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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2016 presidential debate, american politics, Peace Corps, peace corps response

8 questions I’d ask a presidential candidate

My senior high school picture 1994

My senior high school picture 1994

Next to my year book photo you can find this future plan:  be the FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT.  At the time some laughed. Today, some are trying to collect on bets made (you know who you are).  Then there are still others who wonder if it’ll ever happen.  I had such conviction.  A few short years later I realized I could not be bought.  I could not be bribed.  And then there was this small matter of not playing politics well.  I’m not an ass kisser, period!  I stand up for the things I believe in and for others.  I say what needs to be said.  Although I have grown to be more graceful, tactful, and empathetic so my message is heard the first time…the substance is the same.  Truth.  Granted, it may be only my truth.

Generally, I suspect some politicians forget what they are elected to do and for whom they work. They work for me; a US Citizen, regardless of whether or not I voted.  I believe they lose sight of the significance and critical role they have in preserving our constitution.  At my swearing in ceremony for the Peace Corps, I was overcome by the enormity of what I was actually doing for America and this wonderful country of St. Lucia.  Listen closely to what is being asked of me and what I’m pledging to do; perhaps then you will understand my tears of joy.  In my humble opinion, this is what needs to be in every elected official.  Passion.  Service.  Humility.  Pride.  Love.  Hmmm…perhaps that will be my campaign slogan if I decide to run in the future?!

The most difficult part of presidential races is that no party fulfills my belief system.  No one candidate encompasses all that I wish for the country.  Do you ever find yourself in the same boat?  That is why when I’m asked am I Democrat or Republican I say “I vote for the best candidate no matter their party.”  Most often that means independent.  People who vote party over principle are part of the problem according to Eric Odom of www.libertynews.com and I agree.  At one point, I used to think not voting was the WORST thing someone could do in relation to politics and exercising a fundamental right that not everyone in the world gets.  I can appreciate better now why people abstain.  They can’t stomach what goes on.  The political arena is too complex.  The right things don’t get accomplished anyway.  The right to not vote is equally important.

If I were running a debate, here are at least eight questions I’d ask each candidate.  I’m fairly certain I’d run it like an interview:

  1. What are you going to do DIFFERENTLY to ensure you are living and executing what the American people want for their country?
  2. How will you prevent yourself from being “bought” by lobbyists, Super PACS, and other campaign contributors?
  3. What are the top three areas you want to focus your administration on if elected? Why?
  4. What are you not proud of in your career thus far?  Why?
  5. How do you plan to walk your talk and not fall into the trap of lip service to the American people?
  6. Why do you think there is such a disconnect, misalignment between what the people want and what actually happens by our elected officials?
  7. How do you propose we find balance between taking care of America and our foreign obligations so we can pull out of conflicts/wars?
  8. It saddens me to see the state of our race relations, in particular between the black and white communities; what do you suggest can be an actionable plan to continue working toward harmony?

Maybe my dream of being president isn’t dead.  I thought my window had passed for serving in the Peace Corps yet here I am; therefore, I will keep my heart and mind open in this realm, too.  I still have a steadfast belief that one person can make a difference.  I hope you will be one of them!  Check out http://www.isidewith.com to help you figure out which candidate fits you.

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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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

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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Peace Corps, peace corps response

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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Peace Corps, peace corps response

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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