Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kids Back to School Fun Day

OK, so I know it's common to have fun at something you thought would be a not-so-fun event. But when it touches your heart too, well, that is just a bonus.

Let me start by saying the Hutchinson Volunteer Police Patrol did an excellent job of organizing this event. This was the first year so it was filled with unknowns. But they shot blind and did an awesome job. By estimations of raffle tickets handed out and  hot dogs served, it looks like we had just about 200 kids come through. There were games, tons of prizes, a dunk tank -dunk a policeman, which for some reason lots of people wanted to do......I'm just sayin'..... inflatable jumpy thingys for the kids, fire trucks, the fire safety house and ident-a- kid. There were hot dogs, orange drink and cotton candy......yep, can you say sugar high? The big prizes were two bicycles donated by Walmart, one boy's bike and one girl's. I worked registration, under the tent in the shade, a pretty plumb assignment actually. The kids ranged in age from 1 to 17. The tweens or about 10-14 all really eyed the bikes and all totally "needed" them.  The boys bike was the first one and he was busy getting cotton candy and didn't even realize he had one at first. Then about an hour later the girls bike was given.

Let me back up and tell you about one little girl in particular.....she was about 11 and spent a large part of the day at the registration booth just talking to us. Totally as cute as could be. She had spent some of her time at the tricycle obstacle course and won about 10 medals for that. Well we soon ran out of medals and the kids arriving later were a bit diappointed that the prize was then boxes of sidewalk chalk. The little girl was standing at registration with her 10 medals around her neck and heard one little girl ask if there were any more and me reply no, we ran out. A few minutes later she just kind of vanished and I thought she had gone to play more games and when she returned she had the biggest smile and said, guess what and then proceeded to tell me that she went and found the other little girl and gave her one of her medals. I asked what she did with the rest and she said she gave them to kids that didn't have was very touching. And the best part was she did it on her own and was happy to do it.

Well, she spent alot of time just sitting on the bike and making comments about how much she wanted it and how pretty it was. She also made the comment that she didn't have a bicycle at all. Well, you guessed it.......I picked the ticket and sure enough it was hers......I could have just cried. She hopped right on it and rode all around the parking lot and had the biggest smile ever. I found out later that she had 4 siblings and her mother is a single parent.

I really don't believe in "karma" but if I did, this would be a perfect example of it. This was supposed to be a fun day for kids, which it was, but it was a learning day for this old kid too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grenada: Lori and Kelly's Big Adventure

Captain’s Log: Day 9, Friday, August 20, 2010

Today started out at the pool. For the most part we were the only ones there. This is not tourist season so we were told that there were only 70 guests in the whole place. It was sooo nice, no lines, everyone was very friendly and eager to help. During the afternoon, another peace corps volunteer, Erin came over with a friend, Matt, visiting from the states.
Mackenzie, Erin, Matt, Kelly

We had fun and then noticed some coconuts needed picking, Matt used his best football throw to knock it down , so after much effort and guidance from one of the security guards one came down. He broke it open and we had the coconut water then the nice security guard came and scraped it out the fleshy part and it was yummy.

Lori drinking coconut water
Erin drinking coconut water
Matt with coconut
Security Guard helping Matt and Erin

We played in the pool for a bit longer and then went back to the room. Later we sent Mackenzie to KFC for some americanized first white meat in over a week. While she was gone we went to the beach to watch our last day end and the most beautiful Grenadian sunset sadly waved goodbye as it sank in splendid display of colors into the Carribean sea.
Grenada sunset

Then we returned to our room for packing to get ready for our trip home.

