There and back again; Post 1

It’s been three years since I’ve been on this little rock in this big Caribbean Sea. I’ve found myself pinching my arm out of disbelief that I’m actually back. I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back after Peace Corps, but here I am. It’s morning, sitting on Leslie’s deck  as 3 pound Stella (a Canadian transplant chihuahua that Jade carried home with her from living abroad) sits on my lap and co-observes the 85 degree shaded wind rustling bamboo trees and collected bohemian wind chimes from bouts of travel around the world. Governor, one of five bottle baby-puppies Les and I took neonatal care of five years ago, basks in the rising sun. Bouganvillea-bonsai hybrids add color depth to the vista of tangerine, coral and turquoise colored houses and a cobalt-ombre sea at rest. Barking dogs speak with vocalizing chickens and I smell the faint scent of salt and coconut. Jade and her mama laugh in the kitchen while eating papaya, Nescafe and toast. It’s as if I never left, yet it feels new-in a way.

The last time I was on St. Vincent, literally my last step on the mainland, was on a dock in Calliaqua. We (somehow!) arranged for 6 island mutts to come home with us-Isla, Roo, Wolf, Sandy, Yuki & Birthday Cake…the last 5 being foster failures because we never thought we’d be that crazy. But we were/are/will be. It was midnight and our less-than-sober skipper had arrived four hours late to the port with not the slightest apology. Ahh, one of my last experiences of “island time”. My life packed in two bags, we loaded them and the five crates onto the 40′ vessel. Birthday Cake, Yuki’s puppy, was only 2 months and as the runt, was small enough to fit into a soft carrier that I’d be bringing on board the plane with me. As we set off on our overnight journey through the Grenadines, along channels and a full moon nestled into stars of stars, I felt sad but relieved. Relieved to be returning home and reuniting with familiarity and the missed comforts of America. Yet my heart had been opened and broken without being properly healed-I felt, and still do to this day, a rawness and vulnerability to sadness when thinking of this place. So much beauty from the bird’s eye view juxtaposed with so much tragedy on the ground. To leave on that little boat with my life and dogs and boyfriend felt selfish, like I was giving up too soon, but I had to go. Not only was my service up, but I needed a break and breath. Or two or three…

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Arriving in Grenada ’13

 

A lot has happened since leaving St. Vincent. The VSPCA has had it’s successes and challenges but continues to make progress-one animal and person at a time. It can be stressful and overwhelming for the handful of committed volunteer board members to plan, execute and carry on regular spay-neuter clinics, but it’s so worth it. The mobile van is looking fine and partnerships between organizations seem to be ripe for growth. Challenges can look like a very successful spay/neuter day of 70 surgeries by one government vet in Owia one day, and then driving home to see a van (like a bus and is the primary mode of transporting up to 21 passengers at one time) swerve to intentionally hit a dog on the street. Bandades-approaches to problems can only do so much. It’s time to increase proactive measures to systemically shifting the culture toward a more compassionate and empathetic place. This will begin with the children.

My primary reason for being on this trip is not only to assist vets at clinics, but to assist in developing a strategy to work closer with the Ministry of Education to get character education and humane education lessons into primary schools… SO much more challenging than drafting a few empathy-based curriculums on responsible pet guardianship and the value of spay/neuter. Things down here take time and seem to, at times, be unnecessarily complicated. But that’s another blog post :) Things are happening, but gosh darn is it heart-breaking to see the overall state of the animals down here. Truth.

I met a hubs/wife team in Mustique who do feral cat spay/neuter when I was in the Peace Corps back in 2012. They’re lovely and have been doing it for years for the small, privately owned, celebrity/royal-infused island. We talked about the still-relatively-infant VSPCA and potentially hosting clinics on the mainland later down the road. Well, we are at that place in the road and we have 3 DVMs and 1 RVT here, as I type, assisting a government vet with as many surgeries as can be done this week. It’s the first go, so there’s lots of learning to do, but future visiting vet programs will smooth out over time. World Vets is also coming to SVG in October-such progress! The demand is beyond high and the need is so great.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Our VSPCA van!! Thanks to generous donations and coordinated efforts by the VSPCA team!

 

 

 

Rain Falls. Spirit Rises.

