eastern caribbean travel, Peace Corps, peace corps response, singles travel adventure

Adventurous Badass

This year…I want to go on more adventures!  That is what I posted on Facebook on January 1, 2015.  The universe delivered in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

Go on more adventures meme jan 2015

 

In early 2015 you could find me hiking up a mammoth mountain in two feet of snow and snowmobiling in Vermont, USA with my best friend, Tina, while away at a girls weekend.  Snowmobiling is my new sport love; I felt like a badass and it was exhilarating!  Bucket list item…check.

snowmobiling pic with Tina Mar 2015 VT cabin

There’s no way I could’ve imagined that in October I’d be immersed in a radically different environment trekking through the rain forest and bathing in a waterfall in Soufriere, Saint Lucia.  Surreal.  Incredible.  I feel so fortunate to be in this space and place.  Bucket list item…check!

Enbaus Sau Rainforest saint lucia hike Oct 2015

First sighting of water while hiking the En Bas Saut Trail in the rain forest

As the year 2015 is in its final hours I reflect on what I have experienced, how the universe has delivered, how I was willing to risk everything for the unknown, what I leave behind and what I will take with me into 2016.

What I am leaving behind in 2015…

  • Lost friendships
  • Lost love
  • Lost family
  • Sadness surrounding the losses
  • Failure(s)…I’ve lost count yet shows I keep trying 🙂
  • Split ends (7+ months…yes, I need a haircut desperately!)
  • The hope of a better past

What I am leaping forward with into 2016…

  • New friendships
  • Opportunity to serve something bigger than me
  • Ambition in my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Problem solving that leads to a brighter tomorrow for me and my hospital
  • Stretching my ability to face and thrive in adversity
  • Exploring more of my home island
  • Openness to what may come
  • Finding greater peace and total acceptance of myself (the good, the bad, the ugly)
  • Remaining open to love
  • No expectations (this remains an ongoing hurdle)
  • Living in the moment
  • wonderful memories from 2015

I wish you all a Happy New Year!  I hope it is all of what you dream.  As for me, I know that I want to go on more adventures in 2016!

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

Other blogs you may be interested in:

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

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

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

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

~Brie Messier, MBA

 

 

 

 

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eastern caribbean travel, horses, Peace Corps, peace corps response

She likes to do what?

She was eager to get in the water.  There was no hesitation.  She went deeper into the ocean, small waves crashing against us as I made silly faces of disbelief.  Little did I know I was about to embark on a new experience.  Gem, is her name.  My steady and sure mare who loves to be in the ocean.

Gem and I taking the plunge

Gem and I taking the plunge

Don’t get me wrong, I have been swimming with horses nearly all my life.  My best friend, Tina, and I swam with horses when we were kids in my pond on rte. 89 in Mansfield, CT, USA.  We’d ride bareback with each other or we would ride with the saddle so we could pull the other around.  The rivers were fabulous for lining the horses up and jumping off their butts or be even more daring by swimming underneath all of them.  Horses float.  It is such a cool thing. While in St. Augustine, FL, my beautiful and smart horse, Penney,was willing to brave the ocean surf which is often scary for them.  We even swam in a pond once.  I never trusted the rivers or ponds in the south because of the alligators!  I steered clear most of the time.

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She simply loved the ocean

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On my 3rd month anniversary, 9/26/15, of living in Augier, Saint Lucia I got an experience of a lifetime.  The pictures only show a fraction of the experience.  I sure wish I had a GoPro camera to capture all the moments.  Let me paint the scene for you; we untacked my horse, I got a leg up from Max, and off I went to the beach.  She was slippery, I was wobbly, and laughing.  That can be a recipe for disaster.  I told Max not to laugh if I fell off!

