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, 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

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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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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Breaking Coconuts

Day two in our new life as Peace Corps Volunteers in the Easter Caribbean. A few ladies took a stroll around the grounds which allowed us to make a discovery of not only Mango trees lush with fruit but fallen coconuts!  I had never personally seen a “wild” coconut in it’s natural habitat so I went along with Brenda’s declaration.  Our interest was further piqued as we could hear the liquid inside.  Our task at hand?  Isn’t it obvious?  Break open them coconuts, lol!!  Brenda was quite determined and was going all survivor on us while Erin elected to toss, relatively gently, the hard coconut at a small boulder.  Quite comical I assure you.

Brenda Diaz and Erin Lyons of Peace Corps EC 87 holding the newly found coconuts.

Brenda Diaz (right) and Erin Lyons (left) of Peace Corps EC 87 holding the newly found coconuts.

It was only Brenda, Erin and I for a good 5-7 minutes but the pounding on rocks with a strange object, the coconut, quickly drew attention.  A crowd of fellow PCV’s grew thereby bringing in more comedy and team work.  It turned out to be quite the bonding experience as I filmed, snapped pictures, and all of us encouraged the breaking of coconuts.

Daniel and Chris, also PCV, are working hard to break the coconut open.

Daniel (left) and Chris (right), also PCV, are working hard to break the coconut open.

Ultimately, and with great enthusiasm, the coconut was broken open by Chris.  It was definitely achieved through team effort by Erin, Daniel and Chris.  It took that much brute force to bust it open.  To her credit, Brenda, never gave up trying to get her coconut open.  Some tasted the coconut water, some gnawed on the coconut meat (the white stuff), while others experienced both.  I was not shy about getting two pieces of the meat!  It was more subtle in taste compared to what I had eaten in the US.  It made our morning stroll prior to training quite eventful.

Stay tuned…because we aren’t sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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