(Warning: Graphic images follow)

I’m not sure how many more times my heart can break, before it shatters.

Weather-wise and other-wise, today was dark.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is currently experiencing a storm; a tropical wave is hitting this tiny rock in the middle of what feels like nowhere-and my entire world at the same time.   It’s only appropriate for a day like today, when yet again, I looked death and misfortune straight in the eye as it manifested through an innocent, helpless and discarded sentient creature. A dog I named Spirit, left for dead.

I received a call around 9:30 this morning from a concerned woman who had just passed a pup in the gutter off a busy road in Kingstown with what appeared to be two broken back legs. I immediately called Leslie and Max to help me find and rescue this sweet girl.

Observed by witnesses, she was hit by a car over a week ago, and struggled to survive on the streets. She was skin and bone when we got to her, no doubt starving, but seemed relieved to be taken by gentle strangers out of the rain and into shelter and warmth.

Unnamed, unowned, unclaimed, a dog that could have been yours, or mine had such a strong spirit and hunger for life. She amazed us by propping her body up on her two front legs to “walk”, broken legs dangling behind and under her-exposed bone and all. She had tended to the wounds well, as there was not evident signs of infection.

Her tail wagged when kind words and gestures, for once, were extended towards her. Her deep brown eyes, glowing with yellow rings, seemed to say, “I’m tired. So tired…thank you.”

With the injection in the vet’s hand that would hush her existence, I along with the two or three others present wracked our minds to think of what kind and patient soul could take her in and allow her to recover and rehabilitate with love and peace.

In the end, I carried her out of the clinic. I cradled her in a clear plastic bag, lifeless, still warm to the touch, as the tears blended with misting rain down my swollen cheeks. I tried to close her eyes, but they remained open, as if to say, “Remember me and don’t let my efforts to live die today.”

I mourn for Spirit. I mourn for what she represents-the drop in the ocean affect we are having, and the countless other animals who are suffering all over the world, but especially in this country-on the streets and chained in yards. Hungry, abused, scared, and seen as disposable.

In the moments before they die, I am with them, and all I can say is, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I failed you. We failed you. This country failed you.” They don’t understand and they don’t deserve pain and suffering.

But what hurts the most, is when the animal can be saved, but a lack of facility or willing caretaker leaves us left, in extreme cases, with this as the only option.

She didn’t put up a fight, she came to us willingly. I won’t let her death go unnoticed or without sharing. Her spirit, like so many I have been affected by on this island, remain with me and motivate me to make it through the dark storms.

RIP Spirit. May your soul finally sleep in peace.

Morning Senses

I.

Rain bolts, falling, waltzing against a grey canvas

Diffused morning light struggles to permeate the plush variety of foliage

Sleeping dogs strewn and scattered, stir only when dreams bend

II.

Crickets nervously invite whistling birds to morning tea

Rain, less frequent now, drips out of rhythm from window sills into swollen puddles

Mango trees rustle in wind, forecasting storms to come

III.

Asphalt and cool rain take me back to childhood recesses in the fall

Lingering scents of lemon dish soap drift from the kitchen

Dog breath is but a lick away

IV.

Bequia honey melts into passion fruit tea

My mouth is full of warm summers, sweet and calm

Whole grain toast crunches, contrasting with Ellsie’s guava jelly

V.

A break  permits the picking of plums

Remnants of rain, nature’s wash, shake off upon plucking

My feet, bear on the swamped grass, reunite me with the Earth

Jimmy

Jimmy and I outside the clinic on a sunnier day.

Jimmy died in my hands tonight. Literally. His head gently rested in my left palm as I stroked his peaceful, fading face. I shut his eyes after I felt his body tense for a few moments- tail raised and shivered, muscles twitched, face clenched- and then I watched as his rib bones elevated and retracted three more times… and then it was silent. No sound. No breath… nothing but the hum of an impersonal fluorescent hue illuminating a sad and tear-filled moment. I want to believe he was comforted by my presence and the knowledge that he was loved, with human efforts trying to match his canine ones to live.

But in the end, it ended.