This has been a experience making realize that truly,
Life Is Good

Grenada: Lori and Kelly's Big Adventure

Captain's Log: Day 9, Thursday, August 19, 2010

Got up this morning ready for a day of adventure. We were touring the chocolate factory (Belmont Estates) and the Rum Distillery (River Antwine). Instead of taking 4 public buses to get there because it is on the other side of the mountains, we opted for a cab. Kenzie called made arrangements and haggled a price and all was good. The taxi (an air conditioned van) showed up and off we went. WELL, what should have taken 45 minutes to an hour to get there took us 3 1/2 hours.........they usually drive really fast, scary fast and this guy, no lie........20 miles an hour and took us the longest route possible and took us to places we didn't ask for. Of course our price was negotiated on a per hour basis. Mackenzie was spitting mad......when we finally arrived at the chocolate factory she talked to him and negotiated a final price for the was awful. He never did speed up. He was older and watching him try to park......I think he had trouble judging distance. I'm going with that theory other than him just trying to take advantage...(although my gut tells me otherwise).
the cocoa bean drying racks

The chocolate factory was extremely interesting, they actually produce chocolate bars and have had a working estate for cocoa beans for about 300 years. They still use the old fashioned equipment and let's just say for both places we visited there is obviously no health department here. The chocolate is amazing though....because of the heat here they cannot use milk so it is all cocoa butter, cocoa beans and sugar.....and they only have three kinds. 60%  which has a somewhat bitter aftertaste and 70% which has a smoother dark chocolate taste. Their newest is called Nibs and it has little flecks of the cocoa bean in it and it was very yummy.

Our next stop was the distillery.....just like they have always done it. Smashing the sugar cane, old conveyeur belts, wood stoves......and they use recycled bottles so, they are in what most americans wouldn't ever consider a good shed, making rum, using a gott cooler to put it in the bottles and sealing them with a screw on Now I wanted to sample it but the smell alone caused me some discomfort, and we'll just leave it at that. : ) I still can't get over it, guys in there bare feet, bare hands, of course nothing to keep out the bugs producing a product that they can't even ship out of here because they can't keep up with production. OH - the final product.......70 % or higher of alcohol which makes it 150 proof or higher, but who's counting?
sugar cane

some sort of gadget that tests the alcohol percentage
the conveyor belt that moves the smashed cane
the one guy is stirring the molasses the other dipping by buckets to move it
yes, he's barefoot with his foot hanging over the edge of the vat
fermenting cane
Um hm, they take these bottles right out of these boxes and fill em with rum
the boiling vats
the production line
Very sophisticated bottling method

Then we took the LONNGGG trip home and went to eat.....chinese of all things...was ok. Then back to the resort for a swim.

grenadian sunset with unfortunate cloudiness

Even after the long day -
Life Is GOOD!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grenada: Lori and Kelly's Big Adventure

The view from our balcony
pool waterfall
The view the other direction from our balcony
Captain's Log: Day 8, Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today is the day we move from the apartment in the mountains to the resort (Grenada Grand Beach Resort) at the beach. Although it was fun getting a tast of  Kenzie’s everyday life and seeing the culture in it’s natural form, I am looking forward to being a plain old tourist for a little bit. If nothing else I have truly realized just how spoiled I am as an American. I mean I know I am accustomed to air conditioning, as well as “fast” everything, and take for granted getting in my car and driving 3 minutes to the grocery store or 7 minutes to work. But it’s the things that we don’t see everyday that are astonishing.
Just today we were talking about a new tax imposed on everything. Grenadians used to have no taxes on things now with the new tax, EVERYTHING is taxed 15% - no slight increase until they get to that point, no basis on income or product purchased.........everything and immediately. It has taken a toll on the people, people who had little to begin with have even less. Unless you are selling mangoes on the street corner and I suppose then you might slip through the cracks.

