Dennery, eastern caribbean travel, Micoud, Mondele Lookout Point, Peace Corps, peace corps response, singles travel adventure

The Ordinary Day that Wasn’t…Pt 2

By 12:30p that same Saturday, I had connected with fellow PCV, Barbara T., in VF.  Initially, we were going to run an errand to the Peace Corps office in Castries but that changed.  We walked down Clark St. a little which is where the general street market is and she pointed out a few stores, like China Town, that everyone MUST know about.  I got to see a different bus area that serviced the North of the island which is exactly where we were headed.  Dennery (pronounced Den Ree) was our destination to have lunch at this place called Mondele Point.

In Dennery there is the beautiful spot called Mondele Lookout Point.  Awe inspiring views of the water and good food.

In Dennery there is the beautiful spot called Mondele Lookout Point. Awe inspiring views of the water and good food.

I’d passed this place several times already and it was calling my name.  Thankfully, Barbara had a good outlook because she said if they didn’t serve lunch we’d simply take another bus to another destination.  I couldn’t ask for more in a travel buddy!

As we were pressed in the bus like sardines, we chatted away about our experiences thus far.  She had just finished an amazing, yet draining, week of summer camp for 50 kids of various ages at her library in Micoud.  I expressed I wanted to see her village and where she worked if we could manage it.  20 minutes later we arrived; I was thrilled with my lunch destination!  Some places are hard to tell if they are open or not therefore I simply asked if they served food.  We had a lovely, inexpensive lunch under the shade of the pavilion overlooking the absolutely stunning scenery of Dennery.

View of Dennery village from Mondele Point

View of Dennery village from Mondele Point

All during lunch we exchanged ideas, ways to partner for a secondary project – how my hospital can reach out to the community through her library initiatives, and more.  It was about this time when we strolled the grounds and a couple tour buses arrived.  I said “Man, I’m glad I’m not a tourist!”  The last thing I wanted was to be shuffled around and rushed through the experience.  I felt particularly thankful at this time because we leisurely went through our lunch on our time table.  We could leave when we wanted.  A couple buses came and went yet we hadn’t moved from our lookout point.  Amusing really.

Me at Mondele Lookout Point

Me at Mondele Lookout Point

Alas our bellies were full, even topped off with Tamarind balls and Gooseberries for dessert.  Off to Micoud we go to see Barbara’s village first hand.  Back down the mountain we went.  The coolest part of that bus ride was I received a compliment that my Patois (also spelled Patwa) was very good!  I was able to exchange a couple sentences.  Yay!  Go Me 🙂  Patois is formally known as Kweyol or better known as Creole.  I have to tell you that I fell in love with Micoud (pronounced Me Coo).  Although I have heard people pronounce the D in Micoud.  I learned it is all about the confidence in which you speak.

Fellow Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Barbara, and I at Mondele Point in Dennery.

Fellow Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Barbara, and I at Mondele Point in Dennery.

Stay tuned for part 3…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

Other blogs you may want to check out are:

David at http://kuribbean.blogspot.com/

Bash at http://www.bashhalow.blogspot.com/

Kate at https://everywhereismydestination.wordpress.com/

~Brie Messier, MBA

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Peace Corps, peace corps response

The Ordinary Day that Wasn’t…Pt 1

I don’t want to be a tourist.  I never have.  When I go somewhere I want to immerse myself in the culture as best as possible with the amount of time I have.  Living in St. Lucia, affectionately called St. Lucy, is no different.  This weekend has been action packed and I was thrilled by everything I did, saw, smelled, heard, tasted, and touched.  I covered all five senses, correct?  Much of what I did can be considered normal, and some of you may be unimpressed, but for me it was anything but ordinary.

In Vieux-Fort (VF) I saw the fish market up close and personal.  I met “my guy,” Ace.  Yeah, I got a fish guy!  I learned a few things such as types of fish available, how the market works, that I can get 3-15 lbs, a good price is $7-$10 depending on type and if supply is higher than demand.  Good ole economics!  Fish eggs, better known as Caviar, is a pretty price all on it’s own.  My guy…he threw in the eggs at no extra charge.  I got to choose my Mahi Mahi, otherwise known as Dolphin here, that would yield 5lbs.  Now to someone who goes fishing and actually eats their catch or has lived near a place that has a fresh fish market this is a customary experience.  But for me not so much.  I’d never gone to the docks, picked my fish, watched it get cut into fillets then carry off my two bags of fish parts.

While downtown I got to experience a barbershop, a True Value hardware store that had a restaurant in it, and bought some pineapple from a vendor outside the super market.  A notable yet cool occurrence is that the shops are barely labeled.  I mean there is very little signage…at all.  You kind of wander around and poke your head in to see if it may have something you need.  Granted, I have people helping me learn the ropes but sometimes it’s like, “How did you know there was a barber inside that tiny, unmarked building?”  I returned home only long enough to put my groceries away then I hit the pavement to wait for a bus to go meet a friend for more exploration.

