I am sitting under a pink umbrella sipping Mai Tais on the beach (NOT!) in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies.

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 07, 2001 - 8:51 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps life is not always a bowl of sun-drenched mangoes - I am sitting under a pink umbrella sipping Mai Tais on the beach (NOT!) in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies.

Peace Corps life is not always a bowl of sun-drenched mangoes - I am sitting under a pink umbrella sipping Mai Tais on the beach (NOT!) in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies.

I am sitting under a pink umbrella sipping Mai Tais on the beach (NOT!) in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies.

Hacienda de Carole

Hello and thanks for joining me here!

Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) website:


Currently, I am sitting under a pink umbrella sipping Mai Tais on the beach (NOT!) in the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies. The U.S. Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) decided that it would be altogether fitting and proper to send me to paradise rather than one of central Asia's "--stans". I chose not to argue.

Getting here I left on a jet plane out of Miami on July 17, 1998. With my cohort of 50-odd new PCVs, I spent 2 weeks training for this climate on the islands of St. Lucia, followed by another 3 weeks with part of the group on Dominica. Both are farther down the Leeward and Windward Island chains to the south. In training, I was subjected to death-defying adventures such as:

Daily 30-minute walks each way to the training site in St. Lucia overlooking a huge valley dotted with coconut palm and banana trees

Dancing the night away to soca music in Rodney Bay

A hike across a stark volcanic sulphur-infused mountain plateau to see the Boiling Lake

Climbing up and down twisting trails under the rain forest canopy en route to the 100-foot Sari Sari waterfall and swimming hole

Frolics in the treacherous, tepid, aquamarine Atlantic Ocean where the waves almost proved to me who was boss

River baths in the cool Rosalie River (at all hours of the day and night and in all states of dress)

Living on a diet of provisions such as the sweet plantain, dasheen hash browns, BBQ chicken, peanut butter crackers, gallons of homemade passion fruit juice, and fresh coconut

Creating a 36-page travel magazine for a 3rd Grade class of L.A.'s Compton Avenue Elementary School with my 14-year-old summer campers

Being attacked by sand flies, blister beetles, and the ubiquitous mosquitoes (bet you didn't know there were differently types of these hellions)

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go! At the end of August, I arrived on Antigua and was officially sworn in as a PCV. I gradually settled into my new life and my exciting assignment as the Education Officer for the Environmental Awareness Group (www.homestead.com/eag_antigua), Antigua's only national environmental NGO. My work includes great projects, including:

The development and implementation of an outreach programme for the Great Bird Island (GBI) environment. The GBI education programme will target tour operators and tourists that visit the offshore island, as well as students and the general public. I will be working on creating a greater awareness with these target groups on the importance of the GBI habitat and the rare and endangered species that find refuge on this island. I will also attempt to improve existing knowledge of conservation practices that can be undertaken by each target group to preserve the species and their habitat and motivate user groups to conserve this offshore island environment.

A regional coral reef education project coordinated by the Caribbean Conservation Association and the Field Studies Council (UK). Other island partners are St. Lucia, Dominica, Jamaica, Barbados, and the British Virgin Islands. The purpose of this project is to increase student awareness of biodiversity and coral reefs as a resource through the development of resource packs that will be used in schools; to increase the capacity of teachers to introduce active learning and first hand investigation into the school curriculum, and; to encourage preservation of coral reefs through the development of local school based conservation projects. Local support from the Ministry of Education and Antigua's teachers will be key.

Other ad hoc education initiatives such as leading field trips, designing activities on broader environmental issues for students, issuing press releases and writing articles about the EAG's education programs, and assisting on educational aspects of other EAG initiatives. I was shocked to learn upon my arrival that the training portion of the coral reef project would be taking place over 2-3 weeks in early November, and that the site of the training was the United Kingdom! Our international partner is the Field Studies Council, a U.K.-based field training center. The money for our project comes from the Darwin Initiative, which is a U.K. fund that came out of the Rio Convention and supports biodiversity projects in developing regions. I spent a week in Pembrokeshire, Wales exploring the biodiversity of a marine site, and a week in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England, where our team investigated issues relating to recreation management. The sessions were very useful and it was great to meet the other Caribbean counterparts for this project, which will continue for the next couple of years. I also got to see my cousins, Roger and Leyla, and to do some shopping on Portobello Road (see pictures). Our next training session will be another grueling task: a week over Easter in Tortola, BVI. Some gals have all the luck. I don't know what I did to get here, but I sure am lucky!

