I need to backtrack a little bit before I truly start my blog post. On July 8th, 2015, little Shelby Miller turned 22. And to celebrate her birthday, her new Peace Corps friends and family decided to spoil her. We had training all day which ended with yummy cupcakes from one of the staff members. Next, my friends Erin and Anna were nice enough to make me a wonderful cookie cake! And last but not least, my host family got me a chocolate cake and some sweet red wine to sip on to end the day on a good note. I want to say how much I appreciate all of the caring and amazing people that have surrounded me throughout the first phase of my service. Thank you for being there for me through the challenges that we have faced so far, and ensuring me that I can count on you 🙂 Alright now I am done with the mushy gushy stuff..
One thing that I accomplished during Pre-Service Training was my goal of hiking the Pitons. There is Gros Piton which is the larger one, and Petite Piton which is the smaller one. EC87 decided to hike the bigger one, Gros Piton. One, because we are badasses, and two because Petite Piton was closed to visitors due to unsafe trails… haha. The hike was moderately difficult for the first 1/4, and then it became highly strenuous from there on. The trail consisted of steep inclines, stairs that are twice as tall as they should be, and rocks that you must climb up on your hands and feet. Luckily there were some hand rails to hold onto and literally pull myself up the mountain. All of the hard work aside, they view at the top was definitely worth it. We all made it to the top and enjoyed it for a while before heading back down. I would argue that heading down the mountain was harder than going up… And that is saying something. Going down was testing fate and hoping that none of us twisted our ankles on all of the rocks, or slid down the steep dirt inclines. It was also killer on the knees. Some people did twist their ankles on the trail behind us, but no one from our group. Considering we had 23 of us hiking, it was a miracle that we all made if off of Gros Piton unharmed, except for some sore muscles for the upcoming days.
Model School: Throwing Peace Corps Trainees into a classroom of students who do not know each other or us. Trainees must prepare lesson plans for the whole week for struggling learners. Trainees must deal with the behavioral issues that these students have without the proper training to do so. The torture lasts for a total of one week.
Now, I know that the above statement makes Model School sound terrible, and it was, but it was not ALL bad. I definitely came out of the week with more experience under my belt, and I learned a lot. Part of teaching is learning as you go. Teachers learn more than students at times.. I learned that even if you have planned a perfect lesson, it does not mean that the lesson will go perfectly. I learned that the EC definitely needs help in the department of Literacy. The students in our classroom were in 2nd and 3rd grade, but performing at a Preschool level. This is very common among these countries because students who are behind, do not get held back, instead they get moved onto the next grade with the other students. This creates a wide range of abilities among students in a classroom, thus making teaching difficult for the EC Teachers. With such a wide range of abilities, the teacher must make sure that the ones who are behind can follow, but at the same time they must make sure that the ones who are ahead are being challenged enough. This seems to be the struggle of all classrooms no matter what country you are in. Overall, Model School was a challenging yet rewarding experience that I will carry with me into my service.
After Model School, EC87 decided that we needed a reward for surviving such a difficult week. Our reward was going on a Catamaran ALL day on Saturday. Our boat trip was from 9am to 5pm. We got to sail from the northern tip of St. Lucia, in Rodney Bay all the way to Soufreire in the South. On the way, we stopped to take a peek at Sugar Beach, Marigot Bay, and a mystery beach that I never found out the name of. We stopped at the mystery beach and swam, jumped off the boat, played frisbee, “exfoliated” with sand and chatted amongst ourselves. We got to spend time with our Peace Corps Family and just relax in the sun with a beautiful view. This boat day was much needed and perfectly timed after a challenging week of Model School. Remember: Peace Corps is not all fun and games, but everyone needs a break sometimes 🙂
The last thing I want to share is probably the most important part of this blog post. On Friday July 24th, 2015, EC87 finally got our placements on the Islands that we will be living and serving for the next two years of our lives. This was a big day for everyone: emotionally and physically as well. Peace Corps loves to make us wait… We got to training at 8am and of course they had training sessions planned for us up until 2pm. These long hours were torturous for everyone, in fact some people, including myself started to go insane…. We reverted to our childhood quirks of being rambunctious and having behavioral issues that we honestly could not control. Peace Corps does that to you sometimes. As the clock struck 2pm, everyone was ready to start the “sorting hat” ceremony. Being Harry Potter fans, we decided to turn our Island revealing into a Harry Potter theme (as they did the previous year as well). There are four Islands that we will be living on- Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada. Each Island was assigned a Hogwarts house- Gryffindor (St. Lucia), Hufflepuff (St. Vincent), Ravenclaw (Grenada) and Slytherin (Dominica). As our names were called one by one, we sat in the chair at the front, the “sorting hat” was placed on our heads, and a staff member said “Shelby Miller, you are going to…….. insert island here”. The person would then head to their table that was labeled for them. The ceremony was both exciting and nerve wracking. We all had guesses and hopes for which island we would be placed on. Mostly people got what they expected, but there were a few that really threw us for a loop. Included in those few was my placement. I had this strong feeling that I would be sent to Dominica. Don’t ask me why, because I honestly could not tell you. However, Peace Corps had a different plan for me. As I went up and got the sorting hat placed on my head, I was told that I would be going to…. St. Vincent! I am pretty sure my jaw literally dropped. I got up and stumbled around to find the table that I would be sitting at- I knew exactly where the Dominica table was, but as for St. Vincent I had no idea. This was the island that was not even on my radar for being sent there. However, after everyone was sorted, I looked around and I realized that I was very happy with the other seven people that were going to St. Vincent with me. I realized that although I knew nothing about St. Vincent, it did not matter because not only did I have wonderful people going with me, but also you cannot go wrong with any of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, lets be real. Although I was shocked at my placement, I think I will be very happy there.
Let me tell you a little bit about the community I will be living in for the next two years of service. Given, I do not know much, but I will share with you what I have gathered so far. I cannot share the name of my community, however it is on the Eastern coast of St. Vincent. I will be working at a Primary school that has about 100 students total (very small). My assignment is to work with grades 1 and 2, assisting students with activities that will help improve their levels of reading. In addition, I will be assisting teachers with programs that will help students improve in the area of fluency of reading as well as reading comprehension. On top of that I will be assisting with the organization of the Library, and lastly assisting with the implementation of an effective Parenting Program. The community in which I will be living in has between 8,000 and 9,000 habitants. I am extremely excited that I got a small school and a smaller community, I feel that I connect better in this kind of environment. I will be very close to the capital city in St. Vincent, Kingstown. It is also very close to the beach! St. Vincent is a tiny island of only 133 sq. miles, and it takes less than an hour to drive from the top to the bottom of the island. Included in the country of St. Vincent is the Grenadines which are a chain of smaller islands which stretch to the South, near Grenada. All eight of us are spread throughout the island: I am in the South, some are in the North, others are coastal on the East and West and some are even inland a bit. They have scuba diving, and hiking throughout the island and ocean. There is a large volcano in the Northern part of the island which you can hike, called La Soufreire. Overall, St. Vincent is a very diverse Island and I am looking forward to exploring it throughout the next two years!
P.S. I am very close to the airport, so whoever wants to visit me can easily do that 🙂
Thank you for reading my blog, and you can look forward to another post in a few weeks about my new home stay in St. Vincent.