We drove around a couple streets in Vieux-Fort looking for this barber shop.  It's the little brown building with no signage.

We drove around a couple streets in Vieux-Fort looking for this barber shop. It’s the little brown building with no signage.

A typical view of city of Plateau.  Notice the far right building that is a bakery.  If you blink you'll miss it.  Small signage.

Another example of business signage; the building on the far right is a bakery. If you blink you’ll miss it.  Typical view of the village of Plateau.

Stay tuned for part 2…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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Peace Corps, peace corps response

Go ahead…laugh

Friends.  Bus.  Independent.  Cooking.  Laughing.  Those words could easily sum up my days.  Fortunately, up to this point, I have been getting a ride to the hospital with a colleague, Dylan, even though I know I need to learn how to catch the bus.  I figured after a full day at work on Wednesday, I’d brave the adventure of taking the bus home for the first time.  Initially, it is nerve wracking; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  As I strolled out of the hospital and down the steps, I was greeted by this cutie.

the sweetheart who greeted me AND walked me all the way to the bus at work.

My new friend at work

Up until now, I haven’t gotten close to any of the dogs that I’ve seen but this little girl really liked me talking to her and she even let me pet her a few times.  She was quite curious of me as I crouched down in the parking lot to change into my flip flops.  I loved her right away. Together we trekked around the George Odlum Stadium.  We even played a little; it was awesome.  Can you believe she walked me the entire way!?  No kidding.   I tried giving her water but she didn’t grasp the concept of drinking from my hand.  As I approached the street I got very concerned for her.  I really didn’t want her to cross the road with me but she refused to stay.  It was so darn sweet.  Was she sent to look after me?  She stayed with me until the bus came which was rather quick.  I swear, if she could’ve, and I had invited, I think she would’ve jumped in the bus after me.  It broke my heart really.  As you can imagine she’s a stray.  I simply wanted to scoop her up.  Tears threatened as we left her; I watched nervously as I silently encouraged her to make it to safety.  Leaving her brought my Springaling to mind…gosh I miss her.

These are what our buses look like.  I take two to get to work or home.  Most are identified with a green plate with an M on it.  Others have an H and are black.

This is a typical minibus.  I take 2-4 each day. Most are identified by a green plate with an M on it. Others have an H and are black.

Knowing where to get off in  Vieux-Fort is easy.  It took two tries to find my next bus going to Augier. Here you have to wait until the bus is full, 15 people, before it starts the journey. Patience is a must.   Quiet panic rushed through me a couple times when I didn’t recognize the surroundings.  I sat back, told myself this is all part of the adventure.  Honestly, if I had missed my stop then I’d just get off somewhere and call Dylan to come get me.  I had already prepped him if I wasn’t home by a certain time to come looking for me, lol.  Much to my relief, I recognized my stop.  Bus stops aren’t too formal, they kind of exist but not really.  The art is all in how you yell “Stop!”  $3.20 EC gets me home sweet home.

apartment compound

apartment compound

Feeling like a big girl for finding my way home I felt ready to tackle dinner.  Yup, I dug in to make my first Caribbean meal.  So, I broke out the Bread Fruit, Plantains and chicken.  I swear, the bread fruit was going to do me in.  First I tried boiling it.  Then I changed my mind midway because of what I read in my Peace Corps issued cookbook.  To be a fly on the wall watching me not only attempt to light the stove but to then pull the semi boiled food out so I could peel it…simply priceless.  Did I mention it took me 12 matches to light the stove?  Yes, 12!  In the moment I was cursing because the matches wouldn’t stay lit or the gas wasn’t on or the match burned to0 low for my comfort or…well…you get the picture.  It was a sweat producing event, lol.  Ultimately, after I peeled it, I boiled it then fried it and sprinkled salt.

Peeling Bread Fruit

Peeling Bread Fruit

I went on to prepare the Plantains.  As I was cooking, I thought to myself that they didn’t look like my host moms.  Ah, I just chocked it up to my first time cooking them.  Yeah, well, turns out I made some mighty fine BANANAS!!!  I crack me up.  I didn’t know it until the next day when I made the “same” dinner again but this time the Plantains color and consistency were very different.  Regardless, it was all delicious.

My first delicious, home made meal:  chicken, fried Plantains, and Bread Fruit.

First home made meal: chicken, fried Plantains, and Bread Fruit.