A Day In the Life A typical day for me would be to get up at around 6:45 and head right for the shower. If I remember to turn on the water heater for an hour or so the previous night (it would cost a fortune to leave it running all the time), I can have a warm shower, which is quite nice first thing in the morning when the air and my body temperature are cooler. It is usually about 75 degrees at 7 am. Then, I have some toast and pack my bag for the day. I walk outside in front of my house and wait for the bus. "Bus" means anything from a 32-passenger bus to a dilapidated, van-type transport with seating for 14 (so the sign says, but usually they squeeze two kids into one seat, which means nothing to you if you are the one sitting next two the two kids). All these buses have jump seats which fold down to allow for more passengers. We whiz off towards St. John's (a 25-30 minute ride), stopping at least a dozen times along the way to pick up and discharge passengers. A lot of day care centers are on the main road, so you have to wait while mom runs the kiddie inside (the reverse is true at the end of the day for kiddie pick-ups). We pull into the West Bus Station in St. John's at around 8:15 and I pay my EC$2.25 and head into town. It is about a 10 minute walk to my office above the museum. Along the way, I dodge traffic, hold my nose as I pass by the new fish market which is under construction and dredging for which leaves a putrid stench of effluent in the air, say hello to a few regular shop vendors who are setting up their storefronts for the day, try to catch a glimpse of the headlines as the newspaper vendor waves his papers around, and sometimes hit the bank before the line gets too long.

My workday varies, but I am usually in the office for at least half the day. I use the computer for emails, report production, and correspondence. I make phone calls to tour operators, teachers, Ministry of Education Officials, and others, setting up meetings and discussing projects. I go to a few meetings a week for the same purposes. I might teach a class here and there. I might accompany a tour operator or another EAG person on a site visit, field trip, or monitoring venture. I may go out and do errands at lunchtime, except on days when the cruise ships are at port and the downtown area is overrun with people. I make the 20 minute walk up the hill to the Peace Corps Office about 2-3 times a week, stopping half way to sign out the keys from the fire station. There, I do emails, photocopy, make calls, type reports, and chat with Lee, our program assistant (she is terrific).

At the end of the day, I head back home, often stopping at the market by my house to get bread and fresh veggies. I take a walk, ride my bike, write letters and do other semi-productive things before I fix some dinner: largely the same things you might have. Pasta, rice, baked potatoes, plantains, and sometimes just a plain old cheese sandwich. I don't eat meat very much at home as it is expensive, but I do have a lot of beans and chick peas. After dinner, I usually read for 2-3 hours before hitting the sack. I read a lot of magazines and work-related articles, books, guidelines, and reports in addition to fiction for pleasure. I am usually in bed by 10 with my book, and asleep by 11.

Weekends usually involve an EAG outing, a trip to the beach with friends, lunch or dinner in town with friends, perhaps a party or dinner gathering, hand-washing, house cleaning, and the like. And that's my life!

Reality-check Peace Corps life is not always a bowl of sun-drenched mangoes. Even though the Eastern Caribbean is perhaps the most "Americanized" of almost any other region in the world where Peace Corps has a presence, there are many challenges that we face every day. You may not realize it, but it may actually be harder to overcome American stereotypes here because Antiguans are so familiar with Americans as tourists. I can't tell you how many times a day I get calls of "Taxi! Taxi!" because white ladies take cabs. And "Psssst!" because white ladies all want to find a nice Antiguan date for the evening. And "Five dollars!" for a couple of bananas that I know are only $1.50 because white ladies don't know the difference. These are some superficial examples of some of the resistance we face here on a regular basis. There are economic, social, and political realities that go much deeper than this. And, with no phone or television, when I walk into my house alone every night, it's just me and my own thoughts that carry me into the evening and off to sleep. Also, one takes for granted the distractions of even the most mundane household appliances until you've washed and rinsed thick towels and sheets in a 5-gallon bucket.

Keep in touch! All-in-all, life is good! Many people are very friendly. The music is wonderful. Beaches are fabulous. Food is tasty. Health is fine and happiness is the norm. Thanks to Nuno, you can soon see some pictures of my life. Perhaps you will see it for yourself before too long. It wouldn't be as fun or easy without the continued support of loved ones....for packages, crossword puzzles, emails, phone calls, and letters. Thanks to you all!

Stop back and visit again soon!

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