So when I got to the resort I did feel a little guilty about the opulence. What made me laugh was that this was a palace for most of the people here and in countries like this around the world.....and yet, I would see things that would cause most Americans to turn up their nose at the minor inconveniences. The ice machine in our end of the resort did not work, I wanted to scream - it’s freakin’ hot out no wonder it doesn’t work! And bugs, there are ants and bugs everywhere, you just get used to it, just competing to survive, just like all of us. And the internet, we should have it in our rooms, but of course, ours wasn’t working......I found myself very out of sorts over that fact. Anyone that knows me, knows I am very internet dependent, I look up everything. I was really looking forward to having steady service in my air conditioned room to pass the evenings. I called the desk and informed them of the lacking signal. Mackenzie did not have one either so I knew it wasn’t just me. So I trotted my indignant self to the desk but somewhere between my room and the front desk I realized this is nothing more than an inconvenience, however I did not like being completely disconnected in case someone needed me. And when I got to the desk, I was very calm and smiled - genuinely smiled and discussed the situation with the night manager. I discovered I did get a signal there and the man assured me that by tomorrow night all would be good, it suddenly wasn’t that big of a deal. He got me set up in the business center area and was even going to turn on the air conditioner, but it seemed to be broken. So I got my fix and lost a few pounds in sweat and came back to my climate controlled room. Truthfully no worse for the wear.

Mackenzie taught me a new phrase they use here on the island and that it, “one time”. Now it doesn’t mean one time like a single time event, it means “right now”.  And obviously I am quite accustomed to everything being “One Time”.  Sighs........sometimes the simple things are the hardest to learn.....

So even without all the little things I think I deserve and am entitled to,
Life is good.

Adventure within the adventure 3:

Met a little girl at the pool, from London with her mum and her auntie. She is 5 and her name is Sky. Sky had great fun splashing about the pool with us and laughed and played and we discussed disney movies. At one point I had gotten out and was asleep in my chair when all of the sudden I hear a little voice in my ear shouting, “WAKE UP, wake up Miss, this is not time for sleeping, this is time to play in the pool!” After I regained my wits it made me laugh, she did get in a bit of trouble for “bothering” me, but she sure was cute.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grenada: Lori and Kelly's Big Adventure

Captain's Log: Day 6, Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Mackenzie's neighbors- goats

Today, we went to visit Mackenzie's school, the Peace Corps office and ate a typical Grenadian lunch. We hopped the bus and went to the school first, school is not in session but the classroom teacher met us and showed us around. I was struck most by the contrast of looking the same but yet being so different. Same types of things you would see on the walls, same little desks, outwardly visible likeness. But after talking with the teacher, that is almost where similarity stops. Although like many American teachers, Grenadian teachers have to provide many of the resources and materials for their classrooms. But where in America, although limited, some things are provided. Here for instance, if a teacher wants poster board, she has to buy it, and the strangest thing to me was.......the classrooms have internet but no computers are provided, the teacher must come up with it on their own. The ministry of education provides some things, but not really per pupil aid like the US. The main thing they provide their teachers is chalk.....plenty of chalk. So the teacher copies the worksheet problems to the board and the students copy it in their saddle-stitched two staple booklets that fall apart after the first few months. It is like having one foot in the present, and one foot back 50 years ago.....very strange.
They have a copier in the office that was provided however they cannot afford to replace the toner, so it sits. They do not have a pencil sharpener, not even the crank kind, so they try to keep pencils sharp by using those little plastic sharpeners.
Mackenzie and Chantal


Then there is the whole distraction of coming to school and not having eaten since yesterday. Sometimes the choice might be to pay to ride the bus (which they have to pay every day to ride) or which is more important? The teachers often cook extra to provide snacks or breakfast for some of the children. Lunch is the one meal that is provided to the students. It might be the same thing for days in a row but the children are glad to have it. While we were there the PE teacher was busy trying to freshen the paint on the outside of the school to make it more inviting when the children return. The play yard was going to be mowed and cleaned up for them also. They don't have fancy jungle gyms and soft sandy areas to land on when they fall...they play where they can using their little imaginations to think up games and I'm sure they laugh and giggle just as much as if they had the fancy equipment.

Mackenzie and Flint at Peace Corps office

Kelly and Lori wearing left over Carnival outfits

We left there and took the bus into town to visit the Peace Corps office, met the do everything girl, Marcea and rested in the air conditioning for a bit.......woo of the only spots we've encountered it here other than a few stores.