Jimmy was poisoned with a toxic pesticide called gramoxone, from what our VSPCA veterinarian tells me. The insides begin to shut down, blood becomes thick thereby making it extremely difficult to breathe due to a lack of circulating oxygen, appetite is lost, and energy is gone. What typically happens is that meat is soaked in the substance, tossed to dogs, and so begins the pain and descent. Why? Who? This blog is not about that, but rather a tribute to Jimmy, and all other animals out there that have suffered, are suffering in this moment, and who unfortunately will be the victim of the inhumane and cruel way to die.

Jimmy was a kind dog. Described by his companion as, “gentle, non-aggressive, healthy, caring and well loved.” Jimmy will forever be a motivation for me, for VSPCA, and for animal advocates who have followed his story, to STOP THE CRUELTY.

This was one of the most intense experiences I have had. A wave of emotions- sadness, pity, anger, frustration, reflection, grief, motivation, and depletion- flooded me, and continues to do so. Jimmy, we thought, was going to pull through. But isn’t that what we always think… “This one is special.” Or, “This time it’ll be different… the miracle case.” Not so.

I sit writing this, with three healthy, warm, and loving foster puppies at my feet. As I look down at them sleeping, their bellies full, snuggled and dreaming with one another, I can’t help but think about Jimmy as a puppy. I didn’t know him, but it breaks my heart that a life was ended too soon. A sweet and tender life. This brings me sadness, but a deep sense of hope as well, that with more education, empathy, and love towards our fellow animals we can peacefully cohabitate and respect the life of others- human or not.

Jimmy’s sky blue collar was removed after his passing and now rests at the end of my table; his hair still noticeable and dirt from happier and healthier days reminds me that life is precious and to be valued.

I’ve never cradled a dying being before. This memory will be with me forever, but I hope it is joined by memories of successful rescues, the elimination of abuse towards non-human animals, and a kinder world for all inhabitants.

RIP Jimmy.

You are missed and will forever be with me.

Forever.

As Jimmy will be remembered.

Sunday Sharings

I enjoy Sunday mornings most, especially when they are overcast and cool like the one I write you from at this moment. Unlike most things here, weather changes quickly in the Caribbean. One minute it is stifling hot, sun intense, and sweat abundant… five minutes later those looming clouds break and thunder-pockets present themselves with rumbling rambles and droplets-turn-downpours. By the time I scramble through my oversized bag- fingering through chap stick, to-do lists, cell phones, a mushy banana, and the water bottle that is too big to get through with a trip to town- my launching umbrella is a sign the clouds to hush up and go away. I collapse my umbrella and proceed with my journey; a little bit damp and frazzled, but reminded that I cannot control everything. This gives me a sense of peace, and I smile into the breaking sunlight.

Something about Sunday mornings are uniquely quiet in my parts. Echoes of barking dogs silence quicker than on Saturday mornings, and it is as if the entire country is sleeping, and I am happy on my island… on an island.

My view of the Atlantic from the porch.

I am up earlier than usual these days, as I have been fostering puppies for the past three weeks. A friend received notice that the mother died a few days after having the litter of 11 up in Georgetown, and the Rasta man caring for the puppies needed help. Luckily (and thankfully!!) he reached out, and Leslie and I wound up with four each (three died shortly after the mama passed) and armed with paper towels, baby wipes, infant formula, and realistic expectations of the amount of sleep we were going to get over the next six weeks (close to zilch), we were set! Unfortunately, I had to bury all .8 ounces of Freckles (RIP) and Les said goodbye to Kinky (named so for a cute kink in her tail) after both our runts passed. It is remarkable how much one becomes invested and attached to them. We were syringe feeding, cuddling, and loving our little ones while sharing encouraging and breakthrough texts. But in the end, our backyard soils gained new residents.

My big bellied babies. Pic courtesy of Leslie Barnard.

My remaining three are a handful no doubt (as I type Georgie squirms on my lap, nestling her nose between pajama pants and computer warmth), but they bring me so much joy! Every day, moment really, they grow a bit more in character and size. It excites me to have a baby one day- can’t even fathom how amazing that will be to watch him/her develop and grow at exponential rates. Yes, between puppy pee puddles, weirdly endearing puppy breath that lingers on my freshly licked (sometimes bit) nose, poop-tastic surprises in the morning, and more laundry than I think I have done my whole time in SVG, this has been a rewarding experience. My only sadness is in thinking about how many more are out there (old and young) who are without homes, love, food, warmth, and companionship.

