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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!