 

 

 

Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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No Expectations

No Expectations

I’ve been guilty many, many …many times of having expectations of situations and people for which I am let down or disappointed.  I’ve been coached through the years to NOT have expectations yet, admittedly, I struggle with this concept.  It seems that some areas of my life are far easier to not have expectations while others consistently drive me nuts, such as my romantic relationships.  I suspect this is of great importance for me to learn how to do better in my lifetime, lol.

What has made this experience so rewarding thus far is that I have not had any expectations and therefore I’ve been pleasantly pleased or surprised by what I’ve encountered.  I haven’t expected to have anything be like it was at home in CT. I didn’t expect running water, I didn’t expect clean or drinkable water, I didn’t expect a comfy bed, I didn’t expect to have food readily available, I didn’t expect…well …anything.  I didn’t play out where we would be trained or transportation or the types of people I’d meet.  Not a single thing!  Even as we drove through the city of Castries on 6/20/15, Rosanna was apologizing, in a way, for not having big department stores.  I told her I was perfectly happy with what they had here and I didn’t come expecting to have what I left in America.  Often, she explained, people come to St. Lucia and whine when things are not like what they left behind in another country.  Why would anyone come to a new country expecting or hoping for what they had at home?  Isn’t that the part of adventure and exploration?  To find new things?  New ways of doing things?  To discover new tastes, smells, or things for which to look upon?   In my humble opinion, if you come expecting what you have always had then there is no room to expand your horizons.  Realistically, if you wanted what you had at home then you might as well simply stay put.

I wish I knew or understood how I am able to have such an open mind that is devoid of expectations on this adventure because then I could employ it in all aspects of my life.  It is almost like a blank space.  My mind is not empty of thoughts and ideas but rather it is not competing or jumping to conclusions.  It is not telling me to expect “this” therefore I am not disappointed.  I literally don’t dwell too far in the future; I’m more present and take minute by minute.  Is this how it feels to be a man??  I say that light heartedly as it’s already been well established that men and women think differently.  And in my short life, I have come to appreciate, from men I’ve encountered, that they are blessed to not “over think” things.  It’s as if I have had to toss aside all conventions and be open to whatever may come.  I am simply accepting of what is which is no easy feat.  Next up…language training and moving to my new home in Augier.  Here’s to no expectations!!

Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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St. Lucian Eats!!

There has been new and delicious food every single day since I arrived here in country. In my host family’s home, they are very health conscientious.  Little or no sugar, 98% of things are prepared from scratch, little salt, and little dairy (if something calls for milk, Rosanna, host mom, makes fresh coconut milk!).  Did you catch that?  Me, in a house with little or no sugar/sweets.  If that isn’t a test, I don’t know what is, lol.  Some of my favorite dishes have been baked bread fruit with salt (island version of french fries), bread fruit with garlic and cheese, cucumber salad, grated salad on a bed of lettuce, potato salad, all the homemade juices such as passion fruit and tamarind, smoothies, and fried plantains.

Lentil balls, bakes bread fruit w/cheese and garlic, and a pasta with grated veggies

Lentil balls, baked bread fruit w/cheese and garlic, and a pasta with grated veggies

Today, however, was the first time I had a traditional St. Lucian meal:  Salt Fish fritters, bakes, and cucumber salad along with cocoa tea.  It took nearly three hours to prepare everything.  It’s a good thing Rosanna, my host mom, loves to cook!   Want to know the kicker about Salt Fish?  It is imported!  From Canada!  That’s right, it isn’t even a native fish here.  I was shocked.

Salt fish fritters batter

Salt fish fritters batter


I took notes on the prep of this meal as I’ll be on my own in just a few short days.  I know there is a lot to learn and do but I feel content in just going slow.  I figure it’ll all come in time.  I don’t need to learn EVERYTHING today because then there’d be nothing for me tomorrow.  I helped to a small degree in preparation and cooking.  The most nerve wracking part was lighting the gas stove with a match.  I am highly cautious; I don’t like dealing with grease or hot things in general. It makes me

Bakes dough ready to be fried

Bakes dough ready to be fried

sweat!  I was burned, in a minor way, as a toddler from playing with matches.  One stuck to my finger and burned me.  Ever since, it truly colored my view of fire.  In spite of this, I was able to drop in the fritters and bakes as well as flip them.  I only over cooked one…not too shabby!

Delicious traditional St. Lucian meal ready to eat:  bakes, salt fish fritters,  cucumber salad, and cocoa tea in the mug.

Delicious traditional St. Lucian meal: bakes, salt fish fritters, cucumber salad, and cocoa tea.  Your mouth must be watering by now?!

