it did. He said it 'made his heart hurt', which in turn hurt mine. So whenever people shout 'run fat man run' at him, I have started saying 'shut up! he's not fat!' Every time I said this, Gus Gus would get the biggest smile on his face. And now, every time someone shouts 'run white girl run' he says 'shut up! she's not white!' We both run with big smiles on our faces now.
I have been wanting to write about Gus Gus for a while now. There's always that one thing that gets you up in the morning, the one thing that makes you keep going. Gus Gus is my thing. And today, I have never been happier or more willing to get out of bed. It was our two month mark. Two months ago I bought a scale and weighed Gus Gus and me. Two months ago Gus Gus was 200 pounds. Today Gus Gus is 182. Today Gus Gus tried on an old pair of jeans and they fit. Today Gus Gus walked taller than I have ever seen him. Today was a great day.
'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for'--Ernest Hemingway
Thursday, February 4, 2010
My job is amazingly challenging and funny and forever changing. My main assignment is remedial reading, which I do from 8-12 everyday. I teach 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders phonics and 5th graders comprehension. Then in the afternoons I teach volleyball and in two weeks I will also be teaching a film class. In the evenings I have a running group. I also do work for the AIDS Secretariat and Marion House in town.
However, I have to say that my favorite part of my job is working with my kids. They have become such a big part of my life it is almost embarrassing and I'm well aware that it is a little pathetic. One afternoon after I took my kids running, two of the boys came into my house for a drink of water. Before we started drinking, one of the boys said we had to cheers. The other boy shouted 'Yes! Let's cheers to being best friends!' And without hesitation, I held my water up in the air and clinked my glass against theirs while shouting 'Best friends forever!' with them. It wasn't until after they left that an embarrassing truth came to my attention: I am best friends with 8 year old boys. I looked around the room and saw their artwork covering every inch of white space on my walls. They fill up every weekend and spare minute I have. I talk to them on the phone more than I do people my own age. If my nose starts to look concave and I start referring to St. Vincent as NeverLand..please send someone to come get me.
Twice a week I have fifth graders for comprehension lessons. I handmade them journals (and by handmade I mean I stapled copy paper together..very creative) and have them write in them daily. One of the assignments was to write what you would do if you were Prime Minister. Here is exactly what one kid wrote:
If I was Prime Minister I will help pure people and sent money to Haiti. I will bult house for pure people. And send the People to America to get jop. And bult a library for People ho is interested. And I will bult a house for Neely.
I'm pretty sure building a house for me wouldn't be on any of my friends' agendas if they became President. I guess being best friends with eight year olds isn't so bad after all...
'I'm really going to miss you when you go back in 2012'- Gus Gus
Sunday, January 31, 2010
to my mom. Thank you for your phone calls and text messages. Thank you for listening to me cry. Thank you for making me stop.
to my dad. Thank you for your wisdom and understanding. You forever increase my standards of what a man and father should be.
to my sister. Thank you for your faith. As much hell as I give you, your unwavering trust in the Lord makes me believe--even if it's just a little.
to Cassius. Thank you for the food, your support, finding money when there was none, your family, cleaning my house when I refused to get out of bed, making me get out of bed, laughing at my hysteria, hugging me when I cried. Thank you for everything.
to Sarah. Thank you for the money, the phone calls, the beach trips. Thank you for always listening and making me feel normal. But mostly, thank you for the tequila shots.
to Aunt Lori. Thank you for the package. It had impeccable timing and really made the last few weeks of the month tolerable.
to the Wittenbergs. Thank you for every package, nice facebook message and wall posts. You have no idea what they mean to me.
to Jessica. Thank you for never letting me forget how much I am loved.
to Dh. Thank you for never letting me forget what Jesus said. And of course, making fun of how gay this blog is. I laugh the loudest when I'm with you.
to the Lincolns. Thank you for an amazing Mexican feast and an even more amazing conversation afterwards. My perception of you is forever changed :)
to Sheena & Toussaint. Thank you for your generous portions of food. You constantly remind me of how bad of a cook I actually am.
to every Peace Corps volunteer. Thank you for the beers, laughter and understanding.