Hands cradle warm frames,

Breakable, infinite life,

Virgin eyes give thanks.

Often times my joy in successes of our VSPCA animals is balanced with sadness when hearing of acts of cruelty towards these innocent beings. Just this week, I received three notifications of poisoning of dogs on a certain unmentionable Grenadine island. The toxin of choice? Gramoxone, a pesticide that when ingested causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and a slow and painful disintegration of internal organs.

Jimmy, a dog recently poisoned with Gramoxone, on the ups. Dr. Boyle was able to save him, but how many more are out there, unable to get to the vet?

Why would someone do this you may ask? I experience more and more this disconnect among sentient beings here. I write in general terms, therefore please do not take what I am presenting as truth for all in SVG. I can say, however, that perspectives on life (be it human or non-human animal) are treated differently here. I see incidents of children stoning dogs stems from their observation of others drowning puppies as a “quick fix” to the problem of more mouths to feed. Soca music inspired by cases of sexual abuse of animals is a staple on the airways, and in my opinion, only perpetuate a culture of desensitization and a lack of care for the wellbeing of animals, especially livestock. I can go on about the atrocities present, but the bundle of heat curled up and slumbering in my lap brings me back.

A common place one would find "Ceci", short for Cecilia (her favorite Simon and Garfunkel song).

These puppies represent all good things that can come from VSPCA with every element of love given by volunteers- patience, time, attentiveness, sincerity, compassion, empathy and so on…  I vehemently maintain that the greatness of a nation is reflected in its treatment and consideration of how it treats those who cannot speak for themselves. We have a lot of work to do, and a long journey ahead of us, but progress, albeit it small is still progress. Child by child, family by family, one animal at a time, things are shifting. Just like patience and understanding is given to our animal companions, this must also be extended to one another; sustainable change is created slowly and organically.

An animal awareness reading session I host every other Saturday in town. The kids just colored and talked about what certain animals need and how they should be treated.

In other news, I am really looking forward to attending the Humane Society International’s Animal Care Expo in May. It comes right after our mid-service training, MST, in St. Lucia, so I will be off SVG for two weeks (so hard to leave my three dogs!!). Although it takes place in a city I can’t stand (Las Vegas), I am excited to get my feet wet in this career field I’d like to pursue- sharing, learning, and networking. I think it will be nice to be reminded and reassured that VSPCA’s efforts are not in vain and that a global effort exists to create a more harmonious and loving world for all. I hope to come back invigorated and full of new ideas to further our progress.

Life is good. I am just over my halfway point in this Peace Corps journey, and am absolutely amazed by how quickly time passes. The new group of volunteers have already been here six weeks, and I reflect on my position exactly one year ago… in their shoes: optimistic, curious, excited, over it, overwhelmed, hungry for hummus, and thinking, “what the hell am I doing?!” To think about all that has happened in the past year and say, “wow” is an understatement. I was always told that each Peace Corps experience is truly unique, and this is absolutely the case. I am just beginning to feel settled and comfortable. I have a great house, three amazing permanent canine residents (with visiting dogs from time to time), wonderful friendships forming, and rewarding/challenging/passion-fulfilling work. I am lucky. I miss home (Nick, friends, family, Whole Foods, mini cooper, lectures, museums, music in the park, movies, kale, kombucha and kefir, cheap [er] energy, smells, Vasona Lake park, good espresso and SLO tea, reliable animal services, boots, feeling attractive, restaurants, dishwashers and clothes-dryers, good wine, Big Sur, my old running trails, cycling and talks with dad, shopping and pedicures with mom, tub baths, and my favorite yoga studios… BUT I am at peace with these things being there upon my return in a year (unless the world does indeed end in 2012; in which case that would really suck because I could certainly use a good bath and glass of red)).

As I have written before, time passes and it is, at times, the only predictable thing in my life. But I like it here. I enjoy quiet mornings with birds talking to one another in the mango trees in my yard. I like to hear Isla racing through blades of grass of mounds of Earth, being chased by super-Roo and handsome Wolfie.

