Friday, January 1, 2010

I believe in a thing called love

This Christmas will undoubtedly go down as one of the most eventful Christmas's ever. I pulled all nighters, drank local rum, witnessed my dinner being killed, played Santa Clause, danced with strangers and celebrated with friends.

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