'Wake up naked, drinking coffee. Making plans to change the world, while the world is changing us. It was good, good love." DMB
Friday, January 1, 2010
I was lucky enough to have a family take me in for the duration of the Christmas holiday, so I was really able to experience a full Vincy Christmas. And I'm proud to say I survived. It's safe to say that I love to party, especially for an occasion like Christmas. But the locals here even put my partying spirit to the test. They begin celebrating 9 mornings before Christmas, and by celebrating I mean they wake up at 3am and party through the night. I was able to attend three of these celebrations and that was plenty for me.
The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. And a village just north of mine called Georgetown is well-known for it's unique fair. It is VERY important to dress in a brand new outfit--tags must be left on. So when I opened my mother's package for Christmas and saw new clothes, I was relieved. I would be a Vincy, if only for the day. So I arrived, tags and all, ready to dance. However, I'm me. And stories just don't end like that. While whining with some of my primary school kids (all with Guiness's in their hands), they started screaming and kicking this massive toad. I see the locals mistreating, or what I consider mistreating, animals all the time, so I wasn't shocked, but I wasn't just going to let this toad die on my watch. So I pick it up. HUGE MISTAKE. My kids faces turn white, then their mouths drop open. Some start crying, some start screaming. The music stops. And 2,000 people stop dancing to stare at me holding a toad. Then I hear my friend yelling from across the fair, pushing people out of the way. When he finally makes it to where I'm standing, he takes the toad and throws it over the fence. There seemed to be a sigh that resonated throughout the crowd. After my friend saw my confused face, he went on to explain that it was a 'jumbie,' which means ghost, and if I hold it long enough I will turn into a toad. Really? I asked (and still ask..). Yes, he replied. Apparently I was very lucky. I think the Peace Corps would definitely administratively separate me if I turned into a toad.
I have had a string of bad 'luck' lately. I put quotations around luck because I don't really believe in luck. I believe that things happen with a purpose, not randomly, and certainly not by luck. But the word just seems to fit in the sentence. A friend of the Peace Corps, and someone whom I trusted, broke into my house on Christmas Eve. He didn't steal anything valuable, but he mashed up my door and stole all my food and money--specifically my apples. You have no idea how expensive they are here. However, he did feed my dog. I love thoughtful criminals.
My attitude was grim. This was the second time my house had been broken into and I felt vulnerable and violated. I'm the only Peace Corps to get Dengue Fever in thirteen years, my house was continuously being broken into and money was being taken from me. I let a negative feeling swell up inside me about my community, myself and my purpose here. How was I going to make it financially this month? How can I stay somewhere that I don't feel is safe? What if I'm the problem..not the people who keep breaking in?
Then I saw the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. Me and some friends planned to spend New Years in Bequia, and I was supposed to catch a van at 8:30 New Years Eve morning. However, I was running late and as I was running down the gap to catch 'Big One', shouting at him to wait for me, I remembered that I didn't lock the gate. I told him to go ahead, that I would catch the next one. I caught the next van and headed into town. 'Big One' was just ahead of us the whole time and when we rounded the corner, I saw the tire blow. The van flipped several times throwing people out of the window. I heard screams and saw more blood than I had ever seen in my life. As we passed the van, there were dead bodies all along the road, a lot of them children, people screaming, and others seriously wounded. The van I was in went into hysteria. On a small island like this, it is very likely that they knew those people. On a small island like this, everyone is affected.
After the shock wore off and I made many phone calls, I learned that I knew no one in the van. There were no Peace Corps, no New Grounds community members, no New Grounds students. It seemed that my luck was changing.
Until I woke up New Years morning and saw that my overnight bag had been stolen. My life was in that bag--all of my money for the month, wallet, food, clothes, camera, phone...the list keeps going.
However, this time my reaction was much different. I won't be able to pay my rent this month. I won't have a phone until next month and my internet will be cut off soon. I won't have a camera or an excess of food. But I am healthy and alive. And the people I love are just a phone call away. Nothing else matters.
...And, I'm not a toad. That would really suck.
'Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly'-Leah Thomson