A rare moment of calm. Isla, Roo, Dora, Wolf Blitzer. Dora is a neighbor dog that is tethered to a short chain all day. I bring her over as much as I can to run, sniff, dig, play, and get some lovin'.

I like that I have a sliver of a view of Brighton beach just down the road- a feeling like that of a Santa Cruz beach house. I love love love that I can escape to a neighboring island on the weekend for a good tan, white beach, and a moment of serenity. I am proud of myself for the time I have allowed to build a life here- building relationships, developing ideas, and growing as a person, woman, animal advocate, cook, and observer. I can’t imagine a morning now without a mango/guava/passion fruit/banana/orange/fig/soursop, some combination thereof, smoothie. And I am certain that I was placed here for a reason… I can’t imagine a more fulfilling Peace Corps experience!

In the coming year, there is much to look forward to… rewards and challenges that VSPCA is beginning to address and involve itself with, new relationships to build, puppies to foster, mangoes to pick, stories to hear, vegan meals to prepare and share, and life to live. If the coming year passes as quickly as the last, then holy moly!!

In addition to those seen above, the following pictures were taken on recent trips I took to the Southern Grenadines for VSPCA. I used my nerdy grad school tools like: stakeholder and SWOT analyses as well as needs assessments. I also facilitated a humane education presentation on Mayreau to a group of primary school kids. S’amuser…

Thanks for reading!

~K

 

“Oh yes, the world will always welcome [dreamers]…As time goes by.”

Posing on the porch

Those are excerpted lyrics from one of my favorite songs.

It has been a while since I have blogged. Now that this is stated, let’s move on to our Sunday feature.

Having attempted to update you periodically over the last 10 months with stories of success, challenges, frustrations, exhilarations, declarations, and realizations has not been so simple as simply sitting down and writing. A lot (and I do mean A LOT) has happened since my last post. As time went by, I found it daunting to try to convey so much. But, the one thing I know for sure out here is that time does indeed pass, and there is no better time than the present to act.

In a nutshell, I moved from the Leeward side of the island to the windward, my assignment changed from working with a community based organization in a rural village to a nation-wide (including our lovely Grenadine islands) animal welfare initiative through the formation of the first SPCA in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)- one of the last Caribbean islands to formally support non-human animals. My mom visited in May. Nick visited in July. I went home for Christmas and New Years (Ahhh-mazing!). I now have three dogs who roam freely on my fenced in property- equipped with three mango trees, a paw paw (papaya) and Bequia plum tree, and the potential for a really kick ass garden if I can convince a friend to make a fence for me so that the dogs don’t prematurely harvest… And after a long while of being vegetarian, I kicked it up a notch to full on vegan. I also figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Yes, I am 26!

It’s not so hard out here by any means- peanuts, beans and legumes are indigenous to SVG, and seasonal fruit and veggies abound! Currently, guavas (Vitamin C powerhouse!!), soursop, oranges, plum roses (little starchy fruits that taste just like a rose would), bananas, watermelon, string beans, sweet peppers, bok choy (called “pa choy” out in these parts), hand shelled peas ($10/bag, but oh so worth it!), pumpkin, and the list can go on! Pineapples are also due out pretty soon, and my mango and plum trees are budding with loads of potential! All in all, I feel healthier and lighter and I think what you eat really impacts how you act, think, move, and live.

Typical Friday offerings, yum!

So, to summarize, in my 13th month of service I am doing good. There are challenges of course, but our APCD (associate peace corps director) always instills that attitude is key to success and happiness. I’m really taking this second course of Peace Corps with a more observational and self-growth approach. I know that through every experience (big and small) there is something to take away- a life lesson, a better sense of awareness, a deeper sense of self, and simply an opportunity to grow. Life is for living, and I am practicing being in the present and experiencing all that this moment has to offer- good and bad, happy and sad.