Cocoa Tea

Cocoa Tea

It is so cool that we can go in the back yard to knock down a Pawpaw (Papaya), pick herbs and/or vegetables for our meals.  I know we can do similar things in the US yet it hasn’t been in my everyday life really ever.  I love that we can do it here.  It seems everyone around us grows as much as they can.  It’s in line with the #foodisfreeproject for which I subscribe.  We truly can plant and harvest things for food at home.  Even if I do it a little, I will help stretch the all mighty dollar or in my case, the Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar.

Want to know what the best part of dinners are with my host family?  The togetherness.  One such time, Najah decided she wanted to share embarrassing stories.  Well, that got all of us rolling in laughter as we took turns divulging dirt about ourselves!  It was fabulous and exactly how I envision family dinners.  It’s a joy to watch my siblings so happy,  eager to engage, and love eating their mother’s meals.  Good food and good company.

Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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I’ve Been Moved

During the opening ceremony on 6/15/15 I was moved to tears twice.  The first time was when a chorus group of 3rd graders sang the St. Lucian national anthem.  I was touched because it felt personal; they were singing to welcome me to their country.  The children were sweet, melodic, and so adorable.  Take a listen…

Watching and listening to them was a realization point for me.  I was really in a different country and I was truly a part of the Peace Corps!!  How did this happen?  How did I get here?  It even chokes me up right now as I write.

Alvina Reynolds, children who sang for us at the opening ceremony, and I on 6/15/15.  Taken at the multi-purpose center in Babonneau, St. Lucia

Front row: children who sang for us at the opening ceremony.  Back row from L to R:  PCV Shelby, Me, Chorus instructor, PCV Mary, and PCV Brenda.  Taken on 6/15/15 at the multi-purpose center in Babonneau, St. Lucia

Tears welled up for a second time when parliamentary representative, Alvina Reynolds, welcomed us to our service.  She quoted John F. Kennedy, whom I’ve always admired, and it hit me in the heart:  “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  I had this very quote on a t-shirt when I was 15 yrs old working for Cove Pizza in Coventry, CT!

Much to my surprise, JFK started the Peace Corps.  His public service message from the 1960’s is still extremely relevant today.  I will leave you with this inspiring call to service of bringing peace to the world.  How will you do your part?  Here’s the video clip…

Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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We Are an Experiment

One of the aspects of my service thus far has been the unexpected separation between Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) and Peace Corps Response Volunteers (PCRV).  It’s present in the way staff address the group.  It’s present in the literature.  And it seems most present among the volunteers.  You may be asking yourself what is the difference between the two groups?  A PCV serves for 27 months and a PCRV can serve anywhere between 3 – 12 months.  Typically, PCRV’s are former PCV’s so the fact that I came in without being a prior volunteer is amazing.  It seems it doesn’t happen often.  It is very special to be here especially because this is the first time the PCV and PCRV’s have gone through training together.  We are an experiment.  It’s a fabulous one, too!  I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m grateful they chose this time to combine us together.  I’m honored to be here and a part of EC 87!!

The entire group of Eastern Caribbean Peace Corps Volunteers.  Better known as EC 87 because we are the 87th group to be stationed here.  Picture taken at the multi-purpose training center in Babonneau, St. Lucia.

The entire group of Eastern Caribbean Peace Corps Volunteers. Better known as EC 87 because we are the 87th group to be stationed here. Picture taken at the multi-purpose training center in Babonneau, St. Lucia.

One possible theory about this separation is that the people serving a 27 mos assignment, and are together for a full seven weeks, may be reluctant to invest time, energy and effort to form bonds or friendships with those of us who are response volunteers.  In our case, there are two response volunteers serving 1 yr assignments.  I can only speak to my experience and observations.  Everyone is friendly and works in a group as necessary.  It’s the “off” time such as breaks, lunch, and after training that it becomes most apparent.  I have experienced a little bit of isolation in this realm.  It could also be partly due to age differences, assignment differences, and where we are living with host families.  The bulk of volunteers are here as teachers for the Literacy Program while I am here to work with St. Jude Hospital and Annmarie is here to work with an orphanage.  Regardless of our differences, at the end of the day, we are all here because we believe in the Peace Corps and want to be of service.

Upon self reflection, maybe the separation is coming from me?  Due to the shorter training period and home-stay I want to soak up as much family time as possible.  That doesn’t leave much time to spend with my fellow PCV’s.  I wish there was more time because sadly, I will be leaving everyone by the end of next week for my post in Vieux Fort, in the South of the country.    I know eight other volunteers, aside from me, will be stationed on St. Lucia while everyone else gets deployed to neighboring islands Dominica, St. Vincent, and Grenada.  My plan is to stay connected and participate when I can with activities.

My siblings! L:  Hajan; R:  Najah

My siblings!
L: Hajan; R: Najah

Stay tuned…because I am not sitting on the sidelines of life!

~Brie Messier, MBA

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