Then we went on further to meet another volunteer and have lunch at B's Roti Shop. Now, when they first started talking I thought they were calling them Roadies.....and I was envisioning a road kill burrito.......I was thinking cup of soup was sounding awesome. But when I saw the sign I just chuckled to myself and thought I can do this.
Vegetarian Roti


Roti - Rho tee -
The word 'roti' in the West Indies may also refer to a dish of stewed or curried ingredients wrapped in a 'roti skin'. In Trinidad and Tobago various rotis are served. Popular variations include chicken, conch, beef and vegetable. Shrimp and goat are available.
While common variations may include chicken, beef, or cabbage and carrot, one of the more authentic alternatives (goat) is known as Groti.
In Suriname roti refers mainly to roti dahlpuri or roti aloopuri. It is most often eaten with chicken curry. Roti can also refer to a dish of stuffed and spiced roti wraps.  It usually includes chicken curry, potatoes, boiled eggs and various vegetables, most notably the kousenband or yardlong bean. Another variation includes shrimp and aubergine. It is custom to eat the dish by hand.

We were going to order boneless chicken roti's but they were out of boneless chicken. So we ordered vegetarian, which was more than fine for me. Inside was a mixture of vegetables, potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, chick peas and curry. You have to clarify when ordering boneless because if not, you will encounter chunks of chicken on the bone, which many people pull out and bite the ends off and suck the marrow out. Yes, ick, I thought the same thing, but it is very common.

After our little lunch we shopped at this wonderful little shop called Art Fabrik that does some awesome batik dying of cloth. Then to the grocery store and home. Tired and hot but fat and happy.

Street where we shopped-easy to get "bounced"

New phrase - Just Grenadian it means.........Now as in right now up to maybe two hours. For instance, I will be there just now......means eventually. And another phrase - Just So - means around there. For instance, you go up the road just so and turn left just so. Maybe a block, maybe a mile........just so.

But never the less........Life is good.

Grenada: Lori and Kelly's Big Adventure

Captain's Log: Day 5 Monday, August 16, 2010

Mackenzie had to work today so off she went and Kelly and I stayed and hung out, got showers and nice! Then we were to meet her in town a little after two. So we got our things together and prepared to take the bus ALONE! But we were very big and got the right bus, acted like we knew what we were doing and got to the terminal. Waited there for Mackenzie and then went to do a little shopping. Walking up and down hills, up and down definitely need good shoes and strong calves. It is a little like walking on the KU campus only worse and you have speeding cars flying by inches from your body. Which so many people get hit by cars here they actually have a word for it, bounced. So if you don't wanna get "bounced" you keep as close as you can to the side.
Carnage or port

Ocean Grill

The red building is the fire station

Then we went to a place called the Ocean Grill for lunch. It was a lot of seafood but they had coconut shrimp (YAY) my fav.......wait, just about the ONLY seafood I like. And I must say, it was the best I've ever had......hands down. Expensive but worth it.

Mackenzie and Kelly

THE BEST coconut shrimp

Then we hiked our butts to one of the forts on the island, Fort George. I just thought the hill on Sunday was was the most tormenting hill ever. But the view was magnificent. It is also the place where in '93 the invasion to save the med students during Reagan, they lined up the leaders and shot them against the wall.......lots of history there.

Fort George

Looking out at town

Periwinkles growing wild at the fort

Looking down on the town

After that we were exhausted, shopped a bit more and started to head for home. We stopped by a place that makes fruit smoothies that is supposed to be one of the best anywhere. Me, not liking fruit was hesitant but decided to give something a whirl. (And mind you, they put alcohol in just about anything here). I knew I did not want anything with rum...... but then this is what they ended up making me.....Guiness mixed with milk, peanuts, and oats.......sounds gross but it was actually pretty good.....however, do not get one of those then immediately hop a crowded bus full of sweaty people for a 20 minute ride on the curvy, twisty roads back home. I could only drink about half of it, which was fine, got a taste of it anyway.

Then we just took showers and chilled the rest of the evening......another rain shower and to bed.

Yah mon..........Life IS good!