The Vincentian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (VSPCA) was incorporated as a non-profit organization in August of 2011. A group of Vincentians I reached out to through the assistance of a local veterinarian and I decided it was time to make this dream we all had (some locals since childhood) a reality. We knew from our first meeting in June that it was not going to be easy, but with initiatives like this, you simply must start. So to make a long story short (I am happy to make a short story long if you would like- just email me!), we have had two very successful fundraisers, for the most part, a welcomed response by the communities and public, and have big plans to begin to shift the culture towards one more compassionate, kind, empathetic and understanding of non-human animals. The leadership group and myself (as founding President) decided that our priority issues are a) humane education and community outreaches and b) a spay and neuter program in which we subsidize costs of the operations and post-operative care for human companions who cannot afford to do so otherwise. We hope through these two focuses to reduce animal over-population (i.e. roaming owned and un-owned street animals, diseased, neglected and abused animals), bring up a new generation that is more sensitive to animal companions, and offer a service to communities that has never existed before for the benefit of all. The details are well, detailed, but in essence I feel so fortunate to use my Peace Corps experience nurturing my passion, developing my program management and organizational skills, and working towards a kinder world for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is truly rewarding when we bring an animal in off the street, or one that is in a home that has never even considered “animal care” before, and begin to see an impact one animal at a time.

Now, I am not going to sugar coat it, VSPCA is challenging. I am learning more about myself than anything throughout this process. How do I work with others? How do I motivate others? How do I work within a culture whose professional setting is very different than what I am used to? How do I deal with inter-personal issues among members? How do I take criticism, praise, pressure, and payoff? How do I stand up for myself to those who only see me as “free worker” for two years? How do I close my eyes with cemented images of sarcoptic-mange infested dogs picking through garbage for scraps of KFC and bitches who have given life to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 litters?! On the streets in horrible conditions all the time being cautious of their surroundings with memories of abuse, reckless drivers intentionally swerving towards them, and no home to retreat to for comfort.

It’s hard. Real hard. But it keeps me here. In fact, it might be the only thing that keeps me here. I’m being real honest right now, but I feel I have to, because there is not an hour that goes by that I don’t recall images and stories of cruelty. I look down at my three dogs- all rescued street pups, and I see hope. I see potential. I feel gratefulness. I feel love and un-tainted affection. Nothing makes me happier here than approaching my gate whistling “our signal” and being greeted by their wagging tails, excited whines, glistening eyes and pink tongues. Nothing. Close to that is maybe a third grader in the first row of one of my humane presentations saying that he wants to be a vet one day. I will forever be connected to VSPCA, and will never forget nor let the memories lie idle of the horrible conditions millions of animals are in here, and other places.

Oscar, a street dog with sweet eyes and a lot of love needed... STILL on the street.

If you are reading this in America, consider yourself fortunate that you can ring up (and get a generally welcome response) your local animal services division to report a stray dog seen around your neighborhood… or that you can visit a local animal shelter to volunteer and adopt.

Imagine living in a world where if an animal is hit on the side of the road, it is left there until claimed. And as they are not seen as “pets” for the most part but guards tethered on a short chain below the house to notify of a passerby, when they die on the road, I have seen them left so long that they either a) go into a state of rigamortis (under this hot Caribbean sun) and swell until they pop, or b) a person is so repelled by the stench that they move them to the gutter so they can decompose- fur (if any was there initially) leaves, then skin, then muscle, then bones eventually. I have seen this whole process and recorded it in the village I used to live in. And these are dogs that die by motor vehicle… I will not get into the practices of cruelty I have seen and heard of here. But if you want to know, ask me.

VSPCA keeps me busy. Along with my pups and cooking. This is pretty much my life. I clean every Sunday, watch the Bachelor every Monday (guilty pleasure documented), go to yoga every other Saturday (but have developed a self-guided practice to supplement), go to the market every Friday, and try to use Sundays as reflection days- writing, reading, walking, etc. Most mornings I wake up to the sunrise and enjoy my morning tea on the porch with Roo (short for Kangaroo) at my feet. Most evenings I come full circle with a cup of tea (or juice depending on the day) watching Isla, Roo, Wolf and sometimes Dora (a neighbor black lab puppy who is tethered all 24 hours a day I bring over for exercise and socialization) play under the mango trees- catching lizards, chasing balls, and wrestling in the grass. I wish I could save them all, but I do what I can.