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Blissfully pawing, playing in the ocean

I waded into the water a bit, kind of like dipping my toes in to see how it’d be.  Gem, although for the longest time I thought her name was Jim, pawed the water happily.  I thought that was it but then Max joined me.  He said he was “going to bathe a bit.”  Bathe here means swim.  As Max walked further and further out with Sensai following, we joined.  I figured, if he’s going, I can go, too!  At this point, Gem and I were swimming!  In the ocean!  I had this ear to ear smile plastered on my face.  I went back and forth and around Max.  It was blissful.  Just then, Max said she’s likes to roll.  “Huh?  She likes to do what?  Roll?  In the water?”  No sooner did he say that did Gem lay down in the water!!!  Holy crap.  I slid off of her and stayed close by.  I held her reins in my hands and she proceeded to repeat this five or so times.  It was crazy.  Never, in my life have I seen a horse do this.  Forget me being happy, Gem was happy as a clam.

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Galloping on Honeymoon Beach

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how utterly amazing it was to swim alongside my horse in the ocean.  I rubbed her face, she towed me around as I hung onto her barrel.  I could feel the power of her legs and swoosh of the water as she paddled around.  In that moment there was nothing but peace, quiet, joy…  The seaweed that normally freaks me out barely even registered with me.  I was too in tune with Gem.  I watched the horses nudge each other, Max floating face down nearby, and me, well…I simply took it all in.  At one point, Max said “you look so happy!”  He was right.

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Feeling joyful

When we finally headed toward home, I watched as Max swung himself swiftly onto Sensai’s back and laughed at myself as I could hear my mom’s words of long ago “Get on that horse lard ass!”  It’s been a few years since I could just swing myself up on my horse.  We rode off into the sunset as the moon slowly rose above and glinted off the water….

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

Other blogs you may be interested in:

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

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

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

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

-Erin: http://pceasterncaribbean.blogspot.com/2015/07/

~Brie Messier, MBA

Note:  The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps 

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eastern caribbean travel, human medicine, peace corps response

Beyond Impressive

I’m struggling to find my voice, the right voice in order to tell the story of St. Jude Hospital (SJH).  A voice that is honest yet sensitive.  It is a special story.  One that I couldn’t have imagined before arriving on island.  When I read the job description for SJH I knew it was the right fit.  I never even looked at another listing.  It was St. Jude or nothing.  The location was insignificant.  The pull was too strong.  Once I arrived, the CEO, Dr. Chierry Poyotte, told me he envisioned me coming to them.  Me.

map of caribbean

I’ll admit I originally thought my St. Jude was the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital based in the US.  It isn’t.

Rising from the Ashes is exactly what St. Jude Hospital was forced to do when its hospital, originally located in Augier, was destroyed by a raging fire on Sept 9, 2009.   A team of nearly 350 provide primary, specialty and emergency medical care to the southern region of the country which comprises roughly 68,0000 people.  To survive, to be displaced, to reorganize, and to make a stadium work as a hospital is beyond impressive.  There aren’t many organizations that can say they have endured and done what the St. Jude Hospital team has accomplished.

Vieux-Fort (VF) is the town and Augier is community within VF.

Vieux-Fort (VF) is the town and Augier is community within VF.

The stadium I speak of is George Odlum located in Vieux-Fort.  St. Jude literally took a sports stadium and turned it into a temporary hospital, albeit it’s been 6 yrs, so it could carry on with its mission.

This year, on the anniversary of the fire, the CEO, Public Relations, and I went around the hospital meeting with every department impromptu to thank them for their hard work through the years.  We acknowledged the “stadium fatigue” that is consuming them.  We encouraged them in this final push before we get to our new hospital…don’t give up…the light is at the end of the tunnel..  Even though we see the light, the feeling on the street is skepticism about the new hospital coming to fruition.  The people of St. Lucia are tired of hearing “next year.”  They don’t understand why it’s taking so long.

15 acre compound that houses the new St. Jude Hospital. This is the light at the end of the tunnel.

15 acre compound that houses the new St. Jude Hospital. This is the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are things that I’ve seen here that would never fly in a human or the best veterinary hospitals in the US.  The hard reality is the stadium is crumbling before our eyes.  In spite of this, the team pours their blood, sweat and tears into their work to be better every day.  It’s beyond tough to achieve best medical standards when there isn’t enough money to fix doors to a medical ward, replace flooring, provide certain tests, or to treat a certain illness.  Dirty electricity keeps us from putting in new equipment for fear it will be ruined outright.  The main focus though…is that the hospital strives to do right by it’s patients with what they have.  It is inspirational!