So, do you remember, two pages ago…I said I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up? When my real life resumes and this world, this bubble, I am currently in feels like a dream… Well, as for the exact title and starting salary, no clue. But I am 100% positive that I want to work with non-human animals in any and every capacity. Realistically, I see myself implementing my MIIS degree in public administration (think organizational management/needs assessments/evaluation-type stuff) in an animal welfare organization. Ideally one that is already incorporated and running :) I am not going to list organizations now, but I have my eyes on some that I will begin seriously pursuing this summer for post-Peace Corps employment. I can think of nothing in life more rewarding than working for an organization, with a group of people of like and often “crazy”) mind towards a world that treats animals with respect and love. Whether I am based in DC, Boston, San Fran or Seattle, I know this is what I want to do forever.

With some primary school kids at Fairhall Government School during a VSPCA presentation encouraging empathy ("would YOU want to drink this puddle of dirty water? Would you think another animal would?")

So what else? You are caught up on all the big stuff, more details upon request.

The next group of Peace Corps Volunteers (group “EC84” (I am EC83)) arrived yesterday. That marks one year exactly that I have been on this little island. Looking around at them during the breakfast gathering yesterday, I can’t help by feel nostalgic already for this time. Passing time is the only thing without fail these days. The past year went by both quickly and slowly, depending on the day, week, or month. There were times when I could not believe it was “x” month already, and times when I thought the week would NEVER (ever ever) end. Instances where I saw myself living here (or at least having a cute summer cottage in Bequia) to instances where I was flirting with Bing and checking the costs for transporting my three dogs home ASAP (this usually happened after a horrific van ride home or seeing a street animal I knew I could do nothing for…). But all in all, this is my Peace Corps experience. It is unique, all mine, and will be an influencing factor in my life forever.

I finish this latest blog update with a goal, not a promise, of writing to you more often. Of sharing more regularly, so that ideas and thoughts are conveyed in infancy- vulnerable and raw- so that you may not cast judgment, but embrace those sparks of dreams you have in yourself too. My posts will not always be happy and uplifting, promising or encouraging, but they will be real. So real I might even need to bold the mandatory statement that “The views expressed in this blog in no way reflect those of the US Peace Corps or government…”

La dee dah ;)

Until next time: be happy, be peaceful, be loving towards all (fur and no fur).

Saturday Morning Thoughts

“Do you have any bread?” the sweat-beaded youth of no more than 11 asked.

I lied.

“No, I’m sorry.”

I had bread, but it was wheat, and I assumed that kids only liked white in this country- along with white people, white shoes, and white sugar. (This is a generalization).

As he was leaving my porch, after guzzling some ice water, continuing his Saturday morning door-to-door produce rounds, I felt bad for lying, and not giving him a piece of bread. I wanted to yell after him, “Oy, come back.” But I had just woken up from a deep sleep and had not processed that I was here. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines… in Peace Corps.

For me to yell back, to invite this hard working boy who had earned his calories in bread and then some before I had pulled my morning curtains, was to yell back to St. Vincent. My sleepy state wanted to stay in blissful ignorance for just a few minutes longer…

I like it here. St. Vincent is beautiful beyond belief, and not a day passes without thinking how fortunate I am to live in such an aesthetically pleasing island nation. But some mornings, like this morning, I wanted to get back to that dream. That dream where I was home, with people I love, predictability, comfort, and Whole Foods. In all honesty, I feel guilty for feeling this way. I have only been here (just shy of) four months, but the whole two years thing scares me. TWO YEARS! Current PCVs say it flies by, and the busier you get, the quicker it goes. So I am trying to get busy because I am homesick. Not unhappy, but missing you.

Mom always tells me to “bloom where I am planted.” I have wanted to do Peace Corps for a very long time, and want to believe that this is exactly where I am supposed to be at this exact time. Although not quite what I was expecting in terms of the experience (right now I am sitting in my morning lit living room overlooking the calm Caribbean Sea, songbirds greeting butterflies on banana leaves while Isla chews her rawhide on the deck), I do believe that everything happens for a reason.

Me coming to terms with being here for 23 more months is part of the growing I need to do- to be okay where I am, and to explore and embrace the reality surrounding me. This is a practice I can begin to cultivate here, and carry with me beyond this experience- to be present, appreciative, and at peace.