ER waiting area

ER waiting area

The generosity of companies and individuals who donate supplies, money and themselves is the human spirit at it’s finest. It is a long standing tradition and a foundation pillar of St. Jude.  During my 85 days thus far I have worked with volunteers comprised of doctors, nurses, educators, and a film maker, from the UK, Canada, and the US.  Also, during this time I have had the privilege of participating in small ways with Direct Relief and Americares through deciding what medications we need to how to logistically handle being the hub for distribution of supplies and medications to the 33 health clinics, two poly clinics, and Victoria Hospital which comprise the public medical system.  And this is simply the tip of the iceberg.

view of pharmacy from ER waiting area

view of pharmacy from ER waiting area

open air, rugged cafeteria area off the East Wing

open air, rugged cafeteria area off the East Wing

I’m honored and grateful to be here.  Those of you who have helped me and support me in my service to the Peace Corps and St. Jude Hospital are deeply appreciated.  By helping me, you are helping serve SJH and the United States.  The next time you go to the doctor, look around and be thankful for all which you have access.

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

Other blogs you may be interested in:

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

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

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

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

-Erin: http://pceasterncaribbean.blogspot.com/2015/07/

~Brie Messier, MBA

Note:  The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps 

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eastern caribbean travel, Peace Corps, peace corps response, singles travel adventure

Nature’s #1 Spa (= Volcano)

In the belly of a volcano, called Sulphur Springs, lays the best, natural Jacuzzi and spa that I’ve ever encountered.  Not only did I experience mother nature in a whole new way but I was able to experience the “world’s ONLY drive-in volcano!”

sulphur springs sign

Leading up to the adventure was mysterious.  I’d never been remotely close to a volcano before.  Granted, the idea of being in sulfur smelling waters, mud wasn’t overly appealing.  But what the heck…I’m on an adventure, right?!  I remember vividly visiting my sister, Holly, in Florida and her water had a sulfur, rotten egg smell  which was almost too much to bear.  I thought, “Oh, please, don’t let it be that bad!”

The volcano is located in the beautiful town of Soufriere, which is about 30 minutes from my home.  Many, if not all, St. Lucia resorts have trips to Sulphur Springs.  It’s a wonder for sure yet can be incredibly dangerous as people have died from falling in.

The volcano has a safety barrier to help prevent accidents.  Notice the smoke as it rises.

The volcano has a safety barrier to help prevent accidents.

It was incredible to see smoke rising from the depths of this volcano and I was in it!

As we drove through the volcano we could see the heat and steam rising from within.  This was taken from the car.

As we drove through the volcano we could see the heat and steam rising from within.  This was taken from the car.

The locals know the earlier you arrive the more enjoyable the springs will be.  As the day progresses, the water gets unbearably hot.  By 5:30a we were soaking in the hot, muddy volcanic waters.

relaxing in the hot sulphur springs.  It was about Jacuzzi temp, approximately 102 degrees.

Relaxing in the hot sulphur springs. It was about Jacuzzi temp, approximately 102 degrees.

soon you aren't going to be able to seeeee meeee...

soon you aren’t going to be able to seeeee meeee…

For the good mud you’ve got to scrape it up from the corners where it’s softer.  The grittiness was wonderful for exfoliating!  In the US I’d pay a few hundred dollars for this mud treatment.

It's on like donkey kong...I'm getting muddy!

It’s on like donkey kong…I’m getting muddy!

Where’s Brie?  Oh, wait…there I am!  I was on a mission to cover myself completely with Verna’s help.  Did I mention I work with Verna at St. Jude Hospital?

Verna and I after we are nearly covered by mud.  Notice the

Verna and I after we are nearly covered by mud.   Notice the “no entry” sign; the closer we got the hotter it was.  Beyond the sign it was no longer safe.

Verna taught me the mud has healing properties and for best results, leave the mud on for at least 10 minutes.  Sound familiar ladies and gents who do facials at home?  She described feeling lighter, rejuvenated whenever she departs from here.  I must agree, I felt wonderful!

People pay hundreds of dollars in the US for a mud wrap and this was free for me.  I was silky smooth afterward.  Best exfoliation!

I was silky smooth afterward.

Soon, droves of people were arriving therefore the peacefulness was cut short.  We spent a few more minutes there then I rinsed off and we made our way down, out of the volcano.

A tranquil pool

A tranquil pool

A stream meanders through the volcano!

A stream meanders through the volcano!

One of the last majestic sights was the Gros Piton so of course I had to snap some pictures.  As of now, I plan on tackling that bad boy.  It may take me five hours to climb it but who cares.  I can say I did it!  Before long I  was back at home, in bed by 7a sleeping away the rest of the morning.

as we drove down and out of the volcano we  could see the Gros Piton in the distance.  Crazier still ...people LIVED in this volcano!

as we drove down and out of the volcano we could see the Gros Piton in the distance. Crazier still …people LIVED in this volcano!

View of Gros Piton from Sulphur Springs

View of Gros Piton from Sulphur Springs

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

Other blogs you may be interested in:

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

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

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

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

-Erin: http://pceasterncaribbean.blogspot.com/

~Brie Messier, MBA

Note:  The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps 

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eastern caribbean travel, harassment training, Peace Corps, peace corps response, safety suggestions, safety tips, singles travel adventure

“Hey, sexy!”

“Hey Sexy” is how I was greeted by a young man at the VF bus depot.  So, I said hello.  Within 90 seconds he was asking for my cell number.  I politely declined.  This was the 2nd time I’d been asked for my number since I arrived.  I wish I could say it’s because of my wild charms but alas it’s just how it goes here.  Here’s how I think they’re looking at me…

Prior to arriving in St. Lucia I had read the Peace Corps welcome package which was fraught with caution, guidance, and safety tips on dealing with unwanted male attention.  I’m sort of a novelty, if you will, as there aren’t many Caucasian women here.  I must admit, dealing with sexual advances was probably highest on my concern list.  Would I be able to handle them?  Could I keep myself safe?  How would I know who was genuine?

Upon arriving, safety continued to be an emphasis.  A new friend, Hollianne, also gave me some tips on handling such advances.  This was a big deal.  I’ve encountered outward calls, hissing (sort of sounds like pssssst), physical contact, invitations to see them later, invitations to go out, offers to “stop by” my work, and far less intimidating, hello.  These have taken place on the road, on a bus, in the grocery store, walking through town, and in a food court.

Imagine yourself being pursued, verbally and physically, within the confines of a minibus, like the one below.  What is your recourse?  What do you do?

13 ppl packed like sardines and I'm in back

13 ppl packed like sardines and I’m in back

Can you feel your anxiety climbing?  He leaned his leg against mine; as I inched away, he followed.  I wanted him to stop. Seriously, I was worried that he would take the next bus I was on then see where I lived.  I contemplated getting off a couple houses away from mine or changing up my route in some way.  Those who know me best won’t be surprised that I ultimately asked him to move his leg to give me space.  He complied.  Such a wave of relief!  For added good measure, I told him I was married.  I suppose he felt I wasn’t playing into his hands and THANKFULLY got off one stop before me.

There are different approaches one can take: ignore, play dumb, yell, etc.  For me, acknowledging the men works well.   Better yet, I try to greet first; “Bonjou!”  I suspect by giving a friendly greeting in Patois it startles the guy(s) into not pursuing me.  In essence, I remove the target.  I’ve been told they simply want to be “seen.”  I understand so I do my best to “see” them.  Anything else…eh…they can’t touch this;)  Cue music…

Let’s hope as I gain more confidence and comfort in this foreign land that I will be able to blend in more.

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

Other blogs you may be interested in:

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

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

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

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

-Erin: http://pceasterncaribbean.blogspot.com/2015/07/mr-g-is-my-spirit-animal.html

~Brie Messier, MBA

Note:  The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps 

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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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